A Global Land Outlook (GLO) study was just released to government leaders in Southern Africa and is hoped to pave the way for better management of degrading land and other resources such as water and energy in the SADC region.
Conducted for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the report was published earlier this year by SRK Consulting, a firm with multi-disciplinary expertise in environmental issues. The UNCCD appointed SRK partner and environmental consultant Darryll Kilian to lead the study, entitled the Regional Thematic Report for Southern Africa: Leveraging the Land, Water and Energy Nexus in SADC.
“This GLO considered the complex factors around land degradation in Southern Africa, and the region’s responses,” said Kilian. “We were also asked to highlight the cross-sectoral linkages of land-water-energy (LWE) systems or nexus points that can be used to leverage progress towards achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN).”
Understanding the vision for SADC
To deliver these insights in a practical format that engaged with SADC member countries’ institutions and commitments, the study team examined a vast range of documentation on policies and conventions. These ranged from desertification and biodiversity to climate change, and covered global, regional and national protocols.
“We needed a detailed understanding of the vision and plans for the region, to map out the landscape of where it was currently and where it wanted to get to,” Kilian said. “We also needed to reflect what progress was being made towards these goals, so referred back to documents like the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020-2030 (RISDP), which has a 10-year roadmap.”
This allowed land degradation neutrality opportunities to be further explored, he said, including the harnessing of water, renewable energy and land.
“We worked closely with a reference committee headed by the UNCCD Secretariat, which included the SADC Secretariat,” he said. “In addition to providing guidance, this group was able to offer information that augmented our other data platforms.”
Packaging vast information in a digestible way
The team needed to synthesise the vast volume of information and to make it accessible, through data-rich infographics, for example, that reflected the current state of affairs in progress.
“We also conducted one-on-one interviews with stakeholders in the different regions,” he said. “After our initial research into the key strategic documentation, we hosted a workshop to which we invited about 80 stakeholders and partners in the region.”
Presenting its initial research to the stakeholders, and proposing an outline for the Global Land Outlook, SRK was able to gain valuable feedback in terms of case studies. This allowed the report to be well populated with real-life examples of initiatives from around Southern Africa. These provided insights into how well implementation was working in different socio-cultural, environmental and political conditions.
“This was important, as the document will be used by policymakers and senior officials in government – who are responsible for areas like water and land management,” he said. “To be useful, the regional focus needed to be brought down to national and sub-national level too; case studies help to do this, so that readers can see their own situation in the examples of others.”
This, he noted, could lead to “aha” moments for decision maker – where they see successful interventions in other SADC countries that bear relevance and value.
Pathways rather than prescriptions
Kilian emphasised that the GLO report was not intended to be prescriptive in terms of how SADC countries responded.
“Rather, we developed and presented five ‘pathways’ and associated strategic mechanisms, which offer stakeholders an integrative approach through which they could leverage land-water-energy nexus gains,” he said. “These would help incorporate land degradation neutrality into policy and decision-making at all scales.”
This could improve the impact of projects by building in multiple benefits, improving governance and scaling them up from initial pilot schemes.
A current example is the local application of the Great Green Wall (GGW) concept in the Sahel region in Burkina Faso to reverse desertification. The idea of a southern GGW was endorsed by SADC in 2019 to combat land degradation.
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