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  • Time to rethink the role of trees, forests and agroforestry in the fight against climate change

Time to rethink the role of trees, forests and agroforestry in the fight against climate change

Open lands used for cabbage plantations in Sukabumi, Jawa Barat, Indonesia. Photo by R.Martin/CIFOR
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The role of forests and trees in mitigating climate change and capturing and storing carbon in biomass and soil is well recognized. Over the past few decades, a variety of schemes, including REDD, REDD+,  4per1000 and AFR100 have been designed to leverage this mitigation potential.

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

However, much less attention has been given to the role of forests and trees in helping farmers and farm systems adapt to climate change. Today, with climate change impacts already having immediate, dramatic impacts on smallholder farmers, it is time to have a more balanced approach.

That’s why we are calling for a shift of focus from trees and mitigation to trees and adaptation. There is a need to explore what forests, trees and agroforestry can bring to the adaptation of other sectors, particularly agriculture.

This coincides with a need to change perspectives, from a dominant global perspective centered on carbon, to a local perspective centered on what works for farmers in a particular place. There is growing understanding that tree planting initiatives for mitigation won’t happen unless they benefit farmers locally. Farmers, however, will plant trees if they see how they help their livelihood systems become more resilient to climate change.

At the recent 4th World Congress on Agroforestry, our colleagues from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) gave a series of presentations that illustrates this farmer-centered, place-based approach. They showed how agroforestry can allow farmers to adapt to climate change, improve their livelihoods and contribute to resilient systems, while also working toward mitigation objectives.

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

Trees for adaptation

During the congress, Roeland Kindt (ICRAF) and collaborators presented their work on a climate change atlas being prepared for Africa, with habitat change projected for 150 tree species native to Africa. This work follows a publication by World Agroforestry (ICRAF), in collaboration with Bioversity International, CATIE and Hivos, on habitat suitability maps for 54 tree species that are widely used in Central America for shade in coffee or cocoa agroforestry systems.

Tea pickers at work in Pangkalan Limus village, Mount Halimun Salak National Park, West Java, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

To adapt to climate change, preserving the diversity of genetic resources is crucial. Alice Muchugi (ICRAF) and collaborators explored the challenges relating to the conservation of high-value tree genetic resources and proposed options to facilitate their conservation and use.

In order to better achieve restoration targets through agroforestry, Lalisa Duguma (ICRAF) and collaborators proposed to change the discourse from “tree planting” to “tree growing”. They highlighted the discrepancy between the short time span of most restoration projects and the time needed to ensure a good survival rate of planted trees, especially when accounting for future shifts in climate.

Soil organic carbon

The increase of soil organic carbon, an indicator of carbon sequestered, should also be seen as an adaptation measure. It is key to soil fertility and to water retention and storage in the soil. It  can therefore help boost and stabilize the productivity of agroforestry systems, even in the face of climate change impacts.

A study by Sari Pitkänen and collaborators conducted in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, showed that carbon stocks in agroforestry systems correlate with tree diversity.

Amango plantation in Yalka village, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

However, despite knowing the importance of soil organic carbon, measuring it has long been slow, expensive and difficult to standardize. In response to this, Keith Shepherd and collaborators from ICRAF have tested infrared spectroscopy technology that can provide a robust, low-cost, integrated indicator of soil organic carbon levels. They have demonstrated that inexpensive handheld infrared instruments can be used for measuring soil health changes.

Being able to easily measure soil organic carbon levels allows for evaluating the impacts of restoration initiatives. In another study, Ermias Aynekulu (ICRAF) and collaborators examined the effects of two decades of annual prescribed burning of grazing lands in Burkina Faso and three decades of livestock exclosures in Ethiopia.

Shepherd suggested prioritizing efforts to promote good land management practices at scale to prevent carbon losses, rather than trying to restore already degraded land. This would mean looking at policy interventions to prevent degradation and maintain or enhance soil fertility – for example by promoting agroforestry practices.

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

Local knowledge and land restoration

Land restoration can play a considerable role in addressing climate change, both adaptation and mitigation, and for this agroforestry is key. Several presentations at the congress explored some of the dimensions that determine the likelihood of success for restoration projects. Key among these factors were accounting for and leveraging local knowledge.

