Story | 22 Jun, 2021

Strengthening our place in the restoration movement

Environmental leaders from Ethiopia, Madagascar and Togo strengthen both their resolve and their technical skills on the path to becoming better restoration leaders.

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Photo: IUCN / ELTI

The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) provides a framework to analyse, identify, and prioritise restoration opportunities and develop a suite of context-specific landscape restoration strategies. To date, almost 40 countries have used ROAM to assess over half a billion hectares for restoration potential, with 170 million hectares primed for restoration.

Forest landscape restoration (FLR) offers countless benefits for wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation, food security, cultural values, recreation, water regulation and more. The considerations that go into planning and implementing FLR, however, are just as numerous as its benefits. For effective, locally-adapted restoration, decision-makers and practitioners need to understand and address a diversity of ecological, socio-political, and economic factors that impact restoration at different scales.

ROAM and FLR both require holistic and collaborative approaches that bring together many different stakeholders and disciplines. Ecologists need to connect with social scientists. Policy makers need to interact with economists. Spatial analysis experts need to gather insights on local conditions and priorities in collaboration with project teams. And the many organisations and sectors who will ultimately implement FLR efforts need to have a shared understanding of all of these factors.

Connecting these diverse sectors can be a major hurdle.

[The] problems are immense, and there is a lack of strategy in terms of synergies.” 

– Togo’s former AFR100 focal point, Marc Gnama

Capacity development offers the chance to bridge some of those gaps. “Many countries have made commitments to restoring land, but don't know how to do this,” explained Mirjam Kuzee, former Senior Manager, Landscape Restoration, IUCN. “And so they look for ways, tools, methodologies, approaches on how to do that. But without capacity development, I don't think anyone understands fully the potential of things that they could do. Capacity development takes different forms. It takes the form of empowering certain social groups that might not have been included in restoration planning before. Capacity development also includes things that are purely related to mapping or on how restoration fits into land use planning in a country.”

A road to restoration

In 2019, the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative (ELTI) of Yale School of the Environment and the IUCN with support from German International Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ) on behalf of the German Government (BMZ), delivered a series of courses to support environmental leaders in Ethiopia, Togo and Madagascar to achieve FLR goals in their countries. The courses brought together 114 environmental leaders from over 60 organisations, including local environmental ministries, universities, agricultural departments, NGO’s, and development projects. Highlights of the training experience and their outcomes are highlighted in the recent video Africa’s Restoration Leaders in Action.

The courses adapted a unique “blended” training model, which leveraged specific benefits of face-to-face learning, field visits, and online coursework into a single learning experience.

Learning together

Launching with an interactive three-day workshop the course made the most of face-to-face interaction through group activities. Step-by-step, participants reflected and built out a framework that reflected their local landscape contexts and outlined next steps for implementing FLR and ROAM. The activities fostered teamwork and a community of collaboration, as each participant set out to implement FLR and ROAM processes in their respective region. This approach also leveraged the expertise of that participants brought with them, enabling them to share their diverse perspectives and backgrounds with one another.

Next, participants engaged in experiential learning through field visits. They visited a series of local sites that illustrated both current degradation challenges and innovative approaches to restoration. Discussions with local stakeholders and project implementers served to inspire participants and provide a chance to connect theoretical concepts with practice.

people standing is field       Photo: Karin Bucht

Taking restoration to the virtual classroom

The complexities of FLR and technical steps of ROAM can be difficult absorb in the space of a few days. Following the in-country event and field visits, participants enrolled in an intensive six-week online course that enabled them to explore concepts in greater depth. The course integrated ELTI’s decade of experience delivering interactive, applied restoration courses for environmental practitioners with IUCN’s technical expertise on developing and implementing robust ROAM processes. Through the online course, participants worked to develop real, applicable deliverables; at the end of the program, participants produced a total of 34 FLR and ROAM planning documents for their respective focal regions.

The course has served as a point of inspiration for participants. These individuals were already leaders, but they came away with a broader understanding of FLR and how they to achieve restoration goals in their own countries.

This training has been a great personal inspiration for me to be able to work more in the achievement of my country’s commitment [to the Bonn Challenge and the AFR100],” says Madagascar’s AFR100 focal point Julien Noël Rakotoarisoa. "Following the training, I felt that it further strengthens my place as a leader in Madagascar’s FLR process.”

The immediate results of the courses can already be seen in the outlook and actions of participants. Capacity development and FLR are both long-term processes, however, and on-the-ground results for people and nature will continue to be realised in the coming years. Participants are already passing on knowledge and using what they have learned to build better FLR processes at local, regional and national levels. The shared optimism and hope of these environmental leaders for what FLR will achieve in their country and world in the coming years serve as a source of inspiration to envision a greener future for all of us.


—Web story by Karin Bucht, Program Coordinator - Africa and Blended Training, ELTI, Yale School of The Environment