Desertification - Land use planning
Thegef-Consultation key to overcoming the enormous challenges of restoring degraded land
The world faces huge and unprecedented biodiversity and climate change challenges. One way we can help address these challenges is through the restoration of degraded land.
Restoring landscapes—done properly in consultation with local communities, governments and scientists—has huge environmental, climate mitigation but also, importantly, economic benefits. It also contributes to many of the Sustainable Development Goals.
A 2015–2019 Global Environment Facility project, Building the Foundation for Forest Landscape Restoration at Scale, implemented by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in partnership with five countries (Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Niger) is an important contribution to landscape restoration.
“There is no single way to restore degraded land, without incorporating diverse factors—cultural, social, economic and topographical—coming into play in different countries and regions,” says Ulrich Piest, a UNEP ecosystems expert. “While tree-planting is an important aspect of landscape restoration in many settings, it is not a silver bullet.”
The project facilitates national commitments to restoration by enabling improved legal and policy conditions across sectors. The big goal: to enhance the integration of trees in agricultural landscapes, and to restore forests in ways that support strategies to avoid deforestation and defragmentation and promote climate-smart agriculture.
“Investing in reviving land delivers tremendous socio-economic returns to protect standing forests, but planning must include all relevant voices to implement effective restoration,” highlights WRI’s Fred Stolle, the project’s coordinator. “Input from community leaders, producers, governments at different levels, scientists and technicians provides critical information to make better choices and bring prosperity to rural communities.”
In India, 70 per cent of the population depend on agriculture and 82 per cent of farmers are smallholders, but much of their land is degraded. A first-of-its-kind online web portal, Restoration Opportunities Atlas, estimates that about 140 million hectares of land could be protected and restored in India. The country’s ample experience in rural development, watersheds and restoration interventions were mapped in the Atlas as a result of the project, which also supported planning to restore landscapes in Sidhi District, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Around 360,000 hectares of land in the district could be regenerated by implementing at least eight restoration interventions.
“If restoration is implemented based on what we learned through this project and our consultations, 30,000 jobs could be created through six new value chains for six types of produce that come from trees. This could result in 3.75 million person-days of employment and $10 million in wage income for the local communities,” says Ruchika Singh, of WRI India.
In Kenya the project focused on semi-arid Makueni County, with a population of just under one million. “It was really important to consult with people at the local (ward) level to determine which restoration interventions would be acceptable and would also benefit the largest number of people,” says Mary Mbenge, Makueni County’s Chief Officer for Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change. “We consulted with them through a public participation exercise, together with the county government, to prioritize the best restoration options.”
Google Earth satellite images were used in two districts of Ethiopia, not only to understand tree-cover changes over time but also to inform implementation on the ground. The goal was to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, achieve food security, and prevent sedimentation of waterbodies through afforestation and reforestation, tree-planting in agricultural areas, trees along roads and on riverbanks, and erosion mitigation measures. While these measures have been implemented for many years in Ethiopia, district decision makers are now able to share their implementation data extracted from satellite images to boost restoration efforts.