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FTA welcomes new Independent Steering Committee member Richard Muyungi


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Thick vegetation grows along the banks of the Congo River. Photo by Ahtziri Gonzalez/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) has welcomed a new member of its Independent Steering Committee (ISC), a key component of the governance of the program.

With demonstrated pan-African policy and development knowledge, Richard Stanislaus Muyungi brings to the table extensive experience in environment and climate change over the past 25 years, with a particular focus on international environmental and climate policy and governance processes under the United Nations.

He joins four other continuing independent members of the ISC – chair Anne-Marie Isaac, Florencia Montagnini, Linda Collette and Susan Braatz – as well as lead center representative Robert Nasi, non-CGIAR centers representative René Boot, CGIAR centers representative Stephan Weise, and ex-officio member FTA Director Vincent Gitz.

Read also: The Independent Steering Committee (ISC) 

Muyungi was the founding chairman of the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) in 2001 and the first chairman of the board of the Adaptation Fund Board in 2008, both of which continue to be important funds for enhancing climate resilience for local communities’ livelihoods and ensuring ecosystem sustainability in developing countries.

He was the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) between 2011 and 2013, responsible for overseeing scientific dialogue and inputs to support the implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation programs globally, including the translation of scientific information into policy actions and enhancing the role of the forestry sector in addressing climate change through REDD+.

Muyungi also has extensive experience working at a national level where he has managed programs and processes in the area of environment and climate change, including as director of environment in the Tanzanian Vice President’s Office.

At a continental level, he was a senior adviser to the chair of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change from 2013-2015, supporting high-level dialogues between African heads of state on environment and climate change issues in Africa, toward the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

Read also: FTA names new Independent Steering Committee members 

More recently he was appointed to manage environment and climate change for the Tanzania National Electric Supply Company under the Ministry of Energy, to help address increasing environmental challenges in energy development and supply.

Muyungi holds a degree in agriculture from Sokoine University of Agriculture, a postgraduate diploma in international relations from Reggio Calabria International Relations Institute in Italy, a master’s degree in environmental protection and management from the University of Edinburgh, UK, and a PhD in climate change from the University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

FTA welcomes the appointment of Muyungi as a pan-African policy and development expert to the ISC, which reports to the Board of Trustees (BoT) of FTA’s lead center, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The ISC oversees work of the FTA Management Team including research programming, partnership engagement, delivery and effectiveness of the program at a strategic level.


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  • Rethinking the food system to tackle triple burden of malnutrition

Rethinking the food system to tackle triple burden of malnutrition


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

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

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




Watch: Enhancing food system resilience 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read also: John Ingram presents enhancing food system resilience

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

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

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

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

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

FORESTS AT FOREFRONT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOCAL TO GLOBAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Julie Mollins, senior editor and writer for CIFOR.


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


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  • Trees nurture nutrition

Trees nurture nutrition


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Pepper fruit in Nigeria. Photo by World Agroforestry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related reading:

By Ana Maria Paez-Valencia, ICRAF social scientist.


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


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  • CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) Plan of Work and Budget (POWB) 2019

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) Plan of Work and Budget (POWB) 2019


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The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) Plan of Work and Budget (POWB), approved by the Independent Steering Committee (ISC) of FTA and endorsed by the Board of Trustees of FTA’s lead center the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), details the expected key results, planning for effectiveness and efficiency, and program management for 2019.


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  • Promoting nature-based solutions for gender equality

Promoting nature-based solutions for gender equality


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Bamboo charcoal can be a lucrative source of income. Photo by INBAR

As a clean-burning source of energy in the home, and a lucrative means of income, bamboo is helping to bring income and social standing to women across the world.

For Gloria Adu, bamboo has brought big changes to her family. “Bamboo has done so much in my life. It has changed me completely. I’m so happy we now have women in the industry in my country.”

Gloria is from Ghana, a country where demand for fuelwood and charcoal accounts for around 70% of annual forest loss. During a training course facilitated by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) in 2001, which she described as an “eye opener”, Gloria learned about several diverse types and uses of bamboo, and was taken on tours to see bamboo plantations, arts and crafts in different parts of China. The training course inspired Gloria to set up her own company. Global Bamboo Products Ltd. makes custom items on demand, and is now beginning to focus on the production of bamboo briquettes and charcoal.

