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  • Adapting land restoration to a changing climate: Embracing the knowns and unknowns

Adapting land restoration to a changing climate: Embracing the knowns and unknowns

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Key messages:

  • Land restoration will happen under climate change and different knowledge systems are needed to navigate uncertainties and plan adaptation.
  • The emergence of novel ecosystems presents a challenge for land restoration; they harbor unknown unknowns.
  • This brief presents key research linking land restoration and societal adaptation and an example of a practical framework for transformative adaptation.
  • It also proposes questions that can guide stakeholders in exploring different change narratives for adaptation and restoration planning.
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  • Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

Trees stand in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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“Distribution and equitability contribute directly to reducing inequality, one of the root causes of environmental degradation.” © Ben Singer

Benjamin Singer of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat shares his views on inclusive landscape finance in the latest of this new interview series.

He brings a decade of experience from his role in implementing the UNFF’s Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network to the discussion. Here he reflects on using public funds to assist developing countries in their efforts to mobilize finance for sustainable forest management.

How do you define ‘inclusive finance’ and why is it important?

There are two distinct ideas to the concept of ‘inclusive finance’ in the context of sustainable forest and land management within the broader landscape. The first relates to the need to mobilize finance as a key ingredient for the implementation of sustainable forms of land and forest management. The second is how to distribute this finance equitably among all stakeholders, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable – local communities, indigenous peoples, women, youth and the elderly.

While much of the debate around sustainable or ‘green’ finance has focused on mobilizing finance, few have considered the equitable distribution of finance once it is mobilized – as if it were a mere side-thought to consider only after money had been secured.

Yet distribution and equitability contribute directly to reducing inequality, one of the root causes of environmental degradation. Wealthier, more powerful stakeholders often exhaust natural resources without having to face the negative externalities they are creating, whereas these tend to fall onto poorer sections of society who rely on these same resources for their livelihoods and even survival.

Empowering this second category of stakeholders, through equitable benefit-sharing, amongst others, would enhance their resilience in the face of environmental change – including climate change.

It could also help create a balance of power that would introduce checks and balances on the use of natural resources by wealthier stakeholders, therefore contributing to reducing environmental degradation in the first place.

Read more: Catalyzing partnerships for reforestation of degraded land

What are the underlying reasons for the underfinancing of small-scale agricultural and forest businesses?

There are trillions of dollars going into investments worldwide – so why is it so difficult to find just a few million to meaningfully reduce the overuse of natural resources? The reason is that the vast majority of these trillions follow well-trodden paths that have shown strong track records of producing returns on investments. Many of these paths are not productive. Some may even be very risky, but they will still be attractive if investors are familiar with them and the mechanisms of investing are straightforward.

In contrast, investing in small-scale agriculture and forestry in developing countries can be daunting to investors from the North – private or institutional. One reason for this is that knowledge of the financial performance within this subsector is scant, if it exists at all.

Such investment also varies considerably from one country to another, and often has a dismal reputation – though mostly unwarranted – of causing environmental degradation. Perhaps most importantly of all, the scale of financing required in each case, which may be one or two million at most – is simply incompatible with opportunities that interest institutional investors, which generally start at half a billion.

What are we not doing right, or not doing well enough, or not doing at all?

“Finance exists (lots of it), and the need for financing exists. The problem is that we are just not connecting the dots.” © Ben Singer

Finance exists (lots of it), and the need for financing exists. One problem is that we are just not connecting the dots. Instead, we are carrying on with business as usual. Investors tend to invest in the usual stock markets that finance the main agricultural commodities produced in developing countries, while foresters in developing countries continue to lament deforestation and forest degradation.

We need to focus on building bridges between sectors (finance, forestry and agriculture), between stakeholders (private investors, public authorities, and small-scale agriculture and forestry businesses) and between concepts (economic development and social and environmental sustainability). All the ingredients are there. The challenge is how to identify, experiment and scale up those win–win solutions that actually work.

