• Home
  • Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Posted by


Daniel Murdiyarso, CIFOR Principal Scientist and IPB professor, speaks during the opening plenary of the Blue Carbon Summit. Photo by AIPI

Failing to properly manage “blue carbon” ecosystems could result in biodiversity losses, pronounced climate change effects and negative impacts on people’s livelihoods, and could even affect the internet. 

The Blue Carbon Summit held on July 17-18 in Jakarta, Indonesia, covered everything from the most well-known blue carbon ecosystems of mangroves and seagrass to coral reefs, the fish industry, ecotourism, plastic waste, shipping emissions and offshore mining.

Over two days, scientists, government, the private sector, media and likeminded community members came together for discussions that called for coordinated efforts to address issues related to blue carbon.

Blue carbon is that which is stored in coastal ecosystems, in contrast to “green carbon” stored in plants, trees and soil. In comparison to the attention paid to the carbon sequestered by forests, blue carbon has thus far remained relatively under the radar – but this belies its importance.

“We are here to correct an imbalance,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), during the summit opening, referring to the global focus on issues such as deforestation and greenhouse gases. “What is happening in coastal areas seems a bit forgotten. It’s a great time for us to bring that to the fore.”

Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, where vital infrastructure can also be found worldwide, Nasi explained, underscoring the importance of both scientists and policymakers understanding how the ecosystems work and how they can be restored. “Coastal ecosystems are fundamental for the survival of the species, for ecosystem services, for biodiversity, and for blue carbon,” he added.

“If we don’t do anything about these coastal areas, about blue carbon ecosystems, what is going to happen to us?” Nasi asked, pointing out that aside from people’s livelihoods and biodiversity in coastal areas being at stake, major infrastructure such as fiber-optic cables is often below sea level and could theoretically end up under water. “So if we don’t do something, we may also lose some part of the internet.”

Read also: Coastal blue carbon from planted mangroves holds promise

Policymakers and scientific experts came together to discuss blue carbon’s potential to mitigate climate change and enhance sustainable economic development during the summit. Photo by AIPI

“We think that this is the right time to work on this topic because of a critical mass already sharing their knowledge, already having results,” said Daniel Murdiyarso, Principal Scientist at CIFOR, which coorganized the summit, and professor in the Department of Geophysics and Meteorology at Bogor Agricultural University (IPB).

“So we want to sit together and see how this can be provided for the government, to make a science-based recommendation related to blue carbon.”

Murdiyarso expressed his hope that findings from the summit could be mainstreamed into the public agenda and connected to the Paris agreement on climate change, especially given blue carbon’s clear links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Read also: Focus on mangroves: Blue carbon science for sustainable development

Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI) President Satrio Sumantri Brodjonegoro concurred, saying that the discussions were expected to identify gaps hindering the mainstreaming of blue carbon in the national agenda and to pave the way for blue carbon development in Indonesia. As the world’s largest archipelago, with 99,000 kilometers of coastline, the country is well-placed to not only set its own path but also to set a global example.

After the opening plenary on Day 1, subplenary sessions looked at the roles of non-state actors and the donor community. Following that, a series of parallel discussion forums considered the fishing industry, marine tourism and the shipping industry, governance systems, financing blue carbon development, hydrodynamic and sustainable coastal resources, and seagrass and climate change.

Day 2 began with a keynote speech from Indonesia’s Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, before subplenary sessions on international partnerships and a high-level forum of government representatives. The day was rounded out with parallel discussion forums on subsidence, sedimentation and sea-level rises, and mangroves and climate.

The discussions from the summit are expected to be developed into a white paper, set to cover the following points.

