• Home
  • Toward a tenure-responsive approach to forest landscape restoration: A proposed tenure diagnostic for assessing restoration opportunities

Toward a tenure-responsive approach to forest landscape restoration: A proposed tenure diagnostic for assessing restoration opportunities

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The Bonn Challenge, a voluntary global initiative launched in 2011, aims to bring up to 350 million hectares of degraded land into some level of restorative state by 2030. Pilot forest landscape restoration (FLR) efforts indicate that enhancing community and smallholder tenure rights is critical for achieving FLR’s desired joint environmental and social well-being objectives. The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) is a decision support tool that has become widely used in national and subnational FLR planning. Although ROAM is structured so as to encourage inclusion of tenure rights and governance analyses, the extent to which ROAM reports actually incorporate tenure issues is undocumented. To address this gap, we report the results of an analysis of the currently publicly accessible ROAM reports from eight countries in Africa and Latin America. We found that the ROAM reports superficially covered tenure and governance considerations. We recommend design elements for a tenure diagnostic that should facilitate more robust tenure and land governance analyses to complement ROAM and other FLR planning approaches. We suggest the adoption of a rights-enhanced FLR approach so as to capitalize on the motivating force that strong and secure tenure rights provide for landholders to engage in forest restoration design and practice. Although developed in the context of FLR, the proposed tenure diagnostic should have broad utility for other land use initiatives where tenure rights and security are at stake.

  • Home
  • How are China, Nepal and Ethiopia restoring forest landscapes?

How are China, Nepal and Ethiopia restoring forest landscapes?

A researcher explains the use of ground penetrating radar to measure peat depth to professors and students. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Comparative study launched on sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum finds success in devolving property rights.

Forest landscape restoration has gained a high political profile internationally, but still faces the challenge of how best to involve local communities to ensure the success of programs on the ground. This is an issue that is all the more challenging given the diversity of environmental and sociopolitical contexts around the globe.

Property rights, for instance, are widely accepted as a crucial starting point for restoration — but policymakers struggle to clarify and secure rights over forests. In view of this, researchers at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), turned to successful FLR programs in China, Nepal and Ethiopia to identify lessons that could be applied elsewhere.

A woman prepares rice for cooking in Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Specifically, they examined how the devolution of access and management rights to local communities provided incentives for them to invest in restoration activities. The study, included in a Special Issue of International Forestry Review on forest landscape restoration, focuses on people managing forests in mountainous and hilly areas.

The special issue was launched on the sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, where FTA also participated in discussion forums and panels.

By drawing examples from dramatically different national contexts, the comparative study illustrates “the diversity of paths that the devolution of rights took, but how it had similar results,” says CIFOR senior scientist and lead author Peter Cronkleton.

All three cases of forest tenure reform led to the decentralization of forestry institutions and the partial devolution of management rights to local forest-dependent people, Cronkleton says. This resulted in different comanagement systems that reflect national and local contexts.

However, the general outcome was the same: local households that gained clear and secure benefits from restoration efforts not only invested in management activities, but also helped to protect the resources from overuse and excluded outsiders. Ultimately, this led to an increase in forest cover and improvements in livelihoods.

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn 2017

COMANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

In Nepal, devolution passed rights to community-level user groups controlling nearby remnant forests, while in China’s Changting county, reforms resulted in a varied array of individuals and local groups controlling different types of forest for different purposes, the study notes.

In Ethiopia, a national forest was subdivided to grant control to local organizations representing subgroups from surrounding communities.

“All or most forests in question started as public or collective property within systems that placed strict restrictions on forest access and use for local stakeholders. However, in each case, national agencies or other authorities lacked the capacity or political will to control and enforce restrictions,” the research points out.

This led to forest degradation and deforestation, as various stakeholders “extracted what they could, and there was little incentive to forgo immediate benefits or invest in the resources’ future.” This scenario, common to the various case studies, started changing following tenure reform.

Now, “Nepal is known as a global leader in community-based forest management,” says CIFOR senior scientist Himlal Baral. More than 20,000 Community Forestry User Groups, making up 40 percent of the population, now manage 33 percent of Nepal’s forests.

