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  • Rethinking the food system to tackle triple burden of malnutrition

Rethinking the food system to tackle triple burden of malnutrition

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The global narrative on food security and nutrition is not new: 1 billion people go hungry because they do not get enough food to eat; 3 billion people are malnourished because they lack nutritious food; 2.5 billion people are overweight often because they consume too many empty calories.

International scientists are trying to find innovative solutions to tackle these layers of food insecurity, known as “the triple burden of malnutrition.”

The best approach to balancing nutritious food supply and demand means reevaluating the way food is produced and distributed and by addressing environmental challenges, including climate change and poor land management strategies.

Watch: Enhancing food system resilience 

“We need better and more sustainable food systems and within that, to determine what role forests, trees and agroforestry play,” said Vincent Gitz, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), who moderated a recent discussion on enhancing food system resilience at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Solutions could be found by moving away from production-centric notions, which focus on increasing crop yields through agricultural intensification, toward transformation of food production systems, said keynote speaker John Ingram, leader of the Food Research Programme in the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, which coorganized the discussion with FTA.

The various stages of food production – including storage, packaging, sales, consumption and disposal – result in disparate socioeconomic and environmental outcomes, Ingram said.

“We’re trying to establish how to manage the tradeoffs between the two by exploiting potential synergies with intervention,” he added, listing various environmental food-related challenges.

By charting projected increases in population and wealth, as part of his research, Ingram extrapolated future calorie consumption, demonstrating that food system challenges are interconnected.

Women display foraged and cultivated forest foods at a food fair in Luwingu, Zambia. Photo by Joe Nkadaani/CIFOR

“The environmental consequences of meeting this demand under current food system practices and consumption trends are dire,” he said. A linear projection over the next 10 years based on current trends shows that more than half the population would be overweight.

“The challenge is to achieve food security for a growing, wealthier, urbanizing population while minimizing further environmental degradation against a background of stresses and shocks: natural resource depletion; many stagnating rural economies, changing climate and extreme weather, and social and cultural changes,” he added.

Read also: John Ingram presents enhancing food system resilience

The aim is to develop resilience through a healthy food system so that these food system stresses can be addressed, while also laying the groundwork to tackle unpredictable events at the same time. Adaptation through reorganization of the food system is key, Ingram said.

“There was a notion we wanted sustainable diets,” he said. “What we actually want is sustainable systems delivering healthy diets.”

The challenge is to ramp down and ramp up simultaneously, he said. On the one side, the human health agenda must be addressed, which involves the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Environment. On the other, the development agenda must work toward providing food security and nutrition for those who do not yet have it, which involves the CGIAR agricultural research partnership and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“The important thing is looking for this word ‘synergy’; it really should be possible to get these two agendas hand-in-hand, and one of the best ways to do it is to include business more overtly in this equation,” Ingram said. “It’s the agents of change, the food system actors that we need to engage. And that means everybody.”

John Ingram speaks during the “Enhancing food system resilience” event. Photo by Tegar Agusta/CIFOR

FORESTS AT FOREFRONT

Forests have a vital role to play in restructuring food production systems and in maintaining environmental equilibrium. More than a billion people rely on forests and forest resources, which provide an important safety net at times of food and income insecurity, said Terry Sunderland, senior associate with CIFOR and a professor at Canada’s University of British Columbia.

It is paramount to ensure that the contribution of forests and trees is optimized across the four pillars of food security and nutrition – availability, access, utilization and stability – in a context of climate change and increasing demands on land for wood, food energy and ecosystem services, Sunderland said.

The international community must recognize that research has shown that people living closer to forests have better diets, and must integrate forests into food policies, he added.

Read also: Terry Sunderland presents key findings from the HLPE report on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition 

World Agroforestry (ICRAF), for instance, has developed a portfolio to recommend ecologically suitable combinations of food trees and crops to provide year-round harvests. The project aimed to boost fruit and vegetable consumption, which is often consumed at a rate far lower than recommended by WHO, said ICRAF scientist Stepha McMullen.

“Without this documentation, it could mean that certain crops are overlooked, particularly in agriculture and nutrition planning projects and policies,” she said.

Indigenous and underutilized food tree and crop species are key in local food systems because they are often more adapted to the landscape and therefore more resilient in the face of climate change.

