The IMFN, Model Forests and Forest-based Ecosystem Disaster-Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR)

October 13, 2023 | Written BY : IMFN


“International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is on October 13. The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction was started in 1989, after a call by the United Nations General Assembly for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction. Held every 13 October, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face.”  – United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction


Through a partnership between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the International Model Forest Network (IMFN), a Forests for Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) Practitioner’s Handbook is in development. To be released in 2024, the Handbook will be ultimately designed as an accessible resource to increase the uptake of principles and practices outlined in the CBD Voluntary Guidelines. To accomplish this the Handbook will centre visual, annotated and interactive material, with an emphasis on narrative case studies from select Model Forests to illustrate on the ground examples. The Handbook will be made available in 3 languages: Spanish, French, and English.



In the last two decades, the impacts of disasters have been devastating, affecting over 4 billion people and causing more than 1 million deaths, while costing around $2 trillion in economic losses. Disasters exacerbate inequity and affect the most vulnerable countries and primarily, marginalized groups such women. Accelerating climate change is set to increase the frequency and severity of natural hazards in the coming decades, leading to further casualties and losses.

Disaster risk management is about taking action to reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience to natural hazards, allowing individuals, local communities and countries to strengthen their resilience and thus better protecting human lives and assets. At the same time, governments can also reduce disaster risk by implementing the suitable policies and interventions at the landscape level. In this context, there is a growing demand for nature-based solutions to increasingly manage natural hazards and climate change impacts in an integrated and holistic manner while supporting efforts to build resilience sustainably and equitably in vulnerable developing countries.

Nowadays, a number of mechanisms, frameworks and other facilitative tools increasingly integrate nature as a key component to accelerate action on disaster risk reduction (DRR), for example:

Forests play a crucial role in DRR, not only in mitigating risks but also in providing other benefits for communities in income, cultural and resilience terms. Forests can contribute to ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR), which was defined in 2013 as “the sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems to provide services that reduce disaster risk by mitigating hazards and by increasing livelihood resilience”.


Building on a Related FAO Project

In October 2020, the FAO project “Enhancing community resilience to climate change in mountain watersheds” was initiated through the funding of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (project duration: October 2020 – September 2024, budget: USD 1.7 million). This project aims at enhancing the technical capacities of institutions and communities in Peru and the Philippines to integrate forest and other Eco-DRR approaches.

In November 2021, this FAO project expanded its activities to the global scale, thereby allowing the project to develop products directed at stakeholders beyond the project area to widen the area of impact (such as through the development of guidelines).

Examples of Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) and Eco-DRR interventions and/or measures include:

  • Forest and pasture restoration
  • Restoration of pastures with deep-rooting native species
  • Conservation of wetlands and peatlands
  • River basin restoration
  • Transboundary water governance and ecosystem restoration
  • Ecosystem restoration and agroforestry
  • Intercropping of adapted species
  • Using trees to adapt to changing dry seasons
  • Sustainable livestock management and pasture restoration
  • Drought resilience by sustainable dryland management


Learning from 30 years of the International Model Forest Network (IMFN)

The International Model Forest Network (IMFN) has more than three decades of experience in landscape level participatory forest governance addressing issues such as Indigenous peoples engagement, livelihood development, climate change adaptation, wildland fire detection and prevention, sustainable forest management, and biodiversity conservation. The IMFN is a voluntary global community of practice whose members and supporters work toward the sustainable management of forest‐based landscapes and natural resources through the Model Forest approach.

A Model Forest can be described as a large-scale landscape encompassing many different land uses; a specific partnership-based approach to sustainable forest management; and a long-term process that adheres to a broad set of principles to promote sustainability. The Model Forest approach follows six main principles, based on flexible landscape and ecosystem management that combines the social, environmental and economic needs of local communities with the long-term sustainability of large landscapes.

FAO reached out to the IMFN Secretariat, in part, based on the organizations’ shared experiences with the 2011 publication “Pathways To Climate Change Resilience: A Guidebook For Canadian Forest-Based Communities”.  There was interest to see how the IMFN might inform and see the development of a Forests for Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) Practitioner’s Handbook.

The IMFN Secretariat and FAO are pleased to have now partnered with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a lead organization and author with Eco-DRR expertise, multi-language capabilities and membership in scalable networks, such as FEBA (Friends of Ecosystem-based Adaptation) and PEDRR (Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction).


Eco-DRR and IUCN: Integrating nature-based solutions into disaster risk reduction strategies around the world

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a membership Union composed of both government and civil society organizations. It harnesses the experience, resources and reach of its more than 1,400 Member organizations and the input of more than 18,000 experts. This diversity and vast expertise makes IUCN the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.  IUCN is uniquely positioned to tackle the multi-dimensional issues behind disaster risks and works to prove the value of nature-based solutions to reduce them. Its work integrates ecosystem management, livelihoods, community vulnerability, climate change adaptation and disaster management. It has global presence and particular expertise in areas highly relevant to the disaster risk reduction such as: forest, watershed, marine and coastal management, environmental governance and human rights as they relate to environmental issues.

Since 2008, IUCN has been a member of the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR) – a global partnership comprised of UN agencies, international and regional NGOs as well as specialist institutes that collectively aim to influence policy, enhance implementation and better coordinate efforts in environmental management for disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and sustainable livelihoods. It promotes ecosystems management as the key strategy to reduce disaster risk, increase local resilience and adapt to a changing climate.

Friends of EbA (FEBA) is a global collaborative network of 80+ agencies and organizations involved in Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) working jointly to share experiences and knowledge, to improve the implementation of EbA related activities on the ground, and to have a stronger and more strategic learning and policy influence on EbA. Under FEBA, organizations involved in Ecosystem-based Adaptation have come together for deliberations on the future course of action, knowledge sharing, promoting EbA integration into the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and appraising the effectiveness of EbA approaches and thereby contribute effectively towards sustainable climate resilience of both humans and ecosystems.

FEBA works to synthesize multi-stakeholder knowledge on EbA; disseminate this knowledge by convening the global EbA community around high-level events, technical workshops, and expert working groups; and raise awareness and understanding of EbA in adaptation panning processes and multilateral policy frameworks. The CBD COP recognizes FEBA as a key partner “to support Parties in their efforts to promote ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation” (Decision 14/5). IUCN serves as the FEBA Secretariat.


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