These Are the Biggest Challenges Faced by Restoration Projects Worldwide
November 10, 2022
Dr. Shobha Maharaj
Earlier this year, Terraformation launched a research initiative to learn more about the challenges that slow forestry teams. Our team surveyed 230 foresters from 63 different countries and conducted in-depth interviews with 70 foresters from 29 countries.
Here’s what we found:
95% of the global forestry teams we talked to don’t have enough funding. Funding is by far the most pressing challenge for restoration projects. While the problem is most acute among partners in Sub-Saharan Africa, it was a top concern for teams worldwide. In the short term, a lack of consistent income prevents organizations from securing land, staff, and the incentives they need to establish community partnerships. Over the long term, forest teams struggle to plan for future operations and invest in the tools they need to scale up. They end up spending significant staff time fundraising instead of reforesting. A representative from one NGO in Nepal told us, “We feel like we’re always chasing grants, which hinders implementation.”
While many projects demonstrate high carbon capture potential, forestry teams find it difficult to capitalize on carbon. Fifty-four percent of respondents expressed an interest in selling carbon credits to finance biodiverse restoration, but right now, barriers to entry are simply too high. Lack of carbon market expertise, high verification costs, evolving local carbon legislation, and delays in income from carbon credit sales are all major challenges for small teams.
Lack of access to seeds slows restoration and restricts biodiversity. Insufficient seed and sapling supply affects 65% of respondents, many of whom cited viability issues and poor species variety as a problem. Currently, 60% of organizations collect at least some of their own seeds, while 80% purchase some or all of their seeds and saplings. Seed storage emerged as another pervasive problem — nearly half of organizations said they don’t currently store seeds — which undermines the potential of reforestation projects to realistically express species diversity across individual reforestation sites. This directly impairs the resilience potential of the forests that are ultimately created.
Forestry organizations urgently need more staff, training, and technology. The teams surveyed cited a need for more trained staff, including seed collectors, nursery workers, field teams, and upper management. While forestry teams are highly knowledgeable about local ecosystems, they were looking for more advanced forestry training. For example, while 90% of respondents said they knew where to locate seeds, they were less familiar with technical issues related to restoration, such as seed zones, genetic diversity, seed farming, and seed storage. A representative from a Mexican NGO explained, “We don’t have a lot of technical people that can work on the ground and … have the capacity to design and implement projects at scale.”
Projects don’t have the technology they need for accurate tracking. In addition to a need for technical training and staff, 70% of projects don’t have the necessary technology to capture field data and monitor progress.
What We’re Doing About It: The Seed to Carbon Forest Accelerator
Unlocking alternative sustainable funding. Our accelerator connects long-term funding to scalable projects — through carbon markets as well as sustainable business models like agroforestry.
Providing technical knowledge and skills. We have already seen high demand for technical training — 90 participants from Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania joined our recent seed seminar in East Africa. The accelerator will offer an expanded training curriculum.
Cultivating regional seed banks and seed collection networks. By connecting our partners to seed banks and seed collection hubs, we promote biodiversity and fortify restoration efforts.
Supporting mid-size projects in scaling rapidly while maintaining quality. Accelerator participants receive cross-disciplinary support from our team of carbon scientists, botanists, technologists, and entrepreneurs to grow quickly using practices that promote long-term success. Our unwavering commitment to biodiversity and community benefits allows our accelerator partners to grow resilient, high-quality forests.
If you’re interested in buying carbon credits from accelerator participants, or if you have a forestry project in need of support, we invite you to learn more.