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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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  • Robert Nasi's opening remarks at GLF Nairobi 2018

Robert Nasi’s opening remarks at GLF Nairobi 2018

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  • What is REDD+ achieving on the ground?

What is REDD+ achieving on the ground?

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The Paris Climate Agreement recognizes the importance of the mechanism to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, and enhance carbon stocks (REDD+). We reviewed 45 articles from the recent scientific literature to understand the outcomes of REDD+ interventions on the ground, in terms of local participation in REDD+, and its carbon and non-carbon (e.g. tenure, well-being, biodiversity) goals. Our review finds few studies that use a counterfactual scenario to measure REDD+ impacts, and relatively little attention to carbon (versus non-carbon) outcomes. The few studies focused on carbon/land use outcomes show moderately encouraging results, while the more numerous studies on non-carbon outcomes (especially well-being) highlight small or insignificant results. To enhance REDD+ performance, these studies recommend improved engagement with local communities, increased funding to bolster interventions on the ground, and more attention to both carbon and non-carbon outcomes in implementation and evaluation.

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  • Lessons learned from REDD+, Part 2

Lessons learned from REDD+, Part 2

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After an expert panel discussion in the first part of this event, the second part saw a vibrant Q&A between the speakers: Dr. Moira Moeliono, Dr. Pham Thu Thuy, Vanessa Benn, Dr. Yuya Aye, Dr. Patricia Gallo, Javier Perla, Lemlem Tajebe and Dr. Maria Brockhaus.

This video was originally published by CIFOR.

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  • Lessons learned from REDD+: progress in 8 countries and the way forward

Lessons learned from REDD+: progress in 8 countries and the way forward

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“Lessons learned from REDD+: progress in 8 countries and the way forward”, organized by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, on May 9, 2018.

All over the world, REDD+ countries are struggling with the design and implementation of coherent policies and measures to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. To bring evidence on which factors and configurations are crucial to make progress will be helpful for decision-makers and practitioners at all levels involved in REDD+.

In 2012 and 2014, CIFOR, through Global Comparative Study on REDD+, examined the national political context in 13 REDD+ countries to identify the enabling conditions for achieving progress with the implementation of countries’ REDD+ policies and measures. To assess countries’ progress with REDD+, CIFOR looked at various factors, such as importance of already initiated policy change, and the availability of performance-based funding in combination with strong national ownership of the REDD+ process.

The findings show REDD+ countries are on different stages. Brazil and Guyana are among countries in incomplete progress. Although Brazil was assessed successful in REDD+ progress but they have not completely overcome path dependencies in deforestation and forest degradation (May, Millikan, & Gebara, 2011), despite the country’s investments in command and control measures (Assunc¸a˜o, Gandour, & Rocha, 2012; Maia, Hargrave, Go´mez, & Ro¨per, 2011). Guyana, with much less pressure on forest resources seems to strengthen its REDD+ path with improved institutions of forest governance and considerable progress in developing an MRV system (Birdsall & Busch, 2014), although this remains debated (Henders & Ostwald, 2013). Indonesia, after the 2015 political change, confirmed the importance of ownership over the REDD+ process if performance-based payments are supposed to make a difference. REDD+ in Indonesia has been from its beginnings a highly contested and dynamic policy arena (Indrarto et al., 2012).

Assessment on REDD+ progress in Vietnam showed a positive outcome irrespective of whether there are inclusive policy processes or not. It is important to note that ownership of the REDD+ process has reduced only recently (and seems to be regained with developments in the institutional set-up in 2015). Hence, the finding could indicate that progress is possible when donors politically and financially dominate the REDD+ process while there is political commitment to REDD+ by the government as well as by coalitions of drivers of changes. Several REDD+ countries, such as Ethiopia, are on rocky roads due to lack of ownership and performance based funding commitment, despite of efforts to make the process more inclusive. This is probably explained by the fact that Ethiopia started their REDD+ process rather recently (Bekele et al., 2015; Kambire et al., 2015).

This video was originally published by CIFOR.

