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Large-scale land restoration improved drought resilience in Ethiopia’s degraded watersheds

Susana Constenla-Villoslada, Yanyan Liu (), Jiaming Wen, Ying Sun and Shun Chonabayashi
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Susana Constenla-Villoslada: International Food Policy Research Institute
Yanyan Liu: International Food Policy Research Institute
Jiaming Wen: Cornell University
Ying Sun: Cornell University
Shun Chonabayashi: Soka University

Nature Sustainability, 2022, vol. 5, issue 6, 488-497

Abstract: Abstract Anthropogenic land degradation, exacerbated by more frequent and intense weather shocks due to climate change, threatens the livelihoods of rural populations in developing economies. Development agencies have invested heavily in sustainable land management projects to overturn land productivity losses, but efforts to assess project impacts have been hampered by operational issues and by the high costs of gathering on-ground data. This study combines satellite observations (moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer-based Enhanced Vegetation Index and Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2-derived solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence-based gross primary production) with quasi-experimental impact evaluation methods to examine the impacts of the Sustainable Land Management Project in Ethiopia, one of the world’s most ambitious restoration efforts to date. We find that over a five-year effective implementation period, gross primary production in treated locations grew by 13.5% on average in areas affected by severe droughts (those with a standard precipitation index lower than –2) and by 3.1% in areas that did not experience droughts, suggesting important drought-buffering effects. We provide empirical evidence about the effectiveness of sustainable land management projects in restoring land productivity and resilience to weather shocks, and show that remote-sensing technologies can be incorporated into impact evaluation models to assess ecosystem restoration programmes.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-00861-4

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