Restoration activities with Steve Misati, Oceans Restoration Steward 2024.

2024’s Restoration Stewards: 7 young people changing the world

Meet the seven young environmentalists joining GLF this year.

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) and Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) have launched the fourth edition of the Restoration Stewards program, which supports the work of young restoration practitioners around the world.

Throughout 2024, this group of seven environmental advocates will share the successes and challenges of their unique landscape restoration journeys through the Restoration Stewards’ blog. To kick things off, we caught up with the seven Restoration Stewards to understand their visions for the next 12 months.

Trisa Bhattacharjee (Mountains, India)

Trisa Bhattacharjee is an ecology graduate working toward habitat restoration and conservation monitoring and evaluation in India. She is based along the mid-elevations of western Himalaya, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh. She works at the Zoo Outreach Organisation in Coimbatore as a researcher for the Himalayan Restoration Project, which aims to restore the landscape of Chamba in collaboration with local communities and women’s self-help groups.

“On our journey to an ecologically sustainable future, my team and I have dedicated two years to restoring the degraded western Himalayas. Being a Restoration Steward marks a significant triumph, helping us catalyze our goals in native restoration by partnering with communities, women and youth.

“Over the course of the upcoming year, our vision extends beyond ecological rewilding; we aim to achieve coexistence between Indigenous communities and wildlife and mitigate the climate crisis. We look forward to nurturing the landscape, empowering communities and contributing meaningfully to a sustainable and thriving ecosystem in the heart of the western Himalayas.”

Jann Vinze Barcinal (Forests, Philippines)

Jann Vinze, or Javie Barcinal, is a conservationist and storyteller with a focus on community-led action in Antique, his home province in the Philippines. He is the founder and chairperson of Dulungan Youth, a youth-led grassroots organization for the conservation of the critically endangered rufous-headed hornbill, known locally as the “Dulungan.”

Javie’s work emphasizes the intersectionality of economic development, intersectoral collaboration and environmental conservation, striving to create a regenerative and equitable future for all, grounded in grassroots development. 

“Being a 2024 Restoration Steward is both an honor and an exciting opportunity for me and our advocacy. We hope this will expand avenues for our initiatives and for local communities to take ownership and agency, inspiring others and showcasing the importance of inclusive and holistic landscape restoration and ecosystem protection.

“Our goals include engaging more frontline communities, organizing capacity-building programs for empowerment, balancing conservation with economic livelihoods through a community nursery for agroforestry and raising awareness among stakeholders through the Conservation Hub and Eco-Learning Space.

“With these steps, we aim to build momentum for continuous community-led restoration in a portion of the Central Panay Mountains Key Biodiversity Area in our hometown, complementing the conservation of umbrella species like the rufous-headed hornbill.”

Kamanzi Claudine (Drylands, Rwanda)

Kamanzi Claudine is the founder of the Forest for Life Project, which is dedicated to restoring degraded lands in the Kayovu Model village within the Bugesera district of Rwanda. Leveraging her expertise in conservation agriculture and experience in previous projects such as Green Amayaga, Claudine works with three youth-peers on a holistic approach to restoration.

They address challenges such as soil erosion, biodiversity loss and decreased soil fertility through various activities including capacity-building, reforestation and agroforestry system initiatives with a focus on native trees like Markhamia lutea, Ficus thonningii, Faidherbia albida and Acacia abyssinica.

Claudine’s project puts emphasis on community involvement, recognizing the interconnectedness of ecological, social and economic components. The goal is to create a resilient and productive landscape, fostering positive environmental and social impacts.

“I’m thrilled and grateful to have been selected as a Dryland Restoration Steward for 2024. This is a significant opportunity to contribute to my community using the skills I’ve gained in conservation agriculture and other opportunities.

“During my tenure as a Restoration Steward, I hope to achieve meaningful progress in community development by working with people in my community to restore degraded land by planting indigenous trees mixed with other crops. Specifically, I aim to apply my knowledge in conservation agriculture to contribute to dryland restoration efforts. By working with fellow youth, I aspire to build a sustainable and impactful initiative over the next three years.

“My goal is to create positive change in the community, fostering environmental stewardship and promoting the well-being of both the land and its people. I’m excited about the possibilities and the chance to make a lasting difference in the realm of dryland restoration.”

Maria Geane Magalhães Bastos (Drylands, Brazil)

Maria Geane Magalhães Bastos is the daughter of agroecological farmers from one of the largest “quilombola” communities of Brazil, the Quilombo Lagoas, located in the Queimada da Onça community, in the municipality of São Lourenço do Piauí in Brazil. An agricultural and beekeeping technician, she holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is currently pursuing an additional degree in English studies.

In 2019, she began working with her brother to integrate agroecology and restoration practices in degraded areas of their property, aiming to inspire their community, raise awareness about sustainable farming and train more people from Quilombo communities in the management and restoration of lands with agroforestry systems.

