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Catalyzing partnerships for reforestation of degraded land

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Charlotte van Andel. Photo by FMO

In this second edition of the “Innovative finance for sustainable landscapes” interview series, we hear from two sustainable finance experts from the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO). Steven Duyverman is a manager in FMO’s Agribusiness, Food and Water department and Charlotte van Andel is a senior environmental and social officer in the same department.

Steven Duyverman. Photo by FMO

Working in inclusive and green finance, FMO is ramping up its investments in the forestry sector. Duyverman and Van Andel reflect on how to apply their experience at the landscape level.

“Investors are reluctant to invest in landscapes in developing countries, since it is a new sector, with long payback periods and of uncertain risks. Such risks can be reduced by clarifying tenure rights, early engagement of local stakeholders in project development, strengthening partnerships and strengthening local capacities to implement best practices. Investors need to consider these if they really want to have an impact.”

How do you define ‘inclusive finance’ and why is it important?

Making finance inclusive is about reaching the bottom of the pyramid, so to speak, directly or indirectly. It must also focus on those so often left behind – the vulnerable, women, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups. It is about increasing local employment, especially for the poorest, with decent and sustainable jobs that help improve local economies and reduce inequalities.

In forestry, outgrowers and employees, who are recruited locally to the largest extent possible, receive training. They are made aware of health and safety aspects, like using protective equipment when pruning or spraying. This equips them with skills and helps to ensure better livelihoods in the long term. Women are empowered and are often also seen as being more reliable and precise in certain tasks, such as in tree nurseries, allowing them to gain new knowledge and increase their own incomes.

With our forestry investments, we create 30–50 new jobs per 1,000 hectares of new plantations established. At the end of the day, FMO was established nearly 50 years ago not only to make money but, importantly, to create long-term development impact and to improve environmental and social conditions in the countries where it operates.

People gather under a tree. It takes time to find the most inclusive way of investing in the forestry sector. © FMO

What are the underlying reasons for the underfinancing of agricultural and forest businesses in developing countries?

One reason for underfinancing in the forestry sector is the reluctance of many to invest in a new sector, with long payback periods and unknown risks, in developing countries. For energy projects, for example, revenue streams and returns only come two or three years after the investment has been made. But investing in forestry requires a different view on cash flows, because even on the shortest cycles, it takes eight, 10, 12 years to start generating income from selling a marketable product (i.e. construction wood, electricity poles or wood chips), and before investors start to be repaid.

In such new markets, the risk is inherently higher than in more well-known investments with much shorter payback times that are perceived as ‘safer’. This does not just concern financial risk, but also – and inherent in inclusive finance – social and environmental risk. Establishing timber plantations is also a high-impact investment, and one of the cheapest means to make significant changes in mitigating climate and improving local economies and communities. However, given the complexity of large landscape-level forestry projects, getting these approved and implemented takes time. But we are gaining more experience in the sector, so we trust that efficiency will improve.

Another key issue for foreign investors is that working with local smallholders is difficult, as for them formal titles over the land they farm or want to reforest are sometimes impossible to acquire, and of uncertain legality if they do exist. Local authorities and land users sometimes have quite different views on what is needed, indicating that more dialogue is needed to increase understanding among all groups involved.

Read more: Strengthening producer organizations is key to making finance inclusive and effective

What are we not doing right, or not doing well enough, or not doing at all?

There is no right or wrong, but it is very important that we strive for sustainable development. That also means that we must ensure that business models are sustainable. Viability of a project requires financial, environmental and social standards to be met. For example, we require all our forestry clients to be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certified.

We see that with a structured approach, income is created, deforestation is reduced and biodiversity improved. As a consequence, people have new alternative sources of cash income rather than depending on illegal charcoal making or poaching. At the same time, having additional income also tends to enhance development and security in local communities.

