Eight out of every ten people in sub-Saharan Africa are dependent on land for their livelihoods yet two thirds of the land is highly degraded. This threatens livelihoods and the food and nutrition security of the poorest, most vulnerable farmers and pastoralists.
Environmentalists and development experts now see potential in integrative restoration of Africa’s drylands. This is the focus of this year’s Global Landscapes Forum – GLF Africa – conference: GLF Africa: Restoring Africa’s Drylands,” running online for two days beginning 2 June.
Speaking in the opening plenary of the conference, Ibrahim Thiaw, who leads the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought – UNCCD, highlighted the urgent need to end the neglect of Africa’s drylands.
“Without its drylands, Africa would not be Africa,” said Thiaw. “Change is homemade, not imported… it is time to reset, to rethink Africa’s development, to turn challenges into opportunities.”
From commitments to action
Speakers in the opening session seemed to agree that Key investment strategies are needed to create an enabling environment for sustainable land management and ecosystem restoration.
In one of the sessions dubbed – from community-led restoration to carbon-enhancing landscapes – director of the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund, Gautier Quéru noted that there is a need to address policy gaps to connect the commitments being made at the national and global levels and initiatives being done at the community level that are largely project driven and most times last only as long as the project does.
He highlighted that restoring Africa’s drylands is critical for future food security, climate resilience and biodiversity conservation, not only on the continent, but also globally. He highlighted that one model that works efficiently is incentivising green economy, so that individuals and enterprises seeking livelihoods and profit can also contribute to conservation practices.
Quéru noted that “restored landscapes would provide more food, water, energy, and jobs for millions of people living across Africa.”
Restoration is profitable
According to research, investing one dollar in restoration generates an estimated seven to thirty dollars in economic benefits, including improved food production, carbon sequestration, and water quality. Yet each year, deforestation and land degradation cost the world $6.3 trillion in lost ecosystem services like agricultural products, recreational opportunities and clean air.
Currently, it is estimated that 65% of land in Africa is affected by degradation, and 3% of GDP is lost annually from soil and nutrient depletion on cropland, hence the need to abase the situation urgently.
Jes Weigelt is head of programmes at Think Tank for Sustainability – TMG. He said at the session that governments and policy makers can design policies and strategies that help unlock restoration finance, including monetizing environmental and social benefits, like carbon taxes that are gaining momentum around the world.
This he said can be the starting point as nationally determined contributions – NDCs, include some form of carbon pricing. Directing some of the revenues or proceeds from carbon pricing to climate solutions such as restoration would increase the impact of these prices in tackling climate change.
He further highlighted that shifting incentives from land degradation toward restoration can help to increase national forest covers and support the rise of eco-tourism, which has a great potential to contribute to growth.
The session – From community led restoration to carbon-enhancing landscapes – highlighted lessons from successful community-led soil and land restoration projects in several African countries that have created tangible benefits for communities and ecosystems.
Discussions outlined knowledge-sharing models that enhance access to context-specific data and practical toolkits for restoration, as well as community-led social innovations that help tackle structural barriers to equitable land rights and other governance challenges. The discussions further developed practical insights for restoration pathways that simultaneously address social, technical, economic, and institutional barriers to the sustainable use of land, water, energy, and other natural resources.
Speakers also showcased entry points for win-win restoration approaches that incentivize private investments in the sustainable management of shared natural resources.