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  • The what, how and why of inclusive finance for sustainable landscapes

The what, how and why of inclusive finance for sustainable landscapes

Farmers weed rice fields in Dintor village, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR
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Cabbage plantation areas on the slope of mount Gede Pangrango Sukabumi, West Java, Indonesia. Photo by R. Martin/CIFOR

Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars are invested into the land use sector. Currently, almost all of these funds are spent in support of conventional land use practices, generally contributing to environmental degradation and hampering progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

But what if we could turn this around? What if we could instead invest these billions of dollars into making landscapes more sustainable and inclusive of the rural poor?

To explore this potential, the CGIAR Research Program on Forestry, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), Tropenbos International (TBI) and the
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) set out to gather information from a range of experts, including financial service providers. So far, eight interviews and a summary note have been published. Recently, a webinar discussed the findings, focusing on barriers, solutions and unanswered questions.

Read also: Summary and discussion: Inclusive finance interviews

Big bucks for landscapes

The idea behind ‘inclusive finance’ is to leverage a growing appetite for new financial instruments for good. Fund managers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are piloting new models that help reorient investments toward inclusive and environmentally responsible land use practices.

A farmer displays cowpeas at the weekly market in Chiana, Ghana. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

While many different models exist, the recent webinar highlighted two in particular. Pauline Nantongo Kalunda, the executive director of ECOTRUST in Uganda, explained that her organization specializes in conservation finance. It works with poor smallholder farmers, who depend on natural resources for all their basic needs and who are far removed from markets and sources of financing.

“What my organization does is … identify the resources they live with and the new land use options they could adopt, and then we package these into bankable opportunities to be able to access multiple finance sources throughout the gestation period for sustainable land use,” Kalunda said.

After sustainable land use practices have been established, often with help from donor funding or impact investors, ECOTRUST quantifies the resulting ecosystem services and sells them. For example, if a new land management practice results in greater carbon sequestration, carbon credits can be sold on the global carbon market. The returns can be reinvested in sustainable land use, creating a positive feedback loop.

This approach resonated with the webinar’s second presenter, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar, an impact investment manager at Althelia Funds. His work includes searching for the kind of bankable prospects that ECOTRUST develops. Althelia Funds seek out investments that conserve protected areas and strengthen farmer cooperatives, and they gain their returns when they sell earned carbon credits on the carbon markets, while enabling the cooperatives to sell their produce on the cacao and coffee markets. Aybar said that while the shareholders backing these funds sit on “big bucks” and want to create an impact, they are looking for the right projects.

“An opportunity is a little bit more than an idea – it’s not enough to know that we should probably invest in the Amazon or the highlands of Peru. We pitch opportunities to investors as an investment product, we raise the funds and we deploy it,” he explained.

Barriers to success

Beyond a shortage of suitable investment opportunities, other barriers for taking inclusive finance to scale also exist. The webinar’s third presenter, Marco Boscolo, forestry officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), mentioned a lack of financial literacy and business management skills in local communities as a persistent challenge.

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

“I want to highlight the importance of strengthening the organization of these small producers and to develop human capacity, including financial literacy,” he said. He went on to say that it is very important to have the right mindset, likening smallholders to ‘sleeping giants’ who can achieve great things as long as they have access to the necessary resources.

FAO, whose mandate includes advising governments on how to manage new opportunities for poverty reduction, such as through inclusive finance, have developed guidelines on how different players can engage in inclusive value chains.

Another challenge is finding institutions that can attract and subsequently distribute funding. Local banks or cooperatives, for example, might either not be present or cannot be accessed by all members of a community.

Althelia Funds therefore relies on existing local institutions. “NGOs are great catalyzers. They have the habit of administrating external funding, and they have the social and technical capital to be the aggregator of the financing,” said Aybar.

Read also: Linking smallholders to existing wood value chains for sustainable supply

A risky reputation

“Things like forests – they are looked at like resources to bring in income, but not necessarily resources that need to be invested in,” said Kalunda, pointing to another stumbling block in Uganda and elsewhere: Investing in landscapes and smallholders is still perceived as risky.

“Local bankers may only know what they read in the newspaper, which is maybe about invasions and wildfires, so forestry is not really seen as a business with potential,” said Boscolo.

Farmers harvest rice paddies in Dintor village, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

According to Aybar, investors’ reluctance can be partly blamed on the recent financial crisis that led many to experience large losses. Yet achievements such as the Paris Climate Agreement and a growing portfolio of successful landscape investments are likely to increase investors’ appetites. “Few investors are ready to be the first ones to raise money, but now that we’ll have a track record, others will come,” Aybar said.

Finally, national governments have an important role to play. They can create an enabling environment by ensuring that rules and regulations are clear and enforced, and they can promote public finance instruments. Such efforts could also help mobilize more in-country financing of landscape investments.

Proof of concept

While the potential for inclusive finance investments for sustainable landscapes has been established, many questions remain unanswered. First of all, some of the basics are still being explored – how is inclusive finance defined, who can benefit and what models work well?

Boscolo reiterated the need to document and share case studies and business models that have proved successful. FAO is also working to establish forest finance information hubs to help governments learn more about these mechanisms.

