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  • Momentum builds to expand scale of land restoration for regreening of northern Ghana

Momentum builds to expand scale of land restoration for regreening of northern Ghana

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Parkland in Ghana. Photo by ICRAF

Participants in a recent workshop have called for more trees to restore landscapes and improve livelihoods in northern Ghana.

“There is an urgent need in northern Ghana for metro, municipal and district assemblies, NGOs and civil society organizations to act immediately to address issues such as land tenure, bush fires, indiscriminate tree cutting, and a lack of financial resources, so that we increase tree cover and improve land health and livelihoods. This is our call to action.”

So reads the powerful declaration from a workshop in Bolgatanga, capital of Ghana’s Upper East Region. The unanimity of the participants in issuing their urgent call for action to expand the scale of land restoration for the regreening of northern Ghana and beyond was surprising, and very encouraging, given the diversity of their occupations and backgrounds.

The nearly 40 people who gathered to explore practices and policies that could encourage more trees in landscapes so as to reverse land degradation and improve livelihoods and food security, included leading farmers and extension officers from three districts — Kassena-Nankana West, Bawku West and Garu-Tempane — as well as representatives of Catholic Relief Services, Tree Aid and World Vision, and researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

The participants identified the many benefits of increasing trees and forests in landscapes, such as the conservation of soil and water and the important economic, medicinal and nutritional value of indigenous species.

They also examined the complex constraints — cultural, climatic, legal, gender — that confront everyone working to improve the management of agricultural, pastoral and forest land in the region, including tree-planting activities that do not take into account the importance of species, context, management and timing.

Along with the call to action, the workshop produced a series of recommendations for policies and actions to improve tree cover, forests and land health in the three districts, including new laws to prevent indiscriminate tree-cutting, analyses and mapping of soils in the communities, and more emphasis on agroforestry systems with indigenous trees and crops.

The workshop was convened by two projects: West Africa Forest–Farm Interface (WAFFI), funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), led by CIFOR and implemented by ICRAF in Ghana and Burkina Faso; and the five-year- Regreening Africa, funded by the European Union, in which ICRAF is a leading partner.

Shea nuts. Photo by ICRAF

With such a diverse group of people, discussions naturally ranged widely, covering many of the issues that afflicted the region.
For example, Thomas Addaoh, CIFOR field coordinator of WAFFI Ghana, noted that the demand for charcoal in urban centres in northern Ghana is resulting in the widespread harvesting of shea trees (Vitellaria paradoxa) for their wood as a source of the fuel. Research undertaken for WAFFI found that more than a quarter of the charcoal in the region was derived from shea, making it the most common source of wood for the widely-used fuel.

Shea is also a vital source of income for women, who sell the shea nuts, which produce a quality oil with a growing global market because of its use in cosmetics and as a cocoa butter substitute in food, or process them into shea butter for local use. The cutting of shea trees for charcoal production, Addaoh said, meant female harvesters and sellers of the shea nuts were competing with male harvesters and vendors of the wood, something that requires urgent attention to ensure sustainable management of the fuel-and-oil resource and equitably meet the income needs of households.

More generally, Edward Akunyagra of World Vision, the project manager of Regreening Africa in Ghana, said that the project is working to reverse the loss of trees, aiming to influence policy and mindsets through an advocacy campaign.

According to the Upper East regional director of Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Francis Ennor, who attended the workshop along with three district directors from the ministry, land degradation and loss of tree cover in the region are ‘extremely serious’. Rampant bush fires destroy groundcover and trees, and expose the soil to the weather, such as heavy rain and wind, which leads to erosion and loss of fertility.

However, Ennor said the workshop was addressing his concerns and he hoped that from now on local authorities would take tree management and planting very seriously and that every community would have a land-use plan to increase tree cover.
Such land-use plans, Ennor said, could designate degraded areas for restoration through farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR). This could create community forests, such as the one supported by World Vision Australia that the workshop participants had visited the previous day in Saaka Aneogo.

Ennor argued that there is a need for policies to protect such community forests and make their management sustainable and less vulnerable because of insecure land tenure. This is a prerequisite for increasing the scale of FMNR and encouraging planting to increase tree cover in croplands and across whole landscapes.

Indeed, the purpose of the workshop, according to ICRAF’s Emilie Smith Dumont, was to bring together a range of people working for transformation of the Upper East Region to examine ways to ‘create synergies for resilient livelihoods’. Smith Dumont coordinates the WAFFI project in northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso and also acts as a focal point for Regreening Africa in Ghana.

