Forest News #21

This month: after 5 years as a private initiative, Reforestation World is now a non-profit association, registered in Switzerland. We briefly talk about our past work and future plans. In addition, the video above and a short comment on the recent COP26 bring some perspective on the larger context for restoration initiatives. Enjoy the read and have a good start in the new year!

Some see the Amazon as a resource to preserve, a critical part of vital global eco-functions. Others see it as an untapped development opportunity, needed to solve serious socio-economic issues. This Bloomberg Quicktake video take us into the Amazon and the complex interplay of different actors and interests. The same tensions are repeated in other parts of the world, in a mix of structural issues, power games by political and economic agents and the legitimate aspirations of many people for a better life.

First of, we would like to announce that Reforestation World is now a a non-profit association registered in Zurich, Switzerland.  Why is that, and what has changed?

Reforestation World started in 2016 as a privately-funded initiative, concerned with the serious issues of deforestation and land degradation around the world. Under the motto “From desert to paradise” and a belief in positive action, we began by presenting ongoing examples of forest restoration. By showing that healthier ecosystems and greener cities go hand-in-hand with better livelihoods, we aimed to inspire people to connect to such efforts, to support them or maybe even start their own.

Restoration is on the rise

Fortunately, the importance of forest and ecosystem restoration has become more broadly recognised over the last few years. Public awareness and support have increased with regular coverage in mainstream newspapers, usually linked to the climate change discussion. Government commitments, initiatives and corporate announcements have multiplied, be it in connection with the UN’s Decade for Ecosystem Restoration or with large political forums like the recent COP26 in Glasgow, though the actual results are often lagging.

Regarding COP26, it is always impressive to see such a broad and influential coalition of governments and private actors pledging their strong commitment and discussing concrete ways to achieve results in a meaningful timeline. For us, it was positive to see the official support for Nature-Based Solutions, together with restoration initiatives and a restated zero-deforestation goal by 2030. Forest restoration should benefit from the broader adoption of carbon accounting rules, as they become a integral part of economic activities, taxation schemes and financial flows. This partly explains the movement from the business side, eager to reduce its emissions (and related costs) under new regulations, and from the finance world, eager to tap into a significant area of growth while helping to save the world. For those worried whether all this might slow down the “global growth engine” and cause other potential problems: maybe we can actually have the best of both worlds, according to a recent study published in Nature, also covered at Bloomberg Green. Hopefully, all the progress with these technical, policy-making and financial tools will extend past the climate change discussion will propel the discussion about Payment for Ecosystem Services schemes (reviewed in this Mongabay article) and the need to create more sustainable versions of the agricultural and commodity sectors.

In between the catchy headlines and major announcements, the same event failed to address many urgent points, from climate justice to effective enforcement or fair funding mechanisms. Decarbonization measures were promptly considered as insufficient by a coalition of scientists, as reported by Nature, while an opinion piece at the Guardian focused on the greenwashing risks of carbon offsetting schemes. Another source of concern is the reframing of the 1,5°C targets from the 2015 Paris Agreement as “2,5°C scenarios” or “2°C pathways”. We’ll cover these and other points in an upcoming newsletter. For now, we would like to highlight the follow-up reviews made by the Global Landscapes Forum, the World Resources Institute and Carbon Brief (here on land and forests, and here on key outcomes)

Our work so far

For the past 5 years, we’ve contacted with numerous organisations and engaged individuals, working all over the globe in different ways: with mangroves and highland forests, farmland and cities, communities and companies, out in the field or addressing the technical, political and financing aspects of conservation and restoration. In common, we saw a tremendous motivation to protect what we still have and create better alternatives, today. Despite the setbacks caused by the global pandemic, it is very stimulating to see how the awareness and will to act on these issues have increased in the past years.

Online and offline, our work during this period has covered different areas. On our website and newsletters, we highlighted projects verified by our team, together with science-based information on relevant topics and perspectives. In our public events, attended by over 3’000 people, and other direct exchanges, we addressed questions raised by interested people and smaller organisations looking for ideas, guidance or cooperation. In addition, we looked for meaningful opportunities to provide direct financial and non-financial support to projects.

This has helped us to identify where, and how, we might make a useful contribution. In the past year we redefined the areas of intervention for our new phase while, in the process, Reforestation World was converted into a public benefit non-profit association, domiciled in Switzerland. So, what are we doing next?

Our focus: Inform, Connect, Enable, Support

We’ll keep on highlighting ongoing efforts by restoration projects and others, be it large or small, together with best practices and relevant know-how. Besides promoting quality and transparency, these can help new initiatives to move faster. We believe such examples can serve as a reference and inspiration, leading to greater engagement and support through direct participation in activities, replication or creation of new efforts, or by directing funds and other useful resources in an informed way.

That’s why we’ll be placing a greater emphasis on activities that connect different stakeholders and the general public, through our platform and other channels. With a focus on practical results, we want to enable public engagement by individuals and organisations, for which we see a strong demand. In parallel, we also want to address some of the challenges that prevent many smaller groups from acting efficiently or from increasing their impact at a local level, such as knowing which restoration approach to choose, or where to find technical partners, suppliers or supporters.

Finally, we also plan to increase the financial support that we have provided in the past years. Besides supporting direct restoration activities, such as planting, care-taking or monitoring, we also want to support initiatives that increase the reach and additional benefits of restoration in related areas, like living conditions, endangered biotopes, or energy and food production. We are looking to establish partnerships for this purpose so get in touch with us at, in case you want to know more or join forces.

In general, we want to contribute to a lively and diverse ecosystem of initiatives, with different actors working at different levels and reaching the smallest corners, like the roots of a tree. Nature should be around us – not “somewhere else” – and everyone should have an opportunity and a motivation to be involved and empowered to act.
We will continue to be active at an international level while increasing our presence in Switzerland, where we are based, in connection with our public activities or other actions that have a local impact. Given this, we will place greater emphasis on certain key topics, such as urban greening, promotion of bottom-up initiatives, or changes in the production of food commodities.

In Nature

It’s crucial to keep in mind how many aspects of our modern, technological world depend on how we care for the global forests and other ecosystems. Borrowing from the worldview of the ancient Greeks and older civilizations, forests neatly connect the four elements: they ensure the flow of water, the vitality of soils, the quality of air and even the fire that feeds many of our human activities. The science that we have generated in this last century shows again and again how these ecosystems are the ones keeping our planet habitable and beautifully plentiful in life and diversity. We exist in Nature, not apart from it.

We wish you a good Christmas season, whichever way it’s celebrated, and let’s continue in 2022!