Future Perspectives on Land for Eastern Africa

Together with stakeholders in Kenya and Ethiopia, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), PBL (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency), the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) conducted a study, “Future Perspectives on Land for Eastern Africa: a pilot study focusing on Ethiopia and Kenya”. This pilot study zoomed in on the multiple land-use-related challenges faced by Ethiopia and Kenya. This included sharing and discussing data on economic and population growth, land use and land cover changes. It also covers the subjects of land degradation and drought, and the study looked at changes in crop and livestock productivity and production, food availability and agricultural trade.

Photo Land restoration in Kenya

Zooming in on Ethiopia and Kenya

In order to include more details for Ethiopia and Kenya, the researchers adapted scenarios on land use change and degradation and based these on internationally developed reference scenarios. They complemented these projections with analyses of current trends. They then compared these projections with policy plans and ambitions as developed in both Ethiopia and Kenya. Government representatives and stakeholders from both countries participated in a series of online meetings in which the data were shown and discussed.

Policy implementation is key

This report summarizes the key data and findings from these online meetings. The active engagement of scientists and government officials from both Ethiopia and Kenya strengthened ownership of this pilot. The data that have been put forward could play an important role in devising ways to mitigate trade-offs or could form a basis for difficult policy choices. Further, many recent trends are in line with a more pessimistic forward-looking scenario, with high population growth and low growth of agricultural productivity, despite clear national policy aspirations aligned with a more optimistic scenario. In addition, the study revealed a gap between policy ambitions and actual trends. This means that goals are in place but policy implementation is key. This will not be easy. Even in the optimistic scenario, some conversion of natural areas to agriculture occurs to meet future food demand, although such conversion is at odds with policy ambitions.

Promising avenues

There are several promising avenues to expand on in this pilot. The scenarios in this exercise can be deepened or further developed in a participative and interactive manner. This can be done by widening the coverage to themes that were not or only partially addressed in the current pilot. Think here of climate change or biodiversity. In addition, a follow-up to this project may further look at other countries cooperating within the African Initiative to Combat Desertification (AI-CD). If there is demand from other countries and available resources this study can be extended towards other countries in East or West Africa.


PBL Authors
Michel Bakkenes Ezra Berkhout Ben ten Brink Stefan van der Esch Johan Meijer Willem-Jan van Zeist
Other authors


Publication title
Future Perspectives on Land for Eastern Africa
Publication date
4 June 2021
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