A farmer in Tintilou village, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Mary Crossland (Bangor University) and collaborators, in a study in northwest Ethiopia, noted that national objectives and local perceptions and priorities are often different. Local actors are often reluctant to accept the exclosure of areas that are not yet highly degraded, even though it has been shown to be a more effective strategy than focusing on very degraded land. Farmers with a large amount of livestock or little land were strongly opposed to exclosures. This example shows the need to understand how livelihoods interact with different restoration interventions and to take measures that compensate for their impacts on the most vulnerable people.

Anne Kuria (ICRAF) and collaborators explored the role local knowledge can play in adapting land restoration options to local contexts and farmers’ circumstances in Ethiopian drylands. Farmers identified 12 contextual factors that influence the suitability of restoration options for local contexts. Biophysical factors were soil erosion type, soil type, soil depth, slope of the field, field location along a slope and field size. Socioeconomic factors were livestock management systems, land tenure systems, labor, gender, technology and skills. This study also demonstrated that farmers utilized their local knowledge to adapt and modify land restoration interventions to suit their needs and context.

Making agroforestry count

Understanding the potential of agroforestry as a climate change adaptation strategy is one thing, but how can it become a key element of countries’ climate policies?

Here, key mechanisms are the national adaptation plans (NAPs) that countries are preparing under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an opportunity. Ninety-one countries are currently in the process of developing their national adaptation plans.

An organic cabbage plantation on the mountain of Gede Pangrango Sukabumi, West Java, Indonesia. Photo by R. Martin/CIFOR

In a review that we conducted of the 15 national adaptation plans published so far, the word ‘agroforestry’ is present in two-thirds of the plans, but agroforestry practices are referenced more frequently, as a means of adaptation and as serving a great variety of purposes related to natural resource management. These include restoring degraded land, reducing soil erosion, restoring water catchments, protecting water tanks and rivers, protecting against wind and storms and providing shade.

These recommendations generally focus on single biophysical benefits and often neglect integration of the trees with other crops as well as agroforestry’s potential socioeconomic benefits. The NAPs are generally silent on measures related to the enabling environment needed for planting trees, such as measures for tenure as well as seed and seedling systems.

Because the UNFCCC clearly says that the NAPs have to be guided by the “best available science”, we now have a huge responsibility to bring scientific information to the attention of decision-makers.

By Vincent Gitz, Director, FTA and Alexandre Meybeck, Senior Technical Advisor, FTA.


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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  • Connecting the policy dots: linking adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development for climate-resilient land use planning

Connecting the policy dots: linking adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development for climate-resilient land use planning

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In the land use sector mitigation, adaptation and development policies are all closely linked and can impact each other in positive and negative ways. It is therefore essential that these relationships are taken into account in order to enhance synergies and avoid or reduce trade-offs. This can be achieved through a specific form of Climate Policy Integration (CPI), which integrates first mitigation and adaptation policy processes and subsequently mainstreams climate policies into development processes. We have explored these processes through case studies in the land use sectors of Brazil and Indonesia. CPI in the land use sector presents a number of challenges related to cross-sectoral and cross-level integration. Unless a governmental CPI authority mandates that sectoral ministries integrate their efforts, sectoral competition over control of decision-making processes may prevail, hampering CPI. Cross-level integration is weakened by differences in understanding, priorities and power across levels of governance.

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  • New book analyzes decade of REDD+ experience

New book analyzes decade of REDD+ experience

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A Brazil nut area, part of GCS REDD+ in Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Yoly Gutierrez/CIFOR

In its first 10 years, REDD+ has inspired much enthusiasm and hope for a global transition away from practices that threaten tropical forests, toward lasting climate mitigation.

Despite unexpected challenges and a funding pot that lacked the depth to trigger global mobilization, REDD+ is beginning to deliver on its potential – if more slowly than expected.

A new book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions, which has launched at this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Katowice, Poland, takes stock of the efforts taken so far to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+) at multiple scales.

At the 2007 UNFCCC COP in Bali, Indonesia, REDD+ emerged on the global scene with the promise of building a bridge toward a carbon-neutral economy – quickly, easily and cheaply.

“REDD+ has not taken its planned route from A to B – that is, providing forest-rich developing countries with direct incentives to promote climate mitigation in the forest and land-use sector,” said Arild Angelsen, a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and a senior associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “But we can learn many lessons from its journey so far.”

