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  • New online platform promotes collaboration in the Congo Basin

New online platform promotes collaboration in the Congo Basin

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Aerial view of the Congo River. Photo by A. Gonzalez/CIFOR

To address the duplication of initiatives in the Congo Basin, the Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC) – whose mission is to provide data to decision makers so they can create evidence-based policies – recently launched an interactive project monitoring platform. The online tool enables access to data and projects in the region, to promote collaboration and put an end to wasted resources.

Conservation of the Congo Basin forests is a critical, but complex undertaking. This massive tropical forest block, the world’s second largest, covers over 200 million hectares and spreads across six countries in Central Africa.

It is home to some of the world’s most critically endangered animals, such as lowland gorillas, as well as over 10,000 endemic tropical plant species.

It also provides livelihoods to 60 million people, who depend on forest resources for food, energy, and jobs – a significant economic contribution in one of the world’s least developed regions. And as if this was not enough, it stores around 46 billion metric tons of carbon, benefitting the whole planet facing climate change.

The importance of this ecosystem means that a multitude of actors, including donors, implementing agencies, national governments, and local organizations, are simultaneously carrying out conservation and development efforts on the ground.

While international interest, availability of funds, and political will are certainly good news, duplications of initiatives do happen. Information gaps and a lack of overarching coordination stand in the way of achieving environmental and development objectives.

“In the last two decades, the region has seen an exponential increase in the number of actors in the forest-environment sector,” explained Quentin Jungers, OFAC’s technical advisor, who leads the IT team behind the platform.

“The new project monitoring platform answers calls for better coordination at the regional and national levels. It will allow organizations and governments to share information, promote collaborations, and ensure harmonization.”

Read also: Can DRC’s community forests alleviate poverty?

A woman carries vegetables in Yangole, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

A call for a regional approach

Better coordination has long been part of the Congo Basin conservation agenda. In 1999, the Central Africa Forest Commission (COMIFAC), became the birth-child of all ten Central African countries; its mandate to oversee the sustainable management and conservation of the Congo Basin’s forest ecosystems.

In 2005, the finalizing of a first Convergence Plan provided a common strategy for the COMIFAC Member States and international partners to reach sustainable goals.

OFAC officially became part of COMIFAC in 2011, leading to the development of an integrated monitoring and evaluation system just a few years later.

“There are so many initiatives to support the sustainable management of Central Africa’s forests, that sometimes it is difficult for COMIFAC to have a clear vision of all the efforts that contribute to the implementation of our Convergence Plan,” explained Vincent Medjibe, OFAC coordinator at COMIFAC. “We expect this platform to give us an accurate overview of what is happening on the ground”.

Read also: Observatory addresses urgent need to monitor forests in East Africa

Digital solutions

The development of the project monitoring platform, the first of its kind in Central Africa, began in 2015 with a basic repository and took over 8 months of intense work to convert into an analytical platform, which was finally ready last year.

“We started by developing a basic database with experts, projects, and capacity building initiatives in the fields of environment and climate change, sustainable management of natural resources, and conservation,” said Donald Djossi, programmer at OFAC. Though he says the real technical challenge was to find the “interconnections” of the projects, so as to provide a comprehensive cross-view of all initiatives.

“Our goal was that all kinds of users, tech-savvy or not, could benefit from it,” added Jungers. Appetite for the platform is clear. Though it was only launched a couple of months ago, it already has an average of 60 users per week.

Users can benefit from a directory and an interactive map showing geolocation and explanation of each initiative, an analysis tab that examines the current state of projects, as well as a report generation tool.

People gather outside the parish of Notre Dame de l’Assomption in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Learn more: Go to the project monitoring platform website 

Contributions needed

This platform is a collaborative initiative, and its success will depend on the organizations’ will to share their projects’ information. Until now, over 651 projects have already been submitted, out of which 508 have been validated and published, a significant amount considering that they account for 5 billion euros of funding.

To contribute, it is first necessary to create a user account. This gives organizations access to a private module. Then they can fill out a form for each project. “That’s all is needed,” said Djossi.

After a project is submitted, OFAC’s team reviews the form to ensure that all information is accurate and to avoid duplications. “We need to go through this validation process to ensure that our platform is a reliable source,” explained Jungers.

To encourage organizations to feed the platform, with their user account they also get access to a free monitoring tool that can help them track the progress of their projects. “They can have a report with one click”, said Djossi.

The next step for OFAC is to use the information on this platform to produce a regional publication called “The State of the Projects”, expected in 2020. As a complementary instrument, it will analyze the impact of projects in the Congo Basin in the last 15 years, looking to better integrate them into national and regional environment policies.

“The State of the Projects will help regional policymakers understand what has been done to conserve Central Africa’s forests, and what still needs to be done,” concluded Jungers.

By Ahtziri Gonzalez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research was supported by the RIOFAC,  funded by the European Union.

