Nature-based solutions (NbS) for restoration in Latin America: experiences from the EUROCLIMA+ programme

Four initiatives that protect ecosystems, benefit communities and tackle climate change in the region were presented during COP15.

17 May 2022. In the context of the Fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which seeks to provide a response to the interconnected challenges of land degradation, climate change and biodiversity loss, the EUROCLIMA+ programme developed the virtual meeting:  “Nature-based solutions for restoration in Latin America: experiences from the EUROCLIMA+ programme”. 

Andrew Scyner, EUROCLIMA+ programme manager, explained that EUROCLIMA+ aims to reduce the impact of climate change and its effect on the Latin American and Caribbean region. In turn, it promotes mitigation, adaptation, resilience, and investment, and implements actions for the updating of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in its 18 partner countries. 

“EUROCLIMA+ currently supports actions at the national level based on what we call Country Dialogues with partner countries and thus seeks to implement a common approach," Scyner said.

He also indicated that the region has areas with extreme conditions, from arid tropical centres near the equator, such as the Central American Dry Corridor, to cold arid and semi-arid zones such as the Andean paramos and the Gran Chaco region.

Pilar Román, EUROCLIMA+ programme coordinator for GIZ explained that the sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6/ALC) published in 2019 by the Global Environment Programme (UNEP) highlights that desertification, land and habitat degradation, and the disappearance of numerous animal and plant species have become recurrent phenomena. On the other hand, increased competition for resources (e.g. land) and the growing number of actors involved (with disparate visions, interests and decision-making power) in management and planning has led to a complex land governance structure, where conflicts between actors over finite resources occur and are likely to increase.

Therefore, during the meeting, EUROCLIMA+ projects were presented which, with a focus on Nature-Based Solutions (NbS), help to tackle desertification. 

Summary of Presentations

Nature-based solutions: a response to desertification 

Mauricio Luna, senior advisor at GIZ explained that EUROCLIMA+ developed the Analysis of the NbS approach in the NDCs of Latin America and the Caribbean and synergies with the fight against desertification. He indicated that BNS are measures to protect, manage, and sustainably restore natural or modified ecosystems to mitigate, adapt or reduce risks associated with climate change, while simultaneously ensuring the well-being of biodiversity and humanity.

"We have done an analysis of each of the NDCs that have been updated, some of which explicitly incorporate the NbS approach, and others implicitly. A first approach is the direct link of the NDCs with different international frameworks such as the SDGs, or with the Convention to Combat Desertification itself, as in the case of Argentina and Costa Rica," he said.

Many of the NDCs with an NbS approach generate enabling conditions for climate action and contribute to both adaptation and mitigation. Luna provided some concrete examples and commented that Argentina has established processes and tool designs for mainstreaming Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) in different public policy frameworks; in adaptation issues, Columbia proposes the protection and conservation of 24 watersheds supplying aqueducts in municipalities, which are key to water supply; while Chile proposes the recovery of 200,000 hectares of native forests.

In linking NDCs to different areas for development, multisectorality stands out. For example, in Honduras, the conservation and functional restoration of the rural landscape is proposed, reaching 1.3 million hectares; Nicaragua will increase the effectiveness of the protection of biosphere reserves through a land management programme and will promote reforestation for an investment of approximately 400 million dollars; Paraguay, through transversal processes, proposes to increase the climate resilience of those ecosystems in which socio-economic and cultural practices are carried out. 

On the issue of enabling conditions for NbS, the Dominican Republic proposes incorporating Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) into sectoral plans for adaptation to climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development policies; in Cuba, the proposal is to strengthen monitoring, surveillance and early warning systems to systematically assess the state and quality of the coastal zone, water, drought and forests, among other aspects. 

Regarding other commitments that contribute to the fight against desertification, Mexico proposes to achieve a zero deforestation rate by 2030; Argentina committed to mapping the areas most vulnerable to desertification due to climate factors in future scenarios. Colombia, for its part, will delimit and protect 100% of its paramos through management plans. 

