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  • Getting to the bottom of illegal plantations on Indonesia’s state-owned forests

Getting to the bottom of illegal plantations on Indonesia’s state-owned forests

A man examines oil palm fruit at a research site in Indonesia. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR
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Palm oil is used locally in cooking, and internationally in commercial food and personal care products. Photo by M. Pinheiro/CIFOR

In an ideal world, palm oil production would cause no deforestation, and have a transparent and fair supply chain. In reality, the impacts of the sector have been the cause of ethical concerns worldwide.

Palm oil is Indonesia’s most important commodity. In 2017 the country produced 37.8 million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) and exported over 80 percent of it, with a value of $31.8 billion. Indonesia is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, and its biggest exporter too.

The strong market demand of palm oil has led to a vast expansion of plantations. Currently smallholders make up around 40 percent of the production market, and around one-third of these do not have the correct land tenure permits. In some cases, the smallholders have moved into state-owned forest areas and in many cases, this occupancy creates conflict.

In 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Directorate General of Plantations found that of the 2.5 million hectares of oil palm plantations on state-owned forests, 70 percent of these were controlled by smallholders.

To get to the bottom of why oil palm plantations continue to encroach into state forest areas, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) organized a workshop in collaboration with Center for Research and Development on Social, Economics, Policy and Climate Change (P3SEPKI): ‘Linking science to policy: the role of research in the effort to accelerate solution of tenurial problems in oil palm plantation in forest areas.’

Read also: Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

Solving conflicts by understanding the underlying cause

In his presentation, Ismatul Hakim,  senior researcher at P3SEPKI, says that complex tenure conflicts can’t be resolved without understanding why oil palm plantations are encroaching into state forest areas. He believes assessing how different types of farmers take control of lands, what strategies they use, and most importantly, the motivations of the farmers, is needed before long-lasting resolution is achieved.

According to Hakim’s research, this can be segregated into four categories:

The first is maladministration, where a lack of coordination leads to disputes as it is unclear who legally manages the forest areas – is it the Ministry of Environment and Forestry or the local government?

Second, incomplete forest area gazettements- a legal declaration that announces state ownership- coupled with a lack of clarity and communication on where the gazetted boundaries lay, have caused local people, in need for income, to expand their plantations into unmarked forest areas.

Third, inequality of power and land ownership has caused people to encroach. Local people have watched big investors and corporations take control of and transform their ancestral land, and store land for the future (known as ‘landbanking’).

And finally, the ineffective implementation of policies for forest area release and land swap- where the government gives areas of new land to plantations in exchange for restoring degraded land. To add, he says, this is further hampered by the slow pace of conflict resolution.

Drawing from his research, Bayu Eka Yulian from Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) added “Oil palm plantations have expanded rapidly in East Kalimantan, particularly those smallholders in a silence mode.” He argued while corporations might generally adhere to tighter regulations, small holder farmers, including those with access to more capital and information, appear to expand their plantations at a scale from 0.5 to 3 hectares of land or even more, without restraint.

The attendees agreed that the situation  will keep perpetuating itself without intervention. Rapid expansion is causing damaging changes to the landscape, but farmers are also becoming trapped- as they become highly dependent on a monoculture crop, and get trapped on a single source of income.

Read also: The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

A man examines oil palm fruit at a research site in Indonesia. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR

Solving tenure issues through better governance

In September 2018, the Indonesian government issued a three-year moratorium on new oil palm plantation permits and devised attempts to increase productivity, expressed in Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2018. Along with other prevailing policies, this moratorium offers an excellent opportunity to resolve tenure issues.

However, it was feared that the temporary halt might simply not be enough.

“It was generally agreed by the workshop participants that regulations should be clear and not create legal uncertainties,” said CIFOR scientist Heru Komarudin, adding that plantations that are currently operating on state forests should be given enough time to either relocate or have their land status legally changed to non-forest areas.

He similarly believes that smallholder plantations already illegally on state forests should be given the chance to confirm their land status through agrarian reform or social forestry schemes that are already in place.

“Priority should be given to those committed to practising ethical agriculture – by preventing further deforestation and promoting fair trade working rights,” said Komarudin. To create policies that work, the “heterogeneous typology” of smallholders, and the impact of plantations on local people need to be taken into account, he adds.

