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    Chad. Andrea Borgarello for TerrAfrica / World Bank

    Environmental degradation, exacerbated by climate change, perpetuates poverty in which the most vulnerable people lack access to the resources needed to survive. In rural areas, where 78 percent of the world’s poor live, environmental neglect contributes to degraded land, water scarcity, falling crop yields and economic migration. About 42 percent of the world’s poorest live on land that is classified as degraded. Every year, 24 billion tons of fertile soil are eroded and 12 million hectares of land are degraded through desertification and drought – compromising efforts to end global hunger.

    In cities and coastal areas, the lack of environmental and spatial planning translates into costly and scarce water, food and energy supplies, as well as pollution-related disease, and increased vulnerability to natural disasters such as floods or tsunamis.  Land degradation costs the world an estimated $10.6 trillion each year.

    These challenges are also great opportunities: worldwide, about 2 billion hectares of degraded forest land could be restored to functional, productive ecosystems, boosting development prospects and helping both people and the planet in mitigating the impacts of climate change.    

    Landscape restoration techniques that improve crop yields, reduce erosion and enhance the provision of water are within reach. They include proven methods such as agroforestry and silvopastoralism that integrate trees on farms and ranches; cross slope barriers and farmer-managed natural regeneration to fight soil erosion; conservation area management to protect water sources; and climate smart agriculture that uses less water and builds up soil for more resilient crops. Many of these interventions deliver a “triple win” by increasing livelihoods, enhancing resilience to climate change, and storing carbon to mitigate climate change.

  • The World Bank supports an integrated approach for sustainably managing land, water and coastal resources for multiple purposes and functions -- a landscape approach. Managing natural resources in an integrated way across different land uses and connecting them at the landscape level provides the basis for enhancing people’s livelihoods, security, and resilience to climate variability and change. For policy-makers, it is a chance to plan across economic sectors by focusing on development challenges at the right scale by minimizing trade-offs and reaping more value from existing resources.

    The World Bank works with experts across economic sectors to implement effective programs that prioritize sound natural resource management as the basis for inclusive and resilient growth. The Bank uses its convening power and global experience to bring together international, national and local stakeholders in key partnerships around a shared vision for improved natural resource management.

    For example, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapesfocus on an incentive mechanism for emission reductions at the landscape level known as results-based finance. Both are funded by multiple donors and managed by the World Bank, and promote reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector, from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+), often along with sustainable agriculture and smarter land-use planning, policies and practices.

    The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative is a trans-African program led by the African Union that aims to strengthen the resilience of the region’s people and natural systems, from Senegal to Eritrea. The World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) support this initiative through the Sahel and West Africa Program, active in 12 countries.

    TerrAfrica is a partnership that aims to address land degradation by scaling up knowledge sharing, investments and coalition building. Under TerrAfrica, 26 Sub-Saharan African countries and 20 partners, including the World Bank, have worked to secure $3 billion for investments in sustainable land and water management.

    The Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program, recently approved for funding by the GEF, aims to protect globally significant biodiversity and to implement policies that foster sustainable land use and restoration of native vegetation cover in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.

  • The World Bank has been working at a landscape level for over two decades, drawing lessons from successes such as the Loess Plateau in China, where a large-scale erosion control program, including natural regeneration and bans on grazing, returned a devastated plateau to a thriving landscape supporting sustainable agricultural production, and  improving the livelihoods of 2.5 million people.

    Ten years later, a similar approach helped increase incomes and fight deadly erosion in the Humbo Mountain area of Ethiopia, generating carbon credits as an added benefit of landscape restoration.

    After years of intensive grazing in Colombia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, pastures were degraded, erosion was accelerating and livestock productivity was falling. A pilot project introduced silvopastoral techniques and payments for environmental services to rehabilitate degraded pastures and generate additional income. Integrating trees in pastures produced multiple wins: biodiversity, water quality, milk production and income rose, while methane emissions decreased.

    Landscape connectivity and integrated landscape management approaches were essential in the successful delivery of the Trans-frontier Conservation Areas and Tourism Development program in Mozambique, aimed at conserving biodiversity and promoting economic growth through nature-based tourism. The program bolstered cooperation among neighboring countries, expanded conservation areas, improved infrastructure, created new enterprises, revenue and jobs for local communities, and contributed to increasing tourism by almost 200% between 2006 and 2013. Additional initiatives, financed by climate funds, will seek to rehabilitate degraded lands, reduce carbon emissions, and improve resilience in poor areas vulnerable to climate variability and change.