CIFOR–ICRAF publishes over 750 publications every year on agroforestry, forests and climate change, landscape restoration, rights, forest policy and much more – in multiple languages.

CIFOR–ICRAF addresses local challenges and opportunities while providing solutions to global problems for forests, landscapes, people and the planet.

We deliver actionable evidence and solutions to transform how land is used and how food is produced: conserving and restoring ecosystems, responding to the global climate, malnutrition, biodiversity and desertification crises. In short, improving people’s lives.

Land health surveillance: an evidence-based approach to land ecosystem management - illustrated with a case study in the West Africa Sahel

Export citation

Improving and maintaining land health – the capacity of land to sustain delivery of essential ecosystem services – is a prerequisite for wise ecosystem management and sustainable development. This is especially so in developing countries, where declining land health is threatening food security, poverty alleviation and national economies. However current information on land health and degradation is grossly inadequate for the task of planning and evaluating land management interventions. Policymakers and development agencies urgently need objective, quantitative, cost-efficient and practical assessments of land degradation and the associated risk factors to justify, target and prioritise investments. Land health surveillance is a science-based approach to land health assessment and monitoring designed to address this need. The approach is modelled on evidence-based approaches used in the public health sector, where surveillance is the main mechanism for determining public health policy and practice. In Part 1 of this report, we present scientific concepts and analytical approaches of land health surveillance as a building block for operational systems that can generate and interpret data to inform decision- making for improved land health in developing countries. In Part 2 we illustrate a regional application of land health surveillance with a synoptic screening study of land degradation in the Sahel using historical changes in vegetation growth and rainfall patterns based on remote sensing. In Part 3 we describe a framework for field level assessment of land degradation based on a sentinel site surveillance scheme and illustrate its application in Segou Region in Mali. In Part 4 we draw out the implications of the methods and results for development policy and research and for further application of the land health surveillance framework.

Related publications