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FTA Digital Summit on Inclusive Finance hosted by the GLF

Men process palm oil fruit in Cameroon. Photo by M.Edliadi/CIFOR
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A woman in Fatumnasi, Indonesia holding a harvest of cassava. Photo by A. Sanjaya/CIFOR

Within the framework of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), Tropenbos International and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) have initiated a project on inclusive finance. This project includes eight interviews with key stakeholders involved in forest and tree product finance in developing countries and a summary of existing documentation on the topic.

This process, or learning journey, now enters into a consultative, interactive phase. During this phase, we invite you to share your thoughts on finance for inclusive and sustainable landscapes with experts on the topic.

Join us on 9 July 2019, 14:00 Central European Summer Time (CEST), for a Digital Summit on Inclusive Finance organized by FTA and hosted by the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF).

Pauline Nantongo of Ecotrust in Uganda, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar of Althelia Funds and an impact investment manager from Mirova, and Marco Boscolo, forestry officer in the policy, governance and economics group of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will discuss their experiences and thoughts on the way forward for the upscaling of innovative finance mechanisms that support sustainable landscapes and consider the smallholders within these landscapes.


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  • Moving towards a more integrated view on finance and impact

Moving towards a more integrated view on finance and impact

A Lubuk Beringin villager taps a rubber tree on her farm in Jambi province, Indonesia. Photo by T. Saputro/CIFOR
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Marthe Tollenaar. Photo by New Forests.

In the penultimate interview of this initial series, we hear from Marthe Tollenaar and MaryKate Bullen of New Forests, an Australia-based fund management company with more than A$5 billion invested in sustainable leading-edge forestry, land management, and conservation projects in the Asia-Pacific region and the United States.

Marthe is responsible for the environmental and social management of investments in Southeast Asia and for supporting compliance with International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

MaryKate Bullen. Photo by New Forests.

MaryKate leads corporate communications and media relations, as well as strategic planning and implementation of corporate sustainability and responsible investment initiatives. They share many decades of experience on how to make investments more inclusive.

This interview complements our previous interviews held with non-governmental organizations (the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade), intergovernmental bodies (the United Nations Forum on Forests), a community organization (the Association of Forest Communities of the Peten), a development bank (the Netherlands Development Finance Company) and another investment company (FORM International), thereby enriching the discussion on inclusive finance.

How do you define ‘inclusiveness’ and why should it be addressed by financial institutions?

At New Forests, we consider inclusiveness to mean the generation of value for all stakeholders in our business, including investors and communities, and the environment. We believe that an inclusive approach ensures steadier and more long-term profitability, and creates opportunities through shared value business strategies.

Rubber trees grow in rows in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

We also feel that demonstrating successful business models that incorporate environmental and social benefits are essential for transitioning the forest and land use sectors to long-term sustainable models that promote equity and inclusion.

New Forests ensure that our investments use appropriate best practice in stakeholder engagement, guaranteeing inclusiveness with respect to gender, indigenous peoples, and other potentially vulnerable groups.

As global demand for resources grows, there is a need to increase productivity while ensuring the conservation of the world’s remaining natural forests and sustaining the needs of local communities. The Sustainable Landscape Investment (SLI) framework has six core themes that we apply throughout our investment portfolio, which is designed to balance these interests and deliver enhanced investment performance in support of our corporate purpose.

New Forests’ Sustainability Working Group developed a series of quantifiable measures to track our performance against each of the six themes defined in the SLI framework, and both the Shared Prosperity and Land Use themes measure the inclusiveness of our investments.

We are continuing to build on this and look to deepen the benefits that inclusiveness can bring, continuing to focus on key areas including gender, shared values, and the social license to operate (for example ensuring that Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) or similar procedures have been implemented by investees).

Read also: More dialogue needed between farmers, forest enterprises and finance providers

What are the structural barriers to financing smallholders and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)?

There are several options for New Forests to invest in smallholder forestry: The first is direct investment in smallholder-managed forestry assets through a cooperative or other organizational structure. The second is through outgrower schemes that enhance scale and production by integrating contract farmers in the business model, enhancing scale and production of our investments. A third is with forestry and agroforestry programmes, though the signing of agreements with communities for mixed cropping models either inside or outside the forest area under our management.