The mainstreaming of these foods into wider use is necessary to ensure communities are harnessing their total value, McMullen said.

LOCAL TO GLOBAL

Policies focused on sustainable intensification of agriculture can have a negative impact on the quality of diets of people living in those producing landscapes, said Amy Ickowitz, team leader of Sustainable Landscapes and Food at CIFOR.

If fewer types of food are grown in a landscape, there are fewer types available for consumption, she said.

Proponents of the “land sparing” agricultural intensification theory argue that it will result in higher incomes and better access to markets. However, studies have shown that fruit and vegetables found in local markets don’t travel very far, which means there will be less diversity unless food is imported, creating an ecological footprint.

A 14-year study of 200 households in Indonesia, which concluded in 2014, showed that declines in production and dietary diversity among rural houses are increasing – declines in fruit, vegetable and fish consumption, but increases in the consumption of meat, fat and processed foods.

“This is the classic nutrition transition we’re seeing in many parts of the world,” Ickowitz said.

Solutions proposed for solving some global challenges can sometimes have negative impacts on local diets on producing landscapes, she said. People in traditional systems often do eat lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes, some of the food items disappearing from local diets.

“We need to be careful not to try and solve some problems in one part of the global food system by making things worse elsewhere,” Ickowitz said.

By Julie Mollins, senior editor and writer for CIFOR.


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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  • Trees nurture nutrition

Trees nurture nutrition

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Pepper fruit in Nigeria. Photo by World Agroforestry

World Agroforestry’s (ICRAF) Food Tree and Crop Portfolio helps with the selection of food-tree species along with complementary vegetable, pulse and staple crops.

Foods from farms with trees — also known as agroforestry — are dense with nutrients. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and oils complement, and diversify, diets based on staple foods like rice, wheat and maize. This range of foods increases the nutritional quality of local diets, mostly owing to their micronutrients — mineral and vitamins — but also macronutrients, such as protein and carbohydrates.

Furthermore, these nutritional benefits can be available year-round and during periods of drought thanks to trees’ deep and extensive roots. Their roots make trees more resilient. This quality also helps tree foods bridge the ‘hunger gap’ that can occur before harvests of annual crops.

To fully harness the benefits of trees, ICRAF has developed an approach called the Food Tree and Crop Portfolio. The portfolio helps with the selection of socioecologically suitable and nutritionally important food-tree species along with complementary vegetable, pulse and staple crops.

Read also: Can research be transformative? Challenging gender norms around trees and land restoration in West Africa

Agnes Gachuiri of World Agroforestry works with farmers to set priorities for food trees in Kenya. Photo by World Agroforestry

The portfolios are a combination of indigenous and exotic species that are site-specific. Several aspects are assessed in each portfolio, such as diversity of on-farm food production, and food composition and consumption; the harvest months of prioritised food-tree and crop species are mapped against periods of food insecurity; and nutrient gaps can be filled by matching foods with nutrient-content data.

The successful adoption of a food-tree portfolio depends on several enabling and constraining factors that determine what farmers decide to plant and how the produce will be used. Farmers typically have a wealth of knowledge about food-tree species. They often prioritize their cultivation and use according to gender and age-related needs, interests and constraints that can sometimes be neglected in research-in-development projects.

Accordingly, central to the portfolio concept and its adoption into landscapes is understanding farmers’ preferences. Through the Agro-biodiversity and Landscape Restoration for Food Security and Nutrition in East Africa project, which is funded by the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, these have been carefully documented and used to inform portfolios in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

Particularly in the latter two countries, the project team has been able to better understand the availability of food trees as well as gendered and age-related priorities through the use of participatory-research methods.

A total of 57 food-tree species has been recorded: 47 in Uganda (including 58% exotic species) and 49 in Kenya (65% exotics). In both countries, knowledge of food-tree species differed by gender and age, with older women knowing the greatest number of species. In Uganda, the team found that older men preferred species used for timber and charcoal whereas women of all ages preferred species that were easily accessible and which played a role in providing children’s food. Both men and women valued food trees for their contribution to improved health and nutrition. But at all sites there was a preference for exotic species, such as mango (Mangifera indica), passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) and avocado (Persea americana).

