Part 2: Issues in Sustainable Development



Land is not a fully renewable resource. Agriculture depletes soil mineral resources. While some forms of agriculture are more sustainable than others, it is difficult to promote sustainable practices because, like water, land is often treated as a public resource in Africa. This is especially true where land tenure, the long term ownership stake that someone has in their land, is relatively weak.

Main Idea

Land conservation

Key Concepts

      • Land degradation
      • Desertification
      • Inequality in land ownership and land reform
      • Land tenure systems
      • Rehabilitation of mining areas


Knowledge of

      • land-based ecosystems
      • land resources (water, forest and mineral)
      • land distribution problems

Understanding of

      • land degradation
      • desertification
      • land management
      • land tenure

Ability to

      • explain community approaches to land tenure problems
      • describe the effects of land desertification and degradation

Core Readings

  1. Africa Environment Outlook 2, Chapter 3: Land, pages 98-112
    Overview of applicable African sub-regional land resources and land-based ecosystems (13 pages, 2-3 pages per sub-region)
  2. Land and Natural Resources Tables, pages 76- 77
    Water, forest, and mineral resources by African country (2 pages)
  3. Land Degradation - Global Overview
    Defines land degradation and global statistics (3 pages)
  4. Land Degradation - Africa
    Defines land degradation in Africa (2 pages)
  5. Land Tenure - Africa
    Discusses inequitable land distribution patterns (1 page)
  6. Land Tenure Reform and the Drylands
    Customary and western approaches to managing resources; challenges associated with land tenure reform in Africa (5 pages)

Sustainability Strategies

  1. Community Based Natural Resource Management (8 pages)
  2. Ten African Experiences (6 pages)
  3. Makoronga Vertiver Grass Project for reversing land degradation
    Project seeks to address the issues of soil erosion in the communal land by planting, training, and community participation (2 pages)
  4. Longwe Ostrich Project - An Alternative to land-use systems to reduce biodiversity loss
    Community initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable development and livelihoods through better land use (3 pages)
  5. Green Project is Also a Peace Project
    Helping Senegal protect its ecological treasures by promoting a landscape approach using community-based integrated ecosystem management to conserve biodiversity (2 pages)

Supplemental Readings

  1. Africa Environment Outlook 2, Chapter 3: Land, pages 82-98
    Connections between land and other sustainability issues (17 pages)
  2. Sustainable Use of Land Resources
    Discussion of land tenure, land uses, qualities of land and sustainability indicators (10 pages)
  3. Cropland
    Satellite images and discussion of cropland worldwide; satellite images of cropland in Africa on page 195 (22 pages, mostly images)
  4. Africa Regional Industrial Review – Mining
    Resource degradation associated with mining (2 pages)
  5. What is Land Tenure?
    Defines land tenure, discusses various rights that can be included, and defines and discusses security of tenure (3 pages)
  6. The Unresolved Land Reform Debate
    Overview of controversy surrounding the poverty reduction benefits of land reform (4 pages)
  7. Land Law and Rights
    Short overview in Part I, followed by Part II summary of international treaties touching on land rights, followed by Part III in-depth discussion of trends in land rights with examples drawn from various countries: strengthening of private tenure, accommodating customary rights, enabling land-poor to acquire land, land reform (27 pages)
  8. The Global Drylands Imperative
    Land tenure reform and the drylands (32 pages)
  9. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification: Action Programs: Africa (
    Links to national action programs submitted by African states (average 50 pages, highly detailed)

Assignment Questions

  1. Land: Land degradation and desertification are major problems in Africa. What is land degradation and why is it a problem?
  2. Land & Poverty: How does the pattern of land distribution contribute to rural poverty in Africa? Recalling issue materials from previous weeks, why does poverty in turn lead to land degradation?
  3. Land: Why is secure tenure important for environmental sustainability?
  4. Land: Explain how customary systems in dryland areas manage land resources. Does the “tragedy of the commons” occur? How should land tenure reform be conducted to improve sustainability?