Over 3 billion people around the world suffer from the consequences of land degradation: less water, lower crop yields, declining rural incomes and erosion. Governments have committed to restore millions of hectares of farms, forests and pasture through the global Bonn Challenge. Their objective is to bring prosperity to struggling rural economies and kickstart a vibrant “restoration economy” of thriving businesses and community groups. To reach their ambitious national goals, governments are designing policies that help people to restore land and keep it healthy, but these programs sometimes run into roadblocks when officials are planning, financing and implementing them. Government leaders need technical assistance to better design new policies and adapt existing ones to maximize their impact and minimize costs.

Building the right policies

To close that gap, WRI designed the Restoration Policy Accelerator, a collaborative network that helps government leaders solve these key problems and push each other toward success. By building south-south networks of mutual support and promoting smart policies, the Policy Accelerator hopes to help governments boost restoration implementation on the ground and continue to lead in the global movement to restore landscapes.

The program walks governments leaders through a seven-step process of effective policy reform to:

  1. Identify the overarching policy problem.
  2. Learn from the experiences of other countries in designing and implementing programs.
  3. Choose the right government participants.
  4. Identify potential solutions in collaboration with participants from peer countries.
  5. Discuss the new vision with other ministries and incorporate feedback.
  6. Prioritize and implement.
  7. Measure results.

Government leaders from Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru joined the program’s first cohort in 2020. These countries are all members of Initiative 20x20, a coalition of 17 Latin American and Caribbean nations that aim to protect and restore 50 million hectares of land. Key technical experts from WRI, alongside other partners, provided training.

The Cohort

El Salvador and Peru are designing new incentives. 

El Salvador is designing three new policy instruments to mitigate climate risk and help communities adapt to the effects of climate change:

  • Enable local banks to provide loans for people growing food and commodities while restoring land.
  • Reinforce its existing environmental compensation mechanism to invest in areas where restoration protects key water sources.
  • Develop a payment for ecosystem services (PES)-like program to prevent floods and landslides.

Peru is assessing how a potential restoration incentive program for farmers could attract private investment. It will:

  • Estimate how incentives could reduce landholders' average upfront costs for restoration.
  • Assess the potential return on investment for the government.
  • Evaluate how incentives could boost profitability for the private investment.

Chile, Guatemala, and Mexico are improving their existing incentives for restoration.

Chile aims to revise its incentive programs for native forest restoration to increase demand from landholders and the total amount of land under restoration.

Guatemala wants to certify more projects at an increased pace so that more people can benefit from its incentive programs. To do that, it will:

  • Develop a cost-effective certification system to reduce the number of in-field visits.
  • Design a system to track the performance and impacts of the incentive program.
  • Increase the internal capacity of the government to assess more projects.

Mexico wants to leverage public and private funds to accelerate forest protection and restoration by boosting public-private partnerships for its existing payment for ecosystem services program.