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2030 Desertification Initiative

Desertification refers to the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid regions. It is primarily caused by human activities and changes in climatic. It involves the loss of productive capacity and biodiversity of the land, leading to the transformation of once fertile areas into desert-like conditions. Desertification can occur due to factors such as unsustainable land use practices, deforestation, overgrazing, improper irrigation, soil erosion, and climate change.

If not addressed, desertification can have severe consequences on both the environment and human populations. Some of the key consequences include: loss of productive land, biodiversity loss, increased land vulnerability, migration and social displacement, climate change implications, and negative economic implications

Addressing desertification is crucial to mitigate these consequences. Efforts to combat desertification involve sustainable land management practices, reforestation, watershed management, soil conservation, and the restoration of degraded lands. By restoring and protecting ecosystems, implementing sustainable agricultural practices, and promoting community resilience, the negative impacts of desertification can be minimized, fostering environmental sustainability, food security, and economic development.


The "2030 Desertification Initiative" is a comprehensive program aimed at combating desertification, restoring lost lands, and protecting areas threatened by desertification. Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, this initiative sets out to restore 100,000 hectares (25,000 acres) lost to desertification and safeguard 1,000,000 hectares (250,000 acres) at risk by the year 2030.

Key Principles

  1. Continuous Economic Sustainability: All efforts to restore areas lost to desertification and protect vulnerable regions must be economically sustainable and designed to operate continuously without relying on philanthropic or grant funding.

  2. Restoration of Lost Lands: The initiative emphasizes restoring lands that have already succumbed to desertification by implementing measures that lead to the reestablishment of native ecosystems. This restoration process aims to provide critical ecosystem services while supporting sustainable land use practices that contribute to economic, ecological, and environmental sustainability.

  3. Integration of Local Communities: Recognizing the economic, cultural, and sustainable dependence of local communities on the land, the initiative ensures that restoration and management plans incorporate their perspectives. By weaving in elements of local economic and cultural reliance, the initiative seeks to enhance the overall quality of life for these communities.

  4. Prevention of Current Desertification: The initiative focuses on proactive measures to prevent ongoing desertification. It begins by identifying areas at the greatest risk of desertification in the next decade using satellite imagery and environmental indicators such as precipitation reduction, air quality decline, and vegetation/ecosystem type conversion. Areas susceptible to desertification are further analyzed based on human presence, social reliance, and economic dependency on the land.



Identification plays a crucial role in assessing areas at risk of desertification and prioritizing intervention efforts. By using a comprehensive approach, incorporating multiple methods and indicators, the protocol aims to accurately identify problem areas prone to desertification. The methods used for identification, as well as highlighting specific problem areas in California, Nebraska, Mexico, and Colorado.

Methods for Identifying Desertification:

  1. Satellite Imagery Analysis: Utilize satellite imagery to monitor changes in land cover, vegetation health, and land degradation indicators. Analyze remote sensing data to identify areas showing signs of desertification, such as vegetation loss, soil degradation, and land-use changes.

  2. Environmental Indicators: Monitor environmental indicators that can be associated with desertification, including:

    • Reduction in precipitation levels: Assess long-term precipitation patterns and identify areas experiencing a significant decrease in rainfall.

    • Decrease in air quality: Evaluate air quality measurements and detect regions with declining air quality due to dust storms or atmospheric changes associated with desertification.

    • Vegetation/Ecosystem type conversion: Identify shifts in vegetation cover or ecosystem types that indicate a transition toward more arid or desert-like conditions.

  3. Socioeconomic Data Analysis: Overlay environmental indicators with socioeconomic data to assess the vulnerability and dependency of communities on the affected land. Consider factors such as human population density, economic reliance on natural resources, and cultural significance of the land to identify areas with higher social and economic stakes in combating desertification.

Areas of Interest
  • California:

    • Central Valley: Parts of California's Central Valley face desertification risks due to water scarcity, unsustainable agricultural practices, and increased land degradation.

    • Mojave Desert: The Mojave Desert region experiences ongoing desertification challenges due to climate change, water scarcity, and habitat degradation.

  • Nebraska:

    • Sandhills Region: The Sandhills area in Nebraska is prone to desertification due to shifting sand dunes, soil erosion, and water resource issues. These factors contribute to land degradation and pose risks to agricultural productivity.

  • Mexico:

    • Sonoran Desert: The Sonoran Desert in northern Mexico encounters desertification challenges, including water scarcity, deforestation, overgrazing, and unsustainable land use practices.

    • Chihuahuan Desert: Parts of the Chihuahuan Desert are susceptible to desertification, primarily due to agricultural practices, drought, and land degradation.

  • Colorado:

    • Southern Plains: The southern regions of Colorado, particularly the High Plains, face desertification risks due to soil erosion, declining water availability, and unsustainable land management practices.


It is important to note that desertification can manifest differently within these regions, and localized factors may contribute to variations in the severity and specific problem areas. The identification protocol will integrate these methods and assess the unique circumstances and challenges present in each of these locations to effectively target intervention strategies within the 2030 Desertification Initiative.


ICF recognizes the importance of collaboration and partnerships to effectively combat desertification. This involves fostering cooperation with federal, state, and local governments, conservancies, other public land managers, and private landowners. Engaging these diverse entities, the initiative aims to leverage collective expertise, resources, and authority to implement sustainable strategies for preventing desertification and restoring degraded lands. The following outlines the key elements of the cooperation approach:


  1. Engaging Federal, State, and Local Governments:

    • Collaboration with federal agencies: ICF will work closely with federal agencies responsible for land and resource management, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Coordinate efforts to align policies, share data, and develop joint initiatives that address desertification challenges.