Our strength lies in catalyzing other partners; hence we need partnerships, partnerships and more partnerships to more effectively progress in the reforestation of degraded land. But for alignment reasons, we also require the support of governments to politically back up plans for land reforestation and to aid where adjacent commercial plantation forestry can be developed as a future mitigation toward deforestation.

We need more cooperation and collaboration, between us as a development finance institution and the private sector, with UN organizations, with national governments and their departments, with NGOs and civil society. To successfully nurture opportunities for growth in the restoration economy, cooperation of technology startups, smallholder finance and timber companies open doors to inspiring venture capital, private equity and impact investors who may know little about such landscape restoration opportunities.

Read more: Background note on FTA financial innovations for sustainable landscapes interviews

How is your organization addressing inclusive finance, and what are your experiences and key lessons?

At FMO, we provide ever more loans and equity to support projects with landscape-level objectives, and that have social and environmental benefits at their core. We have learned to include contextual risks. This triggers an early focus on risks outside the influence of our project, on how to better ensure indigenous peoples’ rights are respected, including land ownership and user rights, and using stakeholder engagement safeguards even more. We now also realize that it is not always possible to be able to do the right thing at the right time. Circumstances can be such that land issues cannot be fully resolved, or that human rights defenders are threatened, or that deforestation still takes place around the client’s activities. In such cases, we have developed ‘early warning systems’ and if seen to be so, we decide not to invest in unsustainable projects.

Companies that we invest in must have good and transparent relationships with local and legal authorities that have influence over forests and landscape. We also expect them to hear the voices of the people, of local communities, and to fully assess their needs. This means they must invest considerable time from an early stage, and talk to all involved, communities and traditional leaders, occasional users such as nomadic pastoralists, district and forestry authorities, NGOs or knowledge partners.

Going full circle, we also never forget local legislation, such as on forest protection, but also deal with the livelihood impacts of (illegal) users according to the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards. Squaring that circle is not always easy. But only then can we add value and have the impact we are looking for.

One key lesson is that we used to give a lower priority to stakeholder engagement when we focused on returns. But now, at the very start of every investment, we expect companies to start talking with communities to get them to really understand the expected and potential changes, and agree in advance on how benefits can be shared. These include local job opportunities, training in pruning, use of fertilizers and safe pesticide application, and building roads, which can also initiate a village market, access to healthcare and schooling.

Training and supervising are important complements to inclusive finance, leading to sustainable safe jobs that support sustainable landscapes. © FMO

What examples do you have of successful or promising ‘model’ approaches or innovations?

In Ghana and Sierra Leone, FMO is supporting a project that has reforested 10,000 hectares of formerly degraded land since 2013 and is working toward adding up to another 9,000 hectares of new plantations. In Laos, we are funding the expansion of a forestry plantation from 3,400 to 15,000 hectares, including investment to support the building of a new sawmill and wood-processing facilities. This is another example of how we are implementing an integrated, long-term investment strategy.

Helping to establish such large areas of forest plantations is also helping FMO achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral, in line with the Paris Accord. For now, FMO has approved investment of around €40 million a year in new forest plantations. Innovative financial products are necessary, as repayments may only start after 5–7 years, so in the early years there will be no cash flow available to pay even the interest on the loans.

Furthermore, training is an important tool that builds knowledge, but also helps companies to ensure that environmental and social concerns are integrated into their processing system. So, we also provide financial support for analysis, studies, training and implementation, for instance for more efficient use of scarce water resources and for waste-water treatment.

What is your vision on how best to increase finance and investment in sustainable forestry and farming?

The most important single factor that would increase investment is to support systems for registering and securing land rights, so that smallholders and foreign investors alike have formal ownership titles for the land they farm or want to plant with trees. And, of course, this is not just a need for development banks – it is a basic need for all land holders, independent of any future investment. Without formal titles, smallholder options are limited in many ways.

We work for a future where international development finance is no longer needed, where sufficient capital is available nationally, to support the establishment and growth of sustainable businesses in all sectors. And we also hope to see that environmental and social standards widely implemented in developed markets are also fully accepted in emerging markets and developing countries.

