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  • How can rubber contribute to sustainable development in a context of climate change?

How can rubber contribute to sustainable development in a context of climate change?

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Rubber trees grow in rows in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Developing the rubber sector while meeting environment and social objectives involves both challenges and opportunities.

Lying in the shadow of oil palm in terms of sustainable development issues, the sector needs a combination of measures to progress toward sustainable development. There is now a wealth of knowledge and evidence to make this happen.

“Evolution to Revolution: New Paths for the Rubber Economy” was the theme of the World Rubber Summit held in Singapore on March 18-19, 2019, organized by the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG). The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) participated in the summit and I presented during a session titled Managing sustainability performances in the rubber value chain.

Plantations of all major tropical commodities – especially oil palm, timber, pulp, cocoa and rubber – are expanding quickly, creating opportunities for development while also raising concerns about impacts on the environment, landscapes and livelihoods.

FTA has identified plantations as a research priority. Rubber is a particularly interesting example; plantations are continually expanding with a very concentrated sector downstream (the majority being a small number of tire producers), and a production sector heavily dominated by smallholders.

Read also: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable rubber in Myanmar

Rubber at a crossroads

The sector is confronted with a range of issues when it comes to its impact on and contribution to sustainable development.

Land-use change: Rubber is the most rapidly expanding tree crop within mainland Southeast Asia. Additional land will be required to meet future rubber demand, which could be in forested areas or on mosaic landscapes, swidden agriculture and agroforest, though there is also potential to reduce land-use change and deforestation through more intensive systems – both in terms of rubber and other associated production depending on situations.

Biodiversity: In many areas rubber expansion has been on former natural forest, including sometimes in protected areas. The effects of converting primary and secondary forests to rubber monoculture are well understood – it decreases species richness and changes species composition. However, the biodiversity value of swidden agriculture and of mosaic landscapes is less well known and the effects of their conversion to rubber plantations has been assessed in less detail.

Climate change mitigation: The potential contribution of rubber to climate change mitigation depends on what it replaces and the way it is conducted. The impact is generally negative when rubber replaces primary or secondary forests, but positive when planted on very degraded land. The impact can be neutral or slightly positive when rubber replaces swidden systems with a short fallow period, but negative when it displaces swidden systems that will then encroach on forest.

Water and erosion: Effects again depend on what rubber replaces. For instance, there can be less fog interception relative to complex canopies. Conversion to rubber can increase evapotranspiration relative to native vegetation. Rubber risks depleting deep-soil moisture during the dry season with effects on groundwater and streamflow. In mountainous areas of mainland Southeast Asia, plantations on steep slopes have negative impacts on soil erosion, landslide risk and water quality. There are also indications of impacts from rubber plantation runoff on water quality and aquatic biodiversity.

A hevea tree is seen in Ngazi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Social issues: Production is still dominated by smallholders in most countries, especially in “traditional” production areas. The establishment of rubber replacing swidden agriculture has substantially increased smallholder income in Southwest China and Northern Thailand. In non-traditional areas, such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and some African countries, the expansion of rubber often takes the form of larger-scale plantations – which could disadvantage rural communities, with some reports of evictions and of poor labor conditions in large-scale plantations.

Resilience to price fluctuations: Rubber prices can be volatile, which is a concern for long-term investment and has consequences for the sustainability of economic and production models. Smallholders who are purely engaged in rubber are very exposed, especially if they are not supported by public policies. Smallholders with diversified systems are the most resilient. Paradoxically, large estates may be more exposed due to monoculture and having to pay a workforce.

Climate change adaptation: Until recently it was difficult to predict the incidence of climate change on violent precipitation and winds, to which plantations are vulnerable. There is also a need for more research on the impacts of climate change on the distribution of pests and diseases. Diversified systems are more resilient to shocks of any kind, including from climate change, and can contribute to adaptation at a landscape level.

Read also: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable rubber in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Ways forward 

Given these challenges, the potential impacts of rubber expansion and the contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement ultimately depend on three factors. First is where expansion occurs, and the land use or land cover that rubber replaces. Second, it involves production systems, yield and overall efficiency, including the use of rubber wood, as well as impacts on water and biodiversity. The third factor is benefits for smallholders and local populations, contributing to economic and social resilience.

A range of objectives could pave the way forward for sustainable development.

  • Limiting negative impacts of land-use change
  • Regulating land concessions and contract farming
  • Supporting smallholders and farmer groups
  • Promoting and improving diversified systems

To meet these objectives, it would be necessary to see a combination of measures.

  • Research in development
  • Extension services aiming for high yields and quality, as well as diversified production systems
  • Land-use zoning and planning
  • Enabling regulatory environment on concessions and contracts
  • Recognition of sustainable practices, including through corporate social and environmental responsibility and certification
  • Support and incentives for smallholders when engaging in sustainable development, such as secure tenure, technology transfer, economic risk mitigation, payment for environmental services

The rubber sector needs measures connecting downstream with upstream, involving various stakeholders, building on science and knowledge and promoting transfer in a practical way. The newly launched Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) will hopefully address this.

Knowledge and evidence could enable the transition in a proactive way, contributing to sustainable development outcomes. FTA stands ready to work with the GPSNR and to help support the sector move toward sustainable development, “from evolution to revolution”.

By Vincent Gitz, FTA Director


The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • How can rubber contribute to sustainable development in a context of climate change?

How can rubber contribute to sustainable development in a context of climate change?

Rubber trees grow in rows in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Developing the rubber sector while meeting environment and social objectives involves both challenges and opportunities.

