Socioeconomic Impacts of Land Restoration in Agriculture: A Systematic Review
At the onset of the United Nations’ decade of ecosystem restoration, lessons from well-designed impact evaluations on land restoration programs are crucial for improving policymaking. This study presents findings from a systematic review of research on the socioeconomic impact of such interventions, namely within agroforestry, conservation agriculture, integrated soil fertility management and soil and water conservation. We focus on identifying rigorous impact assessments, and after careful methodological assessment select only 29 relevant publications. We identify three key knowledge gaps. First, we retained no studies on agroforestry, suggesting a need for impact evaluations in this domain. Second, most studies look solely at farm-level outcomes instead of socioeconomic outcomes. Third, two-thirds of studies report positive on farm- or socioeconomic outcomes, but impact does not appear ubiquitous and may emerge under certain circumstances only. Overall, we conclude that there is a lack of well-designed impact assessments in this field. Promises on land restoration leading to improvements in the socioeconomic situation of households cannot yet be backed up by existing studies and it remains unclear which interventions work under which conditions.