• Home
  • Seed diversity vital to achieve landscape restoration pledges

Seed diversity vital to achieve landscape restoration pledges

A woman looks out over an FLR area in Ethiopia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Optimally achieving forest landscape restoration – and its associated benefits for ecology and human wellbeing – requires high-quality planting material.

Restoration plays a key role in sustainable development. With countries making significant pledges under the Bonn Challenge to restore degraded land, achieving these objectives at scale requires integrated systems that provide diverse, adapted and high-quality native tree seeds and planting material.

However, there remains a gap in capacity, as studies have documented that the quality and quantity of tree germplasm is not always adequately addressed in restoration projects. Research is now generating solutions to help the global community move from pledges to impact when it comes to tree seeds and seedlings.

A discussion at the recent Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) with Bioversity International, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – Delivery of quality and diverse planting material is a major constraint for restoration – brought these issues to the fore.

Read more: Delivery of diverse and suitable seeds and planting material is a key barrier to sustainable land restoration at scale

In opening the discussion, Bioversity International’s leader of forest genetic resources and restoration Christopher Kettle, whose work also forms part of FTA, introduced how researchers can help to generate the volume of seeds needed to achieve development objectives.

In line with this, FTA Director Vincent Gitz highlighted that restoration is a priority for research programs such as FTA. In order to be successful, projects should integrate the availability of good tree planting materials from the outset to implementation, he suggested.

Giving a keynote, senior advisor on tropical trees and landscapes at the University of Copenhagen Lars Graudal, who is also coleader of tree productivity and diversity at ICRAF, echoed Kettle in asking whether the reproductive material of trees constituted a barrier for landscape restoration.

Referring to the Bonn Challenge – which aims to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 350 million ha by 2030 – the largest restoration in history, which is backed by conventions and the sustainable development agenda, Graudal said it is one thing to have a plan, and another to implement it.

Despite shortfalls in investments, there is reason for optimism as public support for the plan has never been greater, he said. There is a “positive correlation with biodiversity and resilience, agricultural produce and dietary diversity,” he explained. The world faces challenges of mobilizing diversity before it disappears; focusing on dealing with numerous species rather than only a few; linking that work with conservation, breeding and delivery programs; and achieving efficient programs by empowering users.

Speakers of Discussion Forum 1 at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

The discussion continued with a panel of speakers considering situations on the ground where restoration efforts are being implemented. Featuring Cameroon-based forest engineer Anicet Ngomin; Burkina Faso’s National Tree Seed Center director general Moussa Ouedraogo; Charles Karangwa of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Rwanda; biologist and youth representative Vania Olmos Lau; social entrepreneur Doreen Mashu; and FAO’s Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism coordinator Douglas McGuire, the panel looked at how the ability to deliver diverse and quality seed and planting material is impacting countries’ pledges.

Outlining some of the regional challenges in meeting restoration commitments, Ouedraogo said Burkina Faso has committed to planting 5 million hectares by 2030, but has experienced a 30-35 percent survival rate of trees after one year of planting. Native species remain threatened, he added.

Ngomin said Cameroon has committed to restoring 12 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030, with seeds forming an important part of reforestation programs.

Read more: FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

Tree seed diversity determines the extent and speed to which ambitious restoration targets can be achieved, said Karangwa. While widespread eucalyptus monoculture in Rwanda affects land productivity, restoration would bring multiple benefits to both people and landscapes. Although farmers know the importance of trees on farms, he added, they “feel like trees are competing with crops, because of the quality and the type of trees we are telling them to plant.” This shows that tree seed diversity is paramount, he said.

Lau emphasized that achieving the Bonn Challenge is also important to youth. She cited as examples a lack of knowledge and access to seeds in Paraguay, as well as bureaucratic hurdles in Mexico, as existing barriers to restoration.

Mashu, who is the founder of The Good Heritage in Zimbabwe – a wellness brand using non-timber forest resources to create products – underlined the need for a clear connection between restoration efforts and economic activity.

“Companies are thinking about doing good in additional 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.

McGuire addressed time-bound political commitments, and how to balance these with the time needed to understand the science and practical issues behind tree planting. There are new projects indicating huge momentum both politically and financially, he explained, but many stakeholders have yet to address the technicalities of planting material.

A woman looks out over an FLR area in Ethiopia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Building on Mashu’s comments, he also underlined the role of the private sector and embedding restoration into economic realities.

