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  • Forests are key to combating world's looming water crisis, says new GFEP report

Forests are key to combating world’s looming water crisis, says new GFEP report

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Rain clouds hover over a forest in Yen Bai, Vietnam. Photo by Rob Finlayson/ICRAF

The world is facing a growing water crisis: already, 40 percent of the world’s population are affected by water scarcity, and climate change threatens to increase the frequency of both floods and droughts in vulnerable areas around the world.

A new report released recently at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York suggests that successfully managing the world’s forests will be key to mitigating these risks and ensuring safe and sustainable water supplies for all.

Forest and Water on a Changing Planet: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Governance Opportunities presents a comprehensive global assessment of available scientific information about the interactions between forests and water, and was prepared by the Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Water, an initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests led by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

Read more: FTA at GLF: From rainfall recycling to landscape restoration

“In the assessment, we focused on the following key questions: Do forests matter? Who is responsible and what should be done? How can progress be made and measured?” said panel cochair and Meine van Noordwijk of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) – a member of IUFRO – and Wageningen University, Netherlands. Van Noordwijk is also a former research leader at the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA)

The role of forests in the water cycle is at least as important as their role in the carbon cycle in the face of climate change. In addition to being the lungs of the planet, they also act as kidneys.

Xu Jianchu of ICRAF noted that, “while public attention has tended to focus on forests’ potential as carbon sinks, from a local perspective water is often a greater priority.”

Read more: Bridging research and development to generate science and solutions

An agroforestry area is pictured in Sierra Leone. Photo by ICRAF

Carbon-centered forestation strategies could have significant consequences on water resources; in some cases, efforts to increase carbon storage using fast-growing trees have had a negative impact on local water supplies.

According to Xu, who contributed to several chapters in the report, looking at the climate-forests-water-people system as a whole could help formulate policies that address both local priorities and global targets such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

For example, water-sensitive land management policies in the Hindu Kush and Himalayas have successfully revived natural springs which are a critical source of water for local communities.

As noted by panel co-chair Irena Creed of the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, “natural forests, in particular, contribute to sustainable water supplies for people in the face of growing risks. And it is also possible to actively manage forests for water resilience.”

The report also calls for nuance in both scientific assessments of forests and policy-making. Rather than simply classifying land cover as ‘forest’ or ‘non-forest’, for example, the publication emphasizes the need to pay attention to forest quality and how trees are arranged within a watershed.

Read more: Trees, water and climate: Cool scientific insights, hot implications for research and policy

In Vietnam’s Huong River Basin, the intensification of traditional swidden-fallow systems from 1989 to 2008 was not an explicit change in land use but it still had major consequences for water flows. Over that same period of time, forests in the headwaters of the basin recovered and expanded, which would ordinarily be expected to mitigate the risk of floods. Yet intensification of the swidden systems overwhelmed these effects and in fact exacerbated flooding.

The report concludes by identifying a clear policy gap in climate-forest-water relations and calls for a series of regional or continental studies to complement and extend the current global assessment.

Filling this gap will not be a simple process, and the authors highlight the fact that any process for managing the trade-offs inherent in forest management must fully consider the wellbeing of local, indigenous and other vulnerable communities. To that end, social and environmental justice must be integrated into climate-forest-water policies, and stronger participatory approaches are needed to ensure that policy goals are sustainable and equitable.

By Andrew Stevenson, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World


The IUFRO-led Global Forest Expert Panel initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests established the Expert Panel on Forests and Water to provide policy makers with a stronger scientific basis for their decisions and to specifically inform international policy processes and discussions on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the related Sustainable Development Goals.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is the only world-wide organization devoted to forest research and related sciences. Its members are research institutions, universities and individual scientists as well as decision-making authorities and others with a focus on forests and trees. 

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  • Forests are key to combating world's looming water crisis, says new GFEP report

Forests are key to combating world’s looming water crisis, says new GFEP report

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Rain clouds hover over a forest in Yen Bai, Vietnam. Photo by Rob Finlayson/ICRAF

The world is facing a growing water crisis: already, 40 percent of the world’s population are affected by water scarcity, and climate change threatens to increase the frequency of both floods and droughts in vulnerable areas around the world.

A new report released recently at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York suggests that successfully managing the world’s forests will be key to mitigating these risks and ensuring safe and sustainable water supplies for all.