  • Blue carbon in both open ocean and coastal ecosystems, including mangroves and seagrasses, is important for climate change mitigation because of its significant carbon storage capacity compared with terrestrial ecosystems. These ecosystems also offer significant climate change adaptation opportunities, especially in helping coastal regions keep pace with sea level rise.
  • Blue carbon ecosystems provide numerous services to people and now is the time to consider their role in developing alternative livelihoods. Sustainable ecotourism, fisheries and shellfish farming are all industries that generate direct economic benefits while protecting intact mangroves.
  • Conservation and restoration are essential components of the blue carbon economy
  • Implementation of a blue carbon economy needs to take into consideration more than just carbon, and should encompass economic sectors such as fisheries, ecotourism, transportation and shipping.
  • Due to complex history and geography, governance structures and institutionalizing the blue carbon economy have posed considerable challenges in the past.
  • Mechanisms to finance the blue carbon economy must reflect the unique benefits and challenges of blue carbon and help overcome institutional biases.
  • The participation of local communities is essential to establishing the blue carbon economy
  • While the level of understanding of blue carbon is sufficient, capacity development will require stakeholders to be better connected.
  • To put blue carbon on national and global agendas, there must be a stronger coalition within and between government agencies to engage a wider network of stakeholders.
  • Partnerships are key to the success of achieving national and global objectives and goals. Learning lessons from partners is cost effective and therefore should be encouraged, while opportunities for greater cooperation should be enhanced.
A mangrove forest thrives in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“Improved policies and implementation of blue carbon initiatives in the context of addressing climate change certainly cannot be done by one country. This effort requires coordination and engagement of all elements of development, at the national and regional levels – with the support of all parties including governments, private sector, communities as well as national and international development partners,” Gellwynn Yusuf, representing Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS), said in closing the event.

This could be a mechanism for Indonesia to achieve SDGs, particularly by meeting Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) while also improving economic factors. While acknowledging that coordination among agencies was important, and that some financing challenges remained to be solved, Yusuf called on the international community to support Indonesia’s efforts in making blue carbon a key policy for combating the negative impacts of climate change.

“As the global leader in blue carbon ecosystems, Indonesia has an opportunity to demonstrate strong leadership and set the direction internationally for other countries,” he said.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

The Blue Carbon Summit was organized by AIPI, CIFOR, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF). 

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

  • Home
  • Human diets drive range expansion of megafauna-dispersed fruit species

Human diets drive range expansion of megafauna-dispersed fruit species

Posted by


Neotropical fruit species once dispersed by Pleistocene megafauna have regained relevance in diversifying human diets to address malnutrition. Little is known about the historic interactions between humans and these fruit species. We quantified the human role in modifying geographic and environmental ranges of Neotropical fruit species by comparing the distribution of megafauna-dispersed fruit species that have been part of both human and megafauna diets with fruit species that were exclusively part of megafauna diets. Three quarters of the fruit species that were once dispersed by megafauna later became part of human diets. Our results suggest that, because of extensive dispersal and management, humans have expanded the geographic and environmental ranges of species that would otherwise have suffered range contraction after extinction of megafauna. Our results suggest that humans have been the principal dispersal agent for a large proportion of Neotropical fruit species between Central and South America. Our analyses help to identify range segments that may hold key genetic diversity resulting from historic interactions between humans and these fruit species. These genetic resources are a fundamental source to improve and diversify contemporary food systems and to maintain critical ecosystem functions. Public, private, and societal initiatives that stimulate dietary diversity could expand the food usage of these megafauna-dispersed fruit species to enhance human nutrition in combination with biodiversity conservation.

Access this publication via the publisher’s website.

  • Home
  • Modeling Land Use and Land Cover Changes and Their Effects on Biodiversity in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

Modeling Land Use and Land Cover Changes and Their Effects on Biodiversity in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

Posted by


Land use and land cover (LULC) change causes biodiversity decline through loss, alteration, and fragmentation of habitats. There are uncertainties on how LULC will change in the future and the effect of such change on biodiversity. In this paper we applied the Land Change Modeler (LCM) and Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) Scenario Generator tool to develop three spatially explicit LULC future scenarios from 2015 to 2030 in the Pulang Pisau district of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The district is experiencing a rapid loss of biodiversity as a result of unprecedented LULC changes. Further, we used the InVEST Habitat Quality model to map habitat quality as a proxy to biodiversity in each of the scenarios. We find habitat quality decline is largest in a scenario where past trends of LULC change continue, followed by a scenario with planned agricultural expansion. Alternately, a conservation-oriented scenario results in significant improvements in habitat quality for biodiversity. This information can support in developing appropriate land use policy for biodiversity conservation in Indonesia.

