A mountain landscape. Ales Krivec, Unsplash

2023’s Restoration Stewards: A cohort for change

Meet the 7 young environmentalists awarded this year

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) and Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) have together just launched the 2023 Restoration Stewards program, which supports the work of seven young restoration practitioners and their teams with funding, mentorship and training to restore different ecosystems around the world. The program, which is now in its third edition, marks a major step in their journeys to become local and global ambassadors.

Over the course of the next 12 months, this new group of Restoration Stewards will share their triumphs and challenges through vlogs and blogs as they connect, share, learn, and act for livelihoods and landscapes that need their help. Here, we caught up with the new cohort to hear more about what they hope to achieve.

Gloria Amor Paredes / Philippines / Forests

Gloria Amor Paredes, Forests Restoration Steward 2023. GLF

Gloria Amor Paredes is an environmental education and community development specialist. She is the co-founder of Salumayag Youth Collective for Forests, an Indigenous youth and women-led initiative that empowers local and Indigenous communities in the stewardship of their ancestral lands through regenerative practices and narratives. Her project is based in Sto. Domingo, Quezon, Bukidnon, a Manobo-Kulamanen community on the Philippine island of Mindanao.

“I feel deeply grateful and excited to be selected as a Restoration Steward. My team and I have been following the work of the Global Landscapes Forum and Youth in Landscapes for a long time now. When we were just starting to organize as a youth-led initiative, I remember how we used to send each other videos and articles made by the previous stewards and say, ‘Oh we are doing something similar’ and relate to the challenges they were describing. So being selected as the Restoration Steward for forests in 2023 feels like a surreal full circle for us. This is definitely a win not just for me but for our entire team! During our tenure, my team and I hope to upscale our farm boundary and water source rehabilitation program by collaborating more closely with Indigenous youth leaders and partner farmers. We also want to create co-learning spaces with like-minded individuals and organizations who might be willing to work with us in our forest regeneration efforts with upland communities in Bukidnon, Mindanao. Above all, we look forward to a great year of learning and collaboration as we proudly join the GLF and YIL community. Madakel salamat! Thank you!”

Dwi Riyan / Indonesia / Wetlands

Dwi Riyan, Wetlands Restoration Steward 2023. GLF

Dwi Riyan is originally from West Kalimantan, Indonesia, and is currently completing his final year as a master’s student in sustainability management at the University of Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, and the University of Agder, Norway. In 2018, Dwi co-founded Pongo Ranger Community, a youth-based organization that focuses on the intersection between nature conservation and human welfare, with their coastal activity, Pongo-dopsi, promoting the restoration of mangroves in West Kalimantan.

“I am blessed to be a part of the Restoration Stewards 2023 family. For me, this opportunity is beyond financial support. The Restoration Stewards program is about creating a network, delivering an inspirational story, and developing capacity. I will transmit my experiences to my team on the ground and all the communities we work with in the Ketapang Regency, Kalimantan, Indonesia. This investment from the GLF will play a critical role not only for me but also for the next leaders in my youth community team and the community itself.”

Samara Polwatta / Sri Lanka / Oceans

Samara Polwatta, Oceans Restoration Steward 2023. GLF

Samara Polwatta is pursuing a joint master’s at the University of Bonn and the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security. She is currently writing her master’s thesis on coral reef ecosystems as a tool for ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction. She also works as a junior consultant on the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) integration team, focusing on data curation and management related to SDG tracking within the GeoHub. Her project, School Meets the Reef, aims to build artificial in-situ coral reef nurseries and carry out monitoring and evaluation on the restored reefs and nurseries, primarily in Kalkudah, Batticaloa District, Sri Lanka while building awareness through local schools.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be an ambassador for the coral reefs and oceans, to speak and work for the rehabilitation of this critical infrastructure and its enormous co-benefits. At a time when Sri Lanka particularly has fewer funds and guidance to explore opportunities for research, conservation and restoration of these habitats, the Restoration Stewards program offers the timely benefit of continuing our project’s sustainability. The communities living along the coastal belt greatly benefit from the restoration efforts, and I have been endowed to communicate the importance of restoration and encourage the young generations to become stewards.”

Tahina Roland Frédéric / Madagascar / Drylands

Tahina Roland Frédéric, Drylands Restoration Steward 2023. GLF

Tahina Roland Frédéric is a young Malagasy agronomist who specialized in forestry at the Higher School of Agronomic Sciences (ESSA) at the University of Antananarivo. He has over four years of experience in conservation in his native Menabe region of Madagascar and has been involved in park management, habitat and species conservation, law enforcement, and sustainable livelihood activities. His project, Taniala Regenerative Camp, aims to restore land that has been degraded by deforestation and agriculture in the Lambokely village of the Menabe region to prevent the irreversible loss of soil fertility.