“Before, locals had a tendency to overutilize resources,” says Baral. “Today, they have incentives to protect the landscape, and they see restoration as being closely connected to their livelihoods.” From his perspective, this illustrates how the multiple benefits of FLR are key to advancing environmental targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.


In Changting, China, policy reform took a different path. In the study area, collective property rights over forests offered low incentives for restoration. In this case, the key was devolving rights to individual households. Individual forest rights combined with credits and subsidies provided incentives for households, cooperatives and enterprises to invest in FLR.

In Ethiopia, some of the poorest forest-dependent residents organized into user groups under participatory forest management programs (PFM). They were encouraged to develop management plans for lands that were not classified as production or protected forests, and were allowed to extract non-timber products in return.

An estimated 1.5 million hectares of forest are currently under PFM institutions, and an additional two million could be rehabilitated with this mechanism as part of the commitments under the Bonn Challenge.

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

BETTER FLR PROGRAMS

Indicators of forest devolution success range from an increase in tree cover to reduction in conflicts between local communities and the state, as was the case with the Chilimo PFM program in Ethiopia. Though there were many successes in FLR, the study also points out emerging challenges.

One is whether local communities have ownership over the environmental services produced by their restoration efforts, often by forgoing other benefits, and whether they should be compensated by other stakeholders. “This will be an ongoing question: how to create equitable and efficient systems for having payments for those services,” says Cronkleton.

In comanagement systems, communities are required to demonstrate their compliance with forestry regulations. According to Cronkleton, “the tendency to impose more and more elaborate management and reporting requirements can create a disincentive.”

From his perspective, devolving property rights to local actors is as important as including them in determining how the restoration should take place. “Comanagement should involve an ongoing negotiation and adaptation to new learnings. It is a process rather than a one-off decision.”

Further research could explore how different ways of devolving rights affect restoration efforts. For now, scientists hope this study will raise awareness among policymakers and practitioners of the need to involve locals when designing rights systems and compliance mechanisms. After all, says Cronkleton, “it is key to the success of the initiative.”

Read more: Forest and landscape restoration severely constrained by a lack of attention to the quantity and quality of tree seed: Insights from a global survey

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Peter Cronkleton at [email protected] or 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 UK aid from the UK government.

  • Home
  • Restoring forest landscapes: A question of community rights

Restoring forest landscapes: A question of community rights

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

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

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

What does forest landscape restoration mean for tenure, governance and communities?

About 30 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by forests, and around 1.6 billion people depend on them for significant contributions to their environments and livelihoods. Yet, 12 million hectares of intact forests are lost in the tropics every year, either through permanent destruction or degradation.

Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) is one of the newer initiatives to be put forward to help solve the problem. While its better-known cousin REDD+ aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, the goal of FLR is to restore ecological integrity to deforested and degraded landscapes. Both see the link between healthy forests and human wellbeing.

Interest in FLR increased in 2011, with the launch of the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 150 million ha of degraded land by 2020, a figure that the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests increased to 350 million ha by 2030.

Scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including those working as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets, are looking into how FLR is working so far, and aiming to identify key challenges. Some of these are laid out in a new paper highlighting tenure, governance and equity considerations for getting FLR to work on the ground.

“The international community has committed tremendous resources to reforesting areas of extensive forest loss in the tropics. Very ambitious goals have been set, but implementation in many countries has been slow,” notes Steven Lawry, Director of CIFOR’s Equity, Gender and Tenure research program, and a coauthor of the paper.

Lawry believes this is in part due to the fact that insufficient attention has been given to questions of the strength of land and forest rights held by people living in areas intended to benefit from restoration initiatives.

“In fact, community rights are often very weak. Communities are not able to make decisions about the planning or implementation of FLR projects,” says Lawry.

IS THIS LAND MY LAND? 

The researchers found that tenure systems play a major role in shaping who benefits from forests and who benefits from restoration initiatives.

