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Former SPI members and observers

Former SPI members

Elena María Abraham (member from 2014 – 2017)

Abraham SPIElena María Abraham is a Scientific Researcher of the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), Director of the Argentine Institute for Research on Arid Lands (IADIZA) and Professor of Environmental Planning and Management at the Congress University, Argentina. She is working on developing methodological frameworks able to consolidate integrated, participative and multi-scale approaches to desertification assessment and on the generation of local development strategies to combat desertification in the Monte desert, Argentina. To date, she has published over 120 contributions to the knowledge of theoretical, methodological and application aspects related to the environment and human settlements in drylands.

Nicole Bernex (member from 2014 – 2015)

Bernex SPINicole Bernex is Professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. She holds a PhD in Geography and has over 40 years of experience in Latin American, African and Asian countries. Dr. Bernex has published a large number of books, scientific articles in journals, annals of congresses and media. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Peru and a focal point for water issues in the IANAS. She is also Vice-Chair of the Lima Geographic Society and visiting Professor in different universities of USA, Spain, France, Canada and Norway. She has been a consultant to the World Bank, UNDP, FAO and a number of large mining companies. She is very involved in the socio-economic aspects of land degradation and desertification. She is a member of the Technical Committee of GWP and has played a pivotal role in promoting integrated water management processes in Peru.

Martial Bernoux (member from 2014 – 2017)

Bernoux SPIMartial Bernoux is a soil scientist at the French Research Institute for the Development (IRD) within Research Unit Eco&Sols, being co-responsible of the team “Carbon and Global Changes”. Member of the French Scientific Committee on Desertification (CSFD), he has particular interest in the evaluation of the role of soils in agro-ecosystems, in the global change context, focusing on soil carbon temporal and spatial dynamics from local to national scales, mainly in inter-tropical and Mediterranean regions. He also contributed to IPCC meetings and publications such as the IPCC Good Practice Guidance for LULUCF (2003). He is also acting, as FAO consultant for the development of the EX-Ante Carbon-balance tool (EX-ACT) to provide ex-ante estimates of the mitigation impact of rural development projects in order to put forward synergies between food security, soils and land conservation and climate policies. Author of more than two hundred scientific papers and book chapters.

Foued Chehat (member from 2016 – 2017)

Chehat SPIFoued Chehat is Director of the National Institute of Agronomic Research of Algeria (INRAA) since 2010. He is also National Director of the Diversification of Economy Program (DIVECO 1), included in the support program of the European Union to Algeria, and Head of the project "Support of the European Union to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for the development of the Observatory of Agricultural Commodities and Food Processing within the INRAA”. From 1979 to 2010 he was Professor at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique of Algiers (ENSA, former National Institute of Agronomy, INA).


Hamid Čustović (member from 2014 – 2017)

Custovic SPIHamid Čustović is professor and Vice Dean for International Cooperation at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Sarajevo where he has been since 1994. He also currently serves as Head of the Postgraduate study "Sustainable Land Management and Rural Planning". Prof. Custovic is a President of the Soil Science Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is also a member of several international associations and committees, including in the European Soil Bureau Network (ESBN) of the Joint Research Center and the Committee of Science and Technology (CST Bureau of UNCCD) for South and Eastern Europe. Prof. Custovic has extensive experience working as a project manager/team leader, consultant/expert for soil, agriculture and environmental in several international research projects. He is author and co-author of several books and number of research papers. He has presented numerous keynote seminars, including the prestigious Alps-Adria Scientific Workshops and international Symposium and Congress of Soil Science.

Mihail Daradur (member from 2014 – 2017)

DaradurMihail Daradur has a background in Geography and works as climatologist at the State Hydrometeorological Service of the Republic of Moldova. He started his research and teaching career at the Hydro-meteorological Research Center of the Russian Federation and at the Academy of Sciences of Moldova. He has extensive experience in climate change/variability/extremes and in climate risk assessment and management. Current research interests focus on climate change/variability and drought related risks which bridge to other areas of geographical sciences (hydrology, geomorphology, soils) and to the general areas of geographic information science. The scientific approach is based on understanding of the system nature and complex challenge of these issues that suggests an interdisciplinary approach and scientific inputs to designing response plans that are highly dependent on human behavior in a changing climate. The overall goal of his scientific, expert and teaching activity is a more effective use of the actual and modelled climate/drought and related risks data in aligning with design information and facilitating decision making process.

Joris de Vente (member from 2014 – 2017)

De Vente SPIJoris de Vente is a researcher of the Soil Erosion and Conservation Research group, Spanish National Research Council (CEBAS-CSIC). His research advances interdisciplinary topics related to the impacts of changes in land use, land management and climate on soil and water resources and related ecosystem services from local to regional scales. As he strongly believes in implementation of academic research, he participated in various applied research projects looking for Sustainable Land Management (SLM) solutions to DLDD in collaboration with stakeholders. Working for the Spanish National Research Council in Murcia (CEBAS-CSIC), he currently researches the potential of SLM for climate change adaptation and mitigation and protect ecosystem services in semiarid agro-ecosystems of Africa and southern-Europe. He participated in over 22 (inter)national research projects and is (co)author of over 35 high-impact scientific papers. Through these experiences, he learned that meticulous trans-disciplinary science, well‐designed stakeholder engagement, and tailor-made dissemination of results are required to effectively protect ecosystem services. This combination is the source of inspiration for his present research.

