MARCH 20, 2019 

The multiple languages of FLR

Written: By Laura Graham

Project Leader, BOSF-Mawas Program, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation,

Adjunct Research Fellow, Tropical Forests and People Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR) is important, timely and rapidly gaining momentum in international policy as a science and conceptual approach, to implement restoration on the ground across multiple stakeholders, land uses and disciplines. If FLR is to be as multi-dimensional, inclusive, successful as hoped, what language should we be using?

Community member* ‘I do appreciate the need of the forest. My family has harvested timber locally for generations to build our houses, and we eat fish from the river. Without the forest, all that’s harder. But I also want to plant and grow fruit trees, and maybe some agricultural crops. It’s hard to know which is best with the weather changing all the time.  I want to have security for my kids, for school, maybe even university. Some people came to our village and talked about this new forest restoration project, but I’m not sure I want to be involved. It wasn’t clear who the trees were for and if we’d be allowed to harvest them. Anyway, trees take ten years to grow and I need to make sure we have money for dinner tomorrow night! They did talk about setting up a village group to lead the activities, and that we’d all have out say, so maybe I’ll go to the first meeting.’

National Government Official* ‘We had a meeting yesterday talking about how to start a nation-wide campaign to implement the Forest and Landscape Restoration approach. It will be tricky because it will need many sectors to work directly together on budgeting and planning. There are some good techniques available like ROAM and Participatory Rural Appraisal, but we don’t have many staff trained in them. Some of the locations are pretty remote as well, so it’s going to be a challenge logistically. Monitoring and Evaluation will be important, so we can report what’s going on to National level. It’s a good idea, but it’ll need a lot of capacity for us to implement it.’

International donor* ‘I’m currently setting up the file on the business case for this new FLR project. I usually do the financial analysis and risk assessment for funding new business models in developing countries, so this one is a bit unusual. I’m trying to treat it like a normal model, getting clarity on the time-frames of products, and the self-sustainability of the system post-funding, but a lot of the outputs are hard to quantify – like the environmental services or community well-being. I’m trying to look at supply chain in-setting and impact marketing, but there aren’t a lot of examples or data to use. I’d like for it to be successful, and I think it has real potential, but I need to find a way to quantify the model better.’

During the second day of the FLoRES workshop held at Tacloban, the Philippines on 22-24 February 2019, 22 participants from a wide range of academic, non-profit, and government institutes, from 11 countries, discussed how we might transform the six FLR principles into practical, usable frameworks. As we split into smaller groups, we tried to see the frameworks through the different ‘users’ eyes, as represented in the narratives above. It quickly became apparent that one language and one framework would not be sufficient. Each group spoke their own language, with their own concerns and priorities. For FLR to become successful and widely used, we need frameworks within frameworks, which allows for multiple languages talking directly to actors operating at multiple levels and scales, all embedded within the six FLR principles.

Based on the outputs from this and other sessions at the workshop, and the many examples and lessons learned from implementing FLR on-the-ground around the world, presented at the FLR conference that followed, a declaration was written. The Manila Declaration does acknowledge the challenges and complexity of FLR, however, it also describes eight definitive and actionable next steps to navigate these challenges. This includes further development of these nested frameworks working directly with the actors and stakeholders who will be using them. As was often discussed at the workshop and conference, FLR is a process not an end product, and we must now continue to develop the tools and resources which stakeholders need, presented in languages that are most relevant to them.  

Robin Chazdon presenting the Declaration at the FLR Conference in Manila, Philippines


*Please note, all the above narratives are fictional and based only on the author’s views and understandings.