A region covering a total land area of 10 million km,2 of which 84% is drylands, Southern Africa is acutely affected by land degradation driven by both natural and human-induced processes. These include soil erosion which accounts for 15% of degraded land, as well as unsustainable agricultural practices, tree harvesting for charcoal production, contamination, pollution and biodiversity loss. Multiplied by climate change and intensified periods of drought, these hazards negatively impact the health, prosperity and livelihoods of millions dependent on agriculture, as evident from the recently launched Global Land Outlook Thematic Report on Southern Africa.
To address these challenges in line with the Regional Strategic Development Plan 2020-2030, all sixteen of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries have committed to accelerating land, water and energy transformation. Leveraging the land, water and energy nexus for economic and business development became the focus of the recent stakeholder engagement and capacity building workshop in Pretoria, South Africa. The workshop focused on key investment pillars for future land restoration efforts in the region: water security for all, access to renewable energy, productive and resilient ecosystems, climate-smart infrastructure, strengthened agricultural productivity and sustainable food systems.
The workshop, organized by the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD in collaboration with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA NEPAD), Commonwealth Secretariat, SADC secretariat and the African Union Commission, brought together representatives of the environment, land, climate change and finance sectors, as well as technical and development partners. It provided an opportunity to pinpoint key environmental, social and economic challenges that face each of the 16 SADC countries and identify the key areas of action, with the specific focus on launching technical and financial partnerships for implementation of the regional strategy for the Great Green Wall Initiative.
The workshop, which marked a significant milestone under the tripartite partnership between the UNCCD, Commonwealth Secretariat and AUDA-NEPAD, also allowed country representatives to explore innovative project ideas to match each country’s challenges with the technical and financial support from key partners and institutions. Potential projects include floating solar photovoltaic farms, improvement of agricultural value chains to reduce post-harvest loss and increase job creation, as well as improvement of water harvesting technologies to enhance drought resilience.
As the next step, the SADC countries will take stock of current initiatives to ensure coordination, avoid duplication, identify gaps and build on and upscale best practices and successful investments. National action and investment plans outline the ambitions of the SADC countries at national, transboundary, multi-country and regional scales.