Capacity Building for Forest Landscape Restoration Implementation in Malawi and Sri Lanka

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) implemented a two-year project aiming to address the current shortage of trained forest landscape restoration practitioners in Malawi and Sri Lanka. As in-country partners for the implementation of the project the Centre for Applied Systems Analysis (CASA) in Malawi and the Forest Department (FD) in Sri Lanka – both IUFRO member organisations – were selected. This project was funded by the Audemars-Watkins Foundation. Additionally, financial contributions were provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Global Environment Facility, as well as in-kind contributions by CASA in Malawi and the Forest Department in Sri Lanka.


Forest loss and degradation worldwide signify that protecting forests is no longer sufficient. We also need to restore forests if we want them to continue to provide us with goods and services such as timber, clean water, soil stabilization, species diversity etc.

This project addresses the current shortage of trained forest landscape restoration practitioners in Malawi and Sri Lanka who will be needed in increasing numbers, in order to guide implementation of large-scale forest landscape restoration activities. Forest landscape restoration practitioners play an important role in assisting local communities and other stakeholders in discussing, jointly deciding and implementing activities that lead to improved environmental management of the landscape. The practitioners are able to translate FLR principles into meaningful local programmes and thus help stakeholders to progress faster towards restoring degraded landscapes.


  • To scale-up forest landscape restoration (FLR) in Malawi and Sri Lanka through developing a critical mass of well-trained forest landscape restoration practitioners familiar with the ecological, social, economic and political dimensions of restoring large tracts of land in their respective countries.

The main tasks of forest landscape restoration practitioners is to assist local communities and stakeholders in their consultations, joint planning and implementation of restoration activities across different land uses.


The Practitioners:

Staff of governmental Forest Services and Departments of Environment as well as from local NGOs.
These professionals are highly motivated to contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of their rural communities, natural environment, and wildlife. Through this project the professionals have been empowered to develop their competences in restoring landscapes and coordinate the various social processes associated with it, such as influencing relevant policies, respecting traditional community institutions, establishing acceptable negotiation platforms between stakeholders etc.

The Training Programme:

It was implemented as hands-on mentoring activities on-site in Malawi and Sri Lanka with local stakeholders who had expressed desire to work on improving their landscape through active restoration. This provided real-world examples of the processes, opportunities and achievements that are feasible under local socio-economic conditions in both countries.

Besides trained FLR practitioners, the project also resulted in actually restored landscapes as a tangible outcome from the practical FLR training programme.

Landscapes in Malawi and Sri Lanka

Malawi and Sri Lanka are comparatively small countries by their land mass and considered highly populated. Land degradation has taken place in both countries for many years resulting in widespread soil erosion and loss of significant amounts of productive top soil per hectare each year. Impacts of climate change are evident already with an expected increase in negative consequences over the next decades. In addition, ‘natural’ disasters such as landslides are causing damage to human lives and rural infrastructure, loss of soil productivity, reduced biodiversity and decline in local food supply. In Sri Lanka, in many areas human-wildlife conflicts occur because of growing populations and shrinking wildlife habitat.

With over 80% of their population living in rural areas forests and woodlands are very important to the livelihoods of the people through the provision of medicines, food, wood- and non-wood forest products - by protecting the soil, harbouring pollinators, regulating water flows and helping mitigate disasters such as landslides and flooding.

Expected Outcome

Besides trained FLR practitioners, the project resulted in actually restored landscapes as a tangible outcome from the practical FLR training programme.

The trained core group of forest landscape restoration professionals has subsequently been equipped with enhanced skills to provide long-term support and guidance to stakeholders in implementing forest landscape restoration projects. A significant multiplier effect is reached as trained trainers can then pursue local level capacity building throughout Malawi and Sri Lanka, and in the region.

Commitments of the Governments of Malawi and Sri Lanka

Aware of the need to urgently increase efforts towards restoring forest landscapes, the Governments of Malawi and Sri Lanka have made commitments under the Bonn Challenge Global Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative to place  4.5 million hectares of degraded land in Malawi and 0.2 million hectares in Sri Lanka under active restoration by 2030.

The challenge for the local forest services and others remains how best to achieve these huge targets  of restored areas  so as to enhance benefits  to  poor rural populations, while improving biodiversity and improving resilience to climate change impacts. To date tree planting by the forest departments in Malawi and Sri Lank have focused on work with individual farm-families on a small-scale and with a few species only. Consequently, progress in scaling up of restoring land in both countries has been below expectations  There is a considerable lack of human capacity, and limited knowledge and experience in planning, implementation and monitoring of practical restoration work on the ground.

The project - through hands-on practical work with forest departments and local communities - will create trained FLR professionals, in order to speed up restoration progress throughout Malawi and Sri Lanka.

The landscape that will serve as training ground including site for demonstrating forest landscape restoration activities is Dzonzi Landscape, located in Ntcheu District in Central Region of Malawi.


CASA, a locally registered, independent and non-partisan knowledge centre will implement the project activities in partnership with the Forestry Department at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). CASA was created in 2017 to advance evidence-based knowledge and innovativeness in a rapidly changing environment. CASA has at hand, a wide range of expertise in all specializations related to managing trees and forests and to restoring landscapes in order to enhance environmental and social benefits. This is done through promoting research excellence and piloting new technologies and innovations in sustainable land use and livelihood in order to support their scalability.

The Sri Lanka Forest Department (FD) in partnership with the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP), which is funded by the World Bank, will implement the project in Sri Lanka.Forest Department and the Wild Life Conservation Department (DWLD) are the main two government Departments responsible of managing the natural forests in Sri Lanka. The total extent of the natural forests in Sri Lanka is approximately 1.9 million hectares. In addition, FD owns and manages over 50,000 hectares of forest plantations, where teak, eucalypts and mahoganies are the main tree species used.


 "Implementing Forest Landscape Restoration - A Practitioner's Guide" - Editions in Sinhala and Tamil.

  • Pdf of the Sinhala edition
  • Pdf of the Tamil edition

Project training programme: Innovative Capacity Building for FLR Implementation in Malawi


  • A series of docudramas showing the learning journey of a father and daughter who meet with technical specialists in different parts of Sri Lanka to learn about various aspects of forests and ecosystems has been produced by ESCAMP. This seven-episode series aired on Sri Lankan national television in 2021 and was developed as part of a larger newspaper, TV, radio and social media campaign to be of interest to a wider public audience. The first episode was produced for UNDP while the balance has been produced for ESCAMP. Episodes 1-3 include English subtitles.

          1. Environmentally Sensitive Areas - LINK
          2. Converting Human Elephant Conflict to Human Elephant Coexistence -
          3. Landscape management  - LINK
          4. Value of Sri Lanka's forests  - LINK
          5. Livelihood creation to safeguard forests  - LINK
          6. Ecosystems and their connection to zoonotic diseases  - LINK
          7. Ecotourism and ecosystem conservation  - LINK