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  • Bridging research and development to generate science and solutions

Bridging research and development to generate science and solutions

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A commonly held view is that trees in landscapes act as evapotranspirators, through which water is transpired and lost. But research now shows that rather than disappearing, this water falls back as rain – either over the same area or elsewhere – in a process dubbed ‘rainfall recycling’.

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) participated in various ways at the recent Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, including in a discussion forum titled ‘Rainfall Recycling’ as a Landscape Function: Connecting SDGs 6, 13 and 15. The session examined the role of forests in regulating the water cycle and looked at research that suggests vegetation plays a critical role in the frequency and intensity of rainfall. It also explored how this can affect land restoration, water management and climate change adaptation.

“Forests have been long known for having very important influences on climate change through, mainly, the carbon cycle,” said FTA Director Vincent Gitz, who moderated part of the discussion. “What these findings tell us now is that we will need to consider the role of forests on the water cycle, and then the effects on local, regional and continental climates.”

Following the discussion, Gitz spoke about this holistic view of the water cycle, the potential implications of the research on policy and action, as well as FTA’s role as a research-for-development partnership.

What is FTA’s role in research for development?

The Segama River is seen from a viewing area in Sabah, Malaysia. Forests and trees in the water cycle are part of new insights on ‘rainfall recycling’. Photo by Greg Girard/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry is the largest research-for-development partnership to tackle the important issues of the contribution of forests, trees and agroforestry to sustainable development, climate change, addressing food security and working toward sustainable landscapes.

‘Landscape’ is a very wide concept. FTA science encompasses work from genetic resources to livelihoods, value chains, and impacts – including wide, large-scale impacts such as climate change – and how they all interact altogether in a landscape. FTA brings research in development, meaning research that is done with development actors and embedded into development programs, taking into account the needs and the expectations of stakeholders and integrating them in the research being carried forward.

FTA, being a global partnership, brings solutions that are suited to different kinds of situations across the world. And it bridges the world of research and the world of development actors for the cogeneration of science and solutions.

Read more: FTA scientists feature in innovative series of talks on landscapes

How was FTA involved in GLF Bonn 2017? 

FTA provides science and knowledge and an evidence base to discussions between stakeholders here at the GLF on sometimes very difficult issues or very controversial issues. Here at this GLF in Bonn we emphasize three main topics.

The first one is the role of forests and trees in the water cycle, which we call the new science of ‘rainfall recycling’. The second one is about forest landscape restoration and providing a set of solutions to understand what tree to plant where, in which context, and also how agroforestry can help land restoration and promote food security at the same time. The last point is about finance and how finance actors and investments can orient the way value chains impact landscapes, toward sustainable landscapes.

What outcomes did you see from FTA’s discussion forum at GLF?

Clouds pass over homes on the banks of the Belayan River in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

The discussion managed to bring stakeholders and policymakers up to date with the latest scientific findings on rainfall recycling, so that they could first learn from the new science but also consider how these elements can be taken on board in the different institutional frameworks they are dealing with, be it water management, forest management or land management.

Vegetation has been known for some time to influence the terrestrial water cycle on the ground – precipitation translating to runoff, the issues of flood control, etc. What is less known is that vegetation and land cover influence the atmospheric part of the water cycle, meaning that there is a kind of a paradigm shift from a situation where trees and forests matter for water-basin management to a situation where trees and forests matter for the management of rainfall at different scales.

It is a different perception of how water is being produced and consumed in an ecosystem and how we can better manage ecosystems for providing water resources to agriculture for climate change adaptation.

Read more: FTA and IUFRO highlight cooperation at Global Landscapes Forum 

What are the implications of these new scientific insights on climate, land, water, and related policies and actions? 

These insights may have important implications for either climate policies, land policies or water policies. Forests have long been known to have very important influences on climate change through, mainly, the carbon cycle. What these findings tell us now is that we will need to consider the role of forests on the water cycle, and then the effects on local, regional and continental climates.

These kinds of discussions at the GLF are important because they help, first, different stakeholders understand the different perspectives on the technical issue, and then also share views and their concerns and expectations amongst themselves.

And one other important point in the GLF is that it is not a formal negotiation forum. So it enables us to distill new ideas, bring innovations to the table, that can then be matured, honed and brought up into other more formal kinds of platforms, either at national level, with government, or at international level, such as at international conventions.

