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Launch Of New Alliance To Combat Land Degradation In Africa

Available in: Français
Press Release No:2006/127/ESSD
Warren Evans
> Broadcast Quality
> On Land Degradation (35s Real)
> On Terrafrica (26s Real)
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> Terrafrica Site
> World Bank & Sustainable Development
> U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification

‘TerrAfrica’ alliance – ‘largest of its kind’ -

launched at UN Desertification Conference of the Parties, Nairobi   “Our Land – Our Wealth, Our Future, In our Hands”


NAIROBI (UNON) / PRETORIA (Sarm Inn), October 24, 2005—With about 65 percent of Africa’s population affected by land degradation, and over 3 percent of agricultural GDP lost annually to soil and nutrient loss in Sub-Saharan Africa, a new partnership – TerrAfrica – the largest of its kind to address land degradation and increase sustainable land management throughout the region was announced at the seventh session of the UN Conference of the Parties on Desertification, held in Nairobi.


“The President of this Conference of the Parties stands in solidarity with this noble idea to minimize land degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Hon. Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, President of the Conference of the Parties and Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Kenya.  “I call upon people of good will to support this initiative, and am glad to note the participation of partners at all levels – international, national, and community levels.”


The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the international community’s response to the land degradation problem, but in spite of the severity of the problem, investments in sustainable land management in Sub-Saharan Africa are limited, and in-country prioritization is sporadic. 


TerrAfrica has been developed in partnership with and based on the calls for action from the UNCCD, as well as from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme and the NEPAD Environmental Action Plan, and the G8 Gleneagles Summit Africa statement.


“NEPAD's Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP),” said Professor Firmino Mucavele, NEPAD Chief Executive, “aims to raise agricultural productivity 6 percent per year by 2015. However, the CAADP target cannot be achieved by any Sub Saharan African country on a sustainable basis without corresponding, mainstreamed investments in Sustainable Land Management.  This is why NEPAD strongly supports the TerrAfrica partnership as the platform for delivering on the land management agenda.”


“At its least,” said Warren Evans, World Bank Director of Environment, “land degradation marginalizes efforts at all levels to secure Africa’s long-term food security, economic growth, rural land-use productivity, and ecosystem services. At its worst, the exacerbation of land degradation by climate change could trigger large-scale migrations, intra-regional conflicts and instability, and a breakdown of vital ecosystem services.  The TerrAfrica partnership creates a new means to address a long-standing problem in a systemic and coordinated way, and this would not be possible without the participation of all the partners.”


Evans added that, “TerrAfrica is unique in that it will look at the root causes of land degradation, as well as the barriers and disconnects between demand for investments in support of SLM and the major delivery and financing mechanisms both at the domestic and international levels. The partnership is directly in support of the World Bank’s Africa Action Plan.  TerrAfrica is a programmatic as well as a partnership approach – allowing the response to the problem to be larger than the sum of its parts.”


The TerrAfrica business model is based on the assumption that no one institution can address this problem alone. The initiative is a coalition in support of collective action by African governments, NEPAD, the UNCCD Secretariat, the UNCCD Global Mechanism, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the European Commission, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the African Development Bank (AfDB), Norway, multilaterals, regional and sub-regional organizations, bilateral donors, civil society, and scientific organizations, including the Forum for Agricultural Research for Africa (FARA) and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers, and farmers and local communities who are the final custodians of the land.


As stated by Wangari Maathai, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Kenya,  “We know that there are many good practices going on in Sub-Saharan Africa, both by governments and civil society – it is important that these be scaled up so that we don’t need to ‘reinvent the wheel’.  TerrAfrica provides us with that platform.  The challenge is to not only mobilize the communities on this issue, but to include them so they become part of the elements of change.”


TerrAfrica is also a response to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness of March 2005 which, while recognizing that the volume of aid must increase, also emphasizes the principles of ownership, harmonization, results orientation, and mutual accountability.


The land degradation problem…


Land degradation is potentially the most threatening ecosystem change directly impacting the livelihoods of the poor. Two thirds of the world’s hungry people live in rural areas of developing countries, and about half live in farm households on marginal lands where environmental degradation threatens agricultural production. Experience has shown that land degradation generates a vicious circle, forcing the affected communities to extract as much as they can from the land for food, energy, housing and income, thus creating a dynamic of self-sustained impoverishment. Under this scenario, the poor become both the causes and the victims of land degradation. This must be tackled through a multi-layered approach, which places the environmental dimension of land degradation firmly within a broader socio-economic framework, and through investment in alternative livelihoods.


A key tool in this process is the UNCCD-sponsored National Action Programmes, which have to be well integrated into poverty reduction and investment strategies. Imperative for their successful implementation is strong cooperation and coordination among all stakeholders and at all levels: local, national and international.