Lying in the shadow of oil palm in terms of sustainable development issues, the sector needs a combination of measures to progress toward sustainable development. There is now a wealth of knowledge and evidence to make this happen.

“Evolution to Revolution: New Paths for the Rubber Economy” was the theme of the World Rubber Summit held in Singapore on March 18-19, 2019, organized by the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG). The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) participated in the summit and I presented during a session titled Managing sustainability performances in the rubber value chain.

Plantations of all major tropical commodities – especially oil palm, timber, pulp, cocoa and rubber – are expanding quickly, creating opportunities for development while also raising concerns about impacts on the environment, landscapes and livelihoods.

FTA has identified plantations as a research priority. Rubber is a particularly interesting example; plantations are continually expanding with a very concentrated sector downstream (the majority being a small number of tire producers), and a production sector heavily dominated by smallholders.

Read also: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable rubber in Myanmar

Rubber at a crossroads

The sector is confronted with a range of issues when it comes to its impact on and contribution to sustainable development.

Land-use change: Rubber is the most rapidly expanding tree crop within mainland Southeast Asia. Additional land will be required to meet future rubber demand, which could be in forested areas or on mosaic landscapes, swidden agriculture and agroforest, though there is also potential to reduce land-use change and deforestation through more intensive systems – both in terms of rubber and other associated production depending on situations.

Biodiversity: In many areas rubber expansion has been on former natural forest, including sometimes in protected areas. The effects of converting primary and secondary forests to rubber monoculture are well understood – it decreases species richness and changes species composition. However, the biodiversity value of swidden agriculture and of mosaic landscapes is less well known and the effects of their conversion to rubber plantations has been assessed in less detail.

Climate change mitigation: The potential contribution of rubber to climate change mitigation depends on what it replaces and the way it is conducted. The impact is generally negative when rubber replaces primary or secondary forests, but positive when planted on very degraded land. The impact can be neutral or slightly positive when rubber replaces swidden systems with a short fallow period, but negative when it displaces swidden systems that will then encroach on forest.

Water and erosion: Effects again depend on what rubber replaces. For instance, there can be less fog interception relative to complex canopies. Conversion to rubber can increase evapotranspiration relative to native vegetation. Rubber risks depleting deep-soil moisture during the dry season with effects on groundwater and streamflow. In mountainous areas of mainland Southeast Asia, plantations on steep slopes have negative impacts on soil erosion, landslide risk and water quality. There are also indications of impacts from rubber plantation runoff on water quality and aquatic biodiversity.

A hevea tree is seen in Ngazi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Social issues: Production is still dominated by smallholders in most countries, especially in “traditional” production areas. The establishment of rubber replacing swidden agriculture has substantially increased smallholder income in Southwest China and Northern Thailand. In non-traditional areas, such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and some African countries, the expansion of rubber often takes the form of larger-scale plantations – which could disadvantage rural communities, with some reports of evictions and of poor labor conditions in large-scale plantations.

Resilience to price fluctuations: Rubber prices can be volatile, which is a concern for long-term investment and has consequences for the sustainability of economic and production models. Smallholders who are purely engaged in rubber are very exposed, especially if they are not supported by public policies. Smallholders with diversified systems are the most resilient. Paradoxically, large estates may be more exposed due to monoculture and having to pay a workforce.

Climate change adaptation: Until recently it was difficult to predict the incidence of climate change on violent precipitation and winds, to which plantations are vulnerable. There is also a need for more research on the impacts of climate change on the distribution of pests and diseases. Diversified systems are more resilient to shocks of any kind, including from climate change, and can contribute to adaptation at a landscape level.

Read also: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable rubber in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Ways forward 

Given these challenges, the potential impacts of rubber expansion and the contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement ultimately depend on three factors. First is where expansion occurs, and the land use or land cover that rubber replaces. Second, it involves production systems, yield and overall efficiency, including the use of rubber wood, as well as impacts on water and biodiversity. The third factor is benefits for smallholders and local populations, contributing to economic and social resilience.

A range of objectives could pave the way forward for sustainable development.

  • Limiting negative impacts of land-use change
  • Regulating land concessions and contract farming
  • Supporting smallholders and farmer groups
  • Promoting and improving diversified systems

To meet these objectives, it would be necessary to see a combination of measures.

  • Research in development
  • Extension services aiming for high yields and quality, as well as diversified production systems
  • Land-use zoning and planning
  • Enabling regulatory environment on concessions and contracts
  • Recognition of sustainable practices, including through corporate social and environmental responsibility and certification
  • Support and incentives for smallholders when engaging in sustainable development, such as secure tenure, technology transfer, economic risk mitigation, payment for environmental services

The rubber sector needs measures connecting downstream with upstream, involving various stakeholders, building on science and knowledge and promoting transfer in a practical way. The newly launched Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) will hopefully address this.

Knowledge and evidence could enable the transition in a proactive way, contributing to sustainable development outcomes. FTA stands ready to work with the GPSNR and to help support the sector move toward sustainable development, “from evolution to revolution”.

By Vincent Gitz, FTA Director


The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Connecting the policy dots: linking adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development for climate-resilient land use planning

Connecting the policy dots: linking adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development for climate-resilient land use planning

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

In the land use sector mitigation, adaptation and development policies are all closely linked and can impact each other in positive and negative ways. It is therefore essential that these relationships are taken into account in order to enhance synergies and avoid or reduce trade-offs. This can be achieved through a specific form of Climate Policy Integration (CPI), which integrates first mitigation and adaptation policy processes and subsequently mainstreams climate policies into development processes. We have explored these processes through case studies in the land use sectors of Brazil and Indonesia. CPI in the land use sector presents a number of challenges related to cross-sectoral and cross-level integration. Unless a governmental CPI authority mandates that sectoral ministries integrate their efforts, sectoral competition over control of decision-making processes may prevail, hampering CPI. Cross-level integration is weakened by differences in understanding, priorities and power across levels of governance.

