Restoration for whom, by whom?


September 23, 2019

8th World Conference on Ecological Restoration, Cape Town, South Africa, September 24–28, 2019

Session co-organized by the CGIAR Research Programs on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) and Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE):

Restoration for whom, by whom?

September 27, 2019

Read blog about this session here>>

This session will critically interrogate both the inclusivity and the sustainability of the restoration agenda and of restoration practices as these unfold across multiple places and scales.

The session is planned as part of a journal special issue on the topic to be developed during the next year. A major objective of this initiative is to integrate gender considerations into the work on landscape restoration jointly undertaken by three co-convening CGIAR research programs.


Moderator: Marlene Elias

14:30 Stakeholders in Forest Landscape Restoration (Stephanie Mansourian)

14:45 A conceptual framework for exploring social and institutional dimensions of landscape restoration: The case of four market-based approaches in Kenya (Juliet Kariuki)

15:00 Using a political ecology lens to examine forest restoration, water insecurity, and climate change in rural Bolivia (Meagan Rathjen)

15:15 Equity and social inclusion in land restoration interventions in Ghana: Considering the ‘by whom’, ‘for whom’, and ‘how’ (Matt Kandel and Thomas Addoah)

15:30 How livelihood vulnerability influences participation in forest governance at the community level: A case study from Liberia (Sheila Onzere)

15:45 The politics of landscape restoration: Lessons from Vietnam (Pamela McElwee)

16:00 Discussion (moderated by Deepa Joshi)

Other SER2019 sessions on September 27

Full schedule


The Bonn Challenge and parallel regional initiatives (e.g. AFR100, Initiative 20x20, REDD+) reflect growing international and national commitments to restore degraded lands (Menz et al. 2013). These efforts frame restoration as a means to achieve multiple ecological, economic, and social objectives outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (Mansourian 2018). Yet, the Bonn Challenge emphasis and measure of restoration success as increasing area under tree cover and carbon sequestration (see the, for example, the Bonn Barometer) highlights a critical paradox at the heart of the restoration agenda: the lack of attention to the socio-political dimensions of ecological interventions (Swart et al. 2018). Communities on whose lands restoration initiatives are planned are inherently excluded in the conceptualization of restoration agendas. The top-down nature and design of restoration agendas implies that the meanings, interpretations and agendas of sustainability are largely exclusionary and narrowly focused on the biophysical. As in most other development agendas, what remains invisible are the power and politics that determine the meanings and nature of restoration.

In this session, we critically interrogate both the inclusivity and the sustainability of the restoration agenda and of restoration practices as these unfold across multiple places and scales. We ask: who sets (the) restoration agenda(s) and for whom, why and how? We consider if plural, unequal local voices and knowledge systems are valued or ignored, and the influence they hold (or not) in initiatives focused on restoring degraded landscapes. Finally, we ask if and how restoration narratives, policies and practices engender, engage with, challenge, or reinforce persisting institutional practices, norms and boundaries (tenure regimes, gender norms, …).

The session is organized by the efforts of Dr. Marlène Elias (Bioversity International/FTA/PIM), Dr. Deepa Joshi (International Water Management Institute (IWMI)/WLE), and Dr. Ruth Meinzen-Dick (International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)/PIM).

The 8th World Conference on Ecological Restoration is being jointly hosted by the Society for Ecological Restoration, the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (formerly the Department of Environmental Affairs), and the South African Water Research Commission.

Photo: Aris Sanjaya/CIFOR

More about SER 2019