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  • Impact of Land Cover Change on Ecosystem Services in a Tropical Forested Landscape

Impact of Land Cover Change on Ecosystem Services in a Tropical Forested Landscape

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Ecosystems provide a wide range of goods, services or ecosystem services (ES) to society. Estimating the impact of land use and land cover (LULC) changes on ES values (ESV) is an important tool to support decision making. This study used remote sensing and GIS tools to analyze LULC change and transitions from 2001 to 2016 and assess its impact on ESV in a tropical forested landscape in the southern plains of Nepal. The total ESV of the landscape for the year 2016 is estimated at USD 1264 million year-1. As forests are the dominant land cover class and have high ES value per hectare, they have the highest contribution in total ESV. However, as a result of LULC change (loss of forests, water bodies, and agricultural land), the total ESV of the landscape has declined by USD 11 million year-1. Major reductions come from the loss in values of climate regulation, water supply, provision of raw materials and food production. To halt the ongoing loss of ES and maintain the supply and balance of different ES in the landscape, it is important to properly monitor, manage and utilize ecosystems. We believe this study will inform policymakers, environmental managers, and the general public on the ongoing changes and contribute to developing effective land use policy in the region.

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  • Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal

Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal

Terraced hillside in the Son La agroforestry landscape in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo
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Terraced hillside in the Son La agroforestry landscape in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo

Government officers from the mountainous countries of Bhutan and Nepal have visited highly successful agroforestry sites in Northwest Vietnam that are helping to restore degraded sloping land and improve farmers’ incomes.

The steep upland farming areas of Bhutan, Nepal and Vietnam share similar challenges in establishing sustainable agricultural practices that improve livelihoods and the environment.

To share knowledge and experience from working with farmers in the steeply sloping landscapes of Northwest Vietnam, government officers from Bhutan and Nepal traveled to Son La and Dien Bien provinces to explore an array of well-developed agroforestry systems, demonstration sites, plantations and nurseries. The visitors learned how the various systems have contributed to increased food security, income stability, water availability and reduced soil erosion.

As well as designing and establishing the systems with farmers and government extension officers, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), has been working with farmers to monitor changes in soil erosion following the adoption of agroforestry practices.

Chuki Wangmo and Kinley Wangmo from the Institute of Conservation and Environmental Research of the Bhutan Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, and Ram Babu Paudyal and Bishnu Kumari Adhikari from Nepal’s Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation, noted that cultivating on a steep gradient is something that communities across all three countries were familiar with. However, the associated issues of soil and wind erosion were not easy to mitigate.

An agroforestry system is seen on a hillside in Son La province, Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo

The visitors were first shown a five-year-old complex agroforestry system in Son La, where the recorded decline in soil erosion since the introduction of agroforestry was of particular relevance to the officers from Bhutan, who work with farmers in mountainous terrain.

“Hard evidence is very important,” noted Chuki Wangmo. “If people at both the national and local levels can see how agroforestry can be of benefit to crop production, especially by addressing soil and wind erosion issues which many farmers suffer from, it would encourage wider adoption of agroforestry in our country.”

Farmers in both Vietnam and Bhutan are already significantly affected by the impacts of a rapidly changing climate. In Bhutan, changes to precipitation are exacerbating the rate of soil erosion, which is speeding a decline in soil fertility, compounded by the steep terrain. The government often has to compensate farmers affected by crop losses and damage caused by landslides and flooding.

About 70 percent of Bhutanese farmers rely on agriculture, forestry and livestock for subsistence livelihoods yet only 8 percent of Bhutan’s total land area is cultivable. The establishment of agroforestry would enable farmers cultivating small areas of land to improve the efficiency and diversity of crop production in already fragile mountainous areas, whilst meeting the socioeconomic needs of the community.

“The successful agroforestry demonstration sites we visited revealed how agroforestry systems can increase land-use efficiency for smallholders by increasing the productivity per area unit,” noted Ram Babu Paudyal.

Nepal could reap the benefits of such simple yet effective agroforestry systems to produce a diverse range of products on small areas of land.

In Son La province, the Nepali visitors heard how farmers involved in a 50-hectare demonstration agroforestry landscape had migrated from a neighboring area affected by the construction of a hydropower dam.

The role of agroforestry in improving livelihoods is particularly relevant to Nepal because it is experiencing increased out-migration from rural areas. This was a key motive of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in funding a pilot study dubbed Enhancing Rural Livelihoods in Abandoned/Underutilized Agricultural Land through Agroforestry.

“We hope that agroforestry will encourage the return of urban migrants to farms,” said Ram Babu Paudyal. “If agroforestry can be demonstrated as a land-use system that can provide sustainable sources of income and sustainable land cultivation, it could help address poverty and many national environmental concerns.”