Read more: The Global Landscapes Forum is ‘a movement worth building’

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, originally published by CIFOR’s Forests News


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

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  • Strengthening women's tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making

Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making

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Presented by Dr. Esther Mwangi on Feb. 8, 2018, during the More than a seat at the table: Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making webinar, organized by the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

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  • Sustainable symbols: ‘Sasi’ taboos in Maluku, Indonesia

Sustainable symbols: ‘Sasi’ taboos in Maluku, Indonesia

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In Maluku, Indonesia, a traditional land management system known as ‘sasi’ ensures a sustainable supply of forest products like cacao, resin, coffee and fruit. By tying branches together in a certain way, or marking a tree with a crucifix, people who make ‘sasi’ let others know when forest products are off-limits, and when they are ready to be harvested.

This video was originally published by CIFOR.

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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  • Finding evidence for land-restoration strategies 

Finding evidence for land-restoration strategies 

An agricultural landscape in Eastern Uganda. Photo by Madelon Lohbeck/ICRAF
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An agricultural landscape in Eastern Uganda. Photo by Madelon Lohbeck/ICRAF

Restoration has never been more important, with almost a third of the world’s land surface degraded. But what exactly is restoration? And how do we know if it works?

More than 1.5 billion of the world’s poorest people are directly affected by degraded land. The Bonn Challenge aims to have 350 million hectares restored by 2030. Private- and public-sector land managers have already promised almost half that amount. This is very encouraging but how will we even know whether the Bonn Challenge was a success? In other words: what do we mean by restoration?

One common notion is that land restoration returns an ecosystem to some previous, ideal state. Yet it is typical for degraded land to be inhabited by people, who are often among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Restoration has the potential to improve their livelihoods if, indeed, restoration outcomes respond to local needs. But returning to a previous state (whichever state that is) is often not feasible nor desirable. So, if restoration is to succeed in some form, it is imperative to set specific goals together with the people living on the land. Most importantly, what aspects of the functionality of the land are to be restored?

Another common notion of land restoration is that it is done through planting trees. But do we know if land is always in better shape with more trees? And what aspects of the functionality of the land can be restored with trees? Does it matter which trees?

A newly published paper, Trait-based approaches for guiding the restoration of degraded agricultural landscapes in East Africa, addresses these questions. The paper is published in a special feature, Functional Traits in Agroecology, in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

A man records soil samples in Mwingi, Kenya. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

The study

Researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) studied degraded agricultural landscapes in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Farmers suffered the consequences of degradation through declining soil fertility and crop productivity. The researchers focused on soil functions to quantify the extent to which land was degraded or restored. Instead of conducting field experiments, they looked at the variation present in the landscapes and tested whether the variation in soil functionality could be explained by vegetation cover, the number of trees, and by the traits of the trees. The study was observational and reflected the variation in real land-use practices and restoration measures actually being applied.

The researchers not only looked at the number of trees but also their size and traits to assess their impact on key ecosystem functions. This way, trees with certain traits, for instance, high wood density, could be seen to increase a certain function, such as carbon stock, more effectively than trees with low wood density. This would then give clear guidance for land-restoration planners: if the goal was to restore carbon stock then promote the use of high wood density trees.

Read more: Trait-based approaches for guiding the restoration of degraded agricultural landscapes in East Africa

Results 

The researchers found that in the degraded agricultural landscapes, trees were associated with more productive soils. But more important than the number of trees was the non-woody vegetation cover. With higher vegetation cover, the soil was more fertile (had higher organic carbon) and less erosion took place. In addition, the diversity of functional traits of the trees on the land was shown to enhance soil fertility; invasive species tended to increase erosion.

The results had clear implications for restoration of soil health: avoid bare ground, plant trees, prioritize the removal of invasive species and promote diversity of trees on farms. Such evidence for restoring specific ecosystem functions is urgently needed.

The study also illustrated that evidence for restoration can be found through systematic assessment of vegetation, similar to an approach common in functional ecology. Applying a trait-based approach to existing projects on land-health monitoring would allow the study of complex processes more mechanistically and would eventually generate more impact on the ground. Integrating the approach into new and existing projects would be feasible for three reasons: 1) the growing body of evidence on which traits promote which functions; 2) the large amount of freely available trait-data online; and 3) the fact that many traits are easy to measure.

Read more: Second-growth forests: a boon for land restoration and climate change mitigation

By Madelon Lohbeck, ICRAF Scientist.

Reposted with permission from The Applied Ecologist’s Blog.