Read more: Strengthening producer organizations is key to making finance inclusive and effective

How is your organization addressing inclusive finance, and what are your experiences and key lessons?

The UNFF Secretariat, through its Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, supports its member states in mobilizing finance for sustainable forest management in three ways:

    • Assisting in the design of national forest financing strategies
    • Assisting in the design of project proposals to harness funding from multilateral financing institutions such as the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility
  • Creating a clearing house to highlight lessons learnt and best practices in forest financing in developing countries and those with economies in transition

One key lesson is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Despite appearing obvious, policy makers time and again underestimate the specificity of financing needs of different countries or different forest stakeholders.

It is essential to get a better understanding of the gaps, obstacles and opportunities related to financing specific forests or forest activities, before targeting financing sources. In some cases, for example, grants from multilateral financing institutions might be the best-adapted source, for others it could be micro-credit from non-governmental organizations.

What examples do you have of successful or promising ‘model’ approaches or innovations?

Policy makers and decision makers often lurch into mobilizing funds from a specific source because they have seen it work in other conditions, or because they have heard that it is easy to access.

However, I consistently recommend developing a forest-financing strategy that takes a step back and helps to understand the financing gaps, obstacles and opportunities. We take a four-step approach to developing such a strategy:

    • Identifying and quantifying forest financing needs
    • Mapping financing resources according to their origin
    • Matching the needs with the sources
  • Drawing up a list of tasks required to actually mobilize the shortlisted sources of financing

The idea of developing a forest financing strategy might seem like a cumbersome first step, but we have shown that it can save a lot of time and effort, as it helps identify the most promising sources of financing for the actual needs of the country or stakeholder concerned.

Read more: Background note on FTA financial innovations for sustainable landscapes interviews

What is your vision on how best to increase finance and investment in sustainable forestry and farming?

My vision is simple: partnerships. Again, this might seem obvious, but the financial sector is extremely competitive and this spills over into the world of forest finance. I have often seen supposed partners compete and withhold information and resources from each other, despite sharing the overall goal of sustainable forest management. And I have seen this result in failure for all, time and again.

Forest finance differs fundamentally from the broader finance sector in that the maximization of one’s personal gain as the overarching objective is replaced with a global gain, through the implementation of sustainable forest management worldwide. In this respect, competition is counterproductive as it inhibits the possibility of partnerships, which are crucial to increasing financing for forests.

To mobilize and equitably distribute the financial means necessary for the benefit of all – from local and indigenous communities to institutional investors, multilateral financing mechanisms, national decision makers and small, medium and large enterprises – we need to agree on both the overall goals and how to best achieve them.

However, building such partnerships is by no means a small task. All stakeholders first need to realize that forest financing is not business as usual, and that partnerships are much more productive than competition.

By Nick Pasiecznik, Tropenbos International.

This interview has also been published on the Tropenbos International website.


This article was produced by Tropenbos international and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) 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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  • Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

“Distribution and equitability contribute directly to reducing inequality, one of the root causes of environmental degradation.” © Ben Singer

Benjamin Singer of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat shares his views on inclusive landscape finance in the latest of this new interview series.

He brings a decade of experience from his role in implementing the UNFF’s Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network to the discussion. Here he reflects on using public funds to assist developing countries in their efforts to mobilize finance for sustainable forest management.

How do you define ‘inclusive finance’ and why is it important?

There are two distinct ideas to the concept of ‘inclusive finance’ in the context of sustainable forest and land management within the broader landscape. The first relates to the need to mobilize finance as a key ingredient for the implementation of sustainable forms of land and forest management. The second is how to distribute this finance equitably among all stakeholders, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable – local communities, indigenous peoples, women, youth and the elderly.

While much of the debate around sustainable or ‘green’ finance has focused on mobilizing finance, few have considered the equitable distribution of finance once it is mobilized – as if it were a mere side-thought to consider only after money had been secured.