Why did REDD+ not turn out as expected? Lack of finance is a major reason, specifically the fact that results-based payment – rewarding developing countries in exchange for keeping and/or improving forest carbon stocks – has not been the driving force it was meant to be. REDD+ was meant to become an integral part of a global carbon market, but this market never materialized. Instead, most funding comes in the form of development assistance from a small handful of donor countries, and some developing countries are shouldering a big part of the costs to put REDD+ into action.

“There are also a lot of different, sometimes conflicting ideas about REDD+,” said Christopher Martius, coordinator of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+ and a co-editor of the book. “Making a distinction between REDD+ as the outcome (reduced emissions) and as a specific framework (the activities) to achieve that outcome could clear up a lot of confusion.

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

Click to access the book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions.

VITAL SIGNS

Many observers are now asking whether REDD+ has achieved its intended aims of reducing deforestation and forest degradation or if it has improved local livelihoods and forest governance.

To answer these questions, the authors undertook an analysis based on 10 years of research and almost 500 scientific publications from GCS REDD+, and also drew on the wider literature, on partner contributions, and on policy debates at global, national, subnational and local levels.

With more than 350 ongoing REDD+ projects and programs, there are now enough data – albeit far from perfect – to draw first conclusions about the kind of local impacts REDD+ initiatives have had on forests and communities.

“In a nutshell, results are limited and mixed,” said Amy Duchelle, a co-editor and CIFOR senior scientist who leads research on subnational initiatives in GCS REDD+. “Findings from the few studies on forest carbon and land-use outcomes are moderately encouraging.  REDD+ impacts on well-being are mixed – but they’re more likely to be positive when incentives are included. And while there has been some progress in terms of land tenure and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, local actions need more national policy support to be effective.”

National and subnational forest conservation policies have shown some positive impacts on forests, but no particular policy instrument stands out as a “silver bullet”. Enabling conditions such as political commitment, national ownership, inclusive decision-making and available results-based funding need to be in place and sustained for REDD+ to be transformed.

Many countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions to the 2015 UN Paris Agreement on climate change, and national sustainable development initiatives such as green growth strategies, do recognize the role of forests in mitigating climate change. However, as Pham Thu Thuy, a co-editor, and CIFOR scientist and Vietnam country director, said, these policies and green initiatives will not be successful in achieving their intended goals if they do not have clear and effective policies and measures to address drivers of deforestation and degradations.

Read more: What is REDD+ achieving on the ground?

WHAT NEXT?

The authors show that REDD+, once envisioned as a tool for transformational change, has itself been transformed. They point out that, while REDD+ has evolved into a variety of interventions, and stakeholders may differ in their preferred vision of how REDD+ evolves, all can agree that the core objectives must not be substantially altered or diluted.

“Arguably, the world cannot reach the 1.5°C or even 2°C targets without massive reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and increases in forest carbon stocks,” the authors wrote.

In order for REDD+ to be an effective ‘cure’ for the ‘illness’ of deforestation and forest degradation, it will need to adapt further – to a new global climate change architecture, rapidly shifting global politics, and different expectations from donors, REDD+ countries, the private sector and local communities.

“REDD+ needs a clear theory of change – a road map towards a carbon-neutral economy through a transformation of business-as-usual practices,” Martius said.

The authors lay out key pathways to achieving an effective, efficient and equitable REDD+, including emphasizing the positive side-effects of REDD+, and shortening the road to recovery through experimentation and bold approaches.

Results-based payment will continue to play a large role, but national and subnational policy reforms need to go beyond this approach to focus on issues such as land-use planning, tenure and agriculture and address the variety of drivers and problems in their specific national and regional circumstances. And while international finance can give a nudge in the right direction, ultimately countries must set the economic incentives for state and private actors to align their activities with green development strategies.

A waterfall in a REDD+ Safeguards and Benefit Sharing Project, Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

“Some reforms can be win-win for the economy and environment, such as cutting subsidies to deforesting crops and adding forest criteria in the fiscal transfers from central to local governments, as India has done,” Angelsen said.

Looking at multi-level governance and coordination, the authors also conclude that some problems simply cannot be solved through better coordination.

“In reality, those who deforest have often been more effective at coordinating their efforts than those who support REDD+ or similar initiatives,” said Anne Larson, a CIFOR principal scientist who leads the research on multi-level governance in GCS REDD+.

“In order to challenge business-as-usual trajectories and address both effectiveness and equity goals, we need to develop a deeper understanding of the underlying dynamics among actors in a given context.”