“Tenure security is vital,” says Lawry. “Communities or individuals with land and forest rights can make decisions about taking up FLR investments on terms acceptable to themselves.”

“With forest rights, they can negotiate questions about choice of tree species, forest land use in relation to other land uses, and operating principles about forest management and governance,” he adds.

The scientists found that one major obstacle to achieving this goal is that people may have rights to the land, but not to all trees on that land.

Read more: For secure land rights, indigenous forest communities need more than just titles

The native lands of the Tres Islas community are seen in Peru. Photo by CIFOR/Juan Carlos Huay llapuma

“FLR is about trying to restore ecological functionality and, generally speaking, native species tend to be better for that,” notes Rebecca McLain, CIFOR consultant and author of the paper.

“But if people don’t have rights to sustainably grow native species, the ones that are protected, then they aren’t going to grow those species in the areas they have ownership over because they aren’t their trees. So that’s a really big disincentive,” she says.

She points to Ghana, which has had some success in overcoming this challenge through a government-run revenue-sharing initiative known as Community Resource Management Area (CREMA). Under CREMA, communities are given the authority to manage resources for economic benefit, while being supported in efforts to conserve native biodiversity.

CREMA directly deals with trade-offs between conservation and development aims, and uses local knowledge to protect land and forests sustainably.

FILLING IN POLICY GAPS

Much of the forest domain in developing countries is owned by the state and managed by national and local forest agencies. Forest governance is largely based on a combination of formal and informal regulation of forest use by governments, companies, communities and other forest users.

“Rules and regulations often support important values and public policy goals, including conservation and biodiversity protection,” says Lawry.

“But when policies fail to take account of the economic and land-use goals of local users, regulations can have punitive effects, by denying or limiting opportunities for communities to derive livelihood benefits from forests, even for sustainable forest uses,” he adds.

McLain says another key issue that often came up was a “mismatch” between forest policies and agricultural policies.

“So you have a forest policy trying to support FLR and an agriculture policy which is encouraging people to clear land and plant crops. And those two end up being in conflict with each other,” says McLain.

Most people living in these forest communities are poor, so they will plant and harvest whatever provides them with the greatest income for their families. McLain says there are ways for people to make a living from the forest, but if they can make more from agriculture then they will likely clear the land for crops.

“At that point, you need to see a payments-for-ecosystem-services policy come in, where you literally pay people not to clear the forest for crops like oil palm or cassava,” she says.

DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

The researchers found that NGOs often play a major role in supporting communities that want to manage their forests.

“In Madagascar, the government claims ownership of forests, but they had a law that made it possible to create a community-managed forest,” McLain says. “An international NGO helped the community broker the contract with the forest service, and essentially they were then able to claim rights on a piece of land.”

Another solution the researchers say can work is giving long-term concessions to local communities rather than to big logging companies. Some countries are trying to do this by transferring rights to local communities, but often there is a qualifier.

“The deal is, if you want to harvest timber you need a management plan. Well, that’s not as easy as it sounds and it takes technical skills and time, so in essence, they were tying peoples’ hands,” says McLain.

Read more: 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

Lawry agrees, adding that sophisticated management plans are needed in many contexts where communities have been given a measure of rights, not just concessions.

“The Kenyan provision for establishment of Community Forest Associations is a case in point. Communities can only use the forest once a management plan has been approved,” he says.

“On the other hand, the management plan requirement has worked well in Guatemala, in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, where plans are FSC certified. There, communities had three years to get their plans certified, and a lot of support from NGOs on the technical side,” he adds.

McLain says it is not just communities that tend to lack the capacity to develop a management plan, but governments often do not have the resources, either.

“It’s important for FLR to figure out that piece to make it work. It’s not actually tenure, but it may be part of what you need to make that tenure piece work,” she adds.

PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST

The researchers say FLR initiatives will have a greater chance of success over the long-run if they invest in helping communities secure stronger, clearer rights to forests where rights are weak.

“In some settings, rights are strong on paper, but forest agencies have not changed their regulatory practices in ways that recognize the new-found authority of communities to exercise greater control over the use and management of forests,” says Lawry.