This work is also part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

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This collection of 12 stories from women and men in nine countries in different parts of Africa shines a light on the efforts of communities, some of them decades-long, in restoring degraded forests and landscapes. The stories are not generated through any rigorous scientific process, but are nonetheless illustrative of the opportunities communities create as they solve their own problems, and of the many entry points we have for supporting and accelerating community effort. The stories show that leadership, social capital and cooperation, clear property rights/tenure, and supportive governance are important for successful community-based restoration. From the perspectives of communities, “success” is not only about the number of trees planted and standing over a certain terrain: it is also about the ability to secure and enhance livelihoods; to strengthen existing community relationships and to build new ones with other actors; to develop a conservation ethic among younger generations; and, in some cases, to expand the rights of excluded individuals and groups. This collection is about amplifying the voices of local people in global policy debates.

Foreword. Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Story 1. Holding back the desert: One farmer’s story of restoring degraded land in the Sahel region in Burkina Faso

Story 2. Women gaining ground through reforestation on the Cameroonian coast

Story 3. Building resilience to climate change through community forest restoration in Ghana

Story 4. Thinking in tomorrow: Women leading forest restoration in Mt Kenya and beyond

Story 5. Mikoko Pamoja: Carbon credits and community-based reforestation in Kenya’s mangroves

Story 6. Rights, responsibilities and collaboration: The Ogiek and tree growing in the Mau

Story 7. Restoring Madagascar’s mangroves: Community-led conservation makes for multiple benefits

Story 8. Flood recovery, livelihood protection and mangrove reforestation in the Limpopo River Estuary, Mozambique

Story 9. Regaining their lost paradise: Communities rehabilitating mangrove forests in the drought-affected Saloum Delta, Senegal

Story 10. From the grass roots to the corridors of power: Scaling up efforts for conservation and reforestation in Senegal

Story 11. Taming the rising tide: Keeping the ocean at bay through community reforestation on Kisiwa Panza island, Tanzania

Story 12. Shaking the tree: Challenging gender, tenure and leadership norms through collaborative reforestation in Central Uganda

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  • Nyamplung's biofuel potential could support landscape restoration in Indonesia

Nyamplung’s biofuel potential could support landscape restoration in Indonesia

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Nyamplung grows in a bioenergy trial in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Catriona Croft-Cusworth/CIFOR

Research is aiming to demonstrate methods of bioenergy production that do not compete with food production and environmental conservation, but contribute to them.

Scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Korean National Institute of Forest Science (NIFOS) and Indonesia’s University of Muhammadiyah Palangkaraya (UMP) are currently conducting research through a collaborative research project to identify the most promising and productive bioenergy crops suited to degraded and underutilized lands.

Biofuel plantations could be central to meeting landscape restoration targets in Indonesia, while also helping the country to meet growing energy demand.

The total area under scrutiny in the research project is a 7.2-million hectare tract of mostly degraded land in Central Kalimantan province, which has been largely devastated by forest fires and conversion to agricultural and mining activities. More than 40 percent of residents in the province do not have access to electricity and rely on woody biomass for cooking fuel.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, regional and local level governments jointly implement the Bioenergi Lestari (Sustainable Bioenergy) program to establish bioenergy plantations on 62,500 hectares of land.

“Overall, Indonesia aims to meet 23 percent of its growing energy demand from new and renewable energy sources by 2025 with a 10 percent share from bioenergy,” said Himlal Baral, a scientist with CIFOR’s climate change, energy and low carbon research team.

“We can now share preliminary but promising results, which have isolated specific trees and crops that can provide energy, food security while simultaneously restoring land.”

Scientists undertook their research in Buntoi village, Pulang Pisau district, where the population of 2,700 people was largely dependent on rubber plantations and subsistence agriculture until 2015 when fires swept through destroying forests and peatlands.

“The research plot is a flooded area in the rainy season and very dried out in the dry season, leading to fires,” said Siti Maimunah, dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry at UMP.

A community member plants on a trial bioenergy plot in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

After planting tree trials, the scientists tentatively identified nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum) as the most adaptive bioenergy tree species for degraded peatlands in the area, their report states. The nyamplung grew best when it was planted in a mixed agroforestry setting, rather than monoculture.

“This is a win-win solution – growing biofuel using an agroforestry system can be a better land use strategy considering its potential to enhance farm production and income, biodiversity and support sustainable development,” Baral said. “Planting biofuel on degraded land can avoid compromising agricultural production and related negative environmental consequences.”

Planting trees for biofuel can help offset greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of the nyamplung only the seeds are collected to produce biodiesel and replace fossil fuels, which means the tree remains in the landscape providing other environmental services.

“Our objective is not intended only to restore burned peat land with a strictly biofuel production approach, but to enhance it with appropriate policies concerning environment and development goals,” said Syed Rahman, a researcher with CIFOR.

Biofuel production can help offset the high costs involved in meeting such land restoration goals as the Bonn Challenge, an international commitment made during UN Climate talks in 2014 to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Landscape restoration is at the forefront of national agendas as countries implement efforts to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 on life on land, by 2030.