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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  • FTA and IUFRO highlight cooperation at Global Landscapes Forum 

FTA and IUFRO highlight cooperation at Global Landscapes Forum 

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Clouds pass over homes on the banks of the Belayan River in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) are strengthening their collaboration to increase understanding and promote the role and value of forests and trees in landscapes. 

At the recent Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Germany, FTA, IUFRO and the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) organized a Discussion Forum titled Rainfall Recycling as a Landscape Function: Connecting SDGs 6, 13 and 15.

The discussion aimed to shed new light on the role of forests and trees in the climate debate, building on a scientific review paper about the relationship between forests and water titled Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world, and an online symposium organized by FTA in May 2017.

It also discussed preliminary highlights of IUFRO’s current Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Water, which is expected to issue a policy relevant global assessment report in July 2018. At the GLF, participants discussed how these research findings should be reflected in policy making.

“We are going to discuss something that might have the potential to change the narrative […] about forests and trees in landscapes in relation to climate change, land management and other issues,” IUFRO Executive Director Alexander Buck said in opening the session.

“In many parts of the world, local people, if you ask them, are convinced that forests and trees not only depend on rainfall, but they also play a critical role in actually generating it,” Buck added.

He explained that science is increasingly generating insights that confirm this perception from local people, describing rainfall recycling as “a phenomenon in which forests […] and trees influence the transport of water over distant locations.”

“Experts will also present some emerging highlights from a global scientific assessment looking at the interactions between forests and water,” Buck added, referring to the GFEP, which is coordinated by IUFRO.

Audience members respond to questions during “Rainfall Recycling as a Landscape Function: Connecting SDGs 6, 13 and 15” at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

The first section of the discussion, looking at scientific insights, was moderated by GFEP cochair Meine van Noordwijk, the lead author of Ecological rainfall infrastructure: investment in trees for sustainable development, who is also known for his work within FTA.

David Ellison, the lead author of the review article Trees, forests and water: cool insights for a hot world, spoke first on the concept of hydrological space. He addressed how water is transported across land, describing continental evapotranspiration as feeding an important share of terrestrial precipitation. Thus, increasing forest cover can lead to increased precipitation and runoff, and spatial organization also matters.

Describing water in the Blue Nile Basin, of which a large share originates in the West African rainforest, he explained why land use, forests and the large-scale water cycle are so important when it comes to rainfall.

Aster Gebrekirstos of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) then discussed tools and equipment that can be used to show how trees play a role in the water cycle.

By measuring isotopes in tree rings it is possible to understand how fast trees have grown in the past, and where the rain absorbed by trees comes from, Gebrekirstos explained. The Amazon was shown to be generating its own rainy season, while in Bolivia more than 50 percent of rain comes from evapotranspiration.

“If we plant trees in Ethiopia, it will have a positive influence in Burkina Faso,” she said, by way of example. “Trees are really contributing to the water cycle, but climate change is also influencing trees and forests.”

“Trees are history books when we are able to analyze their history of growth and isotopes,” Van Noordwijk agreed. “We can tell something about where their water has come from.”

Aida Bargues-Tobella of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, coauthor of Intermediate tree cover can maximize groundwater recharge in the seasonally dry tropics, discussed how, as an alternative to a prevailing paradigm, more trees can improve (and not diminish) groundwater recharge in seasonally dry areas.

Although there are tradeoffs in planting trees in dry areas, Bargues-Tobella showed how new theories enable the determination of an optimum level for tree cover with respect to groundwater recharge, as evidenced in Burkina Faso.

The discussion then progressed to implications that this new science might have for climate, land, water and related policies and actions, in a second part moderated by Paola Ovando Pol of Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, who is also a member of the GFEP on Forests and Water.

In this section, Van Noordwijk stated: “Within the world there’s a lot of debate about climate change, and the convention about climate change is, other than what people think, not a convention about climate. It’s a convention about greenhouse gases, one of the major things that changes climates.”

Panelists discuss forests, trees and the water cycle at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

Greenhouse gases come from the use of fossil fuel, and also deforestation, he explained.

There is an elaborate framework on how climate change, because of increased greenhouse gases, leads to changes in ocean temperatures, which in turn leads to changes in how much moisture is around, leading to changes in rainfall, he suggested.

Van Noordwijk then explained that forests and trees outside forests also influence rainfall through several feedback loops, from local to continental levels, as evidenced in Latin America, the African continent and Southeast Asia.

