February 28, 2024

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Nature is staging a comeback: UN Recognizes Pioneers in Ecosystem Restoration 

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) have named seven initiatives from Africa, Latin America, the Mediterranean, and South Asia as UN World Restoration Flagships. These initiatives include ecosystems at the tipping point of outright degradation resulting from wildfires, drought, deforestation, and pollution. They are now eligible for technical and financial UN support.

The World Restoration Flagship awards are part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – led by UNEP and FAO – which aims to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. The awards track notable initiatives that support global commitments to restore one billion hectares – an area larger than China.

The winning initiatives are announced ahead of the 6th session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), the world’s highest-level decision-making body for matters related to the environment, taking place from February 26 – March 1 at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Together, the seven new flagships are expected to restore nearly 40 million hectares − an area almost 600 times the size of Nairobi − and create around 500,000 jobs. 

“For too long, economic development came at the expense of the environment. Yet today we see global efforts to usher in a comeback for nature,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said. “These initiatives show how we can make peace with nature, put local communities at the heart of restoration efforts and still create new jobs. As we continue to face a triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, now is the time we must double down and accelerate restoration initiatives.”

The World Restoration Flagships are chosen as the best examples of ongoing, large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration by the Task Forces for Science and Best Practices of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and approved by its Executive Board. Selection follows a thorough review process with over 60 indicators and criteria, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade. 

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said: ”FAO is pleased to recognize these seven worthy champions, proving that we can offer the leading examples to reverse ecosystem degradation at scale, while also addressing the impacts of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Restoring terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is a crucial step in the transformation of global agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable. Ecosystem restoration is long term solution in the fight to eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, as we face population growth and increased need for foods and ecosystem goods and services.”

The World Restoration Flagships are chosen as the best examples of ongoing, large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration by the Task Forces for Science and Best Practices of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and approved by its Executive Board. Selection follows a thorough review process with over 60 indicators and criteria, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade. 

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said: ”FAO is pleased to recognize these seven worthy champoins, proving that we can offer the leading examples to reverse ecosystem degradation at scale, while also addressing the impacts of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Restoring terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is a crucial step in the transformation of global agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable. Ecosystem restoration is long term solution in the fight to eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, as we face population growth and increased need for foods and ecosystem goods and services.”

Regreening Africa’s agriculture

The Regreening Africa initiative has been using proven agroforestry techniques, adapted to suit the needs of farmers under varying socio-ecological contexts in the past two decades, to restore over 350,000 hectares in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, and Somalia. By 2030, a further five million hectares are planned to be restored.

The initiative is expected to benefit more than 600,000 households. It is also increasing carbon storage, boosting crop and grass yields, makes soil more resilient (preventing floods) and treating it with fixed nitrogen that acts as a natural fertilizer.

Partners in this initiative include CARE Nederland, Catholic Relief Services, CIFOR-ICRAF, Oxfam, Regreening Africa, Sahel Eco, and World Vision Australia.

Growing forests in Africa’s drylands: African farmers transforming food systems

The Forest Garden Program, launched in 2015, includes multiple Forest Garden projects in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, The Gambia, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Uganda, and Tanzania. Through researched agroforestry techniques, unsustainable farming practices are replaced and nature regenerates, as farmers receive essential training, supplies and equipment for their success.

By planting tens of millions of trees every year, it aims at expanding from 41,000 restored hectares today to 229,000 hectares by 2030, supporting many more through 230,000 jobs created.

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