A farmer sits near a collection of groundnuts near Chiana, Ghana. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

A second line of questioning is focused on impacts. Is there a risk that investors are only seeking a social license to operate, rather than large-scale transformative change? One webinar participant put it like this: There is a danger of facilitating cherry-picking of the very best, most profitable productive asset projects, yet never reaching scale as a consequence.

“In general, investing in landscapes and making this financing inclusive is already a huge challenge, so if there are situations that we can call cherry-picking, then let’s learn from them,” answered Boscolo. “We still need to demonstrate that it can be done.”

Aybar shared the sentiment that establishing proof of concept is an important first step: “We need to get out of our comfort zone, go to new frontiers and keep [taking] risk[s].”

By Marianne Gadeberg, communications specialist.


This event was organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and hosted by the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF). The event is part of a project involving FTA, Tropenbos International (TBI) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). 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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  • A five-part road map for how to succeed with agroforestry

A five-part road map for how to succeed with agroforestry

A Lubuk Beringin villager looks over fields in Dusun Buat village, Indonesia. Photo by T. Saputro/CIFOR
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“We are like 1,200 little ants,” said Tristan Lecomte, president of the PUR Project, of the global experts and scientists attending the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry last month. “We are all specialized in our own little fields – some of us on the leaves, some on the roots, some on the crops.”

Tea pickers in Mount Halimun Salak National Park in West Java, Indonesia collect tea leaves in a basket. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

Lecomte’s point, that agroforestry is a multi-dimensional concept not easily captured by a single catchphrase, was evident after 3 days, 38 sessions and 600 poster talks.

Still, several speakers made the case for simplicity: Agroforestry will only make its way to the top of global development agendas – fulfilling its rightful role as a solution to climate change, biodiversity loss, malnutrition and poverty – if we are able to deliver a clear message. “Actually it’s simple,” said Patrick Worms, president of the European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF). “Just do it.”

The question is how. Let’s take a closer look at five lessons on how to succeed with agroforestry, based on work presented by scientists contributing to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

Read also: Agroforestry: Development underdog headed for center stage in global sustainability efforts

  1. Put farmers first.

Agroforestry has the potential to reverse planetary degradation trends, but efforts necessarily start with the farmers themselves. “It brings multiple benefits at the level of the landscape and the planet – that we know – but how can farmers decide to opt for these systems?” asked Vincent Gitz, director of FTA.

A cabbage plantation on the slope of mount Gede Pangrango Sukabumi, West Java, Indonesia. Photo by R. Martin/CIFOR

One answer, coming from researchers working with World Agroforestry (ICRAF), is through close collaboration with farmers themselves. ICRAF scientists have established , which are training, experimentation and demonstration hubs, to co-design agroforestry solutions together with farmers.

“Some projects fail because they are promoting trees disconnected from farmers’ needs,” said Catherine Muthuri, scientist with ICRAF. “We are promoting trees that farmers have prioritized – they are planting trees that they know, and they understand why.” The rural resource centers are being expanded as a model for agricultural extension in a bid to increase food security in Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda and to boost climate resilience in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad.

  1. Remember, it’s not only a man’s world.

Agroforestry solutions need to be tailored to on-the-ground realities, of course, and accounting for . In Nicaragua, for example, . Their findings indicate that, in the nine communities studied, men tended to prefer agroforestry crops such as cocoa and coffee, which provide sources of income. Women, on the other hand, placed higher value on basic grain crops such as rice, perceiving them as better sources of food.

“We risk missing the mark completely if we don’t account for gender,” explained Laurène Feintrenie, scientist with the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD). “You can imagine projects ending up promoting only cash crops because they’re basing their recommendations only on men’s preferences, and then not contributing to food security or poverty alleviation at all.” Designing agroforestry interventions to ensure that everyone – men and women – both perceive and attain the benefits of these practices is essential to success.

  1. Go after the money.

“One big motivation for farmers is to be able to improve their household income,” said Clement Okia, scientist with ICRAF. “When you can demonstrate to farmers that this thing can increase their incomes, farmers get excited.”

A farmer holds a Gnetum (okok) plant in the village of Minwoho, Lekié, Center Region, Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

He presented research on how strengthening value chains can increase farmers’ interest in adopting agroforestry practices. The underlying rationale was often repeated during the congress: What good does it do to produce a high-quality agroforestry product if no one wants to buy it? Everyone needs to make a living.

Okia and his colleagues have worked with farmers to establish innovation platforms in Uganda and Zambia. The innovation platforms are networks that allow farmers to engage with value chains, markets and business opportunities. Already, results are promising. In Uganda, for example, 5,000 coffee farmers have identified production challenges, received training and established new practices. This has allowed them to export specialty coffee to the Australian market.

  1. Think landscape.

Agroforestry represents an opportunity to create synergies across sectors at the landscape scale. This is especially useful in places like Indonesia, where fierce competition over land prevails. At the same time, government agencies tend to plan for each sector in isolation, resulting in overlaps and inefficiencies. That’s why scientists from ICRAF and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) have created a policy platform for authorities, the private sector and farmer cooperatives to collaborate on integrating different land use options.

