Neil Palmer/IWMI.

Regenerating Degraded Agricultural Ecosystems

To grow more food, first look to the environment

About two billion hectares of land under human use have become degraded. Erosion, salt intrusion and unsustainable use have harmed the environment and the productivity of soils. Restoring land requires considering trade-offs, costs and benefits for all kinds of people and industries in landscapes. Only by involving many different stakeholders and co-designing solutions can we restore soils, protect the environment and preserve water and land resources. Understanding the full effects of both degradation and potential solutions is the first step toward repairing the land that millions of smallholder women and men farmers build their livelihoods on.

The Regenerating Degraded Agricultural Ecosystems research theme works with decision makers from the farm to landscape, national to global levels, to develop, demonstrate and evaluate solutions that at once make land better suited for food production and protect the environment. The theme works in places where it can work with other actors’ to restore landscapes by helping create new practices, build institutions and inform policies.

Working with the ecosystem’s capacity to produce

Pastoral land covers 400 million hectares of China, 41.7% of the entire country. Much of it is semi-arid and high plateau land where China’s ethnic minorities live, traditionally using the land to produce meat, fur, wool and cashmere. Over the past century, increasing pressure from human and livestock populations has resulted in 90% of the pastoral land being classified as degraded to some degree, especially in the more arid regions where ecosystems are the most fragile.

Oula sheep
Oula sheep.
Gansu Agricultural University.

Using optimization models, CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems partner, Bioversity International, has worked with pastoralists for three years to balance their livestock numbers and improve their feeding methods in accordance with the ecosystem’s capacity. The work is already contributing to an increase in the pastoralists’ income, and reducing grazing pressure on the land. [read more]

Africa's first water fund: uniting farmers and business

Soil erosion is a reality for almost one million farmers in Kenya’s Lake Tana region; it’s a threat to not only livelihoods but also water and energy supplies. In March 2015 WLE partner, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) helped launch the Tana-Nairobi Water Fund - the first of it's kind on the continent. As part of the fund downstream users, such as Coca-Cola, East African Breweries, and utility companies, will pay upstream “guardians” to implement strategic measures to protect the upper watershed. [read more]

CIAT

Global Landscapes Forum

Over the past two years, the Global Landscapes Forum has evolved into the world’s leading conference on land use issues. The Forum brings together thousands of stakeholders from across sectors, including forestry, agriculture, water, energy, law and finance. WLE and its partner, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, were main implementing partners at the 2014 Forum in Lima, Peru. WLE takes on the role of a coordinating partner for this year's Forum, which focuses on shaping the development and climate agenda. The event will take place in Paris during December. [read more]