3 September 2021

Forests, peatlands, and drylands wait for their “restoration ambassadors”

“Restoration Stewards” submissions are now closed. The initiative aims to award 5 projects for multiple ecosystems. The plan, in line with UN recommendations, covers different ecosystems. Including underrated areas

by Matteo Cavallito

 

A leader, an activist, a professional: that’s the picture shared by the Restoration Stewards, the ecosystem recovery managers involved in the program launched by Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) and Global Landscapes Forum (GLF). The initiative, now in its second year, aims to support the efforts of five young people and their staff engaged in the rehabilitation of endangered environmental areas.

From oceans to forests, through peatlands, mountains and more, the opportunities for action are huge. But to be successful, projects also need appropriate resources. This is why the program will provide economic support and training to the five winners selected from the candidates who submitted their ideas in recent weeks. Their names will be announced at the GLF Climate: Forests, Food, Finance – Frontiers of Change event, scheduled to take place in Glagow from November 5-7 during the COP26 climate conference.

Ecosystem restoration is the first step to sustainable development

The program is in line with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the ten-year period dedicated to tackling environmental degradation at a global level. “Restoration of ecosystem is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, mainly those on climate change, poverty eradication, food security, water and biodiversity conservation,” the UN says. The idea also inspired the meeting promoted two years ago by the Global Landscapes Forum in Accra, Ghana, and dedicated specifically to Africa, one of the most affected areas in the world in terms of soil degradation.

In a continent experiencing strong demographic growth – “Sub-Saharan African population alone expected to double to 2.4 billion by 2050”, promoters said at the time – land restoration is crucial. The goals can be achieved by “developing new agricultural practices, adapting traditional methods to new conditions, and integrating the future of food production with solutions to social issues”. These best practices, anyway, can be useful everywhere in the Planet.

Stewards at work

Under the program, organizers say, the five selected stewards and their teams “will be supported to further develop their project and will become ambassadors at both global and local levels” for restoration practices. The initiatives will be widely documented through blogs and vlogs. Moreover, practitioners “will spark a restoration movement, creating pathways to connect, share, learn, and act for more sustainable landscapes.”

The program, which provides a contribution of €5,000, will ensure the support of experts with the goal of further developing the projects. Training activities are also planned to improve landscape management and ecosystem understanding.

Reforestation is not enough

Project details are still unknown. But it seems they will address very different environments and locations. The idea had previously arisen powerfully at the Accra summit: “Tree-planting might be the posterchild for ecosystem restoration”, promoters said. “But the narrative of restoration is broadening, with the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030) seeing forests joined by other ecosystems – drylands and rangelands like Abarchi’s, mangroves, peatlands, mountains, oceans – in the restoration agenda.”

Not only forests, then. But also other precious and underrated environments. The list includes drylands. Which cover 40% of the world surface and are home to over two billion inhabitants. In addition to contributing – with 44% of their area dedicated to cultivation – to the protection of food security.