“We have many projects in the northern belt,” Smith Dumont said. “Some are working in silos, so today we are trying to bring all those people together to share lessons and promote action.”

By Joan Baxter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


For more information, please contact Emilie Smith Dumont at [email protected]

The West Africa Forest-Farm Interface (WAFFI) is led by CIFOR in collaboration with ICRAF and Tree Aid with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development. WAFFI aims to identify practices and policy actions that improve the income and food security of smallholders in Burkina Faso and Ghana through integrated forest and tree management systems that are environmentally sound and socially equitable.

Regreening Africa is a five-year project that seeks to reverse land degradation among 500,000 households across 1 million hectares in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Incorporating trees into crop land, communal land and pastoral areas can reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes. In Ghana, the work is led by World Vision in collaboration with ICRAF and Catholic Relief Services.

WAFFI is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. 

This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Regreening Africa project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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  • Use and perceived importance of forest ecosystem services in rural livelihoods of Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

Use and perceived importance of forest ecosystem services in rural livelihoods of Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

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This study examines the relative benefits (provisioning) and importance (regulating and cultural) of forest ecosystem services to households in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region of Bangladesh. Our results from 300 household interviews in three rural locations stratified by wealth shows that wealth levels of the respondents play a key role in explaining variations in the perceptions and use of forest ecosystem services. Considering the direct benefits, the importance of provisioning ecosystem services (i.e. fuel wood, food, timber, bamboo, thatch grass and fodder) varies according to their relative use (i.e. subsistence and cash income) among households of different wealth groups. No significant difference was found in perceptions of indirect benefits of forest ecosystem services of water purification, regulating air quality, crop pollination, soil fertility, aesthetic and spiritual services. But the higher wealth groups perceived soil protection, soil fertility, pest and disease control as important for crop production as they have large landholdings for agricultural uses and tree cover. This study suggests local wealth conditions of the rural households characterise the demand of the use and perceived importance of forest ecosystem services. Differences in levels of wealth and ecosystem service provision imply careful consideration of social and economic factors in decision-making and making appropriate interventions for forest and tree management. The ecosystem services approach appears to be useful in capturing the broader diversity of benefits of forests and trees (i.e. material and non-material) as well as in supporting their integrated management at the landscape scale.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2018.11.009

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  • Guidelines for equitable and sustainable non-timber forest product management

Guidelines for equitable and sustainable non-timber forest product management

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How can we improve local livelihoods while maintaining forest biodiversity and strengthening sustainable forest management in a socially inclusive and just manner? These guidelines present practical strategies and field examples for the inclusive and sustainable extraction, sale and management of forest products, particularly NTFPs. They build upon the framework of the Community Biodiversity Management approach in which three outcomes are sought; (1) community empowerment and social equity, (2) biodiversity conservation and (3) livelihood development (Sthapit et al. 2016). The guidelines draw upon data from the project: ‘Innovations in Ecosystem Management and Conservation’ carried out between 2014 and 2017 in districts of two Indian states: Mandla District in Madhya Pradesh and Uttara Kannada District in Karnataka.

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  • Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

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A man drives a horse and cart through an oil palm plantation in Brazil. Photo by Miguel Pinheiro/CIFOR

Millions of people around the world live in or near tropical forests and rely on them for their livelihoods. Thus conservation and reforestation work needs to take into account existing land uses and seek solutions that serve local communities as well as bigger-picture goals. 

Conserving and restoring these forests could represent over a quarter of the near-term solution to addressing climate change.

An increasingly popular option for managing landscapes that takes social, economic, political and ecological considerations into account – which many researchers and policymakers are now turning their attention toward – is a jurisdictional approach (JA), in which a landscape is defined by policy-relevant boundaries, and a high level of governmental involvement is at the core.

According to the authors of a new study that assesses the effectiveness of JAs in a number of locations around the world, the approach “holds tremendous potential for advancing holistic, durable solutions to the intertwined issues of tropical deforestation, rural livelihoods and food security.” There are a number of jurisdictional “experiments” underway at present, so the authors hold that “the time is ripe” for a systematic assessment to begin drawing on early lessons from these experiments in locations across the tropics.

Read more: The State of Jurisdictional Sustainability: Synthesis for practitioners and policymakers

The fruit of a collaboration between the Earth Innovation Institute (EII), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF-TF), the report comes on the 10th anniversary of the GCF-TF – a historical moment for acknowledging the progress that subnational governments have made as climate action leaders – and is being launched at the GCF-TF Annual Meeting on September 10 and 11 in San Francisco. The meeting precedes the Global Climate Action Summit, which aims to push for deeper worldwide commitments and accelerated action toward realizing the goals of the Paris Agreement and preventing dangerous climate change.