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

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


This research was supported by the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFOS) and the Republic of Korea.

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

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  • Guidelines for equitable and sustainable non-timber forest product management

Guidelines for equitable and sustainable non-timber forest product management

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How can we improve local livelihoods while maintaining forest biodiversity and strengthening sustainable forest management in a socially inclusive and just manner? These guidelines present practical strategies and field examples for the inclusive and sustainable extraction, sale and management of forest products, particularly NTFPs. They build upon the framework of the Community Biodiversity Management approach in which three outcomes are sought; (1) community empowerment and social equity, (2) biodiversity conservation and (3) livelihood development (Sthapit et al. 2016). The guidelines draw upon data from the project: ‘Innovations in Ecosystem Management and Conservation’ carried out between 2014 and 2017 in districts of two Indian states: Mandla District in Madhya Pradesh and Uttara Kannada District in Karnataka.

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  • Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

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A man drives a horse and cart through an oil palm plantation in Brazil. Photo by Miguel Pinheiro/CIFOR

Millions of people around the world live in or near tropical forests and rely on them for their livelihoods. Thus conservation and reforestation work needs to take into account existing land uses and seek solutions that serve local communities as well as bigger-picture goals. 

Conserving and restoring these forests could represent over a quarter of the near-term solution to addressing climate change.

An increasingly popular option for managing landscapes that takes social, economic, political and ecological considerations into account – which many researchers and policymakers are now turning their attention toward – is a jurisdictional approach (JA), in which a landscape is defined by policy-relevant boundaries, and a high level of governmental involvement is at the core.

According to the authors of a new study that assesses the effectiveness of JAs in a number of locations around the world, the approach “holds tremendous potential for advancing holistic, durable solutions to the intertwined issues of tropical deforestation, rural livelihoods and food security.” There are a number of jurisdictional “experiments” underway at present, so the authors hold that “the time is ripe” for a systematic assessment to begin drawing on early lessons from these experiments in locations across the tropics.

Read more: The State of Jurisdictional Sustainability: Synthesis for practitioners and policymakers

The fruit of a collaboration between the Earth Innovation Institute (EII), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF-TF), the report comes on the 10th anniversary of the GCF-TF – a historical moment for acknowledging the progress that subnational governments have made as climate action leaders – and is being launched at the GCF-TF Annual Meeting on September 10 and 11 in San Francisco. The meeting precedes the Global Climate Action Summit, which aims to push for deeper worldwide commitments and accelerated action toward realizing the goals of the Paris Agreement and preventing dangerous climate change.

The report is the first comprehensive assessment of jurisdictional sustainability, and draws from evidence in 39 states and provinces in 12 countries where commitments to low-emissions development are in place, says lead author Claudia Stickler, who is a scientist at EII. She says that the majority of the jurisdictions in the study have made at least one pledge or commitment to reduce deforestation, and more than half of those have at least one policy, program or other action in place to achieve that commitment.

Amy Duchelle, a scientist at CIFOR who co-authored the study, hopes that the information will be used widely by subnational governments and the range of actors supporting these efforts toward JA.

Read also: Deep down in supply chains, zero deforestation commitments look different to what appears on paper

A farmer works with seedlings. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

DECOUPLING GROWTH AND DEFORESTATION

The researchers evaluated the sites’ progress toward low-emission, sustainable development, taking into account their goals and commitments, monitoring and reporting systems and multi-stakeholder governance platforms, as well as innovative policies and initiatives that are key to jurisdictional sustainability. They also assessed deforestation and emission rates and trends in depth, and explored barriers to – and opportunities for – building sustainability.

On many levels, the results were heartening: the researchers found “considerable progress” in all of the jurisdictions they studied. Around half of the jurisdictions had reduced deforestation below their Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL) over the last five years. In Brazil, states using the approach made particularly impressive progress: they were shown to have reduced deforestation by around 44% relative to their FREL. The researchers also found that on average, GDP was increasing in the sites much faster than deforestation rates: in almost all the jurisdictions, they concluded that “economic growth (signaled by GDP) appears to be decoupled from deforestation.”

Already, there has been positive feedback. According to Rafael Robles de Benítez, Climate Change Director of Quintana Roo, Mexico (a co-hosting city of the GCF-TF Annual Meeting), “This report is really useful because jurisdictions can share fundamental information about their progress with each other and partners. It also helps with planning and identifying gaps that require attention and management.”

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

REWARDS REQUIRED

To realize the full potential of JAs, the political leaders putting the processes into practice need more support, the co-authors conclude. “Even the front-runners among jurisdictions [in terms of achievements in sustainability] have not seen a whole lot of benefits for their efforts,” says Stickler. Almost USD 15 billion has been pledged in support for sub-national jurisdictions (directly or via national or regional programs or funds) to pursue REDD+ and low-emissions development since 2008. But the study found that “substantially less has actually disbursed to jurisdictions in that same time period,” she says.

