Keeping up the green fight

Hakim Hayat

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is leading the push for the world to scale up efforts to restore landscapes and forests over the next decade, with eyes on a target to salvage 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands, an area bigger than India.

Land and forest degradations are among the world’s most pressing environmental issues. Globally, 25 per cent of the total land area has been degraded. To safeguard the future of our planet, major actions are needed to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.

The latest edition of FAO’s international forestry journal Unasylva titled ‘Restoring the Earth – the next decade’, released on October 28, underlines the considerable progress in forest and landscape restoration made in the last 10 years.

The Unasylva issue aims at showcasing forest and landscape restoration opportunities and recent developments that have the power to upscale restoration, in order to achieving the Bonn Challenge pledge and other national and international commitments – (Sustainable Development Goals), the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) Post-2020 Agenda, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Land Degradation Neutrality, Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)) and addressing the needs of the UN Decade 2021-2030 on Ecosystem Restoration.

The world has made considerable progress in the past decade, according to the journal. To date, 63 countries and other entities have committed to restoring 173 million hectares – an area half the size of India – and regional responses such as the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and Initiative 20×20 in Latin America are making significant advances.

However, the publication warns that much more needs to be done at the national, regional and global scales, to meet commitments under the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2030, and other international pledges.

“Forest and landscape restoration is about much more than trees, it has social and economic benefits such as improving human well-being and livelihoods, and contributes to many of the SDGs, including mitigating climate change and conserving biodiversity,” said FAO Forestry Director Mette Wilkie.


Launched recently at the Global Landscapes Forum Biodiversity Digital Conference: One World – One Health, Unasylva outlines a series of new restoration initiatives and programmes that are increasing funding, empowering local stakeholders and enhancing technical assistance for forest and landscape restoration.

The publication also presents technical approaches, such as Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR), to increase the adoption of forest and landscape restoration, and underlines the factors that underpin its implementation.

Among positive stories highlighted is China’s success in reversing centuries of forest degradation and loss thanks to political leadership, multi-stakeholder involvement and an adaptive management approach.

Unasylva also profiles Northern Kenya’s community conservation movement, which shows that land restoration is the most successful when peace, governance, enterprise and wildlife conservation are also addressed.

Case studies in Brazil, Cambodia, Madagascar and Sao Tome and Principe meanwhile illustrate the range of options for institutional coordination mechanisms in forest and landscape restoration. Examples from the Niger and Burkina-Faso showcase the importance of local government and community’s empowerment for planning and financing restoration and sustainable land management.


The publication also outlines actions needed to realise the momentum offered by the upcoming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) to upscale forest restoration across hundreds of millions of hectares.

These include developing comprehensive business cases for governments and private-sector investors, new policies and legislation to support investments in restoration, and protocols for restoration tailored for specific landscapes.

Effective monitoring at the global, landscape and project scales is also essential for keeping restoration on track.

According to the authors of one article in the journal, “Societies worldwide will need to be convinced of the global restoration imperative by rational economic argument, compassion for current and future generations, and an emotional connection to nature.”