“On Sumbawa Island, the agricultural department has been encouraging corn crops, but this depends on contracting land from protected forests,” said Ani Adiwinata Nawir, scientist with CIFOR. “We offer alternative options, so that local communities can learn that there are other options besides corn that could bring them more benefits. Some fast-growing timber species, for example, can be intercropped with non-timber forest products.” Collaborating with the private sector ensures a market for products such as timber, honey or natural dyes.

What’s more, preserving forests and regenerating deforested land can help prevent disasters such as the destructive floods that swept across Sumbawa Island in 2017. District authorities have already adopted landscape-level thinking into their planning, and the approach is currently scaling to the provincial level.

  1. Plan for the long term.

Trees are around for a long time. Whether this is a challenge or a blessing depends on your perspective. “Trees are a bit more complicated when it comes to climate change,” said Roeland Kindt, scientist with ICRAF. “With crops, you can see how the climate is changing and then select the right varieties, but with trees – you plant them now, and they’ll still be there in 10 or 30 years.”

An Acai nursery in Acre, Brazil. Photo by K. Evans/CIFOR

Therefore, Kindt and his colleagues are using modeling to recommend tree species fit for a climate-change future. In 2017, they published an atlas to help coffee and cocoa farmers in Latin America determine what species will continue to be suitable as shade trees, considering climate change risks. Now, a similar atlas for Africa is under development, and will be used to inform large-scale restoration projects in Gambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and elsewhere.

“We focus on fruit trees, timber trees and those that improve soil fertility, which can generate income for the farmers,” Kindt explained. “In some areas, it is possible that coffee will no longer be a suitable crop in the future, and then, timber and fruit trees can make up a new agroforestry system.”

Once you take a step back from the anthill, you begin to see the ingenuity of it. Agroforestry may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, but it is an adaptable, applicable practice that fits the complexity of today’s development challenges. And, with these top five lessons in hand, farmers, development practitioners, donors and private sector actors may be better placed to achieve its potential.

By Marianne Gadeberg, communications specialist. 


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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  • Researchers to gather at World Congress on Agroforestry

Researchers to gather at World Congress on Agroforestry

A man works on a cocoa farm in Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The 4th World Congress on Agroforestry (Agroforestry 2019) aims to strengthen the links between science, society and public policies. Under the high patronage of Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, the Congress is to be held at the Le Corum conference center in Montpellier on 20–22 May 2019. The Congress is a part of a Week of Agroforestry running from 19–23 May.

Open to researchers, students, farmers, NGOs, and political and economic decisionmakers, the Congress is expecting some 1,500 participants from more than 100 countries. FTA is a platinum partner for the event. It is being held in Europe for the first time, by the Agricultural Research Centre for Development (CIRAD) and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), in partnership with World Agroforestry, Agropolis International and Montpellier University of Excellence. It will be preceded on 19 May by a day of events for the general public, organized by the Fondation de France and the French Association of Agroforestry.

“We wanted, through this general public day ahead of the congress, to make agroforestry better known to civil society”, explained Emmanuel Torquebiau, Agroforestry Project Manager at CIRAD and Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry.

Learn more: 4th World Congress on Agroforestry

Agroforestry, the future of agriculture?

The organizers aim to anchor the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry to the societal debate on agriculture. “It is time for technical solutions to be discussed within civil society and to become part of public policy”, commented Christian Dupraz, INRA Research Director and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Congress.

By combining science and dialogue with society, the Congress will be an opportunity to assess the contribution of agroforestry to the agro-ecological transition of agriculture at the global level.

A farmer displays their coffee beans in Brazil. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Agroforestry, which involves combining trees with crops and pastures, is now recognized to protect soils, address climate change issues and contribute to global food security. This practice could therefore be the future of agriculture. The fields of application are very diverse: hedges and alignment of trees or shrubs in and around plots, multilayer agriculture, timber or fruit production in cropland, fodder trees, trees for honey, shade trees for perennial crops (coffee, cocoa, grapevines) or livestock, multilayer agroforests and agroforestry gardens.

An International Union of Agroforestry will be created at the Congress, to federate agroforestry innovations on a global scale. On Thursday, 23 May, participants will be able to visit the main European experimental agroforestry site at Domaine de Restinclières in Prades-le-Lez (11 km north of Montpellier) where cereals (durum wheat and barley rotated with protein peas) are grown with many tree species, particularly walnut trees. In more stony soils, vines are grown with pines and cormiers. This 50-ha experimental farm, which belongs to Hérault County Council, is scientifically managed by INRA Occitanie-Montpellier.

Originally published by CIRAD.

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

Migration and Forests: People in Motion – Landscapes in Transition

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  • Getting landscapes on a fast track to sustainability

Getting landscapes on a fast track to sustainability

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GLF Charter members pose onstage during the closing remarks of GLF Bonn 2018. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

The Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, assembled 1,000 participants on-site on 1-2 December, and thousands more online, to go beyond pledges and commitments and spur collective action on securing a more sustainable future for life on this planet.

One of the main messages emerging from the event was that the time to change is now.

“The world needs decisive action,” said director general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Robert Nasi, in his closing remarks. “Research is important, but we now know enough to understand that there is a problem and that we need to solve it – enough to know what we have to do.”

