On August 29-30, 2017, 85 delegates from India, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh gathered in Delhi, India for a South Asia regional consultation on forest landscape restoration (FLR). The consultation was hosted by IUCN in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India (GoI), National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB), India and the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE).
The two-day consultation facilitated knowledge sharing on FLR between governments, NGOs, the private sector and donors with a focus on identifying gaps in technical and policy support for FLR and built upon the Bonn Challenge roundtable held in Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia in May 2017. It was launched by Mr. Ajay Narayan Jha, Secretary, MoEFCC, GoI; Mr. Siddhanta Das, Director General of Forests and Special Secretary, MoEFCC, GoI; Dr. S.C. Gairola, Director-General, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE); and Mr. Pankaj Asthana, Inspector General of Forest, NAEB, MoEFCC. They reiterated the importance of FLR to meeting national and international targets on food security, sustainable development, biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation and called for countries to support the Bonn Challenge, a global efforts to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. Mr. Jha pointed out that “India should double its Bonn Challenge commitment if we want to leave forests for future generations” and Mr. Asthana highlighted the need to “move beyond tree planting and consider landscape approaches.”
During the first session, representatives of the Governments of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and India presented the results of national restoration programmes and highlighted the need for multi-year financing for FLR, increased coordination among government departments and the importance of involving local communities in the planning and implementation of restoration interventions. Mr. Buddhi Rijal, Forest Officer (Under Secretary), Department of Forests, Government of Nepal highlighted this saying, “Restoration is embedded in several of Nepal’s national policies. Our focus is on community forests and we are seeing huge successes with the approach.” The next session zoomed in on the experiences of key Indian states – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Punjab, Mizoram and Uttar Pradesh – and demonstrated how FLR is contributing to increased connectivity between tiger habitats and the resultant ecosystem benefits of protecting apex predators; while helping reverse the impacts of intensive agricultural systems and providing forest-dependent families with alternative, sustainable livelihoods.
The afternoon session focused on the initiatives being undertaken by NGOs including the World Wide Fund for Nature (Bhutan), FECOFUN (Nepal), Foundation for Ecological Security (India) and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (India) on FLR. A key point of discussion during this session was the inclusion of different ecosystems, such as mangroves, in national FLR programmes and the speaker from Nepal highlighted the importance of conducting education and awareness drives on forest conservation and restoration for local communities.
The first day of the roundtable helped identify critical gaps in knowledge, policy and technical support that need to be filled for restoration efforts to be successful. The sessions on the second day were designed to answer several of these questions with representatives from IUCN and the World Resources Institute (WRI) presenting on the tools that can be used to operationalise FLR commitments including the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM). Speakers from the World Agro-Forestry Centre (ICRAF), India’s Territorial Army and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) spoke on agroforestry and FLR, the role that the Eco-Task Force of India’s Territorial Army plays in the eco-restoration of different sites as well as the elements of the trans-boundary landscape approach that have yielded success in the region. The next session focused on finance and partnerships and included speakers from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), KfW Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), who shared examples of successful public-private partnerships that have worked in India, and discussed some potential funding and partnership opportunities that may be explored in the future. Each of the speakers spoke of the need to come out of silos and work in tandem with all concerned stakeholders.
As the discussions came to a close, the Government of Sri Lanka expressed its interest in hosting the 2018 Bonn Challenge Ministerial Dialogue in partnership with IUCN. The Government of Nepal requested IUCN’s support in applying ROAM to define and operationalise its restoration target with Mr. Buddhi Rijal, Forest Officer (Under Secretary), Department of Forests, Government of Nepal saying, “In Nepal, rates of deforestation and degradation are high but rates of productivity are low. Nepal needs detailed assessments so we can set more practical restoration targets. The assessment should start from the grassroots level.” Dr. Gairola, Director General, ICFRE summarised the key recommendations for governments including the need for apex bodies and funds that brought together representatives from different government ministries to plan and support restoration programmes and the need for state-level FLR strategies that contribute to national restoration targets. Mr. S. Das raised a valuable point on whether existing models of planting trees can meet restoration goals saying that countries needed to look beyond forests and focus on landscapes and improving both the' quantity and quality' of forests. He also highlighted the need for multiple-use landscapes as opposed to creating plantations simply for harvesting purposes and the importance of national strategies that mapped out exactly how countries would achieve their restoration ambitions.
Responding to requests from participating countries for a monitoring mechanism that could be applied to FLR programmes, IUCN’s India team briefed delegates on IUCN’s Bonn Challenge Barometer of Progress, a protocol that will help governments track progress on their FLR commitments. Countries highlighted the need for FLR processes to be documented and IUCN and ICFRE offered their support in gathering data on and profiling the steps involved in successful restoration programmes.
A detailed report on the meeting is currently being prepared in consultation with participating governments and will be released shortly.
This event was supported by the KNOWFOR program, funded by UKaid from the UK government.