Finally, Luna explained that the implementation of robust NbS must ensure positive results in biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, as well as the active participation of historically marginalised people and groups such as indigenous people, Afro-descendants and women.

Four initiatives that protect ecosystems in Latin America and the Caribbean

Producing and conserving in the American Chaco 

In the Greater American Chaco, the world's largest dry forest region with around 100,000,000 hectares spread across Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, the project Living and Producing in the Chaco Forest was implemented, which developed dynamic and multidimensional systems that interact with ecological and social aspects. The initiative was approached on three scales of sustainability and with multidisciplinary teams, such as: 

  • Farm plot -- Rural family production unit: Work was carried out on issues such as access to water, diversification of products, among others.
  • Landscape -- Geographical space that shares biophysical characteristics: Work was carried out on tools for territorial management, strengthening local tools for territorial management, such as the Santa Victoria management table in Argentina. 
  • Regional -- which considers the Greater Chaco as a unit: For example, landscape zoning tools were created for the region with a multidimensional approach. 

Carlos Carranza, an expert at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology of Argentina (INTA), indicated that in addition to the 3 components, work was also carried out on the Governance component, which was cross-cutting. 

"The multidimensional and multiscale socio-ecosystem approach makes it possible to visualise climate change, ecosystem degradation, desertification, and increasing inequality and poverty as closely interrelated effects emerging from global change. The NbS can be the basis for mitigating the impacts of climate change and sustainable development in the Greater Chaco. For this to become a reality, the NbS must be built from the grassroots of the territories and scaled up to public policy," said Carlos Carranza.

The specialist also explained that one of the solutions underpinning the project was integrated livestock and forest management, which was put on the public agenda and escalated to public policy in Argentina; and with this, a set of practices were devised to address the dichotomy between production and conservation. 

Good flood and drought management in Central America 

Central America is one of the regions in the world that is highly vulnerable to climate change, and therefore its population is constantly at risk from disasters, which affect the quality of life, food security and in turn generate enormous losses and damages. In this context, the project Fomento de la Resiliencia was born, which seeks to respond to the impact of climate phenomena, especially floods and droughts. 

The dry corridor of Central America and the arid zones of the Dominican Republic represent a strip of land where at least 10 million people live in settlements and in highly vulnerable conditions with severe droughts and impacts on their livelihoods and food security. 

"In this context, the initiative constitutes an effort for drought and flood risk management," said Raúl Artiga, technical advisor to the executive secretariat of the Central American Commission for Environment and Development.

The specialist explained that the project was developed in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, and Costa Rica, and involved 18 entities that are oriented towards work and information related to droughts and floods; and therefore, the link with land degradation and desertification made it possible to deepen an articulated effort with the Convention to Combat Desertification. 

"Each country selected its experience that it wanted to make visible, and the knowledge of best practices in drought management was captured. In addition, more than 360 people were trained in drought management skills. A step was taken to underpin public policy efforts and efforts for guidelines to address this problem," said Artiga.

The project also developed a virtual platform called the Central American Severe Atmospheric Weather Virtual Centre , which allows real-time monitoring of observations of climatological phenomena and the articulation of all the hydro-meteorological services of the countries participating in the initiative, and in turn generates the necessary information for decision-makers. 

"Governance instruments for risk management and increased resilience to floods and droughts were created and improved. Support was provided for the formulation of public policies associated with land degradation and desertification issues, as in the case of Guatemala; to strengthen national policies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change in Nicaragua; or the development of the National Drought Risk Plan in the case of Honduras. In Panama, public policy instruments were generated in order to guarantee greater inter-institutional coordination in the face of these types of drought phenomena," explained Raúl Artiga. 