In that future, we expect old and new forms of finance to blend seamlessly, also mixing traditional approaches with the use of new technologies, working toward a circular and inclusive economy. This is what we are striving for. But just as it takes time for trees to grow, it will also take time to find the most inclusive way of investing in this sector. We are already seeing shifts.

By Nick Pasiecznik, Tropenbos International.

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

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  • Catalyzing partnerships for reforestation of degraded land

Catalyzing partnerships for reforestation of degraded land

Aerial view of Southwest Mau Forest and neighbouring tea estates. Photo by Patrick Sheperd/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Charlotte van Andel. Photo by FMO

In this second edition of the “Innovative finance for sustainable landscapes” interview series, we hear from two sustainable finance experts from the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO). Steven Duyverman is a manager in FMO’s Agribusiness, Food and Water department and Charlotte van Andel is a senior environmental and social officer in the same department.

Steven Duyverman. Photo by FMO

Working in inclusive and green finance, FMO is ramping up its investments in the forestry sector. Duyverman and Van Andel reflect on how to apply their experience at the landscape level.

“Investors are reluctant to invest in landscapes in developing countries, since it is a new sector, with long payback periods and of uncertain risks. Such risks can be reduced by clarifying tenure rights, early engagement of local stakeholders in project development, strengthening partnerships and strengthening local capacities to implement best practices. Investors need to consider these if they really want to have an impact.”

How do you define ‘inclusive finance’ and why is it important?

Making finance inclusive is about reaching the bottom of the pyramid, so to speak, directly or indirectly. It must also focus on those so often left behind – the vulnerable, women, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups. It is about increasing local employment, especially for the poorest, with decent and sustainable jobs that help improve local economies and reduce inequalities.

In forestry, outgrowers and employees, who are recruited locally to the largest extent possible, receive training. They are made aware of health and safety aspects, like using protective equipment when pruning or spraying. This equips them with skills and helps to ensure better livelihoods in the long term. Women are empowered and are often also seen as being more reliable and precise in certain tasks, such as in tree nurseries, allowing them to gain new knowledge and increase their own incomes.

With our forestry investments, we create 30–50 new jobs per 1,000 hectares of new plantations established. At the end of the day, FMO was established nearly 50 years ago not only to make money but, importantly, to create long-term development impact and to improve environmental and social conditions in the countries where it operates.

People gather under a tree. It takes time to find the most inclusive way of investing in the forestry sector. © FMO

What are the underlying reasons for the underfinancing of agricultural and forest businesses in developing countries?

One reason for underfinancing in the forestry sector is the reluctance of many to invest in a new sector, with long payback periods and unknown risks, in developing countries. For energy projects, for example, revenue streams and returns only come two or three years after the investment has been made. But investing in forestry requires a different view on cash flows, because even on the shortest cycles, it takes eight, 10, 12 years to start generating income from selling a marketable product (i.e. construction wood, electricity poles or wood chips), and before investors start to be repaid.

In such new markets, the risk is inherently higher than in more well-known investments with much shorter payback times that are perceived as ‘safer’. This does not just concern financial risk, but also – and inherent in inclusive finance – social and environmental risk. Establishing timber plantations is also a high-impact investment, and one of the cheapest means to make significant changes in mitigating climate and improving local economies and communities. However, given the complexity of large landscape-level forestry projects, getting these approved and implemented takes time. But we are gaining more experience in the sector, so we trust that efficiency will improve.

Another key issue for foreign investors is that working with local smallholders is difficult, as for them formal titles over the land they farm or want to reforest are sometimes impossible to acquire, and of uncertain legality if they do exist. Local authorities and land users sometimes have quite different views on what is needed, indicating that more dialogue is needed to increase understanding among all groups involved.

Read more: Strengthening producer organizations is key to making finance inclusive and effective

What are we not doing right, or not doing well enough, or not doing at all?

