Skip to main content

Land Degradation Neutrality

Desertification, Land Degradation and the effects of Drought (DLDD)...

are challenges with devastating consequences. They contribute to (and worsen) economic, social and environmental problems such as poverty, poor health, lack of food security, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, reduced resilience to climate change and migration.

The purpose of the National Action Programme (NAP) for South Africa is to identify factors contributing to desertification, land degradation and drought as well as to implement practical measures necessary to combat desertification and to mitigate the effects of drought. To this end, the NAP sets out the respective roles of government, local communities and land users, and provides an indication of the resources that will be needed for its implementation.

State of Land Degradation

In 2016, South Africa through the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) conducted a study to determine the extent of desertification, land degradation and drought to determine the extent of desertification and land degradation in the country. The study indicated that 91% of the country falls within the category of drylands, making it susceptible to desertification (DEA, 2016a).

Areas of severe degradation and desertification correspond closely with the distribution of communal rangelands, specifically in the steeply sloping environments adjacent to the escarpment in the aforementioned provinces (DEA, 2016a).

The study further indicated that arid zones are prevalent in the Northern Cape Province while the North West and Free State were found to be predominantly semi-arid (DEA, 2016a) as shown in the Land Degradation Index map.

Different Types of Investment Areas of Land Degradation


Soil Degradation

South Africa’s soils are generally fragile, climatologically and topographically predisposed to land degradation through soil erosion, which is a natural process up to the point where it is accelerated due to human activities such as deforestation, overgrazing, forest fires and construction activities (DEA, 2012).


Vegetation Degradation

High rates of vegetation degradation have been observed in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and communal areas of the Eastern Cape (DEA, 2008). These areas have high proportions of grazing lands and experience problems of decreased vegetative cover, bush encroachment, alien plant invasions and changes in species composition. Bush encroachment is also severe in the dry areas of the Northern Cape, the western parts of the North West and the south-western Free State (DEA, 2008).


Water Erosion

Erosion is a major problem in South Africa (Pretorius, 1998; Le Roux et al., 2007), and rainfall and subsequent runoff are the major sources of erosive and transport energy. Erosion by water can be categorised as sheet, rill and gully erosion (Morgan, 2005; Le Roux et al., 2008).

It is not possible to draw a clear distinction between these forms of erosion, but they do vary in, as far as their simultaneous occurrence during varying watershed stages. According to Al-Kaisi (2008), while erosion reduces the productivity of land, it also contributes to water quality deterioration. In South Africa, soil water erosion is the major carrier of nutrients and pollutants to water bodies.


Wind Erosion

Wind erosion is a crucial issue in arid and semi-arid regions (FAO, 1960; Wolfe & Nickling, 1993; Borrelli et al., 2014). Nearly 28% of the global land area is affected by this phenomenon (Oldeman, 1994; Callot et al., 2000; Prospero et al., 2002; Webb et al., 2006; Du et al., 2015). This type of erosion decreases soil productivity and has a negative effect on the environment because eroded fine particulates become suspended in the atmosphere (Sterk & Raats, 1996; Sharratt et al., 2007; Visser & Sterk, 2007; Borrelli et al., 2014). In South Africa, soil wind erosion is closely related to the natural and human-induced removal of vegetation cover (Wiggs et al., 1994). According to Pretorius (1998), 25% of South Africa is susceptible to wind erosion. This percentage is likely to grow due to the loss of vegetation in rangelands and tillage practices in agricultural lands. Several studies undertaken have delineated large areas of the Northern Cape, the western part of the North West Province and the northwest part of the Free State Province as significant sources of dust emission in South Africa (Ginoux et al., 2012). Furthermore, major natural dust emission source areas occur in the arid and semi-arid parts of South Africa such as Namaqualand, Swartland and ephemeral lakes (Ginoux et al., 2012).


Alien Plant Invasion

South Africa is among the countries that have a long colonial history of invasive alien species. Several thousand species of alien plants have been introduced into South Africa. Many of these have become naturalised and some, following a long ‘lag’ phase which may last many decades, suddenly increased in abundance and became invasive weeds. The introduction of invasive species in South Africa dates back to the 1600s and peaked in the 1800s, which resulted in over 500 species being listed as damaging in agricultural and natural ecosystems. Several invasive species are also responsible for decreasing water run-off and groundwater reserves at rates that are far in excess of water usage by the natural vegetation types, which is especially problematic in this water-scarce country.

South Africa’s Land Degradation Neutrality (LND) targets

LDN at the national scale‍

  • LDN is achieved by 2030 as compared to 2015 (no net loss).
  • LDN is achieved by 2030 as compared to 2015 and an additional 5% of the national territory has improved (net gain).


LDN at the sub-national scale (if applicable/done)‍

  • LDN is achieved in the grassland biome by 2030 as compared to 2015(no net loss)
  • LDN is achieved in the thicket biome by 2030 as compared to 2015 (nonet loss)

Specific targets to avoid, minimise and reverse land degradation‍

  • Improve productivity and SOC stocks in 6 000 000 hectares of cropland by 2030
  • Rehabilitate and sustainably manage 1 809 767 hectares of “forest”1by 2030
  • Rehabilitate and sustainably manage 1 349 714 ha of fynbos by 2030
  • Rehabilitate and sustainably manage 87 621 ha of thicket by 2030
  • Rehabilitate and sustainably manage 2 436 170 ha of grassland by 2030
  • Rehabilitate and sustainably manage 2 646 069 ha of savanna (<5m) by 2030
  • Rehabilitate and sustainably manage 149 877 ha of Succulent Karoo by 2030
  • Rehabilitate and sustainably manage 528 632 ha of Nama Karoo by 2030
  • Rehabilitate and sustainably manage 76 525 ha of desert by 2030
  • Rehabilitate 61 900 ha of wetlands by 2030,
  • Clear 1 063 897 ha of alien invasive species by 2030
  • Clear 633 702 ha of bush encroached land by 2030, and
  • Rehabilitate 350 000 ha of artificial areas by 2030