  • Home
  • Unpacking 'sustainable' cocoa: do sustainability standards, development projects and policies address producer concerns in Indonesia, Cameroon and Peru?

Unpacking ‘sustainable’ cocoa: do sustainability standards, development projects and policies address producer concerns in Indonesia, Cameroon and Peru?

Posted by


Sustainable cocoa has attracted considerable attention. However, stakeholders in cocoa development may differ in their understanding of sustainable cocoa, their interests and actions taken in advancing sustainable cocoa. This article analyses cocoa sustainability at nested scales and analyses to what extent sustainability standards, policies and development projects address sustainability concerns and contribute to ecosystem services. The analysis is based on literature reviews and key informant interviews in Sulawesi (Indonesia), Ucayali (Peru) and Centre Region (Cameroon). Producers in all three countries shared concerns of price volatility, weak farmer organizations and dependence on few buyers. Producers in Sulawesi and Centre Region compensated low returns to cocoa production by diversification of cocoa systems. Public and private development actors were concerned with low production volumes. Research has so far focused on biodiversity loss, which differed depending on the cocoa sector’s age in a country. Policies and development programs in all countries have focused on cocoa sector expansion and productivity increases, irrespective of smallholder needs for economically viable farming systems and existing market structures resulting in little bargaining power to farmers. Sustainability standards have spread unevenly and have converged in compliance criteria over time, although initially differing in focus. Recently added business and development criteria of sustainability standards can potentially address farmers’ concerns. Competing interests and interdependencies between different actors’ responses to concerns have so far not been openly acknowledged by public and private sector actors.

  • Home
  • Taking stock of ecosystem services in the mountains of southern Asia

Taking stock of ecosystem services in the mountains of southern Asia

Ribangkadeng village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, is pictured from the air. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR
Posted by


A mountainous landscape is seen from above in Lampung, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

Mountain forest ecosystems provide a wide range of benefits, not only to local residents, but to those living downstream: from reducing floods to stabilizing slopes and supporting rich biodiversity.

Understanding these contributions is key to sustainably managing mountain forest services — but large-scale assessments are still rare, especially in data-poor regions.

In response, scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partner institutions, including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), compiled in a new working paper the most relevant tools and approaches to assess the sociocultural, economic and ecological values of mountain forest ecosystems, with a focus on southern Asia.

“This working paper wants to help researchers and land managers understand the various assessment methods, so that they are able apply them in their own countries and landscapes,” says lead author and CIFOR senior scientist, Himlal Baral of FTA.

Understanding the direct and indirect benefits of forest ecosystems to human well-being is important globally, but especially so in mountainous areas, as illustrated in the paper by case studies in Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Iran and Nepal.

Steep slopes and elevation create geographical barriers to accessing mountain forest landscapes, meaning that “local communities are isolated from urban areas, and so rely heavily on mountain forest ecosystem services for basic needs such as food,” explains Baral. In many cases, mountain people are also more vulnerable to climate change and poverty, he says.

At the same time, natural geographical barriers often result in communities with their own distinct cultures and social systems, and in “more primary forests, higher carbon stocks and richer biodiversity compared with lowland areas,” states the paper.

Read also: Approaches and tools for assessing mountain forest ecosystem services


Gauging stakeholders’ perspectives, analyzing markets and scenario modeling are three ways of assessing ecosystem services. “Some of these approaches are simple, user-friendly and readily available,” Baral points out. “Even people with little experience and technical expertise can use them.”

The various tools falling into these three categories are differentiated in terms of required data, technical capacity, time and cost, and “have their own strengths of being able to assess a particular value,” notes the paper.

This means they can be jointly implemented to assess multiple values of mountain forest ecosystem services, and to shed light on the trade-offs and synergies between them. For example, “restoration efforts to enhance one service could compromise — or improve — another service.”