Forest and Water on a Changing Planet: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Governance Opportunities presents a comprehensive global assessment of available scientific information about the interactions between forests and water, and was prepared by the Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Water, an initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests led by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

Read more: FTA at GLF: From rainfall recycling to landscape restoration

“In the assessment, we focused on the following key questions: Do forests matter? Who is responsible and what should be done? How can progress be made and measured?” said panel cochair and Meine van Noordwijk of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) – a member of IUFRO – and Wageningen University, Netherlands. Van Noordwijk is also a former research leader at the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA)

The role of forests in the water cycle is at least as important as their role in the carbon cycle in the face of climate change. In addition to being the lungs of the planet, they also act as kidneys.

Xu Jianchu of ICRAF noted that, “while public attention has tended to focus on forests’ potential as carbon sinks, from a local perspective water is often a greater priority.”

Read more: Bridging research and development to generate science and solutions

An agroforestry area is pictured in Sierra Leone. Photo by ICRAF

Carbon-centered forestation strategies could have significant consequences on water resources; in some cases, efforts to increase carbon storage using fast-growing trees have had a negative impact on local water supplies.

According to Xu, who contributed to several chapters in the report, looking at the climate-forests-water-people system as a whole could help formulate policies that address both local priorities and global targets such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

For example, water-sensitive land management policies in the Hindu Kush and Himalayas have successfully revived natural springs which are a critical source of water for local communities.

As noted by panel co-chair Irena Creed of the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, “natural forests, in particular, contribute to sustainable water supplies for people in the face of growing risks. And it is also possible to actively manage forests for water resilience.”

The report also calls for nuance in both scientific assessments of forests and policy-making. Rather than simply classifying land cover as ‘forest’ or ‘non-forest’, for example, the publication emphasizes the need to pay attention to forest quality and how trees are arranged within a watershed.

Read more: Trees, water and climate: Cool scientific insights, hot implications for research and policy

In Vietnam’s Huong River Basin, the intensification of traditional swidden-fallow systems from 1989 to 2008 was not an explicit change in land use but it still had major consequences for water flows. Over that same period of time, forests in the headwaters of the basin recovered and expanded, which would ordinarily be expected to mitigate the risk of floods. Yet intensification of the swidden systems overwhelmed these effects and in fact exacerbated flooding.

The report concludes by identifying a clear policy gap in climate-forest-water relations and calls for a series of regional or continental studies to complement and extend the current global assessment.

Filling this gap will not be a simple process, and the authors highlight the fact that any process for managing the trade-offs inherent in forest management must fully consider the wellbeing of local, indigenous and other vulnerable communities. To that end, social and environmental justice must be integrated into climate-forest-water policies, and stronger participatory approaches are needed to ensure that policy goals are sustainable and equitable.

By Andrew Stevenson, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World


The IUFRO-led Global Forest Expert Panel initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests established the Expert Panel on Forests and Water to provide policy makers with a stronger scientific basis for their decisions and to specifically inform international policy processes and discussions on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the related Sustainable Development Goals.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is the only world-wide organization devoted to forest research and related sciences. Its members are research institutions, universities and individual scientists as well as decision-making authorities and others with a focus on forests and trees. 

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  • The power of science to halt deforestation

The power of science to halt deforestation

A coffee plantation is pictured on a hillside in Lampung, Indonesia. Photo by U. Ifansasti/CIFOR
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A coffee plantation is pictured on a hillside in Lampung, Indonesia. Photo by U. Ifansasti/CIFOR

Science and research can offer significant contributions to halting deforestation and increasing the area of healthy forests around the world in a sustainable manner. 

With halting and reversing deforestation seen as key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Paris agreement on climate change, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests organized from Feb. 20-22 the conference “Working across sectors to halt deforestation and increase forest area” in Rome, to discuss ways of meeting these targets in the coming years with various actors and stakeholders.

The conference included a session on science and research coorganized by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), in which participants discussed how science-based innovations have the potential to revolutionize the way forests and landscapes are monitored and managed, provided such innovations are mainstreamed and made more accessible to users, including enabling their use in local languages.

The session’s panelists were Ambassador Hans Hoogeveen, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN; Daniela Kleinschmit, Professor of Forest and Environmental Policy at the University of Freiburg and Coordinator of IUFRO’s Division 9 on Forest Policy and Economics; Avery Cohn, Assistant Professor of International Environment and Resource Policy for the Fletcher School at Tufts University; Pablo Pacheco, Principal Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR); and Christopher Stewart, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for OLAM. Representing the organizers, IUFRO Vice President John Parrotta moderated the session and FTA Director Vincent Gitz contributed as a panelist.

