Seeing the forest for the trees

Guest blog via Sri Lanka’s Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project ESCAMP; first published on Seeing the forest for the trees – ESCAMP

Forty Forest Department’s and other stakeholders participated in a training
organized and financed by International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)
learning best restoration practices of forest landscapes

Restoring degraded natural forests is a big challenge, globally as it is for Sri Lanka. Up to 25 percent of the global land surface has being degraded, and about 15 percent of landmass is considered appropriate for restoration of forest landscapes. In the context of the Bonn Challenge that aims at restoration of forest landscapes globally, the Government of Sri Lanka has pledged to place a total of 200,000 hectares of degraded forest landscapes under active restoration.

Sri Lanka’s Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP), financed by the World Bank is implemented jointly by the Forest Department and the Department of Wildlife Conservation. The project has been preparing two pilot landscape management plans, in the Dry Zone and Wet Zone of the country. Joining the efforts, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) partnered with the Forest Department of Sri Lanka through the ESCAMP and IUCN country program. The IUFRO online training gathered more than 40 participants representing various stakeholders in early December this year. The participants learned about the FLR concept and discussed how it can be practically implemented in Sri Lanka, based on methods described in the FLR Practitioner’s Guide developed by IUFRO.

In the opening session on 1 December Dr. K.M. Bandara of the Forest Department and Dr. Michael Kleine of IUFRO set the stage for the workshop. Commenting on the need to build local capacity, Dr. Kleine stated that,

“It’s important to understand forest landscape restoration as an intervention into a socio-ecological system. Therefore, participatory processes involving all relevant stakeholders are at the heart of any successful endeavour in the transition to a future more ecological sound and socially beneficial land use.”

Conservator General of Forests Mr. W.A.C. Weragoda informed the participants about Sri Lanka’s national policies related to forest conservation and elaborated on future action plans to achieve quality restoration of forests. Project Director of ESCAMP Mr. Anura Sathurusinghe is keen on practical application of the training:

“We would now like to see how best landscape management as defined by ESCAMP can be aligned to what we have learned during the workshop.”

Sri Lanka has been experiencing environmental challenges, such as flash floods, landslides, soil erosion and land degradation, increasing human-elephant conflict during the last several decades. The Government of Sri Lanka has identified the need for Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) as an integral part of its response to these escalating issues. Restoration of forest landscapes is designed as a local multi-stakeholder process that aims at regaining, improving, and maintaining vital ecological functions of forest and enhancing human wellbeing. These processes lead to more resilient and sustainable landscapes in the long-term. To this end, the IUFRO has been actively involved in these initiatives for the past 15 years, including training in FLR through its Special Programme for Development of Capacities (SPDC) led by Dr. Kleine.

Reflecting on the value of the workshop, Conservator General of Forests Mr. W.A.C. Weragoda stated that,

“While accelerating its development drive, restoring 140,000 hectares of degraded forest land is a national target for Sri Lanka. This is in line with the national attempt to increase the country’s forest coverage from 29.3% to 30% by 2025. Within this context, this capacity development program has helped us to understand the need for forest landscape restoration at a national level.”

ESCAMP and the Forest Department would like to express its sincere appreciation for this collaborative work and recognise the following staff involved in its preparation and delivery:

  • Dr. Michael Kleine, IUFRO
  • Dr. Andras Darabant, IUFRO
  • Dr. John Stanturf, IUFRO
  • Dr. K.M. Bandara, Add. CGF, FD
  • Mr. Anura Sathurusinghe, Project Director, ESCAMP
  • Mr. H.G. Gunawardane, Coordinator of landscape management, ESCAMP

Photo credit: screenshot from