A case study in Nepal’s community forests, for instance, illustrates the combination of free-access satellite images, repeat photography, and participatory approaches to engaging local communities and experts.

The paper indicates this three-pronged approach “can be used to quickly map and prioritize ecosystem services’ values,” and to demonstrate the positive impact of restoration efforts over the last two decades.

In Bhutan, a tool known as benefit-transfer showed that the average total value of forest ecosystem services was over USD 14.5 billion per year, while in India, stakeholder and household analyses revealed that local livelihoods near the Maguri Mottapung wetland hinge on 29 ecosystem services — something that “suggests the urgent need for a participatory management plan engaging local communities.”

Ribangkadeng village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, is pictured from the air. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR


For Laxmi Dutt Bhatta, a senior ecosystem management specialist at ICIMOD and co-author of the paper, the assessment of ecosystem services is key to “showing the overall value of forests to countries and communities; to following up their evolution, and to informing decision-making.”

Co-author Sonam Phuntsho, who is a senior forestry officer at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER), agrees: “Forests are a critical natural asset in Bhutan, where the majority of the population directly depends on forests for various services. But there is very limited information on their value so far.”

From Phuntsho’s perspective, having an overview of studies and methodologies in the region is now “extremely useful” for the country, as payment for ecosystem services is gradually picking up.

In Indonesia, the so-called Q methodology has helped lay the ground for payment of ecosystem services by identifying stakeholders’ anticipated benefits and concerns, while the study in Nepal “could be very much replicated in Bhutan, given the rapid increase in community forests,” Phuntso says.

Read also: Forest Landscape Restoration in Hilly and Mountainous Regions: Special Issue


Assessing mountain forest ecosystem services brings opportunities, but also challenges that must be reflected in assessment design.

These include the complexity of defining and classifying ecosystem services, intricate relationships among services including trade-offs and synergies, and the limitation of assessments to build successful payments for services.

Bhatta highlights two additional issues that will have to be addressed to understand the evolution of such services in the next 50 years: uncertainties associated with climate change and the scarcity of data on mountain forest ecosystem services, especially in data-poor regions such as South Asian mountains, and the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

Despite these challenges, lead author Himlal Baral is hopeful about the future of ecosystem service-based management. “In the past, forests just meant timber to many, but awareness is increasing,” he says.

“Now, a growing number of people associate forests with mitigation of climate change, water, biodiversity and landslide protection, so we are moving in the right direction.”

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Himlal Baral at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).

  • Home
  • Approaches and tools for assessing mountain forest ecosystem services

Approaches and tools for assessing mountain forest ecosystem services

Posted by


Mountain forest ecosystems provide a wide range of direct and indirect contributions to the people who live in the mountains and surrounding areas. Occupying steep slopes at high elevation, these ecosystems provide services such as stabilizing slopes, regulating hydrological cycles, maintaining rich biodiversity and supporting the livelihoods of those who are diverse in culture but vulnerable to poverty and food security. This paper (i) reviews several tools for assessing the sociocultural, economic and ecological values of mountain forest ecosystem services, (ii) demonstrates case studies of tool applications from several countries namely, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Iran and Nepal, and (iii) discusses assessment challenges that should be considered in the application of these tools.

In Bhutan, an application of benefit transfer showed that the average total value of forest ecosystem services was over USD 14.5 billion per year. In India, an application of stakeholder and household analyses indicated that a total of 29 different ecosystem services are available and sustain livelihoods of local communities near the Maguri Mottapung wetland. In Indonesia, an application of Q methodology identified anticipated benefits and concerns of forest watershed stakeholders related to certification applications for a payment for ecosystem services. In Iran, an application of the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs Tool showed that the regulation of ecosystem services has been declining in Hyrcanian forests despite the forests’ critical roles in the region. In Nepal, an application of a spatial analytical approach and participatory assessment techniques identified key mountain ecosystem services for community forests at the Charnawolti sub-watershed of Dolakha, and demonstrated forest restoration on degraded lands over the last two decades. Several challenges exist for the assessment of mountain forest ecosystem services and these must be reflected in assessment design. These challenges include the complexity of defining and classifying ecosystem services; limited availability of data on ecosystem services; uncertainties associated with climate change; complex relationships among services including trade-offs and synergies; and limitation of assessments to build successful payments for ecosystem services.