Yet distribution and equitability contribute directly to reducing inequality, one of the root causes of environmental degradation. Wealthier, more powerful stakeholders often exhaust natural resources without having to face the negative externalities they are creating, whereas these tend to fall onto poorer sections of society who rely on these same resources for their livelihoods and even survival.

Empowering this second category of stakeholders, through equitable benefit-sharing, amongst others, would enhance their resilience in the face of environmental change – including climate change.

It could also help create a balance of power that would introduce checks and balances on the use of natural resources by wealthier stakeholders, therefore contributing to reducing environmental degradation in the first place.

Read more: Catalyzing partnerships for reforestation of degraded land

What are the underlying reasons for the underfinancing of small-scale agricultural and forest businesses?

There are trillions of dollars going into investments worldwide – so why is it so difficult to find just a few million to meaningfully reduce the overuse of natural resources? The reason is that the vast majority of these trillions follow well-trodden paths that have shown strong track records of producing returns on investments. Many of these paths are not productive. Some may even be very risky, but they will still be attractive if investors are familiar with them and the mechanisms of investing are straightforward.

In contrast, investing in small-scale agriculture and forestry in developing countries can be daunting to investors from the North – private or institutional. One reason for this is that knowledge of the financial performance within this subsector is scant, if it exists at all.

Such investment also varies considerably from one country to another, and often has a dismal reputation – though mostly unwarranted – of causing environmental degradation. Perhaps most importantly of all, the scale of financing required in each case, which may be one or two million at most – is simply incompatible with opportunities that interest institutional investors, which generally start at half a billion.

What are we not doing right, or not doing well enough, or not doing at all?

“Finance exists (lots of it), and the need for financing exists. The problem is that we are just not connecting the dots.” © Ben Singer

Finance exists (lots of it), and the need for financing exists. One problem is that we are just not connecting the dots. Instead, we are carrying on with business as usual. Investors tend to invest in the usual stock markets that finance the main agricultural commodities produced in developing countries, while foresters in developing countries continue to lament deforestation and forest degradation.

We need to focus on building bridges between sectors (finance, forestry and agriculture), between stakeholders (private investors, public authorities, and small-scale agriculture and forestry businesses) and between concepts (economic development and social and environmental sustainability). All the ingredients are there. The challenge is how to identify, experiment and scale up those win–win solutions that actually work.

Read more: Strengthening producer organizations is key to making finance inclusive and effective

How is your organization addressing inclusive finance, and what are your experiences and key lessons?

The UNFF Secretariat, through its Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, supports its member states in mobilizing finance for sustainable forest management in three ways:

  • Assisting in the design of national forest financing strategies
  • Assisting in the design of project proposals to harness funding from multilateral financing institutions such as the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility
  • Creating a clearing house to highlight lessons learnt and best practices in forest financing in developing countries and those with economies in transition

One key lesson is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Despite appearing obvious, policy makers time and again underestimate the specificity of financing needs of different countries or different forest stakeholders.

It is essential to get a better understanding of the gaps, obstacles and opportunities related to financing specific forests or forest activities, before targeting financing sources. In some cases, for example, grants from multilateral financing institutions might be the best-adapted source, for others it could be micro-credit from non-governmental organizations.

What examples do you have of successful or promising ‘model’ approaches or innovations?

Policy makers and decision makers often lurch into mobilizing funds from a specific source because they have seen it work in other conditions, or because they have heard that it is easy to access.

However, I consistently recommend developing a forest-financing strategy that takes a step back and helps to understand the financing gaps, obstacles and opportunities. We take a four-step approach to developing such a strategy:

  • Identifying and quantifying forest financing needs
  • Mapping financing resources according to their origin
  • Matching the needs with the sources
  • Drawing up a list of tasks required to actually mobilize the shortlisted sources of financing

The idea of developing a forest financing strategy might seem like a cumbersome first step, but we have shown that it can save a lot of time and effort, as it helps identify the most promising sources of financing for the actual needs of the country or stakeholder concerned.

