Land Degradation Neutrality: Will Africa Achieve It? Institutional Solutions to Land Degradation and Restoration in Africa

Nov 2016

Land has gained stature as a natural resource to be protected since the 2012 Rio+20 Summit. The decision to “strive to achieve a land-degradation neutral world in the context of sustainable development” (United Nations 2012, p. 54), along with the understanding that “this should act to catalyze financial resources from a range of public and private sources,” served as the foundation for further discussions about land. In 2015, land was included in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development as target 15.3 of Sustainable Development Goal 15 (SDG 15). Land has been defined as a global strategic resource that is under stress due to rapidly growing demand for biomass production to accommodate increased food and energy consumption and population dynamics. More than half of the additional two billion people who will live on Earth by 2050 will be born in Africa. The population of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is predicted to grow from 900 million to about 1.4 billion by 2030. However, the region leads the world in poverty, hunger and food insecurity, youth unemployment, agricultural vulnerability to climate change, land degradation, resource-based conflicts, and migrations leading to economic, social, and political instability. Africa has the resources to respond to the exploding global demand for food, energy, and water. The region accounts for 60 % of the world’s uncultivated arable land and more than one third (715 million ha) of the world’s degraded land with potential for restoration. It is already a global hotspot for successful land restoration projects due to innovations in technology and social engineering, which mostly occur at a local level. The institutional aspects relating to the establishment, management and support of restoration projects, however, are one of the major obstacles to scaling up these projects. Achieving land degradation neutrality will be key for the economic, social, and environmental transformations SSA needs to accomplish, given the challenges and potentials of the region, such as climate change, population dynamics, and globalization.


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November 5, 2016