Furthermore, there is opportunity to raise state funds by getting tenure issues right. Legislating and governing the use and rental of state forest can then be further propped up by compensation payments by companies who have illegally encroached. While strict law enforcement could be used to police the tenure issues, granting land amnesty to those that depend heavily on these lands may be a breakthrough.

Internationally, the European Union Renewable Energy Directive which plans to phase out the use of palm oil for biofuel by 2030, has put pressure on the Indonesian palm producers. In responding to this development, workshop attendees agreed that foreign diplomacy should be strengthened by consolidating the national position, which in turn would make the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification credible.

“Building solidarity with other producing countries to promote best practices and a sustainable and legal palm oil industry is essential,” says Maharani Hapsari, PhD and lecturer of international relations at Gadjah Mada University. “Indonesia should focus its diplomacy on palm oil global trade not only to strengthen authority, but also to enhance legitimacy of forest and oil palm governance by the broadest possible range of stakeholders.”

By Nabiha Shahab and Dominique Lyons, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Heru Komarudin 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 is part of the Governing Oil Palm Landscapes for Sustainability (GOLS) project, which is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The GOLS project supports effective and equitable implementation of the New York Declaration on Forests commitments by helping to align public and private policies and actions, and by delivering targeted, research-based evidence to key stakeholders and practitioners.

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  • Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

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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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  • Is bamboo a sustainable alternative for bioenergy production in Indonesia?

Is bamboo a sustainable alternative for bioenergy production in Indonesia?

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For thousands of years, people in Indonesia have used bamboo for a huge range of purposes. It is a ready source of food, fibre, firewood and construction material, and its abundance and availability has earned it the moniker of “timber of the poor.”

Now, scientists are exploring its potential in another critical realm: energy production and restoration of degraded land.

Energy demand in Indonesia has increased significantly in recent years, as a result of population growth, urbanization and economic development. The government is also working to up its energy provision from renewable sources, in line with its commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the international Paris Agreement on climate change. As a country with a rich biomass base, bioenergy seems an obvious port of call.

Watch: Integrating bioenergy and landscape restoration in the tropics: the key to a sustainable future

However, growing crops for bioenergy is not without its risks and tradeoffs. At present, Indonesia’s biofuel comes chiefly from oil palm, which has spurred widespread deforestation, peatland drainage and many other grave social and environmental impacts. So, say researchers from Australia’s RMIT University and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), it is crucial to start looking for other species that can provide sustainable supplies of biomass for energy production, without compromising food security or unduly affecting the wider landscape.

And that is where bamboo comes in, said RMIT and CIFOR researcher Roshan Sharma in a just-published opinion piece for the journal Sustainability. The fast-growing, perennial plant grows well on degraded land with minimal water or fertilizer input, and also thrives when planted in combination with other crops in forestry and agroforestry systems. What is more, there’s no need to chop the whole stand down and start again when it’s time to harvest: once mature (after around three to four years), the crop can be systematically thinned every year, and this may actually increase its productivity over time.

Bamboo cultivation can also be a “powerful ally” in restoration processes, say the co-authors. Its extensive root systems help to control erosion and retain water, while its copious leaf litter contributes significantly to soil fertility. Because it grows fast, it quickly creates habitats for enhanced biodiversity, and sequesters carbon in the process. What’s more, points out CIFOR scientist and contributing author Himlal Baral, the financial benefits of cultivating bamboo for bioenergy make restoration a much more economically viable prospect, which will be crucial for scaling it up.

Read more: Integrating bioenergy and landscape restoration in the tropics: the key to a sustainable future

Villagers transport bamboo with a small boat in Selimbau, Lake Sentarum, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. CIFOR/Ramadian Bachtiar

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Another advantage of generating bioenergy from bamboo is that it allows for decentralized energy production, say the scientists. Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, many of which are not connected to the national power grid: according to Jaya Wahono, co-author  and chief executive of Clean Power Indonesia (CPI), there are around 12,500 villages across the country that don’t have reliable power. Diesel is imported in drums to many of these places and used to power generators, but it’s expensive and unreliable, which limits options for economic development, says Wahono.