The report is the first comprehensive assessment of jurisdictional sustainability, and draws from evidence in 39 states and provinces in 12 countries where commitments to low-emissions development are in place, says lead author Claudia Stickler, who is a scientist at EII. She says that the majority of the jurisdictions in the study have made at least one pledge or commitment to reduce deforestation, and more than half of those have at least one policy, program or other action in place to achieve that commitment.

Amy Duchelle, a scientist at CIFOR who co-authored the study, hopes that the information will be used widely by subnational governments and the range of actors supporting these efforts toward JA.

Read also: Deep down in supply chains, zero deforestation commitments look different to what appears on paper

A farmer works with seedlings. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

DECOUPLING GROWTH AND DEFORESTATION

The researchers evaluated the sites’ progress toward low-emission, sustainable development, taking into account their goals and commitments, monitoring and reporting systems and multi-stakeholder governance platforms, as well as innovative policies and initiatives that are key to jurisdictional sustainability. They also assessed deforestation and emission rates and trends in depth, and explored barriers to – and opportunities for – building sustainability.

On many levels, the results were heartening: the researchers found “considerable progress” in all of the jurisdictions they studied. Around half of the jurisdictions had reduced deforestation below their Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL) over the last five years. In Brazil, states using the approach made particularly impressive progress: they were shown to have reduced deforestation by around 44% relative to their FREL. The researchers also found that on average, GDP was increasing in the sites much faster than deforestation rates: in almost all the jurisdictions, they concluded that “economic growth (signaled by GDP) appears to be decoupled from deforestation.”

Already, there has been positive feedback. According to Rafael Robles de Benítez, Climate Change Director of Quintana Roo, Mexico (a co-hosting city of the GCF-TF Annual Meeting), “This report is really useful because jurisdictions can share fundamental information about their progress with each other and partners. It also helps with planning and identifying gaps that require attention and management.”

Read also: CIFOR now hosts comprehensive REDD+ tool ID-RECCO

REWARDS REQUIRED

To realize the full potential of JAs, the political leaders putting the processes into practice need more support, the co-authors conclude. “Even the front-runners among jurisdictions [in terms of achievements in sustainability] have not seen a whole lot of benefits for their efforts,” says Stickler. Almost USD 15 billion has been pledged in support for sub-national jurisdictions (directly or via national or regional programs or funds) to pursue REDD+ and low-emissions development since 2008. But the study found that “substantially less has actually disbursed to jurisdictions in that same time period,” she says.

According to co-author and EII Executive Director and scientist Daniel Nepstad, this means that, with a few notable exceptions, “the political leaders of tropical states and provinces who want to take this on – who are ready to put the policies and programs in place to slow deforestation and support forest communities across vast regions – are not getting the partnerships that they need to make it happen.”

An oil palm smallholder in Brazil. Photo by Miguel Pinheiro/CIFOR

As such, Stickler advises that “jurisdictional governments and other actors need to continue receiving positive signals that their efforts are worthwhile and should be expanded.” They also need help accessing resources and building better processes and partnerships, she says, in order to move toward achieving their commitments to reduce deforestation and degradation, as well as to improve well-being for their citizens.

Without this kind of explicit support, these jurisdictional-level efforts risk fading into obscurity and failing to achieve the level of change required. At present, says Nepstad, “the fight against tropical deforestation is still a political ambition that is hard to get elected on if you want to be governor of a tropical forest state or province – and that is a problem.”

At the meeting, Mary Nichols, California Air Resources Board Chair, emphasized how the GCF-TF, which California helped create, has grown to include governments together holding a third of all tropical forests. She went on to highlight that “the GCF-TF has increased its inclusivity and its focus on real success stories involving science and traditional knowledge. To see the level of engagement and joint efforts by states and provinces with foundations, donor countries and, most importantly, indigenous communities, this gives me great hope for the future and our ability to really address the climate crisis.”

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Amy Duchelle 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 Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB); and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

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  • The State of Jurisdictional Sustainability: Synthesis for practitioners and policymakers

The State of Jurisdictional Sustainability: Synthesis for practitioners and policymakers

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Jurisdictional approaches to sustainable development hold tremendous potential for advancing holistic, durable solutions to the intertwined issues of tropical deforestation, rural livelihoods, and food security. With many jurisdictional “experiments” underway around the world, the time is ripe for a systematic assessment.