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

BE BOLD, BE BRAVE

Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India and South Korea have all rolled out bold forest conservation and restoration initiatives, and the authors say more countries need to do the same. Nationwide initiatives with a pro-forest narrative can cultivate the political and intellectual ownership needed to build coordination across ministries and effect long-term impact.

“Change needs to come from both the top and the bottom,” Duchelle said. “Jurisdictional programs for REDD+ and low-emission development at the subnational level also hold promise for protecting tropical forests and securing local rights and livelihoods.”

The authors also call on countries to be brave and assess impacts. Clear data and information are critical to every stage of REDD+, from planning and policy design to implementation and evaluation. But independent evaluations can be risky, as disappointing short-term evaluated impacts in a learning phase could jeopardize future financing. For this and other reasons, there is a persistent lack of data on how various drivers of land-use change affect forest emissions.

“The reality is that powerful agents of deforestation and forest degradation can influence how information on drivers is generated, and how visible it is,” said Veronique De Sy, a co-editor and postdoctoral Researcher at Wageningen University & Research in The Netherlands. “To counteract this, national forest monitoring systems need to address participation, transparency, accountability and coordination.”

Finally, the authors review four emerging strategies that could help achieve the objective of reducing emissions from the forest and land use sector – with some fine-tuning. These are: zero deforestation and other private sector commitments, climate-smart agriculture, jurisdictional approaches to low-emission rural development, and forest landscape restoration. The book devotes a full chapter to each of these approaches, examining evidence of impact and drawing lessons for a more complementary, streamlined approach.

“Our main goal as editors,” notes Angelsen, “is to provide a critical, evidence-based analysis of REDD+ implementation so far, without losing sight of the urgent need to reduce forest-based emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change.”

“Focusing on a positive narrative about how forests contribute to economic development and climate goals can galvanize support and generate new momentum,” he adds.

By Erin O’Connell, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


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

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  • Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions

Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions

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

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

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

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

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

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


Access each chapter via CIFOR.

Access the complete book.

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  • Restoration and sustainable management of forests form line of defense against global warming

Restoration and sustainable management of forests form line of defense against global warming

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A recent statement released by the Climate and Land Use Alliance – a coalition that promotes the role of forests and landscapes in climate change mitigation – was published to coincide with the IPCC special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The statement, signed by 40 prominent environmental scientists, argues that the preservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests is the world’s best hope for limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

It suggests that benefits would be immediate and estimates that reforestation and improved forest management could provide 18 percent of cost-effective mitigation by 2030. The reasons why are fivefold:

  • The world’s forests contain more carbon than exploitable oil, gas, and coal deposits, hence avoiding forest carbon emissions is just as urgent as halting fossil fuel use.
  • Forests currently remove around a quarter of the CO2 humans add to the atmosphere, keeping climate change from getting even worse.
  • Achieving the 1.5°C goal also requires massive forest restoration to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Bioenergy has technical constraints and is therefore not the primary solution.
  • Tropical forests cool the air locally and for the entire planet, as well as creating the rainfall essential for growing food in their regions and beyond.

A view of Way Bulak river in Lampung, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) works on enhancing all possible contributions of forests, trees and agroforestry to sustainable development and, in this context, climate change is a major focus of FTA’s work.

TECH-SAVVY BY NATURE

Forests provide a form of ‘natural technology’ that is practical and more cost-effective than alternative carbon removal technologies, which are not yet mature enough for wide application, says Dr. Louis Verchot, a land restoration expert at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and a signatory of the statement.

Verchot points to the disadvantages of both Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which captures emissions from the air or energy production and stores it, often underground, and Bio-energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), which combines CCS with the further use of biomass for energy production, holding that the carbon-capture of biomass growth further offsets emissions.

“CCS expends a significant amount of energy, which raises the cost substantially,” he says. “And although BECCS may be more cost-effective, there are concerns related to the safe and permanent storage of carbon dioxide.”

In particular, there are questions related to seismic vulnerability and leakage in BECCS technologies. The production of biomass feedstocks that support BECCS could also be problematic: increasing demand for land, water, and nutrients to produce the feedstocks could increase competition for land, encourage land grabs and potentially increase deforestation as well.

A view of agroforestry in a GCS-Tenure Project area in Lampung, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

PROTECTING, RESTORING, COLLABORATING

The efforts needed to protect and restore the world’s forests can be informed by the progress of several large-scale restoration initiatives.

