Sustainable land management in drylands

Photo credit: WVC 2007-11-TINDOUF-PEPIN-FOREST-P1010348_2

Growing seedlings in plastic bottles: seedlings will be planted with their bottle.


Lessons learned in sustainable land management in drylands

Seedlings at a tree nursery in Burkina Faso. Photo Credit: Cheikh Mbow/ICRAF –

It’s now a well-established fact that land degradation costs the world an estimated US$40 billion annually, according to FAO and the UNCCD. This figure does not take into account other hidden costs associated with the increased use of fertilizers, the loss of biodiversity and the rapid disappearance of unique landscapes. Extreme weather conditions such as drought and floods, a changing and more variable climate, and the unsustainable use of the natural resources are amongst complex factors that drive land degradation. This in turn negatively affects land productivity, food security, socio-economic stability, health and wellbeing, and the provision of other ecosystem goods and services for billions of people worldwide. In drylands, these negative effects are felt ever more strongly given the already limited natural resources that characterize these regions.

Last year, 195 signatory countries to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) agreed in Ankara to set a new environmental target to achieve “Land Degradation Neutrality” by 2030. The concept had already been endorsed by UN General Assembly a month earlier in New York as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and reflected in SDG 15 for Life on Land. This landmark agreement commits countries, albeit on a voluntary basis, to restore or rehabilitate degraded lands every year and sets in motion a framework whereby this target might be achieved.

The achievement of a degradation-neutral World by 2030 is a huge challenge requiring effective and well-coordinated efforts on the part of many stakeholders, which must be supported by appropriate assessment and monitoring strategies. To date, interventions to halt or reverse land degradation, undertaken at national scales, have often been fragmented or affected by poor integration and limited assessment of impact. The effective scaling up of sustainable land management and restoration practices is vital to achieving this target. Scientific reviews of existing knowledge – both indigenous and technical, and global datasets such as the one amassed by the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) – which is a top global database recommended by the UNCCD, constitute an important asset that the international community can benefit from.

Read the full article: CGIAR


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.