Jochen Flasbarth, who is state secretary of the German Ministry for the Environment, shared Nasi’s sense of urgency: “Without a sustainable land use sector, let’s forget about meeting any of the global climate, biodiversity and sustainable development targets.”

Participants reiterated that business-as-usual will not get landscapes on the track of sustainability, or do it broadly and quickly enough to meet critical biodiversity, climate and development goals. What, then, will get us where we need to go? To answer this question, delegates from governments, academia, NGOs, the private sector and civil society devoted the better part of the two-day forum to presenting specific principles and practical strategies.

“To affect systemic change, we need action from the bottom-up, but also from the top down, so we can get rid of the many that perverse policies that are not in line with the Sustainable Development Goals,” pointed out Louise Luttikholt, director of IFOAM, which is one of 21 GLF Charter members that signed a commitment to the GLF mission at the event. Good governance, targeted policies, and adequate institutional and legal frameworks are essential, noted participants, but the public sector cannot power the sustainable landscape revolution alone.

For assistant secretary-general of UN Environment Satya S. Tripathi, there is no way around the fact that private finance and the private sector are going to play a key role in creating sustainable landscapes. “This is why we need to step out of our comfort zone and find ways to collaborate with private actors, even with those who are misbehaving, so we can get them on the right track,” he said.

The role of private finance was highlighted in an all-women finance plenary as well. We must accept that public investment has a role, said Jane Feehan from the European Investment Bank, but that the bulk of ‘green’ funding must come from private institutions and businesses.

Watch: Satya S. Tripathi at the Closing Plenary 2018

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODELS

Tapping into the potential of sustainable business models and changing consumer behavior are some of the key approaches championed by researchers, governments and international organizations alike. Several initiatives are now emerging to push responsible production and consumption forward, greening both supply chains and mindsets. 

“For example, what makes a jurisdiction an attractive destination for companies that want to source sustainable commodities?” queried Gita Syahrani, head of the Sustainable Districts Association secretariat in Indonesia. “We are working to define these enabling conditions so our districts can green their supply chains for commodities such as rubber and palm oil,” she said. As part of this effort, they are collaborating with the Dutch sustainable trade initiative IDH in the creation of the Verified Sourcing Mechanism (VSM).

IDH’s groundbreaking mechanism, which will launch for consultation in July 2019, aims to verify the sustainability of an entire production area – such as a state or a district — so auditing each producer or commodity individually is no longer necessary. “Verified sourcing areas can drive progress because they provide a business model for sustainability that everybody can join,” said Willem Klaassens, IDH senior commodity trade specialist.

The same principle should underpin the restoration of forest landscapes, according to delegates from organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), CIFOR and the International Tropical Timber Association (ITTO). “Integrating forest landscape restoration with sustainable wood value chains can lead to greater overall benefits, including increased ecosystem services, forest products and employment opportunities,” said assistant director-general of FAO’s Forestry Department Hiroto Mitsugi.

Watch: Robert Nasi at the Closing Plenary GLF Bonn 2018

MAKING NATURAL CAPITAL COUNT

Nasi from CIFOR noted that the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of investing – financially, and through other action – in landscape sustainability. “The world is losing an estimated USD 6.3 trillion to land degradation every year; yet, meeting the goal of restoring 300 million hectares of land by 2030 could have a return of USD 7 to 20 for each dollar invested.”

In a recent study, the World Bank tracked the wealth of countries taking into account built, human and natural capital. What they found is that natural capital accounts for an average of 9 percent of wealth globally, but up to 47 percent in low-income countries.

“This means that more efficient management of land resources is key to the sustainable development of countries,” said Karin Kemper, senior director for the Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice at the World Bank. To understand how countries become wealthier in a sustainable way, we need to go beyond their gross domestic product and take into account their natural capital.”

Better integrating landscape interventions into national economic development plans can make strides in changing consumers’ behavior; increasing the transparency of supply chains; and equipping producers to develop projects that are investment-ready and financially attractive.

Then there is the cross-cutting issue of rights, and “particularly, those of local communities and indigenous people, whose territories host 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity,” said co-convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development Joan Carling.

In the face of a growing global population and climate change, implementing these and other strategies cannot wait, believes Stefan Schmitz, deputy director-general and commissioner for the One World – No Hunger initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).”We need to empower people to achieve sustainable food systems, bearing in mind they live in spaces, not in sectors. We need to shift from thinking in sectors to thinking in landscapes.”

FROM INDIVIDUAL TO SYSTEMIC CHANGE

The GLF convened large organizations, but also shone light on individuals, young and old, who have braved disbelief and put their lives on the line to reclaim healthy landscapes around the world. Right Livelihood Award laureates Yacouba Sawadogo and Tony Rinaudo are two of them.

Sawadogo, known as ‘the man who stopped the desert,’ has devoted his life to restoring land fertility in his native Burkina Faso, inspiring many other farmers in this and other countries to do the same. “I gave up everything, all my time and belongings, to dedicate myself to the land. At 72, I only own a donkey and a cart. My one wealth is the forest I planted,” he said in the opening plenary.

