With the ocean stretched before her, and lush vegetation behind, Hidayah starts her days with a morning dive. Dropping through the blue hues, she visits her “underwater colleagues” as she carries out research, surveys and clean-ups on the reefs that wrap around her home, Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands. Shaking off the salt water, Hidayah heads inland, where she rallies support for marine conservation in the local community and champions the protection of the fragile ecosystem that she’s sworn to safeguard.
With one foot in the ocean, and the other in the local community, Hidayah lives out her guiding conservation principle: “to protect the environment, we must protect the human within the ecosystem.”
This approach is taken by all six of the Global Landscape Forum (GLF)’s 2022 Restoration Stewards. Throughout the year, the GLF supported six Stewards – young restoration practitioners – across five landscape types: drylands, peatlands, mountains, forests and oceans. After a year of ups and downs, achievements and learnings, we caught up with them to reflect on the last 12 months.
Hidayah Halid, Malaysia, Oceans Restoration Steward
“My office is the ocean and my day is full of blue hues,” Hidayah tells us of her time as the GLF Oceans Restoration Steward. Her organization, the Perhentian Marine Research Station (PMRS), has thrived over the past 12 months, operating at “full capacity” in their conservation efforts.
The PMRS has now commissioned 13 Rapid Response team members under the #AnakPulau program, who respond to urgent cases such as ghost-net removal, installation of safety buoy-lines and stranded turtle reports. Hidayah also has her eye on long-term conservation: the station has established marine baseline data for ecosystem monitoring, including successful surveying of two major seagrass beds, mapping Anemone distributions and monitoring coral restoration projects – all done with the vital support of local volunteers.
Hidayah continues to push herself and her goals. Having completed a coral propagation course through OceanQuest and certification as an Indo-Pacific Eco Diver by ReefCheck Malaysia, she now has her sights set on marine conservation beyond the Perhentian Islands – while continuing to strengthen PMRS’ portfolio in scientific research, providing a platform the public to contribute to ecosystem monitoring, and increasing the number of #AnakPulau members.
Hidayah Halid was supported and mentored by Maria Honig from World Wildlife Fund – WWF
Sergio Esteban Lozano Baez, Colombia, Mountain Restoration Steward
Throughout 2022, Sergio continued the work he has been doing with Colombian NGO SELVA since 2019, from monitoring and measuring the growth of trees to workshops and knowledge sharing in the local communities.
“Normally during my working week, I spend time doing office work to coordinate local contracts, manage budgets and plan project activities,” Sergio told us of his time as the GLF Mountain Restoration Steward. “I also go to the nursery to check the growth of the trees…[and] to some of the farms to check if the trees are correctly planted.”
And his work is paying off, with more than 3000 trees planted over the past 12 months and a new venture with international organisation PUR Project to pilot direct seeding methods in 15 hectares of mountain landscape.
Reflecting on his experience, Sergio notes that it’s the connections that really stand out for him: “The diversity of people working on restoration all over the world is incredible. Talking with restoration leaders from different countries and continents was amazing.”
Sergio Esteban Lozano Baez was supported and mentored by Ang Phuri Sherpa from the International Center for Integrated Mountains Development – ICIMOD.
Eka Cahyaningrum, Indonesia, Peatlands Restoration Steward
Eka’s project, Himba Raya Indonesia (HIRAI), was only a year old when she became GLF’s Peatlands Restoration Steward, but that didn’t stop it from growing in leaps and bounds over the past 12 months. Initiated by three friends, the project now has more than a dozen local community members involved in their field activities and has collaborated with government agencies, local community farmers, and other organizations to build a project portfolio focussing on community development in a village near a peat forest.
HIRAI has garnered local and international attention, including from BBC Earth’s Generation Green – which has helped to boost the profile of the project, as well as giving Eka the space to find her voice: “I am not much of a talker, but during my time as [Restoration Steward], I got to understand the joy of sharing my stories,” she says.
And Eka has plenty of stories to share, from her work on the ground in community engagement, surveying and planting, to her life as a Kalimantan firefighter – and her new goals of a master’s degree in sustainable forest management and building up HIRAI for even greater impact.
Eka Cahyaningrum was supported and mentored by Kania Rahayu from the Center for International Forestry Research – CIFOR.
