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Summary report, 28–30 November 2016

African Soil Seminar - Soil Restoration for Achieving the 2063 and 2030 Agendas in Africa: Linking Global Ambitions to Local Needs

This inaugural regional meeting of African soil and land management stakeholders convened from 28-30 November 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya, on the theme, ‘Soil Restoration for Achieving the 2063 and 2030 Agendas in Africa: Linking Global Ambitions to Local Needs.’ The discussions brought together around 200 participants to consider monitoring and follow up and review mechanisms for soil- and land-related themes in relation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda), the 2063 Agenda “The Future We Want for Africa” (2063 Agenda) and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Seminar was co-hosted by ministries in charge of agriculture of Kenya, Ethiopia, Benin and Burkina Faso, as well as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency. It was convened by GIZ, TMG – ThinkTank for Sustainability, the Groupe de Recherche et d’Action sur le Foncier (GRAF), the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), the Network of African National Human Rights Institutes (NANHRI), the Global Soil Forum at the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) Potsdam, and the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), with support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Taking place against a backdrop of increased pressure on land due to a growing population, increased climate variability and resource degradation trends, the discussions aimed to contribute to improved coordination, exchange and mutual learning by diverse African and international initiatives and programmes that work to restore and rehabilitate degraded soils in order to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor, and the health of humans and ecosystems.

The African Soil Seminar was inspired by inputs from African stakeholders at the Global Soil Week 2015, who expressed strong interest in creating a regional platform for sustainable soil management and responsible land governance in Africa. Over the three day meeting, high-level plenary and thematic discussions explored six sub-themes: soil carbon and climate change; food security and nutrition; land governance; financing restoration; water management; and urban-rural continuities.

During the closing high-level plenary session, representatives of the Co-Host governments presented a joint statement signaling their commitment to continue to promote soil and land restoration efforts in their countries and the African region. The meeting closed with a presentation of Chairs’ Conclusions, highlighting key messages from the Seminar that will feed into the Global Soil Week 2017 and provide inputs to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development scheduled to convene in July 2017.

Also taking place on the last day was a dedicated session for exhibitors, titled ‘SLM Technologies Marketplace,’ which showcased innovative sustainable land management (SLM) projects and approaches. Following the closing plenary, participants went on several “walking debates,” facilitated by local community mobilizers, scholars and civil society organizations, around various Nairobi locations. The walks aimed to encourage reflection on community-based solutions for food security and cases of urban land grabbing.

The Statement by the Co-hosts of the African Soil Seminar, as well as the Chairs’ Conclusions, are available on the Global Soil Week website (


The African Soil Seminar is the second regional event linked to the Global Soil Week (GSW), an initiative of the Global Soil Forum and partners which was established as a platform for interactive exchange and dialogue among stakeholders and aimed to develop plans of action for sustainable land/soil management and governance.  The African Soil Seminar was convened in response to an invitation by African delegates to the Global Soil Week 2015.

GSW 2012: The first Global Soil Week convened in Berlin, Germany from 18-22 November 2012 as a forum for interactive exchange and dialogue among stakeholders from science, government, business and civil society regarding their land and soil-related experience and expertise, and to develop plans of action for sustainable land and soil management and governance. The meeting also served to initiate follow-up actions on land and soil-related decisions made at the UN Convention on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in June 2012.

GSW 2013: The second Global Soil Week took place in Berlin, Germany from 27-31 October 2013, on the theme ‘Losing Ground.’ Discussions were organized around four thematic threads corresponding to key areas of response to global soil loss: transforming global material and nutrient cycles; upscaling sustainable land management and soil engineering at the landscape level; integrating land and soils in the 2030 Agenda; and responsible land governance.

GSW 2015: The third Global Soil Week convened from 19-23 April 2015 in Berlin, Germany under the theme ‘Soil. The Substance of Transformation.’ Taking place during the International Year of Soils 2015 and just months prior to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the discussions focused on the role of sustainable soil management and responsible land governance in realizing multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and contributing to a new climate agreement. African participants at the meeting expressed strong interest in creating a regional African platform for sustainable soil and land management.

HIGH-LEVEL EVENT “TOWARDS THEMATIC REVIEWS FOR AN INTEGRATED FOLLOW-UP & REVIEW OF THE 2030 AGENDA”: Held from 7-8 July 2016 in New York, US, this High-Level Event was organized by IASS and TMG – ThinkTank for Sustainability, with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and the Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR), and co-hosted by the Permanent Missions to the UN of Colombia, Sierra Leone and Germany. Other organizing partners included the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre), Stakeholder Forum, Together 2030, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). Among other issues, the meeting highlighted how global thematic reviews of progress, with a focus on natural resources such as land and soil, can best support an integrated and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

NATIONAL AND REGIONAL INITIATIVES: The Brazilian Soil Governance Conference was held from 25-27 March 2015 in Brasilia, Brazil and produced the ‘Letter from Brasilia’ to provide input for policy makers on national soil governance. 



HARNESSING SOIL POLICIES FOR THE 2063 AND 2030 AGENDAS: On Monday morning, Co-Chairs, Wanjira Mathai, Partnerships for Women Entrepreneurs in Renewables (wPOWER Hub) at Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies, Kenya, and Alexander Müller, Managing Director, TMG – ThinkTank for Sustainability, opened the meeting and welcomed participants to the first African Soil Seminar.

Observing that in the past, soil restoration has not received the visibility it deserves, Mathai recalled Guardian columnist George Monbiot’s warning that “we are making a fatal mistake by treating soil like dirt.” Müller highlighted three core messages for the meeting: without healthy soils there will be no sustainable development; food security cannot be achieved without focusing on the land rights of the most vulnerable; and all countries in the world face soil challenges, which necessitates action at global and local levels.

Statements by the Co-Host Governments: Françoise Assogba-Komlan, State Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Benin, highlighted legislative measures taken by her country to protect and safeguard soils including through sustainable management of ecological heritage and protection of natural agricultural and agro-pastoral zones.

