For young changemakers, restoration means mobilizing their communities

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The town of Salay, located along the northern coast of the Philippine island of Mindanao, was once home to unproductive fish ponds and an arid landscape. But now, a year after Camille Rivera’s community mangrove restoration project began, remarkable rejuvenation has taken place, and Salay enjoys a lush saline environment that has replenished its aquatic fauna and restored meaning and purpose. to its mangrove-dependent community.

It is the result of Camille’s tireless work to foster knowledge sharing between environmental scientists and local communities on wetland restoration and multi-species planting – and their collective commitment to creating change. By leading the local community not only to understand but to engage with mangrove ecology, Camille has indeed achieved a monumental accomplishment, and the result has brought relief and joy throughout Salay for the restored health of her landscape.

Camille was one of five Restoration Stewards who participated in the inaugural Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) and Youth in Landscapes (YIL) Restoration Stewards program in 2021. Alongside Camille were her four co-stewards, who also mobilized their communities around the world. , from Kenya to Indonesia, working to reverse land degradation, rehabilitate ecosystems and promote alternative and sustainable livelihoods.

This year, the second version of the program welcomes five young and diverse restoration stewards who work to improve agroforestry practices, monitor the health of reef ecosystems, and raise community awareness of dryland restoration and conservation in the Americas. , Africa and Asia. During 2022, YIL will channel funding, mentorship and professional networks to restoration stewards to deepen the impact of their youth-led restoration projects. In other words, stewards will be given the tools they need to care for their ecologically fragile lands.

Now, let’s meet our five new restaurant stewards.

Sergio Esteban Lozano Baez, Colombia

Growing up in Colombia, Sergio Esteban Lozano Baez spent much of his childhood connecting with the outdoors. It was his frequent trips to the Andes mountains that led him to study ecology at university – and to his current work coordinating forest restoration projects in Tolima.

Her project for the Restoration Stewards program focuses on two endangered bird species: the Tolima dove and the yellow-headed finch, which are found only in the Andes. Through forest restoration, natural regeneration and agroforestry approaches, Sergio aims to improve community awareness of tree conservation and encourage smallholder productivity in the region.

“Because people need to produce food and money, we focused more on agroforestry,” he says. “We work in a landscape dominated by coffee crops, so we planted more trees in crops, showing and teaching growers all the benefits of trees.” Farmers have begun to realize not only the economic benefits of agroforestry, but also the improvements in species conservation, water and soil.

Although Sergio, 30, will only be catering steward for a year, he believes the impact of the program will be far from fleeting. He longs to one day show other young people the forests he once planted and how such abundant life was able to reappear in these once degraded areas. “I want to do my part in the world of landscape restoration and transform human lives with restoration.”

For young changemakers, restoration means mobilizing their communities

Eka Cahyaningrum, Indonesia

The Central Borneo fires of 2019 were a wake-up call for Eka Cahyaningrum. They alerted her to a general sense of apathy among the Indonesian public, whose members often blamed the causes of environmental problems on others, she observed. “A lot of people in the area think it’s not their responsibility to solve the problem together,” she says.

To combat this, Eka launched a restoration project in the degraded peatlands of East Borneo to create profitable businesses for the local community and introduce young people in central Borneo to peatland restoration. These efforts, in turn, produce cleaner and more sustainable water supplies, drought and flood risk mitigation, and higher carbon sequestration in the region.

Eka hopes to use her role as Restoration Steward to meet other like-minded climate advocates, as well as raise awareness of her home landscape. “Through this program, I will have the opportunity to network and showcase Indonesia and its tropical peat ecosystems,” she says. “I want to push myself out of my comfort zone.”

For young changemakers, restoration means mobilizing their communities

Hidayah Halid, Malaysia

A few years ago, Hidayah Halid from Penang, Malaysia decided to protect the marine ecosystems of the Perhentian Islands. As a farmer’s daughter, her upbringing in the complexities of the natural world took place in her own backyard, filled with lush rice paddies and thriving agriculture. This upbringing paved the way for her relationship with underwater life and her appreciation of aquatic organisms led her to work at the Perhentian Marine Research Station (PMRS).

In recent years, the Perhentian Islands have suffered significant damage to the surrounding coral reef ecosystem and local vegetation. This is largely due to the tourism industry which pollutes the waters of the islands and overfishes their coastal areas.

As a steward of restoration, Hidayah hopes to create a community-led movement to protect the islands’ marine ecosystems from further degradation. Living there has given her local knowledge about local wildlife habitats and conservation – knowledge she hopes to share with other young people like her. “The Perhentian Islands community is small, but the ecosystem changes it has undergone and will undergo are significant,” she says.

For young changemakers, restoration means mobilizing their communities

Adrian Leitoro, Kenya

Adrian Leitoro comes from a lineage deeply rooted in the stewardship and conservation of Indigenous lands. As a member of the Rendille pastoral community in Kenya’s North Eastern Province, Adrian grew up with a keen awareness of the biodiversity of Kenya’s dryland forest ecosystems. Now his work as Restoration Steward will focus on the Ndotos Range Forest Reserve, which is home to other pastoral communities and grazing areas supporting significant numbers of livestock. In response to the increase in forest fires and the intentional burning of vegetation on the reserve, Adrian creates a tree nursery to help restore this land.

Indigenous communities currently protect around 80% of the world’s biodiversity, but Adrian says their contributions to land restoration and climate resilience are often overlooked, with more attention being given to climate initiatives in the North. To spark greater recognition of indigenous initiatives, Adrian will highlight how the Rendille and neighboring Samburu pastoral communities have continued to manage biodiversity hotspots in northern Kenya. “My long-term goal is to achieve the restoration of dryland forest ecosystems in a way that ensures my community derives tangible benefits from their management and builds climate resilience,” he says.

For young changemakers, restoration means mobilizing their communities

Gabriela Gavarrete, El Salvador

Gabriela Gavarrete from El Salvador was first introduced to the importance of forests and natural ecosystems by her grandmother. As a curious young girl, she vowed to learn more about ecosystem health and pursued her studies in biology. Her aptitude for science and her determination to preserve the biomes of El Salvador will come into full force this year when she launches a project to fight forest fires and stimulate community tree planting using native plant nurseries.

Gavarrete explains that his work is inseparable from the political and cultural context of his country. “El Salvador is the second most deforested country in Latin America,” she says. “After the armed conflict that affected my country for years, the land remained degraded and recovery efforts focused on social and economic areas… Working in a deforested country is a great challenge, but I hope to be able to start a new methodology that can connect communities with the land where they live.

She hopes the Restoration Stewards program will allow her to support this new narrative, promote the prioritization of healthy forest ecosystems, and reinvigorate interest in restoration. “My long-term vision is to become an expert in forest restoration and conservation. Being named a catering steward this year has opened my mind to many possibilities and given me the confidence to inspire young people to become a generation of catering.

Want to follow these restaurant stewards on their journeys? They will share their stories through a series of vlogs and blogs as they navigate efforts to create sustainable landscapes. You can also write to [email protected] to connect with our stewards for more information.

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