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  • Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A man walks in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Global climate negotiations take place on the international stage, bolstered by countries’ national policies. But preventing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes requires work at the local level.

For those efforts to be effective, it is important to understand who is involved at each level and in every sector, and how they interact, say scientists from CIFOR, who have conducted research about such multi-level governance.

“Land use and land-use change happen in a geographic space that is affected by multiple levels of decision making,” says senior scientist Anne Larson, who heads CIFOR’s Equal Opportunities, Gender, Justice and Tenure Team. “You can’t talk about land-use change or climate change adaptation and mitigation if you don’t take into account all levels, from the global to the ground”.

That means that local and regional governments, as well as local communities, have an important role to play in REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) initiatives – or other, similar efforts, Larson says. “There’s a lot of talk at climate negotiations about bottom-up planning, and that must be done below the national level” she adds, “We can’t expect global decisions to have an impact if we don’t have sub-national governments that can implement and manage plans in local jurisdictions”.

That assumes coordination among various groups with different interests. Depending on the place, they may include government agencies (with different sectoral priorities), private companies, local communities and non-governmental organizations. But sub-national coordination is easier to discuss than to implement, according to researchers who are conducting a global comparative study on REDD+.

Risks and opportunities

One obstacle arises when governments are only partly decentralized. This invariably leads to subnational governments who have “authority” but without resources to carry out their mandate. In some cases, national governments are reluctant to give up control to local or regional governments, even when power-sharing is established by law. In Mexico, the federal government maintains a great deal of decision-making power over forests — something that must be considered when implementing programs at a local level.

Another risk is that local or regional governments could favor the interests of economically powerful private companies over those of local communities that depend on forests for their livelihoods. But in the same instance, local governments may be more willing to protect their interests as they are often more responsive to their citizens.

When there are tensions among stakeholders, it can be tempting to do top-down planning that focuses on technical solutions and faster results. But when that was done in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s REDD+ pilot province, local people felt that they were “guinea pigs” in an experiment instead of active participants, studies found.

Processes that ensure the involvement of local people, instead of seeing them as “beneficiaries,” and that protect the rights of forest-dwelling communities may take longer and be more complex, but the outcomes are often more equitable, according to research conducted in Vietnam. In many places, local communities — especially women, young people and indigenous people — have been marginalized from decisions. Giving them a central place in decision making builds their negotiating skills and can create new local venues for discussing local issues, the researchers say. “When decision-making is done at a sub-national level, transparency and accountability are key”, Larson says. “That requires monitoring, but the kind of monitoring depends on your goals”.

Read more: Does the monitoring of local governance improve transparency? Lessons from three approaches in subnational jurisdictions

Different tools for different needs

The Marechal Rondon Highway runs 1550 km from Porto Velho to Cuiabá in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR

When local stakeholders from different sectors are involved in developing monitoring processes, local priotities are discussed- says Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti, a postdoctoral fellow at CIFOR working on the global comparative study of REDD+. He and other researchers examining sub-national landscape governance implemented three different types of monitoring tools in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua.

The Sustainable Landscape Rating Tool (SLRT) uses evidence-based evaluation of conditions as indiactors, to determine sustainability in land-use planning and management, land and resource tenure, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, stakeholder coordination and participation, and community production systems.

The SLRT was developed by the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance and is being used by jurisdictions belonging to the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. Aimed at fostering governance policies for sustainability, the tool is mainly designed to assess the enabling conditions required. Its success depends on the availability of the information required by each indicator, which can be an obstacle in jurisdictions where data are lacking.

The Multilevel Governance Monitoring Process (MLGMP) grew out of scenario-building processes that assessed carbon emissions in eight landscapes in four countries. The prototype was designed in Peru’s Amazonian Madre de Dios region, where land-use planning and governance is complicated by social conflicts related to overlapping land claims by loggers, miners, farmers, tourism operators and others.

The process brought people together to develop a shared vision for the future and set goals for working toward it. In Madre de Dios, representatives of seven government agencies participated in workshops to identify potential indicators and strategies for monitoring, but the process was hampered by lack of commitment by key regional government officials.

A similar process in Mexico involved national and sub-national government agencies, as well as civil society groups, donors, community representatives and researchers. At workshops in the Yucatán and Chiapas, participants identified and prioritized challenges to good governance, set goals and agreed on indicators for measuring progress.

The tool can be adapted to local needs and priorities, but participants said the one-day workshops were not sufficient to work out details, including how the monitoring would be implemented and by whom. The workshops also revealed differences in levels of participation by women, which should be addressed in monitoring, the researchers said.

A third tool, the Participatory Governance Monitoring Process (PGMP), was designed to better involve local people in forest governance and strengthen women’s participation in decision making in their communities. It was developed as part of a research project in indigenous communities and territories in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region.

Participants gathered together to decide what ‘good governance’ was. Characteristics such as a strong community, good leaders, more participation by women and good forest management were agreed, before a series of ‘yes-or-no’ questions determined whether the requirements were being met.

Using the questions as indicators, the results informed a tool that builds local community participation into both planning and monitoring, says Sarmiento. “This can be used to determine the degree of local participation, especially by women”.

The three tools have different purposes, and the best to use in a particular case depends on the local situation and specific monitoring goals, Larson adds.