Structural barriers differ in each of these different investment options. Smallholder-managed forestry assets, even when they are united through a cooperative or other form of association, often lack the scale required to make an attractive business case for direct investments.

A Hevea plantation in Ngazi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Good governance is key to meeting our strict performance and compliance requirements, but is often challenging in smallholder forestry. Organizational structures are also often lacking or poorly managed, with a high risk of internal disputes, and low smallholder commitment reduces the quality of production.

New Forests requires certification of our investments as part of our Social and Environmental Management System. The challenges described above and complex supply chains mean that there are considerable barriers to group certification, increasing reputational risk for the investor. Another challenge in the forestry sector is the long investment horizon. Smallholders are often looking for quick returns and lack the resources to make long-term investments.

Expected returns in forestry may also not be high enough for the farmers to compete with alternative crops like oil palm or annual food crops. Land tenure and land governance issues can also be barriers to investing in smallholders, because investment criteria require certainty over forestry use rights through the duration of the investment.

What are the underlying reasons for these structural barriers?

There is a clear knowledge gap at the local level of production techniques in forestry. Smallholder timber production is typically geared toward the local market, with low-tech processing facilities, and the low quality of timber products often not suited for more commercial and industrial end uses. Smallholders also traditionally lack access to the technical knowledge and expertise in improved silvicultural practices.

There is often a lack of funding for research and development and technical capacity to develop and implement appropriate Standard Operating Procedures. These aspects mean that smallholder forestry is often less productive, less efficient and less profitable than larger-scale models where such resources are available.

Smallholders also face challenges marketing their products. A lack of knowledge on pricing and markets often causes them to sell their products (far) below market-price to middlemen or processing facilities. Long, non-transparent supply chains in smallholder operations increase the marketing complexity, and corruption can contribute to unfair pricing of smallholder products.

Governance of smallholder cooperatives may lack structure and effective oversight and controls, but this may also be complicated by existing disputes or political interference, enhanced by corruption and lack of law enforcement. Communities often lack the knowledge and experience to establish formal bodies, especially with respect to finance, administration and legality.

These barriers can, however, be mitigated to some extent through capacity development, technology transfer, and development of more effective intermediaries and support organizations.

Read also: Financial products should be adjusted to better meet needs of community forest enterprises

How is your organization addressing the needs of smallholders and SMEs for finance, and what have you learnt from that?

New Forests is not focused on investing in SMEs and smallholders directly, but we seek to help our investees – which in Asia are typically medium-sized businesses or subsidiaries of larger conglomerates – identify and understand their impacts on SMEs and smallholders in order to seek where shared value opportunities may exist.

Evening in the forest of Mount Halimun, Salak National Park, West Java, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

We have developed and implemented various smallholder models in our existing portfolio in Southeast Asia. In our experience, these models play an important role in creating a shared interest in our investments, facilitating shared revenue streams, and providing a social license to operate on the land. New Forests is therefore optimistic that our future investments in the region will continue to include smallholder and SME opportunities.

In addition to these integrated smallholder models, the Tropical Asia Forest Fund (TAFF), managed by New Forests, has in its portfolio companies that invest in local business development, including contract managers, handicrafts, food processing, tailors and farming businesses. Where possible, we link these development opportunities to company needs. In our Indonesian investment for example, we trained local tailors to manufacture uniforms for company staff.

We further incentivize involvement at the local level through community-based monitoring programmes. Communities in and around the forest management units are hired to monitor and patrol the forest close to their village, and receive a bonus for good management, e.g. no fires, no illegal activities, no littering.

Through smallholder models, local business development, employment and other community-based activities, New Forests’ investments promote economic development in the region, and further enhance a shared interest in the company.

What examples do you have of successful or promising financial innovations that contribute to sustainable landscapes?

New Forests has developed an innovative blended finance structure for its latest investment fund for Southeast Asia, with the goal of enhancing investment in sustainable plantation forestry and generating significant positive climate, community, and biodiversity impacts. The fund aims to bring together complementary mainstream and high-impact, development-oriented capital to invest in a diversified portfolio of plantation assets with associated impact activities.

