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Achieving land degradation neutrality: The role of SLM knowledge in evidence-based decision-making

Liniger, Hanspeter, Harari, Nicole, van Lynden, Godert, Fleiner, Renate, de Leeuw, Jan, Bai, Zhanguo, Critchley, William
Environmental science & policy 2019 v.94 pp. 123-134
Food and Agriculture Organization, carbon sinks, case studies, databases, decision making, issues and policy, land cover, land degradation, land productivity, sustainable land management, Madagascar
WOCAT – The World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies with its unique methodology and global Sustainable Land Management (SLM) database - can help promote scaling out of SLM and thus contribute to land degradation neutrality. This paper focuses primarily on three Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) indicators: (i) land cover, (ii) land productivity and (iii) carbon stocks. It is demonstrated what can be achieved by analyzing SLM practices in the database and how these shed light on the LDN indicators. Different stages of interventions - from prevention (avoiding), to reduction (reducing), and restoration (reversing) of Land Degradation (LD) - are differentiated and analyzed. This highlights the fact that most efforts and achievements recorded by WOCAT focus on reducing and preventing LD: that stands in contrast to the current emphasis by many policy makers on the much more costly task of restoration. The use of the WOCAT-LADA (Land Degradation Assessment) mapping approach is illustrated, with a case study from Madagascar. Understanding and integrating mosaic pieces at the local level can help in comprehending impacts at the national and global levels as observed by remotely sensed imagery. Supporting land users with financial resources, an enabling legal framework and, in particular with knowledge and information about SLM practices is a logical and promising way forward to promoting adoption of SLM and, eventually, reaching LDN. With respect to creating an enabling environment for scaling out SLM and supporting land users, the analysis reveals that knowledge is the second greatest constraint after financial resources. This implies that further investment must be made in capacity building and sharing knowledge on impacts of SLM, costs-benefits and the spatial spread of SLM. Furthermore, this knowledge should be linked to a clear SLM mainstreaming and scaling out strategy, which will support countries to reach their LDN targets. A decision support framework was developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and WOCAT which guides countries in LD and SLM assessments, and the use of the results for formulating and informing SLM mainstreaming and scaling out.