Main Issue

Healthy landscapes support a huge variety of land uses — from agriculture and agroforestry to wildlife reserves and ecological corridors to forests and plantations. They provide clean water, food and materials to build shelter for wildlife and humans alike. And they provide livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people.

Forest and landscape restoration (FLR) brings barren and degraded areas back to life. Not only does this restore biodiversity and revitalize local communities, it also contributes to climate change mitigation. Landscape restoration projects that regenerate forests, for example, create another “carbon sink” that contribute to climate change mitigation. The goal of restoring 350 million hectares will generate about $170 billion per year in net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields and forest products, and could sequester up to 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. At the same time, FLR can quickly provide financial reflow, create jobs, and is financially viable in the long run, promoting climate adaptation, food security, and increasing livelihood opportunities.

For all these reasons, forest and landscape restoration has become a priority on the international policy agenda:

  • The UNFCCCBD, and UNCCD have all identified forest landscape restoration as an important component of reaching their goals.
  • The Bonn Challenge seeks to restore 350 million hectares of the world’s deforested lands by 2030. More than 60 countries or jurisdictions have made pledges to the Bonn Challenge. Progress is measured by the BC barometer, which has so far been applied in 22 countries, already bringing 45 million hectares under restoration.
  • New York Declaration on Forests – often called the “expanded Bonn Challenge” - set a goal of restoring another 200 million hectares by 2020 and additional 200 million hectares by 2030.
  • Initiative 20x20, which will also support the Bonn Challenge, aimed to restore 20 million hectares in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2020, and 50 million hectares by 2030.
  • The Africa Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), launched at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris in December 2015, has a target of restoring 100 million hectares across the continent by 2030. 126 million hectares of land has been committed for restoration by governments of 30 countries.  
  • Initiatives such as The Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) unite governments, organizations, communities, and individuals with a common goal: restoring the world’s degraded and deforested lands. 
  • The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems and restore them to achieve global goals. The UN Decade from 2021 through 2030 will build a strong global movement to ramp up restoration.

What We Do

The GEF aligns its work with international efforts like the Bonn Challenge and the GPFLR. Our first three initiatives, started in GEF-5 (2010-2014), share a common approach. They are creating multiple benefits from restoration, engaging local communities who make a living from the land.

The Sahel and West Africa Program (SAWAP) supports the Great Green Wall Initiative. It aims to establish a green belt of productive lands and forests along the edge of the Sahara Desert to battle desertification and soil degradation, while tackling poverty. It focuses on a strip of land of 15 km wide and 7,100 km long from Dakar to Djibouti. The Great Green Wall has the potential of restoring landscapes in 11 participating countries.

In Rwanda, the GEF and the World Bank co-funded the Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC) project. This demonstration project will showcase how landscape management can enhance environmental services and build climate resilience.

In Brazil, the Recovery and Protection of Climate and Biodiversity Services in the Southeast Atlantic Forest Corridor of Brazil project aims to restore and enhance carbon stocks in forest and non-forest lands.

At the end of GEF-5, we also worked with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) to develop “Building the Foundation for Forest Landscape Restoration at Scale.” Among other goals, this project aims to make the business case for restoration. In so doing, it will help secure financial commitments to restore degraded land in Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Niger and Kenya as part of the Bonn Challenge.

GEF-6 builds on these initial steps. Our sustainable forest management (SFM) strategy had a specific objective on forest restoration. This enabled countries to address drivers of forest landscape degradation and help restore critical environmental functions of degraded landscapes.

The Restoration Initiative was developed in support of the Bonn Challenge in 10 countries, which is led by IUCN together with FAO and UNEP. Being currently implemented, this Program also includes a global project that focuses on global learning, finance, and partnerships for restoration. The participating countries are composed of a diverse set of environmental and social contexts and include Cameroon, Central African Republic, China, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sao Tome and Principe, Tanzania, and the DR Congo. 

In GEF-7, about one third of the $750 million in grant funding under the SFM Impact programs has been earmarked for projects and programs that also include restoration activities. In total about $350 million of GEF grants have been made available for restoration activities, based on country requests within their allocations.

The SFM Impact Program strategy aligns GEF priorities across the Biodiversity, Land Degradation, and Climate Change focal areas. To that end, it provides additional resources to focus attention on forests through the SFM incentive mechanism.

Finally, the Land Degradation focal area enables countries to tackle forest degradation and restoration. We encourage projects centered around smallholders in production landscapes.


The GEF supported about 10 million hectaresof degraded land under restoration under sustainable forest management (SFM) projects and programs through plantations and agroforestry systems in GEF-6. The GEF-7 target for restoration is about 6 million hectares, where the SFM and FOLUR Impact Programs will contribute 2 million hectares. The estimated GEF-7 targets for climate change mitigation benefit is 175 million tCO2 sequestered and 50 million tCO2 avoided emission through avoided deforestation. In addition, natural regeneration will improve existing forest which will create multiple environmental benefits at the global level and contribute to improved livelihoods of forest-dependent people.

The GEF is also working with its partners to bring forest restoration to the attention of global policymakers. Indeed, the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris acknowledged the contribution of the GEF’s SFM program. In keeping with the Paris Agreement, the GEF and its partners are working toward including landscape restoration as a tactic to help keep the rise of the Earth’s temperature within 2°C.