One interesting financial innovation that we came across recently is Fast Track Trade, a platform that connects buyers and sellers through block chain technology, currently being piloted with smallholders in Indonesia.

Read also: Scaling up sustainable forestry projects key to attracting finance

What types of support and conditions are needed to ramp up development and scaling of such innovative finance?

New Forests considers that new commercial models for sustainable forestry are required to meet rising Asian timber demand while also ensuring the sustainable development of emerging markets in ways that are socially and environmentally beneficial. The impact tranche of the second phase of the Tropical Asia Forest Fund (TAFF) is an innovative step to shift capital at scale into high-impact investment models and will seek to demonstrate the case for sustainable forestry businesses in Southeast Asia. Using blended finance, the fund will focus on priority impact activities that are anticipated to support a shift in the overall risk-return profile of investments, while also targeting broader climate, community, and biodiversity benefits.

Through this, we aim to show that more sustainable investment approaches produce an overall benefit for investors, society, and the environment. By demonstrating a scalable, institutional impact investment approach, a second phase of the Tropical Asia Forest Fund (TAFF2) is positioned to be a leader that will shape the market for sustainable forestry in emerging economies. The blended finance structure may also be transferable to other regions and sectors, promoting replicability and scale for impact investment aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

We believe a shift is required towards a more integrated view on finance and impact – moving from grant funding into high-impact business models. A key factor in achieving this shift is educating investors in commercial landscape investment opportunities, aligning the interests of commercial and mission-oriented finance.

By Nick Pasiecznik, Tropenbos International.

This interview has also been published on Tropenbos International’s 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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  • Using forests to support wellness

Using forests to support wellness

A woman harvests Gnetum spp (Okok) leaves in Minwoho, Lekié, Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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At the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, in December 2018, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) spoke with social entrepreneur Doreen Mashu, the founder of The Good Heritage in Zimbabwe – a wellness brand using non-timber forest resources to create products.

At the GLF, Mashu was part of the panel titled, “Delivery of quality and diverse planting material is a major constraint for restoration: What solutions, what emerging needs?”, hosted by FTA with Bioversity InternationalWorld Agroforestry (ICRAF), and supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

During the session, Mashu emphasized the need for a clear connection between restoration efforts and economic activity. “Companies are thinking about doing good in addition to making financial returns,” she said. Thus, business can be a vehicle for restoration for both businesspeople and the scientists who support it, she explained.

Read our interview with Doreen Mashu here, edited for length and clarity.

How is your business connected to nature and forests?

The Good Heritage is a startup, and it’s a company I founded recently. What I am really trying to do is take a back-to-basics approach to ‘nutrifying’ the world. We look back at some of the traditions and we borrow from them – some of these great traditions about using just the most natural forms of medicine, for example, or cosmetic products, or food products. I’m trying to bring to the world more consumer goods that are wellness-based, and are based from forests, and that are very natural, wild harvested, and in their most natural form. And I am aiming to make these more available to the global community.

Read more: The right species for the right purpose

How do forest products relate to the growing interest in wellness?

I think wellness is just this idea of feeling your best, whether it is the way you look, the way you feel, the way you think, or the decisions you make throughout the day to support your whole being. It’s a holistic view to what makes a person whole, and what makes them live their best life.

When I was looking at working with forests and creating opportunities around forests for communities, I realized that I needed to find a demand, a need to be met, through forests. And wellness is a growing trend globally. It’s potentially not even a trend, because it is something that is really here to stay.

People are moving away from cosmetic products, for instance, with multiple ingredients, in favor of things with minimal ingredients. As an example, one of our products is a cosmetic oil that you can apply, and that’s it. You don’t need another cream, you don’t need an eye cream, you don’t need all these other cosmetic products that you would normally need. We are basically meeting that need to simplify the beauty process for women and men around the world. This is certainly an area for me that is exciting, and that can be met through developing and restoring forests.

Afrormosia trees stand in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

What barriers exist in restoring degraded land and achieving sustainable development related to forests? 