Read also: Workshop on social and gender dynamics aims to improve resilience and livelihoods in Ghana

A diagram shows year-round fresh fruits. Courtesy of World Agroforestry

Younger women and men, in general, preferred species that were more marketable, although there were specific differences. Women in Kitui, Kenya, preferred species such as papaya (Carica papaya), chocolate berry (Vitex payos), guava (Psidium guajava) and tamarind (Tamarindus indica), which are sold in small quantities; men were not interested in them.

At both project sites in Kenya, women — especially older groups — preferred indigenous food trees more than men did, owing to their role in meeting household nutrition needs, especially as food for children, and for firewood and medicines. However, these species were reported to have poor markets.

The diversity of motivations and preferences are an indication of the complexities behind farmers’ decisions to plant certain trees and hint at the dynamic role played by intrahousehold decision-making in determining which preferences and needs are prioritized.

Previous studies in Kenya have shown that households often prioritized the sale of tree foods for income generation ahead of domestic consumption.  The income earned from the sales was often spent on food, mostly less nutritious foods such as starchy staples. However, farmers usually expressed a desire to consume more fruit and, as was also found by the project team, they would like to plant more food trees.

When asked about the constraints to do so, farmers typically referred to a lack of seedlings — especially improved varieties — prolonged droughts and scarcity of land. Some of these constraints were gendered as well, with more younger women mentioning a lack of knowledge about planting and management as well as cultural restrictions, such as only having access to land when married; whereas younger men indicated the challenges of pests, limited markets, and land scarcity and ownership.

The project has also captured information on patterns of food consumption and the potential for marketing priority tree foods and crops. This information will link to the findings from gender-responsive, priority-setting activities to further explore the interactions between decision-making dynamics, food choices and food-tree and crop cultivation across farming landscapes in the region.

Based on the evidence generated by gender-sensitive, participatory research, the project team is developing site-specific interventions informed by local knowledge, preferences, needs and constraints to optimize the benefits of cultivating a diversity of food trees and crops to meet seasonal food needs, and enhance the availability of more nutritious foods.

Related reading:

By Ana Maria Paez-Valencia, ICRAF social scientist.


Produced by World Agroforestry (ICRAF) as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

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When Rosalina Heni is not working in the rice paddy fields in Ribang Kadeng village in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, she gathers vegetables in the surrounding forest for her family to eat.

By contrast, in nearby Sekadu Village, local resident Maria Ludiana can no longer collect enough ferns, bamboo shoots and other vegetables to feed her family because an oil palm plantation has supplanted the natural growth forest.

“Right now, we buy more,” Ludiana says in a new video produced by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “The difference is that before, everything was natural – natural foods, spices. The types of meat we eat have started to change.”

Watch: Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia

The subsistence livelihoods of more than 150 million residents of rural areas in Indonesia are at risk from oil palm expansion, according to scientists studying impact on nutritional status and diets as part of a research project funded by the Drivers of Food Choice (DFC) Competitive Grants Programs, which is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and managed by the University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health, USA.

In some circumstances the scientists have already observed traditional diets being abandoned.

“So far, we’ve seen that the people who live in the forest rely on nature – nature becomes their main way to get food,” says Yusuf Habibie, lecturer in the Department of Nutrition in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Brawijaya in the city of Malang in East Java province. “Then, when land is converted to oil palm plantations, with no forests, people lose access to wild food from the forest. Instead they start to purchase more food, including packaged foods.”

Forests and agroforestry systems which combine trees and crops play important roles in food security and nutrition, says CIFOR Scientist Amy Ickowitz, observing that communities in West Kalimantan eating forest foods, including fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, are getting all nutritional components found in healthy diets.

“Forests can play an important role in making our global food system more sustainable and more environmentally friendly, while making an important contribution to healthy diets ,” Ickowitz says, adding that improving food security and nutrition is not always as simple as raising incomes in rural communities; oil palm companies, governments, and researchers need to work together to find ways to make sure that landscape change does not harm health and nutrition while improving incomes.

If there are no plants, where are we going to be if not dead, queries Bandi, a respected elder living in the village of Sungai Utik.

“Nature is our supermarket,” he says. “If there is no forest, where can we get this variety of food? We will be forced to buy.”