“We strongly support and are greatly encouraged by the prospect that TerrAfrica will facilitate the mobilization of partners, including African countries themselves, to a long-term commitment to combat desertification in Africa,”said Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the UNCCCD Secretariat.  “Only then can the vicious circle of land degradation and poverty be broken. In recognition of the importance of the issue, 2006 has been declared the International Year of Deserts and Desertification.”


TerrAfrica– Moving Sustainable Land Management into the Mainstream


Increasing the practice of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) can reverse this trend by addressing not just the physical manifestations of land degradation but also its root causes.  The SLM concept combines technologies, policies, and activities aimed at integrating socio-economic principles with environmental concerns to simultaneously maintain or enhance natural resource based production systems, protect the natural resource base, be economically viable and socially acceptable.


A number of steps have already been taken to address the land degradation issue. However progress in implementing sustainable land management activities is being hindered by a number of bottlenecks, including: a limited understanding of the costs of land degradation, a lack of stakeholder participation, difficulties in mobilizing adequate resources, inadequate monitoring and evaluation indicators, and uncoordinated interventions in the countries and regions.


TerrAfrica is an initiative that aims to unlock financial and institutional resources and enable countries with the support of regional institutions and the international community to address land degradation along this integrated approach.  TerrAfrica operates at both the country and regional levels.  The TerrAfrica Business Plan centers on 7 key objectives that are seen as pivotal to achieving the primary goal of enabling governments, communities, and civil society of Sub-Saharan Africa, the international development community and other global, regional, and national stakeholders to better work together to scale up the financing and mainstreaming of effective and efficient nationally-driven SLM strategies.


"Since 2002, land degradation has been a primary focus of GEF environmental activities and programs to alleviate its threat to the global environment and peoples’ livelihoods," said Len Good, Chairman/CEO of GEF.  "One of those programs is the GEF Country Partnership for Sustainable Land Management, which is currently under implementation in some ten countries globally to address the problem of land degradation in a coordinated, comprehensive, and cost effective way.  TerrAfrica is an expansion of this GEF program in Africa which has been commended by partners from all over the world.  GEF is pleased to join other partners in TerrAfrica to focus special attention to resolving the problem of land degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa – the most affected part of the world."


TerrAfrica is built around three activity lines – 1) coalition-building, 2) knowledge generation and management, and 3) investments – to implement a strategic approach that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of collective effort in support of SLM and increases the scope and scale of financing. These three activity lines aim to:


1.       Build African-owned coalitions and strategic partnerships at global and regional levels in support of country level activities

2.       Develop inclusive regional dialogue and advocacy on strategic priorities, enabling conditions, and delivery mechanisms to support country level activities

3.       Support high quality knowledge based mechanisms to guide investments and decision-making at all levels

4.       Generate stronger analytical underpinnings

5.       Harmonize monitoring and evaluation systems

6.       Advocate for SLM and mainstreaming into development strategies, financing, and policy dialogues at sub-regional, country, and local levels

7.       Develop, mobilize, and harmonize investments at sub-regional, country, and local levels


TerrAfrica’s target is to reach an investment of at least $4 billion over a twelve year period.  TerrAfrica will further contribute to reaching NEPAD’s goals of increasing agricultural productivity by 6 percent per year and allocating at least 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture.  TerrAfrica will also contribute to reaching the Millennium Development Goals related to Poverty Reduction, Environmental Sustainability, and to Develop Global Partnerships for Development.


According to Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “Environmental economists now estimate that for every dollar carefully targeted and invested in fighting land degradation there can be a three dollar return.  Therefore, the time has come to give big backing to the new national plans to combat desertification.  TerrAfrica, an unprecedented alliance with the aim of securing $4 billion, promises to do just that.  It promises to be a real shot in the arm to restoring the health of the continent’s fragile lands and overcome the seemingly relentless slide.”


And as stated by Christian Mersmann, Managing Director of the UNCCD Global Mechanism, “Everyone has individually been striving to address this issue of land degradation.  However, this is the first time the African countries and the development community have come together as equal partners on a common platform – TerrAfrica – to share information and take action to address the mobilization of substantive financial resources through mainstreaming and other appropriate actions.  These steps are critical prerequisites to meeting the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, particularly the poverty and environment goals.”


Civil society and local communities are vital to the program.


“The world today has realized,” said Moshe Ts’ehlo, Country Coordinator for the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management organization, “that it is only through cooperation and coordination among stakeholders at all levels of society that desertification can be addressed.  It is in this context that TerrAfrica is offering such an opportunity with a clear focus on sustainable land management.”

TerrAfricapartners include:


Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Chad, the European Commission, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ghana, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), South Africa, Uganda, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Global Mechanism, UNCCD Secretariat, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), The World Bank

For more information, please see the website:

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Media contacts: 

World Bank – Kristyn Ebro  +1-202-458-2736

NEPAD – Louis Gnagbe  2711-313-3816

UNCCD – Joyce Hannah  254 (0)7  24 259 751

GEF – Clare Fleming  +1-202-458-4679

UNEP – Nick Nuttall  254 (0) 733 632 755



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