Big challenges, promising remedies
In the afternoon of the 23rd of September, the audience at the webinar “Landscape Restoration – can it improve water security in Sweden and beyond?” was treated to a veritable buffet of hopeful examples of projects on water and landscape restoration around the world. Also, a virtual “World Café” enabled participants to share valuable input on how to develop their agroforestry activities.
After a lunch break halfway through the webinar, Susan Chomba, Project Manager ICRAF, held a presentation on the urgency of land restoration.
– 25 percent of global land is degraded, affecting some 1,5 billion people, said Susan Chomba.
Through the project Reversing Land Degradation in Africa by Scaling-up Evergreen Agriculture (Regreening Africa), Chomba and her colleagues seek to restore 1 million hectares of land, which will benefit 500,000 across 8 different countries – in other words, not a small feat. To achieve this, Susan Chomba stressed the importance of “soft issues”, such as gender inequality and community involvement, instead of “silver bullets” such as extensive tree planting programmes.
The next speaker, Ulf Johansson, Global Wood Supply & Forestry Manager with Ikea, spoke about the furniture giant’s Sow-a-Seed project, intended to restore rainforests on the island of Borneo.
– When we began the project the forest was extremely degraded. The normal development in Asia would be a transformation from rainforest to massive palm oil plantations, told Ulf Johansson.
The results would be extensive erosion of soil, with runoff all the way to the coral reefs in the ocean. Now Ikea has set up a large-scale restoration project, with the goal to achieve the biggest forest restoration lab in the world. After 20 years, evaporation levels are the same in the restored forest as in natural forests. However there remains work to be done, as species diversity in the restoration project still has a long way to go before it is back to natural levels.
– What we want to do now is to develop this area into a research area, so that scientists can come there and learn, said Ulf Johansson.
Thereafter, Rafael Chaves, president of the Brazilian Society for Ecological Restoration – SOBRE – held a lecture on how to work with ecosystem restoration in Brazil.
– In Brazil we still have some of the best legislation in the world regarding restoration. Many of these have to do with water conservation, explained Rafael Chaves.
Furthermore, a number of Brazilian ecosystem restoration actors have come together to form a pact for the restoration of Atlantic rainforests. Many regional actors over Brazil have joined together for this cause, pledging for an additional 1 million hectares to be restored by 2025. SOBRE has also worked to become a meeting point for all stakeholders involved in restoration in Brazil, with new projects being launched soon to build collaboration across sectors.
The final speaker of the day was Anita Bergstedt, Acting Director, Wildlife Game Unit at the County Administrative Board of the Västra Götaland County. Anita Bergstedt spoke about their ongoing projects to prevent severe flooding and decrease eutrophication in a region that is both prone to serious spring floods and has large areas of cropland. Some of the projects have been met with skepticism from landowners – a trend found throughout the webinar. However, Anita recommended giving landowners all available knowledge and letting the most enthusiastic ones begin as early as possible. By doing it this way, they can act as leaders and good examples, in order to inspire their neighbours.
After these presentations, an “Interactive World Café” session ensued, where all participants were subdivided into groups, to discuss their respective projects and activities around landscape and water restoration, before the webinar was concluded and finished for the day.
Picture: Ideas and input from the “World Café” session by the end of the webinar.
Despite the challenges we face, such as ecosystem complexity and gender inequality, the speakers from the webinar provided inspiration for aspiring restoration enthusiasts. As Lars Laestadius said, the stars have aligned for global landscape restoration to take place. Through drawing upon knowledge from initiatives such as Susan Chomba’s “Regreening Africa” and Rafael Chavez’ restoration network platform in Brazil, we can learn what is most effective. Restoring our ecosystems will require a worldwide effort, and therefore worldwide collaboration, if we are to achieve the goals set out during the coming decade of landscape restoration.
The webinar was arranged by SIWI Swedish Water House and Agroforestry Network together with WWF, SLU Global, SIANI and Focali.