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  • Decision support tools for forest landscape restoration: Current status and future outlook

Decision support tools for forest landscape restoration: Current status and future outlook

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Decision-making bodies at all scales face an urgent need to conserve remaining forests, and reestablish forest cover in deforested and degraded forest landscapes. The scale of the need, and the opportunity to make a difference, is enormous. Degradation is often viewed as ‘the problem’, and restoration as ‘the solution’. But, rather than being a goal, restoration is the means to achieve many goals. Forest landscape restoration is an active, long-term process to regain ecological integrity and enhance human well-being when forest cover, forest qualities and forest-based contributions to people are diminished. Despite the many advances in the development and application of decision support tools in FLR, this review reveals a gap in tools for the implementation of landscape-scale restoration initiatives and for guiding monitoring and adaptive management. The review also reveals that available tools primarily focus on assessing restoration opportunities at a broader scale, rather than within landscapes where implementation occurs. Evidence from research on community-based conservation and forest management suggests that tools for the empowerment, land rights and capacity building of local residents can help nurture strong coalitions of landscape restoration practitioners that apply adaptive management of restoration interventions, and evaluate potential restoration scenarios in their own landscapes.

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  • Finding evidence for land-restoration strategies 

Finding evidence for land-restoration strategies 

An agricultural landscape in Eastern Uganda. Photo by Madelon Lohbeck/ICRAF
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An agricultural landscape in Eastern Uganda. Photo by Madelon Lohbeck/ICRAF

Restoration has never been more important, with almost a third of the world’s land surface degraded. But what exactly is restoration? And how do we know if it works?

More than 1.5 billion of the world’s poorest people are directly affected by degraded land. The Bonn Challenge aims to have 350 million hectares restored by 2030. Private- and public-sector land managers have already promised almost half that amount. This is very encouraging but how will we even know whether the Bonn Challenge was a success? In other words: what do we mean by restoration?

One common notion is that land restoration returns an ecosystem to some previous, ideal state. Yet it is typical for degraded land to be inhabited by people, who are often among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Restoration has the potential to improve their livelihoods if, indeed, restoration outcomes respond to local needs. But returning to a previous state (whichever state that is) is often not feasible nor desirable. So, if restoration is to succeed in some form, it is imperative to set specific goals together with the people living on the land. Most importantly, what aspects of the functionality of the land are to be restored?

Another common notion of land restoration is that it is done through planting trees. But do we know if land is always in better shape with more trees? And what aspects of the functionality of the land can be restored with trees? Does it matter which trees?

A newly published paper, Trait-based approaches for guiding the restoration of degraded agricultural landscapes in East Africa, addresses these questions. The paper is published in a special feature, Functional Traits in Agroecology, in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

A man records soil samples in Mwingi, Kenya. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

The study

Researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) studied degraded agricultural landscapes in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Farmers suffered the consequences of degradation through declining soil fertility and crop productivity. The researchers focused on soil functions to quantify the extent to which land was degraded or restored. Instead of conducting field experiments, they looked at the variation present in the landscapes and tested whether the variation in soil functionality could be explained by vegetation cover, the number of trees, and by the traits of the trees. The study was observational and reflected the variation in real land-use practices and restoration measures actually being applied.

The researchers not only looked at the number of trees but also their size and traits to assess their impact on key ecosystem functions. This way, trees with certain traits, for instance, high wood density, could be seen to increase a certain function, such as carbon stock, more effectively than trees with low wood density. This would then give clear guidance for land-restoration planners: if the goal was to restore carbon stock then promote the use of high wood density trees.

Read more: Trait-based approaches for guiding the restoration of degraded agricultural landscapes in East Africa

Results 

The researchers found that in the degraded agricultural landscapes, trees were associated with more productive soils. But more important than the number of trees was the non-woody vegetation cover. With higher vegetation cover, the soil was more fertile (had higher organic carbon) and less erosion took place. In addition, the diversity of functional traits of the trees on the land was shown to enhance soil fertility; invasive species tended to increase erosion.

The results had clear implications for restoration of soil health: avoid bare ground, plant trees, prioritize the removal of invasive species and promote diversity of trees on farms. Such evidence for restoring specific ecosystem functions is urgently needed.

The study also illustrated that evidence for restoration can be found through systematic assessment of vegetation, similar to an approach common in functional ecology. Applying a trait-based approach to existing projects on land-health monitoring would allow the study of complex processes more mechanistically and would eventually generate more impact on the ground. Integrating the approach into new and existing projects would be feasible for three reasons: 1) the growing body of evidence on which traits promote which functions; 2) the large amount of freely available trait-data online; and 3) the fact that many traits are easy to measure.