In recent years, the company has gone from strength to strength. It now boasts a 300-hectare bamboo plantation and has won several local and international awards. Gloria has used Global Bamboo Products to teach other people: she estimates the company has trained some 400 people in alternative livelihood activities, and over 10,000 farmers in the cultivation, management, and primary processing of bamboo and bamboo charcoal. Gloria’s company is an example of what women can do with bamboo.

According to Gloria, “Bamboo charcoal is crucial for women.” The grass plant grows locally to many rural communities across the tropics and subtropics, and is often excluded from local forest protection laws. This means it can be harvested legally, within close proximity to a community. Converting bamboo to charcoal requires few set-up costs – some technologies even use converted oil barrels as kilns – and the resulting charcoal burns with little smoke, and has a similar calorific density to other commonly used forms of biomass.

These are not bamboo’s only benefits. Fast-growing, light and easy to process, cultures around the world have used bamboo for millennia as a source of housing, fodder, furniture and tools. Integrating bamboo into farming systems has been shown to improve yields and restore soil health. And products made from bamboo can fetch quite a price: rural households in parts of Africa can earn over US$1,000 a year from cultivating and converting bamboo into charcoal and other products.

Mira and her employees are now the primary breadwinners in their households, thanks to working in the lucrative bamboo incense stick sector. Photo by INBAR

Gloria is one of the many women who know that bamboo changes lives. Mira Das, a bamboo incense stick maker from West Tripura, India, describes a complete transformation in her family’s lifestyle: “Before training in the bamboo sticks business, our family income was meagre, and I had no rest or leave from my domestic support job.”

Following a training course in bamboo incense stick production by INBAR and the Centre for Indian Bamboo Resource and Technology (CIBART), Mira’s family has experienced “a huge increase in household income”, which has given them a sense of financial security. “Now, I have some savings in my account, and we use the additional amount to buy household assets: good clothes, a mobile phone, a gas stove.”

Earning an income from bamboo – often, for the first time – has other, less tangible benefits. According to Mira, running a small enterprise has developed her qualities as a leader – “it’s definitely helped me gain both a sustainable livelihood and more self-confidence.” In 2017, she gave a speech at a Kolkata summit on ‘Transforming Women’s Lives’.

And for Giraben, a bamboo furniture maker in Gujarat, India, the success of her bamboo company has given her “not just income, and but also respect. Now, members from our community and other communities have approached me for my advice on social matters, and my husband and I get invitations to social functions, festivals, cultural events and marriages.”

Encouraging women to use bamboo can go a long way to realising the UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal: achieving gender equality. Using bamboo gives women access to a potentially lucrative economic resource, and can help secure women a place in decision-making in political, economic and public life. Involving women in decisions about land use, forests and tree resources can also help create more sustainable development solutions, which makes it a key part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), in which INBAR is a partner.

At its most successful, the bamboo industry has produced some inspiring international women leaders. Cynthia Villar, another beneficiary of INBAR training, is now a senator in the Philippines and vocal supporter of bamboo’s potential; meanwhile Bernice Dapaah, executive director of Ghana Bamboo Bikes, has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader; and in China, the founder and CEO of bamboo tissue manufacturer Vanov, Shen Genlian, has shown how successful a women-led bamboo enterprise can become.

There are considerable obstacles to upscaling INBAR’s work to empower women to use bamboo. Aside from technology transfer and training, there are often systemic problems and socially entrenched marginalization which make it harder to sustain women-run enterprises. But this has not stopped many of the thousands of women who INBAR has trained.

A woman in a bamboo grove in Madagascar. Photo by Lou Yiping/INBAR

Approaches seeded by INBAR and a range of development partners include a collective of women’s self-help groups in India, which produce higher value-added incense stick products and have created 150,000 jobs, and an initiative in Tanzania that has created 100 bamboo nurseries, the creation of micro-enterprises, and training opportunities for some 1000 people in a specially-created Bamboo Training Center.

INBAR’s training programs also prioritize approaches that play to women’s strengths and skills in the production process – emphasizing design, for instance, which in many traditional societies is the responsibility of female producers, and focusing on technologies and techniques which can be used in the home. And INBAR has conducted research which focuses on structural barriers and drivers of gender change in tree-based and forested landscapes, as part of its partnership with FTA.

With more training, greater awareness, and the development of a vibrant bamboo and rattan economy, INBAR believes these plants can continue to create jobs, and independence, for women across our 44 Member states.


Originally published by INBAR. This article is based on a seminar on ