• Home
  • Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Posted by


This collection of 12 stories from women and men in nine countries in different parts of Africa shines a light on the efforts of communities, some of them decades-long, in restoring degraded forests and landscapes. The stories are not generated through any rigorous scientific process, but are nonetheless illustrative of the opportunities communities create as they solve their own problems, and of the many entry points we have for supporting and accelerating community effort. The stories show that leadership, social capital and cooperation, clear property rights/tenure, and supportive governance are important for successful community-based restoration. From the perspectives of communities, “success” is not only about the number of trees planted and standing over a certain terrain: it is also about the ability to secure and enhance livelihoods; to strengthen existing community relationships and to build new ones with other actors; to develop a conservation ethic among younger generations; and, in some cases, to expand the rights of excluded individuals and groups. This collection is about amplifying the voices of local people in global policy debates.

Foreword. Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Story 1. Holding back the desert: One farmer’s story of restoring degraded land in the Sahel region in Burkina Faso

Story 2. Women gaining ground through reforestation on the Cameroonian coast

Story 3. Building resilience to climate change through community forest restoration in Ghana

Story 4. Thinking in tomorrow: Women leading forest restoration in Mt Kenya and beyond

Story 5. Mikoko Pamoja: Carbon credits and community-based reforestation in Kenya’s mangroves

Story 6. Rights, responsibilities and collaboration: The Ogiek and tree growing in the Mau

Story 7. Restoring Madagascar’s mangroves: Community-led conservation makes for multiple benefits

Story 8. Flood recovery, livelihood protection and mangrove reforestation in the Limpopo River Estuary, Mozambique

Story 9. Regaining their lost paradise: Communities rehabilitating mangrove forests in the drought-affected Saloum Delta, Senegal

Story 10. From the grass roots to the corridors of power: Scaling up efforts for conservation and reforestation in Senegal

Story 11. Taming the rising tide: Keeping the ocean at bay through community reforestation on Kisiwa Panza island, Tanzania

Story 12. Shaking the tree: Challenging gender, tenure and leadership norms through collaborative reforestation in Central Uganda

  • Home
  • Interwoven landscapes pose complex challenge

Interwoven landscapes pose complex challenge

Posted by


Over the past six years, conversations on sustainable forest management activities focused on transforming the way the international community addresses poverty, food insecurity, climate change and biodiversity loss have coalesced into the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) movement.

Based on the landscape approach, the GLF aims to synthesize seemingly competing land-use goals to ensure social, environmental and economic equilibrium.  In a nutshell, both the GLF and the approach address the pressures of population growth and human demand, which exacerbate agricultural expansion and intensification, and the extraction of commodities, including wood, vegetable oils and biofuels.

At a recent GLF conference in Bonn, Germany, scientists discussed implementation of the landscape approach during a panel discussion titled Looking at the Past to Shape the Landscape Approach of the Future, moderated by Terry Sunderland, senior associate with CIFOR and a professor at Canada’s University of British Columbia.

The session was inspired in part by the findings of a research paper led by CIFOR scientist James Reed, titled “Integrated landscape approaches to managing social and environmental issues in the tropics: Learning from the past to guide the future.”

Watch: Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future

New funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) for CIFOR and partners to move beyond theoretical discussions to implement and study landscape initiatives in Burkina Faso, Indonesia and Zambia also formed the basis for discussions.

“Moving from commitment to action is critical,” said Sunderland, who was instrumental in forming the GLF, which is now jointly coordinated by CIFOR – the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) – UN Environment and the World Bank, and funded by BMU and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Sunderland was also a lead author on the seminal research paper “Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation and other competing land uses,” which established the basis for ongoing conversations.

“We need to start moving beyond the talking, beyond the rhetoric and actually moving towards implementation,” Sunderland said. “We need to shift away from the theoretical, away from the political, away from the development speak and into much more pragmatic understandings of how landscape approaches play out on the ground.”

Panelists shared lessons learned from various initiatives that have embraced the landscape approach.


The town of Isangi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR

Musonda Mumba, chief of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit at UN Environment, demonstrated the interconnectedness of landscapes. Through observations of glacier activity in the Rwenzori Mountains on the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, she came to understand the scale of the impact activities could have downstream and beyond country borders.

“Look at the Rwenzori system – if you go on the world map and the Africa map in particular, you’re going to see that most of the rivers that emanate from this region flow down into Lake Victoria, and eventually into the Nile River system,” she said. “And how many people live in the Nile basin? It’s millions, right? It’s a lot of people.”

She made similar findings from research in Peru. Because the capital Lima is a desert city, it depends on the maintenance of upstream sources to provide hydroelectricity and fresh water supply for more than 10 million people, Mumba said.

In 2015, significant international pacts were sealed, including the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Agreement on Disaster Risk Reduction and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These formal agreements provide vital frameworks formalizing the interconnectivity of landscapes, Mumba said.

SDG 15, Life on Land, is the mother of all SDGs, she said. “We cannot exist without the land and our food systems are based on the land — You cannot slice up the landscape. A landscape is so intricately and complexly interwoven together.”

Read more: Putting the concept of the ‘landscape approach’ into action


Terry Sunderland speakers during “Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future” at GLF Bonn. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

Mirjam Ros-Tonen, associate professor at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, explored local-level, small-scale initiatives to test their potential to become broader scale landscape projects.

She evaluated agroforestry cocoa projects in Ghana involving reforestation and landscape restoration, which provided income for smallholder farmers. She learned that the projects were contained on the farm.

“Partnerships are needed to extend the activities to landscape level and partnerships are needed to give farmers a voice and offer them opportunities for self organization and autonomous change,” Ros-Tonen said. “See if you can build on local initiatives, and from there build partnerships with other actors in the landscape.”

After working on at least 50 large-scale integrated landscape initiatives, similar patterns showed the need for multi-stakeholder platforms that can plan and conceptualize a long term joint vision over a number of decades, said Sara Scherr, president and chief executive of EcoAgriculture Partners, adding that the process can take from six months to three years.

Implementation involves adhering to five key steps, including expansion of the stakeholder network, securing financial backing and an assessment process. Collaborative planning projects need a long-term vision.

“You need a cadre of people champions in the landscape from pharma organizations, agribusiness, local governments, national governments, cultural leaders, the people who were committed to the vision of the transformed landscape who will work together,” Scherr said.

It is important to look beyond labels in use and focus on assessing progress over the longer term, noting that such approaches ought to be thinking far beyond the typical project cycle, she added.

External input is a vital part of achieving success in integrated landscape initiatives, said Roderick Zagt, program coordinator at Tropenbos International. While people he worked with understood the problems they faced and the consequences of various activities, they can benefit from external perspectives.

“We aren’t in the driving seat,” Zagt said.  “We can’t impose that vision, but I think as an outsider you should try to set the conditions by which this vision will be reached through a structured dialogue process.”

Read more: The concept and development of the ‘landscape approach’

Overall, panelists agreed that landscape approaches must be long term, locally owned endeavors, although their effectiveness is often dependent on external sources of support, Reed said.

“The general consensus was that the GLF should provide a clearing house mechanism to consolidate experiences and knowledge,” he added.  “Its future mission could serve to enhance and clarify the evidence base, providing guidance on implementation strategies and lessons learned in the quest for truly sustainable landscapes.”

By Julie Mollins, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

This research was supported by German Environment Ministry and German Development Ministry.

  • Home
  • Reshaping the terrain: Landscape restoration in Africa factsheets

Reshaping the terrain: Landscape restoration in Africa factsheets

Posted by


The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) published a series of factsheets in August 2018 ahead of GLF Nairobi, focusing on Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Cameroon.

GLF is the world’s largest knowledge-led multisectoral platform for integrated land use, bringing together world leaders, scientists, private sector representatives, farmers and community leaders and civil society to accelerate action towards the creation of more resilient, equitable, profitable, and climate-friendly landscapes.

