The Source, Annual Review 2020

We are pleased to present the Wetlands International Annual Review 2020. The Source is our digital magazine showcasing the achievements of Wetlands International and its partners in 2020, and aims to bring to life our annual review and accounts with stories, profiles and figures.

The Source 2020 Annual Review of Wetlands International

What are wetlands? Wetlands occur wherever water meets land – mangroves, peatlands, marshes, rivers, lakes, deltas, floodplains, flooded forests, rice-fields, and even coral reefs. Wetlands exist in every country across the world and every type of region – polar, tropical, wet, dry, high and low altitude. Healthy wetlands are key to restoring nature and healing our climate, yet the world has lost up to 65% of its original wetlands. Urgent action is needed to reverse this decline and revive these natural wonders.


Our Vision A world where wetlands are treasured and nurtured for their beauty, the life they support and the resources they provide.

Our Mission To inspire and mobilise society to safeguard and restore wetlands for people and nature.

A Bayei fisherman in a mokoro, silhouetted by the midday sun, casts a long shadow on the waters of the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Used in the book, Water Lands, Harper Collins 2020.



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020










WPS wins Luxembourg Prize

In short









Gastón Fulquet

Ken-Ichi Yokoi

Mr. I Nyoman Suryadiputra

Simon Akwetaireho





From our CEO Strategic Intent 2020-2030 Achievements

6 10 12 20 37 64 68 70 80 82 84 86

Wetlands for a safer world Building with Nature book From the supervisory council Offices map Functioning of the organisation Summary of finance Question to our supervisory council Question to our members Thank you


New partnerships in 2020

Teresa Zuna

Elizabeth Wamba



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020


Jane Madgwick, Chief Executive Officer, Wetlands International

In 2020, Wetlands International became an active partner in the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, pledging to work with others to recover diverse, functioning wetlands as a basis for a resilient and liveable Earth. We had planned to host regional stakeholder gatherings to build collaboration for safeguarding and restoring wetlands, while also celebrating our 25th anniversary as a global organisation. In addition, a packed agenda of convention meetings for biodiversity (CBD), wetlands (Ramsar) and climate (UNFCCC) meant that in January 2020 the stage was set for a hectic global schedule.

In 2020, Wetlands International proudly became a supporting partner to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

We have set high ambitions for this decade in our Strategic Intent, including 2030 global targets on wetland recovery which we are inviting others to adopt and integrate in their action plans. The scale of wetland recovery that we need is daunting, which means that sustaining and restoring wetlands needs to become everyone’s business. I am grateful to all our members, partners and donors for your continuing support. Please enjoy our stories in this review and use it to bring many others on board!

brought some benefits to individuals but also the challenge of keeping a sense of team and introducing new staff to the organisation. Learning from this experience will lead to some permanent changes in our way of working. Despite the constraints, 2020 included many highlights and milestones. The launch of the Global Mangrove Watch platform, that combines previously dispersed data and can guide policy and practical actions for mangroves, is something that was only a dream a decade ago. Setting up a new wetland carbon programme, rejuvenating our global peatlands programme, and agreeing to innovative partnerships with two leading companies, has built the foundation for a new portfolio of major landscape initiatives. 2020 was the final year of our €1 million grant from the Dutch Postcode Lottery which supported many of the outcomes featured in this review. We were delighted in early 2021 to be awarded an additional €1.5 million grant which will enable us to strengthen our effectiveness and leverage more impact from our programmes in the coming three years.

It turned out differently. The rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic changed everyone’s priorities dramatically. In March, we took measures to ensure the safety of staff and partners and helped each other adapt to new ways of communicating and working. We re-shaped our stakeholder engagement through an online campaign #PowerofWetlands and this generated an inspiring movement of youth champions for wetlands. As you can read in this annual review, our staff have been innovative and determined in helping people living in and around wetlands secure their well-being while still conserving nature’s values. Thanks to pre-existing strong collaborations with local communities, partners and government agencies, much of our planned programmes could continue, albeit in an adapted form. We used web meetings and workshops to finalise our Strategic Intent 2020-2030, with the support of our stakeholders and members, to fulfil our governance responsibilities and engage audiences relevant for our programmes. Working from home for much of the year

Thank you.

Jane Madgwick, CEO, Wetlands International



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020


Supporting indigenous communities in the world’s largest tropical wetland, the Pantanal In 2020, communities in the Pantanal suffered back-to- back crises with the Covid-19 pandemic and the highest number of fires in the last 22 years. The Pantanal forms the largest tropical wetland in the world and approximately 40,606 square kilometres or 30% of its wetlands were en- gulfed by flames. Together with partners and the Brazilian government, we coordinated support for indigenous com- munities by providing water and food parcels, and helping them become self-sufficient in growing food and setting up tree nurseries in readiness for restoration. The fires affect- ed not just the Pantanal, but the entire blue corridor that reaches down to the Paraná Delta in Argentina, all of which we are working to safeguard through our Corredor Azul Programme.