Rinaudo, who is natural resources management specialist at World Vision, has been championing a restoration technique known as farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR). After working for decades with countries such as Niger, he came to a realization: “The first step to re-greening landscapes is re-greening mindscapes.”

The path may be long, but the thousands of organizations and individuals who participated in the GLF are already on their way.

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at GLF’s Landscape News.

For more on GLF Bonn 2018, read Landscape News’ highlights from Day 1 and Day 2.

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  • FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

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

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Clouds pass over Ribangkadeng village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and its partner institutions are set to make a strong showing at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn on Dec. 1-2, 2018.

This year’s GLF Bonn will be key in drawing out the next steps toward hitting global sustainability targets, with many participants expected at the World Conference Center in Germany, in addition to a worldwide audience online.

Of numerous discussion forums, FTA is hosting a session on the delivery of quality and diverse planting material as a major constraint for restoration, organized by Bioversity International in collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

FTA Director Vincent Gitz will provide the opening to the session, ahead of a range of speakers including FTA Flagship 1 leader Ramni Jamnadass, as well as FTA’s Christopher Kettle, Marius Ekeu and Lars Graudal, and representatives of numerous key organizations. Additional details are available in the session flyer.

The program is also cohosting a session from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) titled REDD+ at 10: What we’ve learned and where we go next. Looking back at 10 years of REDD+ research, the session will ask how REDD+ has evolved, and where it stands now.

FTA Flagship 5 leader Christopher Martius, who is also team leader of climate change, energy and low-carbon development at CIFOR, will moderate the session, in which CIFOR’s Anne Larson and Arild Angelsen will speak. The GLF will also see the launch of a related book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions, in the Landscapes Action Pavilion Networking Area.

Another discussion forum of note is Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future, organized by CIFOR, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and FTA, which will bring together a diverse set of panelists experienced in implementing integrated landscape approaches in various contexts.

A major feature of GLF is its schedule of side events, including Territorial development – managing landscapes for the rural future cohosted by Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), and Bamboo for restoration and economic development organized by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

The program will have a presence at the event’s pavilions, including the Inclusive Finance and Business Engagement Pavilion where a highlight session titled Making responsible investments work: Bridging the gap between global investors and local end users is set to take place, looking at success factors for inclusive and responsible businesses, which are at the core of both climate finance and responsible investments, as well as financial mechanisms that can adequately address the needs of such businesses.

Visit the Tropenbos International (TBI) and CIFOR booths to find FTA resources and to speak with FTA experts.


For the full details of FTA’s involvement in GLF, please check the event webpage.

Tune into the GLF livestream on Dec. 1-2, from 9am-7.30pm in Bonn, Germany.

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  • Optimizing carbon stocks of cocoa landscapes can help conserve Africa’s forests

Optimizing carbon stocks of cocoa landscapes can help conserve Africa’s forests

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A woman holds a cacao bean, which can be processed into butter and cream. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

Cocoa is the primary source of income in southern Cameroon, where it represents 48% of total agricultural land use. In this and other tropical regions, the way cocoa agroforests are managed matters immensely to livelihoods, and also to the climate.

Cocoa agroforests vary widely in terms of tree composition and structure, but, until recently, few studies had been conducted to understand how these differences impact carbon stocks.

Meanwhile, irresponsible land management practices were not only seeing cocoa plantations fail to contribute to countries’ emissions reductions goals, but also cause massive forest degradation in countries such as the Côte D’Ivoire and Ghana, which are alone responsible for two-thirds of the world’s cocoa production.

This ‘cocoa belt’ had been becoming increasingly prone to deforestation and drought, and cocoa landscapes in other high-producing countries in Asia and Latin America had been following suit.

But when chocolate companies began making deforestation-related commitments at the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris, the tide began to change on the industry’s standards and practices. It also then became imperative for scientists to generate knowledge to help the expected changes transform cocoa forest landscapes in the most beneficial ways.

In response, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) institution the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and other partner organizations profiled the carbon stocks of cocoa agroforests in three southern Cameroonian ecological areas (Yaoundé, Mbalmayo and Ebolowa) and identified what types of plants and management systems boost carbon storage best.

“This knowledge is important to implement nationally determined contributions [NDCs] to the global climate agenda and its measures to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation [REDD+] by promoting sustainable cocoa value chains,” says lead author and CIFOR senior scientist Denis Sonwa.

Since COP21, the world’s largest chocolate companies – Mars, Nestle and Ferrero to name a few – have come together in a variety of agreements, from an agreement signed by the Prince of Wales to a sectorial “Frameworks for Action” at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The goal is to see the industry achieve net-zero deforestation and improve local livelihoods, and this research is a crucial step along the way.

Read also: Baseline for assessing the impact of fairtrade certification on cocoa farmers and cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire

COCOA’S COMRADES

The researchers aimed to answer a string of questions including how carbon stocks of cocoa agroforests varied across ecological zones and management methods, and how carbon storage compared between different types of plants associated with cocoa – and the stocks of some key species, in particular.

“What we found is that agroforests with a high density of high-economic value industrial timber and non-timber forest products stored two to three times the amount captured by other management systems,” explains Sonwa.