Willy Bett, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of  Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya, emphasized that agricultural productivity requires that one understands soil characteristics, which leads to choosing the right crops and fertilizers. He reported that in Kenya, farmers are required to ensure 10% tree cover in their land, which supports reforestation and enhances soil restoration.

Tefera Solomon, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ethiopia, discussed his country’s achievements in sustainable land and water management, including: conducting digital soil surveys and soil fertility mapping in more than 600 districts; establishing a multi-stakeholder soil platform at the national level; and finalizing more than 60,000 community watershed plans, about 55% of the 2020 target. Solomon reported that by the end of 2015, the total area covered by SLM and water conservation practices was  20.17 million hectares, with an additional 7.1 million hectares to be added by 2020.

Daouda Maiga, Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, Burkina Faso, noted that extreme drought and flooding threaten soil productivity in the Sahel. He remarked that Burkina Faso has identified land rehabilitation as key in eradicating poverty and cited initiatives aimed at soil restoration, combatting climate change, conserving biodiversity and increasing green jobs.

Mamadou Diakhite, NEPAD Agency, thanked all financial and technical partners supporting soil, land and water management initiatives that contribute to the African Union’s Agenda 2063. He highlighted ongoing regional initiatives such as the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), which seeks to restore 100 million degraded hectares of land by 2030, and reported that 21 countries so far have made high-level commitments, amounting to 63% of the overall target.

Other Perspectives: Nkiruka Nnaemego, Fresh & Young Brains Development Initiative, Nigeria, said young people are trustees of the future and should be mentored in order to ensure mainstreaming youth issues. She added that young people are also smallholder farmers and thus stakeholders in soil restoration.

Chemuta Divine Banda, National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, Cameroon, emphasized the role of civil rights organizations in promoting human rights, adding that the principles of equality and non-discrimination should be applied in order to address land rights violations and advance the achievement of the 2030 and 2063 Agendas.

Boniface Kiteme, Centre for Training in Research and Development in ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands) Development (CETRAD), Kenya, cited research that shows drylands constitute about 43% of Africa’s land surface, of which 25% is used for agricultural production, and supports up to 50% of Africa’s population. He noted that population pressure and land use change in these marginal areas contributes to serious food insecurity, and asked participants to consider how Africa can best position itself to address food security of pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in a context of land degradation and vulnerable drylands.

Florence Mtambanengwe, University of Zimbabwe, discussed the disproportionate impact of soil degradation on women, noting that as the majority of smallholder farmers, women are responsible for putting food on the table while often lacking the rights to manage land. Observing that many SLM practices are labor intensive, she posed the question, “who is doing the carrying?” and called for strategies that support woman farmers without adding to their daily burden.

Leigh Winowiecki, ICRAF, emphasized the value of interdisciplinary research approaches, stating they can enhance understanding in four key areas: spatial distribution and trends in land degradation; social ecological drivers of degradation; locally appropriate measures and monitoring frameworks; and strategies to upscale and achieve goals and commitments already made.

Tekalign Mamo, Agricultural Transformation Agency, Ethiopia, stressed that for Africa to feed itself it has to produce more. Stressing that this requires a solid understanding of our soils, he called for a regional soil fertility mapping initiative to enable African countries to develop guidelines for appropriate local use, as well as the scaling up of fertilizers to enhance agricultural productivity.

MEASURING WHAT MATTERS: WHAT KNOWLEDGE DO WE NEED TO ENSURE THAT WE ARE MOVING FORWARD? Facilitator Ivonne Lobos Alva, Global Soil Forum at IASS, introduced this session, which took place on Tuesday afternoon. She noted the discussions would address the need for integrated monitoring and follow-up mechanisms to achieve the ambitious 2030 and 2063 Agendas. She stressed that if done well, such mechanisms can allow timely monitoring of progress in soil rehabilitation, provide knowledge to refine governance frameworks and ecncourage accountability between governments and citizens.

Setting the scene for the discussions, Lobos Alva summed up core issues highlighted in thematic discussions during the first two days of the Seminar. She noted that discussions thus far had emphasized that the challenge is not just lack of soil and land degradation data, but the need for more integrated approaches to make sense of the complex interactions among drivers of land degradation, including socio-economic issues such as land tenure, as well as the need to integrate qualitative and quantitative knowledge when monitoring the state of soil and land resources. On information gaps, she discussed the current lack of high quality baseline data and methodologies to track new ambitious initiatives such as the SDG target 15.3 (by 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world). 

Lobos Alva also highlighted concerns about the shrinking democratic space for civil society in many countries. She asked participants to consider how information can be collected so that the poorest and most vulnerable population groups can hold governments accountable. She further noted the need to explore how young people’s visions on emerging issues such as food waste recycling, organic production and distribution, and urban transformation can be meaningfully integrated.

High-Level Panel: Habtamu Hailu, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ethiopia, outlined work to develop harmonized national indicators on soil loss and restoration at output and impact levels, and noted the need for more advanced site-specific analysis to support farmers’ decision making.

McBride Nkhalamba, African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Secretariat, reported that 36 African countries have taken part in the voluntary process so far, noting it includes a self-assessment of national performance in four thematic governance areas, and covers more than 200 indicators. With regard to land rights, Nkhalamba said the review process analyzes progress on areas such as land tenure policies, the capacities of civil society organizations, and how governments facilitate access to justice to all. He invited participants to get engaged in the process of the APRM and noted the value of the information produced for the follow-up and review of the 2030 and 2063 Agendas. 

Speaking on land degradation trends, Florence Mtambanengwe, University of Zimbabwe, said because of climate variability, it is necessary to first assess the local context before considering indicators and solutions to land degradation. Noting that soil and land degradation translate into loss of food and ecosystem services, she stressed the need to understand the interactions among biophysical drivers of land degradation, such as wind and water, as well as human-induced activities, including deforestation, mining and the impacts of colonization, which forced communities to move to marginal areas.