Ambassador Hoogeveen introduced the session with a wake-up call for forests, the planet, and the people living on it. Science could play a crucial role in forming a clear message for the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), and youth could also play a role in this, he suggested. Governments know that forests are important, the ambassador said, but they are often more focused on other pressing issues. Forests, therefore, must be placed among these most pressing of issues. One approach may be for science to make the business case for forests, which would encourage private sector involvement.

From the perspective of FTA, Dr. Gitz emphasized that science is promoting cross-sectoral coordination in three ways. First, science uncovers and shows links, relations and solidarities between sectors, in a way that cannot be ignored. Second, science cannot be disconnected from implementation. Science and research can provide evidence for stakeholders to understand the forces at play, and the suitability of options and solutions according to different contexts. Third, by the very process of constructing evidence, and in a solution oriented way, science and research create favourable conditions for coordination between sectors.

Fellow panelist Prof. Kleinschmit noted that deforestation was a challenge for science, as the causes and effects are complex, and analysis and finding solutions can be difficult. She highlighted the need to orchestrate and integrate scientific expertise with other forms of expertise in order to create solutions and policies that are sensitive to context. Prof. Cohn explained how evidence-based supply-chain initiatives could have a role in reducing deforestation, and tropical forest goods and services could contribute to development. Like Ambassador Hoogeveen, he also discussed the business case for forest conservation.

Dr. Pacheco highlighted the importance of the coproduction of knowledge, saying that research must be credible, legitimate and relevant — for science to be usable, we must adjust to the needs of stakeholders. We can build on new forms of governance, he suggested, and upon multistakeholder platforms on sustainability. Finally, Dr. Stewart discussed how those in the private sector define sustainability: a long-term supply of what they need. He pointed to the need for ways to better determine the value of different types of capital such as natural capital and intellectual capital, and suggested that forest and land management practices be reoriented so that we use only the interest on the natural capital, rather than the capital itself which is very often the case today.

Rice fields are seen in an agroforestry area of Lampung, Indonesia. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

The panel concluded that there is a need to look at the interface between forests and other sectors, including how to link small projects with broad international commitments. If a disconnect exists between science and political dialogue, science needs to critically look at internationally agreed upon targets, and if actions are going in the right direction as well as creating strong alignment among targets. In fact, there has been considerable movement, especially in CGIAR, toward the improved alignment of science with targets determined at global and national levels. The SDGs are instrumental in that sense.

IUFRO underscores the importance of platforms bringing together science with policymakers, the private sector and other stakeholders. Such platforms are key for increasing mutual understanding, aligning research priorities with the needs of stakeholders, enhancing uptake and implementation. There are many examples of substantive, transformative knowledge available in research that can be transferred and scaled up for greater impact.

FTA gives priority support to research that engages with stakeholders from the ground up, including civil society and the private sector. This engagement is multifold — on work priorities, problem statements, research questions, elaboration of research protocols and the best use and uptake of results. Creating mechanisms that engage research with stakeholders is also needed because much of the evidence and data are in the hands of stakeholders: communities and the private sector.

At both IUFRO and FTA, we believe that the very process of constructing evidence in a solution-oriented way can be a pathway for increased coordination between sectors. Science itself needs to be cross-sectoral in its approaches, as this can facilitate various sectors getting on board. We expect that the implementation of the SDGs will encourage such approaches.

By IUFRO Vice President John Parrotta and FTA Director Vincent Gitz. 

For more details about the Halting Deforestation conference, view the conference program or watch recordings of the plenary sessions.


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

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  • Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’ 

Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’ 

Mau Forest and tea plantations are pictured in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR
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A paddy field and palm oil plantation area is seen from above in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

Halting and reversing deforestation are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Paris agreement on climate change.

Within SDG 15 on life on land, Target 15.2 calls for halting deforestation by 2020, while the UN Strategic Plan for Forests (UNSPF) adopted in 2017 by the UN General Assembly calls for reversing the loss of forest cover and increasing forest area by 3 percent worldwide by 2030.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests organized a conference titled “Working across sectors to halt deforestation and increase forest area” on Feb. 20-22 to discuss with various actors and stakeholders the possible ways of meeting these targets.

The conference aimed to provide substantive input to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), the United Nations’ central platform for follow-up and review of the SDGs, that will this year have a particular focus on SDG 15. The objective was thus to identify ways to help halt deforestation and increase forest cover and to engage actors in this objective. The chairs’ summary of the conference has now been released.