The project is currently progressing towards the constitution of a larger scope proposal submitted to the Green Climate Fund that will target the efficient use of water in the restoration of ecosystems present in the productive landscapes of 7 selected watersheds, as well as the effective implementation of national strategies for ecosystem and landscape restoration in each country. In this way, it will contribute to water security and promote NbS and EbA mechanisms for restoration activities. 

Protecting the paramos to achieve resilience in the Andes

Ecuador is one of the countries with high vulnerability to climate change, and one of the adaptation measures is the conservation of ecosystems, which provide carbon storage and other ecosystem services. For this reason, the Andean Resilience project will begin in 2019, providing a favourable context for the conservation of the paramo. The improvement of the living conditions of indigenous and rural farming communities is the main driver of action, and this approach makes it possible to generate consensual and shared conservation actions among various stakeholders and obtain social, economic and environmental co-benefits.

Marco Ferrari, project coordinator and representative of the Italian ACRA Foundation, explained that the project developed actions in the province of Tungurahua, which has 136,000 hectares of paramo, of which 91,000 are conserved under state protected area agreements, and 45,000 are privately held or are in the hands of indigenous communities, who use the ecosystem's water for agriculture. It is important to highlight that the paramo territory is inhabited by mainly indigenous communities with high levels of unsatisfied basic needs who are engaged in small-scale agricultural activities. 

"A mitigation and adaptation approach was included in the management of the paramo, and actions have been developed for the protection and reforestation of degraded areas that are to be used for conservation. At the same time, an agro-ecological approach has been implemented to strengthen productive activities in the buffer zone to control the advance of the agricultural frontier. There is a link with the market, added value, and associative commercialisation.  The project has had the added value of putting the lens of climate change", said Marco Ferrari. 

Promoting regional linkages for adaptation in the Andes

The Andes are home to exceptional ecosystems that provide key climate recovery services, as well as a source of water for 87 million people. However, their existence is threatened by the health emergency. In that context, BNS provides a cost-effective approach to strengthen ecosystem and community resilience. 

Ana Becerra, expert on adaptation measures of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) explained that the Andean Mountain Initiative  is a platform of the 7 Andean countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.  

A collaborative mechanism has been established for the Mountain initiative, and a climate change adaptation agenda was formulated prioritising NbS specifically in the Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) approach and work on water resources.  

"It is important to strengthen regional links because there is still no strong connection between the Tropical Andes and the Southern Andes to have a climate negotiation table. The mountain initiative will allow regional advocacy on public policies for adaptation, multi-stakeholder mobilisation, and resources for the implementation of the NbS," Ana Becerra said.

Finally, Murielle Gurtner, EUROCLIMA+ Programme Coordinator for Expertise France in the  Forests, Biodiversity and Ecosystems (FBE), sector, explained that it is evident from the studies that NbSs are mostly implemented in projects with a direct link to the biodiversity sector. 

"We see the need to disseminate NbS in all sectors because the importance of NbS is noticed in multi-sectoral or cross-cutting projects, but less so in single-sectoral projects such as transport, industry or tourism.  It is important to create enabling conditions, technological tools as well as other tools such as monitoring and evaluation, governance and ancestral knowledge, in co-construction with local communities. We need to move from an economy of growth to an economy of well-being, where inequalities are reduced, so NbS go directly to that goal," Gurtner concluded.


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EUROCLIMA+ is a programme funded by the European Union and co-financed by the German federal government through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), as well as by the governments of France and Spain. Its objective is to reduce the impact of climate change and its effects in 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean by promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation, resilience and investment. The Programme is implemented under the synergistic work of seven agencies: the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the French Development Agency (AFD), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Expertise France (EF), the International and Ibero-America Foundation for Administration and Public Policy (FIIAPP), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) GmbH and the UN Environment Programme.

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Euroclima is the European Union's flagship programme on environmental sustainability and climate change with Latin America. It aims to reduce the impact of climate change and its effects in Latin America by promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation through resilience and investment. 
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