Solomon Mkumbwa, UN-HABITAT, shared a tool developed by the Global Land Tool Network Unit that has been used to develop national and global indicators on, inter alia, land management, tenure, services, and sustainable land use and governance.

Noting the need to bring awareness of the 2030 and 2063 Agendas to civil society, Rose Oluoch, SDGs Kenya Forum, outlined challenges in data collection, including: the lack of disaggregated data, for instance by gender; the need for low cost data collection technologies; the disconnect between old and new technologies; and the unreliability of many data methodologies.

In the ensuing discussions, participants noted that financing SLM is a challenge and urged more knowledge sharing on good practices. On soil data, they highlighted, inter alia: the fragmented nature of such data; the lack of standardized data collection methodology and socio-economic data; gender-disaggregated data the need for open data access policies; and the need to prioritize the most essential data types for soil restoration. One participant remarked that the lack of data should not hamper action, saying “no-regret” soil restoration activities can run alongside data collection.

Another participant noted the need to ensure the latest information collected through new technologies is made available to civil societies, while others pointed out that a focus on collecting the perfect data set will be meaningless if the resulting information is not communicated with the intended end users.

In concluding remarks, Jes Weigelt, IASS, said that whereas African countries have decided on “where they want to be by 2030 and 2063,” the question that remains is how to get there. With regard to integrated follow up and review, Weigelt recalled recent remarks by Member States meeting in New York that they appear to be entering unchartered territory. While noting that data complexity and level of detail are key considerations, he stressed that an even more important factor is identifying the level of detail needed in order to act, and who this data serves, bearing in mind that many households do not have access to basic information services such as agricultural extension. He emphasized the need to explore the opportunities provided by the 2030 and 2063 processes to enhance the societal learning processes necessary to achieve these agendas.

FINANCING SOIL AND LANDSCAPE RESTORATION: IMPLEMENTING THE ADDIS ABABA ACTION AGENDA: Ravi Prabhu, Deputy Director-General (Research), ICRAF, facilitated this session on Wednesday morning, which focused on the catalytic role of public sources to promote soil rehabilitation initiatives that benefit food-insecure farmers. Carolin Sperk, IASS, said current environment financing and accounting systems are not designed to capture the complexity of soil restoration, adding that whereas loans for farm inputs are available, none exist for long-term soil health regeneration. She emphasized that public funds should be used to incentivize bankable models for sustainable agriculture.

Pushpam Kumar, UNEP, said soil and land are no longer considered to be the bounty of nature, but rather natural capital, an asset with a production capacity and a maintenance cost. As such, he noted, soil maintenance costs should be considered as investment for production and must be integrated in national economic planning.

Martin Tsounkeu, Africa Development Interchange Network, Cameroon, said the Addis Ababa Action Agenda has identified issues such as land restoration, climate change and technology that require financial means of implementation. He added that leveraging private financing requires enabling conditions such as secure land tenure systems.

Prabhu drew attention to the recent completion of the world’s largest solar power plant in India, noting the 648MW capacity plant was fully funded by private sector investors. Expressing “jealousy” about the progress made in leveraging private resources in the energy sector, he encouraged panelists to propose ideas related to blended and public financing that benefits natural capital.

Four panelists made brief “impulse” presentations to guide the discussions.

Mamadou Diakhite, NEPAD Agency, noted the need to leverage all available sources of financing, including through matchmaking platforms for investors, in order to realize the large-scale restoration pledges that have been made under AFR100 and other initiatives. He highlighted the role of the African Union in bringing about enabling conditions, coordinating the activities of multiple stakeholders involved, and holding them accountable for achieving the identified objectives.

Christian Witt, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, stressed that the real challenge is not money, but rather the lack of plausible business cases and models. Noting that “we can’t manage what we can’t measure,” he said that philanthropic opportunities should be innovative and lead the way on technology solutions, but the private sector should drive activities for scaling.

Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), said governments should “put their money where their mouth is.” She stressed the need for capacity building to address funding complexities that arise when the funding is received, and for programme initiators to enhance their cooperation and coordination so as to use available funds more effectively.

Bernard Crabbé, European Commission, highlighted the recent adoption of the proposed new European Consensus on Development, saying it will act as a blueprint for coordinated implementation of the SDGs by European Union institutions and Member States. He stressed that while the bulk of resources for funding of SLM and natural resource management come from private resources, public resources will be necessary to bridge the gap to create enabling environments for sustainable development. He also highlighted the importance of patient capital in reducing and sharing risks in order to reach out to smallholder farmers.

In the discussions that followed, one participant said there is a need to provide governments with precise directions on where to access information on SLM. Panelists and participants also highlighted the need to use other measures of credit worthiness besides landownership, and called for specially tailored financial mechanisms targeted at women, who produce the bulk of cash and food crops necessary for achieving food security.

Mwamakamba called for women and youth sessions to feature more prominently at future meetings so as to address the challenges faced by these groups.  She discussed relevant action plans announced at the Marrakech Climate Conference in November 2016, such the Initiative for the Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA), noting it includes soil restoration and land management components.

Witt said much can be learned from the experiences of India in providing targeted subsidies and other support for smallholder programmes and suggested that certain elements could be covered by climate finance. Tsonkeu said blended investment solutions are needed, wherein private sector investments are guided by the state, also noting that such solutions should support alignment with smallholder business models and financing opportunities.

Noting that state and private financing have roles to play in alleviating poverty, Kumar said enabling situations must be created for women, who have shown to have better forest and soil management skills, stressing that business as usual cannot continue for the next 100 years.