A dish of cacao beans awaits processing in Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

Plantations with a high density of banana plants and oil palm trees came next, and those with cocoa tree densities of 70% or higher came in last. Specifically, the above-ground parts of plants in these varied types of cocoa agroforests stored 147 Mg of carbon per hectare, 49 Mg and 39 Mg, respectively.

Researchers also found that above-ground parts of the other plants accounted for 70% of the carbon storage, while cocoa trees accounted for only 5%.

Across all three ecological zones, high-value timber accounts for 29.7% of the total carbon stored above ground, at 49.9 Mg per hectare; edible species for 15%; and medicinal plants for 6%.

Read also: Unpacking ‘sustainable’ cocoa: do sustainability standards, development projects and policies address producer concerns in Indonesia, Cameroon and Peru?

RICH PICKINGS

Another conclusion of the study is that “the top ten species generally stored more than 50% of carbon held by associated plants,” with Terminalia superba – a tall deciduous tree native to the African tropics – among the species with a higher storage (14 Mg per hectare).

These results “suggest that associated plants not only contribute to shade, but also increase the capacity of farms to store carbon,” notes the study. And the benefits of such plants go well beyond that. Indeed, the higher ecocapacity of cocoa agroforests lead to increases in plant litter fall, soil litter and rainfall, thus upgrading both the agronomic and environmental potential of the landscape. Meanwhile, a plantation solely growing cocoa does threaten overall agro-ecological sustainability.

Sonwa points out that non-cocoa plants provide a structure similar to that of forests, and that their products and services appear as cobenefits of cocoa agroforestry in addition to carbon storage. Timber, non-wood forest products such as fruit, and medicinal plants may all contribute to local livelihoods and to biodiversity conservation.

“Simultaneously obtaining several products and services from the same plantation increases the resilience of farmers,” he says. “That is particularly important as the pressure on natural resources increases.”

Read also: Greater inclusion of women is needed to optimally intensify cocoa value chains, researchers find

BEYOND THE BEANS

In the last few decades, the main goal of cocoa agroforests was to produce cocoa beans, but demographic growth, climate change and loss of forests are changing this approach.

For the researchers, the multiple functions of cocoa agroforests should be at the center of efforts to fight global warming and achieve better outcomes for people and the planet. “This is why our findings are useful to scientists, and also to decision-makers, farmers and the private sector,” says Sonwa.

The findings of the paper can, for example, be useful to certification schemes that want to improve the environmental footprint of the cocoa sector. They also offer key insights to cocoa agroforest managers, particularly given the current context where zero deforestation targets are at the center of many company agendas.

In Sub-Saharan Africa where most of the world’s cocoa originates, the paper is certainly useful in structuring efforts to free the cocoa value chain from deforestation. But going beyond that, in central Africa and the Congo Basin, it sheds light by offering productive agroforestry options that conserve remaining natural forests while providing livelihoods.

“We have examined cocoa agroforests from an ecological perspective, so the next step would be to look at economic and production aspects,” says Sonwa. “For example, does storing more carbon in associated plants affect cocoa production — and how?”

The findings make clear that sustainable cocoa agroforest management in Sub-Saharan African forest landscapes can reconcile cocoa bean production with climate change responses, and big global initiatives, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But, it also makes clear how much there is left to learn about chocolate.

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Denis Sonwa 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 International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).

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  • Optimizing carbon stocks of cocoa landscapes can help conserve Africa’s forests

Optimizing carbon stocks of cocoa landscapes can help conserve Africa’s forests

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman holds a cacao bean, which can be processed into butter and cream. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

Cocoa is the primary source of income in southern Cameroon, where it represents 48% of total agricultural land use. In this and other tropical regions, the way cocoa agroforests are managed matters immensely to livelihoods, and also to the climate.

Cocoa agroforests vary widely in terms of tree composition and structure, but, until recently, few studies had been conducted to understand how these differences impact carbon stocks.

Meanwhile, irresponsible land management practices were not only seeing cocoa plantations fail to contribute to countries’ emissions reductions goals, but also cause massive forest degradation in countries such as the Côte D’Ivoire and Ghana, which are alone responsible for two-thirds of the world’s cocoa production.

This ‘cocoa belt’ had been becoming increasingly prone to deforestation and drought, and cocoa landscapes in other high-producing countries in Asia and Latin America had been following suit.

But when chocolate companies began making deforestation-related commitments at the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris, the tide began to change on the industry’s standards and practices. It also then became imperative for scientists to generate knowledge to help the expected changes transform cocoa forest landscapes in the most beneficial ways.

In response, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) institution the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and other partner organizations profiled the carbon stocks of cocoa agroforests in three southern Cameroonian ecological areas (Yaoundé, Mbalmayo and Ebolowa) and identified what types of plants and management systems boost carbon storage best.

“This knowledge is important to implement nationally determined contributions [NDCs] to the global climate agenda and its measures to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation [REDD+] by promoting sustainable cocoa value chains,” says lead author and CIFOR senior scientist Denis Sonwa.