I think that the main issue is connecting with communities and cocreating with the communities. I don’t think we’ll fix this problem by simply bringing solutions. I think that we need to connect the goals of restoring forests to development goals, to people’s needs.

I like ideas where you cocreate with the community, so you’re not bringing a solution from elsewhere. Bringing all these together will be a step in the right direction to meeting these goals.

Watch: FTA at GLF: Involving youth in restoration and conservation

How can the private sector engage in seed systems and land restoration? 

The private sector plays a very big role. It needs to be at the table when scientists, researchers and the government are talking about restoration. And thanks to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the private sector is now thinking about ways to do good and implementing a multipronged approach of doing good for business, good for society and good for the environment.

A man holds some indigenous seeds in Olenguruone, Rift Valley, Kenya. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR

The private sector needs to be front and center. In terms of financing, some financing can come through the private sector as long as they are also getting what they need and getting the financial returns that they need.

How can we move from restoration pledges toward restoration action?

Pledges are very interesting because sometimes people sit in a room and they come up with numbers. However, I think that they need to be constantly be updated with new information from the field. Sometimes, we have these big numbers that we want to accomplish, but we don’t really tie them to what’s happening on the ground. We really need to look at why we are trying to achieve something such as the restoration of however many hectares of land. What is the reason for this, and can we explain it in a way that we get buy-in from everyone that is involved?

By the FTA communications team. 

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (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, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • More dialogue needed between farmers, forest enterprises and finance providers

More dialogue needed between farmers, forest enterprises and finance providers

A market in the village of Minwoho, Lekié, Center Region, Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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As part of this new interview series on inclusive landscape finance, Tropenbos International’s Nick Pasiecznik spoke to Noemi Perez, an inclusive finance and investment specialist, with extensive experience with key issues gained from work in both the private and public sectors.

Noemi began her career sourcing timber for one of the largest door manufacturers in the world, Puertas Montealban, rising to general manager.

After seeing how the corporate sector could support and promote sustainable finance for small-scale forest enterprises, she applied her experience to roles in the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Costa Rica and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in Mexico.

She then cofounded the international, non-profit Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) in Montreal, Canada, in 2008, where she worked until April 2018. At FAST, she worked mainly with public funds seeking to match small- and medium-sized forest enterprises (SMEs) to private investors. Noemi is currently a freelance consultant.

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

What are the underlying reasons for underfinancing of small-scale agricultural and forest businesses?

The most basic problem is lack of literacy – not only financial literacy, but also basic literacy. How can we expect farmers or rural entrepreneurs to be able to access finance if many can’t even read or count? Even among those that can, there is a lack of understanding of business fundamentals, when what is needed is business acumen, as a prerequisite for good decision making, including finance.

Thus, there is a serious and urgent need for basic education and business education. For example, in 2010, at an investment conference I attended, rural SMEs were invited to present their cases, but it was clear that some were not even differentiating between sales and profit.

Another constraint is that farmers often sell perishable agricultural produce, and do not have facilities to store goods while waiting for a better price. This makes them even more vulnerable: they have to sell at any price, or they run the risk of losing everything. The lack of strong producer organizations makes it very hard for individual smallholders to be bankable.

On the other hand, financial service providers are not willing to take risks in sectors where they have not previously invested. They may not have sufficient knowledge or information on how to manage risk in rural small-scale agricultural and forest business settings.

Even institutions that claim to invest in forestry or agriculture, often say things like “we invest in agriculture, but we don’t invest in that country”, or “we don’t invest in that sector” without even looking at the specific business cases.

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

Where are the farmers? We need to inform financial service providers and bring them together with farmers. I have been to more than a hundred meetings and conferences on agriculture, forestry investment and similar initiatives, and there is hardly ever a farmer present, or not more than a single token representative. This is not right. We need to create situations where farmers can sit down and tell financial service providers face to face what it is that they need.

At the same time, the financial sector needs to explain their own needs and constraints clearly to farmers. Then they can sit down together and discuss how to manage the risks.

Financial institutions need to understand small-scale agricultural and forest business needs. Adapting and creating specific products and services based on their needs is key, particularly medium- and long-term access to finance.