SOIL CARBON FOR CLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT: HOW TO PRIORITIZE SMALLHOLDERS THROUGH GOALS, TECHNIQUES AND IMPLEMENTATION: This sessionon Monday afternoon was co-hosted by the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), ICRAF and the Global Soil Forum, IASS. The discussions, which were facilitated by Boniface Kiteme, CETRAD, focused on identifying technologies for enabling the “triple wins” of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and food security, as well as strategies for out-scaling and implementation. The discussions also highlighted key metrics and frameworks for monitoring and assessing resilience and restoration success.

During an opening session on national perspectives, Daniel Marangu, Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Kenya, presented various policy instruments being used to scale up the country’s climate adaptation and mitigation actions, noting the importance of multi-stakeholder platforms and involving the private sector. Binyam Yakob Gebreyes, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ethiopia, described Ethiopia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions as ambitious, noting the policy framework elaborates a climate-resilient green economy strategy to bring the country to middle income status without increasing land degradation.

Fortunée Dossou Worou, Ministry for the Living Environment and Sustainable Development, Benin, discussed Benin’s efforts to develop land degradation neutrality (LDN) targets and new institutional arrangements aimed at supporting farm-level restoration efforts.

In the ensuing discussions, participants highlighted, inter alia: the need for better analysis tools to quantify carbon sequestration on smallholder farms; reaching out to agricultural investors “whose business model depends on the quality of soil”; and addressing urban drivers of land degradation.

Participants then visited several ‘World Café’ roundtables and poster sessions, contributing to discussions on the following topics: Climate-Smart Agriculture Assessments, facilitated by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT); Landscape Scale Assessments of Land and Soil Health - Stakeholder Engagement Processes, facilitated by ICRAF’s GeoScience Lab; ‘Information for Accelerating Agricultural Adaptations in Africa’, facilitated by the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS); ‘Tied-Ridging, A Promising Tillage Practice For Sorghum Production in the South Sudan Zone of Burkina Faso’ facilitated by Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso; Organic and Plant-Based Technologies for Enhanced Stability of Soil Micro- Environments to Improve Soil Carbon Sequestration - A Case Study of Marsabit, northern Kenya, facilitated by KALRO;  ‘Land Restoration Technologies,’ facilitated by the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and two discussions on the challenges of implementing projects at the interface of agriculture and climate change facilitated by Vi Agroforestry, Kenya, and Initiatives pour un Développement Intégré Durable (IDID), Benin.

Reporting back on key messages from the group discussions, World Café facilitators and participants identified key technologies that enable the triple win, including: agroecology techniques; planting climate-resilient crops that increase soil biomass; and increased use of renewable energy, especially in dryland areas. Several participants welcomed the sharing of farm-scale technologies to monitor carbon sequestration, notably the use of improved modeling tools such as RothC in Kenya, and noted the need to share the lessons learned to inform indicators for new initiatives such as LDN and the “4 per 1000” under the Lima-Paris Action Agenda of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Others posed the question: “Do we have the right technology to propel and monitor these discussions?”

Other issues raised included the need for: employing mixed methods and data sources, including indigenous knowledge; focusing on farmers’ perspectives and enhancing understanding both on- and off-farm factors that influence their decision making; involving governments in scaling up technologies; taking account of new approaches to deliver agronomic information to farmers, such as mobile phones; incorporating cost-benefit and “trade-off” analyses on various technologies; and strengthening public-private partnerships to promote SLM.

Outlining their take home messages from the session, government representatives reported that they would seek to: improve their understanding of how best to combine available technologies to promote SLM; upscale some of the best practices highlighted at the meeting, such as the World Bank-supported Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project, that has enabled more than 60,000 smallholders to earn carbon credits; and explore new funding opportunities at the country level, such as the proposed eco tax in Benin. The NEPAD Agency pledged to explore ways to support governments to enhance their decision-making tools for identifying appropriate restoration opportunities.

SOIL AND LANDSCAPE RESTORATION FOR WATER SECURITY: CREATING THE ENABLING FRAMEWORKS: This session was co-hosted by FANRPAN, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Global Soil Forum, IASS, on Monday afternoon. Sithembile Mwamakamba, FANRPAN, facilitated the session, which drew on diverse case studies of initiatives linking soil and landscape restoration to the sustainable management of water.

Kiros Hadgu, ICRAF, discussed the transformation of degraded highlands into productive watershed sites in northern Ethiopia, using a community-led approaches. He reported that communities provided 40 days free labor to introduce SLM measures, resulting in a raised water table, increased yield and increased employment.

Discussing affordable technologies for soil and water conservation in rain-fed agriculture systems in West African savannah regions, Paul Kleene, Groupe de recherche et d’action sur le foncier (GRAF), highlighted SLM practices such as planting soil fertilizing and forage producing trees, recycling biomass and using compost and manure; and early tillage to prevent soil loss.

Dougbedji Fatondji, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Niger, discussed economic and nutritional empowerment of women through regeneration of abandoned and degraded landscapes in the Sahel. He said moringa trees have been successfully planted in zaï holes filled with manure (a drylands farming technique), coupled with water harvesting in micro catchments. The rows of moringa, he added, also provided opportunities for interplanting high-value annuals such as okra and rozella.

Moustapha Lo, Senegal River Water Development Office, said that since its introduction in the 1990s, the Senegalese Land Use and Allocation Plan, known as POAS, has contributed to rural land and water use management in the Senegal River catchment. He also described the use of the Système d’Informations Foncières, a tool that analyses geospatial, land-use and other data to map out soil types and associated land use, including livestock, agriculture and fisheries.

Augustine Mhike, Ministry of Agriculture, Zimbabwe, presented a case study of the Silalabuhwa irrigation scheme, drawing attention to increased capacity among farmers in carrying out soil tests, water and solute measurements and improved crop production techniques.

During discussions, participants highlighted further solutions, lessons and opportunities for upscaling successes. The contributions noted the intrinsic connection between soil and land restoration and water management and highlighted different ways in which soil restoration can mitigate declining water and arable land. Examples discussed included the use of slope barriers or gabions to allow infiltration and recharge ground water and the promotion of community sensitization and capacity building in water catchment areas.