Urban wetlands for heat-proofing cities Urban wetlands are well known for their ecosystem servic- es of flood protection, biodiversity habitat and aesthetic values, but they also play a key role in regulating urban microclimates. In fact, urban wetlands can be a solution for cities struggling with the urban heat island (UHI) effect. Especially in a healthy state, they absorb heat and reduce temperatures in their surroundings. We investigated this UHI reduction service in Mexico City and published a com- pendium guide with the Climate Centre.

Youth power in Rift Valley, Ethiopia Ethiopia’s Central Rift Valley lakes are under threat by negative impacts from human activities in the last two decades. To reverse the worsening situation, various stake- holders including Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), local communities, and Wetlands International are working closely on a number of initiatives. One of these is the formation of four community-based youth associations whose livelihoods are directly linked to the lakes. They have been trained on restoration and alternative liveli- hoods, wetlands management and negotiation skills. So far, restoration has been conducted in over 700 hectares by 862 youth members.

AEWA celebrates 25 years

In June 2020, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of AEWA, the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. Wetlands International is proud to be a long-standing partner and serve on the Technical Com- mittee of AEWA. Together with AEWA we have worked on landmark projects and tools such as the Climate Resilient Flyways Project, the Critical Site Network Tool, Conserva- tion Status Reviews and the Wings Over Wetlands partner- ship that delivered significant outcomes for the betterment of waterbird populations, their habitats, and wetland com- munities. lands-for-cooler-cities/ ful-flyway-conservation-in-practice/ ing-ethiopias-central-rift-valley-lakes/ number-of-fires-in-the-pantanal/



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020


Healthy Wetlands

Resilient Communities

Reduced Climate Risks

Wetland carbon stores secured and enhanced: We aim to bring wetlands into activities to adapt to and mitigate

Water and food secured for wetland communities: We aim to prevent further wetland loss and degradation that undermines the natural productivity and water storage capacities of peatlands, floodplains, mangrove forests, deltas and lakes. We aim to improve and diversify the livelihoods of people dependent on wetlands, and promote best practices in agriculture and aquaculture, integrating wetland values into the local economy.

Wetland habitats and functions safeguarded and restored: We

Over 2020-2030, Wetlands International aims to safeguard and restore tens of millions of hectares of wetlands, bringing multiple returns for nature and people. Our theory of change encapsulates the three main phases of our work: to inspire, mobilise and upscale.

aim to help conserve a selection of the most

climate change, which is otherwise a threat to the integrity of all wetlands. Improving the condition of peatlands, river systems and coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, saltmarshes and sea-grass beds will also reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and return many to their role as carbon sinks.

intact wetland ecosystems and restore others within a full range of wetland types across the world. We also aim to restore other freshwater systems, peatlands, deltas and coastal ecosystems for their intrinsic, cultural and ecosystem-service values. We will prioritise ecological networks that connect landscapes, such as flyways and swim-ways.

For this period, we are orientating our work to achieve three, interconnected global impacts: healthy wetlands, resilient wetland communities, and reduced climate risks.

Our vision, targets and strategic interventions are shaped according to landscapes. We focus on three broad categories of wetland landscapes: Coasts and Deltas, Rivers and Lakes, and Peatlands. “Streams” of work are defined according to the specific contexts of these wetland landscape types.

Wetland Nature-based Solutions integrated into infrastructure developments: We aim to steer urban water


Reduced societal conflict and displacement from wetlands: We will in particular

Wetland species recovered: Building on our long track record for waterbird conservation, we will contribute to the

infrastructure investment and land- use planning towards using wetlands to meet challenges such as water insecurity and flooding that are conventionally addressed by civil engineering – an approach that often causes further loss and deterioration of wetlands.

strive to resolve situations where deterioration of wetlands – caused by upstream abstraction, climate change or population growth -- contributes to loss of livelihoods, human displacement, conflict and migration. Where necessary, we will use peacebuilding and conflict resolution measures to address imbalanced power relations between stakeholders, building capacity for vulnerable and marginalised people to defend their rights to water and wetland resources.

d conservation of wetland biodiversity by working on selected flagship species and groups of species linked to specific habitats.

Healthy Wetlands

Resilient Communities

Reduced Climate Risks


According to our strategic framework, we work in three wetland landscape types to upscale solutions and achieve six outcomes . In turn, these result in three impacts, Healthy Wetlands, Resilient Communities and Reduced Climate Risks .



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020


This chapter presents our results achieved in 2020. We have organised these achievements along our three streams of work (Coasts and Deltas, Rivers and Lakes, and Peatlands) in relation to the ambition laid out in our Strategic Intent 2020-2030. The section below summarises the first steps taken towards our targets.

