A Living Lab for Nature, People and the Planet in the Romanian Carpathian mountains

Living Labs

A Living Lab in the Romanian Carpathian mountains

This 5-year project will protect and connect old growth forest fragments in Romanian Carpathians, as well as restore ancient orchards and wildflower meadows while providing new economic opportunities to local communities.

Project launch: 2021
Location: Romanian Carpathians
Objectives: Restoring ancient orchards and wildflower meadows while providing new economic opportunities to local communities
Key activities: Protection and restoration of old-growth forests / Protection and restoration of wildflower meadows and traditional orchards / Communication and capacity building
Main species planted: European beech (Fagus sylvatica), silver fir (Abies alba), swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra), alder (Alnus sp.)
Partners: Carpathia, EFI, Villa Abbatis Cultural Association

Carpathia forest

Why?

The Carpathian Mountains form some of the largest contiguous forests on the European continent with the highest percentage of still virgin woodlands. They contain an extraordinary high number of species, amongst them many native species; and they are home to the largest European populations of large carnivores.

Starting in 2005, formerly nationalised forests have been given back to private people in Romania. This process triggered massive clear-cuts and many thousands of hectares of forests were illegally logged, posing a severe threat to the integrity of the Carpathian ecosystem. Pressure from large agri-business companies to buy land and industrialize agriculture is putting at risk traditional farming practices as well as the mosaic-like landscapes, including meadows, orchards and forests that are one of Europe’s most unique cultural and natural heritage.

What?

  • Action on the ground
    This 5-year project in the Romanian Carpathians will restore around 2,500 hectares of old growth forests and around 50 hectares of ancient orchards and wildflower meadows to protect the biodiversity typical of Southern Transylvania and explore new business opportunities for local communities.
  • Protecting and restoring old-growth forests
    The project will protect and connect old growth forest fragments with a focus on the Upper Dambovita Valley. To accelerate the development of climate-resilient natural forest habitats, and enhance the function of buffer zones, the project aims to transform spruce monocultures into natural mixed forests, introducing missing species.
  • Protecting and restoring wildflower meadows and traditional orchards
    The Living Lab aims to restore around 50 hectares of wildflower meadows and ancient orchards and establish a nursery to preserve historical varieties of apple and pear trees in the village of Apos in Sibiu County, Central Transylvania. This will result in a “genetic reservoir” of these varieties to reintroduce them back into other parts of Romania.
    The project will also help to preserve the historic man-made landscape around the Medieval Saxon and Romanian villages and will become an important part of preserving the rich local biodiversity and cultural landscapes. The restoration work includes 25 hectares strategically located between forests and meadows, acting as a perfect habitat for local species, a larder for bears, and a buffer zone between forest and meadows.
  • Building capacity and communication
    The project will engage with local communities on the importance of restoring biodiversity and transitioning to sustainable forestry and regenerative agriculture practices, as well as on the potential for eco-cultural tourism for the local economy. This will include a series of events and publications, as well as capacity building and training.
Romania child and apples
Romania meadow

Expected impacts

The project directly contributes to the achievement of 4 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a roadmap to a better and more sustainable future.

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Uganda Living Lab featured on Terra Carta X-Change

This news item relates to the EFI-led initiative which ran from 2020 to September 2023

Terra Carta X-change graphic

The Uganda Biohub, one of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance’s Living Labs for Nature, People and Planet is featured on the Terra Carta X-Change, a new interactive digital hub that showcases impactful sustainability projects across the globe. The Biohub project aims to restore a forest landscape of 5,000ha in Uganda and protect it from deforestation, while also producing commercial timber products for the market.

The Terra Carta X-Change has been launched by the Sustainable Markets Initiative to help bring attention and investment to sustainable solutions to address the climate crisis. The hub also showcases the range of insurance products in place to support sustainable projects across all sectors and in all regions of the world. 

https://www.sustainable-markets.org/terra-carta-x-change/ 

The Eastern Himalayan Living Lab: Rural futures through natural capital

Living Labs

The Eastern Himalayan Living Lab: Rural futures through natural capital

This 3-year community-based project in the Eastern Himalayas aims to restore natural forests and degraded lands to create corridors for elephants, while fostering the resilience of local community livelihoods.

Project launch: 2021
Location: Assam, India
Objectives: Enhance the resilience of landscape and community through restoration and regenerative agroforestry
Key activities: Plant 1 million trees / 900 hectares forest restoration / 100 hectares agroforestry restoration
Main species planted: Ficus (Ficus sp.), Ramontchi (Flacourtia indica), Mulberry (Morus sp.), Ashoka (Saraca asoca), Moringa (Moringa sp.), Lemon (Citrus limon), Mango (Mangifera indica)
Partners: Local communities, Reforest’Action, Balipara Foundation, Pretaterra, Verstegen

India Living Lab

Why?

