Securing multiple ecosystems benefit through SLM in the productive but degraded landscapes of South Africa

Lead country

South Africa

Participating countries

South Africa

Project status

Under implementation

Implementing period

From April 22, 2017 to April 22, 2022

SDGs addressed by this project

SDG targets

  1. 15.1 Conserve, restore, sustainably use terrestrial, freshwater ecosystems
  2. 15.3 Combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil
  3. 15.a Mobilize resources for biodiversity conservation, sustainable use

Project ID: 5054

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Technical team

  • Ecosystems and Biodiversity Programme

Technical area(s)

  • Ecosystem management and restoration


  • Agrobiodiversity
  • Ecosystem-based adaptation
  • Ecosystem-based mitigation


  • Grasslands
  • Deserts
  • Human altered areas


  • Grazing lands
  • Drylands
  • Semi-arid (cold winter) deserts
  • Rural areas
  • Urban areas

Transformed sector(s)

  • Agriculture
  • Livestock
  • Forestry and other land use

UNDP role(s)

  • Capacity development / Technical assistance
  • Convening / Partnerships / Knowledge Sharing
  • Innovative approaches


  • Enabling
  • Governance
  • Management operation


  • Mainstream
  • Advocacy (towards policy makers)
  • Community engagement
  • Institutional framework
  • Inter-sectoral coordination
  • Participatory governance models
  • Sustainable land management

Social inclusion

  • Private sector
  • Smallholder farmers

Gender equality


Gender result effectiveness scale

  • Gender targeted


  • Systems pathway
  • People pathway

Risk reduction target(s)

  • Reduce exposure
  • Improve resilience

SDG target(s)

  • 15.1 Conserve, restore, sustainably use terrestrial, freshwater ecosystems
  • 15.3 Combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil
  • 15.a Mobilize resources for biodiversity conservation, sustainable use

Conventions and protocols

  • United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
  • National Adaptation Plan (NAP)

Private sector(s)


Hot topic

  • Public-private partnership
  • Poverty reduction
  • Food and agricultural commodities strategy

About this project


South Africa places a high premium on the role of land and the constituent ecosystems in the quest for a green economy . 80% of the land is used for agriculture and subsistence livelihoods; 11% of it (12.76 million ha) has arable potential, while majority (69%) is used for grazing: 82% of the 12.76 million ha of cultivated land is under commercial agriculture, most of it rainfed. About six million people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods; nearly a million of them employed as farm workers. The smallholder agricultural sector provides employment for an additional 1.3 million households. Indeed, about 43% of South AfricaÔÇÖs 46 million people live in rural areas and depend on natural resources to sustain livelihoods . Despite the importance of land and its ecosystems, South Africa is however prone to land degradation, currently exacerbated by human activities that disturb the delicate but dynamic equilibrium between soils, vegetation, and climate. According to WWF (2209), South African soils are extremely vulnerable to degradation and have low recovery potential; more than 5 million hectares (more than double the size of Kruger National Park) of cultivated lands are already seriously acidified. This is a serious problem in the Karoo, the Albany thickets and the Olifants catchment, three of the nine biomes (Map in Annex 1) the country depends on for economic development. The 3 biomes currently exhibit signs of degradation of critical ecosystem services. In these bilomes, land degradation is due to improper soil management practices, cultivation of unsuitable soils, improper management of cultivated crop land, deforestation and extensive removal of natural vegetation (including over-exploitation of vegetation for domestic use), overgrazing, alteration of surface/subsurface flow and inappropriate water abstraction. Consequences of degradation in these areas are reduced quantity and quality of water available to both nature and people, reduction of soil moisture content, disrupted water flow regimes, reduced recharge of groundwater table, increased sediments and pollutants in fresh water bodies, and low capacity of wetlands to buffer flooding and pollution, particularly in the Olifants.


To strengthen the enabling environment for the adoption of knowledge-based SLM models for land management and land/ecosystem rehabilitation in support of the green economy and resilient livelihoods through capacity building, improved governance and financial incentives demonstrated in the Karoo, Eastern Cape and Olifants.

USD $4,337,900

Grant amount

USD $40,821,790

Leveraged amount (co-financing)


Source(s) of fund

Sources of fund


  • Global Environment Facility – Trust Fund ($4,337,900)

Implementing partner(s)

  • Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Government of South Africa

Project metrics

Related resources

Geospatial information

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Project reports and documentation



Securing multiple ecosystems benefit through SLM in the productive but degraded landscapes of South Africa