Land degradation is bad for local producers, bad for biodiversity and bad for business
Land degradation is a global challenge, negatively affecting at least 30% of arable land and over three billion people. It is defined as the reduction or loss of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of land. This phenomenon has reduced global productivity potential by up to 23%. By 2050, land degradation and climate change together will further reduce global crop yields by 10%, rising to half in certain regions. Beyond the environmental implications for biodiversity and ecosystem services such as water supply, the financial losses to farmers and businesses are evident. It is estimated that between US$ 6.3-10.26 trillion is lost globally per year due to issues related to land degradation.
Restoring landscapes on and around agricultural land is possible
Landscape restoration is a nature-based solution that often involves trees, bushes and grasses planted or maintained in and around fields, pastures and water courses – or structures like terraces that might be created for soil and water management. Many of these activities on their own produce the “triple win” of productivity, resilience and mitigation at the landscape level. Adding tree and shrub cover in degraded agricultural landscapes can help to fix nitrogen, increase soil carbon, stabilise soils, increase water retention and improve soil fertility.
More than just planting trees on farms, landscape restoration can involve protecting natural forests near productive lands, regulating local climate or stabilising a stream bank for erosion control, for example. Fundamentally, it adds value.
The right approach
The forest landscape restoration (FLR) process brings together smallholders, producers and their organisations, processing companies, local and national governments and civil society to agree on the best way to restore an area.
Application of FLR principles, planning frameworks and supporting tools ensure that the private sector, local landscape stakeholders, and governments come together within a decision-making process at a landscape scale. This ensures optimised and sustainable forest and land use solutions with identified benefits and built-in ownership by all involved actors.
RESUPPLY pilot project
Progressive companies have expressed interest in expanding their forest positive commitment to embrace FLR approaches. The FLR process will help them plan a nature-based solution to increase the resilience of their supply chains. The main benefits can be summarised as: securing supply, sequestering carbon and taking an approach that is socially just.
RESUPPLY engages private sector agribusinesses to leverage corporate action around, and increase investment in, FLR. This project will provide guidance and support companies to help deliver existing national or sub-national FLR commitments in order to achieve the Bonn Challenge. The project will also help align the implementation of FLR approaches with companies’ zero net deforestation (ZND) strategies.
Process and activities
The project works with companies and other key actors in the landscapes to understand degradation and identify restoration opportunities in supply chains in Tanzania, Ghana and Peru. Over a period of 18 months, the project will use the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) in Ghana with Olam International on cocoa; in Peru with ECOM on cocoa; and in Tanzania with Kilombero Sugar Company (Illovo/AB Sugar) on sugar.
Results from this assessment will contribute to the development of business cases demonstrating the economic, social and environmental benefits that result from the selected FLR interventions.
In parallel, IUCN is establishing a community of practice on FLR in supply chains, based on the business cases and other learning experiences, with key private sector actors to ensure that the results are tailored to company needs and to disseminate the learning widely.
Understanding and identifying degraded land, drivers of degradation and opportunities for restoration
For the first time, this pioneering pilot project will apply ROAM, the most trusted and widely used assessment methodology, to the supply chains of private companies. ROAM applications will help them identify restoration interventions based on the drivers of degradation; which areas are suitable for restoration; which interventions best meet multiple needs; costs and benefits; and the public and private financing required. The process is carried out in collaboration with both agribusinesses and other stakeholders (forest and farm producer and their representative organisations, intermediaries, companies, local and national government, and civil society) to ensure the opportunities identified address the risks to supply while providing benefits and ownership to the local landscape actors.
Business cases supporting FLR interventions
The business case of interventions emerging from the ROAM process in the landscapes of Kilombero (Tanzania), Wassa Amenfi districts (Ghana) and San Martin (Peru) will clearly spell out socio-environmental and economic costs and benefits, trade-offs, an action plan, and an investment analysis to identify public and private funding sources for the interventions.
The costs will include opportunity costs, implementation, management, production and transaction costs. The different categories of benefits will include financial values (for the company, smallholders or government), socio-economic aspects (e.g. job creation, food security or improved household income), ecosystem services (e.g. increased pollination, water regulation, carbon sequestration) and reputational. All of these benefits will address different risks identified in the supply chains.
Agribusiness and FLR experts learn together
As companies shift to sustainable operations and consider the risks to their natural capital, there is growing interest from businesses and governments to adopt and apply nature-based solutions like FLR. IUCN and the Global Agribusiness Alliance co-host a series of shared learning journeys with agribusinesses to solidify a community of practice and understanding around incorporating FLR into supply chains.
The learning from each component of the project will culminate into a practical guide for businesses. The guide will be a blueprint for the next generation of companies to assess opportunities, plan and implement FLR in supply chains – providing a clear route to engage in, support, scale up and track restoration actions and projects while aligning private sector efforts with government commitments and resources.
For more information, please contact Pauline.Buffle@iucn.org
The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU-IKI) funds this project.