Agriculture and land use change account for up to a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and are a major cause of deforestation and ecosystem degradation. The misallocation of farm subsidies — which have risen globally from an annual $325 billion in 2000 to $619 billion today — is driving much of this destruction. Without reform, these subsidies will render vast expanses of healthy land useless. Given that the world will have 10 billion people by 2050, the loss of this land will make it impossible to feed the global population.

What is one major way to fix this systemic problem and build a more sustainable food system? Incentivizing farmers to restore their land through techniques like agroforestry, silvopasture and low-carbon agriculture. These techniques can create benefits of $7-30 per $1 invested.

Figure 3 from report, showing 9 benefits of shifting agricultural subsidies to land restoration: fewer incentives for deforestation, increased biodiversity, greater ecosystem resilience, better soil quality, higher crop yields, extra income for farmers, increased food security, lower carbon emissions, more jobs

Learning from practical experiences across Africa, Asia and Latin America, this report lays out a clear path that governments can take to repurpose underperforming farm subsidies to incentivize restoration. Governments can redesign existing agricultural subsidies, craft new ones that pay for farm restoration, invest directly in smallholders and create systems for peer-learning and progress tracking. These steps can help governments meet their economic development goals, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect vulnerable ecosystems and improve food security.

Figure 1 from report, showing policy elements to boost both agriculture and land restoration: 1. Repurposing agricultural subsidies 2. Create new incentives 3. Put smallholder farmers first 4. Encourage peer-learning

During the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), there has never been a better opportunity to repurpose agricultural subsidies. This report offers policymakers the data they need to make the case for reform, and practitioners the practical guidance they need to get on with it.

Learn more about The Restoration Policy Accelerator, WRI’s peer learning program for policymakers embarking on this journey.