NAIROBI (Landscape News) — The Bonn Challenge, launched by the German government in 2011 in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is an ambitious global effort that aims to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
At the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Paris, African countries launched their own related initiative, AFR100, under which they aim to bring 100 million hectares under restoration by 2030 within the continent alone.
Bonn Challenge pledges so far already overshoot the 2020 target, totaling over 162 million hectares, and African countries are well on track to achieving their regional target, with 91.6 million hectares pledged in the area so far.
But tracking implementation can be tricky. So far, there has been no standardized framework for documenting, collating and analyzing achievements; or for sharing challenges and lessons along the way.
Enter the Bonn Challenge Barometer: an assessment tool both standardized and flexible. It is currently being piloted by six countries around the world, and will be publicly available online by 2020.
At a discussion forum at the 2018 Global Landscapes Forum in Nairobi, experts gathered to share how the tool works and to gain feedback on how to help it function better, particularly for African countries.
According to Uzamukunda Assumpta, the barometer consultant for IUCN in Rwanda, the strength of the tool lies in the fact that it can be used universally to track progress, but it’s also able to accommodate a wide range of data and contexts.
“It minimizes the burden of effort to report, as some of the indicators are already being monitored for other pledges or agreements such as for biodiversity or climate change,” she said.
Pledgers can also state the level of certainty they have about the information being provided, and are encouraged to identify gaps in implementation so that solutions may also be ‘crowd-sourced‘ and shared with whoever may find them useful.
Assumpta said that the countries piloting the Barometer have already used the data received through it to develop new implementation initiatives for forest landscape restoration (FLR). A number of other countries are keen to begin using the tool too, she added.
Rwanda is one of the countries piloting the barometer. In an opening keynote at the forum, Francine Tumushime, the Rwandan Minister of Lands and Forestry, explained why her country joined the initiative: “Degradation remains a big hindrance to sustainable development and security as a whole,” she said. “When our soil is depleted, we all suffer.”
As such, the country has committed 2 million hectares to restoration by 2020. Panelist Mugabo Jean Pierre, who heads Rwanda’s forestry department, said that early data from the barometer showed that the east of the country was under-resourced for restoration, so it was an important place to focus more attention.
The tool also revealed that private investment in FLR was limited, and needed to be encouraged further. “If the government is going to continue injecting money, we have to make it sustainable,” said Jean Pierre, “so we need to bring in private investors to make sure we can keep on protecting our landscapes.”
Tangu Tumeo, the principal forest officer at Malawi’s ministry of natural resources, discussed his country’s ambitious pledge to restore 4.5 million hectares – almost half of the country’s total area.
According to Tumeo, there is plenty of political will towards the project: for example, the government has committed around $7 million towards supporting young people to carry out restoration. “But we need a scheme of monitoring and evaluating what we’re doing so that we can show impact,” he said. “This is key to continue to win support and maintain the momentum that we’ve started. And that’s what the framework is going to help us with.”
“It will also help us to inspire action, guide implementation of restoration, and provide feedback, so that if there are lessons along the way we can take them,” Tumeo added. “And it will provide evidence that the benefits of restoration are actually trickling down and improving the livelihoods of people on the ground.”
CENTERING COUNTRY AND COMMUNITY PRIORITIES
This last point was particularly pertinent to the panel discussion. One audience member asked: “How do we measure who does the restoration? Governments should be enabling local-level action – how do we know it has not been dominated by outside influences?”
Stewart Maginnis, global director of the Nature-based Solutions Group at IUCN, agreed that this was an important element to build into the barometer. He also emphasized that the tool should not take away from countries’ self-determination with regards to their FLR aspirations and implementation processes. “The barometer is not a compliance mechanism,” he said. “These countries have contributed voluntarily; they will hold themselves accountable.”
The real value of the Bonn Challenge and AFR100 lies in how they build on bottom-up processes, Maginnis said. “And why does that make it powerful? Because it reflects national priorities. It’s not just about re-greening or putting forests in place. It’s about restoring soil productivity, food production and creating jobs.” Tumushine agreed: “We can only achieve sustainability when FLR is country-driven, integrated into national monitoring systems, and engaging strongly with technical government teams,” she said.
“We’ve actually got a framework now that will start to enhance alignment,” Maginnis said. “But this has got to be driven by country priorities; it can’t be dictated from above,” he reiterated. “And I think, step by step, it’ll happen.”