UN recognizes effort to counter Central American drought with special award
- The six-nation initiative, designed to help communities affected by failing rains, honoured as World Restoration Flagship
- Initiative now eligible to receive United Nations support, funding or technical expertise,
- Effort comes as climate crisis threatens future of farming in the region
Montreal, 13 December 2022 – The United Nations has recognized an initiative to restore 300,000 ha of drought-stricken Central American farmland and forests as one of 10 pioneering efforts to revive the natural world.
The UN designated the push, which is designed to counter a wave of food insecurity, as one of its inaugural World Restoration Flagships. These initiatives, which are eligible to receive UN support, funding or technical expertise, showcase how environmental advocates are mending damaged ecosystems across the planet. Human activity has significantly altered three-quarters of the Earth’s land and two-thirds of its marine environment, pushing 1 million species towards extinction.
The announcement came as leaders gathered in Montreal, Canada for the UN Biodiversity Conference, where governments from around the world will agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade. Talks are expected to include a potential global target for ecosystem restoration.
Across swathes of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama a prolonged drought has devastated farms, plunged families into poverty, triggered a wave of migration and left millions of people facing food insecurity. But efforts are now underway across much of this area, known as the Central American Dry Corridor, to restore farmland blighted by failing rains, which have been linked to the climate crisis. Farmers are growing trees on once-deforested land, which helps trap moisture in the soil and shield crops from the sun and, occasionally, powerful rainstorms. Advocates are hoping to restore 300,000 ha using this strategy, known as agroforestry, and other sustainable agriculture practices by 2030.
The effort and other flagship initiatives were selected under the banner of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global movement coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is designed to prevent and reverse the degradation of natural spaces across the planet.
Lucrecia Rodriguez Peñalba, Executive Secretary of the Central American Agricultural Council (CAC), explained: “The Flagship initiative will contribute to the rehabilitation and conservation of forested areas, the establishment of biological corridors through the adoption of resilient agroforestry and silvopastoral systems, supporting the transformation of agricultural areas through sustainable low-carbon practices, increasing productivity, and promoting land degradation neutrality in the Dry Corridor.”
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said: “The climate crisis is having a devastating impact on people around the world, in particular marginalized communities. We all know that climate change is here now and is only going to get worse. It is critical that we step up our efforts to adapting to a climate changing world. The work being done in the Central American Dry Corridor, a World Restoration Flagship, shows that creative, natural solutions can help the most vulnerable people adapt to these difficult times.”
Qu Dongyu, Director General of the FAO, said: “FAO, together with UNEP, as co-lead of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, is pleased to award the 10 most ambitious, visionary and promising ecosystem restoration initiatives as 2022 World Restoration Flagships. Inspired by these flagships, we can learn to restore our ecosystems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.”
Countries have already promised to restore 1 billion hectares – an area larger than China – as part of their commitments to the Paris climate agreement, the Aichi targets for biodiversity, the Land Degradation Neutrality targets and the Bonn Challenge. However, little is known about the progress or quality of this restoration. Progress of all 10 World Restoration Flagships will be transparently monitored through the Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring, the UN Decade’s platform
About the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the UN Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, together with the support of partners, it is designed to prevent, halt, and reverse the loss and degradation of ecosystems worldwide. It aims at reviving billions of hectares, covering terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. A global call to action, the UN Decade draws together political support, scientific research, and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration.
About the Central America Dry Corridor Flagship Initiative:
This World Restoration Flagship is coordinated by the Central American Commission on Environment and Development, The Central American Agricultural Council, Central American Integration System, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Green Climate Fund, The Government of El Salvador, The Center for International Forestry Research and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
For more information, please contact:
Moses Osani, Media Officer, UN Environment Programme
For media interviews with officials from Central America please reach out to
Ingrid Saravia Villacorta, FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.