Brief 1: Reshaping the terrain: Forest and landscape restoration in Burkina Faso

Brief 2: Reshaping the terrain: Landscape restoration in Ethiopia

Brief 3: Reshaping the terrain: Forest landscape restoration efforts in Ghana

Brief 4: Reshaping the terrain: Landscape restoration in Tanzania

Brief 5: Reshaping the terrain: Forest and landscape restoration in Kenya

Brief 6: Reshaping the terrain: Forest landscape restoration in Uganda 

Brief 7: Reshaping the terrain: Forest and landscape restoration in Cameroon

  • Home
  • Seed diversity vital to achieve landscape restoration pledges

Seed diversity vital to achieve landscape restoration pledges

A woman looks out over an FLR area in Ethiopia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR
Posted by


Optimally achieving forest landscape restoration – and its associated benefits for ecology and human wellbeing – requires high-quality planting material.

Restoration plays a key role in sustainable development. With countries making significant pledges under the Bonn Challenge to restore degraded land, achieving these objectives at scale requires integrated systems that provide diverse, adapted and high-quality native tree seeds and planting material.

However, there remains a gap in capacity, as studies have documented that the quality and quantity of tree germplasm is not always adequately addressed in restoration projects. Research is now generating solutions to help the global community move from pledges to impact when it comes to tree seeds and seedlings.

A discussion at the recent Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) with Bioversity International, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – Delivery of quality and diverse planting material is a major constraint for restoration – brought these issues to the fore.

Read more: Delivery of diverse and suitable seeds and planting material is a key barrier to sustainable land restoration at scale

In opening the discussion, Bioversity International’s leader of forest genetic resources and restoration Christopher Kettle, whose work also forms part of FTA, introduced how researchers can help to generate the volume of seeds needed to achieve development objectives.

In line with this, FTA Director Vincent Gitz highlighted that restoration is a priority for research programs such as FTA. In order to be successful, projects should integrate the availability of good tree planting materials from the outset to implementation, he suggested.

Giving a keynote, senior advisor on tropical trees and landscapes at the University of Copenhagen Lars Graudal, who is also coleader of tree productivity and diversity at ICRAF, echoed Kettle in asking whether the reproductive material of trees constituted a barrier for landscape restoration.

Referring to the Bonn Challenge – which aims to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 350 million ha by 2030 – the largest restoration in history, which is backed by conventions and the sustainable development agenda, Graudal said it is one thing to have a plan, and another to implement it.

Despite shortfalls in investments, there is reason for optimism as public support for the plan has never been greater, he said. There is a “positive correlation with biodiversity and resilience, agricultural produce and dietary diversity,” he explained. The world faces challenges of mobilizing diversity before it disappears; focusing on dealing with numerous species rather than only a few; linking that work with conservation, breeding and delivery programs; and achieving efficient programs by empowering users.

Speakers of Discussion Forum 1 at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

The discussion continued with a panel of speakers considering situations on the ground where restoration efforts are being implemented. Featuring Cameroon-based forest engineer Anicet Ngomin; Burkina Faso’s National Tree Seed Center director general Moussa Ouedraogo; Charles Karangwa of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Rwanda; biologist and youth representative Vania Olmos Lau; social entrepreneur Doreen Mashu; and FAO’s Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism coordinator Douglas McGuire, the panel looked at how the ability to deliver diverse and quality seed and planting material is impacting countries’ pledges.

Outlining some of the regional challenges in meeting restoration commitments, Ouedraogo said Burkina Faso has committed to planting 5 million hectares by 2030, but has experienced a 30-35 percent survival rate of trees after one year of planting. Native species remain threatened, he added.

Ngomin said Cameroon has committed to restoring 12 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030, with seeds forming an important part of reforestation programs.

Read more: FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

Tree seed diversity determines the extent and speed to which ambitious restoration targets can be achieved, said Karangwa. While widespread eucalyptus monoculture in Rwanda affects land productivity, restoration would bring multiple benefits to both people and landscapes. Although farmers know the importance of trees on farms, he added, they “feel like trees are competing with crops, because of the quality and the type of trees we are telling them to plant.” This shows that tree seed diversity is paramount, he said.

