MSc thesis presentation: Reconciling Landscape Restoration Strategies with Local Realities in the Ecuadorian Highlands

Published on
November 8, 2021

You are hereby cordially invited to the MSc thesis presentation by Michelle Homans on: ‘Reconciling Landscape Restoration Strategies with Local Realities in the Ecuadorian Highlands’.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Art Dewulf (PAP) Dr. Ir. Pieter van Oel (WRM) Daniel Wiegant, MSc. (PAP) Examinor: Prof. Dr. Ir. Katrien Termeer (PAP) Date: 8 November 2021 Time: 13-14.00 hours CET
MS Teams link: Click here to join the meeting

Title: Reconciling Landscape Restoration Strategies with Local Realities in the Ecuadorian Highlands: A study of the scale challenges and scale sensitive governance strategies. - The Case of FONAPA -


Ongoing landscape degradation in the Ecuadorian highlands has led to a decrease in water for human consumption. In an effort to restore degraded landscapes in Latin America, Initiative 20x20 as part of the Bonn Challenge is supporting country-led land restoration efforts in Latin America. Ecuador committed itself to restore 500.000 hectares of forests and páramos. Water funds were developed to manage watershed restoration in various regions of Ecuador. Water funds create an institutional space for stakeholders from different levels which are interested in investing in watershed restoration. Important for effectively translating the pledges of the Bonn Challenge into local action is understanding the (underlying) drivers of landscape degradation. This includes recognition of the full costs of degradation, understanding of alternative livelihoods, and compensation to upstream land stewards for restoration. This research has studied to what extent the water fund FONAPA is able to balance their own needs (watershed restoration) with the needs of local actors. This study has attempted to increase knowledge about the process of merging two or more perspectives in the governance process of developing and adjusting restoration programmes. The objectives of the study were to identify the restoration strategies of the water fund, the scale challenges that emerge in the process of reconciling these strategies with local realities, and the strategies the water fund and its partners deploy to deal with the scale challenges. Data is obtained from mid-August 2019 to mid-December 2019 through document analysis, 46 semi-structured interviews among 55 respondents, a focus group discussion, and participatory observations in the Ecuadorian highlands. Three scale challenges have been identified: i) mismatch between governance cycles and restoration timelines, ii) mismatch between the level for which the interventions were developed and the level on which interventions were most needed, and iii) blindspot towards livelihood dependence on land targeted for restoration. In an effort to overcome these scale challenges, FONAPA deploys strategies to link levels on the governance scale. The five identified scale sensitive action strategies of the water fund include: a) Identify and enhance FONAPA’s skills and abilities to stimulate the establishment and flow of public funds; b) improve monitoring activities; c) support capacity-building in municipalities; d) upscaling of restoration agreements; e) simulating FONAPA’s staff and implementing partners to better collaborate with upstream communities through multistakeholder platforms and knowledge sharing. The results of this thesis reveal that there is no one-size fits-all way to successfully reconcile landscape restoration strategies with local realities because different contexts dictate different solutions. There is need for a process approach, whereby it is recognized that interventions on a specific scale or level may have (un)intended effects on other scales and levels. This requires attention towards contextual aspects of the intervention area in the design, implementation and monitoring of restoration strategies.

Key words

Landscape restoration; water fund; rural livelihoods; scale challenges; scale sensitive governance.