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    Chad. Andrea Borgarello for TerrAfrica / World Bank

    Environmental degradation exacerbates poverty among the most vulnerable people who often lack access to the most basic resources for their survival. 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 as well, a lack of environmental and spatial planning at the landscape level 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 deforested and degraded 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 Group 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.

    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 Landscapes focus 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 program led by the African Union that aims to strengthen the resilience of the region’s people and natural systems, from Senegal to Ethiopia. The World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) support this initiative through the Sahel and West Africa Program (SAWAP), a US$1.1 billion investment program in 12 countries using integrated landscapes approach. As of June 2018, SAWAP reached 22 million direct beneficiaries, brought over 1.5 million hectares of additional land under sustainable land management, and built the adaptive capacity of 6,130 institutions.

    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 resilient landscapes.

    The Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program, funded 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 the region.

  • In Zambia, where more frequent and intense droughts and floods have led to food, water and energy insecurity, the World Bank is working with the government to implement a US$33 million-dollar integrated landscape program. The program is working across sectors to introduce better land use planning and climate-smart agriculture technologies to improve agriculture resilience, boost crop productivity, and reduce deforestation in the country’s Eastern Province. Through adoption of climate-smart practices, farmers can produce more food per hectare and are able to better maintain soil quality so that they do not need to clear forest areas for new agricultural land. At the same time, some 5 million hectares of tropical miombo forests and grasslands, which are home to globally significant biodiversity, are being brought under sustainable management and will benefit from results-based payments for carbon sequestration. An estimated 215,000 people will benefit directly from this program, and of these, at least 30 percent will be women. 

    In Mozambique, an Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) Portfolio brings together a series of projects to promote a landscape approach to sustainably manage natural resources and improve livelihoods in the country’s most vulnerable rural communities. In a country where over 70% of households rely on natural resources, the ILM Portfolio is promoting a healthy coexistence between humans and nature by tackling deforestation and resource exploitation, together with challenges such as rural poverty, community rights and land management. Combining on-ground investments, technical assistance, analytical work and results-based finance, the over USD $500 million Portfolio assists the Government of Mozambique in improving the livelihood of rural communities, in promoting small and medium businesses linked to agriculture and natural resources, with an emphasis on women and youth, and promotes sustainable management of natural resources, including curbing deforestation, illegal timber and wildlife trade and resource degradation.

    In Burundi, a country where 90 percent of the population relies on natural resources for food, income, and jobs, efforts to restore degraded landscapes are also restoring hope for a better future. The coffee sector accounts for 90 percent of the country’s foreign exchange. Yet, severe land degradation led to a decrease in coffee production from 40,000 tons in the mid-1990s to as low as 5,700 tons in 2003. The $4.2 million Sustainable Coffee Landscapes Project has helped to reverse this decline in productivity by placing over 4,400 hectares under sustainable land management practices. Under IDA18, the $30 million Landscape Restoration and Resilience Project will further scale up restoration of degraded landscapes and increase land productivity by 20 percent.

    In Ethiopia, with support from World Bank-financed projects, communities have successfully transformed their degraded environment into green and productive land. Under the Sustainable Land Management Project about 900,000 hectares of land is being sustainably managed, benefitting 2.5 million people. This led to better water access, food security, higher yields, and diversified sources of income – resulting in resilient livelihoods. The World Bank is also helping Ethiopia increase land tenure security. Soon, nearly half a million households will have legal land certificates. This includes 11,000 landless youth who received land certificates in exchange for restoring degraded communal lands.