Lau emphasized that achieving the Bonn Challenge is also important to youth. She cited as examples a lack of knowledge and access to seeds in Paraguay, as well as bureaucratic hurdles in Mexico, as existing barriers to restoration.

Mashu, who is the founder of The Good Heritage in Zimbabwe – a wellness brand using non-timber forest resources to create products – underlined the need for a clear connection between restoration efforts and economic activity.

“Companies are thinking about doing good in additional to making financial returns,” she said. Thus, business can be a vehicle for restoration for both businesspeople and the scientists who support it, she explained.

McGuire addressed time-bound political commitments, and how to balance these with the time needed to understand the science and practical issues behind tree planting. There are new projects indicating huge momentum both politically and financially, he explained, but many stakeholders have yet to address the technicalities of planting material.

A woman looks out over an FLR area in Ethiopia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Building on Mashu’s comments, he also underlined the role of the private sector and embedding restoration into economic realities.

Following on with keynote speeches were scientist Marius Ekué, Bioversity International’s representative in Cameroon and a member of FTA, and ICRAF’s Ramni Jamnadass, who is the leader of FTA’s Flagship 1 on tree genetic resources.

Ekué introduced the Trees for Seeds initiative, which was launched at GLF Nairobi in August and aims to safeguard diversity. “Trees don’t have borders, so we work within a network,” he said, referring to networks that exist across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Read more: Hedging bets in resilient landscape restoration

In line with the initiative, researchers have developed decision support tools to help practitioners select the right tree species for the right places, such as RESTOOL. This can help to understand how seed systems work in different countries, including how they are harvested, produced and distributed. With this information, researchers can then assess how to deliver at scale using innovative technologies.

Similarly, Jamnadass covered the quality of restoration, and the right tree for the right place and the right purpose. She also highlighted other decision support tools such as Useful Tree Species for Africa and the Vegetation Map for Africa. Research needs to put food trees back into landscapes using the restoration agenda, she emphasized.

The panel then continued with a second phase of discussion, articulating concrete solutions for lifting barriers to scale – raising the need to invest in knowledge and science, greater collaboration between partners, harnessing local knowledge, strengthening delivery systems as a local level, bridging gaps between science and policy, and capacity building.

In closing, Erick Fernandes, an adviser on agriculture, forestry and climate change to the World Bank Group, reiterated that the desire to restore land is strong.

As stated by the Trees for Seeds project, using the right mix of native trees in forest restoration efforts is essential to deliver on multiple SDGs, including reducing poverty and food insecurity, and supporting biodiversity.

Planting a trillion trees, and ensuring that they are the right trees in the right place, offers a powerful development solution.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

  • Home
  • Ten years of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+

Ten years of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+

Posted by


  • Home
  • Bamboo for restoration and economic development

Bamboo for restoration and economic development

Posted by


  • Home
  • Standing tall: Bamboo from restoration to economic development

Standing tall: Bamboo from restoration to economic development

A woman stands beside an allanblackia tree, which can provide an edible oil and increase the incomes of farmers. Photo by C. Pye-Smith/ICRAF
Posted by


Can grass be used to make tissues, furniture, pipes and even housing? Can it help to improve livelihoods and to mitigate climate change? Think beyond garden lawns and savannah landscapes, to bamboo.

“Bamboos, although they look like trees,” said the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation’s (INBAR) Director General Hans Friederich in opening a recent side event at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, “are actually all grass species.”

Bamboo provides a durable building material and strong fiber for paper and textiles without the need to fell trees. Additionally, Friederich explained that as a grass, bamboo grows back quickly after being harvested – making it a highly sustainable product to work with.

Titled Bamboo for restoration and economic development, the discussion addressed how bamboo fits into conversations about land management, land restoration, erosion control and nature-based solutions for development challenges.

“[We need to] make that connection between bamboo as a plant, as a means to hold soil together, to think about climate change mitigation […] and then link that to the market,” he said. “What actually can we do with this bamboo once we plant it?”

“To have a value chain that actually identifies the market opportunities is important,” he added.

Eduardo Mansur, director of land and water at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN) underlined the importance of nature-based solutions, and combining green and grey infrastructure – that is, natural ecosystems with human-engineered solutions.

