A 3-day training workshop on science-policy interactions for forest and landscape restoration took place on 4-6 September 2015 in Durban, South Africa, prior to the World Forestry Congress. The workshop was organized by IUFRO’s Special Programme for Development of Capacities (SPDC) in collaboration with the World Resources Institute (WRI), and brought together a group of 14 early and mid-career scientists, educators and professionals from developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. http://www.iufro.org/science/special/spdc/actproj/twdurban/
Why is forest and landscape restoration so important?
“About one third of the world’s population depends directly or indirectly on the ecosystem services provided by forests. Many of these people are poor and live in areas with continuously degrading forests. This is jeopardizing their food, water and energy security, and makes them more vulnerable towards climate change”, says Bastiaan Louman from the Tropical Agriculture Center for Research and Higher Education (CATIE) in Costa Rica, who was one of the trainers at this course.
Ernest Foli from the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana, another workshop trainer, adds: “Forest and landscape restoration is an important tool for reversing or minimizing the impacts of global climate change. It also offers a huge potential for improving food security and enhancing the livelihoods and well-being of many forest dependent communities.”
What does it take to make forest landscape restoration work on the ground?
For forest and landscape restoration to be successful on the ground, locally perceived needs must be considered, e.g. the need for good quality water, for fuel wood, for supplementary diets, and also the need for food and income. “It is often a challenge to actually identify these needs and come to an agreement on a common strategy that can address the different needs simultaneously”, explains Louman.
Promode Kant from India, also one of the trainers, agrees: “The central thing is to harmonize the needs of the people and the requirement of forests for survival, extension and ecological enrichment.” For achieving this harmony in the face of limited resources and fast rising populations it is important to create strong interactions between scientists and policy makers.
“Scientists need to provide decision makers with answers to their actual and future questions regarding prioritization of land uses, and evidence of best options for forest landscape restoration,” says Louman. And Kant adds: “Too often policies respond to an immediate crisis alone or do not look at the underlying causes and provide, at best, a superficial solution. Making science the basis of policy making enhances their sustainability and also acceptance when people see their effect.”
According to Louman “the scientist should be another actor within the landscape, providing relevant, evidence based information that will help decision makers in the design and implementation of locally driven forest landscape restoration strategies.” However, communicating science to inform policy making is often a difficult task. Tools such as policy briefs that translate scientific information into easily understandable text, or governance bodies that include scientists and decision makers have proved to be quite helpful.
In conclusion, “effective dialogue and the recognition of the views of all stakeholders is key to the successful planning and implementation of any forest landscape restoration process,” says Foli: “Without the full understanding of the issues to engender active commitment by all stakeholders in the process, the project is unlikely to be sustainable in the long-term.”