Native forest with sunlight entering in the middle of the treetops
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertifcation, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss


Forests cover 30% of the Earth’s surface. In addition to providing food security and shelter, they are key to combating climate change, and to protecting biodiversity and the homes of the indigenous population. Every year, 13 million hectares of forests are being lost, while the persistent degradation of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares.


Deforestation and desertification —caused by human activities and climate change— pose major challenges to sustainable development and have affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in the fight against poverty.

Key messages from the region on the issues addressed by SDG 15 and its targets

      • Although the situation varies across countries and subregions, deforestation is a reality in the vast majority of Latin American and Caribbean countries. The reduction in forest area, coupled with changes in land use and management, have resulted in a drop in large-scale evapotranspiration, causing water imbalances and water shortages.

      • The natural resources of Latin America and the Caribbean underpin regional and global food, water and energy security, help to regulate pollination, the climate and air quality, and contribute to human health. Despite the potential for sustainable growth of the region’s natural resources, there have been significant shortcomings in their use and exploitation.
      • The agricultural bias in the region’s export structure is increasing, at the expense of forest ecosystems.

    Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss in Latin America and the Caribbean

    Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss in Latin America and the Caribbean

    The analysis of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) presented here is the outcome of the discussions held within the framework of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and Caribbean on Sustainable Development, convened under the auspices of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Challenges and opportunities for the implementation, follow-up and review of SDG 15 and its targets

    • Challenges

      • One of the challenges related to the sustainable intensification of agricultural production is to achieve zero net degradation through sustainable land management, applying soil, water, vegetation and biodiversity management practices in a broad agroecological and socioeconomic context.

      • Land grabs in forest areas often lead to industrial-scale monocropping accompanied by pesticide use, as well as conflicts with local communities and the destruction of their livelihoods.

      • Soil loss and land degradation are a threat to the future of the regional economy, to inclusive social development, and to the livelihoods of people living in poverty. Efforts have been made to offset land degradation through more intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides (fungicides, herbicides and insecticides), with adverse consequences for soil and water quality.

      • While bioeconomy-based exports make up more than 50% of total exports from countries such as Argentina, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay, there are no synergies with biodiversity protection and the share of high value-added bioeconomy exports is very low.

      • Even the countries of the region with the greatest weight in the global agrifood trade account for a small share of the agriculture patents granted under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, unlike the leading transnational seed and agrochemical companies.

      • Land rights and access to land are core demands of the political agenda of rural, indigenous and campesino women’s organizations, and tie in with other issues affecting them, such as the situation of human rights defenders, territory and land defence, and the adverse effects of climate change on food security.

      • Although family farming has helped to maintain balanced diets and conserve agrobiodiversity, family farmers face challenges associated with a lack of stable paid employment, poor access to markets, production resources and rural services, vulnerability to climate change, lack of participation in the governance of natural resources and migration to cities.


      • Biotechnology helps to improve agriculture and to combat hunger and malnutrition. It also fosters new ways of organizing the value chains associated with biodiversity (biochains) and the creation of a circular economy.

      • Forest management with sustainability criteria is possible and represents a productive and conservation alternative to other destructive practices or uses of forest resources. In altered environments and even amid degradation processes, restoration using forest plantations under the “close-to-nature forestry” or “new generation plantation” models can play a part in promoting zero net deforestation.

Lessons learned and good practices with respect to SDG 15 and its targets

      • Within the framework of the global partnership for ecosystem restoration, El Salvador launched a national programme and, together with the Central American Integration System (SICA), put forward the proposal to declare a United Nations decade on ecosystem restoration. In March 2019, the General Assembly proclaimed 2021–2030 the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

      • The Ganadería Colombiana Sostenible (“Sustainable Colombian Livestock”) project is an example of how silvopastoral production systems (integration of different types of trees with livestock production and conservation of native forests) can raise farm productivity while enhancing the provision of environmental goods and services. These include: improved water regulation and erosion control, increased biodiversity and carbon storage, and reduced nitrous oxide and methane gas emissions.
      • In Brazil and Mexico, sustainable-use protected areas (that allow timber production) are more effective at preventing deforestation than strictly protected areas.

Recommendations from Latin America and the Caribbean for achieving SDG 15 and its targets

      • Apply more modern agricultural and livestock production processes in the region to increase production, generate income and employment, and limit the negative impact of current production patterns on the environment.

      • Develop more sustainable, healthy and diverse, low-input agricultural and food systems that, in addition to conserving and regenerating biodiversity, constitute more resilient, energy-efficient and socially just systems.
      • Reduce dependence on fossil fuels and promote the production and knowledge-intensive use of biological resources, processes and principles for the sustainable supply of goods and services in all sectors of the economy (bioenergy farming and bioinputs, food, fibres, health products, industrial products and bioplastics).

      • Recognize the key role that scientific and technological knowledge can play in redefining the relationships between the agricultural sector, ecosystems and industry.