He described the huge amount of degraded land on the planet, saying: “If we restore this degraded land that exists on the planet […] we will be able to produce the products, the food and the ecosystem services that we need for sustainable livelihoods and sustainable life on the planet.”

“We have seen examples of species-specific conservation,” he said, “when it links with sustainable livelihoods.” Giving the example of the Brazilian Amazon, Mansur described a species of palm that produces an inedible coconut known as “vegetable ivory” for its color and texture. Used to make buttons and handicrafts, it has helped to improve the ecosystems where the palm occurs, he said, because there is a market link.

Such a species can be used to promote sustainable livelihoods and sustainable use, he added, drawing a comparison with the over 1,600 species of bamboo. If a bamboo species is well chosen and well managed, it can have ongoing positive effects, especially for soil restoration.

Read also: Bamboo and rattan: Surprising tools for forest protection

Ye Ling, president and chief engineer at Zhejiang Xinzhou Bamboo-based Composites Technology Co., Ltd, discussed how his company develops products from bamboo on a large scale – such as pressure pipes and modular housing from a bamboo composite – which offer better performance and lower costs and can replace a huge quantity of traditional materials such as cement and steel, thus helping to tackle climate change and contributing to the SDGs.

A woman whittles a piece of bamboo in India. Photo by International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)

He emphasized innovation as the most important factor in product development, saying that without it, other factors such as policy or investment would have nowhere to go.

Trinh Thang Long, coordinator of the Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan for green development (GABAR) at INBAR said the organization’s 44 member states had begun to learn specifically from China’s use of bamboo for economic development.

GABAR aims to maximize bamboo and rattan’s contribution to national economic development and environmental protection, to help inform policies, development strategies and opportunities for investment.

Many countries are not yet fully aware of the advantages of bamboo compared to trees, Long explained. He emphasized that the grasses are fast growing, easy to manage, and can be harvested annually after the first four to five years.

INBAR’s member states are contributing to the Bonn Challenge by restoring 5 million hectares of degraded land using bamboo. On a small scale, the work has been successful, but upscaling remains a challenge.

This challenge affects many countries, but a case study in China illustrates the success of scaled-up bamboo. Jiang Jingyan, President of Yong’an Institute of Bamboo Industry, discussed Yong’an, China, and its reputation as a “bamboo city”. Concurring with previous speakers, he also addressed the importance of design and innovation.

Read also: Realizing bamboo and rattan’s full potential: An interview with INBAR Director General Hans Friederich

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) Director Vincent Gitz then spoke about land restoration and the key constraints to upscaling, including policies and governance. He gave special attention to the economic aspects of land restoration – costs and benefits, investments and value chains.

“There won’t be any sustainable land restoration if we don’t give the means to increase, over time, the livelihoods of people that live on those lands,” he said.

There is often a time lag between a smallholder making an investment and seeing a return. However, as bamboo grows quickly and is extremely versatile, it is a strong option for restoration in different contexts. “Lots of innovation can come out of this plant,” he added.

Speakers participate in Side Event 4 at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

An additional step is using bamboo to restore degraded lands while simultaneously creating clean energy, Gitz said, referring to an initiative from Clean Power Indonesia, which FTA is part of, and which is building small-scale bamboo-based energy generation plants in West Sumatra.

Touching further on industrial development, Cai Liang, the chief branding officer of Vanov Bamboo Tissue Enterprise in Sichuan, China, discussed the use of bamboo pulp for paper manufacturing, specifically for tissues. From concept to commitment, the company moved to develop a tissue paper using bamboo, without cutting down a single tree.

After years of experimentation, the company came up with soft, unbleached, antibacterial tissues made from bamboo fiber. Once again highlighting bamboo’s short growth period, constant regeneration and sustainability, Liang described how bamboo could provide the fibers typically taken from multiple types of trees to make paper.

Read also: Study examines bamboo value chains to support industry growth

As well as using the fiber to make the tissues themselves, the company uses waste from the process for energy generation and for fertilizer. The low-emission, closed-loop model uses over 1 million tons of bamboo annually, and offers over 1 million job opportunities for local farmers.

