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  • Spatial Gradients of Ecosystem Health Indicators across a Human-Impacted Semiarid Savanna

Spatial Gradients of Ecosystem Health Indicators across a Human-Impacted Semiarid Savanna

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Drivers of soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics involve a combination of edaphic, human, and climatic factors that influence and determine SOC distribution across the landscape. High-resolution maps of key indicators of ecosystem health can enable assessments of these drivers and aid in critical management decisions. This study used a systematic field-based approach coupled with statistical modeling and remote sensing to develop accurate, high-resolution maps of key indicators of ecosystem health across savanna ecosystems in South Africa. Two 100-km2 landscapes in Bushbuckridge Local Municipality were surveyed, and 320 composite topsoil samples were collected. Mid-infrared spectroscopy was used to predict soil properties, with good performance for all models and root mean squared error of prediction (RMSEP) values of 1.3, 0.2, 5, and 3.6 for SOC, pH, sand, and clay, respectively. Validation results for the mapping of soil erosion prevalence and herbaceous cover using RapidEye imagery at 5-m spatial resolution showed good model performance with area under the curve values of 0.80 and 0.86, respectively. The overall (out-of-bag) random forest model performance for mapping of soil properties, reported using R2, was 0.8, 0.77, and 0.82 for SOC, pH, and sand, respectively. Calibration model performance was good, with RMSEP values of 2.6 g kg?1 for SOC, 0.2 for pH, and 6% for sand content. Strong gradients of increasing SOC and pH corresponded with decreasing sand content between the study sites. Although both sites had low SOC overall, important driving factors of SOC dynamics included soil texture, soil erosion prevalence, and climate. These data will inform strategic land management decisions focused particularly on improving ecosystem conditions.

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  • Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal

Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal

Terraced hillside in the Son La agroforestry landscape in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Terraced hillside in the Son La agroforestry landscape in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo

Government officers from the mountainous countries of Bhutan and Nepal have visited highly successful agroforestry sites in Northwest Vietnam that are helping to restore degraded sloping land and improve farmers’ incomes.

The steep upland farming areas of Bhutan, Nepal and Vietnam share similar challenges in establishing sustainable agricultural practices that improve livelihoods and the environment.

To share knowledge and experience from working with farmers in the steeply sloping landscapes of Northwest Vietnam, government officers from Bhutan and Nepal traveled to Son La and Dien Bien provinces to explore an array of well-developed agroforestry systems, demonstration sites, plantations and nurseries. The visitors learned how the various systems have contributed to increased food security, income stability, water availability and reduced soil erosion.

As well as designing and establishing the systems with farmers and government extension officers, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), has been working with farmers to monitor changes in soil erosion following the adoption of agroforestry practices.

Chuki Wangmo and Kinley Wangmo from the Institute of Conservation and Environmental Research of the Bhutan Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, and Ram Babu Paudyal and Bishnu Kumari Adhikari from Nepal’s Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation, noted that cultivating on a steep gradient is something that communities across all three countries were familiar with. However, the associated issues of soil and wind erosion were not easy to mitigate.

An agroforestry system is seen on a hillside in Son La province, Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo

The visitors were first shown a five-year-old complex agroforestry system in Son La, where the recorded decline in soil erosion since the introduction of agroforestry was of particular relevance to the officers from Bhutan, who work with farmers in mountainous terrain.

“Hard evidence is very important,” noted Chuki Wangmo. “If people at both the national and local levels can see how agroforestry can be of benefit to crop production, especially by addressing soil and wind erosion issues which many farmers suffer from, it would encourage wider adoption of agroforestry in our country.”

Farmers in both Vietnam and Bhutan are already significantly affected by the impacts of a rapidly changing climate. In Bhutan, changes to precipitation are exacerbating the rate of soil erosion, which is speeding a decline in soil fertility, compounded by the steep terrain. The government often has to compensate farmers affected by crop losses and damage caused by landslides and flooding.

About 70 percent of Bhutanese farmers rely on agriculture, forestry and livestock for subsistence livelihoods yet only 8 percent of Bhutan’s total land area is cultivable. The establishment of agroforestry would enable farmers cultivating small areas of land to improve the efficiency and diversity of crop production in already fragile mountainous areas, whilst meeting the socioeconomic needs of the community.

“The successful agroforestry demonstration sites we visited revealed how agroforestry systems can increase land-use efficiency for smallholders by increasing the productivity per area unit,” noted Ram Babu Paudyal.

Nepal could reap the benefits of such simple yet effective agroforestry systems to produce a diverse range of products on small areas of land.

In Son La province, the Nepali visitors heard how farmers involved in a 50-hectare demonstration agroforestry landscape had migrated from a neighboring area affected by the construction of a hydropower dam.