  • Home
  • Research team looks at changing landscapes, from forests to food

Research team looks at changing landscapes, from forests to food

A woman picks edible leaves. Photo by M. MacDonald/CIFOR
Posted by


A woman picks edible leaves. Photo by M. MacDonald/CIFOR

New work challenges conventional wisdom on agricultural expansion.

The growing demand for food — demand that is expected to double by 2050 — has led to widespread agricultural expansion, primarily at the expense of forests.

It is estimated that between 1980 and 2000, more than half of new agricultural land across the tropics was developed on forested land and a further 28 percent opened up on secondary forestland. Despite this expansion and significant progress made to reduce hunger, the UN estimates that more than 840 million people worldwide remain hungry and undernourished.

Food security is increasingly linked to a range of sectors such as biodiversity, conservation, maintenance of ecosystem services, food production, sustainable livelihood provision, and climate change mitigation.

Numerous theories have been put forward that aim to find a balance between food security, conservation and livelihoods. But do these ideas work?

Twenty scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partner institutions representing a range of disciplines set out to answer that question.

Led by CIFOR scientist Terry Sunderland, the team looked at six pantropical landscapes, in Zambia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, to find out what is actually happening on the ground.

“We wanted to challenge conventional wisdom that as economies and people develop, we have to transition from forest to agriculture to manufacturing and service industries and assume the outcomes are always positive,” says Sunderland.

Food security is increasingly linked to a range of sectors such as biodiversity, conservation, maintenance of ecosystem services and food production. Photo by M. MacDonald/CIFOR

“We wanted to test if that is actually the case, particularly for rural dwellers, and if it really has a net benefit in the longer term,” he adds.

Sunderland says the research team wanted to get a broader perspective on the impact of this transition to agriculture in these forested areas. So they took a wider approach, looking at not only socio-ecological aspects but socio-economic factors as well.

“We found that it is not a linear process. This transition impacts in the short term and in the long term. It affects the environment, health, diet and social and cultural impacts too,” he says.


One of the strongest points that came out of the study is that when you look at rural communities in changing landscapes, you need to not only examine each factor, but how each relates to its specific circumstances. Sunderland says one of the problems is that people often generalize when it comes to the lives of local people living in these rural areas.

“We tend to come out with sweeping statements about forest dependence, forest reliance and diets and so on, but it really it depends on a whole range of other externalities like culture and economies, so the local context is really important,” says Sunderland.

One surprising finding emerged in Ethiopia, for example, where the scientists found that people who lived further away from the forest were actually poorer because they didn’t have access to fuel wood.  These communities were forced to burn manure as fuel instead of putting it on their crops.

“This situation led to decreases in crop yields and grazing lands and that led to these communities becoming considerably poorer,” says Sunderland.

One example of relying on assumptions comes from Indonesia, where there is the general argument that oil palm does great things for the local economy. Sunderland says that may be the case, but that this point has been oversimplified.

When the researchers spoke with oil palm workers they found a huge dietary transition from a very varied, nutritious diet, often from forest foods, to a very simplified diet that relies on sugar and fats.

“It’s an ‘instant noodleization’ of diets of sorts. When people have a bit more money in their pockets they tend to buy pre-packaged food. It’s a status thing, too. And it is these things that are usually never thought about,” says Sunderland.

He says food security shouldn’t be counted just in calories, but should also include people’s actual diets and hence nutrition.


So, how do we maintain economic growth and food security without ruining the environment?

“What this study is saying is it’s not about keeping people forest-dependent, but it is keeping people cognizant of the fact that forests play an important role in food security, for example in terms of ecosystems and their impact on forest agriculture,” says Sunderland.

He says once you are on the ground you quickly realize that many of these concepts such as land-sharing and land-sparing, are often more conceptual than anything, and imply a “grand design” at the landscape scale that simply is not there. He says there is a need to really get down to the complexities of these landscapes.

A Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) site is seen in Tigray, Ethiopia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR


Over the years, critics have asked: how are you going to feed the world if you don’t have massive agricultural expansion across landscapes?  But the research shows it is not a question of ‘either/or’. Forests and trees have a key role to play.

The new study references previous research which estimates that over 1.3 billion people utilize forests, and that trees and forested landscapes generate significant income for local people who could earn as much from foraging forests and wild lands as from cultivating crops.

“There is now evidence of a clear dichotomy between the environment and food security. So it’s not as black and white as it seems,” says Sunderland.

Sunderland says that the impact on landscapes from climate change emphasizes this message, so there is a need to help farmers diversify in the future and do more with what they have.

“Farmers who are growing eight different types of crops are much less likely to suffer from the environmental or economic impact of climate change, as opposed to a farmer who is growing just wheat and he happens to have a catastrophic year and everything is lost,” he says.

The researchers also looked at aid projects that were being implemented in their research areas. These projects focused on issues like agriculture, sustainability and livelihoods, and lasted for a relatively short time, from three to five years.

“That’s great for short term, but not the long term. So we are advocating moving away from projects to more process-oriented interventions and even understanding how landscapes change over time and why,” says Sunderland.

Moving forward in this research, the team recognizes is a great need to take a multi-disciplinary approach — when social scientists work together with environmental scientists you get a much better outcome, Sunderland says.

“There’s no silver bullet. There’s only a complex reality and you really have to get a grasp on it to move on. We need to understand these landscapes before we can manage them,” he concludes.

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

This research was supported by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

  • Home
  • Finding a way in for better landscape governance

Finding a way in for better landscape governance

A water porter makes his way to a gold panning area in Sindri village, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
Posted by


A dry landscape is seen in Burkina Faso. Photo by D. Tiveau/CIFOR

Study in Ghana and Burkina Faso finds an entry point for landscape approaches in natural resource management schemes.

Landscape approaches provide a framework to find solutions to social, environmental and economic challenges in Africa. In the past, sectoral approaches were often used to manage land, but more and more experts agree that integrated approaches are needed to ensure that landscapes are managed sustainably.

With this kind of approach, a landscape would be managed in such a way that it provides environmental services for more than one group or sector. For example, a single landscape could be managed in an integrated way to become a source of water for local communities and agriculture, provide trees for timber, support local biodiversity and give shade for cocoa farming. In this way, integrated landscape approaches can also contribute to solving global environmental challenges such as biodiversity loss, food insecurity and climate change.

Read also: Stepping up to the challenge to end poverty and hunger without trashing the planet

Scientists from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) explored three established natural resource management schemes in the West African nations of Burkina Faso and Ghana to see if they could identify locally embedded entry points for implementing integrated landscape approaches.

“All three have interacting land uses, whether through agroforestry systems common throughout Burkina Faso, or a mosaic of wildlife reserves, food production and timber tree planting in Ghana,” said researcher Mirjam Ros-Tonen from the University of Amsterdam.

“But they all face deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change and persistent poverty,” added Samson Foli, also from UvA.

A water porter makes his way to a gold panning area in Sindri village, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR


All three schemes target landscape degradation and involve local communities. The Chantier d’Aménagement Forestier (CAF) scheme encompasses forest management sites across Burkina Faso.

In Ghana, the Modified Taungya System (MTS) aims to restore degraded forest reserves while allowing farmers to interplant food crops, and the Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) target wildlife conservation and livelihood diversification at the fringes of protected areas and wildlife reserves, through participatory natural resource management.

The team scored each scheme on five design principles for integrated landscape approaches derived from a previous study. These include extent of integration, adaptive management and continual learning, polycentric governance, multi-stakeholder involvement and capacity-building. The degree of alignment with these principles help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the schemes as entry points for landscape approaches.

“We found challenges in all areas to varying degrees. For example, we found that farmers in Ghana’s MTS had a share in the timber revenues but little say in the design, implementation and running of the MTS,” says Ros-Tonen.

