Resources for Forest and Landscape Restoration: Building Success
Land degradation creates serious challenges for over 3 billion people around the world, especially small farmers and herders. It reduces crop yields and food production, threatens water supply, erodes land, and makes communities more vulnerable to floods, landslides and other natural disasters that climate change is intensifying.
That damage can be reversed by restoring forests, farmland, pasture and other landscapes. Restoration is a process. People restore land for different reasons, from helping communities adapt to the changing climate or improving agricultural yields, to preserving traditional livelihoods and improving women’s access to land.
With those goals in mind, countries have committed to restoring over 170 million hectares through the Bonn Challenge and regional alliances like AFR100, Initiative 20x20, and ECCA30. And as the United Nations has declared 2021-2030 the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, countries, communities, and companies are stepping up their ambition.
Restoring landscapes can be challenging, but resources are available to help practitioners prepare, implement, and monitor their work.
Restoration works best when it is planned at the landscape level. Preparing plans to restore landscapes often means crafting a strategy with clear goals and a clear understanding of the restoration opportunity.
This guide, developed by FAO and WRI, helps anyone actively restoring land establish goals and identify high-quality data and metrics tailored to each specific landscape. It helps practitioners make choices and by creating an indicator framework that can be turned into an index to track tangible results and report on progress accurately.
While goals, priorities, and constraints are identified, this tool helps users decide where to restore land. ROAM is a methodology built by IUCN and WRI that helps practitioners understand where land and people could benefit the most from restoration, as well as what approaches are most effective, how to quantify the costs and benefits, and where finance and investment can make the most impact. The tool can help countries craft comprehensive national strategies that can be scaled down to the landscape level.
Every landscape can benefit from different interventions, from planting trees on farms and pasture to terracing eroding hillsides. But implementation can present challenges for practitioners.
Conceived as part of ROAM, WRI’s Restoration Diagnostic helps people understand what policies and institutional barriers can prevent restoration. The Diagnostic helps assess if there is a clear buy-in from important stakeholders; the right enabling economic, institutional, social, and ecological conditions in place; and the capacity and resources for long-term success. These conditions are important to have in place when restoring any landscape.
Sometimes, well-planned restoration projects fail because of social roadblocks: from gender inequality to imbalances in political power and unclear land tenure. This guide, presented by WRI, helps people restoring land map the social landscape, or how people organize themselves on the land. Because restoration aims to improving people’s lives while protecting vital ecosystems, understanding local priorities and values and the structure of local social networks is crucial to revitalizing the physical landscape and achieving success.
Measuring progress is vital to guide investment and resources into restoring land, to share knowledge, and to build a community of practice and accountability. Success stories based on solid data can boost the restoration movement.
To track their commitments to the Bonn Challenge, several countries have submitted data to IUCN’s Barometer, a universally applicable, systematic framework for identifying, assessing and tracking action on restoration. By making their policies, investments, plans, monitoring capacity, and impact public, countries can signal to investors and the international community that they are making progress.
Building a Global Tool to Measure Progress
The resources outlined above represent a rough path toward achieving the ambitious goals of restoring 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 under the New York Declaration on Forests. But today, there is no independent tool that communities, companies, and countries can use to hold each other accountable.
In September 2019, WRI developed a prototype tool for the Mekong region that uses satellite data to measure tree cover gain both inside the forest and on the farms and pasture outside of the forest, where a significant amount of restoration occurs. WRI and partners hope to expand this work globally to make restoration progress accessible, transparent and accountable.