There is no right or wrong, but it is very important that we strive for sustainable development. That also means that we must ensure that business models are sustainable. Viability of a project requires financial, environmental and social standards to be met. For example, we require all our forestry clients to be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certified.

We see that with a structured approach, income is created, deforestation is reduced and biodiversity improved. As a consequence, people have new alternative sources of cash income rather than depending on illegal charcoal making or poaching. At the same time, having additional income also tends to enhance development and security in local communities.

Our strength lies in catalyzing other partners; hence we need partnerships, partnerships and more partnerships to more effectively progress in the reforestation of degraded land. But for alignment reasons, we also require the support of governments to politically back up plans for land reforestation and to aid where adjacent commercial plantation forestry can be developed as a future mitigation toward deforestation.

We need more cooperation and collaboration, between us as a development finance institution and the private sector, with UN organizations, with national governments and their departments, with NGOs and civil society. To successfully nurture opportunities for growth in the restoration economy, cooperation of technology startups, smallholder finance and timber companies open doors to inspiring venture capital, private equity and impact investors who may know little about such landscape restoration opportunities.

Read more: Background note on FTA financial innovations for sustainable landscapes interviews

How is your organization addressing inclusive finance, and what are your experiences and key lessons?

At FMO, we provide ever more loans and equity to support projects with landscape-level objectives, and that have social and environmental benefits at their core. We have learned to include contextual risks. This triggers an early focus on risks outside the influence of our project, on how to better ensure indigenous peoples’ rights are respected, including land ownership and user rights, and using stakeholder engagement safeguards even more. We now also realize that it is not always possible to be able to do the right thing at the right time. Circumstances can be such that land issues cannot be fully resolved, or that human rights defenders are threatened, or that deforestation still takes place around the client’s activities. In such cases, we have developed ‘early warning systems’ and if seen to be so, we decide not to invest in unsustainable projects.

Companies that we invest in must have good and transparent relationships with local and legal authorities that have influence over forests and landscape. We also expect them to hear the voices of the people, of local communities, and to fully assess their needs. This means they must invest considerable time from an early stage, and talk to all involved, communities and traditional leaders, occasional users such as nomadic pastoralists, district and forestry authorities, NGOs or knowledge partners.

Going full circle, we also never forget local legislation, such as on forest protection, but also deal with the livelihood impacts of (illegal) users according to the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards. Squaring that circle is not always easy. But only then can we add value and have the impact we are looking for.

One key lesson is that we used to give a lower priority to stakeholder engagement when we focused on returns. But now, at the very start of every investment, we expect companies to start talking with communities to get them to really understand the expected and potential changes, and agree in advance on how benefits can be shared. These include local job opportunities, training in pruning, use of fertilizers and safe pesticide application, and building roads, which can also initiate a village market, access to healthcare and schooling.

Training and supervising are important complements to inclusive finance, leading to sustainable safe jobs that support sustainable landscapes. © FMO

What examples do you have of successful or promising ‘model’ approaches or innovations?

In Ghana and Sierra Leone, FMO is supporting a project that has reforested 10,000 hectares of formerly degraded land since 2013 and is working toward adding up to another 9,000 hectares of new plantations. In Laos, we are funding the expansion of a forestry plantation from 3,400 to 15,000 hectares, including investment to support the building of a new sawmill and wood-processing facilities. This is another example of how we are implementing an integrated, long-term investment strategy.

Helping to establish such large areas of forest plantations is also helping FMO achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral, in line with the Paris Accord. For now, FMO has approved investment of around €40 million a year in new forest plantations. Innovative financial products are necessary, as repayments may only start after 5–7 years, so in the early years there will be no cash flow available to pay even the interest on the loans.

Furthermore, training is an important tool that builds knowledge, but also helps companies to ensure that environmental and social concerns are integrated into their processing system. So, we also provide financial support for analysis, studies, training and implementation, for instance for more efficient use of scarce water resources and for waste-water treatment.

What is your vision on how best to increase finance and investment in sustainable forestry and farming?