Read more: Background note on FTA financial innovations for sustainable landscapes interviews

What is your vision on how best to increase finance and investment in sustainable forestry and farming?

My vision is simple: partnerships. Again, this might seem obvious, but the financial sector is extremely competitive and this spills over into the world of forest finance. I have often seen supposed partners compete and withhold information and resources from each other, despite sharing the overall goal of sustainable forest management. And I have seen this result in failure for all, time and again.

Forest finance differs fundamentally from the broader finance sector in that the maximization of one’s personal gain as the overarching objective is replaced with a global gain, through the implementation of sustainable forest management worldwide. In this respect, competition is counterproductive as it inhibits the possibility of partnerships, which are crucial to increasing financing for forests.

To mobilize and equitably distribute the financial means necessary for the benefit of all – from local and indigenous communities to institutional investors, multilateral financing mechanisms, national decision makers and small, medium and large enterprises – we need to agree on both the overall goals and how to best achieve them.

However, building such partnerships is by no means a small task. All stakeholders first need to realize that forest financing is not business as usual, and that partnerships are much more productive than competition.

By Nick Pasiecznik, Tropenbos International.


This article was produced by Tropenbos international and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) 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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  • Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’ 

Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’ 

Mau Forest and tea plantations are pictured in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A paddy field and palm oil plantation area is seen from above in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

Halting and reversing deforestation are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Paris agreement on climate change.

Within SDG 15 on life on land, Target 15.2 calls for halting deforestation by 2020, while the UN Strategic Plan for Forests (UNSPF) adopted in 2017 by the UN General Assembly calls for reversing the loss of forest cover and increasing forest area by 3 percent worldwide by 2030.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests organized a conference titled “Working across sectors to halt deforestation and increase forest area” on Feb. 20-22 to discuss with various actors and stakeholders the possible ways of meeting these targets.

The conference aimed to provide substantive input to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), the United Nations’ central platform for follow-up and review of the SDGs, that will this year have a particular focus on SDG 15. The objective was thus to identify ways to help halt deforestation and increase forest cover and to engage actors in this objective. The chairs’ summary of the conference has now been released.

At the conference in Rome, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) led the organization of a session on stakeholders, and coorganized with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) a session on science and research. Scientists from FTA also participated in various other sessions, on areas such as landscape management, agroforestry, restoration, sustainable agriculture, governance and finance.

“The role of different stakeholders” session was jointly hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), IUFRO and FTA. It was grounded in the fact that most drivers of deforestation lie outside the forest sector, are rooted in wider social and economic issues, and are related to the interaction of numerous factors at local and global levels. Deforestation and forest degradation, in turn, affect a wide range of actors, threatening incomes, livelihoods and ways of life for forest-dependent populations and compromising the provision of ecosystem services.

Timber production is seen in Tanzania. Photo by N. Mtimgwa/CIFOR

The session gathered an impressive set of panelists, with a considerable range of experience, while I had the pleasure of moderating the discussion. The Honorable Lamin B. Dibba, The Gambia’s Minister of Forestry, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, delivered a keynote on policies implemented in The Gambia. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Regional Vice President of Conservation International, Conservation Biodiversity’s Regional Director for Mexico and Central America and former environment minister for Costa Rica, retraced the implementation of policies to protect forests in his country.

Cécile Ndjebet built on her broad experience in civil society organizations, including as founder of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF), to recommend facilitating the engagement of all actors. Petra Meekers, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development at Musim Mas Group, explained how the private sector is increasingly concerned and engaged.

In addition, Salina Abraham, President of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) and youth coordinator for the Global Landscapes Forum emphasized, the importance of youth as a vector of innovation and change. Marco Albani, Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, and member of the Executive Committee of the World Economic Forum, highlighted the synergies between government and private sector action.