Global commitments require local implementation

At the Paris climate summit in 2015, countries made commitments to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Those commitments, known as Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs), will be used to measure their progress toward their targets.

In countries whose NDCs include reducing emissions by controlling deforestation and forest degradation, sub-national governments must play a key role, Sarmiento says.Nevertheless, countries with REDD+ commitments do not always highlight the importance of sub-national governance in their NDCs. Of the 60 countries that have REDD+ programs or strategies, only 39 mention sub-national governments. Of those, 21 define a specific role for them, but in only seven NDCs is that a decision-making role, according to a CIFOR study.

“This could be a missed opportunity,” Larson says.  “Climate negotiators hail the Paris agreement as a ‘bottom-up’ accord, but what they consider to be the bottom is usually the national level,” Sarmiento says. “Implementation won’t work without attention to sub-national governance.”

Research like the CIFOR studies reveals both the difficulty of bringing stakeholders from different sectors and levels of government together. They also unearth the opportunities offered by participatory approaches that enable local communities to make decisions together with sub-national governments, with the goal of ensuring equitable solutions for forest dwellers.

“Governance always has a local flavor to it,” Sarmiento says. “That is why its monitoring needs to be informed by local people’s practices and their perceptions of what it means to govern well.”

Read more: Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Anne Larson at [email protected] or Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti at [email protected].


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

This research was supported by NORAD and BMUB/IKI.

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  • New book analyzes decade of REDD+ experience

New book analyzes decade of REDD+ experience

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A Brazil nut area, part of GCS REDD+ in Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Yoly Gutierrez/CIFOR

In its first 10 years, REDD+ has inspired much enthusiasm and hope for a global transition away from practices that threaten tropical forests, toward lasting climate mitigation.

Despite unexpected challenges and a funding pot that lacked the depth to trigger global mobilization, REDD+ is beginning to deliver on its potential – if more slowly than expected.

A new book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions, which has launched at this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Katowice, Poland, takes stock of the efforts taken so far to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+) at multiple scales.

At the 2007 UNFCCC COP in Bali, Indonesia, REDD+ emerged on the global scene with the promise of building a bridge toward a carbon-neutral economy – quickly, easily and cheaply.

“REDD+ has not taken its planned route from A to B – that is, providing forest-rich developing countries with direct incentives to promote climate mitigation in the forest and land-use sector,” said Arild Angelsen, a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and a senior associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “But we can learn many lessons from its journey so far.”

Why did REDD+ not turn out as expected? Lack of finance is a major reason, specifically the fact that results-based payment – rewarding developing countries in exchange for keeping and/or improving forest carbon stocks – has not been the driving force it was meant to be. REDD+ was meant to become an integral part of a global carbon market, but this market never materialized. Instead, most funding comes in the form of development assistance from a small handful of donor countries, and some developing countries are shouldering a big part of the costs to put REDD+ into action.

“There are also a lot of different, sometimes conflicting ideas about REDD+,” said Christopher Martius, coordinator of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+ and a co-editor of the book. “Making a distinction between REDD+ as the outcome (reduced emissions) and as a specific framework (the activities) to achieve that outcome could clear up a lot of confusion.

Read more: FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

Click to access the book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions.

VITAL SIGNS

Many observers are now asking whether REDD+ has achieved its intended aims of reducing deforestation and forest degradation or if it has improved local livelihoods and forest governance.

To answer these questions, the authors undertook an analysis based on 10 years of research and almost 500 scientific publications from GCS REDD+, and also drew on the wider literature, on partner contributions, and on policy debates at global, national, subnational and local levels.

With more than 350 ongoing REDD+ projects and programs, there are now enough data – albeit far from perfect – to draw first conclusions about the kind of local impacts REDD+ initiatives have had on forests and communities.

“In a nutshell, results are limited and mixed,” said Amy Duchelle, a co-editor and CIFOR senior scientist who leads research on subnational initiatives in GCS REDD+. “Findings from the few studies on forest carbon and land-use outcomes are moderately encouraging.  REDD+ impacts on well-being are mixed – but they’re more likely to be positive when incentives are included. And while there has been some progress in terms of land tenure and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, local actions need more national policy support to be effective.”

National and subnational forest conservation policies have shown some positive impacts on forests, but no particular policy instrument stands out as a “silver bullet”. Enabling conditions such as political commitment, national ownership, inclusive decision-making and available results-based funding need to be in place and sustained for REDD+ to be transformed.

Many countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions to the 2015 UN Paris Agreement on climate change, and national sustainable development initiatives such as green growth strategies, do recognize the role of forests in mitigating climate change. However, as Pham Thu Thuy, a co-editor, and CIFOR scientist and Vietnam country director, said, these policies and green initiatives will not be successful in achieving their intended goals if they do not have clear and effective policies and measures to address drivers of deforestation and degradations.

Read more: What is REDD+ achieving on the ground?

WHAT NEXT?

The authors show that REDD+, once envisioned as a tool for transformational change, has itself been transformed. They point out that, while REDD+ has evolved into a variety of interventions, and stakeholders may differ in their preferred vision of how REDD+ evolves, all can agree that the core objectives must not be substantially altered or diluted.

“Arguably, the world cannot reach the 1.5°C or even 2°C targets without massive reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and increases in forest carbon stocks,” the authors wrote.

In order for REDD+ to be an effective ‘cure’ for the ‘illness’ of deforestation and forest degradation, it will need to adapt further – to a new global climate change architecture, rapidly shifting global politics, and different expectations from donors, REDD+ countries, the private sector and local communities.

“REDD+ needs a clear theory of change – a road map towards a carbon-neutral economy through a transformation of business-as-usual practices,” Martius said.