Since COP21, the world’s largest chocolate companies – Mars, Nestle and Ferrero to name a few – have come together in a variety of agreements, from an agreement signed by the Prince of Wales to a sectorial “Frameworks for Action” at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The goal is to see the industry achieve net-zero deforestation and improve local livelihoods, and this research is a crucial step along the way.

Read also: Baseline for assessing the impact of fairtrade certification on cocoa farmers and cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire

COCOA’S COMRADES

The researchers aimed to answer a string of questions including how carbon stocks of cocoa agroforests varied across ecological zones and management methods, and how carbon storage compared between different types of plants associated with cocoa – and the stocks of some key species, in particular.

“What we found is that agroforests with a high density of high-economic value industrial timber and non-timber forest products stored two to three times the amount captured by other management systems,” explains Sonwa.

A dish of cacao beans awaits processing in Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

Plantations with a high density of banana plants and oil palm trees came next, and those with cocoa tree densities of 70% or higher came in last. Specifically, the above-ground parts of plants in these varied types of cocoa agroforests stored 147 Mg of carbon per hectare, 49 Mg and 39 Mg, respectively.

Researchers also found that above-ground parts of the other plants accounted for 70% of the carbon storage, while cocoa trees accounted for only 5%.

Across all three ecological zones, high-value timber accounts for 29.7% of the total carbon stored above ground, at 49.9 Mg per hectare; edible species for 15%; and medicinal plants for 6%.

Read also: Unpacking ‘sustainable’ cocoa: do sustainability standards, development projects and policies address producer concerns in Indonesia, Cameroon and Peru?

RICH PICKINGS

Another conclusion of the study is that “the top ten species generally stored more than 50% of carbon held by associated plants,” with Terminalia superba – a tall deciduous tree native to the African tropics – among the species with a higher storage (14 Mg per hectare).

These results “suggest that associated plants not only contribute to shade, but also increase the capacity of farms to store carbon,” notes the study. And the benefits of such plants go well beyond that. Indeed, the higher ecocapacity of cocoa agroforests lead to increases in plant litter fall, soil litter and rainfall, thus upgrading both the agronomic and environmental potential of the landscape. Meanwhile, a plantation solely growing cocoa does threaten overall agro-ecological sustainability.

Sonwa points out that non-cocoa plants provide a structure similar to that of forests, and that their products and services appear as cobenefits of cocoa agroforestry in addition to carbon storage. Timber, non-wood forest products such as fruit, and medicinal plants may all contribute to local livelihoods and to biodiversity conservation.

“Simultaneously obtaining several products and services from the same plantation increases the resilience of farmers,” he says. “That is particularly important as the pressure on natural resources increases.”

Read also: Greater inclusion of women is needed to optimally intensify cocoa value chains, researchers find

BEYOND THE BEANS

In the last few decades, the main goal of cocoa agroforests was to produce cocoa beans, but demographic growth, climate change and loss of forests are changing this approach.

For the researchers, the multiple functions of cocoa agroforests should be at the center of efforts to fight global warming and achieve better outcomes for people and the planet. “This is why our findings are useful to scientists, and also to decision-makers, farmers and the private sector,” says Sonwa.

The findings of the paper can, for example, be useful to certification schemes that want to improve the environmental footprint of the cocoa sector. They also offer key insights to cocoa agroforest managers, particularly given the current context where zero deforestation targets are at the center of many company agendas.

In Sub-Saharan Africa where most of the world’s cocoa originates, the paper is certainly useful in structuring efforts to free the cocoa value chain from deforestation. But going beyond that, in central Africa and the Congo Basin, it sheds light by offering productive agroforestry options that conserve remaining natural forests while providing livelihoods.

“We have examined cocoa agroforests from an ecological perspective, so the next step would be to look at economic and production aspects,” says Sonwa. “For example, does storing more carbon in associated plants affect cocoa production — and how?”

The findings make clear that sustainable cocoa agroforest management in Sub-Saharan African forest landscapes can reconcile cocoa bean production with climate change responses, and big global initiatives, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But, it also makes clear how much there is left to learn about chocolate.

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Denis Sonwa 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 International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).

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  • Making landscape finance more inclusive

Making landscape finance more inclusive

A dwelling sits in the middle of an oil palm plantations in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A dwelling sits in the middle of an oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

A new initiative aims to share issues and best practice for increasing inclusive, responsible finance that promotes sustainable landscape restoration and management. 

To this end, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), along with two of its strategic partner institutions, Tropenbos International (TBI) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), are launching a new article series and online platform on inclusive finance.

Forests and farmland, land use and landscapes are the basis of much of the global economy. And they are even more important to those who live in them and live off them. But ever-increasing levels of external investment are making huge impacts — positive and negative.

So to shift the balance in favor of beneficial outcomes, global attention is now focusing on sustainable business models that include more responsible finance, and that is inclusive of men, women and youth in local communities and indigenous peoples.

This complex topic needs to be addressed urgently, and strategically. Different actors and sectors hold pieces of the puzzle, but many are not automatically connected to each other or to wider networks. The overriding question is “How can investing in sustainable land use and land management be made more inclusive of smallholder and community needs while remaining attractive to investors?”

