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Restoring degraded landscapes can bring water, food and income to local people while safeguarding the environment. But if communities, companies and governments rush the land restoration process, there can be unintended consequences. Examples of the negative effects of attempts to restore landscapes include campaigns that plant trees in the wrong places and large projects that violate the rights of the people living on the land or ignore gender, class and other social differences.
With proper planning, though, government restoration pledges to the Bonn Challenge, AFR100 and Initiative 20x20 can turn into high-impact work that provides new opportunities for people living in the landscape and the natural environment.
What does “proper planning” look like, though? How can the land be restored effectively?
Every landscape and country is different, but these three steps to land restoration can help avoid pitfalls and accelerate success.
1. Understand the State of the Land and Plan with People
When initiating a restoration process, communities and government must understand the current physical state of their landscapes. Part of this undertaking must assess the social landscape by mapping the actors involved in or impacted by restoration activities.
Because landscape restoration is about more than planting trees, it’s essential to recognize and integrate people’s needs, priorities and local expertise in all parts of the process.
Throughout Africa’s Sahel region, for example, farmers and herders often fight over who has the right to use the land. Gender matters, too: in Brazil’s Amazon, men have access to first-hand information on restoration while women rely on second-hand sources, creating a power imbalance that reinforces gender inequality.

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