At the conference in Rome, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) led the organization of a session on stakeholders, and coorganized with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) a session on science and research. Scientists from FTA also participated in various other sessions, on areas such as landscape management, agroforestry, restoration, sustainable agriculture, governance and finance.

“The role of different stakeholders” session was jointly hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), IUFRO and FTA. It was grounded in the fact that most drivers of deforestation lie outside the forest sector, are rooted in wider social and economic issues, and are related to the interaction of numerous factors at local and global levels. Deforestation and forest degradation, in turn, affect a wide range of actors, threatening incomes, livelihoods and ways of life for forest-dependent populations and compromising the provision of ecosystem services.

Timber production is seen in Tanzania. Photo by N. Mtimgwa/CIFOR

The session gathered an impressive set of panelists, with a considerable range of experience, while I had the pleasure of moderating the discussion. The Honorable Lamin B. Dibba, The Gambia’s Minister of Forestry, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, delivered a keynote on policies implemented in The Gambia. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Regional Vice President of Conservation International, Conservation Biodiversity’s Regional Director for Mexico and Central America and former environment minister for Costa Rica, retraced the implementation of policies to protect forests in his country.

Cécile Ndjebet built on her broad experience in civil society organizations, including as founder of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF), to recommend facilitating the engagement of all actors. Petra Meekers, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development at Musim Mas Group, explained how the private sector is increasingly concerned and engaged.

In addition, Salina Abraham, President of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) and youth coordinator for the Global Landscapes Forum emphasized, the importance of youth as a vector of innovation and change. Marco Albani, Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, and member of the Executive Committee of the World Economic Forum, highlighted the synergies between government and private sector action.

Participants emphasized the importance of having all actors involved, recognizing the crucial role of governments to ensure the coordination of policies and to create an enabling environment and mechanisms for actors to fully play their roles and engage with one another. Deforestation is a global phenomenon which requires global, regional and national efforts to address it. It calls for the coordination of efforts of all stakeholders along two dimensions: vertical along value chains; and horizontal, across scales, particularly at landscape level.

The example of Costa Rica shows the potential of effective coordination between policies, grounded on clear shared recognition of the value of natural capital. National policies and the rule of law are the basis, which require transparency and good governance.

Voluntary standards and corporate responsibility are insufficient by themselves but they can also play a role in facilitating the adoption of rules. The private sector, to answer demand, and civil society as triggering it, have thus a fundamental role at both global and national levels. Sustainable production and production (SDG 12) can strengthen this movement.

Mau Forest and tea plantations are pictured in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR

Value chains have many actors, all along the chain. It is essential to have all these actors, men and women, at the center of actions and activities. Their roles and contributions need to be properly recognized and rewarded. They need to be supported, through capacity building and financial support, so that they can engage with one another and with the private sector. There is considerable untapped potential in women, youth, and more broadly in civil society.

The private sector is increasingly willing to act, taking seriously its responsibilities. It is not always easy. It is important to have an entry point to engage with local communities, like sustainable land use, and to have the engagement of local government. There is a need for different business models. We must give back more to communities, taking into account social issues, gender dimensions, and food security and nutrition. Academia can help a lot.

The example of The Gambia shows how community management, with a return of income from forests to forests and communities, can be a powerful mechanism for sustainable forest management and rural development.

Ensuring coordination between sectors requires appropriate mechanisms, some of which have already shown their merits. For instance, the Forest Forum in Finland has for 21 years been engaging decisionmakers not only from the forestry sector but also from connected sectors, raising awareness and learning from each other. This mechanism is now being adopted in other countries.

In various countries there are already mechanisms to organize the participation and coordination of actors, at local, subnational and national levels. They are often linked to a clear jurisdictional level, which facilitates implementation. There are opportunities to improve their efficiency, to bring in new actors, and to give them more meaningful representation. In that regard the participation of civil society, women and youth can bring new perspectives and trigger action on the ground.

The private sector is willing to be part of these collective dynamics and can make a key contribution to the implementation of the SDGs.