Impact Area - Resilient Wetland Communities Highlights include:

Achievements described below are the result of our team across the world working in collaboration with many other partners, locally and internationally. These are a selection from a much wider range of results, and in several cases are based on work that was started in previous years. We are highlighting those achievements where Wetlands International’s role or contribution was particularly significant. In short, positive steps were made last year towards our 2030 targets despite the significant disruption in all programmes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. At the end of 2020, we believe we have established a solid foundation for future delivery and are largely on track towards our 2030 targets.

paludiculture becoming eligible for payments that will promote peat-wise land management; and • increased uptake of wetland solutions in governmental NDCs reported to the UNFCCC that increase action to reduce emissions and repair drained peatlands at a huge scale, for example in Argentina, Ireland, Russia and Peru. Setbacks Of course, not everything went according to plan. Many of our programmes suffered delays and required substantial replanning due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. For example, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) “drainability assessment” to help identify where palm oil plantations should be phased out and restored to functional peatlands was delayed, as face-to-face interactions were not possible. Fortunately, there was understanding shown by our donors and in several cases support to use project resources to help local communities adapt (see the article on page 22). On the following pages we report our 2020 achievements per stream and impact area, indicating the progress towards our 2030 targets.


• an agreement with government authorities reached by communities with our support that will promote better practices in island cattle raising, tourism and real estate development in the Argentinian Paraná Delta (376,000 ha); • 200 hectares of land restored in the Ziway-Shalla basin in Ethiopia through community managed enclosure sites. A quarter of a million seedlings were planted and physical soil and water conservation structures built to reduce sedimentation into Lake Ziway; and • the roll-out on a national scale by the Indonesian government of 3 successful peat-wise local business models. In the district of Tapanuli Selatan we also restored 51 ha of peatlands and strengthened communities through the establishment of Bio-rights contracts with 15 community-based organisations.

On track to exceed target (we will achieve the target before 2030)

We expect to achieve the target by 2030

Impact Area - Healthy Wetlands Results that stand out include:

• launching the Global Mangrove Watch Platform that makes geospatial information related to mangroves worldwide available for policy makers and practitioners; • starting an initiative to restore 2,500 ha of mangroves in Guinea-Bissau in partnership with the Dutch Energy company Greenchoice; • the designation of the Kabartal and Asan Conservation Reserves as Ramsar Sites in Bihar, India and the start of their respective management plans; and • starting the phase 3 of the internationally acclaimed “PeatRus” project that expands the restoration of peatlands to 11 provinces and enables the emissions reductions to be included in Russia’s enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

Substantial progress, but more time is needed to reach our target

Impact Area - Reduced Climate Risks Key results achieved include:

• developing a joint plan for establishing a large programme on Building with Nature in Asia, in collaboration with partners and government agencies from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines; • launching a partnership agreement with Boskalis, a global leader in dredging and maritime services, to enhance coastal wetland habitats that provide some of the greatest carbon stores for Blue Carbon; • the adoption of peatland protection and restoration in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with

So far, there is no significant overall progress

The situation is deteriorating and we can’t manage to make improvements



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

COASTS & DELTAS 2030 GLOBAL GOAL Our goal is to safeguard and restore coastal wetland

Coasts & Deltas Healthy wetlands

Coasts & Deltas

After nearly 5 years of implementation, our Building with Nature Indonesia programme in Demak won the prestigious Flood and Coast award by the UK Environment Agency in the categories “international excellence” and “coastal management”. This offers a strong encouragement to further expand this work across the continent. We launched a partnership with Boskalis, a global leader in dredging and maritime services, to enhance coastal wetland habitats that provide some of the greatest carbon stores Blue Carbon. Further, we also aim to enhance the sustainability performance of the sector at large by exploring opportunities for impact mitigation in coastal engineering projects and promoting widespread adoption of Building with Nature solutions. With partners in the Ecoshape consortium, we completed a new book that presents Building with Nature concepts and solutions (see also page 37). Summarising dozens of applications in different settings, the book is one of the best global resources for those interested in applying Nature-based Solutions in both coastal and freshwater environments. Eleven universities in Indonesia incorporated our Building with Nature training modules in their curricula. As a result, about 2,500 students will be trained each year which will help create a new generation of engineers skilled in designing Building with Nature solutions. 750 people from many countries and disciplines were trained in two Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) on Building with Nature in collaboration with the Delft University of Technology.

ecosystems as essential features of resilient and productive coastal landscapes. We will achieve our goal by tailoring our work to the different contexts we typically encounter in our target areas, ranging from heavily degraded or modified coastal areas to intact wetland landscapes.

