Capacity Building for FLR implementation in Sri Lanka

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The Sri Lanka Forest Department in partnership with the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP),IUCN Sri Lanka and IUFRO implemented a project (Sept 2019-Aug 2023) to develop capacities on forest landscape restoration (FLR) in Sri Lanka. The project’s aim was to scale up FLR through developing a critical mass of well-trained practitioners. It was funded by the Audemars-Watkins Foundation with an additional financial contribution by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

More about the project background here

How did the project affect matters in Sri Lanka?

More than 400 field forest officers across Sri Lanka’s 23 forest divisions participated in a locally adapted forest landscape restoration (FLR) training program facilitated by 30 national-level experts and supported by 12 restoration professionals from across the country.The project supported capacity building linking theory with practice in actual field implementation of restoration through local multi-stakeholder consultations and decision making.

Two main field implementation sites were selected for the training covering the main landscape types in Sri Lanka: Hurulu Forest Landscape in the dry zone with focus on forest restoration within and around a reserve; and Opatha - Kanneliya landscapes in the wet zone for demonstrating native species rehabilitation in the forest reserve and developing livelihood opportunities in the surrounding rural communities.

In three districts, namely, Gal Oya, Polonnaruwa; Attanagalu Oya River Basin, Gampaha; and Kanneliya, Galle Field; officers were also trained in participatory FLR planning and field implementation in close collaboration with governmental departments and local communities.

Likewise, three forest conservation management plans with focus on forest conservation and restoration were prepared for the Knuckles Conservation Forest, Matale; and Sinharaja Conservation Area, Matara and Rathnapura Districts. The objective of preparing these plans was to revisit and revise existing forest management plans to improve forest conservation and restoration impact in these areas.  Plans were prepared for a further 12 districts during the project. There is interest to continue in the remaining 8 districts in future.

Several field components were implemented with participation of field officers and other stakeholders during the project, significantly improving wildlife habitats and forest condition, tourism potential and livelihoods. Field operations included removal of invasive species and habitat maintenance, assisted natural regeneration, repair of wildlife safari jeep trails, developing of medicinal plant and home gardens and environmental awareness.

                  Removal of invasive species and weeds in the Hurulu Eco Park and the Galoya Eco Park, Polonnaruwa.
                  Photo credit: Sri Lanka Forest Department

All 15 FLR plans will be used for selecting activities under different components for annual implementation on the ground. Accordingly, at least the most relevant activities of the holistic plan will be implemented. This will ensure further enhancing ecological integrity and stability of the landscape. Additionally, forest landscape restoration is proposed to be included as a module in the in-service training program of the Forestry Training Institute at the Sri Lanka Department of Forest Conservation. This will enable capacity development of large numbers of field officers on FLR every year.

All of this will support the implementation of regional ecosystem management plans for two biomes in Sri Lanka, which ESCAMP has been working on with the support of the World Bank.

How it all came together

The project started with a pre-training phase where 12 Sri Lankan mentors and resource persons reviewed existing FLR learning resources provided by IUFRO-SPDC and collaborated in the creation of custom training content adapted to local needs. The Department of Forest Conservation identified this team of 12 restoration professionals representing various expert institutions t  (including participants from a previous IUFRO workshop held in 2018). The team participated in IUFRO-led online workshops covering FLR-related topics: the FLR conceptual framework, landscape approach, governance, project design, technical aspects of FLR implementation, monitoring and adaptive management, communication and facilitation.

Then they led and supported the training workshops on FLR for different levels of professionals of various governmental and non-governmental organisations. The training content was based on “Implementing Forest Landscape Restoration: A Practitioner’s Guide”, published by IUFRO, which was translated into Sinhala and Tamil, and 2000 copies of the Sinhala version were printed. Trainings were conducted in 23 forest districts with group sizes of around 20 persons.

Field visits provided opportunities for participants to further discuss the application of the FLR process under real-world conditions involving local stakeholders and land/forest managers.