Unsustainable land management practices, increased fragmentation, degradation of forest and other ecosystems, and monoculture are putting nature, the climate and livelihoods at risk across the world. As soil gets degraded from unsustainable farming and grazing practices, communities struggle to produce enough food. This has a huge impact on nutritional security, especially for vulnerable groups. Meanwhile, biodiversity is lost at unprecedented rates.

It is estimated that more than half the world’s GDP — $44 trillion — depends on nature and the services it provides. Loss of nature and biodiversity not only undermines the economy but jeopardize access to clean air, soil and water, which are all necessary for good food and human health.

But a landscape approach to restoring lands can boost farming yields and associated income, make the land more resilient to extreme weather events and increase biodiversity while absorbing planet-harming carbon dioxide.

A landscape approach to restoration works by practicing more land management practices, such as increasing crop diversity or avoiding the clearing of trees and shrubs, to improve ecosystem conditions and make soil more fertile. Restoring land is possible through agroforestry (growing trees among crops), silvo-pasture (growing trees on grazing lands), reforestation (growing trees in degraded forests) and natural regeneration. These practices are also known as nature-based solutions (NbS).

As NbS become more investible by the private and public sectors, restoration projects need to provide greater accountability, ensure greater survivability and sustainability, and create greater impacts that help secure further investment Hence, projects need to be well-designed to prioritize investments are ecological and steered by the community while generating attractive financial returns to investors, land managers and landowners. Increasingly, corporations investing in restoration projects also require greater accountability and evidence of due diligence for their investment.

To help these projects succeed and secure more investments, WRI and its partners have created the Restoration Launchpad Guidebook, which offers a step-by-step outline of the restoration planning and implementation process using a landscape approach to help design, develop, implement and monitor projects.

It provides a framework for reconciling conservation and development objectives in a landscape — centering the focus on people and bringing key stakeholders together to solve problems like land degradation, conserving natural resources and enhancing local incomes and livelihoods.

Beekeeper holding beehive section.
Apiculture projects are among the many activities included in a landscape-approach restoration project. Photo by WRI India.

When undertaken systematically in planning and implementation, a landscape approach to restoration could enable adaptive management with a dual focus on conservation and poverty alleviation goals.

The Restoration Launchpad Guidebook proposes a framework for new and existing planners and practitioners to conceptualize restoration projects from start to finish while integrating good practices gathered from a variety of restoration practitioners who include project developers, funders and implementers. The guidebook can also be used in ongoing restoration projects to fill in any gaps and reassess social, economic, ecological and financial considerations.

5 Essential Stages of Restoration Projects 

There are five essential stages of restoration projects identified in the guidebook — Scope, Design, Finance, Implement and Monitor — that were found to be common to every restoration project. Each stage explores the most essential steps to conduct restoration effectively, followed by a checklist that planners and practitioners can use to track their progress and ensure that each topic has been taken into consideration before launching into a new project. The checklists can be used, adapted and built upon to support successful restoration on the ground and unlock finance for nature and communities.

1) Scope

Scoping is the process of assessing the ecological, social, economic, financial and regulatory context of any potential project site to determine where restoration is most feasible. The order of identification of the landscape and landscape goals may differ according to whether a new project developer or a local community, for instance, is leading the restoration initiative. Key actions include:

  • Define restoration goals.
  • Map restoration opportunities and prioritize landscapes and interventions.
  • Identify key enabling conditions and barriers.
  • Analyze trade-offs and develop a strategy to mitigate risks.
  • Select a project site.
  • Determine value proposition.

2) Design

Designing an effective project requires the planners and practitioners to conceptualize, define and organize all the internal and external processes that will be involved in the project during implementation. Key actions include:

  • Define restoration interventions.
  • Manage key activities.
  • Secure resources.
  • Engage and establish partnerships.
  • Protocols, standards and certifications.

3) Finance

Financing is a critical step that moves projects from design to actual implementation by way of efficient budgeting, resource allocation and funding options. Key funding considerations include:

  • Revenue sources.
  • Costs.
  • Financing options.
  • Funders.

4) Implement

Implementing a project is the process of carrying out the restoration interventions on the ground by working with the landowners and communities to correct and prepare the site, undertake interventions such as planting, regenerating, growing trees, eliminating or mitigating any disturbances, and, finally, to monitor progress in the critical early stages when species viability is tested. Key implementation considerations include:

  • Prepare site and resources.
  • Planting, regenerating and growing.
  • Site maintenance and resources.

5) Monitor

Monitoring builds on implementation in a holistic way by assessing a project’s performance across ecological, social and economic parameters, creating opportunities for adaptive management and informing developers of what is needed to move a project forward. Key monitoring considerations include:

  • Performance.
  • Adaptive learning and management.
  • Scaling and exit.
Women weeding seedlings for better growth and quality saplings to plant in Africa.
Women weeding seedlings for better growth and quality saplings to plant in Africa. A landscape approach to restoration works by using more land management practices, such as increasing crop diversity or avoiding the clearing of trees and shrubs, to improve ecosystem conditions and make soil more fertile. Photo by Arcos Network.

Scope of the Restoration Launchpad

The approach, stages and principles discussed in the Restoration Launchpad have wider scope and applicability. We encourage landscape planners and practitioners to adopt and adapt this guide for different contexts to develop restoration projects that are ecologically sustainable, socially inclusive and economically feasible to spur a self-sustaining restoration economy.

As momentum for reversing biodiversity loss grows globally through large-scale efforts, individual restoration projects can help meet those broader goals. This restoration launchpad complements plans by initiatives like AFR100 in Africa, Initiative 20x20 and the Global Bonn Challenge to restore land in the right places, for the right uses and with the right species.