Word of CEO

Word of CEO

Making ‘Nature Based Solutions’ practical


We founded Commonland in 2013 to fight ecosystem degradation and answer the question of how to restore large landscapes that generate multiple returns. Or making ‘Nature-Based Solutions’ practical! And this required a joint solution to the ‘landscape puzzle’, that could only be done through cooperation in landscape partnerships.

In four large landscapes in South Africa, Spain, The Netherlands and Australia, we started to lay the puzzle and have been able to build a proof of concept. Holistic landscape visions and action plans were made, which led to the co-creation of partnerships and companies. This resulted in planting (native) trees, protecting and restoring watersheds and natural corridors, and more farmers moving to restorative practices while soil health is coming back.

Now, after six years of testing with our local founding partners Grounded, Living Lands, Wij.Land, Alvelal and Wide Open Agriculture, we have seen that the 4 Returns framework works. It is why Commonland is ready to share its lessons to scale up through a new 20-year strategy.

To achieve this 2040 strategy, we decided to use a three scale approach. The first scale is the proof of principle with our landscape partners in  the field, expanding our core-landscapes from four to eight. The second scale is to be an active partner in other 4 Returns landscape restoration projects up to fifty large areas. Third scale is installing a digital platform with others, on which global stakeholders and landscapes can interact, learn, and fund. From 2020 onwards, we will also put more efforts on policy and communication, to tell our story and inspire others. And

we can’t do this alone. That is why we are excited to strengthen our relationship with new partners, such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Ikea Foundation, World Resources Institute, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Peace Parks Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the Red Cross, and governments, while expanding our Advisory Council.

Another exciting initiative is the 1000 Landscape for a Billion People that we are developing together with several partners. With our core-teams on Landscape Development & Support and Knowledge

Education, Innovation, supported by enablers on fundraising, marketing and communications, policy and back office, we are ready to scale.

The team is expanding rapidly with experts on finance, marketing and communications, landscape management and policy.

We don’t know what a post-COVID-19 future will bring us on the short term, as many expect a severe economic crisis. What we do know is that a new normal needs systemic answers that are practical and doable.

Those answers are that healthy people need healthy food from healthy landscapes. Commonland was founded to give direction to solve the landscape puzzle by delivering 4 Returns. We are convinced that this pandemic will help to open everyone’s eyes about working on the health of our planet, and we are now ready to deliver the tools to make this happen with our partners.


– Willem Ferwerda, CEO Commonland