03.08.2020

Restoration of 20 million hectares of degraded landscape

Forest

The 20×20 initiative restores forest landscapes in Latin America – here in Guatemala, for instance. Photo: BMU/René Zamora Cristales

Latin America and the Caribbean have some of the most ecologically valuable forest ecosystems in the world, but 650 million hectares of the forests are affected by degradation and deforestation. The expansion of agricultural land is mainly to blame for this widespread damage, although the development of infrastructures such as roads, settlements and mining is also causing large-scale destruction of nature and the environment. These factors all lead to a loss of bio- diversity and climate-damaging greenhouse gas emis- sions, making landscapes and infrastructure more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.

This is why International Climate Initiative (IKI) supports the 20×20 Initiative, the aim of which is to restore and protect about 20 million hectares of damaged forests in the region by 2020. In view of the various degrees of land degradation in the region, 20×20 not only supports the restoration of forests, but also helps to implement sustainable land- use approaches that combine trees, arable crops and animal husbandry in holistic systems. Local people also benefit in terms of better income opportunities and food security.

20×20 cooperates with governments, respective authorities, research institutions and the private sector to achieve its goals. The project partners perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine landscape restoration measures and identify new financing mechanisms involving the private sector. The initiative also sup- ports partner countries in developing strategic plans for reforestation. The local communities consequently benefit in many ways, including improved soil function and less soil erosion. The project thus makes a significant contribution to mitigating the effects of climate change and strengthening the region’s resilience.

We can show humanity that sustainable forest management is more productive

In this interview René Zamora Cristales, project coordinator of the 20x20 initiative at the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington, D.C./USA, talks about the challenges of bringing about change.

What role does the WRI play in the implementation of the 20×20 initiative?

René Zamora Cristales: For example, we coordinate the cooperation of the initiative members in various working groups on topics such as emissions trading and biodiversity. We also organise the exchange of knowledge between projects, ministries and local stakeholders, for example, through webinars, excursions and an annual international workshop on landscape restoration, we bring projects and private investors together to raise funds from the private sector for the restoration of forests, and we manage the monitoring of the results.

How do you convince local people to invest in forest restoration rather than continuing with deforestation for industrial and agricultural purposes?

René Zamora Cristales

We show them the advantages of doing so. Let me give you an example: In Latin America, secondary forests have so far been considered useless – those are forest areas that have already been cleared for logging or agricultural purposes, but they could be systematically reforested. It was considered more productive to move on to clear the next forest; however, we can demonstrate that sustainable forest management is not only more productive, it also brings other benefits such as protection against flooding and an improved water supply. There are forms of agricultural use like agroforestry and forest pasture grazing that combine these advantages without damaging the forests just to gain. We can show humanity that sustainable forest management is more productive short-term benefits. In this way, we can send a strong signal to the farmers: “You can stay in your home country; you don’t have to become ‘agricultural migrants’”

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

Most countries have the wrong incentive structures. Conventional agriculture, animal husbandry and seeds are subsidised, for example, but there are no financial incentives for forest restoration. The ecological services of the forests are not priced into the system, so we must create other structures that include forest restoration. This would also make it easier to attract private investors who want to invest capital, but are still afraid of the risk of financing forest restoration projects starting from the exploration phase.


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