On land and water policies that create the conditions for just, inclusive and sustainable management of degraded resources, it was noted that the Ethiopian case study has successfully implemented a participatory model, whereby the commitment of villagers to introducing various SLM measures indicated their acceptance and ownership of the project.

Making some cross-country comparisons, the discussions noted that whereas Ethiopia showed a higher success at community level, the Zimbabwe experience demonstrated successful transfer of technology towards sustainable utilization. In the case of Senegal, the tangible benefits produced across diverse user groups, including livestock keepers, farmers and fishermen, were highlighted. Participants also praised the approach used in Burkina Faso, saying that under customary law, women in the region had no land rights and thus empowering them through introducing sustainable agriculture techniques has potential to lift both their economic and social status in society.

Regarding ways in which national policies and regional or international agreements such as the 2030 and 2063 Agendas promote SLM, speakers emphasized 

HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED MONITORING & LEARNING PROCESSES FOR RESPONSIBLE LAND: This session was hosted by the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI), Katiba Institute, Kenya, Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte, and TMG – ThinkTank for Sustainability. 

Margaret Muthee, NANHRI, the discussions included interactive panel and roundtable sessions to highlight the role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in developing, establishing and strengthening land rights, and identifying which actors need to be involved.

Muthee explained NANHRI’s work with 44 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to improve their capacity in implementing human rights and reporting activities. Referencing the 2030 and 2063 Agendas, Chemuta Banda, National Commission on Human Rights, Cameroon, said NHRIs can provide a framework to ensuring goals, targets and indicators reflect human rights principles, and contribute to national review processes on agreed commitments.

Noting the currently shrinking democratic space in many countries, Jes Wiegelt, IASS, said this will challenge ambitious global voluntary agreements that are founded on the basis of inclusion, participation and empowerment.  To address this, he called for strategic alliances and stronger multi-actor processes, suggesting NHRIs could be at the core of these.

Gilbert Sebihogo, NANHRI, noted that as NHRIs are recognized by government and CSOs, they can contribute to the process of accountability and implementing global commitments.

Describing their mandate to ensure the effective implementation of the Kenyan constitution, Christine Njeru-Kuria, Katiba Institute, explained how the organization promotes access to information, public interest litigation, and monitoring of state obligations. Grace Ananda, Actionaid, discussed the Kilimanjaro initiative, which was conceived by rural African women as a means of articulating their needs and perspectives on land rights issues.

During the break-out discussions, participants stressed the need for mechanisms that hold actors accountable, ultimately bringing an equitable distribution of land rights to the land administration sector.  One group said human rights monitoring should be linked to international law as its binding character would reinforce the monitoring dimension. Some suggested that land administration should be through a “human rights lens of fairness, equity and non-discrimination,” pointing out that current land distribution mechanisms are skewed, leaving some landless. Many stressed the need for secure land tenure and equitable access to land, especially for women and other marginalized groups.

In an exchange focusing on achievements, challenges, and needs related to human rights issues and land governance, one participant called the decision of the Nigerian Supreme Court to allow women to inherit land as an achievement. Challenges discussed included, inter alia, limited mandates and a lack of empowerment regarding land planning and rights; corruption; and inadequate tenure security and implementation of laws. Participants provided recommendations on how to move forward, including: considering alternative uses of land from agronomy; increased transparency in the land acquisition processes; and the need for NHRIs to refocus attention to protect the rights of the vulnerable and marginalized related to land tenure. 

Closing the session, Co-Facilitator Karuti Kanyinga, University of Nairobi, Kenya, noted the importance of collaboration and dialogue with land agencies to bring rights into the various necessary processes.

 FOOD SECURITY POLICIES FOR 2030: Hosted by the Global Soil Forum, IASS, this session on Tuesday morning focused on how to involve youth in the design and implementation of food policies that respond to the challenge of severe hunger and food insecurity facing millions of people around the world, especially in Africa. Among other trends, it aimed to explore how migration patterns and urbanization create new nutritional habits and how these trends are in turn influenced by the way natural resources are managed.

Introducing the session, Facilitator Matheus Zanella, IASS, said the conversation should focus on how to include youth in policy making and design.

Presenting on ‘The Role of Networks in Promoting Change Makers to Contribute towards Food Security by 2030,’ Alphaxard Gitau, AgriProFocus Network, Kenya, said the multi-stakeholder network promotes access to technological resources for entrepreneurial farmers and other actors in agri-food value chains. He encouraged governments, private firms, non-governmental organizations and academia to become more involved in strengthening market linkages in the agricultural sector. Gitau also highlighted the need to communicate to youth that agriculture can be profitable, explaining that many associate farming with punishments, as being put to work on the farm is a common disciplinary action.

Nkiruka Nnaemego, Fresh & Young Brains Development Initiative, Nigeria, presented on ‘Promoting Youth-Led Agricultural Initiatives for a Food Secure Future.’ She discussed YFarm, a programme promoting youth-led farms and agribusinesses, highlighting the need to identify entry points for youth, women and subsistence farmers, and enhance capacity building and mentoring programmes, including access to research and technology.

In the ensuing discussion participants commented on the need to, inter alia: integrate agriculture into primary and secondary school curriculums and bring onboard poor, disadvantaged and disabled youth; elevate agriculture to the same level as other sciences; and provide mentors for youth to identify with.  Others noted the added value that youth bring to the agricultural sector via information and communication technologies. 

Siyabonga Myeza, Environmental Monitoring Group, South Africa, discussed some experiences relating to enhancing soil and water conservation for food security.’ Describing a community-run cooperative rooibos tea farm in South Africa, he explained that young and old people run the business from processing to exporting, and jointly identify solutions to address climate change and soil challenges.

