The need to mainstream land degradation issues into national policies and frameworks is encouraged by international mechanisms such as the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000). However, mainstreaming has faced a number of interrelated institutional, financial, legal, knowledge and policy barriers. As such, despite 15 years of existence of the UNCCD, successes in reversing and/or preventing land degradation are widely perceived to be limited. This paper highlights the nature of these barriers to mainstreaming and identifies ways in which specific limitations that hamper mainstreaming of land degradation into national, regional and international activities and policies may be overcome. It also identifies institutional infrastructures through which scientific findings may more effectively enter policy, suggesting that scientific bodies are required to strategise, coordinate and stimulate the global scientific research community to support mainstreaming and the up-scaling of efforts to combat land degradation. Such a scientific body could also stimulate national cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder knowledge exchange. The paper then moves to the national level to examine mainstreaming processes in Namibia, a country particularly advanced in taking a more integrated approach. Although the Namibia case study shows an impressive degree of integration, there are still many lessons to be learned in order to further strengthen mainstreaming processes. These lessons form the basis of our conclusion and recommendations, which outline a potential way forward. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.