Scientists are continuing their research into the impact of plantations on local forests in Indonesia. As yet, they have not compared oil palm with rubber plantations, which may not have the same impact on local diets.

For more information on this topic, please contact Amy Ickowitz at [email protected].

By Julie Mollins, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
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  • Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia

Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Subsistence livelihoods of residents of rural areas in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan are at risk from oil palm expansion, according to scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research and the University of Brawijaya.

This video was first published by CIFOR.

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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

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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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  • Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Fish for sale in a local market in Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding more sustainable ways to feed the world at the EAT Food Forum in Jakarta.

Creating a more sustainable global food system demands innovation in food technologies, and collaboration at the highest levels of government. These demands were echoed by many prominent leaders who attended the recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia.

More than 500 participants from 30 countries congregated at the Forum on October 30 and 31 to discuss progress on the latest food research, as well as ideas for how to transform food systems in Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned in his opening remarks that “food can trigger political problems if not managed well.” He hoped that the “EAT Forum can reach a collective understanding through international collaboration among development actors from various sectors.”

After a steady decline for more than a decade, global hunger is again on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, according to a recent UN report. The increased number of those going hungry — from 38 million people last year to 815 million people today — is reported to be mainly caused by civil conflicts, and exacerbated by climate-related catastrophes.

Gathering leaders from science, politics and business, the EAT Forum aimed to promote a more holistic approach to food, health and sustainability, filling knowledge gaps, pushing for integrated food policies and finding win-win solutions.

Read more: Feminism, forests and food security

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

A HIGH-LEVEL ISSUE

“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets,” EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen said in her opening speech.

“We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector, from multinationals to local entrepreneurs, to create new products, services and sustainable business models,” she added.

Indonesian Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that “food security has become a prominent issue due to rapid growth in global population.”

“Food security, energy security and water supply are becoming key factors for many economic activities in the world. Improvements in technology and innovation are definitely going to create both opportunities and increasing productivity, but also challenges,” she said.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Terry Sunderland from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) commended the EAT forum for its success in gathering a large number of stakeholders in the food sector, including high-level politicians.

“Getting politicians to recognize the limitations of our current food systems is a great start. Things will not change overnight, but the event in Jakarta is raising awareness. People are listening,” he said.

Read more: Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security, nutrition and the SDGs; Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda

A HOLISTIC VIEW ON FOOD SECURITY

Amy Ickowitz, another CIFOR scientist who participated in the event, said the issues covered in the Forum are in line with CIFOR’s research. But while the Forum focused more on the impacts of food systems on land-use change, CIFOR’s Sustainable Landscapes and Food team “also focuses on the flip side — the impacts of land-use change on smallholder diets,” she said.

The team recently published a paper looking at the relationship between forests and tree-based agriculture, and the diets of children in Indonesia.

Sunderland added that when talking about food security in Indonesia, forests and fisheries play an integral role.

“Inland and marine fisheries stocks, and how they interplay with dietary and nutritional diversity, are important. We need to understand, what are the future demands for fisheries and how will this play out in terms food security? It supports we have done in the past five, six years in terms of moving towards dietary diversity,” he said.

“More support should be given to smallholder farmers so they can reduce their post-harvest waste, so they can trade in a market that’s fair and equitable. And slowly get that mindset that the transformation of our food system can be a positive thing.

Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important,” he added.

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


The EAT Forum was jointly organized by the Indonesian Government and the EAT Foundation.

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or Amy Ickowitz 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 and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Fish for sale in a local market in Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding more sustainable ways to feed the world at the EAT Food Forum in Jakarta.

Creating a more sustainable global food system demands innovation in food technologies, and collaboration at the highest levels of government. These demands were echoed by many prominent leaders who attended the recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia.

More than 500 participants from 30 countries congregated at the Forum on October 30 and 31 to discuss progress on the latest food research, as well as ideas for how to transform food systems in Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned in his opening remarks that “food can trigger political problems if not managed well.” He hoped that the “EAT Forum can reach a collective understanding through international collaboration among development actors from various sectors.”

After a steady decline for more than a decade, global hunger is again on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, according to a recent UN report. The increased number of those going hungry — from 38 million people last year to 815 million people today — is reported to be mainly caused by civil conflicts, and exacerbated by climate-related catastrophes.

