event 12 May 2020

Publication // Land degradation neutrality for water security and combating drought

This is an excerpt of a paper originally published by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It gives an insight into the global problem of water scarcity and the possible solutions offered by the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) approach, displaying a variety of measures and examples from implementation across countries.

category Research Papers, Publications and Books tag Ecosystems tag WEFE Nexus

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a global commitment detailing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to achieve by 2030. The agenda recognizes the importance of access to water and water security in achieving sustainable development through the designation of a specific goal (SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all).

Due to the strong biophysical connections between land and water, extensive coordination in the landwater policy nexus is required to achieve SDG 6. Studies show that actions for the sustainable management and use of land would directly benefit water security and management; IPBES surveyed the relevance of addressing land degradation for achieving the SDGs and found that SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation has the second highest relevance, after SDG 15 (Life on Land).

Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) is an integral part of SDG 15 and is incorporated in target 15.3, which aims to “combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world” by 2030. Considered an accelerator for the achievement of multiple SDGs, LDN encourages the adoption of a broad range of measures to avoid or reduce land degradation through appropriate planning, regulation and sustainable land management practices, combined with localized action to reverse past degradation, through land restoration and rehabilitation, to achieve a state of no net loss of healthy and productive land. LDN provides a supporting framework to manage both land and water resources sustainably at the landscape level, address the challenge of water insecurity and drought and provide opportunities for policy and operational synergies within the land-water nexus.

This study is based on a review of 77 LDN target setting country reports from countries participating in the LDN Target Setting Programme and 17 National Drought Plans (NDPs) from countries who participated in both initiatives.15 These LDN country reports and NDPs detail how countries can use LDN to achieve multiple benefits, enhance synergies and streamline policies within the land-water nexus.

Key messages and recommendations

Countries have acknowledged the inter-dependency of land and water management and the multiple benefits of reversing land degradation for sustainable development, water security and resilience to natural hazards such as drought. Achieving LDN contributes towards the achievement of several SDGs, particularly SDG 6 on water. To ensure that countries reach their LDN objectives, improve synergies between LDN, water security and drought mitigation and achieve the SDGs through LDN approaches, the following recommendations are provided for countries, with the support of their national and international partners:

  • Continue to mainstream the land-water linkage into relevant national policies and strategies, ensuring in particular that land-use decisions are informed by data on water resources and setting up dedicated land and water institutions whee appropriate.
  • Establish and build national capacities in the monitoring of water resources, including wetlands, using Earth Observation tools when possible, to allow for informed national water management and allocation policies; developing where relevant a national plan for the sustainable management of water resources in the context of the national LDN strategy, with regular updates to incorporate changes in precipitation and temperature patterns and their impacts on water bodies.
  • Implement land and water conservation approaches and taking water management decisions at the appropriate level, in particular at watershed level, through participatory river basin organizations, inclusive of community and gender perspectives and of indigenous and traditional knowledge.
  • Improve water-use efficiency by using all available methods for all uses, with special focus on agriculture as the main consumer, to reduce the pressure on water resources; developing wastewater reuse where appropriate; training farmers, women and local communities on watersaving echniques.
  • Ensure the interaction between the national focal points for the three Rio Conventions to address climate change, desertification and biodiversity challenges in a harmonized manner, and including with national statistics offices/ institutes for coherence between reporting on LDN and the SDGs.
  • Further incorporate LDN policies and integrated land and water strategies during the next review of the UNFCCC Nationally Determined Contributions.
  • Explore climate funding as an essential source of funding, complemented with national funding sources, including environmental trust or revolving funds, private funding and innovative financing such as payment for ecosystem services. land and water conservation approaches and taking water management decisions at the appropriate level, in particular at watershed level, through participatory river basin organizations, inclusive of community and gender perspectives and of indigenous and traditional knowledge.


March 2020


© UNCCD and FAO, 2020.


UNCCD and FAO (2020). Land Degradation Neutrality for Water Security and Combatting Drought, Briefing Note.


Tina Schmiers


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