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Restoring landscapes that have been dilapidated by poverty is a huge challenge. What are the tricks, what needs to be thoroughly understood before embarking on landscape restoration? Can ways be found to counter and reverse such protracted state of degradation? There are lessons learned in development work, humanitarian work and conflict resolution that can and should be tapped for application in landscape restoration. Even more so in the prospect of continuous population growth and mass unemployment. Let’s deepen this out. I wrote a paper on a sub-question: Is zoning a useful strategy for landscape restoration in poverty contexts? 

4 replies on "Landscape restoration in contexts of poverty and instability"

  1. Its such an intriguing question Mark, i’ve also been grappling with that a bit coming from a development cooperation background and now working in holistic landscape restoration. I think it is about jointly identifying the right accupuncture points and co-creating a vision and plan in accordance with what is most immediate in that area for that particular community.

    If there is deep poverty, then creating a detailed plan for rehabilitation of a watershed might not be the first thing that comes to mind for community members (or it might?). But if you meaningfully engage with key players in and around the community and facilitate a different conversation on the roots of the problems, you might see cracks of light coming in. Thus creating space for mid to longer-term plotting of ideas (starting with the most immediate needs and then jointly building that out over time to intersect with building soil health, sustainable food production and, ultimately, ecosystem restoration).

    Involving local organisations and institutes that have experience in alleviating root causes of poverty is also key.

  2. Mark Kirkels Mark Kirkels says:

    Hi Willemijn,
    Thanks for your very valuable thoughts and sorry for my delay in response. I agree, a community is probably the best level of action, and I like the acupuncture idea. Many of the members are probably relying on their immediate environment for daily subsistence. So they are the most obvious stakeholders in a restored landscape, but trapped in meeting survival needs. It is indeed about creating space so that they can be given the ‘luxury’ to plan ahead and free up time for collective restoration action. That is another interesting area to dive into. You might think of a sort of cash based programming earmarked for restoration. Food for work programmes may work well in areas with already high and ever increasing youth unemployment. Types of activities that I could think of: tree nurseries, planting and caring for trees for the first six years, zoning of grazing areas. But in communal areas with high fertility rates structural issues will have to be tackled as well of which land title deeds is a crucial one.

    Assuming that local capital power is not there or not really the type of capital that you want to tap into, then community level action need to be packed at a higher level for access to external funding. So it is probably about formulating a community-based action approach for an entire watershed, catchment area or administrative district together with the stakeholders at such level so that it can match donor priorities, right? Is that a way to go?

  3. Yeah I think that’s getting really close. Its about finding the right aggregation level and mode of organisation that fits the community/ies profile and vision. Then you are better placed to gain access to funding streams (starting with more flexible soft funding and, perhaps with time, entering more hard investments into community-based regenerative businesses that start to emerge in the landscape.

  4. Kristof Kristof says:

    Food for work probably isn’t enough. You really want food and shelter for work, else people don’t get much done as they need to travel back and forth. Another thing that’s overlooked are the tools; you really want to be using hand tools and small machines to keep start-up costs low and to be able to employ more people. On my Canary islands article I linked to my google drive. There is a spreadsheet I made on a selection of effective hand tools, so as to work faster then with a plain shovel and standard hand tools, manual sowing, … but less expensive then with a large tractor. Besides the hand tools and the walk-behind tractor, … I mentioned in it, it may be useful to get an article on tools, and you may want to include atv-implements then too. These are more expensive, but perhaps the atv itself can be rented in some places, so you just need to buy the atv implement. Also perhaps that allotment garden approaches (having people rent land that has been upgraded to better soil compared to before and/or with shelter from newly planted trees) may be an idea too.

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