ICRAF Vietnam recognizes the importance of establishing long-term relationships and collaboration with district and community organizations to enable the sustainable implementation of agroforestry. Agricultural and forestry extensionists or rural advisors are a key component of such relations. The visitors had the chance to speak with extensionists at the field sites to better understand their role as communicators of technical advice and guidance to, and between, farmers.

“Extensionists are clearly very valuable when it comes to building cohesion between the agricultural and forestry sectors,” commented Kinley Wangmo. “We learned that there were many different stakeholders, including experts, involved in the process of enabling agroforestry on the ground. Our visit to the field sites showed that agroforestry systems differ depending on the type of landscape and that the needs of farmers in those landscapes must always be prioritized.”

By Anoushka Carter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


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

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  • Impact of migration on people and landscapes in Nepal

Impact of migration on people and landscapes in Nepal

In Nalma village, Nepal, land is used for rice fields, gardens and housing. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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In a series of four videos and associated articles, the Center for International Forestry Research‘s (CIFOR) Forests News looks at migration research in Nepal, and how migration impacts lives and landscapes in the village of Nalma.

The importance of migration to rural livelihoods in Nepal is not being recognized in forestry policy or by donors – and nor is the diversity of women’s experience, argues a chapter of Gender and Forests: Climate Change, tenure, Value Chains and Emerging Issues, which was coedited by Carol J Colfer, CIFOR and FTA scientist Bimbika Sijapati Basnett, and FTA gender coordinator Marlene Elias.

Thirty percent of Nepal’s GDP comes from remittances – the second highest proportion in the world. Around half a million people, or eight percent of Nepal’s total population, applied for a permit to work abroad in 2014 – 94 percent of them were men – and that does not include the many unregistered migrants or those who migrated within the country. Despite this, Nepal’s recent Forest Sector Strategy (2012-2022) mentions migration just once.

First up in the series, Sijapati Basnett talks about her research in Nalma in Unpacking migration and gender in Nepal. The video is accompanied by the article Unpacking migration and gender in Nepal’s community forests, which considers that changing migration patterns bring both burdens and benefits for women.

Second, in Left behind in Nepal: Sita’s story, the series looks at Sita Pariyar, a 29-year-old mother of two living in Nalma who has balanced housework, childcare and field work since her husband moved to Qatar as a migrant worker. Nearly three-quarters of Nepal’s young male population now works overseas, sending money back to their families in the form of remittances that contribute almost 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. On the home front, women, children and the elderly are left to keep village life running, reshaping traditional roles, responsibilities and land management practices.

It is accompanied by Left behind: The women and elderly of Nalma, which aims to give a voice to those left back home by migrant workers in Nepal.

Third, through the video Left behind in Nepal: Shanti’s story, Forests News follows Shanti Tamang, a 20-year-old mother with a 3-year-old son, who was left to live with her in-laws after her husband went abroad to work. While her husband sends back better wages from Qatar, Shanti still has to struggle with the responsibilities of looking after the family and working in the fields to make ends meet.

As many migrant workers leave their villages behind, landscapes and social hierarchies are being shaken from tradition, which is explored through In Nepal, what migration means on the home front.

The fourth installment, The returnee: Inside the lives of migrant workers from Nepal, followed Bahadur. With seven children and a wife of 21 years whom he had married for love, Bahadur had every reason to feel confident that his move abroad from the village of Nalma in Nepal to Saudi Arabia was a financially wise choice for his family. All was going well until the news came, six months into his time abroad, that his wife had eloped with someone else, leading Bahadur to return as soon as possible to his children.

A final in-depth article, The dreamer, the progressive and the returnee, looks at the experiences of several Nepali migrant workers now choosing to stay in their hometown. Those now remaining in Nepal are helping enliven efforts to farm the surrounding land, and to kickstart new initiatives such as permaculture and ecotourism.

Nepal is well known for its widespread adoption of community forestry, where responsibility for managing forests is devolved to the people who live around them. But as international and circular migration for employment purposes becomes more common – and male-dominated – who actually lives there is in constant flux. In reality, Sijapati Basnett says, “migration is both a burden and a benefit for women who are left behind.”

The first article described above was written by Kate Evans. The following three articles, which were conducted in collaboration with Forest Action Nepal, were written by Gabrielle Lipton, Leona Liu and Bimbika Sijapati Basnett. All were originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Bimbika Sijapati Basnett 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 UK aid from the UK government.
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  • The returnee: Inside the lives of migrant workers from Nepal

The returnee: Inside the lives of migrant workers from Nepal

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With seven children and a wife of 21 years, Bahadur believed moving abroad from the village of Nalma in Nepal to Saudi Arabia in order to work was a financially wise choice for his family. All was going well until the news came, six months into his time abroad, that his wife had eloped with someone else, leading Bahadur to returned to his children in Nepal.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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  • Left behind in Nepal: Shanti’s story

Left behind in Nepal: Shanti’s story

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Shanti Tamang, a 20-year-old mother with a 3-year-old son, was left to live with her in-laws in a village in Nepal after her husband went abroad to work. While her husband sends back better wages from Qatar, Shanti still has to struggle with the responsibilities of looking after the family and working in the fields to make ends meet. Nearly three-quarters of Nepal’s young male population now works overseas, sending money back to their families in the form of remittances that contribute almost 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. On the home front, women, children and the elderly are left to keep village life running, reshaping traditional roles, responsibilities and land management practices.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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  • Comparing governance reforms to restore the forest commons in Nepal, China and Ethiopia

Comparing governance reforms to restore the forest commons in Nepal, China and Ethiopia

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  • Approaches and tools for assessing mountain forest ecosystem services

Approaches and tools for assessing mountain forest ecosystem services

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Mountain forest ecosystems provide a wide range of direct and indirect contributions to the people who live in the mountains and surrounding areas. Occupying steep slopes at high elevation, these ecosystems provide services such as stabilizing slopes, regulating hydrological cycles, maintaining rich biodiversity and supporting the livelihoods of those who are diverse in culture but vulnerable to poverty and food security. This paper (i) reviews several tools for assessing the sociocultural, economic and ecological values of mountain forest ecosystem services, (ii) demonstrates case studies of tool applications from several countries namely, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Iran and Nepal, and (iii) discusses assessment challenges that should be considered in the application of these tools.

In Bhutan, an application of benefit transfer showed that the average total value of forest ecosystem services was over USD 14.5 billion per year. In India, an application of stakeholder and household analyses indicated that a total of 29 different ecosystem services are available and sustain livelihoods of local communities near the Maguri Mottapung wetland. In Indonesia, an application of Q methodology identified anticipated benefits and concerns of forest watershed stakeholders related to certification applications for a payment for ecosystem services. In Iran, an application of the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs Tool showed that the regulation of ecosystem services has been declining in Hyrcanian forests despite the forests’ critical roles in the region. In Nepal, an application of a spatial analytical approach and participatory assessment techniques identified key mountain ecosystem services for community forests at the Charnawolti sub-watershed of Dolakha, and demonstrated forest restoration on degraded lands over the last two decades. Several challenges exist for the assessment of mountain forest ecosystem services and these must be reflected in assessment design. These challenges include the complexity of defining and classifying ecosystem services; limited availability of data on ecosystem services; uncertainties associated with climate change; complex relationships among services including trade-offs and synergies; and limitation of assessments to build successful payments for ecosystem services.

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  • How are China, Nepal and Ethiopia restoring forest landscapes?

How are China, Nepal and Ethiopia restoring forest landscapes?

A researcher explains the use of ground penetrating radar to measure peat depth to professors and students. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR
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Comparative study launched on sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum finds success in devolving property rights.

Forest landscape restoration has gained a high political profile internationally, but still faces the challenge of how best to involve local communities to ensure the success of programs on the ground. This is an issue that is all the more challenging given the diversity of environmental and sociopolitical contexts around the globe.

Property rights, for instance, are widely accepted as a crucial starting point for restoration — but policymakers struggle to clarify and secure rights over forests. In view of this, researchers at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), turned to successful FLR programs in China, Nepal and Ethiopia to identify lessons that could be applied elsewhere.

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

Specifically, they examined how the devolution of access and management rights to local communities provided incentives for them to invest in restoration activities. The study, included in a Special Issue of International Forestry Review on forest landscape restoration, focuses on people managing forests in mountainous and hilly areas.

The special issue was launched on the sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, where FTA also participated in discussion forums and panels.

By drawing examples from dramatically different national contexts, the comparative study illustrates “the diversity of paths that the devolution of rights took, but how it had similar results,” says CIFOR senior scientist and lead author Peter Cronkleton.

All three cases of forest tenure reform led to the decentralization of forestry institutions and the partial devolution of management rights to local forest-dependent people, Cronkleton says. This resulted in different comanagement systems that reflect national and local contexts.

However, the general outcome was the same: local households that gained clear and secure benefits from restoration efforts not only invested in management activities, but also helped to protect the resources from overuse and excluded outsiders. Ultimately, this led to an increase in forest cover and improvements in livelihoods.

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn 2017

COMANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

In Nepal, devolution passed rights to community-level user groups controlling nearby remnant forests, while in China’s Changting county, reforms resulted in a varied array of individuals and local groups controlling different types of forest for different purposes, the study notes.