From these exchanges the following key points can be deduced:

  • We need coordination of efforts between all stakeholders along value chains, and across scales, particularly at landscape level.
  • Governments play a crucial role in ensuring coordination of policies and in creating the enabling environment and the mechanisms for actors to fully engage.
  • The private sector, to answer demand, and civil society as triggering demand, have fundamental roles in shaping enabling environments at both global and national levels.
  • The different roles and contributions of all value chain actors, both men and women, need to be properly understood, recognized and rewarded. There is a considerable untapped potential in women, youth and broader civil society.
  • The private sector is increasingly willing to act, and is taking its responsibilities seriously.
  • Community management, with the return of revenues from forests to communities, can be a powerful mechanism to foster sustainable forestry management and rural development.
  • Coordination between sectors requires appropriate mechanisms. Some countries already have mechanisms to organize the participation and coordination of actors at local, subnational and national levels.
  • Private sector actors and large corporations, especially large-scale crop plantations, can act as role models in enforcing zero-deforestation commitments throughout their operations, and in taking care of environmental and social concerns.
  • To improve interactions between stakeholders, quality governance is key to genuinely confront multiple objectives and demands, agree on priority actions and align solutions informed by scientific evidence, shaping integrated zero-deforestation policies and enabling environments.

Deforestation is a problem for everyone, and fighting against deforestation is everyone’s fight. Zero-deforestation should be an essential element of SDG12 on responsible consumption and production, including outside the forest sector in food, feed and bioenergy.

By Vincent Gitz, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) Director. 


For more details about the Halting Deforestation conference, view the conference program or watch recordings of the plenary sessions.

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

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  • REDD+ findings from Tanzania, Indonesia and Peru show gender divide

REDD+ findings from Tanzania, Indonesia and Peru show gender divide

A woman picks tea leaves in Tanzania. Photo by Nkumi Mtimgwa/CIFOR
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A woman picks tea leaves in Tanzania. Photo by Nkumi Mtimgwa/CIFOR

Men and women differ in their preferences when it comes to REDD+ benefits. Men prefer cash incentives while women lean toward non-cash benefits, according to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) Esther Mwangi, a Principal Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Mwangi and an international team of researchers conducted in-depth intra-household interviews in Tanzania, Indonesia and Peru as part of a work package comprising a larger project on REDD+ and tenure.

Across all three countries, in addition to the benefit preference of men and women, researchers found a correlation between increased women’s participation and more equitable distribution of benefits. But they also found male dominance in different decision-making stages, and that people (mostly men) involved in decisions regarding REDD+ were more likely to be satisfied with the distribution of benefits.

More than benefit preferences, there was a bigger gender difference when it came to having REDD+ information and being involved in the decision-making process on which benefits would be distributed and how, with men much more active. Mwangi presented some of her findings late last year at the IUFRO 125th World Congress. Here she talks about her work and findings in detail.

Read more: Are there differences between men and women in REDD+ benefit sharing schemes?

When you talk about non-cash benefits, what does that include?

Non-cash benefits are material awards other than direct monetary payments. These include construction of classrooms for primary school children, provisions of farming implements, provision of potable water, or even capacity-building in conservation farming.

In Peru, it was interesting to find that even these non-monetary benefits were differentiated by gender. Men preferred construction materials, technical assistance and training, legal assistance and seedlings of non-timber species. Women, on the other hand, preferred objects or utensils for the home, organic gardens, animals to raise, timber tree saplings, textiles and handicrafts. Therefore, even the preferred types of non-cash benefits are differentiated according to gender.

During a community feedback workshop in Tanzania, we asked men and women to tell us what they would want to see done differently if the REDD+ project were to resume in their village. While women wanted non-cash benefits prioritized, they also indicated that these non-cash benefits “touch women’s problems”.

What are some factors keeping women out of REDD+ decision-making?

Children play in the indigenous community of Callería in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

We found that twice as many men as women were involved in REDD+ decision-making in Tanzania, four times as many men as women in Peru, and about equal proportions of men and women were involved in Indonesia.

Our definition of REDD+ decision-making covered issues such as whether they were involved in the initial decision on whether or not REDD+ should be implemented in their village, and whether they were involved in the design and implementation of REDD+ activities. Most women indicated that they did not know about these matters. For those who did know, they said they were not invited to meetings when those decisions were made.

The asymmetry between men’s and women’s participation in forestry decision-making is often rooted in two inter-related issues. First, forestry institutions and forest resources are generally male-dominated and second, village-level decision-making takes place in the public sphere. Women are traditionally associated with the private sphere of home and family life.

Was it surprising to find that when there was increased women’s participation, there was a more equitable distribution of benefits?

I personally wasn’t surprised, but still I thought it was an interesting result that probably jibes well with other results.

