We are today’s youth. We live in the world you, the elders created.
Tomorrow, it is our turn to be the world’s custodians.
The world you are about to hand us, faces many challenges: climate change, soil degradation, sustainable and productive agriculture.
As you did not resolve these issues, we, today’s youth will have to. We want to give a better world to our children. Today, we want to prepare ourselves, with the knowledge and experience to create that better world.
Naturally, we were interested in the event ‘The Restoration Generation: Can Africa bring 100 million hectares degraded land into restoration by 2030?’.
We wanted to know how we, the youth, help in the restoration process of degraded land? Is it even possible to achieve the set goals by 2030? Does Youth need to be more actively involved?
Poverty and land degradation
The global community faces multiple challenges in land management today. There are increasing pressures on land for production due to population growth, yet decreasing utilization. Which means that more and more land is not fit for production or is simply unused. Now, one third of the land worldwide is highly degraded and 47% overall is moderately degraded or deforested.
However, the most worrying part is that there is a direct correlation between poverty and land degradation. This shows that the social and environmental facets of the issue are interlinked. To improve one situation, will naturally improve the other as well.
But luckily, there is hope! We have an incredible opportunity to restore 2 billion hectares of forest land in the world. Africa has the greatest opportunity for success and has already succeeded in some aspects. Here are a few examples.
First, the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority has developed a restoration assessment process. It evaluates its restoration projects by using high resolution maps of land use and forest cover. The Rwandan Government has pledged 2 million hectares of its land – that’s about 90% – for restoration. For the government, to restore is to transform from conventional agriculture to agroforestry, to create protected forests for water supplies and to have lands intended for woodlots.
Secondly, in Mozambique, the government believes in the sustainable management of natural resources. The main reason for deforestation there is the practice of slash and burn agriculture, urban and infrastructure expansion and logging activities. There are certainly great barriers in overcoming this, on a social, political and technical level. The solution would be to gather every possible stakeholder around the table and to take action.
Finally, the Ethiopian delegate pointed out that in Ethiopia, 80% of their energy source comes from forest biomass. Agriculture, which requires land in most cases, provides 80% of the job opportunities. The expansion of these sectors has caused an increase in deforestation, but to halt deforestation would mean that Ethiopia would lose its main energy source and job opportunities. Agroforestry – the integration of agriculture and forests – might be part of the solution here.
But what about Youth? In 2030, we will have to take on these responsibilities. Yet, we had hardly heard anything about our role. So we decided to ask Mrs. Adrie Mukashema, the Deputy Director of Rwanda Natural Resources Authority.
She confirmed that youth will play a major role. It is the youth that will inherit the degraded land their parents left behind and they will have to solve those problems. So that’s why she feels we need to motivate youth even more so than other parts of society.
“In Rwanda, we are doing it in schools. We have the one-tree-one-child project. Each child has a tree at school and at home. Secondly, we have competitions to find the best (performer) in the conserving environment. Thirdly, they have education: the best education that has high technologies for land management, forest and environment. The better the education and knowledge, the better the listening incentive and, combined together, I think it can be possible.”
So can Africa bring 100 million hectares degraded land into restoration by 2030? We don’t know, to be honest. It seems an ambitious goal to set for 2030, but given the right circumstances, it might just be possible. What we do know is that we, as youth, will have to be more prominent and face these challenges. Because we are ‘the Restoration Generation’.
Blogpost and picture by Anastasia Bondarenko and Branwen Peddi, Belgian undergraduate students from the International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences. – nastyabonda(at)hotmail.com