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  • FTA Gender Research Updates – June 2017

FTA Gender Research Updates – June 2017

Coffee grows in the shade in the highlands of Nicaragua. Over half of the farmland in Central America has more than 30% tree cover. Photo by ICRAF
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Coffee grows under a canopy of shade in Nicaragua. Photo by ICRAF

Gender, access to information and trees on farms: Considerations for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

This project analyzes the conditions under which women’s participation in community-level groups may influence their capacities to access and implement information on the use of trees on farms, in a territory distinguished by high climatic risk in north-central Nicaragua.

The research, which forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), is carried out through collaboration between CATIE and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) researchers based in Costa Rica and in Nicaragua.

The field site coincides with the Climate Smart Village of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Tuma la Dalia and the FTA Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape.

Read also: Going deep on gender: research on climate-smart agroforestry in Nicaragua

The Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape is characterized by a variety of land uses. Tree cover is therefore diverse, competition for land is high, and speculation and renting land are common, but these arrangements drive deforestation, hinder long term investments and exacerbate land degradation.

This Sentinel Landscape hopes to address some of the following questions:

  • What conditions underlie the recuperation of tree cover?
  • What is the current land uses on the landscape and the different models to re-introduce trees?
  • Do current legal frameworks favor sustainable management or practices for the recuperation of trees?
  • What are the implications of the different models of tree re-introduction (in terms of quantity, functional and taxonomic, for mitigation of climate change, hydrological network and connectivity within the landscape)?
  • What are the changes to human welfare related to the different models of tree re-introduction?
  • Where are areas of conflicts within the landscape?
  • What are the trade-offs between social-ecological vulnerability and efficiency of the system under different models of tree re-introduction?
  • What opportunities and limitations are therefore the different models of tree re-introduction?
  • How to support initiatives for the re-introduction of trees in farms and landscapes to secure ecosystem restoration
Coffee grows in the shade in the highlands of Nicaragua. Over half of the farmland in Central America has more than 30% tree cover. Photo by ICRAF

Correspondingly, the research bases itself on data from the CCAFS gender household survey carried out in the territory in 2015 as well as on research insights from the NHSL project. Through funding from the Independent Science and Partnership Council, meetings with local stakeholders were recently carried out in order to share results and solicit feedback and inputs on research development.

The visits included the following organizations: the Research and Development Institute (NITLAPAN) of the Central American University (UCA) of Nicaragua; Christian Medical Action (AMC); the Organization for Rural and Urban Area Social and Economic Development (ODESAR); the Knowledge Management Network for Rural Development in Matagalpa and Jinotega (Red Gescon); and the Augusto Cesar Sandino Union of Farming Cooperatives (UCA San Ramón).

The sessions with local partners served to promote knowledge sharing on local gender dynamics and agricultural and agroforestry trends, with a focus on socially inclusive rural development and gender-sensitive climate change strategies.

For more on this project, visit the Sentinel Landscape page or click here for information in Spanish.

By Tatiana Gumucio, Gender Social Scientist, FTA Gender Integration Team. 

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

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  • ICRAF's Landscape Portal: Data geeks build global public good

ICRAF’s Landscape Portal: Data geeks build global public good

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Click on image to open Landscape Portal

By Kerstin Reisdorf

It sounds like not only the CIA’s, but also a scientist’s worst nightmare: tons of datasets just “lying around” or rather sitting on someone’s computer without anyone else knowing. This is all too common and was what happened with geospatial data at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) before the creation of their GeoScience Lab. When data are not organized it means, of course, that they are not accessible for others and therefore cannot be put to any use.

Around 2011, ICRAF decided to address this problem, both to improve data management and use internally and in response to several donors that wanted to see more research outputs shared between scientists. Enter: ICRAF’s data geeks.

In 2012, Geoinformatics Senior Scientist Tor-Gunnar Vagen and his colleagues created a system in which spatial data analysis becomes an integral part of research projects: the so-called Landscape Portal.

This is a strictly open-source, interactive tool not only for scientists in ICRAF.

Now, four years later, the Portal counts between 100 and 300 users per day from all over the world—and is set to enter its next phase with more features and improved ease of use.

How it works

The maps allow for interactive use and usually come with a description to give it credibility.
The maps allow for interactive use and usually come with a description to give it credibility.

The maps on the Landscape Portal come from a range of projects, including from historical datasets and larger research programmes such as FTA’s Sentinel Landscapes Initiative, covering thematic areas ranging from soil mapping, assessments of land degradation, Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration, biofuels and household surveys. These datasets and maps yield a wide range of biophysical parameters for properties such as soil health or tree cover. Each map contains different layers for each of the various properties it documents.