The authors lay out key pathways to achieving an effective, efficient and equitable REDD+, including emphasizing the positive side-effects of REDD+, and shortening the road to recovery through experimentation and bold approaches.

Results-based payment will continue to play a large role, but national and subnational policy reforms need to go beyond this approach to focus on issues such as land-use planning, tenure and agriculture and address the variety of drivers and problems in their specific national and regional circumstances. And while international finance can give a nudge in the right direction, ultimately countries must set the economic incentives for state and private actors to align their activities with green development strategies.

A waterfall in a REDD+ Safeguards and Benefit Sharing Project, Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

“Some reforms can be win-win for the economy and environment, such as cutting subsidies to deforesting crops and adding forest criteria in the fiscal transfers from central to local governments, as India has done,” Angelsen said.

Looking at multi-level governance and coordination, the authors also conclude that some problems simply cannot be solved through better coordination.

“In reality, those who deforest have often been more effective at coordinating their efforts than those who support REDD+ or similar initiatives,” said Anne Larson, a CIFOR principal scientist who leads the research on multi-level governance in GCS REDD+.

“In order to challenge business-as-usual trajectories and address both effectiveness and equity goals, we need to develop a deeper understanding of the underlying dynamics among actors in a given context.”

Read more: CIFOR now hosts comprehensive REDD+ tool ID-RECCO

BE BOLD, BE BRAVE

Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India and South Korea have all rolled out bold forest conservation and restoration initiatives, and the authors say more countries need to do the same. Nationwide initiatives with a pro-forest narrative can cultivate the political and intellectual ownership needed to build coordination across ministries and effect long-term impact.

“Change needs to come from both the top and the bottom,” Duchelle said. “Jurisdictional programs for REDD+ and low-emission development at the subnational level also hold promise for protecting tropical forests and securing local rights and livelihoods.”

The authors also call on countries to be brave and assess impacts. Clear data and information are critical to every stage of REDD+, from planning and policy design to implementation and evaluation. But independent evaluations can be risky, as disappointing short-term evaluated impacts in a learning phase could jeopardize future financing. For this and other reasons, there is a persistent lack of data on how various drivers of land-use change affect forest emissions.

“The reality is that powerful agents of deforestation and forest degradation can influence how information on drivers is generated, and how visible it is,” said Veronique De Sy, a co-editor and postdoctoral Researcher at Wageningen University & Research in The Netherlands. “To counteract this, national forest monitoring systems need to address participation, transparency, accountability and coordination.”

Finally, the authors review four emerging strategies that could help achieve the objective of reducing emissions from the forest and land use sector – with some fine-tuning. These are: zero deforestation and other private sector commitments, climate-smart agriculture, jurisdictional approaches to low-emission rural development, and forest landscape restoration. The book devotes a full chapter to each of these approaches, examining evidence of impact and drawing lessons for a more complementary, streamlined approach.

“Our main goal as editors,” notes Angelsen, “is to provide a critical, evidence-based analysis of REDD+ implementation so far, without losing sight of the urgent need to reduce forest-based emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change.”

“Focusing on a positive narrative about how forests contribute to economic development and climate goals can galvanize support and generate new momentum,” he adds.

By Erin O’Connell, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


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

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  • Top of the tree: FTA in 2018

Top of the tree: FTA in 2018

A variety of mango grows on a farm in Machakos County, Kenya. Photo by ICRAF
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The year 2018 saw the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) chalk up some notable achievements in the worlds of sustainable development, food security and addressing climate change.

A variety of mango grows on a farm in Machakos County, Kenya. Photo by ICRAF

A number of the program’s research findings reverberated throughout the scientific community, impacting discussions at major events and informing work on the ground.

Read on to find out which news articles, research publications, presentations and videos were most-viewed on the FTA website throughout the year.

Gender, agroforestry and combating deforestation were strong points of interest among news articles, topped off by research on orphan crops – underutilized crops that are being brought out of the shadows by plant breeding – which was also covered by The Economist and the Financial Times. The 10 most-viewed news articles on the FTA website in 2018 are as follows.

  1. Orphan crops for improving diets
  2. The power of science to halt deforestation
  3. Climate change atlas presents suitability maps for agroforestry species in Central America
  4. Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’
  5. FTA’s research domain on livelihood systems receives strong rating
  6. Picks and spades can triple farmers’ yields in Kenyan drylands
  7. Good investments in agriculture and forestry can benefit smallholders and landscapes
  8. Innovation and excellence from chocolate producers
  9. Agroforestry offers pathways to sustainable landscape restoration
  10. Woman on a mission: Pushing for rights and a seat at the decision-making table
Findings have shed new light on the role of forests and trees in the climate debate. Photo by Eko Prianto/CIFOR

Research publications are of course not only viewed via the FTA website but also via the websites of partner institutions or scientific journals.

Of those collated on the FTA website, however, the top 10 most-viewed encompassed ecosystem services, value chains and climate, along with the relationship between trees and water – a popular topic that was the subject of a two-day symposium in 2017 and a follow-up discussion forum in 2018:

  1. Co-investment in ecosystem services: global lessons from payment and incentive schemes
  2. Analysis of gender research on forest, tree and agroforestry value chains in Latin America
  3. Decision support tools for forest landscape restoration: Current status and future outlook
  4. Certifying Environmental Social Responsibility: Special Issue
  5. Suitability of key Central American agroforestry species under future climates: an atlas
  6. Landscape Restoration in Kenya: Addressing gender equality
  7. Forest ecosystem services and the pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness
  8. Tropical forest-transition landscapes: a portfolio for studying people, tree crops and agro-ecological change in context
  9. Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world
  10. Bridging molecular genetics and participatory research: how access and benefit-sharing stimulate interdisciplinary research for tropical biology and conservation
Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making.