“Secondly, farmers are unable to produce food on MTS lands after about three years when food crops do no longer survive under the shade of the canopy.”

Read also: Forests as food: New report highlights important relationship between forest landscapes and healthy diets

The study shows that a lack of long-term funding and economic incentives threaten the program, while top-down governance arrangements stifle a genuine move toward more collaborative decision-making, power-sharing and institutional diversity.

In Burkina Faso, it was a similar story.

Trees dot the scenery in the Kongoussi area, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

“In Burkina, the CAF scheme called for co-ops to be involved in decision-making, but a lot of the time local people don’t have the resources to go or prepare for the meetings, so they don’t attend,” Foli says.


Although these two schemes could succeed if improvements are made, Ghana’s CREMA approach showed more potential.

“The CREMA does a better job at various levels by allowing people to be directly involved in conservation and natural resource use because they have total autonomy,” Foli says.

“They have the liberty to do establish ecotourism initiatives, or game sanctuaries, or other income-generating and local capacity-building projects. Because they are empowered, they have a progressive trajectory, and with government assistance, they receive periodic training from the Forestry Commission or NGOs,” he adds.

The study shows that the CREMA is the only scheme that explicitly deals with trade-offs between conservation and development aims. The CREMA was also found to take a more flexible approach compared to the other two schemes that have a more rigid decision-making structure.

The researchers found that government forestry and land-use planning institutions conduct conservation programs with little consideration for existing norms used by local people in conserving natural resources. Only the CREMA initiative takes local knowledge and practices for the conservation and sustainable use explicitly into account.

“But the CREMA isn’t perfect. We found that all three schemes needed to have a monitoring and evaluation component. This is especially needed here, as all three have been established as a response to failure of past conservation strategies. So we need to know if they are fulfilling their set goals or not,” Foli says.


The study also points to the need for continual learning and a management structure that can adapt to change. The researchers concluded that the CREMA can be improved by building platforms for the exchange and co-creation of knowledge and experimental learning at all levels. In other words, working toward a holistic landscape approach guided by an advanced set of the principles.

“We are also seeing more and more stakeholders becoming involved — NGOs, government, researchers, communities — and that’s a good thing. But for any scheme to be successful, the community and local groups need a bigger voice,” Foli says.

The researchers stress that a realistic perspective is needed to ensure integrated landscape approaches succeed, and that means being flexible in translating the guiding principles based on local context and conservation objectives.

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the Conservation and Sustainable use of Tropical Forest Biodiversity program financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and WOTRO Science for Global Development/Food and Business Applied Research Fund through the TREEFARMS project.

  • Home
  • Passion first, research later? A case study of Zambia’s mukula tree

Passion first, research later? A case study of Zambia’s mukula tree

Clearing land for farming is one factor, but logging for timber and cutting trees for firewood and charcoal production are also drivers for deforestation in Zambia. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
Posted by


Abandoned mukula (rosewood) logs in the yard of a now-defunct company in Zambia. Photo: Paolo Cerutti/CIFOR

By Paolo Cerutti, Davison Gumbo, Robert Nasi, Xiaoxue Weng, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Once you have gone through the scientific publication process and your article is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it is often a good idea to write a blog post to increase its visibility and reach more readers across diverse disciplines.

This process is encouraged at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and indeed – as a policy-oriented research center – a short non-technical document can convey useful information to a broader audience, including government officials and policymakers who are unlikely to read an entire published scientific article. Hopefully, better and more informed policy decisions will also ensue.

Yet, after a recent trip along the Luapula River, which cuts across the beautiful, unique and fragile south African miombo forests, and for a long stretch materializes the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia, we came home with a sense of urgency to write this blog. This is not ordinary procedure, as the scientific article about our research there is currently in its embryonic stage. So we beg the pardon of the academic world in advance for our impatience.


To explain our sense of urgency, we need to make a short reference to CIFOR and our partners’ research. For more than a decade now, we have roamed the dense humid forests that stretch from Liberia to the DRC, trying to bring a novel and broader look at what is generally considered the “timber sector” in those countries’ political circles.