Presenting an example of how to integrate youth into sustainable agriculture activities, Janet Maro, Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania, said the programme addresses land degradation in the Morogoro region by training farmers to maintain and revive soil by adding crop residues and other organic matter produced on their farms.

In the ensuing discussions, participants highlighted the need for: managing political interference and “hijacking” of programmes; encouraging knowledge exchange and transfer between communities and different age groups; addressing challenges associated with exclusive organic farming without adding fertilizer; finding innovative ways to tackle youthful impatience and low retention rates in agricultural programmes; and having a long-term perspective beyond 25-50 years so as to address the future of youth.

Roch Mongbo, Conseil National de l’Alimentation et de la Nutrition (CAN), Benin, discussed  the role of political responses in challenging malnutrition. Explaining that malnutrition can start in the womb, he said 45% of children under five in Africa experience chronic malnutrition or stunting. He cited the long-term effects that include abnormal neuron growth, increased susceptibility to diseases, and shorter life spans, in addition to an estimated 3-4% in GDP losses annually due to lost productivity and illness-related expenses.

Highlighting the linkages between urban transition and food security, Diana Lee-Smith, Mazingira Institute, Kenya, said urban agriculture could bridge the nutrition gap and result in better food security and health, calling the alternative of buying high starch and sugary foods as the “disease of the urban poor.”  She said current urban food demands raise opportunities for youth within urban agriculture and encourage market innovation.

Elizabeth Kimani Murage, African Population and Health Research Center, Kenya, discussed child growth and development in relation to the next generation, citing food insecurity as a contributor to poor infant breast and complimentary feeding. She noted that around 50% of households in Kenyan slums are severely food insecure, often forced to resort to consuming unhealthy food from dumpsites.

Baba Galley Diarra, Ministry of Agriculture and Hydraulics, Burkina Faso, discussed the role land rehabilitation plays in foodsecurity. Noting that 80% of Burkina Faso’s population is involved in farming, he said capacity building activities and policy frameworks should attract youth to develop a more sustainable agricultural sector and ensure food security. 

Further group discussions focused on, inter alia, opportunities for slum dwellers to practice urban agriculture, peri- versus urban agriculture, and the need to create meaningful policies that take account of limited public resources.

Summarizing the discussions from the session, Lee-Smith outlined the main points to include:  the linkages between nutrition, urbanization and soil, and how youth can engage across these three issues; the severity that malnutrition can have on health, in particular young children; and the role of networks within the government, private, civil society, NGOS, and farming sectors as the key solution to enacting policy change.

LAND GOVERNANCE AND SLM IN BENIN AND BURKINA FASO: WHAT LESSONS TO DRAW?: This session was co-hosted by GRAF and TERRE et VIE Bénin. Téodyl Nkuintchua, Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement, Cameroon, facilitated the session on Monday morning, in which panelists from Burkina Faso and Benin shared successes and lessons learned in land governance and sustainable land management.

Speaking on land reforms in Burkina Faso, Sayodu Koudougou, GRAF, said the Participatory Land Reform legislation adopted in 2009 is an innovative approach to improving rural land tenure and has helped resolve insecure landholdings and constrained access to land. He noted that formerly marginalized groups such as migrants, women and youth now have opportunities to hire land for up to five years.

André Tioro, GRAF, explained that land still belongs to the state as a guarantor to ensure equity and access. He said that under the revised land policy of 2012, strong aspects of sustainable development were incorporated.

Highlighting land governance and SLM in Benin, Simon Bodea, TERRE et VIE, said that, over time, commercialization of land in Benin has led to reduced access to land, and that with increased intensification of agriculture, traditional SLM practices such as fallow periods to allow land to regenerate, have largely been discontinued. He highlighted the government’s efforts to resolve growing land insecurity and landlessness by allowing smallholder user rights through providing title deeds for specified agricultural purposes and periods of time.

Marcellin Allagbe, CARDER, Benin, said SLM technologies include crop rotation practices and use of Mucuna Pruriens, or velvet bean plant, for soil restoration. He noted that while still far from ideal, the situation of women has improved with the opening up of more opportunities to access land. He further noted that land registration continues to be a major challenge.

During discussions, participants noted that the changes in the legal framework in Benin contributed to increased security for investment and also enabled women and youth access, adding that this has enhanced farmers’ confidence to restore degraded land, which should lead to positive benefits for SLM and food security.

On Burkina Faso’s experience, participants noted that linking customary and statutory land governance to recognize the rights of all family members has enhanced land tenure security by deterring one family member from selling land. This, they noted, provides avenues for long-term SLM practices such as agroforestry and can help to resolve the dilemma faced by women who are traditionally allocated the most degraded land and who often lose it to landlords or spouses once they successfully restored it.

Participants from different African countries shared their national land governance and SLM experiences. Kenya said they are currently developing an agriculture soil policy, noting that the 2010 constitution ensured that all members of a family including women can inherit and own land.

Ethiopia cited its progressive rural land administration proclamation of 2005, which aimed to strengthen rural land management and use and introduce sustainable rural land use planning based on the different agro-ecological zones of the country.

Nigeria reported that the country has decentralized land registration involving several centers aimed at expediting land transactions and title deed transfers. He said women in Nigeria have the right to inherit land and noted continued existence of customary land ownership systems alongside statutory laws. Zimbabwe reported that since 2000 the government has redistributed millions of acres of land in village and commercial schemes benefiting men, women and youth to carry out agricultural practices.

A participant from Uganda said land conflict is rare except in specific areas such as the Kasese region where land available for communities is compromised by existing park and irrigation schemes. He noted ongoing plans to amend the land policy. Cameroon said land grabbing has reduced due to changes in land legislation, adding that SLM technologies have diverse levels of success but need cultural contextualization.

A participant from Senegal said the country’s laws do not recognize customary land rights noting that projects such as the land use and allocation plan, along the Senegal river have ensured access to diverse groups of land and water to diverse users including farmers, livestock keepers and fishermen.

