Pursuing sustainable land management through community development: UNDP/DEA GEF 5 Sustainable Land Management project in South Africa

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Lehman Lindeque

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Arresting degradation across 1.5 million hectares of degraded land in South Africa is critical for ensuring ecosystem integrity, productivity and continued benefits to livelihoods. Through the project “Securing multiple ecosystems benefits through Sustainable Land Management (SLM),“ funded by the Global Environment Facility 5, we aim to reduce the costs of ecological restoration in South Africa and increase land productivity. An innovative approach is adopted to sustain long-term SLM solutions that foster community development. We note that project staff must go through huge efforts to build trust with communities, understand the underlying social ecological systems that characterise the landscape, and identify the reasons for system failure that lead to vulnerabilities towards SLM. Based on project implementation between 2016 and 2019, we highlight two important lessons learned towards achieving interconnectedness between SLM and community development. Firstly, the importance of buy-in. Understanding community dynamics allows us to avoid a potential disconnect between technical project staff and local community members and land users. This is key to achieve real and sustained impacts on the landscape. Secondly, the use of the “Champion Farmers Model”, where farmers participate in a peer-to-peer learning environment. This model allows us to make the most of local knowledge, which in turn is used to mobilise communities towards collective SLM action in the project’s landscape. Ensuring sustained project impact on the landscape and on people’s livelihoods is a key challenge of development agencies. This project demonstrates that interconnectedness between SLM and community development is a key and achievable pre-requisite for success.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program

Society for Ecological Restoration