Commonland Foundation

Creating resilient ecosystems: our chance of a sustainable future

Lead Organization

Commonland Foundation

Amsterdam, Provincie Noord-Holland, Netherlands

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

As the global population and our consumption grow, we are putting more and more pressure on our precious natural resources, more pressure than our ecosystems can withstand. Plant and animal species are disappearing, productivity is decreasing, droughts and storms cause more damage, people struggle to make a living. Our landscapes are turning to dust and millions of people are being displaced.This is happening in developing and developed countries; from the Sahel to the Brazilian rainforests, from Germany to the US Midwest. More than 25% of our land is highly degraded. We are destroying the very foundation of our existence. Restoring ecosystems is the biggest challenge of our time, a challenge that Commonland is facing head on. Together with farmers, entrepreneurs, governments, and knowledge institutes, we have developed a holistic approach to transform degraded landscapes into thriving ecosystems and economies. We know it is possible. It’s now time to scale.

Problem Statement

There are ecosystems without economies, however there are no economies without ecosystems.Healthy ecosystems are the foundation of any economy and society. They provide food, water, clean air, a stable climate, shelter, energy, livelihoods, life and meaning. Without them, we couldn’t live on this planet. Unfortunately, ecosystems across the globe are degrading at an unprecedented rate.The rate of degradation has rapidly increased since the early 20th century due to human population growth, increased industrialization, improved health care and a strong focus on short-term maximization of productivity per hectare. As a result, we face many issues that can be partly or wholly traced back to ecosystem degradation: climate change, biodiversity loss and species extinction, droughts, floods and other natural disasters, famines and malnutrition, disease, unemployment, poverty, rural abandonment, mass migration, conflict and cultural and political destabilization.There is no way humanity can talk meaningfully about solving these issues without talking about ecosystems, or as we call it: landscapes. There are two major leverage points.The first is stakeholder involvement. Landscapes are complex systems with many stakeholders which all have a different interest in, and impact on, the landscape. More often than not they work in silos and don’t cooperate well. This makes it difficult to come to an integrated solution with broad support. The second is a truly long-term vision. These crises have taken a century to develop; they can’t be solved overnight. That means we have to think long-term. But we have to act fast.

Solution Overview

The key leverage points are bringing stakeholders together to develop a long-term vision for restoring their landscape. To do this, we’ve developed a flexible approach that works in any landscape. It works inclusively, bringing together all relevant stakeholders in a landscape to bridge silos and take the full local context into account. We work bottom-up, because local stakeholders know their landscape best. We catalyze what is already happening in the field rather than setting up something completely new. We’ve developed a framework to monitor and evaluate our interventions on each of the 4 Returns and to feed that back as learnings to scale and accelerate our impact. Finally, we recognize that business has to be part of the solution: we jointly develop sustainable business cases that fuel restoration efforts. Farmers and rural communities directly benefit and later on entrepreneurs, corporates, governments and even urban dwellers can benefit – as ecosystem services such as water security are improved.In the 5-year grant period we will take the lessons from our existing 10 landscapes and select 16 new key landscapes in crucial ecosystems around the world. We will have a deep impact which takes on the form of restored natural habitat, fertile soils, restored water systems, increased employment, and sustainable businesses developed. By showing the possibilities of large-scale business-case-driven landscape restoration, these landscapes become showcase examples that inspire other landscapes and donors to do the same. Thus, we will set in motion a snowball effect that goes on beyond the five-year grant.

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Project Funders

  • Common Foundation 2014 - 2022
  • Nationale Postcode Loterij 2017 - 2021
  • The IKEA Foundation 2018 - 2023

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