In closing, Friederich underscored this link between restoration and socioeconomics, harking back to Gitz’s presentation.

“If we want to succeed in restoration, we cannot only look at the landscapes – of course we need to look at the landscapes – but we need to look at the people in the landscapes and to connect them with the value chains that can come out of the productive aspects of restoration,” Gitz said.

“We can’t just stay where we are, and I think there are still some great opportunities for making new products from bamboo and looking at new ways of using bamboo within the landscape,” Friederich added.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

Read more about INBAR’s participation in GLF Bonn 2018, or check out the summary of discussions from the forum.

  • Home
  • Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future

Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future

Posted by


  • Home
  • Delivery of quality and diverse planting material

Delivery of quality and diverse planting material

Posted by


Delivery of quality and diverse planting material is a major constraint for restoration. What solutions, what emerging needs? The Bonn Challenge has now pledged 350 million hectares of degraded land globally for different forms of restoration. It can be an essential contribution to sustainable development, to reduce poverty, food insecurity and enhance biodiversity. However, restoration is easier pledged than done. A critical barrier to delivering restoration at scale is the lack of delivery systems at scale for diverse, adapted and high quality native tree seeds and planting material.

This discussion forum will bring together representatives from national governments who have made significant pledges under the Bonn Challenge, development actors, private sector (seed and planting material companies), civil society, and researchers from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. It will show the extent of the challenge, review and discuss the range of issues related to the set-up at scale of delivery systems of suitable and adapted seeds and planting material, for effective, sustainable land restoration. It will explore the practical technical, economic and institutional challenges stakeholders currently face in delivering at scale suitable seeds and planting material. It will also explore issues such as how to best access and leverage tree biodiversity, including native species, keeping into account the quality, origin and diversity of seeds and planting material used. It will present and discuss a range of technical, economic and institutional solutions that scientists and stakeholders have developed to address these issues. Participants will discuss the common solutions across regions and remaining gaps and barriers, as well as the need for additional innovations.

This video was first published by the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF).

  • Home
  • Getting landscapes on a fast track to sustainability

Getting landscapes on a fast track to sustainability

Posted by


GLF Charter members pose onstage during the closing remarks of GLF Bonn 2018. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

The Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, assembled 1,000 participants on-site on 1-2 December, and thousands more online, to go beyond pledges and commitments and spur collective action on securing a more sustainable future for life on this planet.

One of the main messages emerging from the event was that the time to change is now.

“The world needs decisive action,” said director general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Robert Nasi, in his closing remarks. “Research is important, but we now know enough to understand that there is a problem and that we need to solve it – enough to know what we have to do.”

Jochen Flasbarth, who is state secretary of the German Ministry for the Environment, shared Nasi’s sense of urgency: “Without a sustainable land use sector, let’s forget about meeting any of the global climate, biodiversity and sustainable development targets.”

Participants reiterated that business-as-usual will not get landscapes on the track of sustainability, or do it broadly and quickly enough to meet critical biodiversity, climate and development goals. What, then, will get us where we need to go? To answer this question, delegates from governments, academia, NGOs, the private sector and civil society devoted the better part of the two-day forum to presenting specific principles and practical strategies.

“To affect systemic change, we need action from the bottom-up, but also from the top down, so we can get rid of the many that perverse policies that are not in line with the Sustainable Development Goals,” pointed out Louise Luttikholt, director of IFOAM, which is one of 21 GLF Charter members that signed a commitment to the GLF mission at the event. Good governance, targeted policies, and adequate institutional and legal frameworks are essential, noted participants, but the public sector cannot power the sustainable landscape revolution alone.

For assistant secretary-general of UN Environment Satya S. Tripathi, there is no way around the fact that private finance and the private sector are going to play a key role in creating sustainable landscapes. “This is why we need to step out of our comfort zone and find ways to collaborate with private actors, even with those who are misbehaving, so we can get them on the right track,” he said.

