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Restored Land, Healthy People, Green Recovery. Build Forward Better with Land-Centered Solutions

Land restoration is an essential component of any building forward strategy.

Without land restoration, we will continue to face global crises. Ensuring food and water security, reducing emissions, and conserving biodiversity will not be possible without concerted efforts to regenerate our natural capital and transform our food systems.

Land is the foundation of our societies. Over half of global GDP relies on what the land gives us. 99.9% of the food we consume comes from land.

Land degradation already threatens the livelihoods and security of over 3 billion people.

  • More than 125 countries have committed to targets and measures to restore the land, which is a strong start. It can be much stronger if Covid-19 stimulus packages are targeted more towards it.
  • But only an approximate of 2.5 percent of such spending so far has green objectives.

We have the tools to create healthier and more resilient societies and economies. These include more responsible land governance, investments that protect and restore land and nature, and long-term strategic planning.

The pandemic has given us a rare and small opportunity to review and rethink the future we can create, a future of healthier citizens, secure livelihoods and greater equality and opportunity for all. We can seize that opportunity now.

1. The Scale of the Challenge – Reversing Course

  • A million species face extinction due to habitat loss. 
  • We are losing more value than we produce. Between 1997 and 2011, land-use change caused losses averaging USD 20 trillion worth of ecosystem services every year.
  • Land degradation alone accounted for 30% of that, three times the global market value of agricultural products.
  • Over a quarter of greenhouse gases arise from agriculture, forestry, and other land uses.
  • By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will suffer absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the world will be living under water shortages.
  • Our ability to provide stable food and nutritional security for a growing population is at serious risk.
  • Science and current agriculture have increased productivity in the short-term, but resulting soil degradation has reduced the concentrations of vitamins and nutrients in our food.
  • By 2050, on our present course, global crop yields are estimated to fall 10%, with some regions suffering up to a 50% reduction.
  • As a result, world food prices are expected to rise by an estimated 30%.
  • Ensuring food security for 9.7 billion people by 2050 while meeting the other goals of the Paris Agreement will be possible only if we scale up land restoration and regeneration to transform our food systems   READ FURTHER

2. Land Restoration for a Green Recovery – The Solution

Land restoration is a proven and cost-effective strategy that can jumpstart a green economic recovery. It creates green jobs, uplifts rural communities, and delivers significant co-benefits for human health, biodiversity, and climate change.

Land restoration offers multiple pathways towards a green recovery and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

For an estimated USD 2.7 trillion per year – comfortably within the scope of the proposed COVID spending – we could transform the world’s economies through restoring natural ecosystems, rewarding agriculture that keeps soils healthy, and incentivizing business models that prioritize renewable, recyclable or biodegradable products and services.

Within a decade, the global economy could create 395 million new jobs, generating over USD 10 trillion in annual business value.

For example:

  • Every USD 1 invested in restoring degraded forests can yield USD 7–30 in economic benefits.
  • Restoring 150 million hectares of degraded agricultural land could generate USD 85 billion for national and local economies, USD 30–40 billion a year in additional income for smallholder farmers and increased food security for close to 200 million people.
  • Preventing topsoil loss could create nearly USD 1 trillion of benefits over the next 15 years in Africa alone. Doing nothing would cost double that. READ FURTHER

3. New Jobs – Working towards Restored Lands

Organic farms, for example, require more labor than conventional farms but generate greater returns. They need fewer external inputs, less mechanization, have more diversity and complex rotation practices.

  • In the USA, farms with regenerative practices were estimated to be 78% more profitable than those with only conventional practices.
  • In the USA, landscape restoration creates between 10 and 39 jobs per USD 1 million of investment, at least twice that of the oil and gas sector.
  • A Pakistan investment of PKR 10 billion (USD 63 million) has already delivered 85,000 jobs in nursery raising, plant care, forest protection, and fire-fighting activities, expected to rise to 200,000 in the next few months.READ FURTHER

4. Financing Land Restoration - Making the Stimulus Green

Countries are responding to the economic impacts of the pandemic with the greatest expenditure of public resources the world has ever seen, so it is only right that this spending goes to ensure that everyone in society benefits.

The greatest benefit to all people is to reduce the impacts of the land, climate and biodiversity crises by spending on land restoration, renewable energy, biodiversity, water and waste management, infrastructure and resource efficiency

Ecosystem Restoration Fund - expands tree planting to increase protected areas by 50%.

  • It creates 5,000 jobs for youth, who will be trained to become guardians and custodians of nature.
  • Debt for nature swap scheme - targets USD 1 billion in funding from renegotiating Pakistan’s debt to support green economic recovery efforts. It will pilot an impact-based nature bond linked to verified biodiversity protection.
  • Green euro bond - USD 500 million bond on international capital markets to shift from coal towards renewable energy for a 60% clean energy mix by 2030

5. Land Governance – Strengthening Land Tenure

Healthy and productive land is the foundation of livelihoods, human health, social stability, and often the most important asset held by the rural poor.

The land degradation crisis has a disproportionate impact on disenfranchised populations, marginalized and vulnerable communities. Strengthening land tenure and rights is a major step to environmental security.

For the rural poor, land is often the sole source of livelihoods and the only safety net during crises and times of stress.

As poverty deepens, people are either forced to migrate or respond in ways that cause even more damage to nature and diminish the productive capacity of the land.

Many individuals and communities in developing countries have little or no tenure security in current land administration systems.

  • Less than a quarter of countries maintain complete land administration systems.
  • An estimated 4 billion of the world’s 6 billion tenures remain outside any formal governance arrangements. 
  • More than 70% of the world’s farmland is controlled by 1% of farms, primarily large agribusinesses.
  • Over 80% of farms are subsistence smallholdings of less than two hectares, covering only 12% of total farmland.
  • Lack of tenure security and the accelerating consolidation of land limits access to resources, extension services, and production inputs (e.g., technologies, credit, markets) as well as the ability to have a say in land use and management decisions.
  • Women and landless households are particularly disadvantaged   READ FURTHER

6. The International Response - Restoring Planetary Balance

Countries recognize the urgent need for land restoration. At the start of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030), national pledges to act already cover over 1 billion hectares.

  • The UN General Assembly recently affirmed that combating desertification, land degradation and drought – and achieving land degradation neutrality – is a pathway to accelerate progress towards achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals.

Find out more To date, over 125 countries have committed to set targets and measures to:

  • Avoid land degradation through regulation and planning.
  • Reduce the impacts of land degradation through sustainable land and water management strategies and practices.
  • Reverse the processes and impacts of land degradation by restoring biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

Launched in 2020, the G20 Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats also seeks to enhance collaboration among member and non-member countries to support current commitments for land protection, sustainable land management, and restoration.

It seeks additional voluntary commitments to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, and target 15.3 to achieve land degradation neutrality.

  • SDG 15: Life on land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
  • SDG Target 15.3: By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.

The new, potentially game-changing opportunity, therefore, is to integrate land degradation neutrality initiatives into national COVID-19 recovery packages as well as existing international processes, such as the Nationally Determined Contributions to combat climate change and the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. Find out more

Everyone has much to gain. Everyone has a role to play. Our collective future is at stake