Global Land Outlook, Southern Africa: Leveraging the Land, Water & Energy Nexus in SADC

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
Posted on: 9/12/2022 - Updated on: 9/12/2022

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Land degradation in Southern Africa has been driven by multiple natural and human-induced processes including soil erosion, unsustainable agricultural practices, tree harvesting for charcoal production, contamination, pollution and biodiversity loss. The effects have negatively impacted the livelihoods of a significant proportion of the region’s population that relies on subsistence agriculture. Insecure land tenure systems – combined with pervasive poverty and low literacy levels among rural populations – complicate land management processes and place the most vulnerable at increased risk.

Member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are actively responding to the growing challenge of land degradation. They have embraced commitments to better manage and restore land resources, and to meet the targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At a sub-regional level, the action programme to combat desertification has been aligned to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) ten-year strategy. This will promote adaptive management during planning, implementation and monitoring of activities to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets. SADC’s response to land challenges mirrors continental-level commitments made by the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

This Global Land Outlook regional thematic report focuses on the cross-sectoral linkages of land-water-energy (LWE) systems or nexus points that can be used to leverage progress towards achieving LDN. Given the current status of land resource management and related cross-cutting issues in Southern Africa, the report highlights gaps that need to be addressed and good practices that could be scaled up and out. The nexus gains approach offers a helpful lens through which to negotiate trade-offs and identify synergies for increasing overall resource use efficiency at local, national and regional levels.

For sustainable land management (SLM) to be a multiple benefits solution, it needs to be context-specific and aligned across different sectors and stakeholder groups. Case studies drawn from countries across Southern Africa offer insights into the practical on-the-ground solutions for addressing land degradation. They highlight drivers, risks and key priorities for advancing LDN targets. Lessons are also drawn from the Great Green Wall for Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGW) to inform the design and implementation of a similar large-scale endeavour in Southern Africa.

Finally, five pathways and associated strategic mechanisms are presented. These pathways offer an integrative approach to leverage LWE nexus gains and incorporate LDN into policy and decision-making at all scales. Key considerations are emphasised for implementing the GGW concept that was formally endorsed in October 2019 by the SADC Ministers responsible for Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism. The GGW strategy offers a coordination mechanism to boost funding for combating land degradation in Southern Africa.


UNCCD 2022. Global Land Outlook, Regional Thematic Report for Southern Africa: Leveraging the Land, Water and Energy Nexus in SADC. UNCCD. Bonn.….

Affiliated Organizations

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.