Faith groups, a prominent sector of civil society, are taking on a more engaged role in the effort to restore land and prevent further land degradation in Africa as part of a larger drive to shape beliefs, behavior and actions towards greener and more sustainable development in the continent.
The move comes as countries and their partners are increasingly focused on restoring land to help secure livelihoods, economic growth, and food security.
Faith groups are key partners for TerrAfrica, an African-driven global partnership that aims to address land degradation and promote a multi-sectoral, coordinated approach that involves governments, international organizations and civil society members.
“Faith groups are important stakeholders for the World Bank,” said Magda Lovei, Practice Manager for the Environment andNatural Resources Global Practice at the World Bank. “They offer a unique and unparalleled opportunity to access grassroots communities.”
The involvement of faith groups is of particular importance in Africa, where 90% of the population is religious (describing themselves as Christian or Muslim). For the past four years, a World Bank team working on environment and natural resources has partnered with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) to work with faith groups in restoring land and preventing further land degradation in Africa.
Success in the use of a landscape approach to build the resilience of both ecosystems and people requires the involvement of all actors. Each one has an important role to play in making resilient landscapes a reality. As stated in "Enhancing Resilience in African Drylands" report, the collaborative actions of farmers on steep slopes in tandem with concerted actions by herders to reduce grazing pressures will have greater impact on the land restoration than fragmented or individual efforts alone.
Already, the TerrAfrica/ARC partnership has supported 27 faith groups—with a potential reach of 184 million people—as they prepared long-term plans to care for the environment. The plans, which are based on each group's core beliefs, practices and teachings, include commitments to sustainable and resilient land management, water conservation, and environmental education.
These achievements were celebrated at Buckingham Palace in December, at an event with religious leaders from all faiths hosted by Prince Philip who founded ARC as a broker between religions and environment groups.