“We are very happy to be part of the 2024 Restoration Stewards Program. This is a unique opportunity for us to give visibility to our work in agroforestry, and we are very excited to contribute to local communities by building agroforestry systems in the Quilombola Serra da Capivara territory in the state of Piauí.

“We hope to contribute to the movement for agroforestry regeneration in the semiarid lands of Piauí, creating a balanced coexistence between humans and nature by preserving the caatinga, ensuring food security and generating income.”

Anna Obi Akpe (Wetlands, Nigeria)

Anna Obi Akpe is a 23-year-old biodiversity conservationist from Nigeria and graduate of the Plant and Ecological Studies Department of the University of Calabar. Anna is a passionate and dedicated volunteer at Biodiversity Rescue Club (BRC) Nigeria and is part of the current cohort at We The People’s Rights (WTP) Academy, a learning institution dedicated to mentoring young ecological and human rights activists.

She believes that our earth can be a better and more sustainable place if everyone living in it works for its sustainability, and is committed to the restoration of our fast-depleting biodiversity.

“I am honored to be chosen as a Wetland Restoration Steward. This opportunity to contribute to environmental conservation aligns with my passion for sustainability. As I embark on this role, my primary goal is to foster resilient ecosystems by actively engaging in mangrove restoration projects. I aim to collaborate with local communities, raise awareness about the importance of mangroves and implement effective conservation strategies.

“Being a steward allows me to make a tangible impact on coastal ecosystems, mitigating the effects of climate change and supporting biodiversity. I look forward to learning from this experience, sharing knowledge and inspiring others to join the collective effort to safeguard our natural habitats.”

Dayana Blanco (Wetlands, Bolivia)

Dayana Blanco is an Indigenous Aymara woman from Bolivia and co-founder of the Uru Uru Team, a project located in central-western Bolivia. The project is focused on restoring Uru Uru Lake, which is being affected by mining activities, plastic pollution and climate change.

Uru Uru Lake has been declared a Ramsar site and is an important wetland for unique flora and fauna, such as various species of flamingos. The lake is also a source of life for more than seven indigenous communities surrounding it.

“I remember the first time I read about Restoration Stewards – it was incredible to know that a platform is boosting and supporting young people’s work in restoration. I browsed the GLF website to find past participants and I felt so inspired and happy to see how many people are working on restoration worldwide to sow the seeds of hope for living in harmony with nature.

“This motivated me to apply because it offers a great opportunity to share and show how my Indigenous community is working to restore Uru Uru Lake, which is affected by mining activities, plastic pollution and climate change. We are restoring this lake by implementing nature-based solutions by designing floating rafts with recycled materials where we place totoras (powerful native aquatic plants).

“Being selected as one of the Restoration Stewards will allow me to share the work of my Indigenous community locally and internationally, documenting the work we are doing in Uru Uru Lake through different platforms. In my tenure, my community and I want to broaden our work by implementing more floating rafts, organizing more community dialogues and nonviolent campaigns to stop mining, and growing our community garden. We are happy to be accompanied by our fellow Restoration Stewards on this journey to restore our Uru Uru Lake.”

Steve Misati (Oceans, Kenya)

Steve Misati is a Kenyan marine conservationist and environmental defender. He is the founder and director of Youth Pawa, a nature restoration and ocean conservation organization based in Mombasa, Kenya. The organization’s mission is to promote public support for and raise community awareness of nature restoration and conservation issues, ocean and environmental protection, climate justice advocacy, sustainable development and youth empowerment.

One of the organization’s flagship projects is the Mangrove Eco-Restoration Project, which aims to restore over 50 hectares of degraded mangrove forests in Kenya by 2030. Misati’s work is driven by a deep love for the ocean and a belief that everyone has a role to play in protecting it. He is committed to working with youth and local communities to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. 

Misati has adopted the community-based ecological mangrove restoration (CBEMR) approach, which seeks to empower local communities to restore and steward their mangroves while deriving sustainable mangrove-based livelihoods.

“I am beyond blessed and humbled to be named a Restoration Steward. It is super inspiring, motivating and energizing just wearing this shoe of a steward.

“As the 2024 Ocean Restoration Steward, I aim to amplify the voices of youth and coastal communities in shaping a future where vibrant marine ecosystems thrive. On a local level, I’ll leverage this platform to expand the Mangrove Eco-Restoration Project, empowering countless youth to restore our coastlines and secure thriving marine ecosystems.

“Globally, I envision my story inspiring young champions worldwide to spearhead similar initiatives, forming a vibrant wave of youth-led ocean restoration that ripples across the planet. By connecting, collaborating and raising awareness, I dream of a future where vibrant marine ecosystems and the ocean pulsate with life, protected by a global network of empowered young ocean guardians.

“Together, we can make this not just a possibility, but a reality.”

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