The role of agroforestry in improving livelihoods is particularly relevant to Nepal because it is experiencing increased out-migration from rural areas. This was a key motive of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in funding a pilot study dubbed Enhancing Rural Livelihoods in Abandoned/Underutilized Agricultural Land through Agroforestry.

“We hope that agroforestry will encourage the return of urban migrants to farms,” said Ram Babu Paudyal. “If agroforestry can be demonstrated as a land-use system that can provide sustainable sources of income and sustainable land cultivation, it could help address poverty and many national environmental concerns.”

ICRAF Vietnam recognizes the importance of establishing long-term relationships and collaboration with district and community organizations to enable the sustainable implementation of agroforestry. Agricultural and forestry extensionists or rural advisors are a key component of such relations. The visitors had the chance to speak with extensionists at the field sites to better understand their role as communicators of technical advice and guidance to, and between, farmers.

“Extensionists are clearly very valuable when it comes to building cohesion between the agricultural and forestry sectors,” commented Kinley Wangmo. “We learned that there were many different stakeholders, including experts, involved in the process of enabling agroforestry on the ground. Our visit to the field sites showed that agroforestry systems differ depending on the type of landscape and that the needs of farmers in those landscapes must always be prioritized.”

By Anoushka Carter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


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

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  • Governing mangroves: From Tanzania to Indonesia

Governing mangroves: From Tanzania to Indonesia

The sun sets behind mangrove trees on Osi Island, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The sun sets behind mangrove trees on Osi Island, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

Mangroves constitute only 0.5 percent of forest area worldwide, but millions of people depend on them for food, income and protection of coastlines against erosion.

Since 1980, about one-fifth of the world’s mangroves have disappeared. Although human pressures are a major threat, little is known about the governance conditions that facilitate long-term conservation and restoration of these coastal forests — questions that will become all the more relevant as countries develop frameworks for action on climate change.

“Research to date has typically focused on the biophysical dimensions of mangroves, since a lack of knowledge in this area was considered a major obstacle to managing them,” explains Nining Liswanti, as Indonesia Coordinator of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform (GCS-Tenure), adding that mangrove governance remains relatively unexplored territory.

To fill this critical gap, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), coordinated by Principal Scientist Esther Mwangi, set out to explore tenure and governance arrangements of mangroves through a global review.

They have so far conducted case studies in the Rufiji delta of Tanzania, which has one of the two most extensive mangrove areas in East Africa, and in Lampung province in Indonesia, the country with the largest mangrove forest cover in the world, accounting for up to 22 percent of the world’s mangroves.

At these sites, scientists analyzed national-level legal and policy frameworks, coordination across government agencies, and institutional arrangements at the local level — looking at “how decisions are made and the ability to implement them, both in terms of resources and capacity,” says the Coordinator of the Tanzania study, Baruani Mshale.

Watch: Protecting North Sumatran mangroves, supporting biodiversity, people and the world

INVOLVING COMMUNITIES

In Tanzania, the main dangers to mangroves are clearing for paddy rice farming and salt evaporation pans, unregulated harvesting for charcoal and timber, and growing competition between various foreign and local land-users.

Mangrove trees grow in Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

“Mangrove forests in Indonesia continue to face enormous threats from economic activities like aquaculture and timber logging,” and half of them were destroyed between 1970 and 2001, the study notes.

Over the past 20 years, the Government of Indonesia has made interventions to curb mangrove deforestation, while in Tanzania, all mangrove forests are owned by the state and managed under strict protection, with restricted use by local communities. Yet threats to mangrove systems remain unabated. So what can be done?

“Expanding and strengthening the tenure rights of local communities to mangroves should be a central component of their sustainable management and conservation,” concludes the Tanzania case study. The key, the researchers find, is to strike a balance between forest use and conservation, and to involve communities in mangrove management by devolving rights to tenure.

This participatory approach is backed by evidence in terrestrial forests around the world, Mshale says. “When rights are granted to locals, they can derive livelihood benefits from natural resources, so they become active conservation agents and forests can be sustainably managed.”

Devolving rights over mangrove tenure and management comes with further benefits: it incentivizes communities to take ownership of mangrove conservation, and it reduces the distrust between locals and state conservation agencies — institutions historically tasked with keeping locals from settling in forests and using their resources.

Community-based approaches are also cost-effective.

“Strict protection approaches have generally failed for managing natural resources that people rely on for their livelihoods,” says Mshale. As populations grow and the pressure on resources increases, restricting access and use becomes more expensive and ineffective, he notes.

In Liswanti’s words, “it is impossible for authorities to enforce the rehabilitation of mangroves without the participation of communities.”

