Nature’s Solutions to Global Challenges

Nature-based solutions can help feed us, sustain our livelihoods, provide energy and safeguard our future.


Humanity has always relied on healthy ecosystems for food, water, fuel and protection. Today, we face a planetary emergency as the loss of biodiversity, ecosystem degradation and climate change escalate. 

By restoring degraded ecosystems and sustainably managing landscapes, nature-based solutions can help feed us, protect us, sustain our livelihoods, provide energy and safeguard our future. As a pioneer in the area of nature-based solutions, IUCN highlights success stories showcasing their multiple benefits on the International Day for Biological Diversity.


Planting trees to restore degraded land

Judith Mukamunana is a farmer whose life improved when she began integrating trees among the crops on her farmland – conserving the stability and fertility of her soil. Now, in addition to growing food, she sustainably grows enough extra firewood to earn additional income to renovate the house and send her children to school.

And she is not alone. The Rwanda Government, along with IUCN, supports thousands of farmers like Judith across the country with seedlings and technical knowhow, helping to restore more than 700,000 hectares of degraded land since 2011 – sequestering an estimated 100 million tonnes of CO2 and supporting 22,325 jobs along the way.


Photo: © Craig Beatty

Man holding shrimp.

Intact mangrove forests in Vietnam's Cà Mau region protect local communities from natural hazards and yield organic shrimp. Photo © IUCN Vietnam

Intact mangrove forests in Vietnam's Cà Mau region protect local communities from natural hazards and yield organic shrimp. Photo © IUCN Vietnam

Protecting mangroves, strengthening livelihoods

For decades, Viet Nam has been losing mangroves, primarily due to the expansion of shrimp farming, a major contributor to its economy.

More than 5,000 farmers committed to conserving at least 50% mangrove cover on their land.

To slow down the loss of mangroves and help shrimp farmers improve their situation, IUCN and Dutch NGO SNV turned to nature as a solution, launching the Mangroves and Markets project in Cà Mau. Through the project, more than 5,000 farmers were trained in sustainable production methods and committed to conserving at least 50% mangrove cover on their land. Many obtained organic certification under the Naturland or EU Organic label and have seen both their yields and their income grow by 10% or more.

Thanks to this work, about 15,000 hectares of mangrove forest are being sustainably managed, providing habitat to dozens of species and protecting local communities from flooding and other natural hazards.


Processing shrimp. Photo © IUCN Vietnam

Processing shrimp. Photo © IUCN Vietnam

Hit hard by climate change, farmers in Mozambique adopt conservation agriculture practices to increase their food security. © IUCN Mozambique

Hit hard by climate change, farmers in Mozambique adopt conservation agriculture practices to increase their food security. © IUCN Mozambique

Adopting conservation agricultural practices in Mozambique. Photo: © IUCN Mozambique

Adopting conservation agricultural practices in Mozambique. Photo: © IUCN Mozambique

Conservation agriculture leads to food security

Mozambique is among the world’s most exposed countries to risks from climate change-related hazards such as cyclic floods, cyclones and droughts – and its coastal regions are particularly vulnerable.

To help the local Inhassoro community cope and be more resilient to the inevitable impacts of climate change, IUCN, the Swedish Embassy in Maputo and the Mozambique Government have teamed up to train women in sustainable agriculture practices such as implementing natural pest control, using mulch to prevent water from evaporating, and promoting soil biodiversity to increase yields. This has bolstered local food security during periods of inadequate rainfall and improved the health of the landscape.


Reviving forest landscapes for more productive farms

To reach remote farming communities in the Machinga and Mangochi districts of Malawi, IUCN supported a local radio programme on forest landscape restoration and its potential to transform farms into highly productive and healthy landscapes.

Two thirds of the listeners were women, who directly gained knowledge and tools to sustainably manage their land. In coordination with local agricultural agencies, a group of local experts were trained to facilitate discussions among community members on the best interventions for productive and biologically healthier landscapes – ranging from irrigation systems and building seed nurseries to rainwater harvesting and use of efficient cookstoves.

IUCN supported a local radio programme on forest landscape restoration and its potential to transform farms into highly productive and healthy landscapes.

According to a sample survey, two thirds of listeners had planted trees on their land, and half of them had greatly reduced their families’ wood fuel consumption.


Photo: © IUCN

Women listening to a radio.

Women listen to a radio program sharing knowledge about sustainable farming in Malawi. © IUCN

Women listen to a radio program sharing knowledge about sustainable farming in Malawi. © IUCN

Safer roads thanks to the humble broom grass

In Nepal, haphazardly built rural roads have destabilised numerous mountain slopes, causing severe erosion. As rainfall has intensified due to climate change, landslides have become more frequent, leading to the loss of lives and the destruction of property and agricultural land. And even if roads survive the monsoon season intact, most require costly and labour-intense clearing efforts, slowing down the movement of people and goods.

But a simple nature-based solution has begun to make a difference: planting grasses and plants such as broom grass or bamboo on the slopes has helped stabilise them, securing roads and reducing the risk posed by landslides.

In the Tilahar village, this effort helped reduce average soil losses from 30m3 in 2014 to less than 2m3 in 2016, and the grass used in this feat of green engineering also helped generate income by creating an extra supply for local broom makers.


Photo: © Emily Goodwin

Two girls walk along a rural road in Nepal that was stabilised with broom grass. Photo: © Emily Goodwin

Two girls walk along a rural road in Nepal that was stabilised with broom grass. Photo: © Emily Goodwin

Reviving rangelands through traditional practices

For more than 1,400 years, communities in the Middle East and North Africa would manage common pastureland jointly and sustainably under the Hima system, an Arabic word meaning ‘protection’. In the 20th century, as many countries installed top-down agricultural policies, the Hima system gradually disappeared. Soon, overgrazing became common, water and grass vanished as desertification spread, and herders were forced to give up their traditional way of life. 

Under the Hima system, once-degraded drylands in Bani Hashem, Jordan, have come back to life.

Starting in 2012, IUCN, the European Union and the Jordanian government worked with the remaining herders of Bani Hashem to bring the ancient Hima system back. The community formed an association and decided that livestock would only be grazed in autumn, while in spring medicinal herbs could be harvested from the rangelands.

The results of the return to this traditional practice have been encouraging: after just two years, the rangeland showed clear signs of regeneration, wildlife has returned to the landscape, and herders have needed to buy less fodder externally, allowing them to save money.


Photos: © Royal Botanic Garden, Jordan

Working together for sustainable coffee

Photo: © Cerrado Waters Consortium

Photo: © Cerrado Waters Consortium

Brazil’s Cerrado region is one of the world’s leading coffee-growing areas – and one of Brazil’s most biodiverse regions. But this ecosystem is under duress from unsustainable agricultural practices. Loss of vegetation and erosion are affecting soils, and water supplies are dwindling, threatening wildlife habitats, local livelihoods and coffee supplies for the international market.

To protect this important agricultural landscape and ensure a sustainable future, 36 local coffee producers have teamed up with IUCN and leading international coffee companies. They’ve formed the Cerrado Consortium and agreed to take a series of steps towards sustainability, including planting more than 30,000 trees and restoring 166 hectares of degraded land, reducing the amount of chemicals used and planting native grass in between the coffee lines.

All 36 producers in the consortium have shifted to 100% organic production.

Young coffee tree. Photo: © Cerrado Waters Consortium

Young coffee tree. Photo: © Cerrado Waters Consortium


Nature-based solutions are interventions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural and modified ecosystems in ways that address societal challenges, such as climate change, food security land degradation and biodiversity loss. 

Learn more about nature-based solutions at IUCN.