They also need to know how value chains work, be in contact with different links in the chain, understand market requirements and make strategic alliances. They need to better understand smallholder production cycles, needs, products and markets, and that it is usual and acceptable to rely on local markets and not only on export markets.

On the other hand, farmers must understand the requirements of financial institutions, their restrictions, and that they need certainty that they will get their money back, to satisfy their own investors. Financial institutions must also make clear to farmers why they charge X or Y percent interest, and where this money goes, as often, rural, agricultural SMEs do not even understand why interest is charged!

In addition, one important thing we can do is to look more closely at successful small-scale agricultural and forest businesses in developed countries – how do they work and what makes them successful, what subsidies exist and what types of finance do they have access to?

In developed countries, many small-scale agricultural and forest businesses make a decent income. Even though they have their own struggles, they live well. It would be useful to compare similar types and sizes of smallholder enterprises in developed and developing countries, how they are organized and how they operate.

Read also: Catalyzing partnerships for reforestation of degraded land

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

Good examples of inclusive finance tend to occur where the true realities of farmers are well understood, such as the impacts of seasonality of production, for example. These success stories have almost always resulted from situations where farmers and financial institutions have sat together and talked and rural, agriculture smallholders have repaid. There are excellent examples from banks that have specialized in agriculture, such as the Netherland’s Rabobank, or France’s Credit Agricole. There are also socially oriented lenders such as Alterfin, the Commodities Fund of Kenya, Pear Capital,  Root Capital, Oikocredit,  ResponsAbility, Triodos Investment Management, Bankaool, and Shared Interest.

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

My vision is that every individual should have the right to access financial resources to improve their livelihood if they can demonstrate they have a viable business and produced positive social and environmental impacts. But how? First, we must promote greater dialogue between small-scale enterprises and financial service providers, as I have explained.

This also highlights and connects to those small-scale agricultural and forest businesses that already have a secure market and long-term relationships that could immediately back up a loan. Next, we need to better understand current markets and take these into account – and not any potential future (e.g. export) markets that might take 5–10 years to materialize.

Finally, we need to provide similar conditions for small-scale agricultural and forest businesses in developing countries as are offered to those in developed countries, including the needed levels of education from basic financial literacy to business acumen.

By Nick Pasiecznik, Tropenbos International.

This interview has also been published on Tropenbos International’s website.

Please note that the photos used here are for illustrative purposes and do not refer directly to FAST activities.

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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  • New online platform promotes collaboration in the Congo Basin

New online platform promotes collaboration in the Congo Basin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A call for a regional approach

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

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

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

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

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

Digital solutions

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more: Go to the project monitoring platform website 

Contributions needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Forests in Flux: Exploring Park–People Conflicts in Colombia through a Social Lens

Forests in Flux: Exploring Park–People Conflicts in Colombia through a Social Lens

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Natural resource-related conflicts between local communities and nation states can be extremely destructive. Worldwide, interest is growing in gaining a better understanding of why and how these conflicts originate, particularly in protected areas inhabited by local communities. The literature on local attitudes towards and perceptions of park conservation and park–people conflicts is quite extensive. Studies have examined the socioeconomic and geographical determinants of attitudes to protected areas. However, the role of such determinants in the experience of park–people conflicts has received considerably less attention. Drawing on 601 interviews with people living in or near 15 Colombian national protected areas (NPAs), we examine the socioeconomic and geographical variables that are most influential in people’s experience of conflict related to restricted access to natural resources. We find that the experience of this type of conflict is largely explained by the NPA where a person resides, pursuit of productive activities within the NPA, previous employment in NPA administration, gender and ethnicity. We recommend implementing socially inclusive conservation strategies for conflict prevention and resolution in Colombia’s NPAs, whereby both women and men from different ethnic groups are engaged in design and implementation.

Access this publication.

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  • Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions

Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions

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Constructive critique. This book provides a critical, evidence-based analysis of REDD+ implementation so far, without losing sight of the urgent need to reduce forest-based emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change.

REDD+ as envisioned has not been tested at scale. Results-based payment, the novel feature of REDD+, has gone untested. International funding (both public and private) remains scarce, and demand through carbon markets is lacking.

