A ROAMing approach to forest landscape restoration

This article was written by a social reporter. It has not been edited by the Forum organisers or partners, and represents the opinion of the individual author only.
Photo: Louis Putzel/CIFOR
Photo: Louis Putzel/CIFOR

The Bonn Challenge is the biggest restoration project in history, shrouded in two myths that surround landscape restoration. The first is that it costs too much. The second is that with the race against climate change and an economic culture requiring quick returns, it simply takes too long. Evidence has shown, however, that actual change can happen when interdisciplinary forces join together.

In a panel addressing the foundational concepts of landscape restoration, hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the Global Landscapes Forum, a discussion around the Bonn Challenge initiative took place. Speakers focused on past, present and future development challenges from Brazil to Burundi to Guatemala.

When talking about the Bonn Challenge—the overall aim of which is to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020, and the additional pledge from 2015 of 350 million hectares by 2030—those numbers can seem overwhelming. But what does it take to turn these numbers into real-world changes?

“Landscape restoration is such a complex issue, but if we are there together, a lot has been won,” says Ian Gray, Senior Environmental Specialist at the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The question on how to get close to those numbers still remains, but IUCN and the World Resources Institute (WRI) have developed a practical handbook specifically addressing this need: A guide to the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology, referred to commonly as ROAM.

Released in 2014 as ‘road test’ edition, several countries have been working with this framework as a tool to conduct assessments for potential Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR). ROAM focuses on three target groups around assessments: senior-level government officials, members of the core restoration team, as well as experts and stakeholders at national and regional levels.

Meanwhile, ROAM’s outputs provide support identifying relevant restoration intervention types and priority areas, an overview on respective costs and benefits, value of additional carbon connected to the activities as well as diagnostics and analyses in political, legal and financial matters.

60 million hectares of land have been restored to date, but it is still a long way towards the ambitious pledge of reaching several hundred million hectares. With the help of ROAM, these plans are now accompanied by a hands-on guide that provides guidance on how to build the foundation needed to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands as fast as possible.

Finding a good starting point is critical when putting ideas into practice, and ROAM can be perfectly used for this purpose. While the current edition is a work in progress, a revised handbook will be published soon focused on learning and feedback when working with ROAM.

The unique qualities of the ROAM method gives hope that large-scale Forest Landscape Restoration is possible, and is happening right in front of us. The method provides a perspective shift from incredibly huge and theoretical numbers to practical tools on how to tackle those goals while contributing to the big picture.

Now, the only thing that needs to keep growing is engagement on national and sub-national levels across degraded forest landscapes around the world.