With this new knowledge, the relation between climate, forests, water and people looks different, he said. It is not captured in current policy frameworks, but has important consequences.

The “missing middle — the relation between vegetation, forests and rainfall” shows there is a much more direct link between land-use change and rainfall than through the long route of climate change and ocean temperatures, he added. “Now our message to the policymakers is: we have enough evidence that it exists, we’re working on the details.”

Daniel Murdiyarso, principal scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), posed the question of what forests can do for water and climate. They can promote rain, transfer vapor, recharge groundwater, moderate flooding and cool air, he suggested.

The world needs a new way of governing forests, he said, citing watershed approaches, links to climate objectives such as REDD+, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), as well as sustainable forest management.

Rounding out the second part, senior researcher Holger Hoff of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) said the link to policies was the new aspect of the work. He covered how to add to existing frameworks, targeting methods to audiences, triggering action, identifying win-wins and increasing complexity.

Finally, in the third and final part of the discussion, FTA Director Vincent Gitz asked the audience “who can do what” with this knowledge, in terms of optimizing the contribution of forests and trees to the regulation of the water cycle, increasing resilience and therefore providing ways for landscapes – and the people in them – to adapt to climate change.

In a lively audience discussion, various points were raised about the respective roles of different actors. Science and research have a special responsibility in terms of being clear about domains of uncertainty, especially when quantification of effects is concerned.

Research has a role in clearly explaining science, as well as its limits, to policymakers. Science also needs to be clear about knowledge gaps. These include, for instance, whether there are different effects for different tree species (especially indigenous species), and about the range of scale of these effects.

“It is all about better understanding these ecosystem services, giving them proper value, finding ways to account for them in current incentives and regulation schemes, and creating spaces for them in policy debates,” Gitz said following the forum.

The next step for this science-policy interaction will be the release of IUFRO’s GFEP report on forests and water in July, and upcoming discussions about the Sustainable Development Goals in New York.

Read more:

By Vincent Gitz, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), and Alexander Buck, Executive Director of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). 


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

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  • The Global Landscapes Forum is ‘a movement worth building’

The Global Landscapes Forum is ‘a movement worth building’

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Participated in several activities during this year’s Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, where the President of Mauritius emphasized the need for an Agrobiodiversity Index.

While Christmas spruces, firs and pines decorated the festive center of Bonn, their future, as well as that of other trees, water, soils and agriculture, was being carefully discussed just a few kilometers away, at the GLF on Dec. 19-20.

To discuss landscapes from the Andean mountains to the peatlands of Indonesia – addressing the themes of restoration, financing sustainable landscapes, rights and equitable development, food and livelihoods, and measuring progress toward climate change and development goals – is to cover much ground.

As a platform for sharing, learning and planning, the GLF offered a variety of formats in which scientists, activists and leaders of organizations could share ideas, present case studies and make calls to action. In its seventh edition, the GLF’s outreach was massive. Around 1,000 attended the event in person and, when factoring in livestreams online, the total audience was estimated at 21 million people. An address by world-famous actor and activist Alec Baldwin did not hurt.

The radiant stage in the plenary ensured all chairs were filled, and all eyes and ears focused on the lineup of inspirational speakers, ranging from former president of Mexico Felipe Calderon to yogi, environmentalist and spiritual guide Sadhguru and Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Barbara Hendricks, the Federal Minister of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), said the idea behind the GLF was to share innovative ideas that could then be implemented on the ground: “The overarching goal is to learn from one another and take action together.”

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, warned that people must put landscapes first as “they allow us to kill three birds with one stone: take care of the climate, biodiversity and reduce pollution and haze.”

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn 2017

The forum also emphasized the important role of indigenous communities and their knowledge and experience in finding holistic solutions to land degradation, reforestation, food security and the future of clean water sources.

“We’re not looking for saviors,” said Roberto Borerro, Programs and Communications Coordinator of the International Indian Treaty Council, “but need to have a seat at the table” as a partner with solutions.

The President of Mauritius, Ammenah Gurib Fakim, delivered an impassioned keynote speech on the need to forcibly address and mitigate the inexorable loss of species, which is most evident in Africa. She reiterated the importance of supporting traditional knowledge systems related to sustainable agriculture adding to this the imperative of empowering women as stewards of ecosystems and the equitable sharing of benefits.