“FLR programs can help negotiate full actualization of rights, as a condition of long-term support and investment,” he says.

McLain adds that to make FLR work, you need strong community and stakeholder engagement.

“I think if you could have real, meaningful community engagement — where the government, private sector and NGOs get together with forest users and really listen to them — then I think it can work,” says McLain.

“How you get there is the challenge,” she adds.

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Steven Lawry 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 Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets.

  • Home
  • Restoring forest landscapes: A question of community rights

Restoring forest landscapes: A question of community rights

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

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

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

What does forest landscape restoration mean for tenure, governance and communities?

About 30 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by forests, and around 1.6 billion people depend on them for significant contributions to their environments and livelihoods. Yet, 12 million hectares of intact forests are lost in the tropics every year, either through permanent destruction or degradation.

Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) is one of the newer initiatives to be put forward to help solve the problem. While its better-known cousin REDD+ aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, the goal of FLR is to restore ecological integrity to deforested and degraded landscapes. Both see the link between healthy forests and human wellbeing.

Interest in FLR increased in 2011, with the launch of the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 150 million ha of degraded land by 2020, a figure that the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests increased to 350 million ha by 2030.

Scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including those working as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets, are looking into how FLR is working so far, and aiming to identify key challenges. Some of these are laid out in a new paper highlighting tenure, governance and equity considerations for getting FLR to work on the ground.

“The international community has committed tremendous resources to reforesting areas of extensive forest loss in the tropics. Very ambitious goals have been set, but implementation in many countries has been slow,” notes Steven Lawry, Director of CIFOR’s Equity, Gender and Tenure research program, and a coauthor of the paper.

Lawry believes this is in part due to the fact that insufficient attention has been given to questions of the strength of land and forest rights held by people living in areas intended to benefit from restoration initiatives.

“In fact, community rights are often very weak. Communities are not able to make decisions about the planning or implementation of FLR projects,” says Lawry.

IS THIS LAND MY LAND? 

The researchers found that tenure systems play a major role in shaping who benefits from forests and who benefits from restoration initiatives.

“Tenure security is vital,” says Lawry. “Communities or individuals with land and forest rights can make decisions about taking up FLR investments on terms acceptable to themselves.”

“With forest rights, they can negotiate questions about choice of tree species, forest land use in relation to other land uses, and operating principles about forest management and governance,” he adds.

The scientists found that one major obstacle to achieving this goal is that people may have rights to the land, but not to all trees on that land.

Read more: For secure land rights, indigenous forest communities need more than just titles

The native lands of the Tres Islas community are seen in Peru. Photo by CIFOR/Juan Carlos Huay llapuma

“FLR is about trying to restore ecological functionality and, generally speaking, native species tend to be better for that,” notes Rebecca McLain, CIFOR consultant and author of the paper.

“But if people don’t have rights to sustainably grow native species, the ones that are protected, then they aren’t going to grow those species in the areas they have ownership over because they aren’t their trees. So that’s a really big disincentive,” she says.

She points to Ghana, which has had some success in overcoming this challenge through a government-run revenue-sharing initiative known as Community Resource Management Area (CREMA). Under CREMA, communities are given the authority to manage resources for economic benefit, while being supported in efforts to conserve native biodiversity.

CREMA directly deals with trade-offs between conservation and development aims, and uses local knowledge to protect land and forests sustainably.

FILLING IN POLICY GAPS

Much of the forest domain in developing countries is owned by the state and managed by national and local forest agencies. Forest governance is largely based on a combination of formal and informal regulation of forest use by governments, companies, communities and other forest users.

“Rules and regulations often support important values and public policy goals, including conservation and biodiversity protection,” says Lawry.

“But when policies fail to take account of the economic and land-use goals of local users, regulations can have punitive effects, by denying or limiting opportunities for communities to derive livelihood benefits from forests, even for sustainable forest uses,” he adds.

McLain says another key issue that often came up was a “mismatch” between forest policies and agricultural policies.