Read more: Second-growth forests: a boon for land restoration and climate change mitigation

By Madelon Lohbeck, ICRAF Scientist.

Reposted with permission from The Applied Ecologist’s Blog.


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

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  • ‘Grain for green’: How China is swapping farmland for forest

‘Grain for green’: How China is swapping farmland for forest

A patchwork mountain landscape of agriculture, forestry and deforested terrain in Tianlin County, China. Photo by Nick Hogarth/CIFOR
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A legally protected ancient tree in Yunnan Province, China. The country’s successes in Forest Landscape Restoration are drawing attention globally. Photo by L. Putzel/CIFOR

Research draws lessons for global restoration goals.

Since 1999, China has restored forest landscapes across more than 28 million hectares of farmland and land classified as barren or degraded.

As global efforts turn to restoration as a way to mitigate climate change – led by the Bonn Challenge, with the goal of restoring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030 – researchers are looking to China for lessons on how to achieve this.

A major driver of China’s success has been the ‘Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program’ (CCFP), also known as ‘Grain for Green’. The program pays farmers to plant trees on their land and provides degraded land to rural families to restore.

CCFP has so far cost more than $US40 billion, including direct payments to more than 32 million rural households. Overall, this massive program has affected the lives of 124 million people. The program is particularly important for China as 65 percent of the country’s total land area is mountainous and hilly, and a large proportion of China’s farmers live on sloping lands.

Some instructive findings have emerged from a four-year study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in partnership with scientists from China’s Forest Economics and Development Research Center (FEDRC). Under the research program known as SLANT – Sloping Lands in Transition – CIFOR became the first foreign organization to access data from China’s national restoration program.

“We wanted to get a better understanding of the socioeconomic and environmental benefits and impact of CCFP through its monitoring program. There is still a lot more to learn, especially about the effect of the program on a variety of ecosystem services,” says Yustina Artati, a CIFOR research officer.

Read more: China’s conversion of cropland to forest program: a systematic review of the environmental and socioeconomic effects

A patchwork mountain landscape of agriculture, forestry and deforested terrain in Tianlin County, China. Photo by Nick Hogarth/CIFOR

RESTORING CHINA’S FORESTS

Louis Putzel, a former CIFOR scientist who led the SLANT program, says China has suffered serious consequences from deforestation in the past, and has had to implement a huge range of strategies to get trees back into the landscape.

This has included taking the approach of FLR, Forest Landscape Restoration, which aims to improve ecological functions and human well-being.

“FLR as a field has a lot to learn from China,” says Putzel.

Research collaboration through SLANT has focused on rigorous data collection and analysis, as well as support for environmental assessments. This work is helping scientists identify any research gaps, learn what works and what needs improvement.

Putzel says the development community, as well as national governments implementing reforestation projects, need to know how the approach has worked in China.

Each year, the FEDRC researchers and data investigators visit farmers annually in 21 provinces to find out firsthand the successes and also the challenges these communities face. The results can eventually help communities make more informed decisions that affect their land and livelihoods.

“We have been working with our Chinese counterparts to ensure that the data collection is the best it can be. Surveys have been done of thousands of farm families and the results can help not only China, but the global community,” says CIFOR researcher Himlal Baral.

He adds that plans are being made for further research collaboration with several other Chinese research institutions, including work with Renmin University and Beijing Forestry University on the socioeconomic and biophysical aspects of forestry, landscape restoration and climate change.

Key findings from SLANT have been shared through workshops, presentations, and key events, and of course research papers – to date, more than 70 have been published.

SHARING THE KNOW-HOW

Ethiopia is just one example of how other countries can learn from China’s success. Scientists and government forestry officials from China and Ethiopia have been brought together under the SLANT program to share experiences and find solutions to problems that can have a negative impact on reforestation programs.

Last year, Chinese researchers were able to see for themselves the challenges Ethiopia faces during a field visit and provide some FLR solutions for Ethiopia to reach its goal of restoring 15 million hectares of degraded forests.

CIFOR researchers have been working with a number of China’s national agricultural and forestry research institutes for more than 15 years, and this partnership has resulted in a rich source of information and data that can be used to improve agricultural and forestry strategies as well as rural livelihoods.