Clearing land for farming is one factor, but logging for timber and cutting trees for firewood and charcoal production are also drivers for deforestation in Zambia. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Long story short, while historically, the focus of forest policies has been on large-scale, export-oriented forest operations (i.e. logging concessions), in recent years, domestic timber markets, which are largely supplied by small-scale operations, have gained prominence. Be it large or small-scale operations, when conducting our research and thinking about potential policy options, two commonalities are often taken for granted.

First, one of our priority audiences are state officials from national and local governments. We incorporate them into our research from its inception; working with them on the ground and sharing problematic issues with them, such as corruption, over and over again until sooner or later, they can rapidly act on forest operations and become part of the solution.

Second, both logging companies and smallholders are linked to a specific jurisdiction (or a forest), connecting them to the related sovereign government that has the power to regulate (and sanction if need be) their behavior.

Or so we thought before visiting the Luapula region.

We were conducting research on the largely illegal harvesting of one of its magnificent tree species, Pterocarpus tinctorius. Locally known as mukula, it is internationally sold under the general name of rosewood. In the 18 months since our research began there, we have witnessed the number of rosewood trees cut skyrocketing by the day, and have felt worried about the looming negative environmental and social consequences.

And this brings us back to our sense of urgency, because in this case (and in many others across Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond), there seems to be neither a single government, nor companies or individuals fitting solely under one jurisdiction that can be targeted with the classic solution of improved national policies.


In this sense, the story of mukula is very telling. From 2012-2013, when mukula was not even listed as a commercial species recognized by the Zambian government, the demand (particularly by the Chinese market) was so high and harvesting so widespread, that a ban on the conveyance and export of mukula was issued. While the ban did not seem to reach the intended results (our preliminary results indicate that harvesting continued unabated, albeit a bit more hidden), it did send a message to traders that the Zambian government was taking serious decisions about it.

As a result, many traders decided to simply move across the border to DRC, Malawi and Mozambique, or to the more distant Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire and elsewhere, to apply the same business model (“cut and run”). Across the border in DRC, the harvesting (of a similar species of trees) became so widespread and environmentally destructive, that even the highest religious authorities in the region issued warnings and requests for help.

In several countries in West Africa, the negative environmental impact became so evident that the local species of rosewood was elevated to Appendix II status in the CITES convention in September 2016.

But not the Zambian mukula. In fact, the government of Zambia lifted the ban in mid-2016. Harvesting and trade became less controlled, demand for mukula rose, and people started chopping trees down wherever they could find them. Only this past January was a new ban issued.


So, coming back to the urgency of our blog, and to a question: In a sector where business models seem to be more and more disconnected from national borders and local jurisdictions, what innovative set of policies and institutions (or alternative solutions) are needed to tackle current negative social, financial and environmental impacts?

Regional bodies might provide answers, but they don’t seem as effective as they could be- at least for now. What new powers, responsibilities and capacities do they need in order to be more effective in tackling such evidently supra-national problems?

We think these and other similar questions are becoming urgent, and scientific research should contribute some of the answers. If we continue to operate only by the classic approach of national regulations – even if they are improved through the knowledge that our research can bring- by the time these regulations are implemented, the local populations will have lost many livelihoods opportunities. What’s more, the forest and some of its most ecologically-valuable species like the mukula may long be gone.

*This research is conducted in collaboration with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

For more information on this topic, please contact Paolo Cerutti at [email protected].

This research was supported by Department of International Development and Economic and Social Research Council of the U.K.

  • Home
  • FTA events recap from CBD COP13: The results of REDD+ for people and the environment

FTA events recap from CBD COP13: The results of REDD+ for people and the environment

Posted by


Amy Duchelle, Scientist in the Forests and Livelihoods program at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), speaks on the sidelines of the 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13), held from 4-17 December 2016 in Cancun, Mexico. Duchelle presented research results on the impacts of REDD+ interventions on forests and people at an event titled, ‘Improving the evidence base on the effectiveness of forest conservation and rural livelihoods initiatives in delivering social and ecological benefits’. This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Back to top

Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Connect with us