According to co-author and EII Executive Director and scientist Daniel Nepstad, this means that, with a few notable exceptions, “the political leaders of tropical states and provinces who want to take this on – who are ready to put the policies and programs in place to slow deforestation and support forest communities across vast regions – are not getting the partnerships that they need to make it happen.”

An oil palm smallholder in Brazil. Photo by Miguel Pinheiro/CIFOR

As such, Stickler advises that “jurisdictional governments and other actors need to continue receiving positive signals that their efforts are worthwhile and should be expanded.” They also need help accessing resources and building better processes and partnerships, she says, in order to move toward achieving their commitments to reduce deforestation and degradation, as well as to improve well-being for their citizens.

Without this kind of explicit support, these jurisdictional-level efforts risk fading into obscurity and failing to achieve the level of change required. At present, says Nepstad, “the fight against tropical deforestation is still a political ambition that is hard to get elected on if you want to be governor of a tropical forest state or province – and that is a problem.”

At the meeting, Mary Nichols, California Air Resources Board Chair, emphasized how the GCF-TF, which California helped create, has grown to include governments together holding a third of all tropical forests. She went on to highlight that “the GCF-TF has increased its inclusivity and its focus on real success stories involving science and traditional knowledge. To see the level of engagement and joint efforts by states and provinces with foundations, donor countries and, most importantly, indigenous communities, this gives me great hope for the future and our ability to really address the climate crisis.”

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Amy Duchelle at [email protected].


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

This research was supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB); and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

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  • Genetic diversity of Ceiba pentandra in Colombian seasonally dry tropical forest: implications for conservation and management

Genetic diversity of Ceiba pentandra in Colombian seasonally dry tropical forest: implications for conservation and management

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Seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTFs) are one of the most degraded vegetation types worldwide and in Colombia<10% of the original cover remains. This calls for urgent conservation measures and restoration efforts. Understanding the genetic diversity and structure of tree species is crucial to inform not only conservation measures, but also sourcing of planting materials to ensure the long-term success of tree planting efforts, particularly in light of climate change. We assessed the genetic diversity distribution and structure of Ceiba pentandra from twelve representative locations of SDTF in Colombia, and how they may have been shaped by past climatic changes and human influence. We found three different genetic groups which may be the result of differentiation due to isolation of the Caribbean region, the Upper Cauca River Valley and the Patía River Valley in pre-glacial times. Range expansion of SDTF during the last glacial period, followed by more recent range contraction during the Holocene can explain the current distribution and mixture of genetic groups across contemporary STDF fragments. Most of the sampled localities showed heterozygosity scores close to Hardy–Weinberg expectations. Only two sites, among which the Patía River valley, an area with high conservation value, displayed significantly positive values of inbreeding coefficient, potentially affecting their survival and use as seed sources. While the effects of climate change might threaten C. pentandra populations across their current distribution ranges, opportunities remain for the in situ persistence of the most genetically diverse and unique ones. Based on our findings we identify priority areas for the in situ conservation of C. pentandra in Colombian SDTF and propose a pragmatic approach to guide the selection of appropriate planting material for use in restoration.

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  • New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

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The government supports gum collection from acacia trees as a source of income for Ethiopians. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

The Ethiopian government has a big dream: restoring 22 million hectares of degraded lands and forests by 2030. 

By doing so, the country aims not only to increase tree cover and restore degraded forests, but also to significantly enhance the forestry sector’s contribution to agricultural production systems, water and energy; to improve food and nutritional security; and to create more opportunities for employment and household income.

It is a bold and laudable pledge, made as part of the 2011 Bonn Challenge and the 2014 New York Climate Summit’s goal of restoring 350 million hectares worldwide by 2030. But what’s the best way to make it a reality?

With some 80% of Ethiopians living in rural areas, one approach is to pour resources into forest protection, rehabilitation and conservation by enlisting smallholder farmer labor for the cause mainly through food or cash for work programs. Until now, that has been the predominant method of action of projects supported by development partners. Meanwhile, the government’s approach has been to increase awareness of smallholders on the need to responsibly manage land and other natural resources and systematically mobilize these rural communities to provide free labor for landscape restoration tasks through annual soil and water conservation work and tree planting campaigns.

But either way, restoration must also create socioeconomic incentives for this massive population that depends on these landscapes for their livelihoods. There is a growing recognition that communities should be able to reap more economic benefits and have better control over the land they are restoring – both within restoration processes, and in general after the land has been restored.

To this end, a new forest law was enacted in January this year that is a significant step in the right direction, says Habtemariam Kassa, Team Leader of Forests and Human Well-being Research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) who supported efforts of the ministry in the process of revising the national forest law. The 2018 National Forest Law – a revised version of the 2007 forest law – now clearly recognizes the rights of communities and acknowledges their role in managing natural forests and establishing plantations, without unduly compromising ecological services or biodiversity.