Read more: Protecting Tanzania’s mangroves

PRIORITIES FOR ACTION

Community-based management of mangrove forests is progressively gaining momentum. In Tanzania, the government has recently introduced regulated use in the Rufiji delta through various pilots, and Lampung province in Indonesia has seen community rehabilitation initiatives emerge in the past 10 to 20 years.

For sustainable management to flourish, however, a number of steps in policy, practice and research need to be taken. According to the analyses, a first priority is “better coordinating national and sub-national laws and policies,” as well as strengthening collaboration between the forestry, fisheries and agriculture sectors.

Tanzania has no specific policy tailored to the unique needs of mangrove systems, and in Indonesia, “no single national authority and policy on mangrove forest management operates in practice,” though mangrove-specific regulations at the local level fill up the void in some ways.

Birds perch among mangroves in North Sumatra, Indonesia. SWAMP Project
Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

In Lampung, for instance, community leaders play a central role in mobilizing local action and liasing with external actors for mangrove protection, but “these links need to be regularized to sustain local effort over the longer term,” the study finds.

While emphasizing this need for mangrove-specific frameworks, the researchers found that at the local level, mangrove-specific regulations temper or substitute the array of national regulations.

Ensuring adequate financial and technical capacity for management by both the government and local communities is also key, as is expanding possibilities for income generation by locals, including access to markets for regulated mangrove products.

Women are particularly engaged in mangrove use, but they are often left out of decision-making and benefit-sharing. “Sociocultural and religious norms prevent women from participating in discussions that take place in public spaces,” says Mshale. Beyond legal and institutional provisions, alternative participatory processes should be considered to ensure that women’s voices are heard.

DRIVING CHANGE

Other priorities are supporting participatory management across all tenure arrangements, addressing political influence at the national and local levels, and embracing a landscape approach that takes into account all activities affecting mangroves, including farming, herding and the activities of foreign land-based investors.

Indonesian villages outside of state forest zones, for example, have been engaged in mangrove rehabilitation since 1995 to control erosion. However, they do not have regular access to government resources. “I admire their patience,” says Liswanti, “but it will be hard for communities to keep it up indefinitely without financial support.”

In Tanzania, politicians encourage mangrove clearance for paddy rice farming to gain support during election times. “Politicians are key to changing people’s behavior, so we must find ways to work with them in favor of management strategies that achieve both environmental and livelihood outcomes,” stresses Mshale.

CIFOR’s case studies have been presented to stakeholders in both Tanzania and Indonesia, spurring dialogue between authorities, communities, non-governmental organizations, academics and donors.

Additionally, scientists are looking into mangrove governance in Kenya (2017) and Vietnam (2018).

Further research into governance and tenure aspects is crucial, says Mshale, but the initial path has been blazed. “Each actor has its share of responsibility, so maintaining this dialogue is a vital first step to bringing about positive change.”

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Esther Mwangi at [email protected] or Baruani Mshale at [email protected] or Nining Liswanti 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 United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Governing mangroves: From Tanzania to Indonesia

Governing mangroves: From Tanzania to Indonesia

The sun sets behind mangrove trees on Osi Island, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The sun sets behind mangrove trees on Osi Island, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

Mangroves constitute only 0.5 percent of forest area worldwide, but millions of people depend on them for food, income and protection of coastlines against erosion.

Since 1980, about one-fifth of the world’s mangroves have disappeared. Although human pressures are a major threat, little is known about the governance conditions that facilitate long-term conservation and restoration of these coastal forests — questions that will become all the more relevant as countries develop frameworks for action on climate change.

“Research to date has typically focused on the biophysical dimensions of mangroves, since a lack of knowledge in this area was considered a major obstacle to managing them,” explains Nining Liswanti, as Indonesia Coordinator of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform (GCS-Tenure), adding that mangrove governance remains relatively unexplored territory.

To fill this critical gap, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), coordinated by Principal Scientist Esther Mwangi, set out to explore tenure and governance arrangements of mangroves through a global review.

They have so far conducted case studies in the Rufiji delta of Tanzania, which has one of the two most extensive mangrove areas in East Africa, and in Lampung province in Indonesia, the country with the largest mangrove forest cover in the world, accounting for up to 22 percent of the world’s mangroves.

At these sites, scientists analyzed national-level legal and policy frameworks, coordination across government agencies, and institutional arrangements at the local level — looking at “how decisions are made and the ability to implement them, both in terms of resources and capacity,” says the Coordinator of the Tanzania study, Baruani Mshale.

