International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF)

Restoring landscapes and transforming rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa

Sustainable agriculture

To radically change the approach to development and land restoration by empowering farmers and pastoralists to restore 5 million hectares in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Lead Organization

International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF)

Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya

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Project Summary

Over 60% of agricultural and pastoral land in Africa is degraded by soil erosion, deforestation and unsustainable land-use practices. Degraded ecosystems generate a myriad of ailments including food insecurity, malnutrition, poverty and disenfranchisement of youth and women. Land restoration offers an effective pathway to tackle these challenges. Successful restoration initiatives require context-specific options and alignment between international commitments with implementation on the ground. We will restore 5 million hectares of land and improve the livelihoods of 1.5M households across three countries in Africa. Our approach is to scale restoration options by encouraging farmers and pastoralists to innovate and optimize context-appropriate solutions that ensure equitable and inclusive benefit sharing. A structured stakeholder engagement process will engage and empower communities. We will co-develop and implement an adaptive monitoring framework to assess effectiveness of practices to restore productivity, improve livelihoods and increase ecosystem resilience, including biodiversity and mitigation of climate change.

Problem Statement

Unsustainable agricultural practices and over-exploitation of natural resources have eroded ecosystem health on over approximately 2 billion hectares globally, including 60% of agricultural and pastoral lands in Africa. Impoverished soils result in reduced agricultural yields which exacerbates poverty and food insecurity, impacts health and nutrition, fuels land abandonment and involuntary migration and increases vulnerability to climate change. In the Kenyan rangelands, drought and increasing population have led to the degradation of grazing lands, spread of invasive plant species and ethnic conflicts. Degradation in the almost treeless Shire river basin in Malawi has led to increased fuelwood shortages, declining agricultural production, rationing of power and water and threats to fisheries. Ivory Coast ‘s Tanoe-Ehy forest and Azagny National Park are habitat for threatened flora and fauna species indigenous to West Africa, but increasing pressure on land for agriculture has resulted in severe encroachment into these areas.Collectively, these landscapes are inhabited by over 10 million people and harbour some of the continent’s most critically threatened watersheds, biodiversity and cultures.While landscape restoration is gaining momentum, gaps remain between political commitments and capacity to implement positive changes on the ground. The success of long-term restoration depends upon fostering local ownership of initiatives and enhancing the social and institutional capacity and cohesion for informed decision making. Meaningful progress towards restoration targets and allied goals, such as poverty reduction, gender equity, food and nutrition security and climate resilience, require a leap in building capacity for implementing and monitoring evidence-based landscape restoration.

Solution Overview

Our solution is to radically change the approach to development and land restoration by empowering farmers and pastoralists to innovate and scale appropriate solutions that combine traditional knowledge with science. Experience demonstrates that successful and sustainable land restoration programs depend on holistic participatory approaches that engage all stakeholders, including the private sector, to address the multiple challenges and opportunities. We aim to restore five million hectares across three countries in Africa, benefiting the livelihoods of an estimated 1.5 million households. We will prioritize the development of participatory governance structures to improve on-farm resilience and productivity, biodiversity and sustainable management of natural resources. We will integrate land restoration options with sustainable market-led value chains to increase food security, nutrition, gender equity, incomes and resilience to climate change. In rangeland ecosystems, we will empower community conservancies to implement and experiment with various rangeland management practices, including removal of invasive species, re-seeding of desirable species, and cattle feeding trials to protect the wildlife, manage rangelands more sustainably and improve peace and security. We will apply a tailored stakeholder process to build interaction between stakeholders, closing the gap between international restoration commitments and implementation on-the-ground. Methods such as participatory monitoring and systematic surveys will be combined and implemented as part of an adaptive monitoring framework to track progress of key indicators. These data will be shared in real-time with stakeholders to sustain restoration efforts with community-owned solutions and to ensure that the land remains productive over the long term.

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Project Funders

  • European Comission 2018 - 2022
  • International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

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