“During our long-standing collaboration with China, we have benefited from the knowledge and conceptual inputs of our Chinese colleagues on forestry-related matters as they apply in China — from bamboo enterprise value chains, to the role of forestry Chinese enterprises abroad, to more recent forest restoration,” says Robert Nasi, CIFOR’s Director General.

Nasi says this collaboration has opened the door to invaluable knowledge and data on the Chinese land restoration programs, which are among the world’s largest.

“We would like to expand to new topics with additional resources focusing on forest product value chains and forest landscape restoration considering important cross-cutting issues like tenure and climate change,” he says.

Read more: CIFOR/ICRAF sloping lands in transition (SLANT) project

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


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

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

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government.

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  • ‘Grain for green’: How China is swapping farmland for forest

‘Grain for green’: How China is swapping farmland for forest

A patchwork mountain landscape of agriculture, forestry and deforested terrain in Tianlin County, China. Photo by Nick Hogarth/CIFOR
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A legally protected ancient tree in Yunnan Province, China. The country’s successes in Forest Landscape Restoration are drawing attention globally. Photo by L. Putzel/CIFOR

Research draws lessons for global restoration goals.

Since 1999, China has restored forest landscapes across more than 28 million hectares of farmland and land classified as barren or degraded.

As global efforts turn to restoration as a way to mitigate climate change – led by the Bonn Challenge, with the goal of restoring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030 – researchers are looking to China for lessons on how to achieve this.

A major driver of China’s success has been the ‘Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program’ (CCFP), also known as ‘Grain for Green’. The program pays farmers to plant trees on their land and provides degraded land to rural families to restore.

CCFP has so far cost more than $US40 billion, including direct payments to more than 32 million rural households. Overall, this massive program has affected the lives of 124 million people. The program is particularly important for China as 65 percent of the country’s total land area is mountainous and hilly, and a large proportion of China’s farmers live on sloping lands.

Some instructive findings have emerged from a four-year study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in partnership with scientists from China’s Forest Economics and Development Research Center (FEDRC). Under the research program known as SLANT – Sloping Lands in Transition – CIFOR became the first foreign organization to access data from China’s national restoration program.

“We wanted to get a better understanding of the socioeconomic and environmental benefits and impact of CCFP through its monitoring program. There is still a lot more to learn, especially about the effect of the program on a variety of ecosystem services,” says Yustina Artati, a CIFOR research officer.

Read more: China’s conversion of cropland to forest program: a systematic review of the environmental and socioeconomic effects

A patchwork mountain landscape of agriculture, forestry and deforested terrain in Tianlin County, China. Photo by Nick Hogarth/CIFOR

RESTORING CHINA’S FORESTS

Louis Putzel, a former CIFOR scientist who led the SLANT program, says China has suffered serious consequences from deforestation in the past, and has had to implement a huge range of strategies to get trees back into the landscape.

This has included taking the approach of FLR, Forest Landscape Restoration, which aims to improve ecological functions and human well-being.

“FLR as a field has a lot to learn from China,” says Putzel.

Research collaboration through SLANT has focused on rigorous data collection and analysis, as well as support for environmental assessments. This work is helping scientists identify any research gaps, learn what works and what needs improvement.

Putzel says the development community, as well as national governments implementing reforestation projects, need to know how the approach has worked in China.

Each year, the FEDRC researchers and data investigators visit farmers annually in 21 provinces to find out firsthand the successes and also the challenges these communities face. The results can eventually help communities make more informed decisions that affect their land and livelihoods.

“We have been working with our Chinese counterparts to ensure that the data collection is the best it can be. Surveys have been done of thousands of farm families and the results can help not only China, but the global community,” says CIFOR researcher Himlal Baral.

He adds that plans are being made for further research collaboration with several other Chinese research institutions, including work with Renmin University and Beijing Forestry University on the socioeconomic and biophysical aspects of forestry, landscape restoration and climate change.

Key findings from SLANT have been shared through workshops, presentations, and key events, and of course research papers – to date, more than 70 have been published.

SHARING THE KNOW-HOW

Ethiopia is just one example of how other countries can learn from China’s success. Scientists and government forestry officials from China and Ethiopia have been brought together under the SLANT program to share experiences and find solutions to problems that can have a negative impact on reforestation programs.

Last year, Chinese researchers were able to see for themselves the challenges Ethiopia faces during a field visit and provide some FLR solutions for Ethiopia to reach its goal of restoring 15 million hectares of degraded forests.

CIFOR researchers have been working with a number of China’s national agricultural and forestry research institutes for more than 15 years, and this partnership has resulted in a rich source of information and data that can be used to improve agricultural and forestry strategies as well as rural livelihoods.

“During our long-standing collaboration with China, we have benefited from the knowledge and conceptual inputs of our Chinese colleagues on forestry-related matters as they apply in China — from bamboo enterprise value chains, to the role of forestry Chinese enterprises abroad, to more recent forest restoration,” says Robert Nasi, CIFOR’s Director General.

Nasi says this collaboration has opened the door to invaluable knowledge and data on the Chinese land restoration programs, which are among the world’s largest.

“We would like to expand to new topics with additional resources focusing on forest product value chains and forest landscape restoration considering important cross-cutting issues like tenure and climate change,” he says.

Read more: CIFOR/ICRAF sloping lands in transition (SLANT) project

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


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

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

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government.

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  • Can REDD+ help Brazil roll back rising deforestation rates?

Can REDD+ help Brazil roll back rising deforestation rates?

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A site of deforestation is seen from the air in Brazil. Photo by CIFOR

In Brazil, the role of REDD+ in stemming deforestation since 2004 is unclear — as is its potential for reversing the recent upward trend.

Land-use change represents more than 60 percent of Brazil’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the Amazon accounts for 65.2 percent of that amount, according to government figures, although those numbers are sometimes contested. Much of the deforestation in the country stems from the promotion of private enterprises, particularly ranching, timber and mining.

Since the 1980s, Brazil has taken steps to reduce deforestation, with the greatest success occurring between 2004 and 2016, when the rate decreased by 71 percent. Some of those measures involved actions for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

Whether that improvement will be sustainable in the long run is unclear, however, as there was a recent sharp increase in deforestation rates.

A new Brazil country profile, produced as part of a Global Comparative Study of REDD+ led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), examines the drivers of deforestation in Brazil and efforts to solve the problem.

This third edition provides a fully updated overview of conditions affecting environmental policy for REDD+ in the Brazilian Amazon through 2015, when Brazil submitted its National REDD+ Strategy (ENREDD+) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

How did Brazil slow deforestation?

Reducing deforestation became a Brazilian government priority even before international climate agreements incorporated REDD+ schemes for reducing GHG emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation. International scrutiny, combined with pressure from Amazonian rubber tappers who make their living from the forest, led successive governments to tackle the problem, albeit with limited success.

In 2003, Brazil submitted a proposal for “compensated reduction” under the UNFCCC, calling for compensation by developed countries for less-developed countries that reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to land-use change in tropical forests and promote sustainable land management.

Over the next dozen years, a combination of incentives and disincentives to keep the forest standing and more effective law enforcement through command and control measures led to a dramatic drop in deforestation, especially in the “deforestation arc” around the southern and southeastern edge of the Amazon.

An aerial view of the Amazon rainforest is seen near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, Brazil. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT for CIFOR

In 2015, Brazil officially submitted its National REDD+ Strategy to the UNFCCC. By then, many REDD+ pilot initiatives and related policies had already been implemented.

There are several clear reasons for Brazil’s success in decreasing deforestation.

First, the country’s sophisticated monitoring system provides real-time information about land use change to Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA). This has reinforced command and control measures on the ground.

Meanwhile, reduction of deforestation became policy with the Action Plan to Prevent and Control Deforestation in the Amazon (PPCDAm), whose implementation began in 2004. The designation of several protected areas between 2002 and 2010, alongside new policies in 2007 and 2008 that targeted a “federal blacklist” of municipalities with critical deforestation rates, were crucial in reducing unprecedented levels of deforestation.

Finally, a series of demand-side measures (including multi-stakeholder round tables, zero-deforestation agreements and trade embargoes) began playing a key role in slowing deforestation.

Read also: Managing degraded forests, a new priority in the Brazilian Amazon

Deforestation on the rise again

But the problem is reemerging. Current deforestation rates in the Amazon are the highest in the past four years.