Earth Innovation Institute (EII), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF-TF) are collaborating on a comprehensive study of these experiments across the Tropics to draw on early lessons. More specifically, the study evaluates progress towards low-emission, sustainable development, including goals and commitments, monitoring and reporting systems, multi-stakeholder governance platforms, and innovative policies and initiatives that are core elements of jurisdictional sustainability. The assessment also includes an in-depth analysis of deforestation and emissions (including drivers and agents of deforestation and forest degradation) and examines the potential implications of low-emission rural development (LED-R) strategies for future emission reductions. It also explores barriers to and opportunities for fostering jurisdictional sustainability.

The report includes analytical briefs about each jurisdiction, as well as an overall synthesis of jurisdictional sustainability across the Tropics. The full report will be published in September 2018, ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit and the Governors’ Climate & Forests Task Force Meeting in San Francisco, California.This study focuses on 39 primarily first-level subnational political and administrative divisions (e.g., province, state, etc.) in 12 tropical countries. In 2017-18 we compiled secondary data and conducted interviews with key stakeholders in all jurisdictions on the themes described above. In several jurisdictions, we also implemented the Sustainable Landscapes Rating Tool (SLRT) of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance to assist in our assessment of jurisdictions’ progress towards LED-R.

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  • New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANGE OF SCENERY

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

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

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

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

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

REVISION TO REALITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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  • New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

link
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANGE OF SCENERY

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

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

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

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

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

REVISION TO REALITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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  • Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Daniel Murdiyarso, CIFOR Principal Scientist and IPB professor, speaks during the opening plenary of the Blue Carbon Summit. Photo by AIPI

Failing to properly manage “blue carbon” ecosystems could result in biodiversity losses, pronounced climate change effects and negative impacts on people’s livelihoods, and could even affect the internet. 

The Blue Carbon Summit held on July 17-18 in Jakarta, Indonesia, covered everything from the most well-known blue carbon ecosystems of mangroves and seagrass to coral reefs, the fish industry, ecotourism, plastic waste, shipping emissions and offshore mining.

Over two days, scientists, government, the private sector, media and likeminded community members came together for discussions that called for coordinated efforts to address issues related to blue carbon.

Blue carbon is that which is stored in coastal ecosystems, in contrast to “green carbon” stored in plants, trees and soil. In comparison to the attention paid to the carbon sequestered by forests, blue carbon has thus far remained relatively under the radar – but this belies its importance.

“We are here to correct an imbalance,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), during the summit opening, referring to the global focus on issues such as deforestation and greenhouse gases. “What is happening in coastal areas seems a bit forgotten. It’s a great time for us to bring that to the fore.”

Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, where vital infrastructure can also be found worldwide, Nasi explained, underscoring the importance of both scientists and policymakers understanding how the ecosystems work and how they can be restored. “Coastal ecosystems are fundamental for the survival of the species, for ecosystem services, for biodiversity, and for blue carbon,” he added.

“If we don’t do anything about these coastal areas, about blue carbon ecosystems, what is going to happen to us?” Nasi asked, pointing out that aside from people’s livelihoods and biodiversity in coastal areas being at stake, major infrastructure such as fiber-optic cables is often below sea level and could theoretically end up under water. “So if we don’t do something, we may also lose some part of the internet.”

Read also: Coastal blue carbon from planted mangroves holds promise

Policymakers and scientific experts came together to discuss blue carbon’s potential to mitigate climate change and enhance sustainable economic development during the summit. Photo by AIPI

“We think that this is the right time to work on this topic because of a critical mass already sharing their knowledge, already having results,” said Daniel Murdiyarso, Principal Scientist at CIFOR, which coorganized the summit, and professor in the Department of Geophysics and Meteorology at Bogor Agricultural University (IPB).

“So we want to sit together and see how this can be provided for the government, to make a science-based recommendation related to blue carbon.”

Murdiyarso expressed his hope that findings from the summit could be mainstreamed into the public agenda and connected to the Paris agreement on climate change, especially given blue carbon’s clear links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Read also: Focus on mangroves: Blue carbon science for sustainable development

Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI) President Satrio Sumantri Brodjonegoro concurred, saying that the discussions were expected to identify gaps hindering the mainstreaming of blue carbon in the national agenda and to pave the way for blue carbon development in Indonesia. As the world’s largest archipelago, with 99,000 kilometers of coastline, the country is well-placed to not only set its own path but also to set a global example.