“So you have a forest policy trying to support FLR and an agriculture policy which is encouraging people to clear land and plant crops. And those two end up being in conflict with each other,” says McLain.

Most people living in these forest communities are poor, so they will plant and harvest whatever provides them with the greatest income for their families. McLain says there are ways for people to make a living from the forest, but if they can make more from agriculture then they will likely clear the land for crops.

“At that point, you need to see a payments-for-ecosystem-services policy come in, where you literally pay people not to clear the forest for crops like oil palm or cassava,” she says.

DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

The researchers found that NGOs often play a major role in supporting communities that want to manage their forests.

“In Madagascar, the government claims ownership of forests, but they had a law that made it possible to create a community-managed forest,” McLain says. “An international NGO helped the community broker the contract with the forest service, and essentially they were then able to claim rights on a piece of land.”

Another solution the researchers say can work is giving long-term concessions to local communities rather than to big logging companies. Some countries are trying to do this by transferring rights to local communities, but often there is a qualifier.

“The deal is, if you want to harvest timber you need a management plan. Well, that’s not as easy as it sounds and it takes technical skills and time, so in essence, they were tying peoples’ hands,” says McLain.

Read more: 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

Lawry agrees, adding that sophisticated management plans are needed in many contexts where communities have been given a measure of rights, not just concessions.

“The Kenyan provision for establishment of Community Forest Associations is a case in point. Communities can only use the forest once a management plan has been approved,” he says.

“On the other hand, the management plan requirement has worked well in Guatemala, in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, where plans are FSC certified. There, communities had three years to get their plans certified, and a lot of support from NGOs on the technical side,” he adds.

McLain says it is not just communities that tend to lack the capacity to develop a management plan, but governments often do not have the resources, either.

“It’s important for FLR to figure out that piece to make it work. It’s not actually tenure, but it may be part of what you need to make that tenure piece work,” she adds.

PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST

The researchers say FLR initiatives will have a greater chance of success over the long-run if they invest in helping communities secure stronger, clearer rights to forests where rights are weak.

“In some settings, rights are strong on paper, but forest agencies have not changed their regulatory practices in ways that recognize the new-found authority of communities to exercise greater control over the use and management of forests,” says Lawry.

“FLR programs can help negotiate full actualization of rights, as a condition of long-term support and investment,” he says.

McLain adds that to make FLR work, you need strong community and stakeholder engagement.

“I think if you could have real, meaningful community engagement — where the government, private sector and NGOs get together with forest users and really listen to them — then I think it can work,” says McLain.

“How you get there is the challenge,” she adds.

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Steven Lawry 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 Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets.

  • Home
  • The power of science communication: How can the media help protect peatlands?

The power of science communication: How can the media help protect peatlands?

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

For some residents of South Sumatra, Indonesia, peat is a constant preoccupation. 

“Life keeps getting harder,” says 53-year-old Maemunah. She lives in Talangnangka village in the center of the province, among peatland that was once covered in forest.

Large swathes have now been drained and set alight in order to clear space for agricultural use, setting off a dangerous ripple effect. The local rubber plantation was recently caught up in one of the fires and was completely destroyed. Water levels in the rivers have also dropped as the peat around them dries.

“Now it’s difficult to find fish,” says Maemunah. “Before, I could sell them and get Rp 100,000 [US$7.50] a day. Now, earning Rp 10,000 [75 cents] is a struggle. Peat should be looked after, but it’s not.”

Read also: Eyes on the livelihoods of peatland communities

In Prigi village, Yandri farms rice and is used to slashing and burning his fields every year to get rid of pests and allow the ash to fertilize the soil. He knows the practice is now illegal, as authorities try to protect peatlands, but he has no idea what alternative to turn to.

“Those of us from the community don’t understand how to manage peatland correctly,” he says.

SOUTH SUMATRA BURNING

The confusion among locals about how to effectively handle the peatlands they depend on significantly contributes to South Sumatra’s problems. The province is home to some of the largest areas of peat in Indonesia.