As such, CPI has set up pilot bamboo power plants on the remote Mentawai islands, with considerable success: they’ve brought reliable electricity to 1,200 households in three villages, each of which has their own power plant. Bamboo harvesting provides jobs, and also allows farmers to diversify their income streams, reducing their vulnerability to crop failure and helping them adapt to climate change.

Wahono says CPI is now keen to replicate the model across Indonesia. Since bamboo cultivation and use is already a familiar aspect of everyday life, they hope that locals will be willing and able to participate in bamboo-based bioenergy production right across the archipelago.

Bamboo plantations will need to be carefully managed, notes Baral, as they can pose a threat as an invasive species which can displace surrounding vegetation. It will also be important to ensure bamboo is cultivated on degraded and under-utilized land, so it doesn’t displace food crops or cause clear-felling of native vegetation while reducing the risk of invasiveness.

According to Sharma, the research team’s next step will be “to explore how much local bamboo is available in Indonesia, identify sites for possible bamboo plantations, and study the economic feasibility of producing bamboo by farmers and the economics of land restoration using bamboo.”

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn

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


This research is part of the CIFOR Bioenergy project funded by NIFoS (National Institute of Forest Science, South Korea) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) with financial support from the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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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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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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  • Implementing sustainability commitments for palm oil in Indonesia: Governance arrangements of sustainability initiatives involving public and private actors

Implementing sustainability commitments for palm oil in Indonesia: Governance arrangements of sustainability initiatives involving public and private actors

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The palm oil sector in Indonesia has seen the adoption of zero deforestation commitments by the larger companies in the form of various pledges around No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation (NDPE). At the same time, at the national and sub-national level, new governance arrangements are emerging for sustainability initiatives involving government, the private sector and other non-state actors. These initiatives have created new forms of governance relationships, most notably a shift in the types of function that were once the sole domain of the state. Some initiatives are independent and formulated outside of the state, but others interact with, and support, state actions. This paper explores the interactions between public and private sectors in the palm oil arena in Indonesia. It examines tensions and complementarities between these sectors, the degree to which, and manner in which, private standards are pushing the sustainability debate and implementation, and the likely outcomes in relation to their design.

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  • Does soybean certification help to reduce deforestation?

Does soybean certification help to reduce deforestation?

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An aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, near Manaus, Brazil. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT

If hearing the word “soy” makes you think of tofu, edamame and soy sauce, think again.

Soybean is a “hidden commodity”, and most consumers have no idea how much of the legume they eat daily. Not only is it found in thousands of processed foods and products, from margarine and chocolate to cosmetics and soaps, rising demand for meat has driven soy production to nearly 10 times what it was 50 years ago.

A full 80 percent of the world’s soybean crop is fed to livestock. Much of it is produced in the Amazon and Cerrado ecosystems of Brazil, which each lose between 5 to 10,000 square kilometers of forest each year, despite public and private efforts to limit soy production to land that has already been cleared.

Today, 2 to 4 percent of global soy production is certified as responsible, representing a niche market of concerned consumers who are willing to pay more for products guaranteed to be emissions and deforestation-free. But do such guarantees actually reduce deforestation?

Not necessarily, according to recent research by the University of Bonn’s Center for Development Research and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which compared seven soy certification schemes in Brazil.

“We find that these schemes may be able to provide consumers with deforestation-free products, but they cannot generally safeguard against the negative impacts of increasing land footprints,” said Jan Börner, a CIFOR senior associate and professor of Economics of Sustainable Land Use and Bio-economy at the University of Bonn, who co-authored a policy brief that sums up the research results.

Although all seven schemes commit to preventing illegal deforestation and support the enforcement of national laws for natural ecosystem preservation on private properties, they may simply relocate sourcing patterns or provoke indirect land use change – which is known to occur but difficult to measure.

“As long as it is a niche market, you can source soy from already deforested landscapes and label it deforestation-free,” Börner said. “So consumers are eventually paying for something that is very easy to provide, but doesn’t actually reduce deforestation.”

Additionally, some studies argue that confining soybean production to already cleared land – which is widely available – is pushing cattle production to expand new pastures along the forest margins. By converting low-value pastures to high-value cropland, cattle farmers are benefiting from differences in land prices by selling high and buying low, reinvesting profits and effectively ramping up overall cattle production.

This causes a cascading effect of different agricultural land uses with time lags, making it difficult to point the finger at specific drivers of deforestation. If the construction of roads and highways needed to get soy to export markets is factored in, it’s estimated that as much as one-third of Amazon deforestation since 2002 can be attributed indirectly to soybean expansion.

Read also: Decoding deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia

Roads and cattle farming are two major drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR

INCENTIVE OR DISINCENTIVE

Another factor that limits the spread of voluntary certification especially for bulk commodities is low cost-effectiveness. Certification costs are similar for most schemes, but the cost of implementing them can be prohibitive, depending on the supply chain model. A combination of high transaction costs and low price premiums lower the appeal for producers – especially smallholders – to invest in certification.

“For farmers who don’t have to change anything, it’s a no-regret effort to get certified,” Börner said. “But for those who would have to significantly adjust the way they operate, the premiums are too low to create the incentive to change.”

Therefore, the effect of certification is to simply shift sourcing to farmers who can provide deforestation-free soy at relatively little or no opportunity cost, rather than encouraging those who are actually driving deforestation to change their behavior.

“We’re talking about harnessing consumers’ willingness to pay for conservation, but we’re not doing that,” Börner adds. “We’re just channeling rents to different producers that happen to be deforestation-free, but this money is not actually reducing any deforestation.”

This is not to say that certification doesn’t work.

“It does work in some contexts,” Börner said. “In Indonesia, for example, FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certification was shown to make a significant contribution to natural forest conservation. Tropical timber is different than agricultural crops, though. It is primarily sourced from forest landscapes, where the adoption of sustainable practices can make a difference.”

As such, the voluntary standards and certification may serve as a complementary strategy, but they all hinge on appropriate and well implemented national.

“If you’re not even able to measure whether people are complying with national legislation, how can you ensure standards are delivering what they promise?” Börner said. “These value chain governance measures cannot serve as stand-alone tools to avoid illegal or undesired forms of deforestation – they have to be implemented in line with existing policies that need to be strengthened.”

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

IF NOT CERTIFICATION, THEN WHAT?

The authors examine how responsible consumption initiatives could limit unsustainable expansion of soy production. Since voluntary payments such as certification are likely to remain niche markets, the scale of impact will be minimal unless these investments can be channeled into initiatives that can actually show impact.

For instance, if the willingness of consumers to pay for reducing their land footprint could be harnessed to finance direct conservation measures in areas threatened by deforestation, there is potential to make a big difference.

Based on this insight, Börner suggests that offsetting may be a more effective mechanism than certification.

For example, rather than paying a higher price for a certified soy product and having that money passed on to producers who just happen to cultivate soy without causing deforestation, consumers of products that are known to be associated with deforestation could be offered to support initiatives that demonstrate actual conservation impact on the ground.

“So you’re not guaranteeing the product is emission-free, but you’re guaranteeing that the extra money is actually going towards land-based emissions reduction,” he said. “Otherwise you’re actually blinding the consumer with a certificate that claims deforestation has been avoided, when it’s not actually the case.”

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


For more information on this topic, please contact Jan Börner at [email protected].

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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  • Interactive map provides tools for corporate accountability and land-use planning in Papua

Interactive map provides tools for corporate accountability and land-use planning in Papua

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The contrast between oil palm plantation and forest is seen in Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Agus Andrianto/CIFOR

Scientists hope a new interactive atlas that tracks deforestation annually will enable local governments to plan for change and avert widespread destruction of the forests on which indigenous people depend for food and livelihoods.

Due to its remote location and sparse population, Papua, Indonesia, harbors one of the Pacific’s last remaining expanses of pristine tropical forest. However, recent spikes in deforestation rates, accompanied by the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations, are signs that rapid change is on the horizon.

“The Papua Atlas will show where forest is being cleared on the island and who is responsible for the deforestation,” said David Gaveau, a research associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), who demonstrated a prototype of the atlas at the International Conference on Biodiversity, Ecotourism and Creative Economy (ICBE) in Manokwari, Papua, on Oct. 7 to 11, 2018.

