The Restoration Initiative featured at IUCN World Conservation Congress
The Restoration Initiative (TRI) programme was featured at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, held in France, September 3-11, 2021. Speakers at the TRI event, which served to raise the visibility and awareness of TRI-supported work and restoration efforts more broadly, included Global Environment Facility (GEF) CEO Carlos Manuel Rodriguez and Ministers from Kenya and Pakistan. They were joined by representatives from the three partner TRI Agencies, IUCN, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), and United Nations Environment Programme.
In his opening plenary address, GEF CEO Carlos Manuel Rodriguez stressed both the possibility and urgency of restoration, drawing upon his time serving as Environmental and Energy Minister for Costa Rica. He recounted Costa Rica’s amazing story of recovery from environmental degradation through investment in restoration – moving from just 22% of forest original forest cover remaining in 1985 to some 55% today – achieved without adverse affects on food production, energy or housing needs. He also noted with some sadness on how today’s young environmental leaders looking to make their mark will do so largely as champions of restoration, rather than of conservation.
To provide insights into how TRI is working on the ground to overcome restoration barriers, the event included a conversation with Ministers from two TRI programme countries: Hon Mohamed Elmi, Vice Minister of Environment and Forestry for Kenya, and Malik Amin Aslam, Federal Minister for Pakistan and Advisor to the Prime Minister for Climate Change. They were joined by Chris Buss, Director of IUCN’s Forest Conservation Programme, and Christophe Besacier and Benjamin DeRidder of FAO.
Speaking about the experiences of Pakistan, Minister Amin Aslam noted that Pakistan’s prior success in restoration was underpinned by the engagement and strong participation of local communities, particularly youth, coupled with enabling policies that protect investments in restoration and nature. These approaches are being incorporated in the TRI programme, where project partners in Pakistan are working with local communities to put in place incentives and measures to restore and protect threatened chilgoza pine forests. The approach is already showing returns in the form of increased harvests, income, and other benefits.
When you put your trust in nature, nature always pays you back.” –Minister Amin Aslam
Similarly in Kenya, where two unique TRI projects are working to restore degraded lands, in the northwestern arid region near Mount Kulal and in the Tana River delta area on the southern coast, Minister Elmi was asked to reflect upon Kenya’s restoration ambitions, challenges, and lessons learned. He stressed the importance of putting local communities at the centre of restoration efforts, of matching restoration interventions to the particular needs of landscapes and communities, and that partnerships across the landscape and between local and national government are also needed – particularly in enforcing protections for fragile resources such as dryland grazing areas. He noted that while lessons are there, a key challenge is in upscaling these lessons to achieve the substantial restoration ambitions of Kenya (5.1 million ha committed under the Bonn Challenge) and other African countries. To this end, the TRI programme is working with stakeholders in the business and finance communities to build capacity in identifying restoration-linked businesses and investments, and mobilize capital into restoration.
The event closed with a reflection by the panellists on both the intrinsic power of nature to restore itself if given the chance, and also a warning that has come in the form of the pandemic. As Minister Amin Aslam said, “Covid has shown us what is going to happen if we do not invest in nature, if we don’t restore our relationship with nature. And the answer is very clear: nature will strike back.”
— Web story by Joshua Schneck and Temitope Rebecca Abisoye, IUCN Forest Conservation Programme