Watch: Protecting North Sumatran mangroves, supporting biodiversity, people and the world

INVOLVING COMMUNITIES

In Tanzania, the main dangers to mangroves are clearing for paddy rice farming and salt evaporation pans, unregulated harvesting for charcoal and timber, and growing competition between various foreign and local land-users.

Mangrove trees grow in Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

“Mangrove forests in Indonesia continue to face enormous threats from economic activities like aquaculture and timber logging,” and half of them were destroyed between 1970 and 2001, the study notes.

Over the past 20 years, the Government of Indonesia has made interventions to curb mangrove deforestation, while in Tanzania, all mangrove forests are owned by the state and managed under strict protection, with restricted use by local communities. Yet threats to mangrove systems remain unabated. So what can be done?

“Expanding and strengthening the tenure rights of local communities to mangroves should be a central component of their sustainable management and conservation,” concludes the Tanzania case study. The key, the researchers find, is to strike a balance between forest use and conservation, and to involve communities in mangrove management by devolving rights to tenure.

This participatory approach is backed by evidence in terrestrial forests around the world, Mshale says. “When rights are granted to locals, they can derive livelihood benefits from natural resources, so they become active conservation agents and forests can be sustainably managed.”

Devolving rights over mangrove tenure and management comes with further benefits: it incentivizes communities to take ownership of mangrove conservation, and it reduces the distrust between locals and state conservation agencies — institutions historically tasked with keeping locals from settling in forests and using their resources.

Community-based approaches are also cost-effective.

“Strict protection approaches have generally failed for managing natural resources that people rely on for their livelihoods,” says Mshale. As populations grow and the pressure on resources increases, restricting access and use becomes more expensive and ineffective, he notes.

In Liswanti’s words, “it is impossible for authorities to enforce the rehabilitation of mangroves without the participation of communities.”

Read more: Protecting Tanzania’s mangroves

PRIORITIES FOR ACTION

Community-based management of mangrove forests is progressively gaining momentum. In Tanzania, the government has recently introduced regulated use in the Rufiji delta through various pilots, and Lampung province in Indonesia has seen community rehabilitation initiatives emerge in the past 10 to 20 years.

For sustainable management to flourish, however, a number of steps in policy, practice and research need to be taken. According to the analyses, a first priority is “better coordinating national and sub-national laws and policies,” as well as strengthening collaboration between the forestry, fisheries and agriculture sectors.

Tanzania has no specific policy tailored to the unique needs of mangrove systems, and in Indonesia, “no single national authority and policy on mangrove forest management operates in practice,” though mangrove-specific regulations at the local level fill up the void in some ways.

Birds perch among mangroves in North Sumatra, Indonesia. SWAMP Project
Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

In Lampung, for instance, community leaders play a central role in mobilizing local action and liasing with external actors for mangrove protection, but “these links need to be regularized to sustain local effort over the longer term,” the study finds.

While emphasizing this need for mangrove-specific frameworks, the researchers found that at the local level, mangrove-specific regulations temper or substitute the array of national regulations.

Ensuring adequate financial and technical capacity for management by both the government and local communities is also key, as is expanding possibilities for income generation by locals, including access to markets for regulated mangrove products.

Women are particularly engaged in mangrove use, but they are often left out of decision-making and benefit-sharing. “Sociocultural and religious norms prevent women from participating in discussions that take place in public spaces,” says Mshale. Beyond legal and institutional provisions, alternative participatory processes should be considered to ensure that women’s voices are heard.

DRIVING CHANGE

Other priorities are supporting participatory management across all tenure arrangements, addressing political influence at the national and local levels, and embracing a landscape approach that takes into account all activities affecting mangroves, including farming, herding and the activities of foreign land-based investors.

Indonesian villages outside of state forest zones, for example, have been engaged in mangrove rehabilitation since 1995 to control erosion. However, they do not have regular access to government resources. “I admire their patience,” says Liswanti, “but it will be hard for communities to keep it up indefinitely without financial support.”

In Tanzania, politicians encourage mangrove clearance for paddy rice farming to gain support during election times. “Politicians are key to changing people’s behavior, so we must find ways to work with them in favor of management strategies that achieve both environmental and livelihood outcomes,” stresses Mshale.

CIFOR’s case studies have been presented to stakeholders in both Tanzania and Indonesia, spurring dialogue between authorities, communities, non-governmental organizations, academics and donors.

Additionally, scientists are looking into mangrove governance in Kenya (2017) and Vietnam (2018).

Further research into governance and tenure aspects is crucial, says Mshale, but the initial path has been blazed. “Each actor has its share of responsibility, so maintaining this dialogue is a vital first step to bringing about positive change.”

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Esther Mwangi at [email protected] or Baruani Mshale at [email protected] or Nining Liswanti 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 United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


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