Africa’s Bold and Ambitious Endeavor: Restoring 100M Hectares of Land by 2030

November 14, 2016

© Andrea Borgarello / World Bank

  • Many African countries are showing interest in restoration and integrated landscape management, the process of improving soil quality through various land management processes
  • These are among several concrete actions recommended in the World Bank’s Africa Climate Business Plan to increase the continent’s climate resilience
  • During the COP22 climate change conference, African leaders, the World Bank and key development partners will meet to mobilize resources to scale up action towards resilient landscapes

WASHINGTON, November 14, 2016 – Sub-Saharan African countries are on an ambitious path to restore and sustainably manage 100 million hectares of land in the region by 2030, and several countries are showing success.

In Niger, 1.2 million farmers have restored five million hectares of farmlands with 200 million trees using their own resources. In Ethiopia, people volunteered 45 days per year to move 90 million tons of rocks and soil to restore the land.  In Kenya, the Green Belt Movement, founded in 1977 by Wangari Mathai, mobilized communities to plant 51 million trees.

“In Africa, 65% of the land is affected by degradation, nearly three million hectares of forests are lost every year, and 3% of gross domestic product growth (GDP) is lost annually from soil and nutrient depletion,” said Magda Lovei, Practice Manager, Environment and Natural Resources, Africa Region, World Bank. “Restoration allows these landscapes to regain their ecological integrity, mitigate climate change and enhance the livelihoods of people who live in these graded landscapes.”

In Africa, like across the globe, country, regional and global initiatives have emerged, while addressing landscape degradation at scale is recognized in motions and declarations. These aim to build the resilience of both livelihoods and ecosystems, support the implementation of countries’ NDCs and contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Rio+20 commits to zero net land degradation, whereby land degradation is either avoided or offset by land restoration. The Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi commits to restore 15% of degraded lands by 2020. The Bonn challenge commits to restore 150 million hectares at global level by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. In Africa specifically, the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) is a pan-African effort to strengthen the resilience of people and natural systems from Senegal to Eritrea, while the Africa Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) is a country-led effort to restore 100 million hectares of land by 2030.  

African states are showing a heightened interest in the restoration of degraded land which contributes critically to resilient landscapes. They are using advanced tools to solidify decisions on how many hectares can be restored, budget how much is needed, select the best-fit practices from a menu of land management approaches, identify policy, financial and social incentives and predict both trade-offs and benefits for farmers.

After many attempts at global forcing-events to push countries to restore the degraded land failed, voluntary commitments won the day. Many countries around the world are now assessing restoration opportunities and making quantified commitment of political will.

Today, at the COP22 Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, the Bank, African leaders, and other development partners participated in a multi-sectoral session to promote African countries’ commitment and targets, and stimulate resource mobilization in the upcoming months, to scale up the restoration and sustainable management of Africa’s landscapes.

So far, 21 African countries have committed to restore over 63 million hectares by 2030. Ethiopia has made the largest commitment with 15 million ha, an area greater than the size of England. Rwanda, the first to commit, challenged itself to restore two million ha including 80 % of agriculture land. Major new restoration commitments and formal expressions of interest have been announced by Benin, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal and Tanzania.

“Much more can be done as Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of all continents with more than 700 million hectares of degraded land,” said Estherine Fotabong, Director of Programs, African Union NEPAD Agency. “To succeed, we must work at the continental level to provide an evidence-based, compelling agenda, bring the different initiatives together under a common framework like the TerrAfrica Partnership and ensure that countries’ priorities are integrated.

In that context, the AU endorsed the African Resilient Landscapes Initiative (ARLI) which promotes multi-sector collaborations to address land degradation at scale, across forest land, cropland, rangelands and other land uses. Launched last year in Paris, ARLI is a political umbrella that brings together the various initiatives sharing similar goals. ARLI is part of the World Bank Group Africa Climate Business Plan, a blueprint to build Africa’s resilience to climate change. By December 2016, the World Bank will have approved projects worth some $900 million in eleven dryland countries which will strengthen resilience by supporting sustainable forest and landscape management, climate-smart agriculture, and social protection.

“This is an ambitious agenda, but it can be done, said Laura Tuck, Senior, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank. “I would like to call on each of us--our African and development partners—to develop a common roadmap with achievable targets for transformative action to strengthen collaboration across initiatives under a common umbrella.”

Africa is the most affected by climate change even if land makes up 70% of the natural resource base, provides 70% of rural employment and 70% of energy use via fuel wood and charcoal (TerrAfrica /FAO/WB 2010). By 2050, its population will double.

“To be able feed our population, make sure that climate patterns continue to feed our rain-fed agriculture and keep our rivers flowing, we need to find a way to keep the integrity of our ecosystems and landscapes,” said Wanjira Mathai, Executive Director, Green Belt Movement. “If we do not cushion the continent against the devastating effects of climate change, land degradation, and the loss of life and property, we stand to lose a great deal. For Africa, restoration is a matter of life and death.”