BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — El Salvador is Central America’s smallest nation and one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change, with 90 percent of its population at risk. In 2011, the cost of extreme events in the country stood at 6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.
This risk is compounded by high population density; one of the highest levels of environmental degradation in the region, and the scarcity and poor quality of water supplies —an estimated 90 percent of water is polluted.
Lina Pohl, at the helm of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources since 2014, is determined to turn the tide on environmental degradation and vulnerability to climate change. At the heart of her strategy, is landscape restoration.
As keynote speaker at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, Dec. 19-20, the first woman to ever lead the ministry, will share her perspectives on how to improve the integrity of ecosystems while meeting the needs of local communities.
“We will share lessons learned and success cases in El Salvador and Central America,” said Pohl, who said she also expects to get inspiration from other restoration initiatives highlighted at the Forum.
The National Program for the Restoration of Ecosystems and Landscapes (PREP), which has restored over 111,000 hectares of land since 2012, has a three-pronged strategy that connects conservation, agriculture and infrastructures.
Specifically, the program fosters agricultural systems that are both friendlier to biodiversity and resilient to climate change —such as agroforestry— and aims to restore key ecosystems such as terrestrial forests, mangroves and swamps.
This plan also aims to create synergies between restoration and the development of physical infrastructures. An increase of tree cover in watersheds, for example, is expected to improve hydric regulation and help protect bridges and harbors.
A MODEL CASE
“Restoring ecosystems and ecosystem services will come with economic and social benefits at the local and national level,” Pohl said. Among potential outcomes, she highlights an increased resilience of landscapes to climate change and increased food security.
At the GLF, Pohl will showcase PREP as a potential “model case to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of undertaking large-scale restoration efforts at the national level.” She will call attention to the need for financial and technical support to achieve its full implementation, monitoring and systematization.
SCALING UP RESTORATION
The PREP acknowledges that implementing the program takes a “huge effort”, but Pohl, with a background in sociology and economics, is no new-comer to the environmental arena. In her previous position as vice-minister, for instance, she chaired key initiatives such as the Ibero-American Man and the Biosphere Network and the environmental fund FIAES.
Earlier this year, she also made news headlines when El Salvador became the first country in the world to ban metals mining nationwide, stopping a gold project that raised environmental concerns among academics, officials and civil society alike.
From her point of view, creating a global movement for sustainable landscapes will take, at least, three things: adopting the matter as a priority at the highest political level; integrating it into economic policies; and engaging schoolchildren through updated curricula and the capacity-building of their teachers.
Advancing towards sustainable landscapes will require “clear government leadership,” but also coordination between key institutions at various levels and the participation of civil society through appropriate channels, she says.
“Aiming for social development and competitive economies is unthinkable, unless we build landscapes that are both sustainable and resilient to climate change,” Pohl said.