Fakim particularly emphasized the need for more research, which she regarded not as an “expense but an investment in our common future”. In her speech, she staunchly stressed the vital role of agrobiodiversity conservation in attaining sustainable agricultural systems and spoke of the first International Agrobiodiversity Congress held last year and the Delhi Declaration on agrobiodiversity management.

A scientist by training, she made a loud and clear call for a universal Agrobiodiversity Index, stating: “Solutions require knowledge and knowledge starts with good data”. She maintained that such an index would be an important step toward developing a common understanding necessary to finding global solutions to today’s challenges.

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

Bioversity International scientist Chris Kettle speaks during the “Why Diversity and Why Now – Seeding resilient restoration” panel discussion. Photo by Bioversity International

Bioversity International, one of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) partner institutions, had its own booth at the busy Restoration Pavilion in addition to several representatives and presentations.

FTA scientists Chris Kettle and Riina Jalonen of Bioversity International coorganized, with the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration (GPFLR), a vibrant discussion entitled “Why Diversity and Why Now – Seeding resilient restoration” in the pavilion.

The seats might not have been plentiful but it did not stop people from gathering around to listen in on the importance and challenges of collecting quality and diverse seed to enable resilient reforestation. The panelists included experienced professionals with diverse backgrounds, having worked on restoration projects all over the world including the US, Rwanda and Malaysia.

The session was framed around several critical questions, such as: are we adequately considering diversity and restoration; what are the critical bottlenecks in delivering diversity; how can we monitor diversity. The panelists’ perspectives and experiences enriched the discussion and encouraged a lively exchange with the audience.

As vital as it is, genetic diversity has been hard to maintain and, if lost, even harder to obtain. This is also true of diversity in landscapes. The forests, mountains, soils, waters and peatlands are all a prerequisite to a chance at a future of health and prosperity across the globe. Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as replacing our Christmas pines with the steadily diminishing African cherry tree.

The GLF is thus an important platform for coming up with innovative solutions as well as an attempt at a movement. It is one that according to the professionals and activists who participated, including Alec Baldwin, is “a movement worth building”.

Originally published on the website of Bioversity International


This work was carried out in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

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  • Tropical forest-transition landscapes: a portfolio for studying people, tree crops and agro-ecological change in context

Tropical forest-transition landscapes: a portfolio for studying people, tree crops and agro-ecological change in context

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Nudging the development trajectory of tropical landscapes towards sustainability requires a global commitment and policies that take diverse contexts and forest transitions into account. Out-scaling and upscaling landscape-level actions to achieve sustainable development goals globally need to be based on understanding of extrapolation domains and interconnectivity of products and services.

We evaluated three portfolios of tropical landscape observatories and quantified extrapolation domains across ecological zones, stages of forest transition, human development index (HDI), population density and potential prominence of four dominant tropical tree crops (arabica coffee, cacao, rubber and oil palm). The ASB Partnership for Tropical Forest Margins portfolio was focussed on active humid forest margins and the Poverty and Environment Network on early stages of forest transition. The portfolio of sentinel landscapes of the Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) research programme provides a 5% sample of pantropical area, 8% of people, 9% of tree cover and 10–12% of potential tree crop presence, with quantified biases across zones, transition stages and HDI. In the ‘water tower’ configuration, relatively high population density coincides with biodiversity, coffee expansion and contested ecosystem services. The extrapolation domain of the FTA portfolio includes trade-off (tree loss) and synergy (restoration) phases of tropical forest transition.

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  • Tree plantations could help Peru meet forest restoration goal

Tree plantations could help Peru meet forest restoration goal

A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Peru has set a goal of restoring forest on some 3 million hectares of degraded land, but the country still lags behind its neighbors when it comes to scaling up tree plantations to meet both environmental and societal needs.

Although tree plantations could provide ecosystem services, as well as income for communities and businesses, there is a need for more research, training, financial and fiscal incentives, and secure land tenure, according to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) that was also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

“At present, it is estimated that about one-third of the global demand for sawn timber is satisfied by commercial tree plantations, and this proportion is expected to increase over time,” says Manuel Guariguata, CIFOR principal scientist and leader on forest management and restoration, and the lead author of the study.

Many countries have begun promoting plantation forestry rather than timber from natural forests, and Peru is taking initial steps in the same direction. Some progress has been made in recent years, with simpler regulations for tree plantations and several model projects, but the country still needs a long-range roadmap for realizing the potential of forest plantations in the coming decades, Guariguata says.

