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When Thekla was looking for opportunities to work in the ecosystem restoration sector from a business-perspective, she got introduced to Willem and Michiel from Commonland. In the early days, Commonland helped set up the project in the Baviaanskloof, and was the founding partner of Four Returns, the company which is now called Grounded. Commonland is still a key partner of Grounded. Grounded is one of Commonland’s implementing partners in South Africa, alongside with Living Lands we work on implementation of the the Four Returns™ approach in the Baviaanskloof and Langkloof.
Through Commonland, Grounded is part of an international network of “Four Returns Companies” which all adopt the Four Returns model in the development of landscape restoration projects. Through this network we can share experiences, and learn together. For more information on other Commonland projects, and the network, you can check out these websites:
Australia – Wide Open Agriculture
Spain – Alvelal
the Netherlands – Wij.land
Without Living Lands, Grounded wouldn’t exist. When Thekla started exploring opportunities for business development in landscape restoration, Willem and Michiel from Commonland put her in touch with Dieter van den Broeck, one of Living Lands’ founders. Dieter and Thekla met and decided it would be great to work together. Living Lands started working in the Baviaanskloof in South Africa, where they have been active since 2008. Living Lands adopts the Theory U in all their work. The organization brings action-based research to the landscape, which in the Baviaanskloof alone has led to over 100 students from all over the world contributing to building up a knowledge base on ecology, agronomy and social structures. In addition, Living Lands has so-called ‘landscape mobilizers’ who work with farmers and people on the landscape to truly understand their needs and concerns, and create collaborations to work together towards ‘Living Landscapes’. Over the past years, Living Lands has also done amazing work in the implementation of large-scale rehabilitation programs. This has created numerous jobs, restored over 1,000 ha of degraded land, and their innovative approach is seen as an example across the country. We are proud to say we have a very special working relationship with Living Lands, and Grounded – and landscape company staff work together on the landscapes in integrated team.
Peace Parks Foundation advocates for the creation of transfrontier conservation areas – in Africa, and provides services to these TFCAs such as political support-building, planning, project management, fundraising, and management training in various areas. Grounded was invited by Peace Parks to contribute to the Conservation Agriculture project which Peace Parks has been running since the 2013/14 season in the Simalaha Community Conservancy in Zambia. This is the area where Gijs and Thekla, who are now the co-owners of Grounded, first met in 2015.
In the Simalaha, Peace Parks is implementing an ambitious Conservation Agriculture program. Grounded is supporting to take a business-approach to agricultural developments in the area. We work in a cross-organizational team on the landscape.
FBM is the official manager of the Bongolava Forest Corridor. They are an independent Malagasy foundation (NGO) that has been supported by Conservation International and is currently funded by the Critical Ecosystem Protection Fund (CEPF). The main person in charge of this project has ten years of experience in the field of forest restoration and soil improvement in Madagascar. FBM has a team of local technicians per commune (or ‘Fokontany’) who will work directly to support the farmers. When Grounded started working in Madagascar, we did an extensive scouting of potential areas to work. The Bongolava Forest Corridor was selected because there was a great click with FBM, an organization with shared values, and a shared vision for the region. FBM focuses on protection of the forest and its indigenous resources, and Grounded supports with the development of alternative business opportunities for people in the area.