Work in India and Nepal shows that an increased number of women in decision-making roles has good outcomes for forest conditions. Even in the corporate world, research is starting to show that increasing the presence of women in boardrooms is correlated with greater corporate social responsibility and concern for equitable outcomes of investments.

Read more: ACM levels the playing field for women and men in forest-adjacent communities

Regardless of gender, there were pretty low rates of knowledge of REDD+ and involvement in related decisions. Can you tell us more about that?

Women prepare for a local culinary course in Kapuas Hulu, Indonesia. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

This is an interesting observation and speaks to the entry point chosen by NGOs, which, in most of the cases, happened to be village leaders. Village leaders are crucial and should always be approached when setting up projects and interventions in rural areas. However, more effort should be made to ensure greater inclusion, especially if women and others (including men) are frequently marginalized in decision-making. This extra effort should be made even if village leadership is widely respected and legitimate.

When asked what should happen differently if the REDD+ pilots were to be repeated, both men and women in Tanzania made clear that REDD+ education should be provided on a door-to-door basis. This would help raise awareness and widely disseminate information.

This is a reasonable demand and probably good for interventions, because if people don’t know what exactly REDD+ is and why it’s being implemented, (that is, make the connection between REDD+ benefits and forest conservation) it’s unlikely that these schemes will achieve their goals. Moreover, lack of involvement in decision-making weakens the legitimacy and sustainability of the schemes.

What are the next steps for work on this topic? 

Benefit-sharing arrangements should be designed with gendered differences in mind. This cannot be overemphasized, because these benefits constitute an important incentive for sustainable management and even conservation.

In previous work, we demonstrated that greater gender equity is possible in the forestry sector both in participation in decision-making and in the distribution of forestry benefits. Lessons from this work would be invaluable in informing the design and implementation of benefit-sharing arrangements.

Read more: Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making

By Christi Hang, 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 CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Are there differences between men and women in REDD+ benefit sharing schemes?

Are there differences between men and women in REDD+ benefit sharing schemes?

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  • FTA and IUFRO highlight cooperation at Global Landscapes Forum 

FTA and IUFRO highlight cooperation at Global Landscapes Forum 

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Clouds pass over homes on the banks of the Belayan River in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) are strengthening their collaboration to increase understanding and promote the role and value of forests and trees in landscapes. 

At the recent Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Germany, FTA, IUFRO and the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) organized a Discussion Forum titled Rainfall Recycling as a Landscape Function: Connecting SDGs 6, 13 and 15.

The discussion aimed to shed new light on the role of forests and trees in the climate debate, building on a scientific review paper about the relationship between forests and water titled Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world, and an online symposium organized by FTA in May 2017.

It also discussed preliminary highlights of IUFRO’s current Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Water, which is expected to issue a policy relevant global assessment report in July 2018. At the GLF, participants discussed how these research findings should be reflected in policy making.

“We are going to discuss something that might have the potential to change the narrative […] about forests and trees in landscapes in relation to climate change, land management and other issues,” IUFRO Executive Director Alexander Buck said in opening the session.

“In many parts of the world, local people, if you ask them, are convinced that forests and trees not only depend on rainfall, but they also play a critical role in actually generating it,” Buck added.

He explained that science is increasingly generating insights that confirm this perception from local people, describing rainfall recycling as “a phenomenon in which forests […] and trees influence the transport of water over distant locations.”

“Experts will also present some emerging highlights from a global scientific assessment looking at the interactions between forests and water,” Buck added, referring to the GFEP, which is coordinated by IUFRO.

Audience members respond to questions during “Rainfall Recycling as a Landscape Function: Connecting SDGs 6, 13 and 15” at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

The first section of the discussion, looking at scientific insights, was moderated by GFEP cochair Meine van Noordwijk, the lead author of Ecological rainfall infrastructure: investment in trees for sustainable development, who is also known for his work within FTA.

David Ellison, the lead author of the review article Trees, forests and water: cool insights for a hot world, spoke first on the concept of hydrological space. He addressed how water is transported across land, describing continental evapotranspiration as feeding an important share of terrestrial precipitation. Thus, increasing forest cover can lead to increased precipitation and runoff, and spatial organization also matters.

Describing water in the Blue Nile Basin, of which a large share originates in the West African rainforest, he explained why land use, forests and the large-scale water cycle are so important when it comes to rainfall.

Aster Gebrekirstos of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) then discussed tools and equipment that can be used to show how trees play a role in the water cycle.