Participants emphasized the importance of having all actors involved, recognizing the crucial role of governments to ensure the coordination of policies and to create an enabling environment and mechanisms for actors to fully play their roles and engage with one another. Deforestation is a global phenomenon which requires global, regional and national efforts to address it. It calls for the coordination of efforts of all stakeholders along two dimensions: vertical along value chains; and horizontal, across scales, particularly at landscape level.

The example of Costa Rica shows the potential of effective coordination between policies, grounded on clear shared recognition of the value of natural capital. National policies and the rule of law are the basis, which require transparency and good governance.

Voluntary standards and corporate responsibility are insufficient by themselves but they can also play a role in facilitating the adoption of rules. The private sector, to answer demand, and civil society as triggering it, have thus a fundamental role at both global and national levels. Sustainable production and production (SDG 12) can strengthen this movement.

Mau Forest and tea plantations are pictured in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR

Value chains have many actors, all along the chain. It is essential to have all these actors, men and women, at the center of actions and activities. Their roles and contributions need to be properly recognized and rewarded. They need to be supported, through capacity building and financial support, so that they can engage with one another and with the private sector. There is considerable untapped potential in women, youth, and more broadly in civil society.

The private sector is increasingly willing to act, taking seriously its responsibilities. It is not always easy. It is important to have an entry point to engage with local communities, like sustainable land use, and to have the engagement of local government. There is a need for different business models. We must give back more to communities, taking into account social issues, gender dimensions, and food security and nutrition. Academia can help a lot.

The example of The Gambia shows how community management, with a return of income from forests to forests and communities, can be a powerful mechanism for sustainable forest management and rural development.

Ensuring coordination between sectors requires appropriate mechanisms, some of which have already shown their merits. For instance, the Forest Forum in Finland has for 21 years been engaging decisionmakers not only from the forestry sector but also from connected sectors, raising awareness and learning from each other. This mechanism is now being adopted in other countries.

In various countries there are already mechanisms to organize the participation and coordination of actors, at local, subnational and national levels. They are often linked to a clear jurisdictional level, which facilitates implementation. There are opportunities to improve their efficiency, to bring in new actors, and to give them more meaningful representation. In that regard the participation of civil society, women and youth can bring new perspectives and trigger action on the ground.

The private sector is willing to be part of these collective dynamics and can make a key contribution to the implementation of the SDGs.

From these exchanges the following key points can be deduced:

  • We need coordination of efforts between all stakeholders along value chains, and across scales, particularly at landscape level.
  • Governments play a crucial role in ensuring coordination of policies and in creating the enabling environment and the mechanisms for actors to fully engage.
  • The private sector, to answer demand, and civil society as triggering demand, have fundamental roles in shaping enabling environments at both global and national levels.
  • The different roles and contributions of all value chain actors, both men and women, need to be properly understood, recognized and rewarded. There is a considerable untapped potential in women, youth and broader civil society.
  • The private sector is increasingly willing to act, and is taking its responsibilities seriously.
  • Community management, with the return of revenues from forests to communities, can be a powerful mechanism to foster sustainable forestry management and rural development.
  • Coordination between sectors requires appropriate mechanisms. Some countries already have mechanisms to organize the participation and coordination of actors at local, subnational and national levels.
  • Private sector actors and large corporations, especially large-scale crop plantations, can act as role models in enforcing zero-deforestation commitments throughout their operations, and in taking care of environmental and social concerns.
  • To improve interactions between stakeholders, quality governance is key to genuinely confront multiple objectives and demands, agree on priority actions and align solutions informed by scientific evidence, shaping integrated zero-deforestation policies and enabling environments.

Deforestation is a problem for everyone, and fighting against deforestation is everyone’s fight. Zero-deforestation should be an essential element of SDG12 on responsible consumption and production, including outside the forest sector in food, feed and bioenergy.

By Vincent Gitz, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) Director. 


For more details about the Halting Deforestation conference, view the conference program or watch recordings of the plenary sessions.

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


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