Assam is located in the eastern tip of India, between Bhutan, China and Bangladesh. Since 2000, this region of the eastern Himalayas has lost more than 9.5% of its vegetation cover, due to the increasing conversion of natural primary forests to agricultural plots, and the invasion of exotic species that thrive at the expense of native vegetation. The result is a decline in the health of natural ecosystems, including soil degradation, increasing land desertification and the depletion of water tables.

Faced with a degraded environment, local populations are confronted with decreasing agricultural yields, which goes hand in hand with the collapse of their food security – in the state of Assam, only 8% of young people between the ages of 6 and 23 benefit from a healthy and balanced diet.

What?

  • Action on the ground
    This Living Lab is a 3-year community-based project, which aims to restore natural forests and degraded lands to create corridors for elephants, while fostering the resilience of local community livelihoods. Through forest restoration linked incomes, those local communities will be better able to access universal basic assets such as healthcare and education.
    The project will use agroforestry to create diverse and stable income streams for rural and forest-fringe communities, while enhancing their food security and improving watershed recharge through restored biodiversity and ecosystem health.
  • Restoring the landscape
    The project generates income through community forest restoration. Multiple species of endemic trees will be planted in deforested areas to regenerate the soil and restore the forest cover that populated them only a few decades ago. Prime focus will be given to the restoration of key habitat corridors, to facilitate the migration of Asian elephants and other wildlife, mitigating human-elephant conflict.
  • Developing agroforestry
    Local farmers will be trained in agroforestry, to enable trees to be included as an integral component of agriculture. This improves soil quality, reduces soil erosion and increases crop yields while making agriculture more sustainable and diversified. A variety of fruit species, including moringa, lemon and mango, will be planted on farmers’ plots to protect the underlying crops and provide local people with additional income from the sale of their fruits and seeds. Black myrobolan will also be planted to provide sustainably managed wood resources to the community.
  • Integrating and training local communities
    The Living Lab aims to integrate and closely involve local communities and farmers, training them in agroforestry techniques and the long-term maintenance of the planted trees. They will also be  equipped with the skills to restore forests and monitor biodiversity.
India Living Lab
Assam, India

Expected impacts

The project directly contributes to the achievement of 9 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a roadmap to a better and more sustainable future.

SDGs Nigeria

A Living Lab for Nature and People: Developing agroforestry with local producers in Nigeria

Living Labs

Developing agroforestry with local producers in Nigeria

This Living Lab is a two-year project which aims to put trees and their countless benefits back at the heart of farmers’ daily lives. The project aims to develop agroforestry in ten states in the north central region of Nigeria.

Project launch: 2021
Location: North central region of Nigeria
Objectives: Foster resilience of cashew farms and community livelihoods
Key activities: Tree planting / Agroforestry training / Environmental education programmes for local communities
Main species planted: Ficus (Ficus sp.), filao (Casuarina equisetifolia), cashew (Anacardium occidentale), papaya (Carica papaya), pomegranate (Punica granatum), Acacia (Acacia sp.)
Partners: Local communities, Reforest’Action, Pretaterra, Green Sahara Farms

Nigeria Green Sahara Keana

Why?

Nigeria lost 60 million hectares of primary tropical forest during the 20th century, and continues to lose more than 5% of its forest area each year due to deforestation. This Living Lab will showcase how to restore degraded land using agroforestry systems that integrate trees around and within farmers’ fields.

The planted trees provide multiple ecosystem services, including the enrichment of cultivated soils and the provision of a protective canopy to the underlying crops. The benefits are also economic, with fruit trees enabling diversification of production and the generation of additional income through the sale of fruit on local markets. Ultimately, the integration of trees into agricultural plots will not only develop and sustain these new agroforestry systems, but also increase the productivity of their main crops, which will be sold to local agribusinesses for export or domestic use.

What?

  • Action on the ground
    This Living Lab is a two-year project which aims to put trees and their countless benefits back at the heart of farmers’ daily lives. The project aims to develop agroforestry in ten states in the north central region of Nigeria. During the first year of the project, a total of 250,000 trees of 50 different species will be integrated into individual agricultural plots owned by 2,500 local farmers, a total area of 1,250 hectares.
  • Developing agroforestry
    The project will introduce and plant a multitude of tree species within and around cashew fields, providing a main crop of cashew nuts (which will be aggregated through Green Sahara Farms and sold to agro-industrial companies). This includes:

    Fruit tree species, such as papaya, pomegranate, to provide a secondary crop of fruit for the farmer’s personal consumption or for sale in local markets.
    Leguminous species, such as acacia, fix nitrogen and provide the nutrients necessary for soil fertilization, as well as fodder for livestock.
    Tall tree species, such as ficus and filao, provide a protective forest cover over the food crops.