First and foremost, the country-led Bonn Challenge, launched in 2011, is resulting in global action to restore and sustainably manage deforested and degraded land.

Other regional initiatives have developed as part of the umbrella challenge, including Initiative 20×20 in Latin America and the Caribbean and AFR100 in Arica. These initiatives depend in part on rural communities and farmers investing in the restoration and long-term sustainability of their land, in turn improving their land rights.

Countries are using technological advancements and satellite imagery to closely monitor land and respond to land encroachment, and the private sector is increasingly focusing on how to turn profits with better sustainability and benefits for both landscapes and local land users.

By tying so many sectors and communities together, these initiatives are now tributaries feeding into the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN Biodiversity Convention.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature takes stock of the Bonn Challenge annually and, as of December last year, 47 governments, private associations and other organizations had pledged 160 million hectares to the target of bringing 350 million hectares under restoration by 2030. Stakeholders will meet in Bonn this December to assess how these pledges are translating into action on the ground.

But ultimately, these initiatives – of all scales – must keep forests at the fore, and the scientists argue that forest restoration and conservation efforts must now accelerate. The natural technology that forests provide underpins society’s wellbeing, but the level of degradation in these landscapes across the world are threatening our long-term economic prospects. In the absence of CCS technologies that can realistically work at scale, healthy forests may offer our best chance of limiting global temperature rises and avoiding dangerous climate change.

FTA will be participating in discussions on climate and other topics at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn on Dec. 1-2, including a discussion forum on REDD+ at 10: What we’ve learned and where we go nextFind out more on FTA’s event page.

By Jack Durrell, originally published at the Global Landscapes Forum’s (GLF) Landscape News.

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  • Climate-smart land use requires local solutions, transdisciplinary research, policy coherence and transparency

Climate-smart land use requires local solutions, transdisciplinary research, policy coherence and transparency

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Successfully meeting the mitigation and adaptation targets of the Paris Climate Agreement (PA) will depend on strengthening the ties between forests and agriculture. Climate-smart land use can be achieved by integrating climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and REDD+. The focus on agriculture for food security within a changing climate, and on forests for climate change mitigation and adaptation, can be achieved simultaneously with a transformational change in the land-use sector. Striving for both independently will lead to competition for land, inefficiencies in monitoring and conflicting agendas. Practical solutions exist for specific contexts that can lead to increased agricultural output and forest protection. Landscape-level emissions accounting can be used to identify these practices. Transdisciplinary research agendas can identify and prioritize solutions and targets for integrated mitigation and adaptation interventions. Policy coherence must be achieved at a number of levels, from international to local, to avoid conflicting incentives. Transparency must lastly be integrated, through collaborative design of projects, and open data and methods. Climate-smart land use requires all these elements, and will increase the likelihood of successful REDD+ and CSA interventions. This will support the PA as well as other initiatives as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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  • Research on Climate Change Policies and Rural Development in Latin America: Scope and Gaps

Research on Climate Change Policies and Rural Development in Latin America: Scope and Gaps

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Research on climate change policies can contribute to policy development by building an understanding of the barriers faced in policy processes, and by providing knowledge needed throughout policy cycles. This paper explores the thematic coverage of research on climate change policies related to rural areas, rural development, and natural resource management in Latin America. A three-tier framework is proposed to analyse the selected literature. The results show that research studies have focussed on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from forests, and adaptations to climate change in agriculture. There is little policy research on other vulnerable sectors (e.g., water and health) and emitting sectors (e.g., energy and industry) in the context of rural development. Our analysis highlights the various research gaps that deserve increased scientific attention, including: cross-sector approaches, multi-level governance, and the stages of policy adoption, implementation and evaluation. In addition, the selected literature has a limited contribution to theoretical discussions in policy sciences.

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  • Where the land meets the sea: Governing mangrove forests

Where the land meets the sea: Governing mangrove forests

Mangroves in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR
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Mangroves in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR
Mangroves in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR

By Kate Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

On December 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra, Indonesia, swept a massive tsunami across the Indian Ocean. The wave forged two kilometers inland in some places, and wiped out towns, crops, lives and livelihoods. In Indonesia’s Aceh province alone, 167,000 people died.

Could anything have reduced its devastating impact? In the tsunami’s wake, global attention fell on the potential of mangroves. Many of Indonesia’s mangrove forests had been cleared prior to 2004 to make way for shrimp farms – and subsequent research showed that mangroves and other forests can help protect coastlines and people from the force of tsunamis, hurricanes, and rising sea levels.