Ato Kebede Yimam, State Minister of the Forestry Sector, says the new law contains the following three key changes:

  • Recognizing participatory forest management as a vehicle to enhance the role of communities in sharing responsibilities and benefits of managing natural forests in accordance with agreed-upon management plans;
  • Providing incentives for private forest developers through mechanisms such as lease-free land, better access to land use and forest ownership certificates, and tax holiday until and including the first harvest (for private investors and associations) and the second harvest (for communities); and
  • Putting severe penalties on those who expand farming into forests; tamper with forest boundaries; or set fires, harm endangered species, settle, or hunt or graze animals in state, communal, association or private forests.
Depending on the definition of ‘forest’ used, forests cover between 5% and 15% of Ethiopia’s area. Photo my M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Yimam says his ministry has been working to socialize the new law since it was enacted in January 2018. The revisions were based on inputs from policy- and decision-makers at a range of levels, as well as CIFOR scientists – which, Yimam says, make the law an impressive example of science and politics coming together for the betterment of a landscape.

“The law, recognizing the need to strengthen the role of the state in protecting biodiversity rich forests with global and national significance, has identified reserved forests where access is strictly limited,” says Yimam. “On the other hand, the law intends to promote the socioeconomic contribution of forests to the surrounding communities and to local and national economies.

“It is designed to significantly enhance the involvement and ownership of communities and associations in the establishment of plantation forests, in the restoration of degraded forests, and in responsible management and sustainable use of natural forests.”

CHANGE OF SCENERY

According to Kassa, a key shift in the new law is its recognition of the need to maximize socioeconomic benefits of all forest types to the surrounding communities. In the past, when communities managed natural forests under participatory forest management paradigms, “the only thing that they could use were non-timber forest products [NTFP], because most experts considered that cutting [down] indigenous trees was a forbidden act,” Kassa describes. So, the economic returns for managing forests were not really worth communities’ efforts. As such, “we recommended that the law allow a certain level of timber harvesting in natural forests based on forest management plan to be developed,” he says.

To some senior foresters invited to discuss the law in draft phases, this sounded undesirable and even dangerous: “There was a certain group who were really against some of these changes, because they thought that it would open up all natural forests for individuals and communities,” says Kassa. So a new article was created, whereby forests of significant biodiversity are demarcated, and treated as ‘no-go zones.’ “This also places responsibility on the state for protecting biodiversity-rich forests, which wasn’t so obvious before,” he says. 

The 2007 law only made mention of state and private forests. This meant that all restored forest land was treated as state property, so even after decades of restoration effort by a given community, the state could reallocate the land to other users. This tenure uncertainty demotivated communities to invest in forest landscape restoration. Since they didn’t clearly stand to benefit from landscape restoration and tree-planting, there was little incentive for them to take care of state-owned lands.

The new law, in contrast, grants rights of communities to manage and benefit from forests “very explicitly,” says Yimam. It does so by recognizing four categories of forest – state, private, community and association – thereby opening up new avenues for involvement and ownership. “So where you have degraded forest, the community can organize themselves, and with the approval of the relevant authority, can have all the responsibility of managing that forest as a community forest,” he explains.

“When you have groups of women or unemployed people, you can organize them to establish plantations on degraded hillsides, or even reforest and manage degraded forest, and this can be recognized as an association forest. Communities can then also stand to benefit financially from the carbon credits available for reforestation and forest preservation.”

REVISION TO REALITY

These new developments were hard-won. Kassa and his colleagues at CIFOR attempted to contribute similar content to the law’s predecessor in 2007, but then, forestry issues fell under the Ministry of Agriculture’s jurisdiction, and the sector was not getting the political attention it deserved. “We felt we were not really being listened to,” recounts Kassa.

When the Ministry of Environment and Forests (now the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) was established in 2013, CIFOR staff and other national researchers pushed hard for it to confront and address the limitations of the 2007 law, advocating that forest sector development could bring a host of economic benefits as well as help the country attain its national and international restoration commitments. The ministry listened, set up a committee to work with the scientists, and revised the law according to their technical feedback.

However, putting a law to work is always a challenge. Kassa says the ministry and relevant regional authorities will need significant support to translate the law into concrete actions on the ground. One issue is expertise. The focus of forestry training has thus far been on enhancing the protection function of forests rather than the livelihoods of forest dependent communities, says Kassa, and now leaders and experts in forestry will need new knowledge and skills.

What’s more, “Ethiopia is a federal state, and the various regional governments have been forming different institutional arrangements to manage the forestry sector”, says Yimam. “We need to develop the understanding that the regions can produce their own guidelines to clarify and specify certain articles, but all these cannot go beyond or against the national forest law.”

Both Yimam and Kassa are hopeful that rural communities and forests throughout the country will soon experience the benefits of the new law’s possibilities. “Ethiopia’s 2018 National Forest Law is a really progressive law, and if it is implemented properly it is going to make a big difference” says Yimam.

“The next step is to support the efforts of the Ethiopian government as it attempts to put in place appropriate structures at different levels, redefine the roles of experts and build their capacity to actualize the rights of communities and other forest managers provided by the law,” concludes Kassa.

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.  

For more information on this topic, please contact Habtemariam Kassa at [email protected].


