Region needs sustainable land management
Sustainable land management can be defined as “the adoption of land use systems that, through appropriate management practices, enable land users to maximise the economic and social benefits from the land while maintaining or enhancing the ecological support functions of the land resources”.
This appropriate management practice is crucial to minimising land degradation, rehabilitating degraded areas and ensuring the optimal use of land resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
Southern African Development Community (SADC), with some of the world’s arid and semi-arid lands, urgently needs innovative sustainable land management practices if the increasing population in the region is to be provided with adequate food, water and increased income.
The United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme agrees: “Countries in the SADC region need integrated management of land resources… sustainable land management can provide improved benefits and create innovative opportunities for regional economic development by contributing to ecosystem stability, sustainable livelihoods and food security.”
With vast tracts of land, countries in the region, therefore, need to work together to unlock productivity as well as to improve food security and reduce poverty in communities, especially rural areas.
As all SADC member states rely heavily on the exploitation of natural resources and the environment in their economies, they must put in place measures and strategies for proper management of land resources, and these measures should take in policies and instruments that can promote harmonisation of plans, programmes and projects on land management in the region.
Policies, strategies and instruments should not only support the effective adoption of sustainable land management but also promote pro-poor agricultural growth, and they should also be developed and implemented as an integral part of a larger SADC agenda and strategy for equity-led growth and sustainable development in and among the countries of the SADC region.
Gracian Banda, an expert in Environmental Policy and Advocacy, believes the objectives of the policies, strategies and instruments must be to protect and improve health, environment and livelihoods of the people in southern Africa with priority to the poor majority.
“SADC countries must craft policies, strategies and mechanisms that propagate sustainable management of land resources and the goals of the policies must be to protect land resources, preserve the natural heritage, biodiversity and life supporting ecosystems in the region, and to support regional economic development on an equitable and sustainable basis for the benefit of present and future generations,” notes Banda.
In its “Sustainable Land Management Sourcebook”, the World Bank states that policies and strategies promoting pro-poor agricultural growth are the also key to helping countries achieve their sustainable development goals.
“Sustainable land management – an essential component of such policies – will help to ensure the productivity of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and hydrology. This means sustainable land management will support a range of ecosystem services on which agriculture depends,” adds the World Bank.
Implementation of sustainable land management in the region calls for strengthened stakeholder commitment. “An effective land management programme for SADC requires a holistic and coordinated approach as well as careful consideration of the various factors that have a bearing on this sector,” concurs Banda.
Accordingly, regional leaders must work together with development partners and other key stakeholders to effectively leverage the region’s land for sustainable economic and social development.
More so, political and business leaders in SADC countries, together with regional alliance of strategic partnerships, should establish agricultural research centres in their respective countries to come up with innovations that will help maintain land management and boost agricultural productivity.
SADC member states also need to create investment opportunities in the agriculture sector, and also establish conditions for sustainable land management.
However, Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, says insufficient investment in agriculture and social protection are still bottlenecks for sustained land management and hunger reduction not only in the SADC region but in the entire continent of Africa.
It is therefore up to national governments in SADC countries, in partnership with other African counties, public and private sector and farmers’ organisations to create favourable conditions for sustainable land management.
Without doubt, most – if not all – countries in the SADC region have the economic, natural and human resources they need to uphold proper land management, promote food security and propagate social and economic development in the region.
They simply need to utilise their resources and uphold sustainable land management to transform their economies and change the face of the region.