As always, FTA scientists presented their work to colleagues and to broader audiences at workshops and events around the world. The top 10 most-viewed presentations of those collected on the FTA website looked at governance, REDD+ and tenure.

  1. Comparing governance reforms to restore the forest commons in Nepal, China and Ethiopia
  2. A personal take on forest landscapes restoration in Africa
  3. Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making
  4. Are there differences between men and women in REDD+ benefit sharing schemes?
  5. Conflict in collective land and forest formalization: a preliminary analysis
  6. Implications of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) for trans-boundary agricultural commodities, forests and smallholder farmers
  7. Reconciling policy and practice in the co-management of forests in indigenous territories
  8. Informing gender-responsive climate policy and action
  9. Assessing REDD+ readiness to maximize climate finance impact
  10. Forest policy reform to enhance smallholder participation in landscape restoration: The Peruvian case
Drone technology for science.

FTA’s partner institutions produced compelling video content in 2018, drawing in viewers interested in drones, nutrition, landscapes and more. The top 10 most-viewed videos posted on the FTA website are as follows.

  1. Agroforestry in landscape restoration for livelihoods, climate and ecosystem services
  2. Drone technology for science
  3. Daniel Murdiyarso talks about the interaction between land and oceans
  4. Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia
  5. Lessons learned from REDD+: progress in 8 countries and the way forward
  6. Restoring landscapes, respecting rights
  7. Creating a movement on sustainable landscapes
  8. Developing and applying an approach for the sustainable management of landscapes
  9. Social inclusion, equity and rights in the context of restoration – lessons from the ground
  10. Integrated landscapes approaches: From theory to practice

Finally, a special mention goes to a well-received infographic from FTA’s gender team: Gender matters in forest landscape restoration.

As the program forges ahead into 2019, it expects to see a continued presence at high-level events and even wider dissemination of its work, in line with its innovative research projects ongoing around the world to further the contributions of forests, trees and agroforestry to sustainable development.

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  • Ten years of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+

Ten years of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+

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  • Standing tall: Bamboo from restoration to economic development

Standing tall: Bamboo from restoration to economic development

A woman stands beside an allanblackia tree, which can provide an edible oil and increase the incomes of farmers. Photo by C. Pye-Smith/ICRAF
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Can grass be used to make tissues, furniture, pipes and even housing? Can it help to improve livelihoods and to mitigate climate change? Think beyond garden lawns and savannah landscapes, to bamboo.

“Bamboos, although they look like trees,” said the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation’s (INBAR) Director General Hans Friederich in opening a recent side event at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, “are actually all grass species.”

Bamboo provides a durable building material and strong fiber for paper and textiles without the need to fell trees. Additionally, Friederich explained that as a grass, bamboo grows back quickly after being harvested – making it a highly sustainable product to work with.

Titled Bamboo for restoration and economic development, the discussion addressed how bamboo fits into conversations about land management, land restoration, erosion control and nature-based solutions for development challenges.

“[We need to] make that connection between bamboo as a plant, as a means to hold soil together, to think about climate change mitigation […] and then link that to the market,” he said. “What actually can we do with this bamboo once we plant it?”

“To have a value chain that actually identifies the market opportunities is important,” he added.

Eduardo Mansur, director of land and water at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN) underlined the importance of nature-based solutions, and combining green and grey infrastructure – that is, natural ecosystems with human-engineered solutions.

He described the huge amount of degraded land on the planet, saying: “If we restore this degraded land that exists on the planet […] we will be able to produce the products, the food and the ecosystem services that we need for sustainable livelihoods and sustainable life on the planet.”

“We have seen examples of species-specific conservation,” he said, “when it links with sustainable livelihoods.” Giving the example of the Brazilian Amazon, Mansur described a species of palm that produces an inedible coconut known as “vegetable ivory” for its color and texture. Used to make buttons and handicrafts, it has helped to improve the ecosystems where the palm occurs, he said, because there is a market link.

Such a species can be used to promote sustainable livelihoods and sustainable use, he added, drawing a comparison with the over 1,600 species of bamboo. If a bamboo species is well chosen and well managed, it can have ongoing positive effects, especially for soil restoration.

Read also: Bamboo and rattan: Surprising tools for forest protection

Ye Ling, president and chief engineer at Zhejiang Xinzhou Bamboo-based Composites Technology Co., Ltd, discussed how his company develops products from bamboo on a large scale – such as pressure pipes and modular housing from a bamboo composite – which offer better performance and lower costs and can replace a huge quantity of traditional materials such as cement and steel, thus helping to tackle climate change and contributing to the SDGs.

A woman whittles a piece of bamboo in India. Photo by International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)

He emphasized innovation as the most important factor in product development, saying that without it, other factors such as policy or investment would have nowhere to go.

Trinh Thang Long, coordinator of the Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan for green development (GABAR) at INBAR said the organization’s 44 member states had begun to learn specifically from China’s use of bamboo for economic development.

GABAR aims to maximize bamboo and rattan’s contribution to national economic development and environmental protection, to help inform policies, development strategies and opportunities for investment.

Many countries are not yet fully aware of the advantages of bamboo compared to trees, Long explained. He emphasized that the grasses are fast growing, easy to manage, and can be harvested annually after the first four to five years.

INBAR’s member states are contributing to the Bonn Challenge by restoring 5 million hectares of degraded land using bamboo. On a small scale, the work has been successful, but upscaling remains a challenge.