The most important single factor that would increase investment is to support systems for registering and securing land rights, so that smallholders and foreign investors alike have formal ownership titles for the land they farm or want to plant with trees. And, of course, this is not just a need for development banks – it is a basic need for all land holders, independent of any future investment. Without formal titles, smallholder options are limited in many ways.

We work for a future where international development finance is no longer needed, where sufficient capital is available nationally, to support the establishment and growth of sustainable businesses in all sectors. And we also hope to see that environmental and social standards widely implemented in developed markets are also fully accepted in emerging markets and developing countries.

In that future, we expect old and new forms of finance to blend seamlessly, also mixing traditional approaches with the use of new technologies, working toward a circular and inclusive economy. This is what we are striving for. But just as it takes time for trees to grow, it will also take time to find the most inclusive way of investing in this sector. We are already seeing shifts.

By Nick Pasiecznik, Tropenbos International.

This interview has also been published on the Tropenbos International website.


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

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  • Forest biodiversity monitoring: Guide to community-based approaches

Forest biodiversity monitoring: Guide to community-based approaches

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Monitoring of natural resources and their management is a key element for effective decision-making in constantly changing and uncertain situations. Monitoring can reduce risks, increase transparency and accountability, enhance learning, and improve the successful implementation of activities. It helps ensure that changes to management approaches come from learning and reflection instead of hasty reactions or unilateral decisions. Involving local communities in monitoring initiatives makes the process more participatory and contextually relevant, less dependent on external inputs, simpler and usually less expensive. Participatory monitoring initiatives, particularly the ones that are community driven, can increase the sense of ownership towards the management of natural resources and favour the development of adaptive management strategies by facilitating discussion, participation and learning within local communities. This guide is designed to help facilitators develop community-based monitoring initiatives for forest biodiversity by providing a series of steps, recommendations and examples to guide the process. While the guide applies to forest biodiversity, similar approaches can be used to monitor other aspects of natural-resource management. The guide includes tips on using participatory tools for the collection of biodiversity data and insights on how to encourage the participation of local actors across social groups in decision-making processes that affect forest biodiversity resources in their communities and surrounding landscapes.

Access this publication.

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  • Are community forests a viable model for the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Are community forests a viable model for the Democratic Republic of Congo?

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Since the second half of the 2000s, several options for implementing community-based forest management in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), like the local community forest concession (LCFC), have been discussed in the country’s technical and political circles. Proposals and pilot testing have increased in the last five years, but the funding of initiatives is often proposed for divergent purposes and taking different approaches. We reviewed current experiences in the Eastern province of the DRC and found that nobody has carried out an estimation of the financial returns of the business models they drew up for/with the communities involved. We therefore conducted a financial feasibility analysis for two case studies, estimating the costs of developing/implementing activities and the benefits expected for the communities within the next five years. Three main conclusions were drawn from the analysis: (1) most activities conducted under the LCFC model deal with rural development, and not with forestry operations per se; (2) several forestry activities such as biodiversity conservation or carbon sequestration are not detailed in the management documents and appear to have little legitimacy for local populations; (3) the two LCFCs show a negative financial performance because the inception and implementation costs are substantially higher than the medium-term profits. Community forestry is unlikely to develop in the DRC unless local people are guaranteed that it will contribute to improving their livelihoods, notably their financial and physical capital. This requires that LCFC initiatives focus on actual productive uses of forest resources, which financial performance is systematically assessed ex ante. A simplification of the legal constraints is also needed to reduce the cost of creating and managing a LCFC.

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  • Migration and Forests: People in Motion – Landscapes in Transition

Migration and Forests: People in Motion – Landscapes in Transition

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

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

Women harvesting lemongrass. Photo by Chandra Shekhar Karki/CIFOR.
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Markus Ihalainen speaks on a panel hosted by ICRAF at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Photo by Susan Onyango/ICRAF

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

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

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

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

Read more: FTA at COP24

NETWORK GROWTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACTIVE PARTICIPATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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  • Scientists urge revision of sustainable forest product certification indicators

Scientists urge revision of sustainable forest product certification indicators

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An internationally recognized product labelling system designed to assure consumers that they are buying sustainably-sourced forest products is falling short of some of its intended objectives, according to new research.