The platform, due to launch in mid-2019, will track deforestation on a monthly basis over the long-term.

Local government officials in charge of spatial planning welcome the development of the atlas, which they can use to help plan land use as the local population grows and demand for roads and other services increases in tandem. For example, the annual data provided by the atlas will provide insight into the dynamics of forest loss and the expansion of industrial oil palm concessions, and roads into forested areas.

Old-growth forest in Indonesian Papua shrank by 2 percent, a loss of 600,000 hectares, between 2000 and 2017 (Fig. 1).

Annual forest loss in Indonesian Papua has accelerated gradually since 2000, reaching a peak in both provinces in 2015 and 2016, with 98,000 hectares and 85,000 hectares lost, respectively, before dropping markedly in 2017 (Fig. 1b & c).

Meanwhile, industrial plantations, mainly for oil palm, have nearly quadrupled since 2000, with the largest expansion in Papua province. Gaveau’s studies indicate that about 30 percent of all forest loss since 2000 has been due to clearing for industrial plantations.

Fig 1. Annual loss of forest area from 2001 to 2017 in (a) Indonesian Papua, (b) Papua province (b) and (c) West Papua province.

“The island of New Guinea is perhaps the last large equatorial island that is still pristine,” Gaveau says. “It is still 90 percent natural forest, and it is sparsely populated.”

Because of its distance from key trading routes, Pacific ports and cities, it is expensive to install industrial facilities, such as palm oil refineries in Indonesian Papua. But the island is not immune to the spread of the palm oil industry, which has expanded throughout other islands, such as Borneo.

“As prime land becomes scarce on other islands, companies are turning their eyes to Papua,” Gaveau says.

That’s where the Papua Atlas comes in.

The interactive map is similar to the Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, also known as the Borneo Atlas, which Gaveau, a landscape ecologist, and Mohammad Agus Salim a Geographic Information Systems expert with CIFOR, developed to monitor deforestation on that island. The Borneo Atlas allows users to verify the location and ownership of more than 460 palm-oil mills on Borneo and monitor deforestation in the surrounding area.

Data about ownership show which companies linked to plantations are encroaching on forests and peat lands.

“The principle of the Papua Atlas is the same,” Gaveau says. “The overarching idea is to hold companies accountable for the deforestation they might have caused, whether or not it is done legally. The idea is that the Indonesian local and national governments can check those deforestation footprints in concessions to review the permits.”

See also: Atlas of deforestation and industrial plantations in Borneo

PLANNING FOR CHANGE

The arrival of industrial plantations is not the only change threatening to transform Papua’s pristine forest landscape. Logging for timber exports is increasing, tailings from a copper mine are destroying mangrove swamps, and people migrating from other islands are swelling urban populations.

As cities and towns expand, residents demand more public services, including better transportation. In planning everything from roads to housing, local government officials will have to assess the many tradeoffs  that inevitably accompany development.

To ensure that the Papua Atlas is especially useful to land-use planners, Gaveau and Salim consulted extensively with local governments.

“New roads are being built to link the provinces of Papua and West Papua, and we know that with roads comes deforestation,” Salim says.

That could jeopardize the livelihoods of the indigenous people who live in the island’s forests and who depend on forest products for food, housing materials, fuel and their livelihoods.

Government officials are taking steps to put the brakes on some undesired impacts.

West Papua was declared a conservation province in October 2015. The government of West Papua has committed to keeping 70 percent of the province’s land under protection.

Only about half the province’s land is currently protected, so the challenge will be to increase that area.

In September 2018, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a three-year moratorium on new oil palm concessions on forest land managed by the national government, although the ban does not apply to forest within existing concessions or forest land controlled by local governments.

The Papua Atlas can help observers determine whether the moratorium is being respected, Gaveau says.

Government officials will also be able to use it to analyze land-use patterns and review licenses for agricultural concessions. Knowing which companies hold concessions and how they are using their land will enable government officials to adjust tax rates, Salim says.

“The atlas can be an important tool for conservation and land management,” he adds.