The indigenous people of Pahawang Island already knew that, though. In the 1980s and 1990s, the mangrove forests fringing their island – a speck in a bay at the eastern end of Sumatra – were over-exploited. They were turned into charcoal by Korean companies, cut down for timber, and converted to fish-ponds by migrants from East Java.

By the early 2000s, coastal erosion had become a huge problem for the islanders. Houses, agricultural land and fish-ponds were swept away in storms; fish no longer bred amongst the looping mangrove roots; and malaria and dengue outbreaks became more common.

So village leaders got together and pioneered their own, innovative governance system for their mangroves. They developed an organizational structure, and divided the mangrove area into three territories – a strict protection zone, an area where only non-timber products like firewood could be gathered, and a ‘utilization zone’ where limited timber harvesting was allowed. They also identified areas for reforesting, and secured seedlings and funding.

There’s much to be learned from local experiences like these, say scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research, who have just released a new global study on mangrove governance, involving both a review of international literature and case studies in Indonesia and Tanzania.


BENEFITS OF A BOTTOM-UP APPROACH

“In Indonesia they were very clear: they managed their mangroves to protect their lives, livelihoods and assets from storm surges, from the sea,” says Esther Mwangi, who helped lead the overarching study. “The mangroves are an important buffer against the energy and the strength of the ocean.”

Mani Ram Banjade led the on-the-ground research in Indonesia, focusing on three villages in Lampung province.

 

A researcher measures the diameter of mangrove trees in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Kate Evans
A researcher measures the diameter of mangrove trees in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Kate Evans

In Pahawang especially, mangrove protection was a very bottom-up affair.

“The local community leaders took the initiative and developed their own rules, regulations and governance mechanisms. Then they got the approval from the local government as well, and from their personal and political connections they also got some resources from outside.”

It worked so well in Pahawang, he says, because the local government recognised the islanders’ rights over the land and supported their efforts – and because strong leaders harnessed community awareness of the role of mangroves in coastal protection.

“Even if they’re not getting a direct economic benefit from the mangrove, they still value its conservation,” says Banjade.

“It’s a good model,” says Steven Lawry, CIFOR’s Director of Forests and Governance Research, who also worked on the report. “This is an example of how strong leadership and persistence have led to good outcomes with respect to local mangrove conservation. People are out there up to their waists in water, planting mangroves, because they see the importance to their livelihoods.”

BREAKING THE SILOS

In many places worldwide, these kinds of bottom up approaches to governance are necessary, because mangroves often fall through the cracks at the national level, says Mwangi.

Washed by the tides, simultaneously of the land and of the sea, mangroves don’t neatly fit into governance structures. Globally, it’s rare for countries to have specific rules for mangroves. They’re either governed under a hodgepodge of two or three ministries, or they fall under the forestry department.

That isn’t a perfect match, says Mwangi.

“In mangrove forests, the timber is not the biggest thing – the value is in coastal protection, fisheries, carbon sequestration – things that are not forestry. And yet this resource has been placed in the hands of forestry departments. So there is a bit of a tension.”

Where governance is spread among multiple ministries, coordination is a problem. And many efforts to improve it have failed. Indonesia put together a mangrove management and coordination plan in 2012 – but it hasn’t yet been fully implemented.

Even more telling is the case of Tanzania. In 1991 it was one of the first countries to create an integrated management plan for mangroves – and yet to date, 25 years on, it too has not been implemented.

The reasons behind these failures is a prime area for future research, says Mwangi – but perhaps a better approach, she suggests, would be to bring in new legislation that is specific to mangroves, like the rules pioneered on Pahawang.

One could easily say the village regulations are substituting for a national, mangrove-specific regulation that is missing,” says Mwangi.

GENDER DYNAMICS IN CONSERVATION

Something that’s lacking at all levels – from fishing village to academia – is an appreciation of gender dynamics.

“In the literature review there was hardly anything on gender, and then when we looked at the ground level we saw exactly the same thing – a widespread gender blindness in mangrove management.”

People’s relationships to mangroves are gender-differentiated, Mwangi says. Women might gather firewood, while men harvest timber and fish.

Yet in both Tanzania and Indonesia, women rarely sat on management committees, and their participation in decision-making was curtailed in a number of ways.