This challenge affects many countries, but a case study in China illustrates the success of scaled-up bamboo. Jiang Jingyan, President of Yong’an Institute of Bamboo Industry, discussed Yong’an, China, and its reputation as a “bamboo city”. Concurring with previous speakers, he also addressed the importance of design and innovation.

Read also: Realizing bamboo and rattan’s full potential: An interview with INBAR Director General Hans Friederich

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) Director Vincent Gitz then spoke about land restoration and the key constraints to upscaling, including policies and governance. He gave special attention to the economic aspects of land restoration – costs and benefits, investments and value chains.

“There won’t be any sustainable land restoration if we don’t give the means to increase, over time, the livelihoods of people that live on those lands,” he said.

There is often a time lag between a smallholder making an investment and seeing a return. However, as bamboo grows quickly and is extremely versatile, it is a strong option for restoration in different contexts. “Lots of innovation can come out of this plant,” he added.

Speakers participate in Side Event 4 at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

An additional step is using bamboo to restore degraded lands while simultaneously creating clean energy, Gitz said, referring to an initiative from Clean Power Indonesia, which FTA is part of, and which is building small-scale bamboo-based energy generation plants in West Sumatra.

Touching further on industrial development, Cai Liang, the chief branding officer of Vanov Bamboo Tissue Enterprise in Sichuan, China, discussed the use of bamboo pulp for paper manufacturing, specifically for tissues. From concept to commitment, the company moved to develop a tissue paper using bamboo, without cutting down a single tree.

After years of experimentation, the company came up with soft, unbleached, antibacterial tissues made from bamboo fiber. Once again highlighting bamboo’s short growth period, constant regeneration and sustainability, Liang described how bamboo could provide the fibers typically taken from multiple types of trees to make paper.

Read also: Study examines bamboo value chains to support industry growth

As well as using the fiber to make the tissues themselves, the company uses waste from the process for energy generation and for fertilizer. The low-emission, closed-loop model uses over 1 million tons of bamboo annually, and offers over 1 million job opportunities for local farmers.

In closing, Friederich underscored this link between restoration and socioeconomics, harking back to Gitz’s presentation.

“If we want to succeed in restoration, we cannot only look at the landscapes – of course we need to look at the landscapes – but we need to look at the people in the landscapes and to connect them with the value chains that can come out of the productive aspects of restoration,” Gitz said.

“We can’t just stay where we are, and I think there are still some great opportunities for making new products from bamboo and looking at new ways of using bamboo within the landscape,” Friederich added.

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


Read more about INBAR’s participation in GLF Bonn 2018, or check out the summary of discussions from the forum.

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  • Gender-blind climate action risks jeopardizing efficiency and long-term sustainability

Gender-blind climate action risks jeopardizing efficiency and long-term sustainability

Women harvesting lemongrass. Photo by Chandra Shekhar Karki/CIFOR.
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Markus Ihalainen speaks on a panel hosted by ICRAF at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Photo by Susan Onyango/ICRAF

Failing to address gender equality in forest- and tree-based climate initiatives can have negative implications for gender equity, while also potentially undermining the efficiency and sustainability of climate efforts, according to gender specialist Markus Ihalainen, speaking at recent UN climate talks.

Forested landscapes play a key role in all 1.5 degree pathways modelled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its recent report.

At the same time, they also provide many functions critical to adaptation, said Ihalainen a researcher with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and its partner institution the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), at the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Katowice, Poland.

“The long-term success of the required land-use changes is ultimately dependent on the contributions of both women and men who are using those lands for their livelihoods,” Ihalainen said during a presentation in the UK “Green is Great” pavilion on the sidelines of the annual conference. “At the same time, interventions that do not take gender and other aspects of social diversity into account often risk adversely impacting marginalized groups.”

Read more: FTA at COP24

NETWORK GROWTH

Despite an increasing body of literature on the topic, forest policymakers often overlook gender considerations. However, gender blindness is a problem that makes women’s participation and contributions invisible and allows forest management to be incorrectly treated as “gender neutral.”

For example, while many Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) include forest-sector related targets, the majority of the 25 INDCs reviewed by CIFOR fail to mention gender or refer to it only superficially. Under the terms of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, INDCs establish guidelines intended to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and achieve net zero emissions in the second half of the 21st century.

A woman picks tea on a plantation in Gunung Halimun-Salak national park, Java, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Studies of women’s involvement in conservation programs have showed that inclusive processes could yield more equitable outcomes, while more inclusive forest user groups also tend to demonstrate better environmental performance, Ihalainen said, adding that such synergies must be built, not simply assumed.

Ihalainen referred to recent findings from CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+. The first phase of the research, spanning across 16 pilot project sites in six countries, investigated community participation in Reducing Emissions from forest Degradation and Deforestation (REDD+) design and implementation.

The study found that women often participated far less than their male counterparts and, even when women participated, they often lacked the information and awareness of REDD+ needed for their participation to be effective.

Three years later, the research team returned to the same sites to assess the impact of REDD+ on subjectively defined wellbeing.

“Between phase one and phase two of the pilot projects there was a significant decline observed in the subjective wellbeing of the women in comparison to men in the same villages, as well as in comparison to women and men in control sites with no REDD+ intervention,” said Ihalainen, who also delivered a presentation at a session hosted by FTA partner institution the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

Read more: Global commitment growing for gender equality in climate action

While more work is needed on the specific causal mechanisms, combining the two datasets would suggest that the failure to meaningfully consider gender issues could be associated with a relative decline in women’s wellbeing.