MAKING INVESTMENTS IN SOIL REHABILITATION COUNT FOR FOOD INSECURE FARMERS: This session was co-hosted by ICRAF and the Global Soil Forum, IASS. Introducing the session, Facilitator Ravi Prabhu ICRAF, challenged participants to develop concrete conclusions on what it will take to make investments count for smallholders.

A first round of panel presentations focused on the business case for soil restoration, drawing on Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative case studies in Kenya and Benin. Presenting on the Kenyan case, which covered two districts of western Kenya, Philip Osano, SEI International, reported that a return on initial investments was realized within two years on average, but that from a farmer’s perspective the benefits of investing in more long-term agroforestry practices were perceived as “zero, or even negative.” He stressed the need for focusing on easier-to-implement SLM practices, while using targeted support to encourage farmers to invest in the more labor intensive or expensive options, such as terracing, farm ponds and woodlots.

Highlighting similar findings in Benin, Victorin Houndekon, Université d’Abomey-Calavi, highlighted the bundling of diverse SLM technologies as one of the key innovations of the ELD study, and noted that the common methodology adopted also enabled cross-country comparisons

Dennis Garrity, UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, presented the business case for national-level investments in “massive upscaling” of fertilizer trees and shrubs, in order to reach “the bottom 50 million smallholders.” Highlighting research in Malawi where poor farmers have doubled their crop yields by intercropping with Faidherbia Albida, an indigenous acacia species, Garrity challenged the agricultural research and development community to pay more attention to scaling up such “obvious” solutions. He also challenged current global estimates on the cost of rehabilitating soils by asserting that fertilizer trees and shrubs offer the lowest cost options for smallholders.  

In a session focusing on ‘Bridging the Gap: What are Governments Doing to Support Smallholders to Implement SLM?’ T.S Mohan, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), India, noted that provision of working capital for both on- and off-farm investments such as terracing, land levelling, and bio fertilizers and pesticides is becoming feasible for finance institutions. He presented models of soft loans to farmers as model for providing patient capital.

Presenting on community-level perspectives, Paul Okongo, Technology Adoption Through Research Organizations (TATRO), Kenya, said the organization’s experience shows that supporting farmers’ groups to organize themselves and pool their resources is one of the best approaches for facilitating knowledge sharing and enhancing access to financing and marketing opportunities. He highlighted the importance of organizing follow up and monitoring of the use of funds as a community-based learning and capacity building process.

Melaku Tadesse, GIZ Sustainable Land Management Programme, highlighted some SLM best practices in Ethiopia that offer potential for upscaling, including the establishment of resource “envelopes” that pool funding from different sources, and encouraging private investors to support ecological restoration based on the viable business models, such as highlighted through the ELD Initiative case studies. He said that a focus of these basket funding mechanisms could be to support capacity building, long-term land security and integration of SLM initiatives at the grassroots level.

In a session focusing on donor and investor perspectives, Simone Quatrini (via video link) introduced the UNCCD’s LDN Fund, stating it is an innovative, blended finance mechanism, co-implemented with Mirova, a subsidiary of a French corporate bank, and the specialist impact investing firm, Innpact. He identified sustainable agriculture initiatives such as cocoa renovation and rehabilitation, linking cattle production to pasture restoration, sustainable charcoal production and green infrastructure in urban areas, as examples of feasible projects. Responding to a question on unrealistic investor expectations, Quatrini said mixing diverse funding sources to spread risks and selecting the right projects means “we do not need to promise double digit returns but market average returns.”

Clarisse Aduma, Agri-Business Development Manager, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB Group), discussed the Group’s partnership with Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Mastercard Foundation to reach two million farmers in Kenya and Rwanda through mobile-based banking services, such as Kenya’s M-Pesa platform. She highlighted the importance of providing an integrated package of support and services, including training and capacity building, adapting credit scoring systems, incorporating non-financial services such as providing market information via text messages, and mitigating risk through “automatic” farmer insurance. Conceding that credit and finance institutions need to put themselves into farmers’ shoes, she highlighted the KCB Groups efforts to introduce more human-centered approaches in designing financing products and mechanisms.

Yosuke Kotsuji, International Finance Corporation (IFC), said the Agency is increasingly moving into smallholder financing, based on a strategy of increased partnerships with farmers’ cooperatives and providing guarantees for banks to design farmer-friendly financial products. He cited the example of a project in Ivory Coast where IFC has facilitated loans to provide seasonal working capital to 100 cocoa cooperatives.

Participants also took part in a series of World Café round table discussions that highlighted the types of interventions and finance tools that offer the most opportunities for farmers in terms of spreading out investment risks.

Summarizing the main conclusions from the discussions, participants highlighted, among other issues: the high cost of credit for farmers; the need to disseminate lessons and best practices, such as NABARD in India; how to manage grants and subsidies for farm inputs; how to adapt institutions to reach the farmer scale; and how to involve all actors within agri-food value chains to enhance market access for farmers.

Stressing that banks need to adapt their business models, Aduma described the increased focus on human-centered design, which entails consulting farmers about their needs, prior to developing custom-made financial products. Cautioning that it is difficult to reach farmers individually, Mohan described the development of e-marketing portals for farm products as a potential game changer in the Indian context. Other contributions highlighted the need for reforming current subsidy programmes, which primarily benefit individual farmers, to reward investments in ecosystem services.

Wrapping up, Prabhu noted the need to continue pushing these ideas into “pilots at scale,” by better involving research and development sector, and stressing the government’s role in removing constraints to investments, such as access to land, resources and other rights.