After the opening plenary on Day 1, subplenary sessions looked at the roles of non-state actors and the donor community. Following that, a series of parallel discussion forums considered the fishing industry, marine tourism and the shipping industry, governance systems, financing blue carbon development, hydrodynamic and sustainable coastal resources, and seagrass and climate change.

Day 2 began with a keynote speech from Indonesia’s Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, before subplenary sessions on international partnerships and a high-level forum of government representatives. The day was rounded out with parallel discussion forums on subsidence, sedimentation and sea-level rises, and mangroves and climate.

The discussions from the summit are expected to be developed into a white paper, set to cover the following points.

  • Blue carbon in both open ocean and coastal ecosystems, including mangroves and seagrasses, is important for climate change mitigation because of its significant carbon storage capacity compared with terrestrial ecosystems. These ecosystems also offer significant climate change adaptation opportunities, especially in helping coastal regions keep pace with sea level rise.
  • Blue carbon ecosystems provide numerous services to people and now is the time to consider their role in developing alternative livelihoods. Sustainable ecotourism, fisheries and shellfish farming are all industries that generate direct economic benefits while protecting intact mangroves.
  • Conservation and restoration are essential components of the blue carbon economy
  • Implementation of a blue carbon economy needs to take into consideration more than just carbon, and should encompass economic sectors such as fisheries, ecotourism, transportation and shipping.
  • Due to complex history and geography, governance structures and institutionalizing the blue carbon economy have posed considerable challenges in the past.
  • Mechanisms to finance the blue carbon economy must reflect the unique benefits and challenges of blue carbon and help overcome institutional biases.
  • The participation of local communities is essential to establishing the blue carbon economy
  • While the level of understanding of blue carbon is sufficient, capacity development will require stakeholders to be better connected.
  • To put blue carbon on national and global agendas, there must be a stronger coalition within and between government agencies to engage a wider network of stakeholders.
  • Partnerships are key to the success of achieving national and global objectives and goals. Learning lessons from partners is cost effective and therefore should be encouraged, while opportunities for greater cooperation should be enhanced.
A mangrove forest thrives in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“Improved policies and implementation of blue carbon initiatives in the context of addressing climate change certainly cannot be done by one country. This effort requires coordination and engagement of all elements of development, at the national and regional levels – with the support of all parties including governments, private sector, communities as well as national and international development partners,” Gellwynn Yusuf, representing Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS), said in closing the event.

This could be a mechanism for Indonesia to achieve SDGs, particularly by meeting Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) while also improving economic factors. While acknowledging that coordination among agencies was important, and that some financing challenges remained to be solved, Yusuf called on the international community to support Indonesia’s efforts in making blue carbon a key policy for combating the negative impacts of climate change.

“As the global leader in blue carbon ecosystems, Indonesia has an opportunity to demonstrate strong leadership and set the direction internationally for other countries,” he said.

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


The Blue Carbon Summit was organized by AIPI, CIFOR, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF). 

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

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  • Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Daniel Murdiyarso, CIFOR Principal Scientist and IPB professor, speaks during the opening plenary of the Blue Carbon Summit. Photo by AIPI

Failing to properly manage “blue carbon” ecosystems could result in biodiversity losses, pronounced climate change effects and negative impacts on people’s livelihoods, and could even affect the internet. 

The Blue Carbon Summit held on July 17-18 in Jakarta, Indonesia, covered everything from the most well-known blue carbon ecosystems of mangroves and seagrass to coral reefs, the fish industry, ecotourism, plastic waste, shipping emissions and offshore mining.

Over two days, scientists, government, the private sector, media and likeminded community members came together for discussions that called for coordinated efforts to address issues related to blue carbon.

Blue carbon is that which is stored in coastal ecosystems, in contrast to “green carbon” stored in plants, trees and soil. In comparison to the attention paid to the carbon sequestered by forests, blue carbon has thus far remained relatively under the radar – but this belies its importance.

“We are here to correct an imbalance,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), during the summit opening, referring to the global focus on issues such as deforestation and greenhouse gases. “What is happening in coastal areas seems a bit forgotten. It’s a great time for us to bring that to the fore.”

Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, where vital infrastructure can also be found worldwide, Nasi explained, underscoring the importance of both scientists and policymakers understanding how the ecosystems work and how they can be restored. “Coastal ecosystems are fundamental for the survival of the species, for ecosystem services, for biodiversity, and for blue carbon,” he added.