The role of private finance was highlighted in an all-women finance plenary as well. We must accept that public investment has a role, said Jane Feehan from the European Investment Bank, but that the bulk of ‘green’ funding must come from private institutions and businesses.

Watch: Satya S. Tripathi at the Closing Plenary 2018


Tapping into the potential of sustainable business models and changing consumer behavior are some of the key approaches championed by researchers, governments and international organizations alike. Several initiatives are now emerging to push responsible production and consumption forward, greening both supply chains and mindsets. 

“For example, what makes a jurisdiction an attractive destination for companies that want to source sustainable commodities?” queried Gita Syahrani, head of the Sustainable Districts Association secretariat in Indonesia. “We are working to define these enabling conditions so our districts can green their supply chains for commodities such as rubber and palm oil,” she said. As part of this effort, they are collaborating with the Dutch sustainable trade initiative IDH in the creation of the Verified Sourcing Mechanism (VSM).

IDH’s groundbreaking mechanism, which will launch for consultation in July 2019, aims to verify the sustainability of an entire production area – such as a state or a district — so auditing each producer or commodity individually is no longer necessary. “Verified sourcing areas can drive progress because they provide a business model for sustainability that everybody can join,” said Willem Klaassens, IDH senior commodity trade specialist.

The same principle should underpin the restoration of forest landscapes, according to delegates from organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), CIFOR and the International Tropical Timber Association (ITTO). “Integrating forest landscape restoration with sustainable wood value chains can lead to greater overall benefits, including increased ecosystem services, forest products and employment opportunities,” said assistant director-general of FAO’s Forestry Department Hiroto Mitsugi.

Watch: Robert Nasi at the Closing Plenary GLF Bonn 2018


Nasi from CIFOR noted that the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of investing – financially, and through other action – in landscape sustainability. “The world is losing an estimated USD 6.3 trillion to land degradation every year; yet, meeting the goal of restoring 300 million hectares of land by 2030 could have a return of USD 7 to 20 for each dollar invested.”

In a recent study, the World Bank tracked the wealth of countries taking into account built, human and natural capital. What they found is that natural capital accounts for an average of 9 percent of wealth globally, but up to 47 percent in low-income countries.

“This means that more efficient management of land resources is key to the sustainable development of countries,” said Karin Kemper, senior director for the Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice at the World Bank. To understand how countries become wealthier in a sustainable way, we need to go beyond their gross domestic product and take into account their natural capital.”

Better integrating landscape interventions into national economic development plans can make strides in changing consumers’ behavior; increasing the transparency of supply chains; and equipping producers to develop projects that are investment-ready and financially attractive.

Then there is the cross-cutting issue of rights, and “particularly, those of local communities and indigenous people, whose territories host 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity,” said co-convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development Joan Carling.

In the face of a growing global population and climate change, implementing these and other strategies cannot wait, believes Stefan Schmitz, deputy director-general and commissioner for the One World – No Hunger initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).”We need to empower people to achieve sustainable food systems, bearing in mind they live in spaces, not in sectors. We need to shift from thinking in sectors to thinking in landscapes.”


The GLF convened large organizations, but also shone light on individuals, young and old, who have braved disbelief and put their lives on the line to reclaim healthy landscapes around the world. Right Livelihood Award laureates Yacouba Sawadogo and Tony Rinaudo are two of them.

Sawadogo, known as ‘the man who stopped the desert,’ has devoted his life to restoring land fertility in his native Burkina Faso, inspiring many other farmers in this and other countries to do the same. “I gave up everything, all my time and belongings, to dedicate myself to the land. At 72, I only own a donkey and a cart. My one wealth is the forest I planted,” he said in the opening plenary.

Rinaudo, who is natural resources management specialist at World Vision, has been championing a restoration technique known as farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR). After working for decades with countries such as Niger, he came to a realization: “The first step to re-greening landscapes is re-greening mindscapes.”

The path may be long, but the thousands of organizations and individuals who participated in the GLF are already on their way.

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at GLF’s Landscape News.

For more on GLF Bonn 2018, read Landscape News’ highlights from Day 1 and Day 2.

Back to top

Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Connect with us