Resilient wetland communities

In 2020, together with Aberystwyth Univer- sity, soloEO and The Nature Conservancy, we launched a beta version of the Global Man- grove Watch platform. This online platform makes available real time geospatial data on trends in mangrove status, distributions and their values and threats. By providing this information in an easy-to-use format, we help practitioners and policy makers to plan, priori- tise and monitor their mangrove conservation and restoration projects and support integra- tion in climate, development and conservation policies (see also page 38). We started a partnership with Dutch energy provider Greenchoice to accelerate and sup- port climate change mitigation by protecting and restoring wetlands that yield climate, biodiversity and community benefits. As a first step, we initiated a 2500 ha restoration project in Guinea-Bissau that will restore man- groves on abandoned rice fields. In Indonesia, participation in the international waterbird census has grown substantially, with no less than 500 people from government, NGOs and bird clubs joining the annual count, covering 120 sites. As the monitoring has advanced, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry adopted the International Waterbird Census as the monitoring modality for protect- ed areas, as a part of the National Partnership for Conservation of Migratory Birds and Their Habitat.

We formalised partnership agreements with public authorities in Argentina to support the development of a land-use management plan of the Victoria Islands Multiple Use Reserve, a large sector of the Paraná Delta (376,000 ha). We are supporting the recently created Planning Committee to implement better production practices. Adapting activities such as island cattle raising, tourism and real estate development, so that they safeguard wetland functions will help restore vital fishing and beekeeping, and provide habitat for the marsh deer, capybara, and emblematic migratory birds.

By 2030, we aim to integrate wetlands into 8 million hectares of coastal production systems.

Coasts & Deltas

Reduced climate risks

Substantial momentum was created for Building with Nature uptake across Asia through global stakeholder meetings and consultations in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Government partners indicated their interest in Building with Nature solutions and committed to collaborate on developing a large programme that would leverage around €2 billion in relevant investments by 2030.

By 2030, we aim to mainstream Building with Nature and promote Blue Carbon solutions, influencing €10 billion of investments in coastal infrastructure solutions.

By 2030, we aim to safeguard 2 million hectares of high value coastal wetlands, including those sites which make up vital wildlife migration corridors.



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020


Our goal is to catalyse investment to safeguard and restore rivers, lakes and their accompanying wetlands, as part of wider freshwater systems; and to provide water security for people and nature, climate resilience, and sustainable and peaceful landscapes.

The Ugandan government started a process to establish a specific law on wetland management in addition to the National Environment Act. This should help ensure stronger wetland governance and management and reduce disaster risks. In India, the Kabartal Wetland and Asan Conservation Reserve have been designated as Ramsar Sites and we are supporting the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Government of Bihar in their respective management plans. The Asan site is a 444 ha stretch of the Asan River running down to its confluence with the Yamuna River in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand and supports 330 species of birds. Kabartal covers 2,620 ha of the Indo-Gangetic plains, in Begusarai district of the state of Bihar and acts as a vital flood buffer for the region as well as providing livelihood opportunities and critical habitat for biodiversity. In the Himalayas, the South Asia team prepared an inventory of high-altitude wetlands (HAWs) along with a guidebook for managers of HAWs to assist in integrated management plans.

Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that is implemented in partnership with IHE Delft (lead), World Resources Institute, International Alert, the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies and Deltares. The programme will stimulate dialogue in Mali, Eastern Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan around solutions to conflicts where water insecurity is an important factor. In Lac Wegnia, and the Sourou Valley in Mali and in Ziway-Shalla, Ethiopia, coalitions of farmers, local actors in agriculture value chains and local governments have been established to promote innovations towards sustainable agricultural water and wetland use, in partnership with Caritas, Hydrosolutions and IWMI with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. 200 ha of land was restored in the Ziway-Shalla basin in Ethiopia, through community managed enclosure sites. A quarter of a million seedlings were planted and physical soil and water conservation structures built to reduce the sedimentation of Lake Ziway that is reducing its capacity and risking higher rates of evaporation and salinisation. In India, the development of over 50 grassroot development plans (Gram Panchayat Development Plans) were completed along with 7 district-level disaster management plans that will assist in the future leveraging of resources for the implementation of ecosystem-based risk reduction measures. The status of 70,000 ha of peatbogs and freshwater marshes in two internationally important Ramsar sites in the Puna region of the High Andes in Argentina and Peru was improved through management and restoration actions implemented with local communities.

By 2030, we aim to safeguard and restore 60 million hectares of wetlands as integral elements of productive river and lake landscapes.