“The layers feed into a map-making interface in which a user can combine the information from one layer with a different dataset from the same geographical entity,” Vagen explains. By clicking on the maps, windows with measured values pop up that show variables such as the pH-status of a certain point in the map or the rainfall at a certain time.

“Right now, everyone who registers on the Portal, and not only ICRAF staff, can use the existing data, and also upload their own maps in any format they like,” Vagen explains. To make sure that the data is valid and can be tracked, they need to also provide the metadata to the spatial data layer (see screenshot).

“We have to know what the project is about, where it is located and so on,” says developer Muhammad Ahmed, “because we had attempts of jokers who tried to put up some rubbish maps. We need quality control.”

Sharing data with responsibility is his motto. And he stresses that such a data infrastructure needs constant maintenance, which is paid for by the projects to keep it a global public good.

Currently the Landscape Portal contains over 1500 unique datasets that are reflected as layers in maps with the respective metadata, another 2000 are in the pipeline, which means that they are being verified before publication.

“Interestingly,” says Ahmed, “most first time users of the Portal come in through the blogs, because search engines find key words from the blogs most easily, but cannot detect the meta-data in the spatial data layers directly.”

Data sharing

Sharing data can have many benefits, both Vagen and Ahmed agree. A good example comes from ICRAF research on biofuel species and the so-called Africa Tree Finder app, which was developed with funding from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) based on maps of potential natural vegetation in East Africa. The Geoinformatics specialists realized that the map on biofuel species was complementing the Tree Finder map as the data from the former could be used to validate the latter.

Ahmed also sees the potential of saving money if scientists from one project are aware of data collection conducted in other projects and can better coordinate or even supplement data these efforts. “We’d ask them to either share their data with us or even modify their survey a little bit. And this can save a lot of money.”

Example of a Sentinel Landscapes map
Example of a Sentinel Landscapes map

The Geoinformatics researchers are working to connect with scientists outside of ICRAF as well and are working on a number of joint projects with external partners. For example, a collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania is looking at the use and distribution of Croton as a biofuel in Kenya.

“Since ICRAF scientists go out into the field anyway, other organizations and universities could collaborate with them for their research projects and data sharing,” Ahmed says.

Sentinel Landscapes

The Landscape Portal is the official spatial data platform for Sentinel Landscapes project of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). All datasets generated in the ten Sentinel Landscapes that are currently in the database will over time go up on the Portal, which already holds about 150 unique datasets from these landscapes.

“Although finalizing the tremendous amount of data generated from the ten Sentinel Landscapes might be slower than we’d hoped for, we are proud that the Landscape Portal is the first of its kind in terms of capturing geographic, biophysical and social data which is a huge achievement already,” says ICRAF’s Deputy Director General Research, Ravi Prabhu.

Coming up

For the Landscape Portal’s next version, the developers have introduced web processing services so that the portal can produce maps according to users’ demand. Those maps will be ready “on the fly” and provide data in real-time. More importantly, the new Landscape Portal will make it easier to browse the layers and find data, Vagen explains, including location-based queries or searches. The Geoinformatics experts have also embedded an open-source modelling statistics platform called R-Statistics into the backend of the Portal. This will allow the Landscape Portal to run advanced statistical models in the back-end for analyses and mapping, and for the creation of Dashboards.

In the next phase that will be launched before the end of the year the Landscape Portal will also be connected with ICRAF’s Central Project Management System. As a consequence, anyone who enters their approved project into this database, which is compulsory, can also automatically also store and tag spatial datasets that are associated with their project on the Landscape Portal.

“The ultimate goal is to be able to create a map that shows where ICRAF is doing what kind of work and what stage it is at,” Ahmed says. “That way, others can take advantage of us being in a certain area to get their surveys done as well.” And this would be any scientist’s dream come true.

The Landscape portal is based on GeoNode, an open source spatial content management platform.


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  • Alternative crops for smallholders: ‘Livelihoods insetting’ attracts oil-palm players

Alternative crops for smallholders: ‘Livelihoods insetting’ attracts oil-palm players

A villager brings oil palm fruits out from the plantation. Jambi, Indonesia, December, 2010. Photo: Iddy Farmer/CIFOR
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By Rob Finlayson, originally posted at Agroforestry World Blog

Photo: World Agroforestry Centre
Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

The idea of creating multiple agricultural alternatives for farmers within oil-palm landscapes has attracted interest from large industry players at a conference in Malaysia, the world’s second-biggest producing nation.

Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is one of the most controversial agricultural commodities of our time. To its supporters, it is the ‘golden crop’ that grows smallholders out of poverty and which offers salvation to the global food and energy crisis. For its critics, it is the single biggest driver of the destruction of peatlands and rainforests that accelerates greenhouse-gas emissions, posing a fundamental threat to existence as we know it.

‘Mainly because of consumer concerns, but also because of the realisation that resources are not infinite’, said Faisal Mohd Noor, speaking at the International Palm Oil Congress and Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur in October 2015, ‘the industry is changing’.
Noor, an oil-palm researcher working with the oil-palm sentinel landscape theme of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, met with a warm reception from industry leaders to his research team’s proposal for ‘livelihoods insetting’, which simultaneously addresses consumer concerns about oil-palm sustainability and industry concerns about productivity. ‘Insetting’ involves embedding sustainable activities directly into a business’s supply chain and leads to the build-up of human capital in the communities involved.

Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Photo: World Agroforestry Centre


A working example of insetting is the African-orphan-crops consortium funded by Mars Inc. Bruno Roche, Mars’ chief economist and Catalyst program managing director, has claimed success for insetting, stating that, ‘We know that investing in the human capital of communities in our sourcing landscapes leads to a higher productivity and profit for us’.

In response to Noor’s presentation, head of certification for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Jan van Driel, asked what RSPO could do to help and how it could participate; Faris Adli Shukery, head of marketing with Sime Darby Foods and Beverages, said that the oil-palm industry has been the driving force behind the development of the rural people of Malaysia and Indonesia and livelihood insetting is an interesting concept that would make the contribution of the industry more visible to consumers of palm-oil products.

Speaking on the sidelines after Noor’s presentation, Genting Plantations’ Chew Jit Seng, vice-president for sustainability, stated that insetting was a good idea to pursue, as did International Sustainability and Carbon Certification’s managing director Norbert Schmitz, while the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s chief executive Dato’ Dr Makhdzir Mardan said it was something to be encouraged with his full support.

‘Insetting isn’t a new idea but is usually only used in the context of mitigating environmental impacts, such as land degradation, biodiversity and climate change. What is new is that we are asking the industry to work together with other partners to set up market structures and functional value chains for other agricultural and forest products’, explained Noor. ‘Put simply, insetting would see the oil-palm industry investing in building alternative agricultural livelihoods’ options for farmers in oil-palm landscapes’.

Research by the World Agroforestry Centre and others has shown that farmers with diverse livelihoods are more resilient towards fluctuating global prices as well as climate shocks. But as well as better serving the smallholding producers of oil palm, insetting also promises to support the main aim of the oil-palm industry.

A villager brings oil palm fruits out from the plantation. Jambi, Indonesia, December, 2010. Photo: Iddy Farmer/CIFOR
A villager brings oil palm fruits out from the plantation. Jambi, Indonesia, December, 2010. Photo: Iddy Farmer/CIFOR

‘It’s important to note that insetting isn’t simply a different packaging of corporate social responsibility’, continued Noor. ‘It’s actually directly linked to the industry’s core business: increasing productivity. Farmers who are happier and better off are more likely to produce high palm-oil yields than farmers who eke out a marginal existence’.

Diverse agroforestry systems have been proven to broadly improve farmers’ livelihoods unlike monocultural crops that put farmers at the mercy of market and climate fluctuations.

‘The presentation was just an introduction of the concept to industry,’ explained Noor. ‘However, the message is clear that the palm-oil industry must change its strategy. With forward thinking, such as widespread adoption of insetting, the industry can stop being in defensive mode and prove it is really serious about sustainability.

‘But to do that, the industry has to change itself. One of the biggest challenges is how most people in the industry think about agriculture. The concept of mixed crops, or integrated farming, seems to have almost vanished from the mindset of the agriculturalists I spoke with at the conference. So it is critically important to get the industry leaders interested in diversification, produce research that will guide implementation and help them promote it widely amongst all players’.

The situation is critical for governments not only because of the falling revenues from the palm-oil industry but also for the security of incomes and food supply for citizens. Oil palm is not a very suitable crop for smallholders because it requires high upfront investment, is difficult to manage—especially for older people—and needs intensive input to produce high yields. Countries with higher incomes and ageing agricultural workforces, such as Malaysia, are experiencing a critical labour shortage. Malaysia has a high dependency (> 70%) on migrant workers, mainly from Indonesia. Now that Indonesia has become the main palm-oil producer and is offering the same wage levels, most migrant workers have returned to their home country. Addressing the problem through mechanization is not looking plausible owing to only poor-quality machinery being available.

At the same time, for most Indonesian and Malaysian farmers, oil palm has become the only possible use for their land, because there are no, or weak, market structures for other agricultural products.



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