UNESCO and GRÓ reinforce cooperation for ecosystem restoration

20 November 2023
Ms. Lidia Brito, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO and Ms. Nína Björk Jónsdóttir, Director-Genera…
Ms. Lidia Brito, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO and Ms. Nína Björk Jónsdóttir, Director-General of GRÓ signed the agreement.

UNESCO and GRÓ have signed a new partnership agreement to reinforce capacity for ecosystem restoration in Africa. Two fellows from UNESCO biosphere reserves will annually be invited to attend the six month GRÓ Land Restoration Training Programme in Iceland.

Ms. Lidia Brito, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and Ms. Nína Björk Jónsdóttir, Director-General of GRÓ (the International Centre for Capacity Development – Sustainable use of Natural Resources and Societal Change in Reykjavik, Iceland) signed the agreement during the UNESCO General Conference held at the organization’s Headquarters in Paris on 16 November 2023.

The agreement formalizes a partnership between the two organizations that began in 2021 when the two first representatives from African UNESCO biosphere reserves participated in GRÓ’s annual six-month Land Restoration Training Programme (GRÓ LRT). Four MAB fellows from biosphere reserves in Nigeria and Malawi, have already completed the training at the GRÓ LRT.

Next year, the third cohort of two representatives representing the African biosphere reserve community, from Ghana and Nigeria, will travel to Iceland to take part in the training, which runs each year from March to August.

In Iceland, the trainees benefit from a cutting-edge intensive six-month postgraduate-level training programme on ecological restoration and sustainable management of ecosystems, custom-built for professionals in partner countries faced with severe land degradation.

The course equips participants to apply new knowledge and skills in their home countries. Graduates are equipped to train others as well, thereby extending the impact of their participation.

The impact of the growing GRÓ alumni is already being felt, as graduates return to their home countries with new impressions and skills.

"Participating in the GRÓ Land Restoration Training within the Man and Biosphere programme did not only improve my proficiency in environmental stewardship but also fosters a deep comprehension of sustainable land management. The hands-on experiences I gained through this training are stepping stones towards a career enriched with the knowledge to sustainably restore our ecosystems”.

Peace Amarachi Ukoha (GRÓ LRT Fellow 2022 from Nigeria)


“The GRO-LRT fellowship training provided me with scientific and nature-based approaches to restoring degraded terrestrial ecosystems. The training also emphasized the integration of ecological, socio-economic and cultural perspectives when implementing land restoration projects which is crucial in managing biosphere reserves. Through the field excursions in Iceland, I gained practical knowledge and skills which apply to restoring degraded ecosystems in the Mulanje Mountain Biosphere Reserve, located in the south-western part of Malawi. As an alumnus of the programme, I was recently awarded a full scholarship for my ongoing Masters in Restoration Ecology at the Agricultural University of Iceland, and my goal is to gain a deeper understanding and practical skills in ecological restoration in addressing the key environmental issues affecting ecosystems in Malawi.

Leonard Gondwe (GRÓ LRT Fellow 2022 from Malawi)


“Being a part of the GRÓ LRT programme this year was such an enlightening experience. The trainings and field trips were informative and inclusive, because we got hands-on experience and got to apply these insights to come up with solutions that can benefit our environment, particularly the biosphere reserves. I learned to pay attention to ethical and gender considerations in our future SLM projects and activities. I have been truly impacted by the programme.”

Esther O. David (GRÓ LRT Fellow 2023 from Nigeria)


“The GRO LRT programme is a necessary requirement in pursuit of addressing environmental challenges for global biodiversity sustainability. I'm one of its alumni and every bit of the programme is educative, practically designed and enjoyable. The collaboration between UNESCO -MAB and the GRO LRT on ecological restoration and sustainable land management will project a perfect change for future generations where the mindset of professionals would be built to bring about the desired change for nature conservation and sustainability. Personally, after the six months training at the land restoration programme in Iceland, I've been transformed through theoretical and practical learning process to restore degraded lands, champion sustainable land management process in Omo Biosphere Reserve and Nigeria at large. I feel fulfilled and professionally impacted after undergoing the training. As a manager in one of the UNESCO sites in Nigeria, the synergy between UNESCO and GRO LRT is already changing the narrative for a collective pursuit to addressing global environmental challenges. Keep the synergy running!”

Clifford Omonu (GRÓ LRT Fellow 2023 from Nigeria)


Designated by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, the World Network of Biosphere Reserves counts 748 sites around the world dedicated to improving the relationship between people and nature.

GRÓ is a Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO. The Land Restoration Training Programme is one of four training programmes that are run by GRÓ, alongside training programmes in sustainable fisheries, gender equality and geothermal energy.