Forest restoration solutions to transform food systems

Updated: Aug 31

Women planting seedlings in Cote d'Ivoire (@Brice Delagneau)

The world’s current method of food production isn’t working. Not for the estimated 500 million farming households in the developing world who produce one third of the world’s food, nor for the health of the planet. The current system often perpetuates the destruction of natural systems that underpin food production, including soil, water and climate.

As we continue to push the planet to its limits, the UN Food Systems Summit looks to curb damage to the environment and tackle world hunger by supporting ambitious new actions for transforming our global food systems and delivering progress towards SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. Proposed solutions will be endorsed at a three-day summit in September in New York and subsequently implemented at a practical level.

More than 2,000 game changing solutions for triggering this transformation were submitted. Following dialogues, surveys and open fora in the lead up to the pre-summit held in Rome, the FAO-led Task Force on Monitoring for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, together with partners at CIFOR-ICRAF, were requested to co-lead Solution Cluster 3.3.2, “Monitoring, stakeholders and evidence: driving restoration impact.” The Solution Cluster will leverage several existing efforts on monitoring, stakeholder engagement and evidence such as the Task Force on Monitoring for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, facilitated by FAO, which brings together 100 organizations and offers an overarching coordination for monitoring through the Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring (FERM) to improve data access and transparency.

With approximately 2 billion hectares of degraded land globally and restoration commitments of upwards of 1 billion hectares and growing, the need for restoration cannot be underestimated. Food systems approaches demonstrate that food, nutrition, agriculture and natural resources are intrinsically interrelated and linked to diverse stakeholders and institutions. If consistent monitoring data, combined with evidence from multiple sources, can be brought together in accessible forms and presented to a range of stakeholders, better decisions can be made for targeting restoration practices, as well as for implementation, monitoring and reflection for adaptive learning.

In support of this effort, the Task Force on Monitoring started a series of workshops in March, 2021 to focus on technology and innovation in restoration monitoring. With the exponential rise in the volume of digital data and analysis techniques, such as satellite data, mobile phone location data and machine learning, there are many important questions about how the world can get the most out of these technologies in a practical and cost-effective way. The workshop series aims to bring together thought leaders and practitioners to discuss developing and using frontier data technology to address pressing data and monitoring issues that limit the global restoration movement.

The first session in March brought together 85 task force members to discuss strengths, weaknesses and data gaps across terrestrial, aquatic and transitional ecosystems and further mapped restoration tools and platforms, currently in use and under development in UN-REDD programme activities including of FAO's SEPAL and Open Foris suite. With the help of colleagues at tentree, the online database organizes available tools in an accessible format for restoration stakeholders. The database will be presented and discussed at the Second Workshop on Technology and Innovation, scheduled to be held in September, 2021.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a reckoning of the world’s food systems and global supply chain. The rebuilding of economies following this crisis will offer a unique opportunity to transform food systems to be more resilient and productive. This solution cluster will help bring together stakeholders at multiple scales to reflect on the evidence that can better inform decisions on effective restoration within the food system.

The solution can also enable knowledge and technology transfer and develop the capacity of people, communities, rural institutions and countries to monitor and report their own restoration progress. Further, it can lead to the development of complimentary restoration monitoring and planning tools that help elucidate the benefits and costs of restoration, reduce complexity in restoration planning and to bolster and spur further investments into restoration. The UN-REDD programme can play a catalytic role in achieving these goals by leveraging networks and partnerships, as well as capacity for technical solutions on the ground in its partner countries.

Related resources:

Publication, "Integrating Forest and Landscape Restoration into National Forest Monitoring Systems" available in English and Spanish


Julian Fox

Senior Forestry Officer

National Forest Monitoring Team Leader

FAO Forestry Division

Khalil Walji

Capacity Development Specialist, REDD+/NFM Cluster

FAO Forestry Division

Yoshihiko Aga

Forestry Officer, REDD+/NFM Cluster

FAO Forestry Division

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