Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality through Active Restoration

By Chetwynd Osborne, BSc, MSc

Published: June 5, 2021 • World Environment Day 2021

National agencies have made tremendous strides over the years to implement SLM strategies and practices that embody a holistic approach to attaining long-term productive ecosystems.

Chetwynd Osborne ✉️, Department of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Guyana – Turkeyen Campus

This essay is part of a series by the University of Guyana, Department of Environmental Studies on the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. It was first published in the Guyana Chronicle on World Environment Day (June 5, 2021).

The degradation of land resources is taking place at an alarming rate and this will remain an important global issue for the 21st century given its adverse impact on sustainable development, the environment, food security and quality of life. Humans underestimate the role that land plays in our daily lives, often considering it as a limitless resource (Image 1). Globally, annual losses of 75 billion tonnes of soil cost the world about US$400 billion per year (Eswaran et al., 2001). Therefore, sustainable land management (SLM) practices coupled with active restoration are paramount in the quest to achieve Target 15.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which sets out a new global ambition – to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN) by the year 2030 (Sanz et al., 2017).

Use of sustainable ideas to achieve LDN (EPD & SUTD, 2014)

Guyana is endowed with a diversity of natural resources that include fertile agricultural lands, diversified mineral deposits, and an abundance of tropical rain forests (Figure 1). Guyana has witnessed an upsurge in economic activities, which has led to expansion in mining, agriculture, logging and settlements over the last few years, and this is anticipated to continue in light of the emerging oil and gas sector. These activities can impact the quality of land resources and lead to increased land degradation. Guyana and the wider Caribbean are particularly affected by land degradation induced by tropical cyclones, mining, and drought. Based on statistics derived from Caribbean Country Parties National Reports to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) for the 2017/2018 reporting cycle, land degradation in Guyana was 16.4 % which equates to 32,283 km2 of land relative to the total land area (UNCCD, 2018).

Choices in the quest to achieve LDN (GLSC, 2013)

National agencies have made tremendous strides over the years to implement SLM strategies and practices that embody a holistic approach to attaining long-term productive ecosystems. For instance, Guyana is currently implementing the Sustainable Land Development and Management (SLDM) project (2018–2021), which seeks to steer long-term integration of strategies geared at increasing land productivity and rehabilitating, conserving, and sustainably managing land resources in support of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy. Guyana has also set Land Degradation Neutrality Targets (2017–2030) through a country-driven process in the quest to balance losses with gains, thereby maintaining or enhancing the land resource base. These targets are further realised through Guyana’s participation in the “CSIDS-SOILCARE Phase 1: Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) multi-country soil management initiative for Integrated Landscape Restoration and climate-resilient food systems (2021–2025)”.

The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030) presents a unique opportunity to restore the natural world that supports us all. Although a decade may seem like a long time, we need to act now to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems in the quest to eradicate poverty and combat climate change (UNEP & FAO, 2020). Some necessary actions to achieve LDN through the strategy of the UN Decade include: (a) capitalising on sustainable value chain opportunities; (b) recognising the role of communities and the rapidly growing global movement on land restoration; (c) increasing support from individuals, governments, international donors, development agencies and the private sector; (d) identifying best practices through investment in research; and (e) building capacity and educating marginalised groups such as youth, women, and indigenous peoples to take an active role in restoration (UNCCD, 2020). During this decade, let us do the work necessary to make significant strides towards LDN.



EPD, & SUTD. (2014, February 13). Green Wave Environment Competition. Engineering Product Development Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

Eswaran, H., Lal, R., & Reich, P. F. (2001). Land degradation: An Overview. In Response to Land Degradation (First). ImprintCRC Press.

GLSC. (2013). Guyana National Land Use Plan.

Sanz, M. J., Vente, J. de, Chotte, J.-L., Bernoux, M., Kust, G., Ruiz, I., Almagro, M., Alloza, J.-A., Vallejo, R., Castillo, V., Hebel, A., & Akhtar-Schuster, M. (2017). Sustainable Land Management Contribution to Successful Land-based Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation. A Report of the Science-Policy Interface.

UNCCD. (2018). Preliminary analysis – strategic objective 1: To improve the condition of affected ecosystems, combat desertification/land degradation, promote sustainable land management and contribute to land degradation neutrality.

UNCCD. (2020). Towards UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration-10 years to restore our planet. 10 actions that count. Every single day. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Knowledge Hub.

UNEP, & FAO. (2020). The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. In UNEP/FAO Factsheet.

This essay is part of a University of Guyana series in observance of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.