Seven young changemakers restoring the Earth
The Youth in Landscapes Initiative and the Global Landscapes Forum announce the 2023 Restoration Stewards, representing Africa, Asia and Latin America & the Caribbean.
As the climate and biodiversity crises accelerate, young people worldwide are raising their voices to demand action on the international stage. Many are taking the situation into their own hands by launching projects to nurse their local landscapes back to health.
In this context, the Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) have launched the 2023 edition of the Restoration Stewards program, which selected seven youth-led ecosystem restoration projects from over hundreds of candidates across the globe. The 2023 cohort is the third program cohort that has supported 19 Restoration Stewards since 2021.
The new cohort of young restoration practitioners and their teams will receive funding, mentorship and training to deepen the impact of their work in forests, wetlands, oceans, drylands, mountains and peatlands, and raise local awareness of the importance of healthy landscapes.
The program is made possible thanks to the generous funding of the International Climate Initiative’s funding, with the support of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety, and Consumer Protection (BMUV) for Restoration Stewards based in Asia and Latin America & the Caribbean, and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ) for Restoration Stewards based in Africa.
Throughout 2023, the Restoration Stewards will receive a small grant to develop their project further. GLF supports the program through its extensive network of experts, including but not limited to its Chapter Members, creating space for mentorship partnerships with leading scientists. The Restoration Stewards also serve as ambassadors globally through the Restoration Stewards blogs, GLF’s social media, and GLF Events and locally by advocating for sustainable landscapes on the ground.
Meet the 2023 Restoration Stewards
David Santiago Rocha Cárdenas (peatlands, Colombia)
David Santiago Rocha Cárdenas is an ecologist working on decarbonization strategies based on natural climate solutions. For six years, he has been part of the Laboratory of Ecosystems and Climate Change (LECC) at the Pontifical Xavierian University, which studies the potential of ecosystems in climate change mitigation. David has experience coordinating projects related to studying the carbon cycle in the Colombian paramo, the generation of ecosystem restoration policies, and the measurement of greenhouse gas flux in wetlands. He started coordinating his first restoration project with the community of Paramo El Almorzadero, located north of the eastern cordillera of the Andes.
Dwi Riyan (wetlands, Indonesia)
Dwi Riyan is completing his master's in Sustainability Management at the University of Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, and the University of Agder, Norway. Encouraged by his passion for youth development, he co-founded Pongo Ranger Community, which focuses on youth empowerment in Ketapang, West Kalimantan. Recognizing that ecosystems are vibrant and connected, it works to restore coastal areas and help coastal communities. This youth-based organization embraces collaboration as its primary approach and believes that environmental protection can create enormous positive impacts when all stakeholders unite for a common purpose.
Gloria Amor Paredes (forests, Philippines)
Gloria Amor Paredes is an environmental education and community development specialist who co-founded Salumayag Youth Collective for Forests, an Indigenous youth and women-led initiative that empowers local and Indigenous communities to steward their ancestral lands through regenerative practices and narratives. This project is based in Sto. Domingo, Quezon, Bukidnon, a Manobo-Kulamanen community on the Philippine island of Mindanao with a long history of ecological, social, and economic disadvantages. The work of Salumayag Youth is anchored on the community’s desire to nurture culture and sustain Indigenous ways of living. For Salumayag Youth, forest regeneration and regenerative agriculture must be accompanied by community storytelling and nature-based education.
Levis Sirikwa (oceans, Kenya)
Levis Sirikwa has over half a decade of experience in coastal and marine resource management, specifically in the active restoration of degraded mangroves, sustainable agriculture and local coastal community empowerment. He co-founded the Ceriops Research Environmental Organization, which works on several projects within the blue economy space in Kenya. In the organization, Levis manages projects including Casina Farms (sustainable coastal agriculture), Mikoko na Jamii (mangrove and communities) and Mangrove Buddy (advocacy and awareness), all three underpinned by community empowerment, sustainable development and data-driven approaches.
Samara Polwatta (oceans, Sri Lanka)
Samara Polwatta pursues a joint master's at the University of Bonn and the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security. This field has allowed her to understand human and environmental security and how to engage in humanitarian relief, disaster risk management, ecosystem-based adaptation, and conservation. Samara is writing her master's thesis on coral reef ecosystems as a tool for ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction. She also works as a Junior Consultant at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Integration team on data curation and data management related to SDG tracking within the GeoHub. Her project, School Meets the Reef, won the title of Best Nature-based Solution at the Wageningen University Student Challenge.
Tahina Roland Frédéric (drylands, Madagascar)
Tahina Roland Frédéricis a young agronomist who specialized in forestry at the Higher School of Agronomic Sciences (ESSA) at the University of Antananarivo. With over four years of experience in conservation in his native Menabe region of Madagascar, he has been involved in park management, habitat and species conservation, law enforcement, and sustainable livelihood activities. After leading community patrols to fight against slash-and-burn agriculture and to protect the region’s dry forest ecosystem, Tahina came up with the idea of the non-profit organization Taniala Regenerative Camp, which he presides. He is convinced that through regenerative agriculture, the degraded soil in Menabe will regenerate and the forest will be restored.
Ysabel Agustina Calderon Carlos (mountains, Peru)
Ysabel Agustina Calderon Carlos is a beekeeper, meliponiculture farmer, environmental entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Sumak Kawsay. This ecological organization promotes the conservation of native bees and other pollinators by restoring mountainous ecosystems in El Higuerón, San Francisco de Asís peasant community, Salas district, Lambayeque, Peru. It conserves three species of native stingless bees and reforests their impact zone with native and predated species. The project financing comes from selling honey and panela from local fields cultivated through agroecological practices. Sumak Kawsay also offers agritourism.
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