Realizing landscape restoration initiatives through Landcare

By Clinton Muller & Dennis Garrity

The global agenda is turning its attention to landscape restoration initiatives. 

Visions have been set, such as the objective of Land Degradation Neutrality championed through the UNCCD at Rio+20.

Targets have been defined, including the Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020.

The new challenge now is how will these landscape restoration initiatives be realized?

National governments have demonstrated tremendous leadership in enacting sound policy to support landscape restoration initiatives. Landcare Group in Nigeria distributing seedlings as part of a revegetation project Ethiopia for instance, has committed to restore 150 million hectares of degraded land, more than one-sixth of the country’s total land area.  Likewise, Guatemala is working towards restoring 1.2 million hectares of it’s 10.7 million hectare land mass.  Many NGO’s and other agencies have also embarked on programs and activities to support these objectives.

While invariably the intent of achieving these goals are well grounded, the processes in which to fully realize them now, and into the future, are still being defined.

Landcare can bring a lot to the table to contribute to the discussion.

Founded independently, yet simultaneously in Australia and Germany in the mid 1980’s, Landcare is an approach based on the notion of communities caring for their landscape.  The model, based on the values of community empowerment and collective action to develop and apply innovative solutions to natural resource management challenges, has often been identified as ‘bottom-up’ rather than the conventional ‘top-down’ program design. 

It is the focus on the bottom up mechanism that places community at the forefront of landscape management and decision making activities.  This is not to suggest community can achieve these outcomes in isolation.  Lessons from the Landcare approach in Australia, which has scaled to a national program with more than 4,000 community Landcare groups, demonstrates the importance of effective partnerships.  Strong partnerships exist between voluntary community Landcare groups in Australia with various government agencies, NGOs and the private sector, as well as research institutes. 

Together, the Landcare community of Australia has changed their rural and urban landscape in supporting the reversal of land degradation.  Through the collective efforts of community Landcare groups, the Australian landscape has been transformed, as witnessed by:

  • the planting of millions of trees, shrubs and grasses
  • riparian protection works
  • restored water quality through streambank stabilization and stock exclusion from waterways
  • improved ground cover, grazing methods and soil management
  • protection and regeneration of remnant native vegetation for habitat; and
  • stronger, adaptable and resilient rural communities

The success of Landcare is not just isolated to Australia.  Strong evidence exists in the more than 30 countries globally who have embraced Landcare.  Communities have reclaimed erosive hillsides in Claveria, Philippines for agricultural production.  Farmers in Kapchorwa, Uganda, have protected the forested area of Mt Elgon and rehabilitated erosive hillslopes through re-vegetation and the development of community by-laws to address free grazing.  Degraded and erosive grasslands in Iceland have been rehabilitated by farmers through the seeding of lyme grass.  These actions have all been undertaken through the Landcare approach.

Realization of initiatives to restore global landscapes will require a coordinated response.  Establishing global, regional and national targets whilst facilitating conducive policy environments is essential.  Equally so is the engagement of the community at the grassroots.  Landcare provides a mechanism to realize this. 

Ultimately the realization of the vision for Landscape restoration will rest with the community, not just in the present through the adoption of remediation works, but also the adoption of a Landcare ethic to sustain landscape management into the future.

Source: This blog is based on Chapter 11: Landcare - a landscape approach at scale of the New book: Climate-smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice

Citation: Catacutan, D., Muller, C., Johnson, M., & Garrity, D. (2015). Landcare – a landscape approach at scale. In Minang, P. A., van Noordwijk, M., Freeman, O. E., Mbow, C., de Leeuw, J., & Catacutan, D. (Eds.) Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice, 151-161. Nairobi, Kenya: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)



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