Peru’s forestry legislation has historically emphasized timber production from government-sanctioned concessions across its Amazonian natural forests, rather than plantations. But well-managed plantations could yield a greater return than production in natural forests, says Héctor Cisneros, coordinator of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s forestry program in Peru.

“Peru has a very rich tropical forest, but it is complicated from the standpoint of forestry production,” he says. “Plantations should be a tool for helping to protect  the natural forest. If the industry is more closely tied to tree plantations, that will reduce pressure on natural forests.”

Plantations can produce a greater volume of timber per hectare because managers can ensure uniformity in growth, diameter at harvest, and timber quality, Cisneros says. But that requires access to high-quality genetic material, adequate soils, and managers and workers trained to manage the entire value chain, from plantation to consumer.

Read also: Farm-forestry in the Peruvian Amazon and the feasibility of its regulation through forest policy reform

RESEARCH NEEDED TO BOOST GROWTH

Although 15 Peruvian universities offer forestry majors, none has a specialty in tree plantation management, and the few courses that are offered are insufficient to meet the need for trained personnel, says Carlos Llerena, dean of the School of Forestry Sciences at La Molina National Agrarian University in Lima.

The limited area under tree plantations in Peru, estimated at just a few tens of thousands of hectares, means there are few jobs for specialists, he says. At the same time, the lack of specialists also slows development of additional plantations.

A forest trail in the Unamat forest, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Marco Simola/CIFOR

Universities could help break that vicious circle by providing more detailed information about species, helping students obtain fellowships to study with experts abroad and return to Peru to apply their knowledge, and working with sub-national governments that seek to promote tree plantations, Llerena said during a panel discussion at the presentation of the CIFOR study in Lima in June 2017.

Universities can also contribute to improving the quality of timber from plantations, through research to improve both genetic material and timber management techniques. Peru’s National Institute of Agrarian Innovation (INIA) also plays a role, with experimental plots in different types of ecosystems around the country, Eloy Cuellar, who heads INIA’s Agrarian Technological Development Office, said during the panel discussion.

Peru’s varied ecosystems — from the dry desert coast to the Andes Mountains to the Amazonian — offer possibilities for different types of plantations, using both native and introduced species, says Leoncio Ugarte, director of forest studies and research at Peru’s National Forest Service (SERFOR).

While some plantations could produce timber for industrial use, others could meet different needs. In the Andean highlands, where only relicts of native forests remain, plantations of native species could help protect the upper parts of watersheds, providing ecosystem services for water users downstream.

Instead of harvesting the timber, communities or other landowners in those areas could receive payment for the ecosystem services their plantations provide, Ugarte says.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

TENURE, ZONING ARE CRUCIAL

Although Peru has millions of hectares of degraded land that could be used for plantations, some regulatory hurdles hamper the sector’s expansion.

First is the lack of a clear definition of “degraded”, Ugarte says.

SERFOR is currently conducting a detailed calculation of the area suitable for tree plantations. Because different species have different needs and some are better adapted than others to different soil types and climate niches, planners must consider which species are best suited for various areas of the country, Ugarte says.

That implies land-use planning on a broad scale — designating certain areas for agriculture, forestry concessions, protective forest and plantations, for example — as well as more local zoning, to determine which species are most suitable based on soil type, precipitation and other factors.

Most of the area suitable for tree plantations is likely to consist of relatively small fragments, rather than large, continuous expanses suitable for large plantations, he says. Some may be in the hands of smallholders, while others may be located in indigenous communities. In many cases, land ownership may not be clear, which is a disincentive to private investors interested in the tree plantation business.

Ensuring clear tenure is crucial for plantations, where producers require long-range investment over two to four decades, Ugarte says. Lack of clarity about land tenure can lead to social conflicts over plantations. Once tenure is clear, however, financial incentives can be designed for different types of plantations at different scales.

“People who invest in tree plantations seek to diversify their portfolio and make a profit, but they are also committed to climate change mitigation,” says Robert Hereña, general manager of Reforestadora Bánati Bosque S.A.C., a company growing teak in central Peru.

“They also know this can result in social benefits, because tree plantations are often installed in areas where a large percentage of the population lives in poverty or extreme poverty,” Hereña said during the panel discussion.

Small-scale tree producers can also play an important role across the value chain, but they need technical assistance, financing schemes appropriate for local conditions and needs, and access to markets. Private investors could also partner with indigenous communities in the Andean highlands or the Amazon region to develop plantations, although that will require building trust between the private sector and communities, which often distrust each other, the FAO’s Cisneros says.

