Restoring Landscapes in South Africa (ReLISA): Nature-based solutions for climate, biodiversity and people

A proposal for the South Africa country call of the German International Climate Initiative (IKI)

The UNEP-led ReLISA consortium was formed in response to a 2020 IKI Country Call for South Africa on Land Use and Climate Change Mitigation – Taking Action. The overall aim of the ReLISA project is to make the economic case for landscape-level restoration and create the conditions for a just transition of South Africa’s land-use sector, to adapt to climate change and address biodiversity loss while improving livelihoods of rural communities and farmers. This will be achieved through biophysical/economic assessments as inputs to planning restoration activities, leveraging private sector investment through pre-feasibility studies and project development, on-the-ground implementation at landscape level for thicket, grassland and savanna biomes, and dissemination and communication.

For this proposal, seven renowned institutions, each with a strong track record, formed a like-minded and complementary consortium aimed at applying innovative nature-based solutions for landscape restoration. For scaling during and beyond the project lifetime, the partners will: (i) develop and apply biophysical and economic valuation modelling ex ante to determine where there is the highest returns on investment (ROI) and opportunities to reduce income inequalities; (ii) consult with stakeholders (including the business and finance community) on final site selection to gain buy-in and create ‘readiness’ for restoration interventions; (iii) develop bankable business opportunities for the private sector; (iv) implement on-the-ground via restoration activities; and (v) and provide capacity building and knowledge products, so as to ensure project sustainability. These measures will drive a transformational change of South Africa’s land use sector.

The sustainability of the project is ensured through its strong focus on developing a diverse array of viable restoration business models appropriate for the different tenure and land ownership circumstances in degraded landscapes of the three biomes and making restoration at scale investible for private sector impact investors. The models can be replicated and upscaled during and after the project lifetime, and this will be supported through targeted dissemination, as well as implementation that demonstrates the business case for restoration. Strengthening the capacities of key stakeholders and restoration champions (e.g., farmers implementing restoration on their land), complementing private finance through other funding options (e.g., a Green Climate Fund concept note) and establishing structures for innovative mechanisms such as water funds are further means to ensure the sustainability of ReLISA outputs and outcomes.

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