Whether public or private – governments, corporates, banks, smallholders, communities, NGOs – all see the need for common understanding and collaboration, and there are many valuable and innovative experiences and insights that others would do well to learn from.

But broad debate appears constrained by a lack of mutually respected platforms for presenting and discussing key issues leading to shared strategies and sustainable solutions at the scales needed, available to all.

The past few years have seen a number of high-level discussion forums, and the relevant players are learning from international to grassroots levels. A new online initiative on foreststreesagroforestry.org and tropenbos.org will contribute to sharing innovative thinking and joint learning, facilitating and strengthening networks and bridge-building between actors beyond the usual sectoral boundaries.

Beginning in June 2018, it will comprise a six-month series of interviews with thought-leaders in different sectors. Along with parallel reviews and studies, these interviews will guide the development of a global online consultation on inclusive landscape finance in early 2019.

Key individuals will be invited to contribute to the article series, but the platform is also open to receiving contributions from those involved in inclusive finance, in one of the four main sectors: public, finance, corporate and community. For more information, download the flyer for this initiative.

Read more: 

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  • The concept and development of the 'landscape approach'

The concept and development of the ‘landscape approach’

An agroforestry parcel in a restored area, part of the Cultivando Água Boa restoration program in Brazil. Photo by Y. Guterrez/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Pressure to manage the world’s resources responsibly for people, biodiversity and the climate has perhaps never been so intense. In this context, the landscape approach, which has grown in popularity in land management circles in recent years, may hold critical importance.

So what is it all about? According to a definitive research paper, the approach seeks to provide “tools and concepts for allocating and managing land to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, mining, and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals.”

Watch: Developing and applying an approach for the sustainable management of landscapes 

It asks us to take a step back and look at land management holistically, through the lenses of a range of disciplines, and with an eye to the bigger picture and the longer term. “Landscapes can’t be managed as a project,” explains Terry Sunderland, Senior Associate at the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR) and professor at the University of British Columbia. “They can only be really managed as a process.”

CIFOR scientist James Reed emphasizes the importance of multiple scales when analyzing landscapes from this perspective: “Whatever the unit of analysis is, we’re trying to consider what’s happening at the scale below and the scale above as well. So that includes global commitments, and how they filter down to national and landscape-level implementation.”

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

Is this approach new? Yes and no, says Sunderland. Certainly, it represents a marked shift from project-based approaches and rigid disciplinary boundaries that have pervaded the sector in the past. But in other corners of the world, the guiding principles may well be anything but novel.

“Currently there are two billion people living and working in very complex landscape mosaics,” says Sunderland. “Most of these people are farmers. Seventy percent of the world’s food is generated from such landscapes.”

So while some might see the landscape approach as just another Western paradigm being imposed on the world’s farmers, the reality might be the reverse.

“People who live and work in these complex landscapes already live and work in a holistic manner,” says Sunderland. “They understand the complexities of the different land uses within their landscapes. And I think that’s what needs to be harnessed, the bottom-up approach.”

Policy frameworks are important, he acknowledges, so that ground-level holistic management can be integrated with activities at higher scales. “But I think the real impetus is going to be coming from those two billion people living and working in these complex landscapes,” he says. “So we have to focus on how we can harness that energy and that perspective.”

Reed highlights the importance of participatory, collaborative processes to bring about these ends: bringing stakeholders together to discuss their needs and aspirations for particular landscapes, and trying to build consensus about their management.

“The idea is that through regular dialogue processes we can develop more solutions that enable people who are losing to benefit more,” he says, “and create more winners within each landscape.”

An agroforestry parcel in a restored area, part of the Cultivando Água Boa restoration program in Brazil. Photo by Y. Guterrez/CIFOR

FUNDING FOR THE FUTURE

The approach aligns well with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which favor broad, integrated processes. But recent studies have shown that there’s a significant gap between the funding that’s available and that which is required to actually make these global commitments a reality – to the tune of up to seven trillion dollars.

“It’s going to require transformational changes in policy and in finance investment strategies,” says Reed. “Currently we’re way below this level of investment for producing sustainable landscapes.”

As Sunderland adds, most funding is on short-term cycles, which don’t fit well with the longer-term commitments required from a landscape approach. “So if we want to move from project to process, we have to find mechanisms in order to fund that.”

Watch: Generating science and solutions

MOVING RIGHT ALONG

Still, Sunderland is pleased about the progress of the landscape approach agenda thus far, and optimistic about its potential for the future. “It’s already starting to happen,” he says. Silos are breaking down, and overarching commitments like the SDGs take holistic approaches, acknowledging interconnection.

He cites the example of the EAT Foundation conference in Indonesia last year, which focussed on the pressing issue of feeding the world’s people a healthy and nutritious diet, while staying within safe ecological limits. “And five ministries from Indonesia were represented!” he exclaims. “All talking to each other about how to transform the food system in the Asia-Pacific region. Now that’s progress! That wouldn’t have happened two or three years ago.”

“We often hear talks about a paradigm shift, and the need for transformational change,” says Reed. “But we can’t expect it to happen overnight. Progress is happening, and it’s going to take time, but we’re moving in the right direction.

By Monica Evans, originally published by CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or James Reed 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 US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department for International Development (DFID).


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