Read also: Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

An indigenous woman harvests goods in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

TARGETING FUTURE MARKET NEEDS

In planning industrial tree plantations at a small or medium scale, investors and operators must consider future market needs, says Jessica Moscoso, executive director of CITE Madera, a government-sponsored technological innovation center that focuses on sustainable timber products and assistance to furniture makers in a Lima industrial park.

Too often, plantation operators focus on the species they could grow, rather than on the species required to manufacture specific products that the market demands—or which it may need in 15 to 30 years, when the trees are ready for harvest, Moscoso said during the panel discussion.

“Plantations allow us to tailor supply to demand,” she says, adding that they also enable growers to project future needs and scale up timber volumes. “It is extremely important that we define what we want to plant, focusing on future demand.”

That implies developing — and training personnel for — the entire market chain, Cisneros says. Most plantations currently produce sawn wood, but Peru could emulate neighboring Brazil and Chile, where the industry also produces wood chips, pulp and even paper, he says.

The CIFOR study concludes that Peru still lacks a clear road map for developing the tree plantation sector so it can contribute to the country’s restoration and climate change mitigation commitments.

Planning must include not just the National Forest Service and Ministry of Agriculture, but also ministries with responsibility for economy and finance, production and trade. And it needs a long-range vision that continues from one government administration to the next.

The country should establish varied pilot initiatives in different ecoregions, which can serve as models, allowing planners to choose the ones with potential for scaling up at the subnational or national levels, Cisneros says.

All of those steps will contribute to the road map, which he says will be constructed “little by little.”

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Manuel R. Guariguata at [email protected].


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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  • Tree plantations could help Peru meet forest restoration goal

Tree plantations could help Peru meet forest restoration goal

A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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A regenerated forest and agroforestry system is seen in the Nueva Ahuaypa indigenous community area in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Peru has set a goal of restoring forest on some 3 million hectares of degraded land, but the country still lags behind its neighbors when it comes to scaling up tree plantations to meet both environmental and societal needs.

Although tree plantations could provide ecosystem services, as well as income for communities and businesses, there is a need for more research, training, financial and fiscal incentives, and secure land tenure, according to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) that was also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

“At present, it is estimated that about one-third of the global demand for sawn timber is satisfied by commercial tree plantations, and this proportion is expected to increase over time,” says Manuel Guariguata, CIFOR principal scientist and leader on forest management and restoration, and the lead author of the study.

Many countries have begun promoting plantation forestry rather than timber from natural forests, and Peru is taking initial steps in the same direction. Some progress has been made in recent years, with simpler regulations for tree plantations and several model projects, but the country still needs a long-range roadmap for realizing the potential of forest plantations in the coming decades, Guariguata says.

Peru’s forestry legislation has historically emphasized timber production from government-sanctioned concessions across its Amazonian natural forests, rather than plantations. But well-managed plantations could yield a greater return than production in natural forests, says Héctor Cisneros, coordinator of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s forestry program in Peru.

“Peru has a very rich tropical forest, but it is complicated from the standpoint of forestry production,” he says. “Plantations should be a tool for helping to protect  the natural forest. If the industry is more closely tied to tree plantations, that will reduce pressure on natural forests.”

Plantations can produce a greater volume of timber per hectare because managers can ensure uniformity in growth, diameter at harvest, and timber quality, Cisneros says. But that requires access to high-quality genetic material, adequate soils, and managers and workers trained to manage the entire value chain, from plantation to consumer.

Read also: Farm-forestry in the Peruvian Amazon and the feasibility of its regulation through forest policy reform

RESEARCH NEEDED TO BOOST GROWTH

Although 15 Peruvian universities offer forestry majors, none has a specialty in tree plantation management, and the few courses that are offered are insufficient to meet the need for trained personnel, says Carlos Llerena, dean of the School of Forestry Sciences at La Molina National Agrarian University in Lima.

The limited area under tree plantations in Peru, estimated at just a few tens of thousands of hectares, means there are few jobs for specialists, he says. At the same time, the lack of specialists also slows development of additional plantations.

A forest trail in the Unamat forest, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Marco Simola/CIFOR

Universities could help break that vicious circle by providing more detailed information about species, helping students obtain fellowships to study with experts abroad and return to Peru to apply their knowledge, and working with sub-national governments that seek to promote tree plantations, Llerena said during a panel discussion at the presentation of the CIFOR study in Lima in June 2017.

