Degraded land is a challenge for many of Africa’s farmers, and plays a role in driving people away from their villages into cities. But a new wave of young entrepreneurs is heading back to the land, bringing with them startups and jobs focused on restoring forests and farmland.
The annual economic benefits of restoring degraded and deforested land globally are an estimated $84 billion.
There are 2 billion hectares of degraded land around the globe. Restoring it could not only put food on the table, it could create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
WRI worked with partners to establish AFR100, an African-led initiative that helps advance the African Union goal of restoring 100 million hectares of degraded land. To date, AFR100 partner countries have committed to bring 63.3 million hectares of land into restoration by 2030 and nearly $1.5 billion has been earmarked to support the 100 million hectare target.
Nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
Partners including The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), the World Bank, and WRI supported the establishment of AFR100 and attracted additional financial and technical partners. The partnership includes investors, in-country partners like the Green Belt Movement and Kijani (Forests for Change) in Kenya, and longstanding global partners such as the Global Environment Facility, IUCN, FAO, and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). This extensive partner network reinforces critical links between AFR100 and the Bonn Challenge, the African Resilient Landscapes Initiative, and other restoration initiatives.
To secure political commitments to AFR100, partners worked with national stakeholders to underscore the close alignment between restoration and numerous sustainable development goals. Partners also provided analyses to decision-makers showing where restoration is already happening, the size and location of restoration opportunities, and pathways for scaling up restoration. AFR100 was influenced by Initiative 20x20, an effort to restore 20 million hectares (nearly 50 million acres) in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2020, for which WRI is the secretariat.
AFR100 connects political partners – participating African nations – with technical and financial support to assess restoration opportunities, develop strategies, and implement restoration on the ground at scale. To date, 21 AFR100 partner countries have committed to bring 63.3 million hectares (156 million acres) – an area nearly the size of France – into the process of restoration by 2030. Financial partners have earmarked $481 million in private finance and $1 billion in development finance to support the 100 million hectare target. Many AFR100 partner countries are beginning to scale up proven restoration approaches and monitor their progress.
To date, 21 African nations have signed onto the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and committed to restore 63.3 million hectares (156 million acres) of degraded land.
Restoring degraded landscapes and forests has the potential to enhance social and economic well-being while delivering powerful environmental benefits. The challenge is getting the funding to make that happen.
While Latin America and the Caribbean have lost an area of land the size of Mexico to deforestation and degradation, all hope is not lost. Restoration success stories from three nations point to a way forward.
Drained peatland caused by agricultural expansion is an important but little-known source of emissions in tropical regions. New WRI research finds that the annual emissions from peat drainage in Indonesia and Malaysia equate to emissions from nearly 70 coal plants, or the total annual emissions of Vietnam.
New WRI research finds that in order to help secure a sustainable food future, cropland expansion should be limited to lands with "low environmental opportunity costs."
Creating a Sustainable Food Future, Installment Ten
Installment 10 of Creating a Sustainable Food Future proposes a definition for lands with low environmental opportunity cost. From there, it offers recommendations for how any new cropland expansion can be directed toward these lands.