In Ethiopia, a national forest was subdivided to grant control to local organizations representing subgroups from surrounding communities.

“All or most forests in question started as public or collective property within systems that placed strict restrictions on forest access and use for local stakeholders. However, in each case, national agencies or other authorities lacked the capacity or political will to control and enforce restrictions,” the research points out.

This led to forest degradation and deforestation, as various stakeholders “extracted what they could, and there was little incentive to forgo immediate benefits or invest in the resources’ future.” This scenario, common to the various case studies, started changing following tenure reform.

Now, “Nepal is known as a global leader in community-based forest management,” says CIFOR senior scientist Himlal Baral. More than 20,000 Community Forestry User Groups, making up 40 percent of the population, now manage 33 percent of Nepal’s forests.

“Before, locals had a tendency to overutilize resources,” says Baral. “Today, they have incentives to protect the landscape, and they see restoration as being closely connected to their livelihoods.” From his perspective, this illustrates how the multiple benefits of FLR are key to advancing environmental targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.


In Changting, China, policy reform took a different path. In the study area, collective property rights over forests offered low incentives for restoration. In this case, the key was devolving rights to individual households. Individual forest rights combined with credits and subsidies provided incentives for households, cooperatives and enterprises to invest in FLR.

In Ethiopia, some of the poorest forest-dependent residents organized into user groups under participatory forest management programs (PFM). They were encouraged to develop management plans for lands that were not classified as production or protected forests, and were allowed to extract non-timber products in return.

An estimated 1.5 million hectares of forest are currently under PFM institutions, and an additional two million could be rehabilitated with this mechanism as part of the commitments under the Bonn Challenge.

Read more: Forest Landscape Restoration in Hilly and Mountainous Regions: Special Issue

BETTER FLR PROGRAMS

Indicators of forest devolution success range from an increase in tree cover to reduction in conflicts between local communities and the state, as was the case with the Chilimo PFM program in Ethiopia. Though there were many successes in FLR, the study also points out emerging challenges.

One is whether local communities have ownership over the environmental services produced by their restoration efforts, often by forgoing other benefits, and whether they should be compensated by other stakeholders. “This will be an ongoing question: how to create equitable and efficient systems for having payments for those services,” says Cronkleton.

In comanagement systems, communities are required to demonstrate their compliance with forestry regulations. According to Cronkleton, “the tendency to impose more and more elaborate management and reporting requirements can create a disincentive.”

From his perspective, devolving property rights to local actors is as important as including them in determining how the restoration should take place. “Comanagement should involve an ongoing negotiation and adaptation to new learnings. It is a process rather than a one-off decision.”

Further research could explore how different ways of devolving rights affect restoration efforts. For now, scientists hope this study will raise awareness among policymakers and practitioners of the need to involve locals when designing rights systems and compliance mechanisms. After all, says Cronkleton, “it is key to the success of the initiative.”

Read more: Forest and landscape restoration severely constrained by a lack of attention to the quantity and quality of tree seed: Insights from a global survey

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Peter Cronkleton at [email protected] or Himlal Baral 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 UK aid from the UK government.

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  • Challenges for developing Forest Stewardship Council certification for ecosystem services: How to enhance local adoption?

Challenges for developing Forest Stewardship Council certification for ecosystem services: How to enhance local adoption?

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The rise of ecosystem services (ES) as a conservation and management tool has changed the way forests are conceived, but so far its translation into management actions has been limited. In this paper, we discuss the development of certification of forest ecosystem services (FES) from the perspective of those implementing it at the local level. We focus on the lessons that emerged from applying the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification framework at selected sites in Chile, Indonesia, Nepal and Vietnam.

Our results indicate a clear relationship between local and global levels in the development of FSC FES certification. Although the FSC already had a broad vision of ES, it was only through local-level learning within a specific pilot experiment that the vision evolved and resulted in more formal FES certification becoming part of FSC forest management certification. We also found that those sites where participatory approaches to management and decision-making were applied could work with an undefined vision of the future system, and still successfully design and implement management activities. However, overall the lack of specific vision and detailed information about future FES certification was problematic in attracting market interest in FSC certified ES.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.10.001

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  • Rural women left behind in Nepal

Rural women left behind in Nepal

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Sita Pariyar, a 27-year-old mother of two living in the village of Nalma, Nepal, has balanced housework, childcare and field work alone for a year now since her husband moved to Qatar as a migrant worker. Nearly three-quarters of Nepal’s young male population now works overseas, sending money back to their families in the form of remittances that contribute almost 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. On the home front, women, children and the elderly are left to keep village life running, reshaping traditional roles, responsibilities and land management practices.

Read more at Forests News. Originally published by CIFOR.


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