Landscape Restoration, Food Security and Global Climate Change Policy – A Call to Action

An estimated 1.5 billion people depend directly on degraded landscapes (poor soils, scarce water, lack of biodiversity) for their food security, nutrition and livelihoods. Poor rural communities, small-scale producers, women, youth, indigenous peoples, and other at-risk groups are disproportionately affected. They bear the brunt of a global crisis of degraded landscapes, with an estimated loss of over 75 billion tons of topsoil annually at a cost of about USD $400 billion. On top of this, 2.7 billion people (almost a third of the world’s 2023 population) experience severe water shortages for at least one month of the year. These problems heavily contribute to the current food security and nutrition crisis in which roughly 735 million people are currently facing extreme hunger.

Based on evidence we have gathered regarding landscape restoration as a means for improving food security, we propose the following policy recommendations:

US Government

  1. Mobilize $11.4 billion of climate finance a year by 2024 along with $3 billion for funding adaptation by 2025 to honor funding commitments for international climate change adaptation efforts.
  2. Maintain and robustly fund important USG-led initiatives like Title II Food for Peace non-emergency development programs that strengthen resilience for smallholder producers.
  3. Institutionalize US commitments to landscape restoration detailed in the PREPARE Action Plan, and document collective impact of the many USG initiatives including the 2021-2030 Climate Change Strategy and 2021-2026 Global Food Security Strategy.

Multi-laterals (including USG)

  1. Meet commitments laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement, Bonn Challenge and other initiatives.
  2. Better articulate the impacts of land restoration as a viable solution to improve livelihoods, food security, and nutrition; focus on understanding, applying, and learning from the impacts of land restoration and climate-resilient agriculture on these outcomes.
  3. Donors need to engage in strategic coordination amongst themselves, work with national and regional bodies to create incentives at the country-level to increase investments in landscape restoration and soil health, and empower small-scale producers to develop culturally relevant landscape restoration solutions at the farm and landscape level.
  4. Integrate landscape restoration activities into existing livelihood programs, and humanitarian assistance efforts where feasible.
  5. Provide longer-term, flexible funding for land restoration and other climate change adaptation efforts.
  6. Support interdisciplinary, community-led research to understand the drivers of landscape degradation, and to design appropriate land restoration interventions.
  7. Localize funds and increase direct funding opportunities. 

National/Regional Bodies

  1. Build consensus on the need to halt landscape degradation and promote landscape restoration as a viable tool to do so. 
  2. Create the enabling environment to help usher through landscape restoration activities, making necessary changes to policy and law.
  3. Strengthen governance structures and understand the need to work across traditional governance geographies.
  4. Increase investment in technical capacities and knowledge production, while understanding the pathways for small scale producers to best access and utilize new technologies and data.

We are at a critical juncture for nations to recommit to pacts such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. Ensuring food security for 9.7 billion people by 2050 while meeting the myriad other goals of the Paris Agreement will be possible only if countries scale up landscape restoration and regenerative approaches to transform our food systems and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the most vulnerable. 

Published September 2023