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Engaging with Faith Groups to Restore Land in Africa

January 12, 2015


Children from faith-based schools celebrate tree planting in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo: Manuel Akatsa / ARC via Flickr)

  • Faith-based organizations can play an important role in promoting conservation and sustainable natural resources management to help ecosystems and livelihoods more resilient.
  • The World Bank, through the TerrAfrica partnership, has been engaging with the Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC) to leverage the reach of faith groups in addressing degradation and build greener landscape in Africa.

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.

" Faith groups are important stakeholders for the World Bank. They offer a unique and unparalleled opportunity to access grassroots communities. "

Magda Lovei

Practice Manager, Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice, World Bank


Photo: Manuel Akatsa / ARC (via Flickr)

Growing Momentum around a Landscape Approach

Last October, in Uganda, 90 leaders in faith, agriculture and education from eight African countries signed the Mukono Declaration calling for a new alliance for faithful farming and resilient landscapes.

The TerrAfrica/ARC partnership and the Mukono Declaration signal a growing global convergence around the landscape approach, which was evident at the 2014 Global Landscapes Forum in Lima. It also aligns with the recommendations and work that is being done by TerrAfrica. Already, the TerrAfrica partnership has worked with 24 sub-Saharan countries and 20 partners including Regional Economic Communities, UN bodies, international organizations, EU, bilaterals and civil society, to secure $3 billion for sustainable land and water management investment, place 15 million hectares under sustainable land management and prepare 18 country investment frameworks.

An African Alliance for Resilient Landscapes

TerrAfrica plans to further promote a landscape approach by supporting the implementation of the Africa Landscapes Action Plan. Jointly prepared by TerrAfrica, NEPAD and EcoAgriculture, the plan presents an agenda to develop landscapes initiatives in Africa and spells out priority actions that embrace all actors, extend to all sectors and integrate both policies and services.

The World Bank will also support the African Union NEPAD launch of an African Alliance for Resilient Landscapes and promote the Initiative 25x25x25: 25 million hectare under sustainable landscape management by 2025, with the participation of 25 million farmers. Developed under the TerrAfrica platform, the Alliance will promote sustainable landscape management in African countries and be supported by a coalition of partners.

“Through this Alliance, we expect that land actors and policymakers will recognize the importance of moving beyond single-sector interventions to support the resilience of both ecosystems and livelihoods,” says Paola Agostini, TerrAfrica Program Coordinator. “This approach has real potential to make landscapes more resilient and productive, so that future generations will continue to benefit“.

The movement of faith-based actions will complement the Alliance by bringing a faith response to resilient landscapes and facilitate the dialogue among faith groups and with the secular world around the sustainable development goals. It is also expected to convey the moral imperative to reduce poverty and increase shared prosperity in an environmentally sustainable way.