By declaring the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the UN has recognized that there are only 10 years left to restore the world's degraded land. Countries are striving to fight climate change by 2030 through their Paris Agreement commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But in many cases, their climate and development agenda are disconnected, even though sustainability and development go hand in hand – especially for rural communities.

The divide is particularly severe when it comes to restoring degraded land. We know that restoring land can boost crop yields and income for farmers, improve access to water, enable people to stay on their ancestral land, and help communities adapt to the changing climate. But with so many competing uses of the land, it is difficult to focus restoration efforts where they can help communities most effectively overcome climate change and rural poverty, while also halting deforestation and protecting vital biodiversity.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WRI have created a new guide, The Road to Restoration, to help governments, businesses, communities and anyone actively restoring land identify priorities and set up goals grounded in reality. Using real data, they can create systems that support and keep track of their efforts. By measuring progress, countries like El Salvador, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Malawi have followed the road to restoration to craft customized and implementable strategies to fight climate change and rural poverty.

The tool guides users through basic questions about the process to restore land: Why is restoration needed in the first place? What will the restored land be used for? What are the barriers that could prevent sustainability (including drivers of degradation and enabling factors)? What are the constraints and priorities for monitoring restoration?

These questions help people establish goals, identify quantitative data, and track progress.

We have ten years to achieve the world’s most ambitious goals: to beat climate change and help billions of people overcome poverty, and restoring degraded land is key to both. Helping governments, companies, and communities that restore land choose their own goals, identify their own barriers to success, and measure their own progress is the only way that to achieve the world's goals.

Key Findings

How can the guide help you?

  • First, identify why you are restoring land and how the land is currently and will be used.
  • Then, identify your priorities, available high-quality data, and constraints, allowing you to tailor your monitoring system to your needs.
  • Narrow down your goals to build a system, choosing from a variety of specific indicators and metrics to track your progress.
  • Because there are most likely several related goals, like boosting food security and rural incomes, the guide can also help build an index to measure progress on all set goals simultaneously.


The benefits of measuring progress:

  • Success stories backed by strong data can help convince decisionmakers that investing in restoration makes financial sense.
  • Keeping track of results encourages communities to restore more land because it provides evidence that water quality, food productivity and livelihoods are improving.
  • Transparency, accountability, and measurable results help people prove to governments and the private sector that restoration works and that their targets are realistic and achievable.
  • Companies that restore land to produce food, timber and other products can show their shareholders that restoration is profitable, which can help secure further investment.
  • Tracking progress shows that building strategies to restore land with clearly defined and realistic goals works well, is cost-effective for governments, and creates value for local communities and businesses.

Country Case Studies

Several countries have already started using this methodology to create real impact:

  • In Malawi, the government is measuring progress on the goals it identified in its National Forest Landscape Restoration Strategy: boosting food production and water supply, along with fighting poverty and gender inequality.
  • In Ethiopia, measuring progress on tree-based landscape restoration meant identifying how trees could contribute to the goals of reversing degradation, increasing food production, and limiting flood and landslide risk.
  • The Kenya Water Towers Agency created an inclusive working group that designed a monitoring system with the goal of boosting water quality and supply and contributing to economic growth in rural communities.
  • In El Salvador, the Ministry of Environment created an index to measure the impact of restoration on climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity, water quality in rivers, and rural livelihoods.