HIGH-LEVEL CLOSING STATEMENTS: TOWARDS 2030 AND BEYOND: MOVING ON JOINTLY: Presentation of Co-Hosts’ Statement: Seminar Co-Chairs Mathai and Müller invited a representative of the African Soil Seminar Co-Hosts to present their final statement, titled, ‘Soil Restoration for Achieving the 2063 and 2030 Agendas in Africa: Linking Global Ambitions to Local Needs,’ noting it comprises the commitments of governments present at the Seminar to continue promoting soil restoration in their countries and the region as a whole.

Françoise Assogba-Komlan Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Benin read the statement on behalf of the other three host governments and the NEPAD Agency. In a final round of comments, Jasper Nkanya, Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya, said the meeting had enhanced understanding of the importance of making optimal use of natural resources to invest in the future. He acknowledged governments’ responsibility to mobilize the required resources and supported the call for action.

The Co-Hosts Statement, inter alia:

  • prioritizes the importance of soils and the rehabilitation of degraded soil and land for food and nutritional security, energy security, poverty reduction, adaptation to climate change and sustainable development;
  • recalls the Malabo Declaration on “Accelerated Agricultural; Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods”; 
  • welcomes the Seminar as a timely and valuable regional discussion platform on strategies for SLM and responsible land governance; 
  • calls for increased investment in soil rehabilitation that is in line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda; supports the call to foster soil restoration through a multi-actor and inter-sectoral approach; 
  • emphasizes that necessary incentives are required to achieve large scale soil restoration; 
  • acknowledges the role of youth in soil restoration; 
  • encourages stakeholders to develop joint actions that carries form inclusive and participatory exchange on SLM; and
  • encourages national, regional and international institutions to make data and information relevant to SLM available to national focal points.

Presentation of Chairs’ Conclusions: Mathai and Müller provided a brief overview of key messages from discussions over the three days, captured in a Chairs’ Conclusions document, titled ‘Soil Restoration for Achieving the 2063 + 2030 Agendas in Africa; Linking Global Ambitions to Local Needs.’ Mathai observed that the seminar came at the right time, referencing Agendas 2063 and 2030 which were adopted in 2015, saying the current period is no longer one of “if” but rather “when and how quickly” to get where is needed.  She remarked on the leadership provided by African countries at the Seminar, and congratulated the Co-Hosts for their proactive role and leadership in fostering soil rehabilitation for food security.  Furthering this point, she said making these agendas work will require soil rehabilitation, calling attention to the need to consider the food-water-energy nexus and needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups, saying investments continuing with business as usual will not bring about the change we need to see.

Recalling that the idea of convening a regional event was initiated by African delegates at the Global Soil Week 2015, Müller underscored the need to build on the outcomes of this first Seminar to continue discussing what is needed, including frameworks and policies that should be developed, taking into account that healthy soils are the basis for development.

The Co-Chairs then summarized some key messages highlighted at the Seminar, including: the importance of including women and youth in the conversation on soil and landscape restoration; that climate change increases the need for soil rehabilitation measures and will require the engagement of farm holders, women and youth; land tenure rights and security, specifically related to vulnerable and marginalized people; financial instruments, particularly when designed in an appropriate way, such as blended funding; monitoring and follow up mechanisms, including peer review mechanisms to achieve accountability; research and development activities tailored to development actors, noting these are crucial for implementation of the 2063 and 2030 Agendas; and cooperation and coordination, particularly on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement on climate change.

Müller noted the global importance of the SDGs, saying a proposal to perform a thematic review of soils will be brought to the HLPF, with the aim to understand the level that soils are included in the SDGs, how soil management should change, and the innovation and science required to avoid business as usual.

Requesting that participants spread the messages coming out of the seminar far and wide, Mathai closed with another quote from George Monbiot, stating: “War and pestilence might kill large numbers of people, but in most cases the population recovers. But lose the soil and everything goes with it.”


World Soil Day 2016: World Soil Day 2016 will feature celebrations at global, regional and national levels under the theme of ‘Soils and pulses, a symbiosis for life’.  date: 5 December 2016   location: worldwide   contact: Global Soil Partnership Secretariat   phone:   www:

5th Global Forum of Leaders for Agricultural Science and Technology (GLAST-2016): Eliminating Hunger and Poverty through S&T Innovation International organizations and national agricultural research institutions will discuss solutions to the challenges facing agricultural development and new initiatives for cooperation. dates: 13-15 December 2016  location: Lingshui, Hainan, China Mexico  contact: Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences  www

2017 Global Forum for Food and Agriculture: Organized by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Germany, this Forum focuses on central questions concerning the future of the global agri-food industry. The 2017 theme is “Agriculture and Water: Key to Feeding the World.”  dates: 19-21 January 2017 location: Berlin, Germany  contact: GFFA Secretariat  email: www:

CGRFA 16: The sixteenth regular session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) of the FAO is expected to address a series of sectoral and cross-sectoral issues of relevance to genetic resources for food and agriculture.  dates: 30 January - 3 February 2017  location: Rome, Italy  contact: CGRFA Secretariat  phone: +39 06 5705 4981  fax: +39 06 5705 5246  e-mail: www: 

5th Global Soil Plenary Assembly: The Plenary Assembly of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) is the main yearly meeting of members to the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, GSP Executive Secretariat, representatives of the different partners and members to FAO. This assembly is in charge of reviewing and prioritizing GSP actions, and facilitating a balanced regional decision-making process.  date: 20-22 June 2017  location: Rome, Italy  contact: Global Soil Partnership Secretariat  e-mail:  www:

First session of the CFS OEWG on Urbanization and Rural Transformation: Committee on World Food Security (CFS) Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) will discuss compiling experiences and policy approaches for addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics. dates: 11 May 2017  location: Rome, Italy  contact: CFS Secretariat  e-mail: www:

CFS 44: The 44th session of CFS will address, among other issues, engagement in nutrition and in advancing the 2030 Agenda, and monitoring of CFS decisions.  dates: 9-13 October 2017  location: Rome, Italy  contact: CFS Secretariat  email: www:


Negotiating blocs
African Union
European Union
Non-state coalitions