    • Partnering with state and local governments: Establish partnerships with state and local governments to ensure the integration of regional perspectives and knowledge. Collaborate on planning, policy development, and the implementation of desertification prevention and restoration programs at the local level.

  2. Collaborating with Conservancies and Public Land Managers:

    • Engage conservancies and land trusts: Partner with conservancies and land trusts that focus on the sustainable use or conservation and restoration of natural habitats. Collaborate on identifying priority areas for desertification prevention and restoration efforts, as well as implementing sustainable land management practices.

    • Cooperate with public land managers: Work closely with public land management agencies, such as national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges. Coordinate efforts to integrate desertification prevention and restoration into their land management plans. Share best practices, data, and resources to achieve common goals.

  3. Involving Private Landowners:

    • Encourage private landowner participation: Engage private landowners in the initiative by providing incentives, technical assistance, and education on sustainable land management practices. Foster partnerships to implement desertification prevention measures on private lands and promote sustainable land use practices that contribute to the restoration of degraded areas.

    • Facilitate knowledge exchange: Organize workshops, training programs, and information-sharing platforms to disseminate best practices and successful case studies that highlight the benefits of sustainable land management. Foster a collaborative learning environment that encourages private landowners to adopt practices that support desertification prevention and restoration.

  4. Enhancing Communication and Coordination:

    • Establish a communication network: Develop a coordinated communication network that facilitates regular information sharing among all stakeholders involved in the initiative. Utilize platforms such as newsletters, websites, social media, and workshops to disseminate information, foster dialogue, and encourage collaboration.

    • Facilitate coordination mechanisms: Establish coordination mechanisms, such as working groups or committees, to ensure effective collaboration and coordination among stakeholders. These mechanisms will enable the exchange of ideas, identification of common challenges, and the development of joint strategies and initiatives.


By fostering cooperation with federal, state, and local governments, conservancies, other public land managers, and private landowners, the 2030 Desertification Initiative aims to harness collective efforts to combat desertification comprehensively and sustainably. Through these partnerships, the initiative seeks to integrate diverse perspectives, leverage available resources, and implement sustainable practices that will lead to the prevention of desertification and the restoration of degraded lands. Cooperation is the foundation of ICF's core fundamental principle of Restoration Without Borders


Effectively implementation requires a range of actions be undertaken. These will focus on developing infrastructure for vegetation propagation, securing access to labor and equipment, and fostering close coordination between various landowners. Additionally, legal and administrative support will be provided to landowners; including grant application assistance, free access to information, support for permits and regulatory obstacles, technical assistance, and project management. The following outlines the key actions to be taken:

  1. Infrastructure Development for Vegetation Propagation:

    • Establish nurseries and propagation facilities: Develop specialized nurseries and propagation facilities to cultivate native and naturalized plant species for restoring degraded and fallowed lands. These facilities will ensure the availability of low-cost high-quality vegetation sustainably produced for restoration and reforestation projects.

    • Conduct research and development: Invest in research and development activities to identify resilient plant species and propagation techniques that can effectively restore habitats lost to desertification. This research will inform the selection of appropriate species, best management practices, risk and opportunities, and application of endophytes for different soil and climatic conditions.

  2. Access to Labor and Equipment:

    • Facilitate partnerships with local communities and organizations: Collaborate with local communities, community-based organizations, and landowner associations to establish partnerships that provide access to labor resources for implementation activities. This cooperation will ensure the involvement of local knowledge and support local economies.

    • Develop equipment sharing programs: Establish equipment sharing programs where landowners can access necessary machinery and tools for restoration efforts. This will minimize the financial burden on individual landowners and improve efficiency by pooling resources.

  3. Coordination among Landowners:

    • Establish coordination mechanisms: Set up coordination mechanisms, such as landowner forums or working groups, to facilitate regular communication and coordination between various landowners. These mechanisms will enable the exchange of information, experiences, and best practices, fostering collaboration and synergies in the implementation of restoration projects.

    • Promote landscape-level planning: Encourage landowners to engage in landscape-level planning to ensure a holistic approach to desertification prevention and restoration. Coordinate efforts to identify priority areas, avoid fragmented actions, and maximize the effectiveness of restoration initiatives.

  4. Legal and Administrative Support for Landowners:

    • Grant application assistance: Provide support to landowners in navigating the grant application process, including guidance on eligibility criteria, documentation, and submission procedures. Offer technical assistance in developing project proposals to increase the chances of securing funding.

    • Free access to information: Establish an online knowledge platform that offers free access to information, research findings, best practices, propagation methods, and case studies related to desertification prevention and restoration. This platform will serve as a valuable resource for landowners to enhance their understanding and decision-making processes.

    • Assistance with permits and regulatory obstacles: Offer guidance and support to landowners in navigating permits, regulations, and compliance requirements related to restoration activities. 

    • Technical assistance and project management: Provide technical expertise and guidance to landowners throughout the project lifecycle. This includes assistance in project planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Project management support will ensure efficient execution, adherence to timelines, and achievement of desired outcomes.


By undertaking these actions, the 2030 Desertification Initiative will establish the necessary infrastructure, collaboration, and comprehensive support needed to meet objectives. These efforts will enable effective implementation and progress towards the restoration of degraded lands, ultimately contributing to the prevention of desertification and the achievement of the initiative's goals.

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