Today, there is a growing awareness of the importance ― and the potential positive impact ― of restoring degraded forest, agriculture and other productive landscapes to help meet these global objectives for both human well-being and environmental security. Several international processes have made commitments toward this end: the Convention on Biological Diversity has called for countries to restore at least 15 percent of their degraded ecosystems by 2020. Additionally, at a ministerial conference held in Bonn, Germany in September 2011, the Bonn Challenge was established, which sets a target of restoring at least 150 million hectares of degraded land by 2020.
South Korea is playing an important role in moving the global restoration agenda forward. The long and successful experience of restoring severely degraded land after the war in the 1950s has provided an example to many other countries of what can be done when the political will, financial resources and engagement of local communities are all mobilized to achieve a common goal. The re-greening of the country, which involved planting more than 12 billion trees and has achieved more than 64 percent forest cover, is seen by many around the world as a model for restoring degraded land in many other parts of the world.
The Korea Forest Service recently launched the Forest Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, as a way to support forest and landscape restoration efforts globally through technical advice and financial support. The KFS is also supporting a new effort at the FAO to help achieve widespread restoration in many countries around the world ― the Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism, that was officially launched in June 2014 at a ceremony in Rome included the Korea Minister of Forestry. This joint collaboration will help improve resilience, ecosystem productivity and services (e.g., biodiversity, soil and water conservation), supply natural energy from restored forests and landscapes, help communities adapt to climate change and benefit human well-being. The KFS is making a generous contribution of approximately $3.2 million until 2020 to support these efforts through the FAO.
This will provide an excellent opportunity to share with countries from Africa, Latin America, Asia and other regions valuable experiences in forest and landscape restoration from South Korea and to demonstrate that the spiritual momentum of Koreans has enabled the country to overcome harsh poverty and a severely degraded environment through the New Village Movement, or “Saemaul Undong,” that has successfully achieved forest and landscape restoration.
The FAO is grateful to South Korea for this invaluable support, which will not only contribute significantly to forest and landscape restoration around the world, but will also motivate other countries to mobilize the financial, technical and political support necessary to restore the world’s degraded land ― an area at least the size of South America ― and help achieve the ambitious global targets that have been set to help feed the world, reduce poverty and ensure a stable and thriving natural environment. This cooperation will also be extended to other areas of mutual interest to the FAO and the KFS to support global forestry, natural resources management and sustainable agriculture, in order to achieve a world free from hunger, poverty and environmental degradation.
The lead technical officer of the Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism ― Ed.