2. Governance challenges limiting restoration initiatives
While commitments to restore deforested or degraded land are on the rise, stakeholders are struggling with several challenges to effectively implement restoration initiatives. At the centre of these challenges are land-use governance and institutional factors. These include:
- lack of inclusive land-use planning
- unclear resource and tenure rights
- lack of clarity in legal frameworks and definitions
- limited coordination and cooperation within and across land-use sectors and levels of governance
- limited stakeholder information and participation
- inadequate investment and incentives
In addition, restoration of deforested or degraded land could benefit from increased coordination with initiatives and programmes affecting land use, such as FLEGT, REDD+, and zero-deforestation supply chain initiatives. These initiatives use different incentives and approaches to address land-use governance challenges. Therefore, increased learning, coordination and integration in relation to the planning, implementation and monitoring of these initiatives are required to achieve the SDG and NDC targets.
3. Inclusive land-use planning is essential to successful restoration
Many tropical forest countries have identified the lack of land-use planning as an important driver of forest loss and land degradation. This shortcoming is due to the absence or poor implementation of land-use planning policies and laws, the lack of reliable and accessible data to inform land-use planning, or divergent stakeholder views and interests on competing land uses.
Land-use planning creates the preconditions to achieve land use that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and desirable, and economically sound. It also facilitates the identification of areas suitable for restoration. It assists in clarifying land uses and rights, namely who has the right to own and access land, to use and cultivate resources, and receive monetary and non-monetary benefits. Land-use planning also reduces long-term investment risk.
Multistakeholder approaches to land-use planning can help reconcile stakeholders’ diverging interests, overcome governance challenges, and consider local communities’ access and use rights. In the past decade, the experience of the forest sectors of several tropical forest countries in constructive, robust and effective multistakeholder processes has grown.
An example of such multistakeholder processes are the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs).10 These are bilateral trade agreements between the European Union (EU) and tropical timber-producing and exporting countries. FLEGT processes have increased stakeholder engagement and transparency in the forest sector. They have also led to the establishment of structures and mechanisms for effective participation. Countries could build on this multistakeholder experience to carry out inclusive land-use planning. Such planning would facilitate the identification of areas suitable for restoration and the implementation of restoration activities in the interest of relevant stakeholders, including local communities.
In countries where FLEGT and REDD+ processes have made little progress so far, or are inexistent, stakeholders could grasp opportunities provided by high-level commitments such as the SDGs and NDCs. These commitments can provide restoration activities greater national visibility, and promote dialogue around land-use governance challenges.
In the context of their REDD+ processes, several tropical forest countries are undertaking efforts to collect information regarding the legal status of land, land cover, customary rights, biodiversity and carbon values, and much more (Box 1). As REDD+ countries move into the investment phase, supported by bilateral and multilateral donors, increased investment might become available for land-use planning. By collecting such information and supporting sustainable and inclusive land-use planning, these REDD+ and other processes provide opportunities for, and complement, the restoration of deforested or degraded land.
Box 1: Inclusive land-use planning in Cameroon11
In Southwest Cameroon, state and non-state actors are working together to implement land-use planning at local level, in support of the country’s REDD+ commitments. These efforts are leading to increased transparency and availability of information on the socioeconomic and environmental costs and benefits of various land uses, on existing (customary and formal) tenure relations, and on users or rights holders likely to be affected by land-use interventions. This increased transparency facilitates an inclusive land-use planning process. Stakeholders from government, private sector and local communities are discussing various land-use options. In doing so, they may also identify areas suitable for restoration and calculate sustainable benefits from restored land. Inclusive land-use planning decisions tend to better reconcile stakeholders’ diverging interests. Because of the inclusive and participatory approaches used, stakeholders have a greater sense of ownership for decisions made. These decisions are therefore more broadly accepted and implemented.
4. Clear and respected tenure rights ensure the sustainability of restoration initiatives
Clear and respected tenure and resource rights are fundamental to identifying right holders entitled to plant and benefit from the restoration of deforested or degraded land. These include the rights and responsibilities of individuals and communities to trees, forests or land under statutory or customary law. Without clear use, access and tenure rights, there is reduced incentive for communities and smallholders to undertake any form of sustainable land management. Tenure security also facilitates right holders’ access to finance and investment that could support restoration efforts. Restoration initiatives are expected to be more successful when they focus on areas with clear rights to land and resources, or when coupled with efforts to enhance and enforce tenure and resource rights.
Initiatives such as FLEGT and REDD+ processes put efforts into recognising and clarifying tenure, along with strengthening the enforcement capacity of government agencies. However, more needs to be done in combination with new approaches and initiatives to make substantial progress. This calls for enhanced collaboration among FLEGT, REDD+, zero-deforestation supply chain, restoration and other processes affecting land use. This collaboration would step-up action to overcome political, institutional and technical barriers for secure tenure and resource rights.
Elders inspect recently planted trees in Ethiopia.