It has also experienced some of the country’s largest forest fires as these zones are converted into agricultural plantations to make products like palm oil. In the process, huge amounts of carbon have been released from the peat into the atmosphere. Rare plants and animals have been also been destroyed and the toxic air has caused long-term public health concerns.

Researchers are desperate to stem the tide and local people’s uncertainty by reaching them with important messages that can protect peatlands and their livelihoods. They also want to effectively communicate the personal struggles of people living on peatlands to policymakers.

Journalists take part in training with Budhy Kristanty, Communications Coordinator for CIFOR’s Indonesia program. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

JOINING FORCES WITH JOURNALISTS

Many believe the media could hold the key. Television is the dominant source of news and entertainment in Indonesia. Radio and newspapers are also common, with radio in particular as an important way to reach people in remote rural areas. Online readership is growing, with recent studies suggesting a rapidly growing rate of Internet access and social media use across the country.

“To make scientific language popular, we need the media,” says Budhy Kristanty, Communications Coordinator for Indonesia at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which leads the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) with its partners. Kristanty recently organized a media training workshop, The role of integrated landscapes on issues of fires, peatland and bioenergy, for 40 Indonesian journalists in Palembang, South Sumatra.

“The media can become an agent of change that can encourage behavioral changes,” she says.

“We write and it’s understood by the common people, and understood by professors,” says Muhammad Arif Eko Wibowo, a journalist from MNC Media South Sumatra, who attended the workshop.

WHEN SCIENCE MEETS MEDIA

With a team of four CIFOR scientists, Kristanty ran two days of training for 40 journalists – some with extensive knowledge of peatlands, some with little or none. As well as a field visit to an affected community, it included presentations by the scientists on peat and deforestation and introductions to their research projects on bioenergy and conservation in Indonesia.

“It’s really important to have science communicated to wider communities including the media,” says Himlal Baral, a senior scientist at CIFOR, who presented his research on using bioenergy crops to restore degraded lands in Kalimantan, Indonesia, during the training.

Himlal Baral, Senior Scientist at CIFOR, gives a presentation to journalists at the media training. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

“As a scientist, we investigate answers to complex issues and we present them in scientific papers or journals, which are not much of interest to wider communities, especially local communities or policymakers,” he says. “Media can help turn them into a simpler form.”

Research has already shown some positive engagement by Indonesian media on related issues, such as the REDD+ project that aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and foster conservation.

However, overall, the media still has a ways to go.

“It turns out basic knowledge on peatlands, forests and the environment is generally lacking,” says Kristanty. “Some local journalists here don’t even know what peatlands are, or why peatland conservation is important.”

What’s more, getting media interested in covering stories with scientific angles can be difficult.

“In Indonesia, in my opinion, the general media is rarely interested in covering environmental news unless there’s a major event, which makes it important to cover, like forest fires, or floods and landslides,” says Kristanty.

After meeting and interviewing scientists directly during the sessions, journalists revealed their own analysis on the lack of scientific coverage in their media: A shortage of sources.

“We tend to have trouble finding researchers in the region who are concerned about discussing environmental issues,” says Tasma Sindo, a journalist with Koran Sindo newspaper in Palembang. “For instance, it’s hard for us to compare academics or the opinions of NGOs in the region; there tends to be a bias with news only coming from the government or other official stakeholders.”

THE BONN CHALLENGE

The media training was timed to run in conjunction with the Bonn Challenge High-Level Roundtable Meeting in Palembang, South Sumatra a few days later (May 9-10).

Started in 2011, The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. It’s designed to help countries realize existing international commitments, including REDD+. To date, 44 governments, alliances and private sector organizations have committed to restoring over 150 million hectares of land to help meet the challenge.

Although not yet officially part of the Bonn Challenge, Indonesia has vowed to restore more than 29,000,000 hectares of land. In order to help meet this, the government has already set up the national Peatland Restoration Agency, outlawed slash and burn techniques and banned the conversion of peatlands to agricultural plantations.

Read also: Peatlands: The view from space

Scientists hope that if the media can help publicize their research on mitigating climate change and balancing livelihoods on degraded peatlands by turning to sustainable solutions like bioenergy and landscape restoration, local communities will be able to do more to contribute to these objectives.