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

This research was supported by the Strategic Climate Institutions Program (SCIP). SCIP is financed by the Governments of UK, Norway and Denmark.

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  • New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

link
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The government supports gum collection from acacia trees as a source of income for Ethiopians. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

The Ethiopian government has a big dream: restoring 22 million hectares of degraded lands and forests by 2030. 

By doing so, the country aims not only to increase tree cover and restore degraded forests, but also to significantly enhance the forestry sector’s contribution to agricultural production systems, water and energy; to improve food and nutritional security; and to create more opportunities for employment and household income.

It is a bold and laudable pledge, made as part of the 2011 Bonn Challenge and the 2014 New York Climate Summit’s goal of restoring 350 million hectares worldwide by 2030. But what’s the best way to make it a reality?

With some 80% of Ethiopians living in rural areas, one approach is to pour resources into forest protection, rehabilitation and conservation by enlisting smallholder farmer labor for the cause mainly through food or cash for work programs. Until now, that has been the predominant method of action of projects supported by development partners. Meanwhile, the government’s approach has been to increase awareness of smallholders on the need to responsibly manage land and other natural resources and systematically mobilize these rural communities to provide free labor for landscape restoration tasks through annual soil and water conservation work and tree planting campaigns.

But either way, restoration must also create socioeconomic incentives for this massive population that depends on these landscapes for their livelihoods. There is a growing recognition that communities should be able to reap more economic benefits and have better control over the land they are restoring – both within restoration processes, and in general after the land has been restored.

To this end, a new forest law was enacted in January this year that is a significant step in the right direction, says Habtemariam Kassa, Team Leader of Forests and Human Well-being Research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) who supported efforts of the ministry in the process of revising the national forest law. The 2018 National Forest Law – a revised version of the 2007 forest law – now clearly recognizes the rights of communities and acknowledges their role in managing natural forests and establishing plantations, without unduly compromising ecological services or biodiversity.

Ato Kebede Yimam, State Minister of the Forestry Sector, says the new law contains the following three key changes:

  • Recognizing participatory forest management as a vehicle to enhance the role of communities in sharing responsibilities and benefits of managing natural forests in accordance with agreed-upon management plans;
  • Providing incentives for private forest developers through mechanisms such as lease-free land, better access to land use and forest ownership certificates, and tax holiday until and including the first harvest (for private investors and associations) and the second harvest (for communities); and
  • Putting severe penalties on those who expand farming into forests; tamper with forest boundaries; or set fires, harm endangered species, settle, or hunt or graze animals in state, communal, association or private forests.
Depending on the definition of ‘forest’ used, forests cover between 5% and 15% of Ethiopia’s area. Photo my M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Yimam says his ministry has been working to socialize the new law since it was enacted in January 2018. The revisions were based on inputs from policy- and decision-makers at a range of levels, as well as CIFOR scientists – which, Yimam says, make the law an impressive example of science and politics coming together for the betterment of a landscape.

“The law, recognizing the need to strengthen the role of the state in protecting biodiversity rich forests with global and national significance, has identified reserved forests where access is strictly limited,” says Yimam. “On the other hand, the law intends to promote the socioeconomic contribution of forests to the surrounding communities and to local and national economies.

“It is designed to significantly enhance the involvement and ownership of communities and associations in the establishment of plantation forests, in the restoration of degraded forests, and in responsible management and sustainable use of natural forests.”

CHANGE OF SCENERY

According to Kassa, a key shift in the new law is its recognition of the need to maximize socioeconomic benefits of all forest types to the surrounding communities. In the past, when communities managed natural forests under participatory forest management paradigms, “the only thing that they could use were non-timber forest products [NTFP], because most experts considered that cutting [down] indigenous trees was a forbidden act,” Kassa describes. So, the economic returns for managing forests were not really worth communities’ efforts. As such, “we recommended that the law allow a certain level of timber harvesting in natural forests based on forest management plan to be developed,” he says.

To some senior foresters invited to discuss the law in draft phases, this sounded undesirable and even dangerous: “There was a certain group who were really against some of these changes, because they thought that it would open up all natural forests for individuals and communities,” says Kassa. So a new article was created, whereby forests of significant biodiversity are demarcated, and treated as ‘no-go zones.’ “This also places responsibility on the state for protecting biodiversity-rich forests, which wasn’t so obvious before,” he says. 

The 2007 law only made mention of state and private forests. This meant that all restored forest land was treated as state property, so even after decades of restoration effort by a given community, the state could reallocate the land to other users. This tenure uncertainty demotivated communities to invest in forest landscape restoration. Since they didn’t clearly stand to benefit from landscape restoration and tree-planting, there was little incentive for them to take care of state-owned lands.

The new law, in contrast, grants rights of communities to manage and benefit from forests “very explicitly,” says Yimam. It does so by recognizing four categories of forest – state, private, community and association – thereby opening up new avenues for involvement and ownership. “So where you have degraded forest, the community can organize themselves, and with the approval of the relevant authority, can have all the responsibility of managing that forest as a community forest,” he explains.