Better national enabling conditions. Over 50 countries have included REDD+ in their NDCs and developed national REDD+ strategies. REDD+ has improved countries’ monitoring capacities and understanding of drivers, increased stakeholder involvement, and provided a platform to secure indigenous and community land rights – all key conditions for addressing deforestation and forest degradation.

Modest forest and social impacts. Local REDD+ initiatives have achieved limited but positive outcomes for forests. Well-being impacts have been modest and mixed, but have proved more likely to be positive when incentives are included.

National coordination, with a positive narrative. Forest-based mitigation strategies must now be mainstreamed across sectors and levels of government. A strong positive narrative on how forests contribute to economic development and climate goals could boost forest-based mitigation, in spite of the current political uncertainties in key emitting countries.

Evolving REDD+ and new initiatives. REDD+ has evolved, and new initiatives have emerged to support its broader objective: private sector sustainability commitments, climate-smart agriculture, forest and landscape restoration, and more holistic jurisdictional approaches working across legally defined territories.

Access each chapter via CIFOR.

Access the complete book.

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  • Impacts of forestation on water and soils in the Andes: What do we know?

Impacts of forestation on water and soils in the Andes: What do we know?

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Key messages

  • This brief summarizes the findings of a systematic review on the impacts of forestation on water and soils in the Andes (detailed in Bonnesoeur et al., 2018).
  • Exotic tree plantations and, to a lesser extent, native forests consume water and therefore often reduce the total water supply to downstream users in most Andean regions.
  • Only in areas immersed in clouds, such as in the eastern slope of the Andes, might native forests increase downstream water availability compared to other land covers.
  • Decreased total water supply could be acceptable to many users if it confers other benefits, such as increased water availability during the dry season or a reduction in water turbidity.
  • When trees, including exotic species, are planted on degraded soils (bare and/or compacted soils), they can improve soil infiltration, reduce peak flows and control erosion.
  • Exotic tree plantations on well-conserved grasslands (páramos, jalcas, punas) have detrimental impacts on total water supply and hydrological regulation.
  • Existing native forests provide excellent water regulation and erosion control, more than mature tree plantations.
  • As restoring degraded native forests does not necessarily recover original hydrological services, the conservation of existing forests must be a priority for watershed management.
  • The hydrological impacts of native species forestation, however, have largely been overlooked and require further research.
  • Long-term hydrological monitoring and research are necessary to fill the multiple data and knowledge gaps identified in this review.
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  • Sustainable intensification of dairy production can reduce forest disturbance in Kenyan montane forests

Sustainable intensification of dairy production can reduce forest disturbance in Kenyan montane forests

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Increasing demand for food and the shortage of arable land call for sustainable intensification of farming, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where food insecurity is still a major concern. Kenya needs to intensify its dairy production to meet the increasing demand for milk. At the same time, the country has set national climate mitigation targets and has to implement land use practices that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from both agriculture and forests. This study analysed for the first time the drivers of forest disturbance and their relationship with dairy intensification across the largest montane forest of Kenya. To achieve this, a forest disturbance detection approach was applied by using Landsat time series and empirical data from forest disturbance surveys. Farm indicators and farm types derived from a household survey were used to test the effects of dairy intensification on forest disturbance for different farm neighbourhood sizes (r = 2-5 km). About 18% of the forest area was disturbed over the period 2010-2016. Livestock grazing and firewood extraction were the dominant drivers of forest disturbance at 75% of the forest disturbance spots sampled. Higher on-farm cattle stocking rates and firewood collection were associated with 1-10% increased risk of forest disturbance across farm neighbourhood sizes. In contrast, higher milk yields, increased supplementation with concentrated feeds and more farm area allocated to fodder production were associated with 1-7 % reduced risk of forest disturbance across farm neighbourhood sizes. More intensified farms had a significantly lower impact on forest disturbance than small and resource-poor farms, and large and inefficient farms. Our results show that intensification of smallholder dairy farming leads to both farm efficiency gains and reduced forest disturbance. These results can inform agriculture and forest mitigation policies which target options to reduce GHG emission intensities and the risk of carbon leakage.

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  • New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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