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Restoring African Drylands-Cross-cutting issues

At the beginning of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, this 60th issue of ETFRN News is very timely, with the preface signed by UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, reflecting a focus on drylands that cover some 40% of the world’s land area and contain some of the most severely degraded landscapes on Earth. ” .

They are also home to a third of the world’s population and a disproportionate number of the poorest people, along with unique ecosystems and biodiversity. And these issues are more acute in Africa than in any other continent.

  • ETFRN News 60 focuses on dryland restoration in the Sahel and the Greater Horn of Africa where levels of poverty, land degradation and out-migration are acute.
  • It collates 36 articles from more than 100 contributors, including some long-term analyses of remarkable increases in tree cover and improved agricultural yields over large areas of the Western Sahel never published before, landscape restoration in Ethiopia, and examples from many other countries.
  • These provide new insights into what has led to the documented successes, summarizes the ‘top ten’ key findings, and offer recommendations to a much-needed change in focus if we are to achieve the ambitious commitments made by African countries to Land Degradation Neutrality targets, the Bonn Challenge, the African Forest Landscape Initiative, and the Great Green Wall, amongst others.
  • The overriding story is that farmer and community-led initiatives are the main driver of dryland restoration that have been adopted at scale, and at low cost.
  • These include simple water harvesting techniques, encouraging natural regeneration, and locally-managed control over resources.
  • Key factors include bylaws made with and enforced by local institutions and communities, the inclusion of women and youth, and effective support from projects and programmes, and national and international policies.
  • Large-scale projects have also played a role, and private sector investments are limited but expanding.

There is an urgent need to take this knowledge on board in adapting and implementing restoration programmes.

But challenges remain, such as tailoring investments to community needs so local people earn more from their efforts, and to improve monitoring to assess progress not just in productivity and hectares under restoration, but also in the resulting social, economic and environmental benefits.

Cross-cutting issues

3.1 Local land-use plans, bylaws and conventions reduce resource-based conflicts Brook Johnson & Douglas Steinberg

3.2 Scalable and equitable governance in farmer managed natural regeneration Matt Kandel, Chanimbe Benamba, Rahinatu S. Alare, Genevieve Agaba & Kate Schreckenberg

In brief (vi): Understanding the dimensions and context of participation in restoration Aster Gebrekirstos, Niguse Hagazi, Emiru Birhane & Meine van Noordwijk

3.3 Enhancing women’s rights and lives through gender-equitable restoration  Safiétou Tiendrébéogo, Adidjata Ouedraogo, Ramané Kabore, Sita Zougouri, Marlène Elias, Alain Touta Traore, Barbara Vinceti, Daouda Traore & Emma Lucie Yago-Ouattara

In brief (vii): Connecting youth and trees through experience, education and ownership Peter Borchardt, Mitiku Ketema, Kifle Worku, Shibru Siku, Deresse Kochena & Maximilian Schmid

3.4 Advances in managing and utilizing exotic tree invasions in the Greater Horn of Africa  Nick Pasiecznik, Amsale Shibeshi, John Livingstone & Simon Choge

In brief (viii): Managing native ‘bush encroachment’ in East African rangelands Staline Kibet, Simon Choge, Ross Shackleton & Urs Schaffner

3.5 Agroforestry: sustainably increasing soil productivity in the West African Sahel Mike McGahuey

3.6 More trees for more water in drylands: myths and opportunities Douglas Sheil & Aida Bargués Tobella

Now is the time to build on the impressive set of restoration successes documented in this issue, and to make full use of the lessons learned from these very encouraging experiences. Locally managed res­toration must be promoted as a matter of urgency, supported by local institutions, organizations and governments, with public funding.

  • Private funding may follow, but is far from guaranteed, especially since the inherently low levels of productivity in drylands are much less likely to yield the rate of return that investors could obtain elsewhere.
  • Farmer managed and assisted natural regeneration, area exclosures and simple water harvesting and soil conservation techniques have been highly successful and at a low cost.
  • Much can be achieved by mobilizing rural communities and catalyzing grassroots movements led by restoration champions.

And in all cases, to effectively support restoration programmes and projects, all it is vital that those involved must do their utmost to guarantee that these basic tenets are adhered to.

  • Ensure full participation of all land users, build on their knowledge and strengthen their capacities.
  • Support communities to realize clear economic benefits, especially for women and youth.
  • Enable local institutions to develop and enforce their own inclusive conventions and bylaws.
  • Engage governments to elaborate policies and legislation that stimulate investment in trees.

More details , the top 10 key findings, recommendations for a change, commitments made you may wish to find in here, 24 pages synthesis   .

The publication Restoring African Drylands   is included in our library collection for your ease of future reference.

ABOUT: Established in 1991, the European Tropical Forest Research Network (ETFRN) aims to ensure that European research contributes to conservation and sustainable use of forest and tree resources in tropical and subtropical countries. ETFRN promotes a dialogue between researchers, policy-makers and forest users, the increased coherence of European tropical forest research, and increased collaboration with researchers in developing countries.

The full text publication you can find here, all 36 individual articles are available here

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