Between August 2014 and July 2015, Brazil clear-cut 6,207 square kilometers, a 24 percent increase over the previous period. Amid turbulent political events, national policy is now moving in the opposite direction, including several new constitutional amendments that threaten forests and the environment.

The Forest Law passed in 2012 granted amnesty to landowners who deforested illegally before 2008. Meanwhile, a measure requiring farmers to register rural properties and restore or provide compensation for illegally-deforested areas has been delayed twice.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 215 would require Congress to approve the demarcation of indigenous lands, while Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 65 would facilitate licensing of major infrastructure projects without adequate evaluation and mitigation of environmental impacts. That is of particular concern, because of proposals to build 334 dams throughout the Amazon Basin.

More than one million square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon have also been registered for mining, which would threaten forests.

Meanwhile, the number of conservation units in the Amazon has been reduced, leading to an increase in illegal occupation, while a lack of financial resources is hampering on-site monitoring of deforestation.

And much of the deforestation has shifted to the Cerrado, a tropical savanna ecosystem east of the Amazon, which is now under enormous pressure, but receives far less attention than the Amazon forest.

Until recently, the Cerrado was not considered in REDD+ programs or other policies for combating deforestation, and it remains to be seen whether new policies will successfully address the land-use-change challenges there.

REDD+ strategy still at an early stage 

Brazil’s National REDD+ Strategy, known as ENREDD+, is aimed at reducing illegal deforestation; conserving and restoring forest systems; and generating economic, social and environmental co-benefits.

The strategy calls for more monitoring and for convergence among policies (climate, forests and biodiversity) by 2020, as well as increased financing and benefit-sharing for REDD+ strategies.

ENREDD+ will be guided by the National Policy for Climate Change and the Forest Code. It identifies three sectoral plans as the primary channels for implementing REDD+: PPCDAm; the Action Plan to Prevent and Control Deforestation and Fire in the Brazilian Cerrado (PPCerrado); and the Plan for Low Carbon Agriculture (ABC).

The Amazon rainforest is pictured in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT for CIFOR

The strategy supplements these plans with cross-cutting measures, including a financial architecture for REDD+ and a set of safeguards designed to ensure that REDD+ actions do not inflict social or environmental harm.

It is not yet clear, however, what types of measures Brazil will concentrate on to implement REDD+, coordinate national and sub-national efforts, and guarantee that safeguards are in place. Detailed regulation of these issues was left to the National REDD+ Entity and its Thematic Consultation Chambers, which are still in the early stages of designing specific principles and procedures.

And evidence is still scant about the potential of sub-national initiatives to reduce deforestation, with little coordination demonstrated among the initiatives.

Read also: ‘Turning the onus of restoration into a bonus for farmers’ in Brazil

As a result, disagreements between federal and state government agencies and a lack of definition regarding financing, benefit-sharing and safeguards for local initiatives pose significant obstacles to implementation of ENREDD+.

There is an urgent need for stakeholders at all levels to join forces to ensure a more appropriate structure and strategy for the National REDD+ Entity and its Thematic Consultation Chambers and to clarify how ENREDD+ will be put into practice.

Policies must prevent backsliding

Although Brazil has reduced emissions in recent years, it is difficult to determine how much of this was due to REDD+ initiatives. Besides analyzing performance indicators for results at each phase of REDD+, this would require an assessment of co-benefits, such as improved forest governance and poverty reduction.

REDD+ was supposed to provide benefits that would overcome the limitations of “command and control” measures. Instead, however, the ENREDD+ is mainly based on government policies and previous national efforts to reduce deforestation, such as increasing monitoring and reinstating old practices of forest conservation.

It is difficult to imagine how much of the remaining “residual” deforestation can be curbed through increased command and control, especially considering the recent opening of the Brazilian beef market to the US and China.

In its REDD+ interventions, Brazil should strive for a clearer understanding of the fundamental processes and practices that drive deforestation, such as the growing extra-local and international demand for forest and agricultural commodities, subsidies from outside the forest sector that encourage the production of such commodities, and the multifaceted and evolving issues of the different actors that are the target of these incentives. ENREDD+ has yet to clarify the role of these actors, especially the private sector.

These tasks are crucial to ensure that Brazil does not turn back the clock on its battle against deforestation.

By Maria Fernanda Gebara, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Maria Fernanda Gebara at [email protected], Peter May at [email protected] or Maria Brockhaus at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.


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