Karma Dema Dorji (member from 2014 – 2017)

Dema Dorji SPIKarma Dema Dorji serves as the Porgramme Director of the National Soil Services Centre in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in Bhutan. She is responsible for looking after the overall functioning of the Centre which is mandated to look into the sustainable aspects of soil and land management in order to contribute to the important priorities of the country i.e. to achieve food security and protection of the country’s pristine environment. As the Head of the Agency which is the country’s focal Agency for UNCCD, Ms. Dorji oversees the fulfillment of the Convention’s requirements by the Centre, which include the development of the National Action Program to combat land degradation and the National Reporting. Ms. Dorji holds a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) degree in soil science from the University of Reading, UK and a Bachelor’s degree (BSc. Hons.) in Agricultural Science from the University of Western Australia, Perth.

Farah A. Ebraheem (member from 2016 – 2017)

EbraheemFarah A. Ebraheem is Director of the Coastal and Desertification Monitoring Department of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority (KEPA) and Head of the National Committee to Combat Desertification. With a Bachelor of Science degree from Kuwait University in the field of geology, she is responsible for following up the execution of provisions of national laws and international agreements relevant to desertification and for the preparation of technical reports about the status of land use, desertification/ land degradation and soil.



Jorge Luis Garcia (member from 2016 – 2017)

GarciaJorge Luis Garcia is deputy manager for Assessment and Monitoring of Soil and Desertification at the National Forestry Commission of Mexico (CONAFOR) since 2009. Prior to this, he served as deputy director of Watershed Conservation at the Directorate General of Forest and Soil Management of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). Mr. Garcia has extensive experience in international negotiations within the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD. He is technical manager of CONAFOR for the National System to Combat Desertification and Degradation of Natural Resources (SINADES). He has driven the continuous development of the national action programme to combat desertification and promoted the creation of 12 coordination state bodies to combat desertification and drought. He has also coordinated the preparation of the last four national reports of Mexico for the UNCCD.

Alan Grainger (member from 2014 – 2017)

Grainger SPIAlan Grainger is Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Leeds. He has conducted research into desertification since he attended the UN Conference on Desertification in 1977. He is the author of two books and various journal papers on desertification, and his specialist research areas include: global monitoring, indicator systems, spatio-temporal processes, social resilience to climatic variation, interactions between formal and informal institutions, and science-policy communication. He has been a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Land Degradation and Development since 2005, and was Rapporteur for the Ad Hoc Working Group on Science-Policy Advice (AGSA) between 2012 and 2013.

Oleg Guchgeldiyev (member from 2014 – 2015)

Guchgeldiyev SPIOleg Guchgeldiyev has an MSc in Public Economic Management from the University of Birmingham, an Engineering degree from the Russian State University of Oil and Gas and has foregone extensive training on environmental and management issues at universities of Colorado and Geneva.  He has more than 15 years of experience in environmental sector of Turkmenistan, Central Asia and Caspian region.  Besides national studies, he has significant experience in implementing various assignments related to Caspian Sea environment and in Central Asia.  It includes the preparation of environmental investment portfolio and pollution monitoring in the Caspian Sea, biodiversity conservation and local community development.  He contributed to Caspian State of Environment, Trans-diagnostic Analysis and other publications.  His primary scientific interests include environmental economics and environmental impact assessment.  He is working on developing a methodology and adapting practices for ecosystem valuation into protected areas management, for national development planning and in relations with social economic layers.

Klaus Kellner (member from 2014 – 2017)

KellnerKlaus Kellner is a C2 rated researcher by the National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Africa, in the field “Conservation and Management of Ecosystems and Biodiversity”, specializing in land degradation, desertification and restoration ecology. He lectures and supervises under- and post-graduate students at the School of Biological Sciences, North West University, Potchefstroom campus, South Africa. He was the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Committee on Science and Technology for the UNCCD till October 2011, also representing the African continent in the CST Bureau. He was the Co-chair for the Advisory Group for the Provision of Scientific Advice (AGSA) on DLDD issues for the UNCCD. He is the Science and Technology Correspondent and on the Roster of Experts for South Africa. He is the leader of many Research Projects that are funded by National and International organisations regarding DLDD in Southern Africa.

Matthias Magunda (member from 2014 – 2015)

MagundaMatthias Magunda holds a doctorate in Soil and Water Management from the University of Minnesota – USA and several other qualifications.  He has over thirty years research experience in soil erosion /land degradation and water management, ecosystems/watershed management and climate change. During the same period he has lectured at Makerere University and supervised several graduate students. Matthias has published extensively in reputable journals and books. Matthias has been a Director / Chief Executive of a leading Agricultural Research Institute in Uganda for a long period and was responsible for providing guidance / oversight function for several research projects and provision of linkages with national, regional and international partners. He has served and still serves on a number of Boards of Directors for several leading organizations. Matthias was a member of the AGTE and is currently a member of the CST Bureau of the UNCCD.

