WOCAT (World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies) is a global network of sustainable land management (SLM) specialists contributing to SLM by sharing and evaluating knowledge. WOCAT’s goal is to provide tools and methods for knowledge management and decision support. The WOCAT network was established over two decades ago, and in 2014 it continued as WOCAT International with a much stronger and wider partnership for building a global knowledge management and decision support platform with nine consortium partners. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) officially recognised WOCAT as the primary recommended database for SLM best practices, including measures of adaptation. This gives WOCAT a mandate to support the 194 signatory countries in recording their own SLM best practices and using the SLM knowledge of stakeholders worldwide to improve local land management.
In June 2015, the first events were held since the new institutional set-up had been finalised. The WOCAT Symposium and the 17th WOCAT Network Meeting were jointly organised by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Sector Project “Sustainable Agriculture” (SV NAREN), and the WOCAT International Secretariat. The events were held at the GIZ International Conference Centre Feldafing in Bavaria, Germany, from the 8th–11th June and brought together around 60 WOCAT members and stakeholders from many countries.
The focus was on WOCAT goes new – strong platforms and partnerships for spreading SLM. The oral presentations and poster contributions of the symposium concentrated on the importance of SLM platforms, partnerships, mainstreaming of SLM, the use of WOCAT and related tools and benefits. The first day ended with a launching event of WOCAT International for countries and partners.
The field trip in Upper Bavaria was guided by experts of the responsible Bavarian authorities and focused on successful cases of village renewal combined with land consolidation and flood protection and of erosion control measures on agricultural land.
The Network Meeting started with reports on activities and successes of the Consortium Partners and delegates from some other partner organisations and projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Then promising concepts and projects were presented, like the Decision Support for Mainstreaming and Scaling up of Sustainable Land Management (DS-SLM) and The Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative presenting economic arguments and ecosystem benefits of sustainable land management.
Working groups dealt with the further development and use of WOCAT questionnaires, challenges in mainstreaming WOCAT and SLM, multi-stakeholder partnerships and the significance of research. Key themes of future planning like the role and set-up of WOCAT in countries were intensively discussed.
The network meeting ended up with a special, promising highlight. The 16 African delegates from ten countries started the establishment of AFRI-CAT, the network of African collaborators in the use and further development of WOCAT. The leading role was given to the members from South Africa and the Consortium partner there (UKN). The intention of AFRI-CAT is to not only implement its own activities and support the secretariat but also influence policies at national, regional and continental level towards sustainable land management.
Integrated into the network meeting, the exhibition “Soil. Sustains life” (Boden. Grund zum Leben) was opened by the director of the GIZ sector project “Convention to Combat Desertification” (CCD), Walter Engelberg, and the director of the WOCAT secretariat, Hanspeter Liniger. The posters provide information on various issues, create awareness for the essential role of soils for food and life and also name threats like continuous land consumption and land degradation. The exhibition can be borrowed as well – in the form of roll-ups or of posters.
These public events were followed by the two-day 2nd Steering Committee Meeting (SCM) of WOCAT International. The consortium Partners reported on outputs of their WOCAT-related activities, discussed the IT concept and the further development of the platform, the communication and general development strategy, a broader funding strategy and the intensification of collaboration with the national and regional network partners.
From the beginning, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) was the main funding organisation, and the WOCAT secretariat has been hosted by the University of Bern, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), Switzerland. In future, all Consortium Partners are to contribute to the budget of the secretariat according to their possibilities to guarantee the basic services and development activities. Setting out from a recent study and the recommendation of a WOCAT – GIZ workshop, the SCM decided that the knowledge platform “Agriwaterpedia” of the GIZ sector project “Sustainable Agriculture” will be integrated with its Wiki functions into the WOCAT platform.
Bruno Schuler, Advisor Sustainable Agriculture and focal point of GIZ for WOCAT;
The nine consortium members of WOCAT