An approach to holistic landscape restoration that benefits everyone involved
The success of any holistic landscape restoration initiative relies on a wide range of stakeholders being involved in the conception, planning and implementation of a shared landscape plan. That’s why it’s important to bring them together at the outset. Everyone – including farmers, people who live in the landscape, business owners, nature organisations and many others – has their own point of view and different ways of perceiving a landscape. When they come together to listen to each other’s experiences and perspectives, they begin to recognise they have a shared interest in living and working in healthy ecosystems. The 4 Returns framework guides stakeholders over time as they collaborate to restore their landscape.
What are the 4 Returns?
Many serious issues facing the world, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, food security and mass migration, can be traced back to degrading landscapes. Our 4 Returns framework tackles the four main losses associated with land degradation – loss of hope, social networks, biodiversity and economic value – and aims to regenerate the landscape to create 4 Returns instead:
Working with the landscape
In a landscape, we identify three zones. This helps us to imagine how different purposes can co-exist.
The natural zone provides resilience against climate change, disease, and other threats. The aim is to regenerate a landscape’s ecological foundation by restoring native vegetation, natural wildlife habitats, and water availability. This helps to boost and protect biodiversity over time.
In this zone, sustainable economic production and ecological regeneration are combined. Natural and economic activities can co-exist and strengthen each other. Regenerative agriculture, agroforestry, rotational grazing, and sustainable aquaculture or fisheries are examples of this. This zone busts the myth that we need to choose between nature and agriculture.
The economic zone delivers sustainable economic production with dedicated areas for value-adding activities, such as processing. Examples of economic zones are urban areas, industrial complexes, and monocultural plantations.
Making it happen: the 5 elements
Our approach breaks down the overarching ambition for a landscape into bite-sized steps. Implementing these five elements delivers maximum impact across the 4 Returns:
- Establish a landscape partnership
- Reach a shared understanding
- Create a shared vision and build a landscape plan
- Ensure effective implementation
- Develop impact monitoring and learning
The process is not linear: each element can be repeated, taken step-by-step, or overlapped with others.
4 Returns for healthy landscapes: at a glance
Want to learn more about the 4 Returns?
The 4 Returns framework provides the foundation for successful landscape restoration in the long term by enabling stakeholders to engage with each other, form partnerships and create a shared vision. You can learn more about the 4 Returns and how to apply it in your local context by visiting our 4 Returns Learning Network.
Publication: The 4 Returns Framework for Landscape Restoration
You can also learn more about how the 4 Returns Framework can help us to restore landscapes worldwide by reading our 4 Returns Publication in English, Spanish or Arabic