In some cases, before starting a landscape restoration initiative, you may be looking for a landscape to start working in, or you may be working already in several landscapes and are wondering which one may be most appropriate to work more holistically in. In those cases, some scouting may be required. This is a quick-start guide to scouting for a landscape.

To start with, identify the specific interests of the partners who intend to work together on landscape restoration. For example, one of the partners may want to demonstrate a certain approach (e.g. agroforestry), or they may prefer a specific kind of landscape (e.g. coastal mangroves). Now it’s time to get started. In its simplest form, scouting contains three steps.

Step 1: Determine search criteria

Compile a list of criteria for the landscape you want to scope. Two of the most important criteria we recommend are:

  • Places where there is already an awareness of the need for landscape restoration (sense of urgency)
  • Places where local initiatives already work on topics related to landscape restoration.

It all starts with degradation problem and people who really think that things need to change. A high sense of urgency means stakeholders are more ready to cooperate and experiment. Existing initiatives mean we can reach scale more quickly by strengthening and building on their work rather than starting from scratch.

Further criteria may include: showcase potential (if communication of impact is a priority); implementation potential (combination of high urgency and high local interest); presence of specific industries or land use, presence of key initiatives you may know and want to include, proximity to key markets or transportation hubs, presence of key species you may want to protect, potential for ecological restoration, potential to develop (4 Returns) business, et cetera.

Step 2: Desk research: turn longlist into a shortlist

With criteria in hand, use desk research to find potential landscapes. Gradually reduce your longlist as landscapes are scrutinised further. Your shortlist should contain 1-3 landscapes.

The sources you can use for this are varied. You can think of:

  • Strategic documents of partners, where relevant
  • Research and evaluation studies from local & (inter)national knowledge institutes, NGOs, and governments
  • Reports, policy documents, strategy documents, websites, or media outings from local & (inter)national partners, NGOs, governments (ministries/departments, regional governments, water councils, other government agencies)
  • News media
  • Spatial data (GIS): maps and remote sensing data

Recommended tools for desk research:

  • GovernanceSustainable Landscapes Rating Tool: enables a rapid assessment of the key conditions for jurisdictional policies and governance that enable sustainable landscapes.
  • Stakeholder mappingMapping social landscapes guide you through identifying the social capital of actors within the landscapes. It centres on mapping actors’ resource flows as well as their priorities and values. For example, you get to map out who your champions are, those who might block your initiative and those who might still be sitting on the fence but could become your ally over time. Champions can be frontrunner farmers, who are already experimenting and trying new ways to farm. Blockers may be organisations who have vested interests in the status quo and will actively work against change. Fence sitters can be anyone who is open to change, but not willing to be the first to try it out.
  • Stakeholder mappingKumu: makes it easy to organize complex data such as people, systems, or concepts into relationship maps.
  • Soil informationiSDAsoil provides soil information at the scale of individual small farms across Africa. This is achieved by generating maps at an unprecedented resolution of 30 meters, encompassing 24 billion unique locations across Africa.
  • Flood riskAqueduct Floods measures and maps water-related flood risks around the world. It evaluates current and future risks of riverine and coastal flooding, considering the impacts that socioeconomic growth and climate change will have. Aqueduct Floods also allow users to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the value of dike flood protection strategies.
  • Soil informationSoils Revealed is a platform for visualizing how past and future management changes to soil organic carbon stocks globally. It is based on the best, and sometimes only, available soil data, information about the environment and computer simulations over time.
  • Ecological informationCrowther Labhas provided an interactive map with environmental and ecological layers to explore. Each map layer in this tool represents the outputs from various models produced by the scientific community providing key data about our ecosystems. Explore this data by either drawing a polygon (drawing tool) or selecting a country (search button). You can also compare layers to study correlations between different parameters.
  • Ecological informationOpenLandMap is an open-source map displaying the world’s environmental data (land cover, vegetation, soil, climate, water, terrain, and more). Within your web browser, you can explore the different map layers displaying the various environmental themes across the globe and also across time. All of the data is also freely available via download.
  • Ecological informationNature Mapis an integrated global map of biodiversity, carbon storage, and other nature services to support decision-making on national, regional, and global targets. The tool offers freely available global maps of terrestrial biodiversity, carbon stocks and water supply, designed to guide policies that address biodiversity loss and climate change in an integrated manner.
  • Restoration potentialRestor is a science-based open data platform to support and connect the global restoration movement. It allows you to analyse the restoration potential of an area as well as monitor and manage restoration projects.

Step 3: Field visits to select the final landscape from the shortlist

Now it’s time for a visit. This can be seen as a ‘light’ version of the Landscape and Stakeholder Analysis (for more information on the Landscape and Stakeholder analysis, read the chapter ‘Practical approaches to improve your understanding of the landscape’ in the Guidebook).

With the information you collect during you landscape visit, deciding which of the shortlisted landscapes shows the best potential should be relatively straightforward. Criteria that can be used for this step are:

  • Knowledge networks
    • Who do we already know in the area who could support in the early stages of the programme?
    • Are any knowledge institutions or NGOs already involved in the area that could be relevant to the programme?
    • Are there cultural or traditional norms and values that promote land care?
    • Which main drivers determinee land use now?
  • Stakeholders and Governance
    • Are there frontrunner initiatives in the area? What is happening already? Are these something we can build on? What obstacles are these initiatives facing now?
    • Who are the key stakeholder groups in the landscape? What are their main challenges? What are their stakes?
    • What power dynamics are at play in the area?
    • Who are the leaders in the area, if any?
    • Is cross-sector or integrated landscape planning already taking place (e.g. led by the government)?
  • Business, value chains and finance
    • What are the main value chains in the landscape? Do they serve local, regional, and international markets?
    • What is the effect of the major value chains on the landscape?
    • Are production systems financially viable and  resilient to changes in markets and extreme weather events?
    • Are there already examples of regenerative or 4 Returns businesses or business cases in the landscape?
    • What is the business climate like in this area? Is it easy to do business or not, why?
    • What are the main streams of finance that flow through the landscape now?
  • Restoration potential
    • What is the scope for restoration in the natural zone in this area? Are there patches of remnant/pristine vegetation left? How long does it take to create conditions where nature can thrive again?
  • What is the scope for rehabilitation in the combined zone in this area? Are there already examples of productive land use in collaboration with nature? Economic potential
    • What is the scope for sustainability initiatives in the economic zone? What are the demands the economic zone is putting on the landscape now, is that sustainable? Is there scope for urban/rural integration initiatives? Energy? Water? Biomass? Mining? Other?
  • Fit with your organisation’s strengths
    • Out of the potential choices in front of you, each may require or need different activities to be developed. Which of these activities/landscapes fit best with what you know you are good at? Where can you leverage your strengths and minimise having to rely on things you are less good at?

We hope this guide gave you an idea of what scouting entails, and helps you set up your scouting process. If you’d like to learn more about the landscape restoration development process, read our 4 Returns guidebook. Good luck!

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