Since 1994, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification framework of agreed indicators has encouraged companies to adhere to sustainable forest management practices, which are also aimed at simultaneously increasing financial profitability.

Companies follow guidelines to extract timber responsibly, reduce impact on forest ecosystems and help reduce land and soil degradation. FSC certification, one of the most widely accepted standards aimed at assessing long term sustainable forest management worldwide, is also designed to protect the rights of workers and indigenous people.

However, a study undertaken in Brazil by scientists with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), published in the journal of Forest Policy and Economics determined that a lack of transparency and unclear reporting indicators restrict the reliability of the program.

“We found that in Brazil, FSC auditors and certification bodies don’t succeed in guaranteeing  companies are in full conformity  with labor and environmental requirements due to a lack of clarity on how standards are applied and conformity assessments administered,” said Marie-Gabrielle Piketty, who undertook the project as a researcher with the French Agricultural Centre for International Development (CIRAD). “Notably, there are really important and trustworthy agents in the certification system — everything relies on them, but we need to better understand the exact processes at stake.”

The country’s 6.2 million hectares of certified forests make up a significant amount of certified land area worldwide, more than in any other tropical country. Forest plantations make up three quarters of Brazil’s certified area, while the Brazilian Amazon includes 1.5 million hectares of certified natural forests.

FSC certification in Brazil is based on 10 principles, 55 criteria and an average of 200 indicators, which must be verified by external auditors, who report conformity and non-conformity, request corrective actions and determine whether to grant or revoke certification.

Read also: Can REDD+ help Brazil roll back rising deforestation rates?

Cattle farming is a key driver of deforestation in Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR

Piketty conducted the research with Isabel Garcia Drigo, who formerly worked with Nexus Socioambiental Ltda., a company which helps perform audits. She now works for the Institute of Forest and Agriculture Management and Certification (IMAFLORA). Together they reviewed public documents, conducted interviews, and undertook an analysis of indicators and “non-conformance” in audit reports.

“With FSC, we imagine a perfect system has been put in place, but it’s not perfect because it’s very, very difficult to comply with the standards,” Garcia Drigo said. “Being certified by FSC doesn’t mean you have perfect forest management — forests and forest management can be certified even with failures or imperfections.”

The goal of the researchers was to determine how auditors shape implementation and the amount of wiggle room that exists to interpret standards subjectively rather than objectively.

Some indicators are not open to interpretation, but others are, which means that the specific knowledge or judgement of an individual auditor can affect whether a company is certified or not. Some of the objective indicators are more difficult to check through auditing because they are too broad.

For example, one indicator includes informing workers and surrounding communities about the importance of forest management activities and their environmental implications. However, the statement does not define which information or methods of communication are essential and acceptable, Piketty and Garcia Drigo said.

Auditors can classify non-conformance as either a major or minor infraction, a major infraction can result in the suspension of certification but an act of minor non-conformance does not result in certification being revoked. They must be solved within a maximum period of a year.

However, Piketty and Garcia Drigo demonstrated that companies can be certified despite recurrent minor non-conformance. They recommend that FSC undertake a systematic review to identify areas where auditors have excessive freedom to interpret “conformance.” A limit should be set for allowable minor non-conformance concerns, they said.

Read also: Decoding deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia

Although there is a rule to label them as major non-conformance if they are repeated, in cases where indicators are too broad or too difficult to comply with – for example, if they encompass multiple aspects or are dependent on three-part actions – auditors have room to allow the recurrence.

However, this potential demonstrates a permanent failure of the forest management system, and FSC needs to review such indicators by improving them or establishing a limit on time to meet full compliance requirements.