“When you have groups of women or unemployed people, you can organize them to establish plantations on degraded hillsides, or even reforest and manage degraded forest, and this can be recognized as an association forest. Communities can then also stand to benefit financially from the carbon credits available for reforestation and forest preservation.”

REVISION TO REALITY

These new developments were hard-won. Kassa and his colleagues at CIFOR attempted to contribute similar content to the law’s predecessor in 2007, but then, forestry issues fell under the Ministry of Agriculture’s jurisdiction, and the sector was not getting the political attention it deserved. “We felt we were not really being listened to,” recounts Kassa.

When the Ministry of Environment and Forests (now the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) was established in 2013, CIFOR staff and other national researchers pushed hard for it to confront and address the limitations of the 2007 law, advocating that forest sector development could bring a host of economic benefits as well as help the country attain its national and international restoration commitments. The ministry listened, set up a committee to work with the scientists, and revised the law according to their technical feedback.

However, putting a law to work is always a challenge. Kassa says the ministry and relevant regional authorities will need significant support to translate the law into concrete actions on the ground. One issue is expertise. The focus of forestry training has thus far been on enhancing the protection function of forests rather than the livelihoods of forest dependent communities, says Kassa, and now leaders and experts in forestry will need new knowledge and skills.

What’s more, “Ethiopia is a federal state, and the various regional governments have been forming different institutional arrangements to manage the forestry sector”, says Yimam. “We need to develop the understanding that the regions can produce their own guidelines to clarify and specify certain articles, but all these cannot go beyond or against the national forest law.”

Both Yimam and Kassa are hopeful that rural communities and forests throughout the country will soon experience the benefits of the new law’s possibilities. “Ethiopia’s 2018 National Forest Law is a really progressive law, and if it is implemented properly it is going to make a big difference” says Yimam.

“The next step is to support the efforts of the Ethiopian government as it attempts to put in place appropriate structures at different levels, redefine the roles of experts and build their capacity to actualize the rights of communities and other forest managers provided by the law,” concludes Kassa.

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.  

For more information on this topic, please contact Habtemariam Kassa at [email protected].


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

This research was supported by the Strategic Climate Institutions Program (SCIP). SCIP is financed by the Governments of UK, Norway and Denmark.

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  • A global strategy for the conservation and use of coconut genetic resources 2018-2028

A global strategy for the conservation and use of coconut genetic resources 2018-2028

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

This strategy came from extensive worldwide consultations, with support from Bioversity International, Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD), the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and ACIAR/DFAT, and outlines the means to conserve/use as much representative diversity as possible. More than 100 million people living in fragile coastal areas depend on coconut for their livelihoods. Globally, the demand for coconut products is expanding and offers new opportunities for increasing incomes for millions of small-scale coconut producers. At a time when the demand for coconut and coconut products is growing worldwide, it is important to conserve and utilize the rich biological diversity of the crop. This evolving Strategy will provide the benchmark for effectively implementing the comprehensive conservation and research agenda proposed by the international coconut research community, as a route to the enhanced wellbeing of millions of coconut smallholders across the globe.

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  • Mapping conservation priorities for Asian tree species

Mapping conservation priorities for Asian tree species

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Decades of water erosion have sculpted this piece of Borneo ironwood, one of the world’s most durable timbers. Photo by R. Jalonen/Bioversity International

A new regional initiative is providing practitioners with tools for deciding where to focus conservation and restoration efforts.

The challenge: valuable tree species are under threat

Unsustainable extraction, along with changes in land uses and the climate, is threatening thousands of socioeconomically valuable tree species across Asia. These species urgently need conservation and restoration to help meet future needs for food, fuel and fiber in the world’s most populous region.

Yet, very little information is available about their historical and current distribution, patterns of genetic diversity, intensity of threats across their distribution ranges, or availability of seed sources to support restoration. Effective conservation strategies for these species and their genetic resources cannot be implemented without improving knowledge on the species’ distributions and the threats they are facing.

The solution: fill the knowledge gap

A new regional initiative is setting out to fill these gaps by producing up-to-date information on the distributions of valuable tree species and the threats to them, and guidance to develop conservation strategies that help maintain the genetic diversity and adaptive capacity of the species.

The Geographic Information for Conserving Native Tree Species and Their Genetic Resources in Asia-Pacific (APFORGIS) initiative is being coordinated by Bioversity International and implemented in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Forest Genetic Resources Programme (APFORGEN). The initiative contributes directly to APFORGEN’s new strategy for 2018-2022, which has named improving the availability and accessibility of species information as one of the network’s key objectives for the next five years.