“If we don’t do anything about these coastal areas, about blue carbon ecosystems, what is going to happen to us?” Nasi asked, pointing out that aside from people’s livelihoods and biodiversity in coastal areas being at stake, major infrastructure such as fiber-optic cables is often below sea level and could theoretically end up under water. “So if we don’t do something, we may also lose some part of the internet.”

Read also: Coastal blue carbon from planted mangroves holds promise

Policymakers and scientific experts came together to discuss blue carbon’s potential to mitigate climate change and enhance sustainable economic development during the summit. Photo by AIPI

“We think that this is the right time to work on this topic because of a critical mass already sharing their knowledge, already having results,” said Daniel Murdiyarso, Principal Scientist at CIFOR, which coorganized the summit, and professor in the Department of Geophysics and Meteorology at Bogor Agricultural University (IPB).

“So we want to sit together and see how this can be provided for the government, to make a science-based recommendation related to blue carbon.”

Murdiyarso expressed his hope that findings from the summit could be mainstreamed into the public agenda and connected to the Paris agreement on climate change, especially given blue carbon’s clear links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Read also: Focus on mangroves: Blue carbon science for sustainable development

Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI) President Satrio Sumantri Brodjonegoro concurred, saying that the discussions were expected to identify gaps hindering the mainstreaming of blue carbon in the national agenda and to pave the way for blue carbon development in Indonesia. As the world’s largest archipelago, with 99,000 kilometers of coastline, the country is well-placed to not only set its own path but also to set a global example.

After the opening plenary on Day 1, subplenary sessions looked at the roles of non-state actors and the donor community. Following that, a series of parallel discussion forums considered the fishing industry, marine tourism and the shipping industry, governance systems, financing blue carbon development, hydrodynamic and sustainable coastal resources, and seagrass and climate change.

Day 2 began with a keynote speech from Indonesia’s Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, before subplenary sessions on international partnerships and a high-level forum of government representatives. The day was rounded out with parallel discussion forums on subsidence, sedimentation and sea-level rises, and mangroves and climate.

The discussions from the summit are expected to be developed into a white paper, set to cover the following points.

  • Blue carbon in both open ocean and coastal ecosystems, including mangroves and seagrasses, is important for climate change mitigation because of its significant carbon storage capacity compared with terrestrial ecosystems. These ecosystems also offer significant climate change adaptation opportunities, especially in helping coastal regions keep pace with sea level rise.
  • Blue carbon ecosystems provide numerous services to people and now is the time to consider their role in developing alternative livelihoods. Sustainable ecotourism, fisheries and shellfish farming are all industries that generate direct economic benefits while protecting intact mangroves.
  • Conservation and restoration are essential components of the blue carbon economy
  • Implementation of a blue carbon economy needs to take into consideration more than just carbon, and should encompass economic sectors such as fisheries, ecotourism, transportation and shipping.
  • Due to complex history and geography, governance structures and institutionalizing the blue carbon economy have posed considerable challenges in the past.
  • Mechanisms to finance the blue carbon economy must reflect the unique benefits and challenges of blue carbon and help overcome institutional biases.
  • The participation of local communities is essential to establishing the blue carbon economy
  • While the level of understanding of blue carbon is sufficient, capacity development will require stakeholders to be better connected.
  • To put blue carbon on national and global agendas, there must be a stronger coalition within and between government agencies to engage a wider network of stakeholders.
  • Partnerships are key to the success of achieving national and global objectives and goals. Learning lessons from partners is cost effective and therefore should be encouraged, while opportunities for greater cooperation should be enhanced.
A mangrove forest thrives in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“Improved policies and implementation of blue carbon initiatives in the context of addressing climate change certainly cannot be done by one country. This effort requires coordination and engagement of all elements of development, at the national and regional levels – with the support of all parties including governments, private sector, communities as well as national and international development partners,” Gellwynn Yusuf, representing Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS), said in closing the event.

This could be a mechanism for Indonesia to achieve SDGs, particularly by meeting Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) while also improving economic factors. While acknowledging that coordination among agencies was important, and that some financing challenges remained to be solved, Yusuf called on the international community to support Indonesia’s efforts in making blue carbon a key policy for combating the negative impacts of climate change.

“As the global leader in blue carbon ecosystems, Indonesia has an opportunity to demonstrate strong leadership and set the direction internationally for other countries,” he said.

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


The Blue Carbon Summit was organized by AIPI, CIFOR, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF). 

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


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