Rivers & Lakes Healthy wetlands

Rivers & Lakes

Reduced climate risks

Water resource and climate scenarios were completed for the Upper Niger basin and the Inner Niger Delta. These showed that drier years will increase significantly and, in combination with the current plans for agricultural and energy development in the region, will place the livelihoods of delta communities based on fisheries and farming under high stress. In the Lac Debo-Youwarou biodiversity hotspot, in the Inner Niger Delta, Mali, 7 village chiefs signed a memorandum agreeing to sustainable forest management for 2,000 ha of restored flooded forest. This demonstrates that significant restoration work can be undertaken and anchored in local agreements despite ongoing insecurity in Mali. In Eastern Africa, Wetland Management Plans (WMPs), Monographs and Project Investment Plans (CIPs) for 3 transboundary wetlands: Sio-Siteko in Kenya and Uganda; Semliki in DR Congo and Uganda; and Sango-Minziro in Uganda and Tanzania were completed and endorsed by the respective governments. In Ethiopia, in the Abijatta-Shalla basin, an assessment of the management requirements of the national park was completed.

A core partnership with the International Water Management Institute, CARE and International Alert for the Blue Lifelines for a Secure Sahel “Big Idea” was established to develop landscape propositions in key wetland landscapes and a strategy to engage on these with the World Bank, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the European Union and the African Union’s Commission for the Great Green Wall Initiative. The government of Argentina recognised the contributions made by wetlands to climate change adaptation and mitigation in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) report presented to the UNFCCC in December 2020. This is an important step in integrating wetlands conservation and restoration needs into government climate financing priorities.

By 2030, we aim to safeguard 10 million hectares of high value river and lake wetlands, focusing in five basins.

Rivers & Lakes

Resilient wetland communities

By 2030, we aim that €500 million is committed to enable Nature- based Solutions in freshwater wetlands, for climate mitigation and adaptation.

We launched a 5-year Water, Peace and Security programme, supported by the



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020


Our goal is to scale up the conservation and restoration of peatlands as a contribution to biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable development. For this, it is vital to ensure that all remaining undrained peatlands stay intact, while 50 million hectares of drained peatlands are restored by 2050.


Peatlands Healthy wetlands

management trialled successfully in 56 ha of peatbogs and a further 130 ha was restored.

Reduced climate risks

By 2030, we aim to safeguard over 20 million hectares of high value peatlands, including bringing 5 major peatland landscapes back into good ecological condition.

In Europe we were successful in getting peatland protection and restoration included as a valuable measure in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and “paludiculture” as a land-use that is eligible for CAP payments. This expands the economic basis for peat-wise land management. Converting damaging palm oil plantations to sustainable business models relies on peat- wise crops, and for this we took steps forward under the Tropical Paludiculture Forum as part of our Indonesian Peat Care Village Programme (with KMITRAAN/ BRG-REF). Unfortunately, we were unable to make much progress on the RSPO drainability assessment due to Covid-19 restrictions which prevented in-person consultations.

In Russia, we started Phase 3 of the award- winning “PeatRus” project which will expand wetland restoration to 11 regions in the coming 3 years. By the end of 2020, fire risk was reduced in 95,000 ha, climate-smart rewetting completed on 65,000 ha and ecosystem functions restored on 22,000 ha of peatlands. Once completed, the estimated GHG emission reductions are 324,000 to 650,000 tonnes CO2eq per year. Knowledge from this work has been incorporated in the Russian Federation’s Nationally Determined contribution (NDC) as reported to the UNFCCC. In Eastern Africa, inventory work completed in the Nile Equatorial Lakes, the Sudd and the Blue Nile sub-systems showed the total area of peatlands and other organic soils in the Nile Basin amounts to about 30,445 km2 (3,044,500 ha) with a peat carbon stock of 4.2 to 10 giga-tonnes of organic carbon. As this represents 5-10% of the total tropical peatland carbon stock, it shows the potential for carbon emission avoidance for the countries concerned. In Indonesia, we supported the government’s Peat Restoration Agency to complete peatland ecosystem restoration plans in another 4 hydrological units to reach 14 units overall. We supported the Verra- accredited carbon accounting, project management and monitoring of the largest REDD+ tropical peatland restoration project (Katingan Mentaya), totalling 149,880 ha of intact peatswamp forest, combined with the sustainable management of 156,00 ha in the mixed-use community buffer zone with our long-standing partner Permian Global.


Resilient wetland communities

As a member of the NDC partnership, we launched a policy brief Locking-up Carbon in Wetlands with AGWA at Stockholm Water Week. The brief showcases the importance of reducing carbon emissions from wetlands and has stimulated governments to consider seriously including wetlands as components of their NDCs under the UNFCCC. In Indonesia, we set up 3 successful peat- wise local business models which are now being rolled out on a national scale by the government. Further, in the district of Tapanuli Selatan, we restored 51 ha of peatlands and built strengthened communities through the establishment of Bio-rights contracts with 15 community-based organisations. This included trainings on Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR), in this case prevention of peat fires, sustainable peat management and the diversification of livelihoods.

By 2030, we will reduce the impact of peat-based industries in 10 million hectares of peatland, with a focus on palm oil, pulp and timber.

