Examine land restoration through a faith-based lens
The environmental and socio-economic side effects of climate change and land degradation are now well documented around the world, and many initiatives to address these issues are bringing researchers and scientists from various disciplines to the fore. An equally important “side effect” that is often overlooked, however, is the spiritual.
For believers, the spiritual consequences of land degradation can be just as critical as the socio-economic and environmental consequences. This raised the need to combine science and faith to establish “faith-based approaches” to land restoration.
A recent Regreening Africa stakeholder engagement event sought to do just that by bringing together landowners, farmers and community leaders whose land restoration practices were rooted in faith. The goal? To help raise awareness on how we can better understand and address the impact of land degradation through a “faith-based lens”.
A key idea taken from the engagement was that faith-based approaches to land restoration deepen the understanding that living things are connected to the land and can only thrive if it thrives.
During the discussion, leaders from different religious backgrounds cited passages from various spiritual books that shared common beliefs that the earth was given to us by God to protect it and that land degradation and unsustainable use natural resources have consequences.
Second, beyond viewing nature tending and tree planting as acts of worship, faith-based approaches also share a common understanding that land restoration is a powerful way to improve livelihoods. , food security and resilience to the climate crisis.
Regarding the role of religious institutions in land restoration, it was noted that spiritual leaders and religious institutions play an important role in land restoration movements due to their influence and access to resources.
In many countries, faith-based institutions are key implementing partners who mobilize, raise awareness and inspire behavior change with great ease because communities trust them.
As one leader pointed out during the discussion, in highly religious countries like Niger, Somalia and Senegal, efforts to consolidate and scale up re-greening initiatives would fail without consulting and gaining support. religious institutions.
Spiritual leaders and religious institutions also play an important role as peacekeepers through land restoration. A significant portion of the conflicts that arise on the African continent are related to security and land-based resources. When the climate crisis and land degradation worsen, these conflicts also tend to escalate. However, faith-based approaches offer a unique solution to this problem, pointing to specialized initiatives such as the planting of “trees of peace” to restore land and human security.
Faith-based institutions have a vast wealth of resources that can be harnessed to build on-the-ground partnerships for land restoration. One of the key opportunities that was highlighted in the discussion was the potential for places of worship and other related infrastructure to serve as tree nurseries and spaces that promote environmental stewardship.
For too long, religious communities have been ignored in development initiatives. However, when we begin to see all members of society as affected by today’s big issues such as land degradation, we can begin to see them as stakeholders who can bring varied but specialized approaches to these issues.
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