Gathering leaders from science, politics and business, the EAT Forum aimed to promote a more holistic approach to food, health and sustainability, filling knowledge gaps, pushing for integrated food policies and finding win-win solutions.

Read more: Feminism, forests and food security

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

A HIGH-LEVEL ISSUE

“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets,” EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen said in her opening speech.

“We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector, from multinationals to local entrepreneurs, to create new products, services and sustainable business models,” she added.

Indonesian Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that “food security has become a prominent issue due to rapid growth in global population.”

“Food security, energy security and water supply are becoming key factors for many economic activities in the world. Improvements in technology and innovation are definitely going to create both opportunities and increasing productivity, but also challenges,” she said.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Terry Sunderland from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) commended the EAT forum for its success in gathering a large number of stakeholders in the food sector, including high-level politicians.

“Getting politicians to recognize the limitations of our current food systems is a great start. Things will not change overnight, but the event in Jakarta is raising awareness. People are listening,” he said.

Read more: Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security, nutrition and the SDGs; Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda

A HOLISTIC VIEW ON FOOD SECURITY

Amy Ickowitz, another CIFOR scientist who participated in the event, said the issues covered in the Forum are in line with CIFOR’s research. But while the Forum focused more on the impacts of food systems on land-use change, CIFOR’s Sustainable Landscapes and Food team “also focuses on the flip side — the impacts of land-use change on smallholder diets,” she said.

The team recently published a paper looking at the relationship between forests and tree-based agriculture, and the diets of children in Indonesia.

Sunderland added that when talking about food security in Indonesia, forests and fisheries play an integral role.

“Inland and marine fisheries stocks, and how they interplay with dietary and nutritional diversity, are important. We need to understand, what are the future demands for fisheries and how will this play out in terms food security? It supports we have done in the past five, six years in terms of moving towards dietary diversity,” he said.

“More support should be given to smallholder farmers so they can reduce their post-harvest waste, so they can trade in a market that’s fair and equitable. And slowly get that mindset that the transformation of our food system can be a positive thing.

Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important,” he added.

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


The EAT Forum was jointly organized by the Indonesian Government and the EAT Foundation.

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or Amy Ickowitz 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 and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Nutrition and Trees in sub-Saharan Africa: From forest to table

Nutrition and Trees in sub-Saharan Africa: From forest to table

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

In the Luwingu district, in northern Zambia, women gather a wide variety of foods from the forest. Emelda, Jennifer and Belita show us all the food they collect from nearby forests: fruits, mushrooms, vegetables and caterpillars. They hope forests are preserved so their children and future generations can continue to eat the same traditional dishes. Wild foods are important sources of key nutrients. Caterpillars are an important source of protein, iron, and zinc. Leafy green vegetables such as ‘pimpa’ and ‘pupwe’ tend to be high in iron and vitamin A.

Between 2013 and 2017, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) conducted a research project called ‘Nutrition and Trees in sub-Saharan Africa’ in five sites across several countries, looking at the contribution that forests and trees in landscapes make to the diets of mothers and their young children. One of these sites was in Luwingu, in northern Zambia. At the end of the project, women from different villages came together to showcase their recipes of traditional foods in a food fair hosted by Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture and CIFOR.

This video was produced by CIFOR.

This project was funded with UK aid from the UK government. This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Nutrition and trees in sub-Saharan Africa: Jennifer’s secret

Nutrition and trees in sub-Saharan Africa: Jennifer’s secret

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Not even Jennifer’s children know where she hides the chikanda. Why? The small, brownish orchid tubers are highly valued as a cultural delicacy among the Bemba people who live in the Luwingu district of northern Zambia. Overharvesting of chikanda for sale is an important issue in East and southern Africa, but local women have a way to harvest it sustainably. Jennifer explains why chikanda is so important in her culture.

Between 2013 and 2017, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) conducted a research project called ‘Nutrition and Trees in sub-Saharan Africa’ in five sites across several countries, looking at the contribution that forests and trees in landscapes make to the diets of mothers and their young children. One of these sites was in Luwingu, in northern Zambia. At the end of the project, women from different villages came together to showcase their recipes of traditional foods in a food fair hosted by Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture and CIFOR.

This video was produced by CIFOR.

This project was funded with UK aid from the UK government. This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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