Assessment method to help countries restore degraded land to forest

A new methodology developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) has been made freely available to all countries with the aim of helping them assess and act upon their national land restoration potential.

The guide, published in the form of a handbook, is called the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) and provides techniques that enable countries to understand how much of their land offers restoration opportunities, map where those opportunities are and determine which degraded landscapes offer the most value to society.

“It’s time to move from aspiration to action,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director-General of IUCN. “We know that there are over two billion hectares of deforested or degraded lands around the world where opportunities for restoration may be found. But before restoration can begin, clear decisions must be made about where the priority landscapes are, what the best mix of restoration interventions will be, and who will bear the costs — and reap the many gains — of long-term restoration and stewardship. The ROAM methodology helps countries answer these questions.”

It is hoped that ROAM will encourage countries to take first steps in committing to the global ‘Bonn Challenge’ to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020. With several countries already having made pledges totalling 20 million hectares, the Bonn Challenge could catalyse the largest restoration movement the world has seen.

“It is possible to restore the world’s degraded lands — with a multitude of local-to-global benefits for people and the planet,” said Stewart Maginnis, Global Director of Nature Based Solutions, IUCN. “Countries hoping to join the global restoration movement can now apply a new, flexible method that is based on real experience from national assessments undertaken in Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico and Rwanda. The guide we are publishing [first] is intended as a ‘road-test’, and we are excited to hear back from countries that will pioneer its implementation, so that we can improve and refine ROAM going forward.”

Included in the guide’s options for post-restoration landscapes are concepts widely considered ecologically sustainable such as agroforestry, silvopasture and restored natural native forest. However the guide also includes frameworks for implementing REDD+ and “climate smart agriculture” strategies, both of which have their detractors.

La Via Campesina claims that climate smart agriculture puts control of land and seeds in corporate hands rather than those of the farmers, preventing local people from taking full responsibility for and benefits from their land.

Concerns about REDD+ also relate to negative impacts that can arise when the interests of the global capital market are prioritised. In this case, net carbon capital, which can be bought and sold, is the primary measure; this has been reported as risking leaving indigenous forest dwellers, and old forests themselves, vulnerable to eviction or destruction.

Photo: Auwahi dryland forest restoration project on the slopes of Hale’akala on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Credit: Arthur Medeiros – US GS. Licensed under public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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