Another challenge is that the public FSC certification database only shows recent certification reports and non-conformance assessments. Conformance assessments are not published.

“We need to know how auditors assess that a company really does follow all the rules, Piketty said. “If we don’t have access, we just don’t know, we just have to trust and accept. Consumers of certified products need assurance that they have been made from responsible sources and are verified properly to meet appropriate socio-environmental standards.”

FSC recognizes the potential fluidity inherent in its auditing practices. In 2016, the organization conducted a review of life cycle assessment practices, which are often used to support sustainability assessment or rating systems. The review determined that although the life-cycle perspective is important for addressing the environmental impact of production processes, it should be complemented with other assessment tools.

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


This work was supported by the French National Research Agency (ANR-11-CEPL-0009).

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

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

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

  • Subnational governments are key players in land and forest governance and are expected to meet demands for informed decision-making and transparency, particularly in the context of the emphasis on transparency in climate governance.
  • All three approaches reviewed are experiments in transparency, based on different understandings. The Sustainable Landscapes Rating Tool (SLRT) provides a comparative assessment of jurisdictions to be made publicly available; the Multilevel Governance Monitoring Process (MLGMP) aims to align interests and set targets around a landscape goal, through open, collective agreement; and the Participatory Governance Monitoring Process (PGMP) aims to provide collective reflection, creating transparency in opening male-dominated spaces to women’’s participation.
  • Monitoring governance can become a political tool through which to reflect on local priorities and open or strengthen spaces for discussion.
  • As both governance and transparency may be locally determined, monitoring tools and approaches should be developed with the participation of local stakeholders or be adaptable to their experiences and priorities.
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  • Restoration and sustainable management of forests form line of defense against global warming

Restoration and sustainable management of forests form line of defense against global warming

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A recent statement released by the Climate and Land Use Alliance – a coalition that promotes the role of forests and landscapes in climate change mitigation – was published to coincide with the IPCC special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The statement, signed by 40 prominent environmental scientists, argues that the preservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests is the world’s best hope for limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

It suggests that benefits would be immediate and estimates that reforestation and improved forest management could provide 18 percent of cost-effective mitigation by 2030. The reasons why are fivefold:

  • The world’s forests contain more carbon than exploitable oil, gas, and coal deposits, hence avoiding forest carbon emissions is just as urgent as halting fossil fuel use.
  • Forests currently remove around a quarter of the CO2 humans add to the atmosphere, keeping climate change from getting even worse.
  • Achieving the 1.5°C goal also requires massive forest restoration to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Bioenergy has technical constraints and is therefore not the primary solution.
  • Tropical forests cool the air locally and for the entire planet, as well as creating the rainfall essential for growing food in their regions and beyond.

A view of Way Bulak river in Lampung, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) works on enhancing all possible contributions of forests, trees and agroforestry to sustainable development and, in this context, climate change is a major focus of FTA’s work.

TECH-SAVVY BY NATURE

Forests provide a form of ‘natural technology’ that is practical and more cost-effective than alternative carbon removal technologies, which are not yet mature enough for wide application, says Dr. Louis Verchot, a land restoration expert at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and a signatory of the statement.

Verchot points to the disadvantages of both Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which captures emissions from the air or energy production and stores it, often underground, and Bio-energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), which combines CCS with the further use of biomass for energy production, holding that the carbon-capture of biomass growth further offsets emissions.

“CCS expends a significant amount of energy, which raises the cost substantially,” he says. “And although BECCS may be more cost-effective, there are concerns related to the safe and permanent storage of carbon dioxide.”

In particular, there are questions related to seismic vulnerability and leakage in BECCS technologies. The production of biomass feedstocks that support BECCS could also be problematic: increasing demand for land, water, and nutrients to produce the feedstocks could increase competition for land, encourage land grabs and potentially increase deforestation as well.

A view of agroforestry in a GCS-Tenure Project area in Lampung, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

PROTECTING, RESTORING, COLLABORATING

The efforts needed to protect and restore the world’s forests can be informed by the progress of several large-scale restoration initiatives.