“I am very excited to be selected as a Drylands Restoration Steward for 2023. You can feel alone when setting up your own project, so it is encouraging to feel that we have the support and recognition of experts in this field. This program will provide a great opportunity to learn from other people and projects and apply new ideas in Madagascar. I am excited to be part of a network of people who share common goals and motivations, and with whom I can exchange ideas. Through mentorship and training, I hope to have access to knowledge and skills from experts who can help me refine our techniques in the field. I will also be able to build my capacity and practical skills in ecosystem restoration and put my knowledge into practice. We also hope to inspire other youths in Madagascar to take more concrete action and develop action-based solutions.”

Levis Sirikwa / Kenya / Oceans

Levis Sirikwa, Oceans Restoration Steward 2023. GLF

Levis Sirikwa has over half a decade of experience in coastal and marine resource management, specifically in the active restoration of degraded mangroves, sustainable agriculture and local coastal community empowerment.​ He co-founded the Ceriops Research Environmental Organization, which works on several projects within the blue economy space in Kenya. The projects that he manages in the organization include the Casina Farms (sustainable coastal agriculture), Mikoko na Jamii (mangrove and communities) and Mangrove Buddy (advocacy and awareness) programs. The three project models are underpinned by community empowerment, sustainable development and data-driven approaches.

“I am grateful and privileged, and I would like to say, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected!’ This is an opportunity for me to gear up, redefine and strengthen my strategy, and invite my team to contribute to the strategy, with a focus on building capacity of the coastal Indigenous communities living adjacent to the peri-urban mangrove ecosystems in Mombasa and in Kwale counties in Kenya. My team and I intend to achieve this by filling in the current knowledge gaps on the policy frameworks that govern coastal and marine resources where these communities live. In other words, I feel that I have been empowered as a Restoration Steward to support the local coastal communities living adjacent to the mangrove ecosystems in Mombasa and Kwale counties in Kenya.”

Ysabel Agustina Calderon Carlos / Peru / Mountains

Ysabel Agustina Calderon Carlos, Mountains Restoration Steward 2023. GLF

Ysabel Agustina Calderon Carlos (Ysa Calderon) is a beekeeper, farmer, environmental entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Sumak Kawsay, an environmental enterprise that promotes pollinator conservation through the restoration of mountain ecosystems in the village of El Higuerón, San Francisco de Asís peasant community in the Salas District, Lambayeque, Peru. Sumak Kawsay also offers agritourism services through the “honey route,” an experience that connects with bees, honey and nature, and is hosted by local women.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity and really happy to be part of this great team of international guys working to restore our ecosystems. I hope to achieve restoring our ecosystems to protect native bees and other pollinators working with my community and together make it real because green pollination is our goal.”

David Santiago Rocha Cárdenas / Colombia / Peatlands

David Santiago Rocha Cárdenas, Peatlands Restoration Steward 2023. GLF

David Santiago Rocha Cárdenas is a Colombian ecologist currently working on decarbonization strategies based on natural climate solutions. He has been part of the Laboratory of Ecosystems and Climate Change (LECC) at the Pontifical Xavierian University for six years. His experience includes coordinating projects related to the study of the carbon cycle in the Colombian paramo, the generation of ecosystem restoration policies, and other tasks such as greenhouse gas flux measurements in wetlands. He started coordinating his first restoration project with the community of Páramo El Almorzadero, located north of the eastern cordillera of the Andes. This project aims to restore 3 hectares of high mountain peatlands located in Páramo el Almorzadero in the municipality of El Cerrito Santander in the northeastern branch of the Andes Cordillera of Colombia, which have been drained for sheep farming. The project will isolate peat bogs to prevent goats from entering the water bodies, recover the vegetation cover and restore water flow.

“Having been selected as a Restoration Steward makes me feel a great responsibility. First, to make it known that my ecosystem is a peat bog because in Colombia most people still do not know what these ecosystems are and that their water resources depend on them. Second, to highlight the importance of conserving these ecosystems and their restoration. During my tenure as a Restoration Steward, I hope to achieve the restoration of three hectares of high mountain peat bog, and, in addition, to sensitize the community about [the peat bogs’] importance and the urgent need to conserve them, to be an ambassador for the restoration and conservation not only of the peat bogs but of all Colombian ecosystems, which are a key aspect to ensuring a good future for all.”

Find out more and stay up to date with the 2023 Restoration Stewards here.

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landscape restorationRestoration StewardsYouth in Landscapes

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