“The Bonn Challenge is key for restoration because they have a target,” says Herry Purnomo, a CIFOR scientist who took part in the training. “It’s important for media to support that kind of vision, that kind of action.”

Back on the peatlands, Maemunah and Yandri are anxious for just this kind of practical information that could help them safely continue making their living. Researchers hope that not only will media outlets reach them with relevant news directly, but journalists will also help transmit their experiences to the provincial and national capitals, to help bring about broader change.

By Leona Liu and Rose Foley, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Budhy Kristanty at [email protected].


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

  • Home
  • Green growth in Indonesia meets the Bonn Challenge

Green growth in Indonesia meets the Bonn Challenge

Peat fires can smolder for many months, emitting large amounts of smoke and greenhouse gases. Photo by Robert Finlayson/ICRAF
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Peat fires can smolder for many months, emitting large amounts of smoke and greenhouse gases. Photo by Robert Finlayson/ICRAF

At the First Asia Bonn Challenge High-level Meeting in Palembang, South Sumatra province, Indonesia’s first Masterplan for Renewable Resources-Driven Green Growth was launched thanks to the technical support of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), a CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) partner.

Hosted by South Sumatra Governor H. Alex Noerdin, representatives of 28 nations and international research and development organizations met to discuss commitments to reforestation and progress towards them. The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million ha of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Under the leadership of the Environment and Forestry Ministry at the national level and of Noerdin in the province, South Sumatra is becoming a world leader in that commitment to restoration and the creation of a ‘green’ economy based on sustainable use of natural resources.

South Sumatra is of particular importance since more than 700,000 hectares of forest and peatland in the province were destroyed by fire in 2015, blanketing the province and neighboring parts of Sumatra, Singapore and Malaysia in a toxic, choking haze for months on end. In responding to such a catastrophe, a huge effort has been made by the provincial and national governments with strong support from nations such as Norway and Germany to ensure that it never happens again.

However, in a complex landscape such as South Sumatra, simply buying more fire trucks won’t do the job. An integrated, cross-sectoral approach is needed to address all the issues that contribute to land degradation and fires.

An oil-palm and forest landscape is seen from above in South Sumatra. Photo by ICRAF

The greater part of South Sumatra consists of low-lying plains covered with plantations, marshes, mangroves and remnants of natural forests, most of which were converted to monocultural rubber, oil-palm and pulp-wood plantations. The area under oil palm has increased rapidly from 0.87 million ha in 2011 to 1.11 million in 2014. Nearly half of the plantations are on farmers’ smallholdings of around 1–2 hectares. Clearing of the remaining forests, whether ‘protected’ or some other status, continues as people look for opportunities to establish or expand their livelihoods.

The results of the conversions by large companies and smallholders alike has increased economic growth but has also had negative effects, such as deforestation and then draining of peatland (16% of the province) resulting in high carbon emissions from the drying peat and its subsequent burning, illegal logging and a general deterioration of all ecosystems, highlighted by the declaration of the Musi River Watershed as one of the most critical in Indonesia. These effects, in turn, are having an impact on the very economic growth that drove them.

According to the World Bank, estimates of the total economic cost of the fires in 2015 in South Sumatra and several other provinces exceeded USD 16 billion, equal to nearly 2% of the nation’s gross domestic product. This estimate includes losses to agriculture, forestry, transport, trade, industry and tourism. Some of these costs are direct losses of crops, forests, houses and infrastructure, as well as the costs of responding to the fires and disruption of air, land and sea travel owing to the haze, or toxic smoke (featuring carbon monoxide, cyanide and ammonium), which also caused widespread respiratory, eye and skin ailments and deaths, especially among the very young and elderly.

Daily greenhouse-gas emissions from the fires exceeded those from the entire US economy. If Indonesia could stop the fires, it would meet its stated target of reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 29% by the year 2030.

At the heart of the province’s response to these seemingly insurmountable challenges is the Masterplan for Renewable Resources-Driven Green Growth, developed by ICRAF in collaboration with IDH, the sustainable trade initiative, which was launched by Noerdin at the meeting, timed to coincide with a major conference of the challenge in Bonn, Germany. The publication will be available to the public shortly.

Noerdin’s initiative has inspired other Sumatran provinces. Representatives of the 10 provinces of Sumatra signed a joint declaration of commitment to green growth commitment following the launch of the masterplan.

The vision of the South Sumatra administration for a fire-free and sustainable province features five areas of achievement adopted from Indonesia’s national development goals: sustainable economic growth; inclusive and equitable growth; social, economic, and environmental resilience; healthy and productive ecosystems as environmental services’ providers; and reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Inspired by the vision, ICRAF’s Sonya Dewi and team used three principles to guide their approach to development of the masterplan. The first was ‘inclusivity’, in which government agencies, communities and businesses were actively involved in the creation of various growth scenarios, ensuring that aspirations and barriers were identified early on.

The second principle demanded ‘integration’ of the plethora of national and provincial government programs, particularly the province’s spatial and development plans, to ensure no overlap or conflict. The third, ‘informed’, stressed the necessity of valid evidence and scientific modeling that could project the socioeconomic and environmental impact of any particular development scenario, to be used to analyze trade-offs between economic growth and environmental health and in making decisions about which was the optimal scenario.

Sonya Dewi (left) and H. Alex Noerdin at the First Asia Bonn Challenge High-level Meeting. Photo by Arizka Mufida/ICRAF

The Land-use Planning for Multiple Environmental Services (LUMENS) methodology and software created by ICRAF, which forms part of FTA research, was used to develop green-growth scenarios and compare them with ‘business as usual’. LUMENS had previously been mandated by the Ministry for National Development Planning for use in all 34 provinces.

“To transform a process that has existed for years and years within an established bureaucracy is not easy,” acknowledged Dewi.

“Improvements in policies and technical abilities along with a change in mindset are needed for successful green development. In the past, actions did not run well and were uncoordinated. Hence the need for a jointly agreed plan that involves everyone, including local officials, the private sector and the commitment of the leader, which we have in Governor Noerdin.”

In essence, the masterplan combines the government’s spatial and land-use plans and its development plans to focus on low environmental impact, drive economic growth and ensure high engagement among the people of South Sumatra and beyond.

Dewi and team designed the masterplan to be implemented in several steps. First, government land-use plans need to be adjusted to include the actual existing conservation and commodity-crop areas, which at present are not well delineated. Further, degraded land is identified for restoration, including agroforestry, and social justice and agrarian reform carried out to distribute land to the poor as part of the national government’s programs.

Second, people’s capacity in all sectors of government, community and business needs to be built, based on the ‘five capitals’ of finance, human resources, physical, natural resources and social. Third, productivity of specific commodity crops needs to be improved through application of good agricultural practices, agroforestry and better management.

Fourth, value chains for commodities need to be improved hand in hand with building the capacity of farmers’ management and entrepreneurship skills to achieve the best possible post-harvest results. Fifth, remote agricultural production areas need to be better connected with transit centres and distribution lines by developing infrastructure.

Sixth, restoration of degraded land needs to be carried out. Land currently under agriculture will not be able to meet the needs of the people. Hence, degraded land needs to be brought into production through forest-landscape restoration, agroforestry and other restoration methods.

Finally, mechanisms need to be established to reward people for maintaining and improving the services provided by ecosystems, such as clean and plentiful water, and for innovating to ensure continuous supply of quality commodities or eco-certification for higher sale prices. The masterplan, if implemented successfully, will allow South Sumatra to grow economically in an equitable manner and raise the resilience of farmers, maintain watershed functions and biodiversity, reduce fire risks, curb natural forest loss, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

After the launch of the masterplan, discussions were held on the sidelines with a number of representatives of nations who were keen to continue their support of South Sumatra’s efforts as it begins implementation.

By Rob Finlayson and Angga Ariestya, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World. Edited by Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA.


This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). 

We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.


Back to top

Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Connect with us