But in addition to the potentially detrimental impact on gender equality, gender-blind climate action also risks jeopardizing efficiency and long-term sustainability. Ihalainen pointed to four areas where gender considerations are crucial.

Land tenure security is a critical incentive for long-term investments in sustainable landscape management practices, but in general, land rights and tenure security for women are weak. A study of women farmers study of women farmers in Ethiopia found that land insecure women were less likely to adopt sustainable agroforestry practices than men. However, when they had secure land tenure they were actually more likely than men to do so.

Resolving gender division of labor concerns can also be an incentive for more sustainable activities. Often, agroforestry practices and tree planting programs are reliant on women’s labor, but in many areas women do not have rights to trees when they grow.

A stream runs through Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Weaker decision-making opportunities also put women at a disadvantage. For example, in Nepal, male-dominated forest user groups opted to protect valuable timber species, often benefitting men, while removing many food and medicinal plants as weeds.

A study in Vietnam revealed that most women preferred non-cash benefits from REDD+ projects. However, the programs were structured around cash payments, which were ultimately controlled by men.

In addition to reinforcing or even exacerbating gender inequalities, all of the aforementioned issues also serve as disincentives to women’s continued participation and contributions, ultimately jeopardizing the long-term sustainability of the environmental objectives.

Read more: Women left on sidelines of decisions about forest management

ACTIVE PARTICIPATION

“Addressing gender equality in landscape management allows people to make decisions about what happens in their lives and livelihoods and also increases the likelihood of successful climate action,” Ihalainen said. “However, synergies cannot just be assumed, it is important that they are built through gender analysis, robust data and proper planning. Tokenistic add-on approaches are not enough to safeguard women’s rights.”

Importantly, sectoral efforts to enhance gender equity in participation and benefit sharing, for instance, can be supported by broader efforts aimed at addressing gender equality.

Ihalainen offered an example from Nyandarua, Kenya, where the Kenya Forest Service leveraged the constitutional requirement to have a one third gender balance in all elected bodies to increase women’s participation in community forest associations.

Critically, efforts to enhance gender equity in program activities need to be complemented with measures and targets directed at addressing the structural causes of gender inequality. Considering gender equality and women’s empowerment as a goal in itself can also allow for identifying synergies between mitigation, adaptation and equality.

This is particularly important in the land sector, where mitigation efforts often need to co-exist alongside other land-use needs. Ihalainen offered an example from Burkina Faso, where CIFOR researchers compared a number of restoration options, including timber monocultures and shea parklands.

The team found that while timber monocultures demonstrated slightly higher carbon sequestration values, shea parklands – in addition to carbon storage – offered multiple cobenefits, including income-generation opportunities to women and enhanced household food security.

Ihalainen argued for the importance of climate policies and programs to complement process-related gender mainstreaming targets with progress-oriented indicators, aimed at addressing structural inequalities underlying differentiated vulnerabilities and capacities.

Many of these targets have already been identified and agreed upon in the UN Sustainable Development Goals framework. Formulating clear progress-related targets would also allow to hold policymakers, implementers and donors accountable for their impacts on gender equality, he said.

“This is why it is so important to make sure that references to human rights and gender equality feature prominently in the texts here in Katowice, where we are discussing the modalities of implementing, monitoring and reporting on the Paris Agreement,” Ihalainen added.

By Julie Mollins, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Markus Ihalainen at [email protected].


This work forms part of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+

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  • FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Clouds pass over Ribangkadeng village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and its partner institutions are set to make a strong showing at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn on Dec. 1-2, 2018.

This year’s GLF Bonn will be key in drawing out the next steps toward hitting global sustainability targets, with many participants expected at the World Conference Center in Germany, in addition to a worldwide audience online.

Of numerous discussion forums, FTA is hosting a session on the delivery of quality and diverse planting material as a major constraint for restoration, organized by Bioversity International in collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

FTA Director Vincent Gitz will provide the opening to the session, ahead of a range of speakers including FTA Flagship 1 leader Ramni Jamnadass, as well as FTA’s Christopher Kettle, Marius Ekeu and Lars Graudal, and representatives of numerous key organizations. Additional details are available in the session flyer.

The program is also cohosting a session from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) titled REDD+ at 10: What we’ve learned and where we go next. Looking back at 10 years of REDD+ research, the session will ask how REDD+ has evolved, and where it stands now.

FTA Flagship 5 leader Christopher Martius, who is also team leader of climate change, energy and low-carbon development at CIFOR, will moderate the session, in which CIFOR’s Anne Larson and Arild Angelsen will speak. The GLF will also see the launch of a related book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions, in the Landscapes Action Pavilion Networking Area.

Another discussion forum of note is Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future, organized by CIFOR, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and FTA, which will bring together a diverse set of panelists experienced in implementing integrated landscape approaches in various contexts.

A major feature of GLF is its schedule of side events, including Territorial development – managing landscapes for the rural future cohosted by Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), and Bamboo for restoration and economic development organized by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

The program will have a presence at the event’s pavilions, including the Inclusive Finance and Business Engagement Pavilion where a highlight session titled Making responsible investments work: Bridging the gap between global investors and local end users is set to take place, looking at success factors for inclusive and responsible businesses, which are at the core of both climate finance and responsible investments, as well as financial mechanisms that can adequately address the needs of such businesses.

Visit the Tropenbos International (TBI) and CIFOR booths to find FTA resources and to speak with FTA experts.


For the full details of FTA’s involvement in GLF, please check the event webpage.

Tune into the GLF livestream on Dec. 1-2, from 9am-7.30pm in Bonn, Germany.


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