By 2030, we aim to enable community-

based conservation and restoration of 10 million hectares of peatlands.

Work on high altitude peatlands or bofedales in the High Andes resulted in improved



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands for a Safer World: how we invested 1 million Euros from the Dutch Postcode Lottery In our 2017 proposal “Wetlands for a Safer World”, we promised to leverage investments and actions to realise our long-term ambitions, in turn benefiting people and nature. We indicated that the Dutch Postcode Lottery grant for 2018-2020 would be used mainly as “seed finance”, to enable upscaling and application by others of effective wetland solutions. We also proposed to invest in measures which help Wetlands International raise wetlands higher on the agenda and improve our institutional capacity and financial resilience. Over 2018-2020, we invested the €1 million grant in a consistent set of themes. Below, we summarise the main outcomes, drawing attention also to the achievements and outcomes in 2020.

We forged an international, inter-sectoral partnership to mobilise Building with Nature in Asia and gained additional political support and resources to help materialise this ambition in the five countries of Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Malaysia and China.

To further boost our climate change mitigation work, we established a new global programme on wetland carbon and forged three new strategic partnerships (with Greenchoice, Boskalis, Commonland and Landscape Finance Lab), which will help establish and accelerate a pipeline of high quality large scale mangrove and peatland recovery projects for carbon financing.

See page 30: Five years of Building with Nature

See page 46: Carbon

partnerships to save wetlands and the climate

We re-established our global leadership role in championing and enabling the conservation and restoration of peatlands, and opened up a series of partnership opportunities to create impact on the ground in Europe.

Operational improvements include a new finance system that will enhance our efficiency and improve financial management standards, the mobilisation of the Network Management Team, the further institutional development of individual offices and supported staff to enable good internal, partner and stakeholder communications during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We brought our stories and experience on wetlands into the spotlight by publishing a landmark book Water Lands and a variety of media. We used these stories as a means to raise awareness about wetlands and their values, as well as to engage youth groups and mobilise their support for investing in wetlands as Nature-based Solutions. Part of the grant was allocated to increase our communications capacities and competencies, particularly in social media channels and allowed us to establish new collaborations and platforms to amplify our messages.

in the Sahel. In particular, we forged an international and African coalition who are committed to mobilise action to safeguard and restore wetlands in the region.

See page 18: peatlands section in the achievements

See page 54: Bring on the flood

See page 70: Functioning of the organisation

We played a significant role in establishing the Global Mangrove Alliance, leading to a suite of new mangrove projects in Eastern Africa, and also the establishment of Global Mangrove Watch which provides real- time information on trends in mangrove distribution and data.

See page 62: Bringing wetlands to the fore

We established a unique niche and project portfolio for wetlands in cities that is leveraging large-scale Building with Nature investments, for example in urban flood management, as well as highlighting the positive contribution that wetlands have for urban heat island effect (UHI) reduction.

See page 38: Watching mangroves from space – and protecting them on the ground

See page 8: urban wetlands for heat-proofing cities

We achieved greatly enhanced recognition of the need to improve the condition of wetlands and water as part of efforts to address human security and bring peace



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020


With our partners in India, we provided emergency relief supplies and training courses on how wetlands management can also create local employment for returning labour migrants. We helped the Orang Asli people in Malaysia’s peatlands establish partnerships with private companies to sell their handicrafts and sponsor ecological restoration. With our partners in Brazil, we provided food and clean water to more than 400 indigenous and traditional communities’ families across the Pantanal. Now is the time to plan and develop along pathways that promote both social and ecological healing and create resilience for both nature and those who depend on it.


It was the largest national lockdown in the world. In March 2020, with Covid-19 spreading fast through its cities, India saw tens of millions of poor migrant workers going home to their villages. From Uttarakhand in the north to Bihar in the east and Gujarat in the west, that often meant workers and their families walking hundreds of kilometres back to communities in wetlands. Swollen by the new arrivals, those communities urgently needed basic supplies of food, medicines, personal protection and jobs. But they also needed assistance as people, often for the first time, sought to survive by taking up employment on farms and within wetlands. A humanitarian disaster threatened to turn into a significant surge in demand for natural resources.

Farmers in Kenya and Uganda planted 9,170 trees and bamboo seedlings to help restore the Sio-Siteko transboundary wetland. As schools were temporarily closed due to the outbreak of Covid-19, children joined the practical restoration lessons.