    The interaction between the trees planted and the pre-existing agricultural crops will therefore improve agricultural production and gradually lead to an improvement in the living standards of the farmers.
  • Integrating and training local communities
    The project, in partnership with Green Sahara Farms, provides training and capacity building to local farmers in the application of agroforestry and in the management of their farming enterprises. They are also encouraged to adopt organic production and environmentally sustainable farming systems.
Nigeria Green Sahara Keana
Nigeria Field Green Sahara Gindiri Farm

Expected impacts

The project directly contributes to the achievement of 9 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a roadmap to a better and more sustainable future.

SDGs Nigeria

Achievements in 2021 & 2022

Until September 2022, a total of 1.5 million trees of different species have been planted and integrated within and around agricultural plots owned by 2,500 local farmers, covering a total area of 1,250 hectares. These include: Fruit tree species like papaya and pomegranate, to provide a secondary crop of fruit for the farmer’s personal consumption or for sale in local markets; leguminous species such as Acacia Senegal, to fix nitrogen and provide the nutrients necessary for soil fertilization, as well as fodder for livestock; tall tree species such as Ficus and filao, to provide a protective forest cover over the food crops.

We have provided training and capacity building to 2,567 farmers in the application of agroforestry and management of their farming enterprises. The farmers were also trained and encouraged to adopt organic production and environmentally sustainable farming systems. We also provided 50,000 tree seedlings to communities for planting. In addition, we conducted an awareness raising campaign on land degradation, restoration, and climate change with 24 schools, reaching an average of 1,800 persons per school.

We established a community tree nursery to produce quality planting materials of various trees species. This created an employment opportunity for women.

We have acquired 30,000 sqm of land on which we aim to set up a training facility and knowledge centre with the sole aim of training people of all ages on the benefits of environmental sustainability and the importance of transiting to a more sustainable circular bioeconomy. This centre will have model sites to display proofs of concepts.

Investing in nature at scale, 4 November 2021

This news item relates to the EFI-led initiative which ran from 2020 to September 2023

Hosted by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales’s Terra Carta Action Forum, Lombard Odier convened a Natural Capital Investment Alliance (NCIA) and Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA) event on 4 November 2021.

Bringing together leaders from across the investment, business, government, and scientific communities, this event connected the dots between investors, investable circular bioeconomy solutions, and natural capital opportunities in order to outline the path towards a prosperous, inclusive, net zero and nature-positive economy.

Speakers included:

  • Marc Palahí, CBA Chair and Director of the European Forest Institute
  • Hubert Keller, Senior Managing Partner at Lombard Odier Group
  • Nathalie Seddon, Professor of Biodiversity and Director of the Nature-Based Solutions Initiative at The University of Oxford
  • Professor Lee White CBE, Minister of Forests, Oceans, Environment and Climate Change for the Gabonese Republic
  • Tony O’Sullivan, Founding Partner of Pollination

Read the event highlights on the Lombard Odier website:

Zero-Hour Sessions at COP26: Investing in nature at scale

Circular Bioeconomy Alliance at COP26 World Leaders event

This news item relates to the EFI-led initiative which ran from 2020 to September 2023

Watch the address by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales on 2 November 2021 at the COP26 World Leaders Summit ‘Action on Forests and Land Use’

“I established the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance last year to connect the dots between investors and local communities in order to create regenerative and inclusive landscapes and sustainable value chains that work for Nature and people… We need to put our words and commitments into practice. This is why, while I speak, the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance is working with local communities in four continents to restore thousands of hectares in more than 10 countries to deliver practical solutions through initially what we are calling Living Laboratories. By doing so we will I hope inspire an entire generation of humanity who will be equipped to make the changes we so desperately need.”

Six new members join Circular Bioeconomy Alliance

This news item relates to the EFI-led initiative which ran from 2020 to September 2023

Six new members join Circular Bioeconomy Alliance

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance is pleased to announce that six new organisations have joined its work to place nature and people at the heart of a global circular bioeconomy.

The Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA) was established by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 2020. The Alliance aims to accelerate the transition to a circular bioeconomy that is climate neutral, inclusive and prospers in harmony with nature, by providing knowledge-informed support and a learning and networking platform. It connects the dots between investors, companies, local communities, governmental and non-governmental organizations to advance the circular bioeconomy – while also restoring biodiversity.

The new members include: CarpathiaChantecailleNatural Resources Institute FinlandRoot CapitalSpace for Giants and Woodbois.

The diversity of new members reflects the nature of the Alliance, which includes large and small intergovernmental organizations, companies, investors, research organizations and NGOs, who provide expertise and implement projects in areas related to the circular bioeconomy.

Current activities include forest landscape restoration and agroforestry projects in Africa, Europe, South America and Asia. The CBA is building a global network of Living Labs for Nature, People and Planet which catalyze action on the ground and demonstrate how harmony can be achieved by empowering nature and people.

More information

The Alliance is facilitated by a Secretariat hosted by the European Forest Institute. For more information please contact:

Marc Palahí, Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (firstname.lastname @ efi.int)