Following on with keynote speeches were scientist Marius Ekué, Bioversity International’s representative in Cameroon and a member of FTA, and ICRAF’s Ramni Jamnadass, who is the leader of FTA’s Flagship 1 on tree genetic resources.

Ekué introduced the Trees for Seeds initiative, which was launched at GLF Nairobi in August and aims to safeguard diversity. “Trees don’t have borders, so we work within a network,” he said, referring to networks that exist across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Read more: Hedging bets in resilient landscape restoration

In line with the initiative, researchers have developed decision support tools to help practitioners select the right tree species for the right places, such as RESTOOL. This can help to understand how seed systems work in different countries, including how they are harvested, produced and distributed. With this information, researchers can then assess how to deliver at scale using innovative technologies.

Similarly, Jamnadass covered the quality of restoration, and the right tree for the right place and the right purpose. She also highlighted other decision support tools such as Useful Tree Species for Africa and the Vegetation Map for Africa. Research needs to put food trees back into landscapes using the restoration agenda, she emphasized.

The panel then continued with a second phase of discussion, articulating concrete solutions for lifting barriers to scale – raising the need to invest in knowledge and science, greater collaboration between partners, harnessing local knowledge, strengthening delivery systems as a local level, bridging gaps between science and policy, and capacity building.

In closing, Erick Fernandes, an adviser on agriculture, forestry and climate change to the World Bank Group, reiterated that the desire to restore land is strong.

As stated by the Trees for Seeds project, using the right mix of native trees in forest restoration efforts is essential to deliver on multiple SDGs, including reducing poverty and food insecurity, and supporting biodiversity.

Planting a trillion trees, and ensuring that they are the right trees in the right place, offers a powerful development solution.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

  • Home
  • Agricultural research and education combine for tangible results in Latin America 

Agricultural research and education combine for tangible results in Latin America 

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A body of water is surrounded by mountains. Photo by CATIE

In light of its standing as a regional research platform and a higher education institution of international recognition, CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) holds an undeniably important position in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The work carried out by CATIE researchers is focused on generating and disseminating knowledge, putting it into practice and encouraging uptake. From restoration to climate change adaptation and mitigation, conservation strategies and silvopastoral systems, the center’s work spans not only numerous countries but also several decades.

To mark CATIE’s official 45th anniversary this year, Environmental Livestock Unit researchers Cristóbal Villanueva and Danilo Pezo, Forest Seed Bank head Francisco Mesén and genetic resources expert William Solano spoke about key work and achievements.

Read also: CATIE celebrates 45 years of putting knowledge into practice 

What is the history behind the development and use of research on silvopastoral systems at CATIE?

Cristóbal Villanueva and Danilo Pezo: CATIE’s work on silvopastoral systems started in the late 1980s, but initially the emphasis was on the use of tree fodder as a source of feed for ruminants.

Initially, most of the efforts were on native trees such as Erythrina species, Gliricidia sepium, Leucaena leucocephala and Calliandra calothyrsus, as well as the introduced Morus alba. All these were managed under different silvopastoral options, mostly the traditional live fences, and intensive fodder banks and alley farming with pastures systems.

Later, emphasis was put on other woody perennial species as well as on the role of different silvopastoral options — such as the most commonly practiced scattered trees in pastures — as a means to diversify production and improve animal welfare in livestock systems, as well as providers of timber and environmental services such as biodiversity, soil and water conservation in livestock dominated landscapes.

More recently, the role of woody perennials as part of adaptation and mitigation strategies on livestock farms has been part of CATIE’s research agenda.

Team members plant seedlings. Photo by CATIE

Over the years, CATIE has been the leader in post-graduate education and training in silvopastoral systems in Latin America, contributing to strengthening the research and development capability of many education and research institutions, as well as NGOs, technical assistance providers and farmer organizations, mostly in Latin American and the Caribbean.

CATIE research findings have also been used as inputs for the design of policies tackling the livestock and environmental interphase in the region. At a global level, CATIE has shared its learnings through several publications, as well as presentations at international congresses, conferences and seminars.

Watch: CATIE: el destino para una educación superior de excelencia

How is CATIE’s Forest Seed Bank used, and who benefits from this valuable resource? 