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International South Asia provided livelihood training to enable people new to wetland areas to take up wetland-based agriculture.

livelihoods. And Wetlands International has brought a vital skillset to help them. Its history of engagement with wetland communities, network of contacts and environmental expertise means it has often been the essential intermediary to bring emergency aid to where it is most needed, and to bolster wetlands management to secure the future of the wetlands themselves. From the Saloum delta in Senegal to the lakeside communities of Argentina’s Andean mountains, and villages in the mangrove swamps of coastal Indonesia, Wetlands International has been providing guidance and everything from the masks and antiseptic gel that save lives, to the computers, internet connections and drones that allow cut-off communities to communicate with the outside world and monitor their wetlands. “The pandemic should be a wake-up call,” said CEO Jane Madgwick in April, as the virus spread across the planet. “Now is the time to plan and develop along pathways that promote both social and ecological healing,” to provide resilience for both nature and those who depend on it. The world talks about the need for a “green recovery” from the pandemic. Wetlands International sees it as a blue-green

Alongside the trainings to promote wetland-based agriculture, the team organised emergency responses to support hygiene and health in the wetland communities.

Wetlands International’s teams, headed by South Asia director Ritesh Kumar and with support from humanitarian partners such as Caritas and Seeds India, organised support for the returning migrants and their communities, in landscapes where the partners have ongoing engagements. They provided emergency relief supplies and emotional support. And when the communities were prepared, they provided training courses in how wetlands management can also create local employment to help fill their bellies, while safeguarding the ecology of vital the hydrological “buffers” that provide abundant food and water, and prevent rivers flooding local farmland. The challenges were great, with pandemic restrictions making access to wetland communities especially difficult. But the gains were great too, in helping people suddenly thrown back on wetlands for their survival to appreciate the resources at their disposal, and to share experiences and learn how to manage them better. Similar stories have played out in wetlands around the world during the pandemic. Even where there have been no forced migrations, locked-down communities have been increasingly reliant on their wetlands for food and

While facing new restrictions of the pandemic, drones have helped communities monitor their wetlands from a distance.



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

People who are suddenly thrown back on wetlands for their survival really appreciate the resources at their disposal

Wetlands International helped the Orang Asli people in Malaysia sell their wetlands products to partners and private companies while they were cut off from tourists.

Elsewhere, our team in Indonesia, under director Nyoman Suryadiputra, has been drawing up plans to help communities combat an epidemic of Dengue fever that can lead to hospitalization in facilities that are already under pressure from the influx of Covid-19 patients. The innovative idea is to construct small artificial wetlands containing water-purifying aquatic plants and fish that predate mosquito larvae at mosques and other public places. The mini-wetlands will keep clean the shared ablution waters and help prevent the proliferation of the mosquitoes that transmit the fever. Indigenous communities in the world’s largest inland wetland, the Pantanal in the heart of South America, were hit in 2020 by a crisis within a crisis. As Covid-19 began its killing spree, the worst drought there in half a century unleashed unprecedented wildfires across the desiccated wetland. Our Brazilian team, under Rafaela Nicola’s direction, partnered with SOS Pantanal and an aid initiative Uniao BR to provide food and clean water to more than 400 indigenous and traditional communities’ families across the Pantanal. Under the Corredor Azul Programme, Wetlands International worked in support of local community livelihoods, equipping the Kadiweu indigenous

recovery. In the long run, the health of the wetlands will be the best defence for the health of their communities. Needs and threats have been diverse for wetland communities. The Orang Asli people in Malaysia, who depend on the Gombak River and natural resources in the local peatlands, have been cut off not just from vital supplies but also from eco-tourists. Their main source of income in recent times has been selling wetland products such as woven bags, carpets and wild vegetables to visiting tourists. So in 2020, as a continuation of its work building their capacity to conserve and restore the river and streams of their homeland, Wetlands International has helped them establish partnerships with private companies to sell their handicraft and to sponsor ecological restoration. In Indonesia, Wetlands International switched its training courses to Zoom and WhatsApp. It allowed communities in Demak, on the shores of northern Java, to continue restoring the mangroves that protect their villages from storms and developing eco-friendly aquaculture. Keeping up the pace on these projects, known as Building with Nature, was especially vital when outsiders were banned from entering the villages, fish markets had collapsed and residents working in nearby factories were being laid off.

Residents of Demak continued work to restore mangroves while outsiders were banned from entering the villages.


Wetlands International Annual Review 2020


With the fires extinguished they started a tree nursery to help re-establish native forests in the charred wetlands

Tree nurseries were set up to restore the burnt forest.


community’s ad-hoc volunteer wetland fire brigade with water bombs and protective clothing, and facilitating the sharing of fire-fighting expertise with neighbouring villages. With the fires extinguished, they started a tree nursery to help re-establish native forests in the charred wetland. But the big lesson for the blue-green recovery was not lost along the Paraná-Paraguay river system of which the Pantanal is a vital part. Without wetlands, fires are an annual menace. Clearly, the global pandemic can be seen as a threat to wetlands, as local communities and returning migrant populations are forced to rely ever more on their products to survive. But it is also an opportunity. For the virus and the lockdowns both reveal afresh the vital importance to wetland communities of their wetland resources.


