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Land Governance, Climate Finance and Physical Planning in Africa: Forging a Sustainable Future

By Christopher Burke, Senior Advisor, WMC Africa

Africa stands at a crossroads faced with a range of escalating challenges associated with climate change. The continent is uniquely positioned to harness vast natural resources and a burgeoning workforce to pioneer innovative solutions to climate change.

An integrated approach that aligns land governance, climate finance, and physical planning is essential to mitigate the impact of climate change and unlock sustainable development to ensure equitable prosperity for future generations.

Effective land governance is key to sustainable development suggests Solomon Mkumbwa, an agriculture, food, land and natural resources governance expert at the Ministry of Agriculture in Malawi.

Land tenure security helps to ensure resources are used efficiently, rights are protected and the most vulnerable have input into the use of resources directly affecting their lives.

An intervention by the US based social enterprise Cadasta Foundation in Uganda utilizes cutting edge technology to register customary land rights explained Land Administration Advisor Justus Wambayi Wabwire at Cadasta. This process secures land rights and empowers beneficiaries to manage resources sustainably and enhance community resilience.

The legal recognition of customary land reduces encroachment and exploitation, preserving biodiversity and traditional knowledge crucial to sustainable natural resource management.

These measures are particularly important in areas where land disputes and uncertainties around land tenure lead to conflict and environmental degradation.

Climate finance strengthens our ability to respond to environmental challenges. The channeling of funds and resources to critical projects will drive significant change.

The Great Green Wall initiative was adopted by the African Union in 2007 to combat desertification and restrain the expansion of the Sahara Desert with the restoration of 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 according to Tabi Joda, the Team Lead for One Billion Trees for Africa based in Chad.

Implemented with support of a large number of development partners comprising UN agencies and other multilateral institutions, this ambitious initiative spans over 20 countries, this ambitious initiative involving not only sequesters carbon, but revitalizes local economies and creates sustainable livelihoods.

The Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project in Kenya provides an example of how climate finance can support conservation and provide economic benefits to local communities.

The project sells carbon credits to fund forest conservation efforts and provides a source of sustainable income to local populations demonstrating how economic incentives can be aligned with environmental goals states Simon Bird, Director of Forest Science at Wildlife Works Carbon.

Physical planning is a critical, but regularly overlooked component that ensures the sustainability of development initiatives according to Dr. Chris Cripps, a physical planner with almost three decades of experience working for a broad range of development partners across Africa.

Planning involves the strategic use of land to meet social, economic and environmental goals. Effective planning helps mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, reduces environmental degradation and ensures that urban and rural development is sustainable.

Urban areas benefit immensely from thoughtful physical planning. In Nairobi and Cape Town, green infrastructure projects such as green roofs and sustainable urban drainage systems have been integrated into the urban landscape.

These projects, funded by climate finance, not only help to mitigate the urban heat island effect, but manage storm water more effectively enhancing urban resilience details Adhiambo Omondi who worked as a volunteer with the Need Project at the Kibera Town Center and today works with Kilimo Jijini in Kenya.

Intra- African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Project funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by various institutions including the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC) Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) focuses on establishing climate-smart irrigation systems in Southern African countries such as Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

These systems include drip irrigation infrastructure powered by solar panels. In Habu, Botswana, the project has enabled local farmers to harvest and sell their produce, demonstrating the tangible benefits of integrating renewable energy with agricultural practices.

The integration of land governance, climate finance and physical planning is a strategic imperative to ensure a comprehensive approach asserts Dr. Cripps.

Each element supports and enhances the others. Well planned land use backed by secure land rights increases the efficacy of investments made through climate finance. This integration ensures projects are environmentally sustainable, economically viable and socially equitable.

Governments and policymakers play a vital role in fostering an environment where these three elements can converge effectively.

Policies that promote transparent, equitable land governance; provide stable, accessible climate finance; and mandate comprehensive physical planning are essential. These policies must be backed by international cooperation, as climate change is a global challenge that requires a unified response.

There is a growing need for capacity building in local institutions explained Alex Bwogi, Director of Ujamaa Foundation, one of Cadasta’s local implementing partners.

Local governments, community organizations, and NGOs must be equipped with the skills and resources needed to implement and manage projects effectively. This includes training in GIS technology for land mapping, financial management for handling climate funds and urban planning techniques.

As Africa looks to the future, the strategic integration of land governance, climate finance, and physical planning will be pivotal in shaping sustainable development trajectories. This holistic approach not only addresses immediate climate challenges but also lays the groundwork for long-term prosperity.

By ensuring that these strategies are interlinked, Africa can forge a sustainable future, setting a global benchmark in environmental stewardship and sustainable development. The time for action is now, as the decisions we make today will define the landscape of tomorrow.


Christopher Burke is a senior advisor at WMC Africa, a communications and advisory agency located in Kampala, Uganda. With nearly 30 years of experience, he has worked extensively on social, political and economic development issues, focused on the environment, agriculture, land governance, communications and peace-building in Asia and Africa.


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