New Review Finds Slow Progress in Restoring Africa’s Degraded Lands

ADDIS ABABA – More needs to be done to fully tap the enormous opportunity for Africa to return land to sustainable production, protect biodiversity, and shield livelihoods in the battle against climate change, says a joint review on restoring the continent’s forests and landscapes.

The stocktake Review of Forest and Landscape Restoration in Africa 2021 – a joint analysis carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD.

The Review, launched today during Africa Climate Week, presents the successes so far and the remaining difficulties and opportunities across Africa in restoring land degraded by conversion and forest clearance, overuse of natural resources, urbanization, drought, and other factors.

It says up to 65 percent of productive land is degraded, while desertification affects 45 percent of Africa’s land area.

Net loss of forests is still increasing in Africa with 4 million hectares of forest disappearing annually, says first ever stocktake of restoring Africa’s forests, indicating the overall trend is moving downward.

The review also claims the continent’s drylands are “very vulnerable to climate change” and suggested their restoration is a priority for adaptation and building resilient and sustainable food systems.

“Despite our efforts, every year more forest disappears, costing the continent a 3 percent loss of GDP,” said Abebe HaileGabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa in the Review’s Foreword.

“Degraded forest landscapes intensify the effects of climate change and are a barrier to building resilient and prosperous communities when 60 percent of Africans depend on their land and their forests,” he added.

The urgent need to reverse the negative and devastating trends has prompted African leaders to commit to the restoration of the continent’s ecosystems.

“Through its roadmap for development, Agenda 2063, the African continent commits to ecosystems restoration by protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managing forests, and combating desertification,” said Ibrahim Assane Mayaki,NEPAD’s Chief Executive Officer, in his Foreword.

“This review of current approaches and exploration of emerging opportunities is key to accelerating restoration efforts,” Mayaki added.

Local engagement is key

Most of the projects assessed in the Review have a strong climate change dimension, aiming at not only sequestering carbon, but also creating jobs, reducing the vulnerabilities of rural people to food insecurity and helping them adapt to climate changes, according to FAO.

The Review identifies local ownership and stakeholder engagement as fundamental factors for success, adding high-level political support and access to finance are also crucial.

Difficulties with longer-term finance, land tenure and property rights are major challenges along with insecurity and conflict, lack of technical capacity and restricted access due to poor infrastructure, according to the document.

The lead Author of the review has called for African countries to go beyond tree-planting.

“Extending well beyond tree-planting, forest and landscape restoration is an all-encompassing approach to returning trees and forests to landscapes where they have been lost and is of great benefit to sustainable food production, building resilience and disaster risk reduction,” said Nora Berrahmouni, Senior Forestry Officer at FAO Africa and and one of the Review’s lead authors.

“African countries and their partners need to continue to scale-up their efforts in forest and landscape restoration as a viable solution to climate change and building forward better in response to COVID-19, while also protecting their natural capital,” the Author said.

“It’s a long-term process but it is a sustainable, forward-looking solution,” Berrahmouni added..
The Review is an important baseline to assess urgently-needed progress during the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.


– Africa has 1 billion hectares of drylands and 393 million hectares of these need restoration in Africa’s Great Green Wall areas, including 33 million hectares that are restorable in Northern Africa, 162 million ha in the Sahara-Sahel countries and 198 million ha in the Kalahari-Namib countries.

– AFR100 committed 31 African governments to bringing 100 million hectares under restoration by 2030 – a challenge already exceeded. As of June 2021, 129 912 800 hectares have been pledged for restoration under AFR100.

– Africa has an estimated additional 132 million hectares of degraded cropland – combined with climate change this increases the vulnerability of millions of people.

– About 45 percent of Africa’s land is impacted by desertification – 55 percent of this is at very high risk of further desertification.

– The cost of restoration varies widely. The review found that in Madagascar, costs are estimated at USD 680 per hectare, whereas in Ethiopia it is estimated at USD 87 – 1 445.


Featured Image Caption: The Review of Forest and Landscape Restoration in Africa 2021 is the first stocktake of restoring Africa’s degraded forests and landscapes. [Photo FAO]