By measuring isotopes in tree rings it is possible to understand how fast trees have grown in the past, and where the rain absorbed by trees comes from, Gebrekirstos explained. The Amazon was shown to be generating its own rainy season, while in Bolivia more than 50 percent of rain comes from evapotranspiration.

“If we plant trees in Ethiopia, it will have a positive influence in Burkina Faso,” she said, by way of example. “Trees are really contributing to the water cycle, but climate change is also influencing trees and forests.”

“Trees are history books when we are able to analyze their history of growth and isotopes,” Van Noordwijk agreed. “We can tell something about where their water has come from.”

Aida Bargues-Tobella of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, coauthor of Intermediate tree cover can maximize groundwater recharge in the seasonally dry tropics, discussed how, as an alternative to a prevailing paradigm, more trees can improve (and not diminish) groundwater recharge in seasonally dry areas.

Although there are tradeoffs in planting trees in dry areas, Bargues-Tobella showed how new theories enable the determination of an optimum level for tree cover with respect to groundwater recharge, as evidenced in Burkina Faso.

The discussion then progressed to implications that this new science might have for climate, land, water and related policies and actions, in a second part moderated by Paola Ovando Pol of Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, who is also a member of the GFEP on Forests and Water.

In this section, Van Noordwijk stated: “Within the world there’s a lot of debate about climate change, and the convention about climate change is, other than what people think, not a convention about climate. It’s a convention about greenhouse gases, one of the major things that changes climates.”

Panelists discuss forests, trees and the water cycle at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

Greenhouse gases come from the use of fossil fuel, and also deforestation, he explained.

There is an elaborate framework on how climate change, because of increased greenhouse gases, leads to changes in ocean temperatures, which in turn leads to changes in how much moisture is around, leading to changes in rainfall, he suggested.

Van Noordwijk then explained that forests and trees outside forests also influence rainfall through several feedback loops, from local to continental levels, as evidenced in Latin America, the African continent and Southeast Asia.

With this new knowledge, the relation between climate, forests, water and people looks different, he said. It is not captured in current policy frameworks, but has important consequences.

The “missing middle — the relation between vegetation, forests and rainfall” shows there is a much more direct link between land-use change and rainfall than through the long route of climate change and ocean temperatures, he added. “Now our message to the policymakers is: we have enough evidence that it exists, we’re working on the details.”

Daniel Murdiyarso, principal scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), posed the question of what forests can do for water and climate. They can promote rain, transfer vapor, recharge groundwater, moderate flooding and cool air, he suggested.

The world needs a new way of governing forests, he said, citing watershed approaches, links to climate objectives such as REDD+, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), as well as sustainable forest management.

Rounding out the second part, senior researcher Holger Hoff of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) said the link to policies was the new aspect of the work. He covered how to add to existing frameworks, targeting methods to audiences, triggering action, identifying win-wins and increasing complexity.

Finally, in the third and final part of the discussion, FTA Director Vincent Gitz asked the audience “who can do what” with this knowledge, in terms of optimizing the contribution of forests and trees to the regulation of the water cycle, increasing resilience and therefore providing ways for landscapes – and the people in them – to adapt to climate change.

In a lively audience discussion, various points were raised about the respective roles of different actors. Science and research have a special responsibility in terms of being clear about domains of uncertainty, especially when quantification of effects is concerned.

Research has a role in clearly explaining science, as well as its limits, to policymakers. Science also needs to be clear about knowledge gaps. These include, for instance, whether there are different effects for different tree species (especially indigenous species), and about the range of scale of these effects.

“It is all about better understanding these ecosystem services, giving them proper value, finding ways to account for them in current incentives and regulation schemes, and creating spaces for them in policy debates,” Gitz said following the forum.

The next step for this science-policy interaction will be the release of IUFRO’s GFEP report on forests and water in July, and upcoming discussions about the Sustainable Development Goals in New York.

Read more:

By Vincent Gitz, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), and Alexander Buck, Executive Director of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). 


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

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  • ‘Rainfall recycling’ as a landscape function: Connecting SDGs 6, 13 and 15

‘Rainfall recycling’ as a landscape function: Connecting SDGs 6, 13 and 15

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The ‘Rainfall recycling’ as a landscape function: Connecting SDGs 6, 13 and 15 Discussion Forum was held at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn on Dec. 19, 2017.

Climate change is a reality and, for those most affected by it, it is often experienced as a change in the most basic commodity: water. Drawing on the insights of farmers and local communities, this session examines the role of forests in regulating the water cycle.