Read also: New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

A settlement is seen from the air in Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Agus Andrianto/CIFOR

A LOCAL VIEW OF A GLOBAL

As the use of freely accessible platforms for tracking land use becomes more common, the Papua and Borneo atlases stand out for the degree of detail they offer.

Users can see which companies are clear-cutting old-growth forest, how much newly planted areas companies are adding, and where palm producers are moving into sensitive areas such as peat lands, which are crucial for carbon storage. The database also shows corporate relationships among companies, enabling users to better understand the market forces behind deforestation and to track corporations’ zero-deforestation commitments.

The atlas will provide a view of deforestation over time, with animations that show how plantations and roads have expanded, where land has been burned, where new land has been planted, and where forest and landscape restoration are under way.

“It’s important to be able to see both forest loss and the newly planted area, because you can then measure the conversion of forests to plantations,” Gaveau said “If forest was cleared and a plantation was established all within one year, there’s little question that both were the work of the company located in that place.”

The map can also be used to gauge impacts of those changes. When deforestation and planting occur near a river, for example, increased erosion is likely to affect aquatic life and ecosystems downstream.

Gaveau and Salim also hope it will solve a mystery. Deforestation on the island spiked in 2015 and 2016 even though no new concessions were granted in those years, which puzzles local government officials.

The interactive map can also link to platforms and databases developed locally, placing more useful information at the fingertips of local government officials.

“We are trying to develop ways of looking at the data that are important for analyzing impacts and planning for the future,” Gaveau said.

“These interactive platforms that promote corporate accountability and make it possible to trace products to their place of origin are just a start,” he added. “In a few years, we will have intelligent systems that will provide more detailed information, more frequently.”

Not only will that information provide a record of the past, but it will also give a glimpse of what lies ahead.

“Papua is important — it’s the last frontier of Indonesia, and one of the last in the tropical world,” Salim says. “The question is what do its people want for the future?”

The Papua Atlas will provide guideposts in the search for an answer.

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

For more information, contact David Gaveau at [email protected] and Mohammad Agus Salim at [email protected].


The Papua Atlas is being developed with financial assistance from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID).

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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  • Improving livelihoods, equity and forests through sustainable management of NTFPs

Improving livelihoods, equity and forests through sustainable management of NTFPs

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Drying the rinds of Garcinia indica, an NTFP prized in the pharmaceutical industry for its weight loss properties. Photo by E. Hermanowicz/Bioversity International

An estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide live in and around forests, and depend on them for their livelihoods. However, forest degradation and deforestation are accelerating, and endangering local livelihoods.

The careful management and conservation of biodiversity are fundamental for sustaining ecosystems and livelihoods but are increasingly difficult to achieve in contexts of persistent poverty, a growing international demand for timber and non-timber forest products (NTFP), and climate change.

Moreover, at the local level, decision-making power on management of forests and forest products, and the sharing of related costs and benefits are often inequitably distributed across groups, marginalizing people based on gender, caste, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other factors of social differentiation.

A new publication, Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-timber Forest Product Management, offers field-tested strategies and good practices on how to pursue the multiple goals of gender equality and social inclusion, environmental integrity, and livelihoods improvement through the sustainable use and management of non-timber forest products.

To address some of these challenges, many countries have adopted community-based or joint forest management approaches. It is increasingly recognized that gender equity and social inclusion are key components of effective and efficient forest management approaches, as well as a goal. Yet, they are also a complex challenge with deep-seated causes and effects, including poor governance, corruption, and lack of tangible and equally distributed benefits, all of which hinder sound forest management.

In their new publication, Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-timber Forest Product Management, Bioversity International scientists Riina Jalonen, Hugo Lamers, and Marlène Elias draw from their experience in two Indian districts – Mandla, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and Uttara Kannada, in the state of Karnataka – to provide guidance on how to pursue the triple goals of gender equality and social inclusion, environmental integrity, and improved livelihoods through the sustainable use and management of NTFPs.

NTFPs are of foremost importance for rural communities living in or near forests. For example, the flower of the mahua tree (Madhuca longifolia), which is used to make a local alcohol or as an alternative to coffee in the Mandla district, or the rind of the kokum fruit (Garcinia gummi-guta) found in Uttara Kannada district, which is valued for its weight loss properties in the international pharmaceutical industry, bring important income to local households. Other NTFPs, like mangoes in the Uttara Kannada district, also play an integral role for home consumption and are important for the local food culture.

