Land Health Evaluation, Restoration and Investment Decisions

Vision

Land Health Decisions has a vision to support the growing political momentum for large-scale commitments to prevent land degradation, and to restore or regenerate degraded natural resources and ecosystem services, contributing to an unprecedented change in national and global agendas, and a unique opportunity for research to influence policy and action.

The theme is contributing to the ICRAF strategy by supporting wise stakeholder decision making on climate-smart land management options that work towards a more equitable world where all people have viable livelihoods supported by healthy and productive landscapes. These options include harnessing the multiple benefits trees provide for agriculture, livelihoods, resilience and the future of our planet, from farmers’ fields through to continental scales.

Mission

Land Health Decisions has a mission to improve evidence-based decision making on land health management, by harnessing latest scientific and technological advances for providing appropriate data and its interpretation towards optimal environmental and development outcomes.

The target domain is farming landscapes in lower income countries across the tropics, with emphasis on Africa, South Asia, and East & Central Asia.

Land Health Decisions aims to create impact by working with partners to develop the evidence, tools and capacity needed to enable successful investment and implementation of restoration agendas, supporting evidenced-based decision making at multiple levels for public, private and NGO sector investments. Impact pathways are through (i) policies catalyzing change, through guiding policy decisions and demand-led research; (ii) investments supporting change, through joint priority setting, evaluation and monitoring; (iii) awareness creation, through global agenda setting and networking; and (iv) supporting uptake through participatory research and capacity development.

The theme will further create impact through its participation in the CGIAR Research Programme (CRP) on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), including through co-leadership of the Restoring Degraded Landscapes (RDL) flagship, and linkages to CCAFS, the Agri-Food CRPs and Big Data Platform.

Objectives

The theme has one overarching conceptual framework, Land Health Surveillance, re-enforced by two supporting elements, Soil Health and Carbon Restoration, and Decision Analytics.

Land Health Surveillance is an evidence-based framework for helping stakeholders’ better plan, monitor and evaluate interventions that are designed to improve land health through preventive and restorative actions. Together with stakeholders, the sub-theme will continue to test and refine approaches, methods and tools for ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data. It will thus facilitate the planning, implementation, and evaluation of land management policy and practice, fostering the promotion, protection, and restoration of land and ecosystem health.

The research will develop a new risk-based approach to screening land restoration options using existing knowledge and low-cost measurements to judge the probability of success or level of economic return. The initiative will enhance the capacity of national partners and other stakeholders to plan and implement more effective land restoration programmes, monitor progress towards land restoration goals, and evaluate their impacts on livelihoods and ecosystem services.

Soil Health and Carbon Restoration focusses on soils and the ecosystem services they provide, including their capacity to sequester carbon and store and regulate water and nutrients. The soils agenda has large new support from research and development agencies. This sub-theme will focus on assembling the evidence base on the impacts of land and soil management, including agroforestry, on soil ecosystem services, and on how to include ecosystem services provided by soils in economic ex ante and ex post impact analysis of land restoration interventions. The sub-theme will include further development and capacity development in rapid, low cost, light-based methods for soil-plant analysis and their application in targeting and impact monitoring of land restoration and sustainable agricultural intensification. The role of spectral methods in areas such as remediation of heavy metal pollution and soil carbon trading will also be researched.

Decision Analytics concerns wise planning and evaluation of land restoration options, which requires that intervention decisions are based on the full range of costs, benefits and risks, including on-site and off-site social, economic and ecological factors, and from the perspective of different stakeholder groups, including gender and youth. We have made major advances in how to achieve this complex task, using decision analysis methods deployed in the business sector. This sub-theme will further develop decision analytic methods, tools and stakeholder capacity to support land restoration planning and investment decisions, prioritise monitoring, and evaluate impacts.