Universities can also contribute to improving the quality of timber from plantations, through research to improve both genetic material and timber management techniques. Peru’s National Institute of Agrarian Innovation (INIA) also plays a role, with experimental plots in different types of ecosystems around the country, Eloy Cuellar, who heads INIA’s Agrarian Technological Development Office, said during the panel discussion.

Peru’s varied ecosystems — from the dry desert coast to the Andes Mountains to the Amazonian — offer possibilities for different types of plantations, using both native and introduced species, says Leoncio Ugarte, director of forest studies and research at Peru’s National Forest Service (SERFOR).

While some plantations could produce timber for industrial use, others could meet different needs. In the Andean highlands, where only relicts of native forests remain, plantations of native species could help protect the upper parts of watersheds, providing ecosystem services for water users downstream.

Instead of harvesting the timber, communities or other landowners in those areas could receive payment for the ecosystem services their plantations provide, Ugarte says.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

TENURE, ZONING ARE CRUCIAL

Although Peru has millions of hectares of degraded land that could be used for plantations, some regulatory hurdles hamper the sector’s expansion.

First is the lack of a clear definition of “degraded”, Ugarte says.

SERFOR is currently conducting a detailed calculation of the area suitable for tree plantations. Because different species have different needs and some are better adapted than others to different soil types and climate niches, planners must consider which species are best suited for various areas of the country, Ugarte says.

That implies land-use planning on a broad scale — designating certain areas for agriculture, forestry concessions, protective forest and plantations, for example — as well as more local zoning, to determine which species are most suitable based on soil type, precipitation and other factors.

Most of the area suitable for tree plantations is likely to consist of relatively small fragments, rather than large, continuous expanses suitable for large plantations, he says. Some may be in the hands of smallholders, while others may be located in indigenous communities. In many cases, land ownership may not be clear, which is a disincentive to private investors interested in the tree plantation business.

Ensuring clear tenure is crucial for plantations, where producers require long-range investment over two to four decades, Ugarte says. Lack of clarity about land tenure can lead to social conflicts over plantations. Once tenure is clear, however, financial incentives can be designed for different types of plantations at different scales.

“People who invest in tree plantations seek to diversify their portfolio and make a profit, but they are also committed to climate change mitigation,” says Robert Hereña, general manager of Reforestadora Bánati Bosque S.A.C., a company growing teak in central Peru.

“They also know this can result in social benefits, because tree plantations are often installed in areas where a large percentage of the population lives in poverty or extreme poverty,” Hereña said during the panel discussion.

Small-scale tree producers can also play an important role across the value chain, but they need technical assistance, financing schemes appropriate for local conditions and needs, and access to markets. Private investors could also partner with indigenous communities in the Andean highlands or the Amazon region to develop plantations, although that will require building trust between the private sector and communities, which often distrust each other, the FAO’s Cisneros says.

Read also: Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

An indigenous woman harvests goods in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

TARGETING FUTURE MARKET NEEDS

In planning industrial tree plantations at a small or medium scale, investors and operators must consider future market needs, says Jessica Moscoso, executive director of CITE Madera, a government-sponsored technological innovation center that focuses on sustainable timber products and assistance to furniture makers in a Lima industrial park.

Too often, plantation operators focus on the species they could grow, rather than on the species required to manufacture specific products that the market demands—or which it may need in 15 to 30 years, when the trees are ready for harvest, Moscoso said during the panel discussion.

“Plantations allow us to tailor supply to demand,” she says, adding that they also enable growers to project future needs and scale up timber volumes. “It is extremely important that we define what we want to plant, focusing on future demand.”

That implies developing — and training personnel for — the entire market chain, Cisneros says. Most plantations currently produce sawn wood, but Peru could emulate neighboring Brazil and Chile, where the industry also produces wood chips, pulp and even paper, he says.

The CIFOR study concludes that Peru still lacks a clear road map for developing the tree plantation sector so it can contribute to the country’s restoration and climate change mitigation commitments.

Planning must include not just the National Forest Service and Ministry of Agriculture, but also ministries with responsibility for economy and finance, production and trade. And it needs a long-range vision that continues from one government administration to the next.

The country should establish varied pilot initiatives in different ecoregions, which can serve as models, allowing planners to choose the ones with potential for scaling up at the subnational or national levels, Cisneros says.

All of those steps will contribute to the road map, which he says will be constructed “little by little.”

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Manuel R. Guariguata at [email protected].


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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  • 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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