SP7: A living lab for social-ecological restoration in western Rwanda

Stefan Sieber

Vicky Temperton

Supported by the IUCN Bonn Challenge programme, ecosystems restoration in Rwanda simultaneously addresses biodiversity restoration, climate change mitigation, and local livelihoods. Rwanda’s overall restoration efforts have been strongly skewed towards reclaiming land and avoiding erosion by planting Eucalyptus monocultures. New initiatives include tree and shrub nurseries with a range of different native tree species that include harnessing the advantages of positive biodiversity effects for ecosystem functions and services. Against this background, this sub-project (SP) will establish a “living lab” which aims at carrying out scientific experiments together with stakeholders to integrate science and practice. Using a transdisciplinary approach, we will identify the potential social, economic and ecological benefits of restoration and invite stakeholders to jointly co-design, co-produce and co-evaluate solutions.

SP7 has strong interlinkages with other SPs, namely a strong analytical and operational overlap with SP4 and a continuous mirroring of the results with SP1 on biodiversity impacts, SP2 on contextualized landscape analysis as well as SP5 on food security impacts. The living lab will set up scientific experiments in two different cells that represent two different governance models. Overlapping activities in these cells are (1) building a stakeholder platform in the form of one permanent round table that brings together key actors for the living lab as central coordination unit of the co-design approach; (2) collaboratively co-designing field trials (restoration interventions) and designating demonstration sites to co-create knowledge on inclusive restoration models (biodiversity, resilience, livelihoods); (3) implementing field trials in the form of demonstration plots that examine the potential for using the restorative continuum to create inclusive multi-functional outcomes for communities (positive biodiversity effects both in terms of response and effect diversity, resilience, and livelihoods); and (4) conducting an integrated impact assessment on biodiversity, resilience, and livelihoods to identify the impacts of different governance systems on the success of implemented restoration sites. Two governance models will be compared between the two different sites throughout the lifetime of the project. The outcomes of this sub-project will be of direct relevance to sustainability transitions on the ground for a higher reproducibility as generalizable model for up-scaling of restoration practices as well as to boosting the academic understanding of which factors best leverage sustainability transitions.