Read more: Bioversity International’s research on the sustainable use of forest diversity

A woman uses a stick to harvest an NTFP in Karnataka, India. Photo by E. Hermanowicz/Bioversity International

The set of six good practice guidelines address some of these issues through a focus on:

  1. Promoting collective sales of NTFPs
  2. Fostering gender equity and inclusion in joint forest management
  3. Achieving income generation and forest regeneration through the collection of ripe fruit
  4. Avoiding tree damage as a result of the collection of NTFPs
  5. Effective monitoring of forests to improve management
  6. Restoring degraded forest landscapes through planting of valuable trees.

For example, the guideline on gender equity and social inclusion in joint forest management (JFM) details how women’s participation can improve the efficiency of JFM and lead to more gender-equal outcomes. Yet, women face time, mobility, and information constraints, as well as norms that discriminate against them in public decision-making spaces. These have to be addressed to allow them to participate meaningfully in JFM, and to make their voices heard in decision-making.

Additional constraints can be found at the intersection of gender, age, and ethnicity or caste. In the study districts, participating in JFM meetings is considered a “man’s role”, and women often feel out of place there. They are not encouraged to express their opinions, despite the fact that they have a rich knowledge of the forest. This is especially the case for women from marginalized castes or tribes, who are most dependent on, and knowledgeable about, the forest, but also most discriminated against.

The guidelines propose strategies to promote women’s participation in JFM, such as scheduling meetings at times and in places convenient for women, creating women-only spaces where women can speak their minds freely to then have their opinions brought to the JFM table, improving the flows of information towards local women.

The practical strategies proposed in the guidelines can be used by facilitators working with communities to improve their livelihoods through the sustainable and equitable use and management of NTFPs. Practitioners can use the guidelines to design and conduct community meetings that can help participants identify practices that are fitting for their context. Questions are presented in the guidelines as the basis for group discussions, which can foster participants to find and implement collective solutions to improve the state of their forests and their livelihoods.

Read also: Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-timber Forest Product Management

By Giulia Micheletti and Marlène Elias, originally published by Bioversity International

For more information, contact [email protected]


The Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-Timber Forest Product Management were developed as part of the project ‘Innovations in Ecosystem Management and Conservation (IEMaC)’, supported by USAID India Mission, and are part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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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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  • The State of Jurisdictional Sustainability: Synthesis for practitioners and policymakers

The State of Jurisdictional Sustainability: Synthesis for practitioners and policymakers

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Jurisdictional approaches to sustainable development hold tremendous potential for advancing holistic, durable solutions to the intertwined issues of tropical deforestation, rural livelihoods, and food security. With many jurisdictional “experiments” underway around the world, the time is ripe for a systematic assessment.

Earth Innovation Institute (EII), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF-TF) are collaborating on a comprehensive study of these experiments across the Tropics to draw on early lessons. More specifically, the study evaluates progress towards low-emission, sustainable development, including goals and commitments, monitoring and reporting systems, multi-stakeholder governance platforms, and innovative policies and initiatives that are core elements of jurisdictional sustainability. The assessment also includes an in-depth analysis of deforestation and emissions (including drivers and agents of deforestation and forest degradation) and examines the potential implications of low-emission rural development (LED-R) strategies for future emission reductions. It also explores barriers to and opportunities for fostering jurisdictional sustainability.

The report includes analytical briefs about each jurisdiction, as well as an overall synthesis of jurisdictional sustainability across the Tropics. The full report will be published in September 2018, ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit and the Governors’ Climate & Forests Task Force Meeting in San Francisco, California.This study focuses on 39 primarily first-level subnational political and administrative divisions (e.g., province, state, etc.) in 12 tropical countries. In 2017-18 we compiled secondary data and conducted interviews with key stakeholders in all jurisdictions on the themes described above. In several jurisdictions, we also implemented the Sustainable Landscapes Rating Tool (SLRT) of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance to assist in our assessment of jurisdictions’ progress towards LED-R.


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