In Tanzania, researchers found that meetings were often organized in the late afternoon, when most women were fetching firewood and water to cook the evening meal. When women were present, social customs dictated they sit behind the men and ‘say yes to everything’, even when they disagreed.

“Not only as a matter of right, but also in terms of being effective, it makes sense to have women on governance committees,” says Mwangi. “They too have knowledge and use the resource, so their presence and input in decision-making is important.”

Gender aside, there’s a lot national governments can learn from the innovative ways local communities are managing their mangroves. And it’s crucial those villages receive support and assistance to do that from regional and national bodies, Mwangi says.

“With good local leadership and support from others at different levels of government, communities can organise, develop rules and can work together to conserve their mangroves.”

The study found that a transition is underway in a few countries towards increased community participation in mangrove management. Though Latin America has been most enthusiastic, Tanzania’s government is also starting to experiment with community-based approaches in some mangrove areas, says Lawry.

That is encouraging, he says, because the traditional model of mangrove governance – strict top-down regimes that try to protect mangroves by locking local people out – hasn’t worked very well, in Tanzania, Indonesia and elsewhere.

“Despite government intentions to manage them sustainably, governance regimes are generally ineffective at conserving mangroves. They generally fail to involve communities, and at the some time they don’t effectively regulate large-scale commercial users of mangroves, with a result that mangrove loss is accelerating,” he says.

“Where we do see progress towards sustainable mangrove management, it’s in places where communities have clear rights, and they enjoy clear benefits.”


*This research was supported by USAID

For more information on this topic, please contact Esther Mwangi at [email protected] or Steven Lawry at [email protected].
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
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  • Where Land Meets the Sea: A Global Review of the Governance and Tenure Dimensions of Coastal Mangrove Forests

Where Land Meets the Sea: A Global Review of the Governance and Tenure Dimensions of Coastal Mangrove Forests

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FTA

Authors: Rotich, B.; Mwangi, E.; Lawry, S.

This report provides a synoptic analysis of the legal and governance frameworks that relate to the use and management of mangrove forests globally. It highlights the range of challenges typically encountered in the governance and tenure dimensions of mangrove forest management. This assessment forms part of a broader study that includes national-level assessments in Indonesia and Tanzania. It was carried out under the USAID-funded Tenure and Global Climate Change Program. The report provides information on the challenges for mangrove rehabilitation and restoration, legal frameworks for the governance of mangroves, mangrove governance and tenure in practice, and lessons in mangrove governance for policy and practice. Primary findings from this assessment show that authority over mangrove forest management is overwhelmingly vested in state institutions and that mangrove protection is a central objective. Given the ambiguous role of mangroves situated between the land and sea, the configuration of state authority for mangrove management is quite complex. In some countries, there is fragmentation of responsibilities across two or more agencies such as forests, fisheries, environment, and wildlife. This contributes to a high level of segmentation and jurisdictional ambiguity. Frameworks and mechanisms for enabling multi-sectoral coordination across agencies and governance levels are uncommon, and where they exist, they are difficult to put into practice.

Pages: 40p

Publisher: CIFOR and USAID Tenure and Global Climate Change Program, Bogor, Indonesia and Washington, DC

Publication Year: 2016

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  • Beyond opportunity costs: who bears the implementation costs of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation?

Beyond opportunity costs: who bears the implementation costs of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation?

Posted by

FTA

Authors: Luttrell, C.; Sills, E.O.; Aryani, R.; Ekaputri, A.D.; Evnike, M.F.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) in developing countries is based on the premise that conserving tropical forests is a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and therefore can be fully funded by international actors with obligations or interests in reducing emissions. However, concerns have repeatedly been raised about whether stakeholders in REDD+ host countries will actually end up bearing the costs of REDD+. Most prior analyses of the costs of REDD+ have focused on the opportunity costs of foregone alternative uses of forest land. We draw on a pan-tropical study of 22 subnational REDD+ initiatives in five countries to explore patterns in implementation costs, including which types of organizations are involved and which are sharing the costs of implementing REDD+. We find that many organizations involved in the implementation of REDD+, particularly at the subnational level and in the public sector, are bearing implementation costs not covered by the budgets of the REDD+ initiatives. To sustain this level of cost-sharing, REDD+ must be designed to deliver local as well as global forest benefits.

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 1381-2386

Source: Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change

DOI: 10.1007/s11027-016-9736-6


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