Taking land restoration successes to scale in East Africa and the Sahel

Land restoration can be a key pathway to achieving food security and improving livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable people living in Africa’s drylands. But as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration draws closer, it has become clear that scaling up restoration efforts requires options that will work for different people in different places – not a one-size-fits-all approach.

A five-year project funded by the EU and IFAD started with the recognition that farmers are agents of change: as stewards of the land, they are constantly innovating. Therefore, empowering farmers to test and compare different restoration efforts such as increasing crop diversity and implementing agroforestry and tailored soil and water conservation methods – an approach known as ‘options by context’ – could help them meet challenges as they arise.

By bringing key partners from the public and private sectors, research, extension, market and governance institutions to work together in a co-learning cycle, the project helped create communities of practice that were able to better use their resources to restore degraded land. Over 100,000 beneficiaries were reached directly and indirectly across Niger, Mali, Ethiopia and Kenya. In Kenya, tree survival on farmers’ fields increased from 30 percent in 2016 to over 80 percent in 2019.

Researchers also identified potential synergies between restoration practices and gender equality, engaging with over 500 farming households to learn how the new restoration methods introduced by scientists affected livelihoods and the division of labour between men and women. “Women, in particular, face challenges related to food security because they tend to be the main food providers,” said Leigh Winowiecki, a soil systems scientist and leader of the Soil and Land Health theme.

Scientists discussed their findings in the IFAD podcast ‘Building back better: Land restoration, gender and research ‘in’ development’.

Project info


Restoration of degraded land for food security and poverty reduction in East Africa and the Sahel: taking successes in land restoration to scale


Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger

Funding partners

IFAD, EU, Putting Research into Use for Nutrition, Sustainable Agriculture and Resilience (PRUNSAR)

Project partners




Focal points

Leigh Ann Winowiecki, Theme Leader - Soils and Fergus Sinclair, Science Domain Leader-Systems/Principal Advisor - Regions

forward better


In 2020 – a year like no other – CIFOR-ICRAF continued to deliver the world’s best science on forests and trees in agricultural landscapes, shifting the conversation online as the Covid-19 pandemic evolved.

This annual report features stories about expertise, dedication and perseverance. When people responded to the pandemic with calls to ban wild meat, CIFOR-ICRAF experts stepped forward with recent, highly relevant evidence in hand, highlighting the needs of communities who rely on wild game for nutrition. Other scientists forged ahead to deliver compelling research findings on improved tree seed and restoration work in Ethiopia, agroforestry in Southeast Asia, and a new model for sustainable use of woodfuel in refugee camps – among many other topics.

CIFOR-ICRAF continued to chart its path as one organization, with a new 10-year strategy that outlines game-changing solutions to five global challenges: deforestation and biodiversity loss, the climate crisis, unsustainable supply and value chains, the need to transform food systems, and extreme inequality for women, Indigenous Peoples and vulnerable rural communities.

Three new holistic approaches will deliver actionable solutions to these challenges: Transformative Partnership Platforms, Engagement Landscapes and Flagship Products. And the newly launched Resilient Landscapes aims to leverage the power of the private sector to spur greater investment in nature-based solutions.

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) held its first fully virtual conference in June and didn’t stop there, seeing unprecedented digital growth during the year. And the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) marked its 10th science conference – also virtual – while continuing to demonstrate the power of partnership.