Local Decision-making

Strategies, Adaptations and Innovations for Governing Tomorrow’s Forest Landscapes.

Wilson, S. J., and D. Cagalanan. 2016. Governing restoration: Strategies, adaptations and innovations for tomorrow’s forest landscapes. World Development Perspectives 4:11-15.


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Twelve years ago I visited Podocarpus National Park in Southern Ecuador, spending the day hiking through gorgeous cloud forest. I knew the park was housed one of the last remnants of Podocarp forest in Ecuador, but it didn’t really register until we summitted a hill and could see the landscape: barren hills dotted with small wind-swept farms in every direction surrounding this tiny island of forest. This shocking experience of the extent that we’ve changed the earth’s ecosystems – and how it affects people everywhere – drove home how deeply intertwined human and natural systems are, and led me on a path to trying to understand how to restore landscapes in a way that works for both people and nature. It also taught me the power of case studies to inspire action and provide important lessons for moving forward.

This story is now playing out at a global scale. In light of the extent of deforestation and degradation around the world, international organizations and agreements are calling for vast areas of land to be restored over the next few decades. At the landscape level, for restoration to be adopted and sustained, it must be attractive to multiple stakeholders with diverse goals that unfold over different spatial and temporal scales. Restoring forest landscapes involves coordinating decision making and action – governance – between many levels and types of organizations, institutions, and individuals. As a global paradigm, Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR) is a relatively new idea. But fortunately, examples of successful FLR exist in different contexts around the world, with lessons for restoration efforts elsewhere. In this paper, we summarize the differences and similarities between FLR and previous interventions (ecological restoration, forest conservation, and so on) and the specific governance challenges it presents. We then provide an overview of case reports illustrating innovative governance that helped to produce successful FLR outcomes for people and nature. The cases are presented in a special issue of World Development Perspective, and focus on the local, national, and multinational levels. Collectively, these cases demonstrate that successful governance approaches should be people-centered, adaptable to local contexts and needs, engage a range of stakeholders across different scales and sectors, and be flexible to incorporate local practices and ideas and changes in these overtime. We also highlight a range of different models and techniques that have worked to foster these conditions in different context, ultimately achieving forest restoration at the landscape scale.


The PARTNERS connection
In the second PARTNERS meeting in 2015, Ashwini Chattre and Sarah Wilson co-lead the Governance working group. Group participants shared many interesting cases that highlighted different aspects of governing forest restoration, but at that time the literature on this topic was sparse. Group members Ashwini, Dominique Calaganan, and Sarah Wilson organized a special issue on Governance for FLR, extending the invitation for cases over our various networks (IFRI, PARTNERS, CIFOR) and receiving over 30 initial abstracts. This special issue was shortly published with a range of cases from around the world. This efficient, productive, and highly enjoyable collaboration was made possible by face-to-face interactions between people with very different backgrounds and experiences in a shared workspace.