First and foremost, the country-led Bonn Challenge, launched in 2011, is resulting in global action to restore and sustainably manage deforested and degraded land.

Other regional initiatives have developed as part of the umbrella challenge, including Initiative 20×20 in Latin America and the Caribbean and AFR100 in Arica. These initiatives depend in part on rural communities and farmers investing in the restoration and long-term sustainability of their land, in turn improving their land rights.

Countries are using technological advancements and satellite imagery to closely monitor land and respond to land encroachment, and the private sector is increasingly focusing on how to turn profits with better sustainability and benefits for both landscapes and local land users.

By tying so many sectors and communities together, these initiatives are now tributaries feeding into the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN Biodiversity Convention.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature takes stock of the Bonn Challenge annually and, as of December last year, 47 governments, private associations and other organizations had pledged 160 million hectares to the target of bringing 350 million hectares under restoration by 2030. Stakeholders will meet in Bonn this December to assess how these pledges are translating into action on the ground.

But ultimately, these initiatives – of all scales – must keep forests at the fore, and the scientists argue that forest restoration and conservation efforts must now accelerate. The natural technology that forests provide underpins society’s wellbeing, but the level of degradation in these landscapes across the world are threatening our long-term economic prospects. In the absence of CCS technologies that can realistically work at scale, healthy forests may offer our best chance of limiting global temperature rises and avoiding dangerous climate change.

FTA will be participating in discussions on climate and other topics at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn on Dec. 1-2, including a discussion forum on REDD+ at 10: What we’ve learned and where we go nextFind out more on FTA’s event page.

By Jack Durrell, originally published at the Global Landscapes Forum’s (GLF) Landscape News.

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  • Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

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

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When Rosalina Heni is not working in the rice paddy fields in Ribang Kadeng village in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, she gathers vegetables in the surrounding forest for her family to eat.

By contrast, in nearby Sekadu Village, local resident Maria Ludiana can no longer collect enough ferns, bamboo shoots and other vegetables to feed her family because an oil palm plantation has supplanted the natural growth forest.

“Right now, we buy more,” Ludiana says in a new video produced by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “The difference is that before, everything was natural – natural foods, spices. The types of meat we eat have started to change.”

Watch: Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia

The subsistence livelihoods of more than 150 million residents of rural areas in Indonesia are at risk from oil palm expansion, according to scientists studying impact on nutritional status and diets as part of a research project funded by the Drivers of Food Choice (DFC) Competitive Grants Programs, which is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and managed by the University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health, USA.

In some circumstances the scientists have already observed traditional diets being abandoned.

“So far, we’ve seen that the people who live in the forest rely on nature – nature becomes their main way to get food,” says Yusuf Habibie, lecturer in the Department of Nutrition in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Brawijaya in the city of Malang in East Java province. “Then, when land is converted to oil palm plantations, with no forests, people lose access to wild food from the forest. Instead they start to purchase more food, including packaged foods.”

Forests and agroforestry systems which combine trees and crops play important roles in food security and nutrition, says CIFOR Scientist Amy Ickowitz, observing that communities in West Kalimantan eating forest foods, including fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, are getting all nutritional components found in healthy diets.

“Forests can play an important role in making our global food system more sustainable and more environmentally friendly, while making an important contribution to healthy diets ,” Ickowitz says, adding that improving food security and nutrition is not always as simple as raising incomes in rural communities; oil palm companies, governments, and researchers need to work together to find ways to make sure that landscape change does not harm health and nutrition while improving incomes.

If there are no plants, where are we going to be if not dead, queries Bandi, a respected elder living in the village of Sungai Utik.

“Nature is our supermarket,” he says. “If there is no forest, where can we get this variety of food? We will be forced to buy.”

Scientists are continuing their research into the impact of plantations on local forests in Indonesia. As yet, they have not compared oil palm with rubber plantations, which may not have the same impact on local diets.

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

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


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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