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Adopting sustainable land management at the national level

Contest 2019 India

Sustainable land management (SLM) has been widely promoted through many land-use projects in different countries and is increasingly promoted at policy and international levels, due in part to the extensive scientific evidence of its multiple benefits and synergies with sustainable development objectives, such as the Rio Conventions and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Despite this progress, land degradation is still increasing and remains a major global threat, and adoption of SLM technologies and practices is often limited to a minority of innovative land-users and practitioners, at times with the support of external researchers and scientists.

The report on sustainable land management by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface identified some of the barriers to SLM adoption that land users and practitioners face. The report states that “lack of access to appropriate technologies, practices, or equipment is a major barrier in many countries. This can either be due to a lack of access to knowledge and information on SLM options and their proper implementation, or because of insufficient resources in land, labour, inputs, biomass, energy, water or plants" (p.30). The report cites the regulatory environment, such as national policies or governance structures, as aspects that could also affect SLM adoption at a larger scale.

According to the Science-Policy brief on SLM for Climate and People, also produced by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface, to trigger large-scale adoption of SLM to the extent that it becomes successful in addressing national land management challenges, the barriers to adoption need to be addressed and tangible benefits for land users should be offered.

The brief argues that “land users and managers are more likely to adopt SLM technologies and practices if they are convinced that it maintains or enhances production and food security and if there are economic benefits or other direct incentives that ensure or enhance their livelihoods and well-being" (p.5). According to the brief, policy makers play a crucial role by creating the necessary environment at national and sub-national levels to promote large-scale adoption of SLM. The brief identified some of the policy instruments that could be used to create incentives for land users to adopt SLM, including:

  • Mainstreaming SLM best practices into national integrated land-use planning strategies.
  • Supporting the implementation of SLM as one of the means to achieve land degradation neutrality.
  • Developing and supporting economic incentives for SLM implementation, through sustainable business models, subsidies, and/or payments for ecosystem services schemes.
  • Improving land tenure security to incentivize land users to invest in SLM.
  • Supporting transdisciplinary research on multi-objective assessments of SLM, the barriers and enabling conditions for SLM implementation, and participatory research methods (p.5).

Moreover, according to the brief, decision-making on selecting effective SLM solutions should be participatory, so that knowledge sharing and discussions among land users, policymakers at different decision-making levels, and other stakeholders take place at all stages of SLM implementation.

Case study

National ownership and mainstreaming SLM in Morocco


The UNCCD’s Global Land Outlook's (GLO) working paper on Scaling up SLM and restoration of degraded land  provides excellent example from Morocco of how SLM was scaled up via national policy processes. SLM was integrated into a national community-development planning process, providing resources for community engagement at local levels, while also promoting SLM nationally.

The “Programme Oasis Sud” (POS) was launched in 2006 to address desertification and land degradation in 180 oases in the south of Morocco. The POS developed into a major integrated programme, focusing on local development planning, value chain development, sustainable land management and women’s empowerment.

By using the Community Development Plan (“Plan Communaux de Développement” in French), which was the main tool for participatory planning and implementation of local development interventions, the POS mobilized a wide variety of development stakeholders from  local to national levels, and secured funding from national budgets.

According to the working paper, there were major impacts from the POS. The district development plans for 46 communities were elaborated and financed, and all of them had a major focus on SLM. The combined budget of the POS reached USD 77 million in 2015, with most coming from national sources. Around 5,500 jobs were created, and SLM practices were promoted across 195,000 hectares of agricultural land (ibid.). Other impacts reported by the programme include improved management and restoration of over 10,000 hectares of ancestral cacti plantations, soil erosion control, and sand dune fixation in 20 oases.