Francisco Mesén: The CATIE Forest Seed Bank (BSF), which has existed for 51 years, is a self-sustainable commercial unit that distributes the seeds of 50 forest species as well as coffee clones of high genetic quality.

Each year BSF seeds reach more than 170 clients in 20 countries in America, Asia and Africa, supplying private companies to national reforestation programs. The BSF maintains commercial agreements with partners in Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru for seed distribution and promotion.

The seeds that we distribute come either from our own sources, from selected third-party sources, or from other seed banks in the region. In addition to strict internal quality control, we are also under the supervision of the Costa Rican Seed Certification Office, which certifies both the physical and genetic quality of our seeds.

In our training, marketing and promotion efforts, we develop our agenda in conjunction with our partners in member countries. We provide continuous advice to our clients as required, and we receive an average of 300 visitors per year to our headquarters, including politicians, producers, businessmen, technicians and students.

Read also: CATIE continues to improve people’s wellbeing across Latin America and Caribbean through education and research

What is the story of CATIE’s germplasm collection, and which stakeholders now benefit from its use?

William Solano: CATIE’s germplasm collections date back to the 1940s. In 1976, the germplasm bank was formally established as a center for the conservation and use of the plant genetic resources of Mesoamerica.

The collections were placed under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2004 and two years later were under the jurisdiction of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The germplasm that CATIE conserves has worldwide relevance due to its quantity and diversity.

Different types of cacao varieties can be found in CATIE’s International Cacao Collection. Photo by CATIE

The most representative field collections are coffee, cacao, peach palm and sapotaceae fruits, while the most important seed collections are those of cucurbits, tomato and pepper. Many of the accessions are unique and not represented in collections elsewhere. The collections include accessions of wild relatives of crops, a valuable resource for future genetic improvement.

There are several examples of CATIE’s germplasm distribution to users who have promoted the economic development of new crops and helped tackle new diseases in crops of high economic value. CATIE highlighted the distribution of selected seven cocoa clones resulting from its Cocoa Breeding Program — known for their high yield, resistance to moniliasis and excellent chocolate quality (two of them were in the top 10 at the Le Salon du Chocolat in Paris in 2009) — to smallholders throughout Central America.

These clones were fundamental for a key initiative of the Central American Cacao Project aimed at modernizing cocoa plantations in an integrated manner in order to improve the income and living conditions of families in the region.

The distribution throughout the region of hybrids F1 with resistance to coffee rust, which were derived from introductions in the CATIE collection, is also of great value to the coffee sector. These materials are characterized by 30 to 50 percent higher productivity than traditional varieties and have an exceptional cup quality – one of them won the Cup of Excellence competition in 2016 – as well as tolerance to adverse weather conditions such as drought, flooded soil and frost.

Also worth noting is a germplasm transfer in the 1960s, from the CATIE coffee collection to Panama, of the Geisha variety, which led to the production of a high-quality specialty coffee with a very high market value, reaching US$601 per pound. Another product of CATIE’s coffee germplasm collection is the “Nemaya” rootstock variety, which is resistant to major nematodes affecting the Central American coffee sector.

Small-scale farmers, including indigenous communities, have also benefited from native germplasm of important food crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and squash, presenting valuable agronomic traits such as nutritional quality, better taste, good adaptation to different climatic conditions and resistance to diseases and pests. CATIE makes this germplasm available to all users, in a continuing contribution to meeting the current challenges of agriculture.

Read also: Celebrating and rewarding excellence in producing high-quality cocoa: The 2017 International Cocoa Award winners

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator, and Karla Salazar, CATIE Communicator.

  • Home
  • The Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Coconut Genetic Resources 2018 -2028: summary brochure

The Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Coconut Genetic Resources 2018 -2028: summary brochure

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

This summarises the Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Coconut Genetic Resources, introducing context & status of coconut germplasm conservation and use. Its 7 objectives are: i) strengthen commitment to conserve & use coconut genetic resources (CGR); ii) ensure sustainable ex situ CGR conservation; iii) assess coconut genetic diversity, identify critical gaps in ex situ collections, & implement collecting missions; iv) strengthen in situ conservation & ensure high quality planting material available/used; v) develop resources for safe international germplasm movement; vi) enhance CGR use by better germplasm characterization and evaluation; vii) re-enforce COGENT as a global platform serving Strategy implementation.


Back to top

Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Connect with us