Celebrating Mr. I Nyoman Suryadiputra’s exceptional accomplishments in 25 years serving Wetlands International in Indonesia This year, Wetlands International is celebrating its 38th anniversary in Indonesia. For many of these years it was led by director I Nyoman Suryadiputra, who worked with passion to foster staff, pioneer new techniques, implement and guide various collaborations with the government, knowledge institutions, the private sector, other non- governmental organisations and community groups.

our legal entity Yayasan Lahan Basah and becoming the leading non-governmental organisation for managing wetlands in Indonesia. More than a quarter-century after joining this organisation, Pak Nyoman will retire as Chairman of the Executive Board and Director of Wetlands International in Indonesia. But birds never fly too far from their nest, and neither will Pak Nyoman. With his deep expertise in limnology, peat, mangroves, community engagement and policies in wetlands, he will continue to provide support to the organisation in the years to come. We would like to recognise his grand contribution, including to the global network of Wetlands International, and thank him for all he has done. We wish him all the best and look forward to future collaboration.

Pak Nyoman’s leadership guided the development of Wetlands International in Indonesia, including setting up



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

STORY HIGHLIGHTS Building with Nature Indonesia won the Flood and Coastal Excellence Award from the British Environment Agency. At the coastal field school, 400 local farmers learned to replace chemical pesticides and fertilisers with homemade organic alternatives in their ponds, improving water quality and yields.


Villages now have 420 ha of improved shrimp ponds with tripled

yields and doubled profits. The Indonesian Ministry of

By Fred Pearce

Maritime Affairs replicated 25 km of permeable barriers in 13 coastal districts. The Building with Nature methods and ideas are set for replication across the Indonesian archipelago and more widely through Asia.

Wetlands are very local. No two are the same. But when solutions to problems work in one place, scaling up the lessons for elsewhere can still be vital. And nowhere is that proving more true than in Wetlands International’s Building with Nature project in Indonesia. The five year multi-disciplinary initiative, with Dutch engineering and Indonesian government partners, aims to save the rapidly eroding coastline of northern Java, using innovative methods to encourage the natural regeneration of lost mangroves. The project formally ended in 2020, but its methods and ideas are set for replication across the Indonesian archipelago and more widely through Asia.

Building with Nature Indonesia aimed to save the rapidly eroding coastline of northern Java, Indonesia.



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

The endangered milky stork is returning to the green mangrove belt.

the tides. Instead they mimic mangroves by capturing silt and slowing scouring currents, allowing mangroves seeds in the passing water to settle in the silt and re-establish themselves. Nature does the planting, not humans. The work of erecting and maintaining the barriers was done by villagers. Their labour has been recompensed with financial support and training for new local economic activities, through Wetlands International’s Bio-rights conditional loan system, under which loans are written off if the restoration work is successfully completed. “The engagement of local communities is vital as in the long run they are the ones, together with village government, who will maintain the barriers,” says Yus Rusila Noor, head of programmes at Wetlands International Indonesia. Blue Forests, an Indonesian NGO that ran the coastal field school in Demak, says some 400 local farmers learned to replace expensive chemical pesticides and fertilizers in their ponds with home-made organic alternatives, and found they improved water quality and yields. Blue Forest’s programme manager Woro Yuniati, who devised the curriculum, says many also tried out the idea of restoring mangroves around their ponds, to dampen the effect of waves.

The local community helped build permeable structures in Demak, recompensed with financial support and training for new local economic activities.

Many coastlines in South and Southeast Asia have lost coastal mangroves in recent decades. They have been widely replaced by ponds excavated to farm shrimps and fish. But those mangroves trapped silt, and rebuffed winds, waves, high tides and even tsunamis -- protecting the coasts and their inhabitants from danger. So their loss has often accelerated coastal erosion and exposed communities to danger. In Demak on the north coast of Java, the loss of mangroves has triggered an invasion by the Java Sea that has reached several kilometres inland, engulfing the ponds, and drowning villages or leaving them elevated on stilts and connected to the land by threads of raised land. Around 70,000 people suffered the effects. With its partners, Wetlands International sought to turn the tide. Starting in the village of Timbulsloko, which is today reached by a five-kilometre causeway past washed-away rice fields and fish ponds, Building with Nature sought to reverse the land loss with novel technology and incentives for locals to adopt more sustainable livelihoods that preserved and restored the mangroves. The technology has worked, with villages erecting a total of nine kilometres of permeable brushwood barriers – a little like outsize nets on tennis courts -- in the shallow waters a few metres offshore. The barriers do not aim to stop

The villages now have some 420 hectares of improved shrimp ponds that do not compete with the regrowing

Building with Nature Indonesia has improved 420 hectares of shrimp ponds, whereby yields have now tripled and farmers’ profits have doubled.



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

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