South / Central America and Africa exchange knowledge on financing landscape restoration

A recent learning exchange in Guatemala sought to answer the question: how can we better finance large-scale landscape restoration?

Practitioners came together last month to share experiences on financing restoration. In Guatemala the sugar cane industry has financed restoration around productive fields to protect local water supplies.

ANTIGUA GUATEMALA – Experts from Mesoamerica, South America and West Africa met last month in Guatemala to exchange knowledge on financing forest landscape restoration.

“The fundamental goal of restoration is to make land productive again,” said Gretchen Walters, restoration project manager at IUCN. “The goods and services that restored land can provide are badly needed for economic development in many communities. But we are still not sure how best to finance it on a large-scale.”

The learning event last month brought together restoration practitioners, research scientists, and members of the business and international investment community from Ghana, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica and Guatemala. The goal was to explore examples of successful public and private financial engagement in restoration in each country and to promote new innovations.

“I’ve learned that we are not alone,” said Jeronimo Boelsums, a forest ecologist with the International Institute for Sustainability in Brazil. “Mexico, Guatemala, Ghana, Brazil – we all have the same gaps in our knowledge,” he said. “We are going to work together now to answer the same questions.” For example, “Costa Rica knows how to produce commercial timber using native species. That is something we should learn how to do in Brazil.”

The weeklong workshop included presentations from the restoration and business communities in each country and field trips to Guatemalan restoration sites, including commercial plantations using restored forest lands to protect water supplies.

Noting that returns on investment in forest landscape restoration cannot always compete with other investment opportunities, participants at the workshop were particularly excited to learn about ways to structure payments for ecosystem services from public sources to incentivize private action. Silvio Simonit, land management specialist and operations coordinator for IUCN in Mexico, noted that his team hopes to explore pilot public subsidy programs for restoration in the Yucatan peninsula over the next few years. “That is a very interesting idea,” said Miguel Moraes, project coordinator for IUCN in Brazil. “I’ll be excited to think about applying these techniques in Brazil.”

Though the goal of the exchange was to foster cross-country dialogue, some of the learning took place among individuals from the same country. “Many of us had never met before this trip,” said Wellington Baiden, an agricultural entrepreneur and forest landowner in Ghana. “It’s funny, but it took coming to Guatemala for us Ghanaians to think about how we can work together to promote restoration in our own country.”

A similar exchange will take place next year to deepen cross-country engagement and develop an IUCN position on finance for restoration.

The learning exchange, “Financing functional restoration in rural landscapes in Mesoamerica, South America and West Africa” was supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) through the IUCN project on mobilizing private investment for forest landscape restoration in Ghana, Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala. Learn more about this and other related projects.

Work area: 
Forest Landscape Restoration
South America
East and Southern Africa
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