By Elizabeth Kahurani
With the realization that our ecosystem has been degraded to near irreversible levels, several initiatives have been forged to restore the ecosystem and the essential services it provides.
These initiatives include the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 150million hectares of the World’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020. The New York Declaration on Forests with commitment to end deforestation by 2030, and the recently launched AFR100 initiative through which African countries have pledged to restore 100 million hectares of forest by 2030.
Countries have thrown their weight behind these initiatives, pledging to restore millions of hectares as contributions to the targets set. Under the Bonn Challenge for example, Ethiopia and USA have committed to restore 15million each while Latin America and Caribbean countries have pledged 20million hectares. Under the AFR 100, ten African countries have signed up several million hectares for restoration.
As countries move to implementing their pledges, agroforestry (trees on farm) is already demonstrating its importance in restoration efforts for countries like Ethiopia, Niger, Indonesia and other places covering millions of ha; with tremendous potential being identified in other countries.
At a Global Landscapes Forum session hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Dennis Garrity, UN Drylands Ambassador and Senior Fellow at ICRAF noted, “with 200 miillion trees regenerated and 5 million ha of land restored in Niger by 1.2 million farm households, accomplished with little capital investment over a 20 year period, we are looking at agroforestry as a potentially transformative approach to achieving the 2 Degree target and more.”
“In Pakistan, we have seen restoration generate multiple benefits in terms of income, jobs, food etc.. that has enabled youth stay in the villages rather than migrate to the cities. The wage level from the rural jobs equated those that could be earned from urban employment,” said Stewart Maginis, Global Director Nature-based solutions IUCN.
Lalisa Duguma, Scientist at ICRAF gave the example of Shinyangah region in Tanzania where degradation had occurred over time and the government embarked on restoration initiatives through practices such as on farm tree conservation, multistakeholder engagement and community empowerment. “When the programme started in 1986, 611 ha of land was under restoration. In 2005 this had increased to 377,756 ha; with high economic, social, and environmental returns,” said Duguma.
Discussions at the forum highlighted success factors for agroforestry as inter-agency collaboration given that agroforestry lies in between the mandate of the agriculture and forestry sectors. Also of importance are incentives to farmers as well as long-term sustained investments as it takes time before trees mature.
To restore or to rehabilitate?
At the Global Landscape discussion forum, Lalisa Duguma set the pace of discussions by raising pertinent questions on the concept of restoration and called for serious consideration of the roadmap being used to realize restoration goals so as to ensure that the potential and investments made are fully realized. He asked whether the term should actually be restoration or rehabilitation, given that restoration is about ‘returning the ecosystem to what it was in the past.’
“Who decides whether the choice is to build the lost or create the future that meets the demands of future?” posed Duguma saying that it was important to take into account dynamics of factors of growth possibly due to some eminent change drivers such as climate change, population need dynamics, technological innovations.
He urged for considerations to be made on the quality of the reforestation cover, which is guided by the function it plays in a particular ecosystem. Just having any type of forest or tree cover without thinking of how appropriate it is to the ecosystem may be counter productive.
Other factors to account for include the type of restored landscapes, path to follow in realizing this landscape and involving the necessary stakeholders, particularly local communities.
This argument is indeed supported in the new Paris climate agreement where parties are urged to uphold the integrity of all ecosystems, protect biodiversity and ensure ‘climate justice’ in efforts to address climate change.
See presentation: Odds and Ends of rehabilitating (restoring) degraded landscapes
By Elizabeth Kahurani