Adrian Leitoro, Kenya, Drylands Restoration Steward
“Kenya and the Horn of Africa have faced one of the worst droughts recorded, with four failed rainy seasons in a row – which has made restoration in the drylands quite difficult,” Adrian reflects. “With irregular and unpredictable rainfall patterns, it has become very challenging to plan restoration activities.”
But plan them he did, and with great success. His project Ramat, which embraces farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR), currently covers three sites across a total of 45 acres, each of which are managed by community groups with about 20 members. Meanwhile, other projects under Nature and People as One (NaPO) – the local conservation initiative that Adrian co-founded – distributed over 5000 tree seedlings to be planted in the landscape, and 200 beehives to community members, in the Ndoto and Mt Marsabit ecosystems.
“Overall, the past year of being a Restoration Steward has been a huge learning experience, and has elevated my work in Northern Kenya,” says Adrian. “The connections and experience have widened my perspective and will play a key role in the future direction my work takes.”
Adrian Leitoro was supported and mentored by Leigh Winowiecki, and Ermias Betemariam from World Agroforestry – ICRAF.
Gabriela Gavarrete Juárez, El Salvador, Forest Restoration Steward
“I am proud of being able to propose alternatives for action against the climate crisis and implement nature-based solutions,” Gabriela says of her time as a Restoration Steward. “It has given me the opportunity to be part of a network of great restorers all over the world. It has also granted me the rewarding feeling of giving back to the community and restoring forest cover in El Salvador.”
Unlike the other 2022 Stewards, Gabriela founded her restoration project, Suma Un Bosque, at the start of her tenure. However, this hasn’t held her back – she established agroforestry systems with local farmers and an intersectoral committee just in the past 12 months, which led to tree-planting, workshops, training, and monitoring activities.
This work sits alongside her other conservation activities with the Instituto de Investigaciones Tropicales, Sociedad Mesoamericana para la Biología y Conservación and Un Pulmón Más, where she organizes activities, coordinates projects, and runs workshops and webinars. She is also carrying out thesis research as part of the vector entomology laboratory CENSALUD.
“My main goal is to make the project sustainable, seek more financial support and start implementing different restoration strategies and sustainable solutions for the community,” Gabriela says. “Also, [my goal is] to identify more places where I can duplicate my project and start planting in new communities, to gradually change the mentality of agriculture and restoration of our ecosystems.”
Gabriela Gavarrete Juárez was supported and mentored by Vianny Ahimbisibwe from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations – IUFRO.
Eva Makandi (aka Kandi), Kenya, Forest Restoration Steward
“Every effort, however small, is what we need if our planet is to heal,” says Kandi, when asked about her main takeaway from her time as a Restoration Steward. While this is true, her own efforts and achievements have been anything but small over the past 12 months.
Kandi’s Restore Mama Earth program, run as part of her Light On A Hill (LOAH) organization, aims to accelerate restoration and conservation efforts for the ecosystem and planet through environmental education of children aged 5-12 years, with a 2022 goal of developing a green learning space. And that’s exactly what they did.
In the past 12 months, Kandi and her team were able to establish a green space known as ‘Kijani’ (green or leaf in Swahili), which encompasses a classroom, greenhouse, vegetable garden and tree nursery. The classroom is made of 100% eco-friendly products such as mud, cow dung, ash, grass, tree branches and volcanic rocks, and serves as a practical space for hosting the group’s learners and community. The project “aroused nostalgic memories of our culture as Meru people,” said Kandi, and “proved that construction can be eco-friendly without needing to destroy or degrade the environment.”
Having mentored 320 young restorers, Kandi’s impact ripples out through the community, as children transfer their knowledge of kitchen gardening to their homes. Kandi and her organization have also been able to plant 308 trees and 67 flower stems, distribute 400 tree seedlings and carry out two community clean-ups. And for Kandi, this is only the beginning, with plans to expand the program to at least two more schools in the next year, as well as improving the Kijani space with a solar system and establishing a better-shaded, more diverse tree nursery.
“Simple, happy, peaceful, muddy hands, shades, laughter, rivers, animals, bird tweets, insects, flowers, plenty food, grass – this is the life of a Steward in a well-stewarded forest landscape,” she says.
Makandi Eva (aka Kandi) was supported and mentored by Khalil Walji from World Agroforestry – ICRAF.