University of Cambridge

RESTORE: Life – Landscape restoration for people and nature

Lead Organization

University of Cambridge

Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

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Project Summary

Human activity has degraded a quarter of the planet’s land surface. This disproportionately impacts marginalised rural communities, smallholders and the very poor.Sections of the global community have committed to the recovery of degraded landscapes. However, restoration at scale has often been ineffective, because it has not accounted for rights, needs, and access for those dependent on nature.RESTORE: Life convenes a coalition of actors – the University of Cambridge and its partners in the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the World Resources Institute – at the forefront of the landscape restoration agenda.RESTORE: Life will implement people-centred approaches to restoration at scale, and propagate exemplar interventions with partners in diverse landscapes, and with government, civil society and the private sector. We will deliver a blueprint for effective landscape restoration, which prioritizes those populations most vulnerable to the ongoing degradation of nature.

Problem Statement

Land degradation through human activities negatively impacts the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, and costs more than 10% of annual global gross product in loss of the benefits derived from nature in terms of biodiversity, food, fibre, energy, clean water and climate resilience. This problem disproportionately impacts rural communities, smallholder farmers and the very poor. Currently, about 20 per cent of the planet’s vegetated surface shows declining trends in productivity with fertility losses linked to erosion, depletion and pollution in all parts of the world. By 2050 degradation and climate change could reduce crop yields by 10 per cent globally and by up to 50 per cent in certain regions. The affect is also systemic: for example, ecosystem services from forested landscapes in the Himalayas indirectly support up to 500 million people across India.Ambitious global targets commit countries to nature restoration at the scale of billions of dollars in the coming decade. However, human, social and political factors all too often undermine attempts to: 1) protect existing landscapes; 2) restore degraded landscapes; and 3) promote the sustainable integration of different land-use. Even successful programmes can fail to replicate effective restoration from one geography to another.Enshrining issues of human rights, access and needs into a variety of co-designed flagship models, which can be used to demonstrate effective and replicable restoration at scale, offers the best opportunity to deliver the benefits of restoration to the people who are most dependent on nature, and most vulnerable to its degradation.

Solution Overview

This solution will deliver a blueprint for landscape restoration for people and nature. We will build out from existing landscape scale initiatives led by consortium partners in the Upper Guinean Forests, Kenya, Himalayan India, and Indonesia. These projects deliver 1) avoided deforestation, 2) wide-scale restoration of functional ecosystems, or 3) opportunities for integrated and sustainable management of mixed landuse systems, such as agroforesty.The target projects give us the opportunity to work with – among others - 122 Sierra Leone communities and 6,000 people of Liberian chiefdoms around Gola National Park; 12,089 community forest councils in Uttarakhand; 11,500 people, including 250 indigenous Batin Sembilan households in and around Harapan Forest of Hope, Indonesia. Impact at scale will vary by geography, but for example, improved springshed management in Himalayan Uttarakhand could affect several hundred million local and downstream Indian households.Interventions will include: 1) development of community-led restoration initiatives, delivering local benefits; 2) promotion of resilient crop and livestock production, and improved ecosystems management; 3) promotion and capacity building for nature based enterprise; 4) strengthening of local policy, clarification of tenure issues and strengthening of rights and entitlement frameworks, through effective implementation of existing legislation and dissemination and promotion of best practice for inclusive and equitable restoration. Through systematic local, regional and international co-ordination, we will monitor impacts and use the developing evidence base to identify enabling conditions for successful and globally replicable restoration which delivers improvements in income, wellbeing, gender equality, health, climate mitigation and resilience to disasters.

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