Scaling up sustainable land management and ecosystem restoration have definite economic benefits for African countries, according to experts who took part in a panel discussion as part of the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The panel was moderated by the African Development Bank.
Africa is facing declining rainfall and falling agricultural yields, plunging 35 million people into food and nutrition insecurity, explained the Director General of the Agrhymet Regional Centre of the Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), Dr Mahalmoudou Hamadoun.
Dr. Maguette Kaïre, a forestry expert at CILSS, welcomed the proactive land restoration policies contained in nationally determined contributions and regional initiatives such as the Great Green Wall. Scaling up, he said, is an obligation in an unfavorable context of climate change that puts pressure on economies and livelihoods. Population growth is at 3% per year in West Africa, which will have 500 million inhabitants by 2050, increasing the pressure on ecosystems. It is estimated that 100 million tonnes of cereals will be needed for the region’s populations in 2025.
However, indigenous land restoration techniques have been successfully developed, although much remains to be done. In Senegal, for example, 9,000 hectares of land have been restored in the Niayes area and a further 20,000 hectares along the Great Green Wall. In Burkina Faso, 300,000 hectares of land have been restored in the Central Plateau region.
“We need to change the paradigm,” advised Saliou Gaye Ndoye, an expert in green finance. Institutions like CILSS are positioning themselves in innovative financing and no longer have to rely on grants and subsidies. CILSS must opt for more strategic tools such as guarantee funds, subsidized loans, and other financial instruments, like the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility, he said.
The CILSS is engaged in a process of receiving accreditation to financing mechanisms, said its executive secretary, Dr Abdoulaye Mohamadou, adding that the aim is to work on guarantee instruments to scale up sustainable land management.
According to the participants, land management produces economic advantages for countries. Indeed, research has shown that, if the Sahel and West Africa could restore 10% of agricultural land per year through sustainable land management techniques, the return on investment could reach between $50 and $170 million per year.
However, scaling up must focus on securing land tenure, adopting climate-adapted techniques, and taking into account youth and women. This will improve grain production, gross domestic product per capita, CO2 capture, and improve food security. A set of macro-economic indicators tracks the benefits of scaling up in relation to food security. But sustainable land management needs institutional leadership and more attention in agricultural and fiscal policies.
Christophe Deguenon, Director of Environment and Water Resources at the West African Economic and Monetary Union, said: “It is necessary to identify and remove socio-economic constraints to access to land, design a pilot program at the national level, subsidize good sustainable management practices and find mechanisms for guaranteeing project holders with banks.”
Sustainable land management also relies on the production of knowledge as a decision-making tool, with updated mapping to monitor progress. In this way, good practices can be replicated elsewhere, and one such tool is the Global Sustainable Land Management Database.
The African Development Fund, the African Development Bank Group’s concessional lending window, and the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program were cited as examples of valuable partners in delivering land management practices. TAAT, which delivers results through climate-smart technologies, will eventually reach 40 million farmers in five years with an additional 120 million tonnes of food production.
COP15 is being held in Abidjan until 20 May. The panel was moderated by the African Development Bank.