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International water and landscape webinar gathered some 100 participants

Published on October 7, 2020 | Author: Susanna Wendt
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Safe access to clean water is a growing challenge worldwide. To meet these needs, and simultaneously benefit people and the environment, landscape restoration can be a very efficient tool. An international webinar arranged by SIWI Swedish Water House and Agroforestry Network together with WWF, SLU Global, SIANI and Focali, highlighted this from a number of angles.

Lotta Samuelson, Program Manager at SIWI Swedish Water House, welcomed all participants and guests to the webinar.

– Not the least, we want to learn from you, the participants of this seminar, she added with emphasis, before moving on to the day’s programme.

The first question to the participants asked what they hoped to bring home from the event of the day. Among the replies were “partners for projects”, “networking”, “inspiration” and “insights from the global South”.

Picture: First Menti question and some of the answers received.

Lars Laestadius, Adjunct Lecturer at the Department of Forest Ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Director, Eco-Innovation Foundation, then held a presentation titled “Are the stars aligning for landscape restoration?”. His own reply to the same question was a clear “yes”. The first reason was that the concept has now been so well developed that it includes all, or most of the factors that are necessary for successful restoration projects to be carried out. This does not always mean reversing landscapes to their previous character, but oftentimes seeking new opportunities for restoration that are sustainable, resilient and productive. Lars Laestadius explained that 75 percent of potential restoration areas are in mosaic landscapes. These are landscapes that are multi-purpose and can contain a mix of agriculture, forestry and ecosystems such as wetlands.

– It is about building the landscapes for the future, Lars Laestadius expressed, quoting the Bonn Challenge motto on restorative measures.

Furthermore, in line with the ROAM technologies (Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology, developed by IUCN and the World Resources Institute), a large number of countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia and elsewhere have committed to landscape restoration projects, Lars Laestadius added. No country in Europe has however made restoration commitments.

– If Europe wants low-income countries to make commitments it needs to do so as well, Laestadius remarked, emphasizing the need for a global restoration effort.

Laestadius ended his presentation by highlighting that momentum for restoration is still building and will continue do so during the coming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

Izabella Koziell, Program Director, CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems, continued with a presentation titled “Landscape Restoration: A case of nature or nurture?”. She told the story of Rachel, a widowed small-scale farmer in the Kenyan highlands, an area subject to serious soil erosion.

“Our grandfathers did this, in the 1930’s and 1940’s”, was a common response from Kenyan highland farmers when Izabella and her colleagues reintroduced strategies such as digging bunds and other restoration measures. In short, these techniques have been very well-known in many erosion-stricken areas, but have since been forgotten or not been adopted to the extent necessary.

– To improve soil preservation and landscape restoration it is essential that we create incentives for local communities, Izabella Koziell explained, and gave the examples of how human excrement has been made into fertilizer pellets in Kenya.

Amazingly, the pellets can then be used both as a source of income and a real method for soil improvement through its adding of organic matter. This is a perfect example of how livelihoods and communities benefit directly from restoration measures.

Furthermore, a frequent message from all speakers was that trust as well as technology needs to be built up for restoration projects to be successful. All the community decision-makers need to be involved – which is challenging in settings where for instance women and youth might be engaged in agriculture in practice but not in the formal decision-making structures.

– We need to look at gender relations, said Koziell therefore, but we don’t look at them as far as we should.

To answer the “nature or nurture” question asked at the beginning of her presentation, Izabella Koziell concluded with a definitive “both”. Restoration is complex, and needs an enabling policy and finance environment for effective work at the ground level.

After the two introductory presentations, a question round ensued, with questions from the participants to Lars Laestadius and Izabella Koziell. When asked how restoration can become more gender-informative, Izabella answered that more work needs to be done with gender issues on many projects – a strategy she is using at CGIAR is to bring the right levels of expertise on board. This includes connecting social scientists to projects, since they have more tools and knowledge to tackle gender inequality.

Thereafter more Menti questions were posed to the auditorium, including which sector the participant belonged to, what kind of landscape restoration activities they worked with and whether they accounted for water in these activities.

Picture: Menti question on the organisational belonging of the participant in question. The biggest sector represented at the webinar turned out to be research/academia.

Picture: Question over Menti on what kind of landscape restoration-related activities the participant in question worked with. Among the answers were for instance “wetlands”, “agroforestry” and “watershed management”.

Picture: Important question – with illuminating answers – on how the issue of water can be brought in to other landscape restoration activities.

After a short break, Aida Bargués Tobella, postdoctoral researcher at SLU, held a presentation on the importance of water in landscape restoration. She brought up a problematic scientific study by Jackson et al. from 2005, which stated that “it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, when you grow trees on croplands, you use more water”. Aida Bargués Tobella went on to answer that it does in fact matter where you are, as well as what trees you plant – and whether they are planted on cropland or other land types.

– We know that the positive impact of trees outweigh the negative ones, summarised Bargués Tobella, who is also tied to Focali and World Agroforestry (ICRAF).

As an answer to a question from the audience she furthermore added:

– That trees use water will not mean that having trees in the landscape will finish all water.

Bargués Tobella explained that attitudes towards using trees in restoration in drylands have changed since Jackson et al. (2005), in large part thanks to more research on how trees impact water. Trees can in fact lead to more groundwater, more precipitation and less water runoff – and thus reduced erosion. However, Aida Bargués Tobella also emphasized that trees do not solve all problems. What is needed are clear goals for landscape management in order to take decisions about using trees to affect water availability. The ultimate question is then “what is the right tree in the right place?”

After this set of presentations, a new Menti session followed, with questions on where the participants’ projects were located, what the main objectives of these projects were and what methodologies and tools could be employed to manage water in restoration projects.

Picture: Survey on where the restoration projects of the webinar participants were located.

Picture: Some of the main objectives of the restoration projects that the webinar participants were engaged in.

Picture: Input on methodologies and tools to facilitate water management in landscape restoration projects.