Barron Joseph Orr (member from 2014 – 2017)

OrrBarron Joseph Orr is a Professor in the Office of Arid Lands Studies in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona where he has been on faculty since 2001. He is also Arizona’s NASA Geospatial Extension Specialist, tasked with bridging the gap between Earth systems science and technology and its use by the general public. This is made possible by a cross-disciplinary career path encompassing international business, international development and academia (anthropology, ecology, remote sensing & spatial analysis), all contributing to our understanding of and response to change in coupled human - environmental systems. His current research focuses on the diffusion of innovation, knowledge transfer, technology adoption and the integration of local and scientific knowledge. He was recently named a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow hosted by the University of Alicante to develop solutions to bridge the society – society divide, particularly in global drylands.

Rajendra Prasad Pandey (member from 2014 – 2017)

PandeyRajendra Prasad Pandey is currently working as Scientist in the National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee in India. He holds a bachelor degree in Agricultural Engineering, a master degree in Soil and Water Engineering and a PhD degree in Hydrology. He started his career as Scientist in 1990 in the National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee in India. He has authored and published 28 research papers in peer reviewed international journals, 16 papers in peer reviewed national journals and 6 chapters in edited books. He has authored and presented 58 research papers in conferences and symposium. He has completed 4 sponsored projects, 29 internally funded research projects and 5 consultancy projects. He is involved in conducting basic and applied research studies and contributed in developing methodologies, particularly for quantitative assessment of streamflow drought severity, assessment of vulnerability to drought using physiographic and climatic factors, a new climatic classification for regional drought characterization. Some of his important contributions are: (i) Development of relationships between climatic parameters and the average drought frequency, (ii) Revised classification of Standardizes Precipitation Index (SPI) and Effective drought Index (EDI) for their applicability in different climatic regions of India, (iii) new index for quantification of vulnerability to drought (iv) Developed stream flow drought severity index (DSI). He worked as “Secretary” of Indian water Resources Society during 2009-2011 and he is presently holding the position of “Secretary” of Indian Association of Hydrologists.

Vanina Pietragalla (member from 2014 – 2017)

PietragallaVanina Pietragalla, graduated in Agrarian Economy and Administration, she is a master degree candidate in Agribusiness and Food, School of Agriculture, University of Buenos Aires (UBA). She is a Technical Adviser to the Department of Land Conservation and Desertification of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina. Pietragalla is professor and researcher of Environmental Economics and Natural Resources Management, of the department of Economy, Development and Agrarian Planning of the School of Agriculture of the UBA. She is member of Steering Committee of the National Observatory on Land Degradation and Desertification and team member of the “Adaptation Fund project: Increasing Climate Resilience & Enhancing Sustainable Land Management in the Southwest of the Buenos Aires Province”, as well as the “Sustainable Land Use Management in the Drylands of North-west Argentina” project executed by the UNDP funded by GEF, among others. She is part of LADA Argentina team. Several publications on environmental economics; ecosystem services assessment and desertification.

Uriel Safriel (member from 2014 – 2015)

SafrielUriel Safriel is a Professor Emeritus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. He has been trained in ecology, in the Hebrew University, Oxford University and the University of Michigan. He has been the Director of the Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research in Israel, participated in IPCC and MA assessment processes, and is currently Chair of Israel UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere National Committee and a Co-Chair of Israel National Ecosystem Assessment Project.



Tao Wang (member from 2014 – 2017)

WangTao Wang works for the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) as the Director and Research Professor of the Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification. He holds a Ph.D. in Physical Geography in 1988 from the Institute of Desert Research, CAS. He was the Director General of the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS (2003-2012) and is the President of Lanzhou Branch of CAS (2011). Through the research for 30 years on the fields of aeolian desertification such as the key basic scientific issues, physical and biological process, monitoring and assessing, combating policy and strategy and approach, he has made significant contributions for understanding and combating the process of desertification in China. He is also involved in the board of many associations linked with desert and desertification research, training and development in the domestic and overseas.

Former SPI observers

Nathalie van Haren (observer from 2014-2017)

Nathalie van Haren (Both Ends)Nathalie van Haren is an agricultural engineer from Wageningen University, The Netherlands. She has been working for Both ENDS, a Dutch Civil Society Organisation since 2003. Both ENDS strengthens global civil society to gain decisive influence on the use of nature and the environment, thus contributing to societies that stay within our planetary boundaries and respect all human rights, including the rights to water, food and a safe living environment. Nathalie is actively involved with Drynet, a CSO network supporting local initiatives in drylands that was established in 2007. She was the first CSO observer to the UNCCD Science Policy Interface from 2014 till 2017. In the SPI, she was actively involved in the development of the Conceptual Framework on Land Degradation Neutrality.