50 pilot tree species

Tree species experts from across the region have identified 50 pilot species for APFORGIS, based on existing national priority species lists, socioeconomic importance and conservation status, and the diversity of species traits such as pollen and seed dispersal patterns, including:

  • Kokum (Clusiaceae: Garcinia indica), widely used for its edible fruits, seed oil and medicinal values, and an important source of income for rural communities, but rapidly declining in the wild.
  • Gamboge species which are dioecious (having separate male and female trees) – conservation guidelines need to consider sex ratios and larger than usual population sizes to avoid inbreeding.
  • Borneo Ironwood (Lauraceae: Eusideroxylon zwageri), as its name suggests, is one of the most durable and heaviest timber species in the world, used for centuries for building ships, docks and houses fit for humid tropical conditions. Ironwood grows very slowly and its seed are dispersed mainly by gravity in the vicinity of the mother trees, making the species vulnerable for genetic erosion. Many anecdotes about the iconic species’ decline exist, yet it does not have an accurate conservation status or specific conservation strategies in place.

Methods, tools and capacities developed for these and other species can be used by forest departments, research institutions and conservation organizations for other species of interest with similar characteristics.

Knowledge to inform conservation strategies

A woman samples Borneo Ironwood for genetic analysis in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Photo by R. Jalonen/Bioversity International

“Current lack of knowledge about these and other pilot species illustrates the conservation challenges in the vast and extremely diverse Asian region,” says Riina Jalonen, who is coordinating the initiative.

“Thirty-seven percent of the pilot species have never been assessed for their conservation status despite of their socioeconomic importance, and another 31 percent were last assessed in the 1990s. Of the species assessed in the past 10 years, three-quarters are threatened.”

APFORGIS uses existing information about the species occurrences and threats to them to develop species distribution models. The models give an estimate of historical, current and potential future distributions. The resulting maps will be validated by experts and used for identifying conservation priorities. They can also be used to design and target field studies in the future.

Regional species distribution and threat maps developed by APFORGIS will help to:

  • Identify centers of species diversity to optimize conservation efforts
  • Assess how well the current protected areas cover the priority areas for conservation
  • Identify areas where species populations may be most threatened by climate change
  • Identify seed transfer zones and adequacy of existing seed sources for tree planting and forest restoration
  • Plan studies on genetic diversity and provenance trials that are representative of the species’ range and the variation in environmental conditions

What’s next?

Based on up-to-date information about the species distributions and threats to them, the project will then develop guidelines for conservation units that maintain genetic diversity vital for the species survival, productivity and adaptive capacity. The units can also serve as sources of diverse and suitably adapted planting material, urgently needed for improving the success of forest restoration efforts.

Regional collaboration will allow countries share information and responsibilities in establishing and managing genetic conservation units. Fewer units are likely needed than if every country set up its own network, which helps to focus and sustain efforts over time.

The pilot species comprise:

  • Afzelia xylocarpa 
  • Ailanthus excelsa 
  • Albizia lebbeck 
  • Anisoptera costata 
  • Aquilaria crassna 
  • Aquilaria malaccensis 
  • Azadirachta indica 
  • Cinnamomum parthenoxylon 
  • Dalbergia cochinchinensis 
  • Dalbergia cultrata 
  • Dalbergia latifolia 
  • Dalbergia oliveri 
  • Dalbergia sissoo 
  • Dalbergia tonkinensis 
  • Diospyros cauliflora 
  • Dipterocarpus alatus 
  • Dipterocarpus grandiflorus 
  • Dipterocarpus turbinatus 
  • Dryobalanops aromatica 
  • Dyera costulata
  • Eurycoma longifolia 
  • Eusideroxylon zwageri 
  • Fagraea fragrans 
  • Garcinia indica 
  • Gluta usitata 
  • Gonystylus bancanus 
  • Hopea odorata 
  • Intsia bijuga 
  • Intsia palembanica 
  • Koompassia malaccensis 
  • Myristica malabarica 
  • Neolamarckia cadamba 
  • Parkia speciosa 
  • Pericopsis mooniana 
  • Phyllanthus emblica 
  • Pinus kesiya  
  • Pinus merkusii 
  • Podocarpus neriifolius 
  • Pometia pinnata 
  • Pongamia pinnata
  • Pterocarpus indicus 
  • Pterocarpus macrocarpus 
  • Santalum album 
  • Scaphium macropodum  
  • Shorea leprosula 
  • Shorea macrophylla 
  • Shorea ovalis 
  • Shorea parvifolia 
  • Shorea pinanga 
  • Shorea roxburghii 
  • Sindora siamensis 
  • Tectona grandis 
  • Terminalia chebula 
  • Vatica mangachapoi 
  • Xylia xylocarpa

To achieve conservation for the valuable tree species and their genetic diversity across Asia, the initiative needs help to gather information on the species’ known distributions, whether current or historical.

If you or your organization have data about the natural occurrences of the pilot species of APFORGIS, please contact Riina Jalonen [email protected] to find out how you can help.


Originally published on the website of Bioversity International

Geographic Information for Conserving Native Tree Species and Their Genetic Resources in Asia-Pacific (APFORGIS) is a regional project implemented in Asian countries from December 2017 to November 2019. The project is coordinated by Bioversity International and implemented in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Forest Genetic Resources Programme (APFORGEN). The project is funded by the German Government through the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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