New research suggests that vegetation plays a critical role in the frequency and intensity of rainfall. This discussion forum will explore the implications on the many areas affected by these effects — land restoration, water management and climate change adaptation — toward an integrated approach for land/water and climate for the SDGs.

The discussion forum will build on a successful online symposium that took place in May 2017. The discussion will also discuss highlights of the current Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on forests and water, which is expected to issue a policy relevant global assessment report in the first half of 2018.

The session was hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI).

This video was originally published by the GLF.

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  • Introducing students to the ‘Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forestry’

Introducing students to the ‘Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forestry’

Women work a rice field in Nalma, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Women work a rice field in Nalma, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Indonesia’s future leaders in forestry and gender studies had the chance to make connections between their disciplines at the Bogor headquarters of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) recently.

Reaching out to the next generation of gender and forestry scholars, policymakers, civil society organizations and other stakeholders, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) researchers from CIFOR introduced the Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests to members of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and the Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB).

Read more: The Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests

Launched earlier this year on the sidelines of 125th Anniversary Congress of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), the reader is an accessible collection of theory, analysis, methodology, case studies and more, spanning 30 years of scholarship. It was edited by Carol J. Pierce Colfer and Bimbika Sijapati Basnett of CIFOR, Marlène Elias, gender specialist at Bioversity International, and Susan Stevens Hummel from the Forest Service at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Read more: FTA gender scientists to launch ‘The Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests’ during IUFRO congress

Building on the positive reception at IUFRO, the CIFOR event and discussion introduced Indonesian students to the book, which covers the intersections between gender, forestry and natural resource management across disciplines, geographies and historical periods.

Dian Ekowati, a CIFOR senior research officer and a host of the event, noted that the majority of students attending came from a forestry background without a strong gender focus, so should find the reader particularly interesting and thought-provoking.

Read more: Focus on gender research and mainstreaming

A Nepali woman prepares rice for cooking. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“We hope that the discussion will further the students’ aspirations, or inspire them to learn about and integrate gender when looking at forest management during their study, research, fieldwork, and interaction with communities, and for their future work — especially, but not only, for those working in forestry,” she says.

Moderated by Mia Siscawati, a senior lecturer in gender studies at UI, the discussion will feature noted academics discussing the need to consider and mainstream gender into forestry and natural resource management in Indonesia, and the role the reader can play as an important resource for scholars and students.

Originally published at CIFOR.org.


 For more information on this topic, please contact Dian Ekowati at [email protected].

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

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

  • Home
  • Introducing students to the ‘Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forestry’

Introducing students to the ‘Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forestry’

Women work a rice field in Nalma, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Women work a rice field in Nalma, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Indonesia’s future leaders in forestry and gender studies had the chance to make connections between their disciplines at the Bogor headquarters of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) recently.

Reaching out to the next generation of gender and forestry scholars, policymakers, civil society organizations and other stakeholders, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) researchers from CIFOR introduced the Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests to members of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and the Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB).

Read more: The Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests

Launched earlier this year on the sidelines of 125th Anniversary Congress of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), the reader is an accessible collection of theory, analysis, methodology, case studies and more, spanning 30 years of scholarship. It was edited by Carol J. Pierce Colfer and Bimbika Sijapati Basnett of CIFOR, Marlène Elias, gender specialist at Bioversity International, and Susan Stevens Hummel from the Forest Service at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Read more: FTA gender scientists to launch ‘The Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests’ during IUFRO congress

Building on the positive reception at IUFRO, the CIFOR event and discussion introduced Indonesian students to the book, which covers the intersections between gender, forestry and natural resource management across disciplines, geographies and historical periods.

Dian Ekowati, a CIFOR senior research officer and a host of the event, noted that the majority of students attending came from a forestry background without a strong gender focus, so should find the reader particularly interesting and thought-provoking.

Read more: Focus on gender research and mainstreaming

A Nepali woman prepares rice for cooking. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“We hope that the discussion will further the students’ aspirations, or inspire them to learn about and integrate gender when looking at forest management during their study, research, fieldwork, and interaction with communities, and for their future work — especially, but not only, for those working in forestry,” she says.

Moderated by Mia Siscawati, a senior lecturer in gender studies at UI, the discussion will feature noted academics discussing the need to consider and mainstream gender into forestry and natural resource management in Indonesia, and the role the reader can play as an important resource for scholars and students.

Originally published at CIFOR.org.


 For more information on this topic, please contact Dian Ekowati at [email protected].

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

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


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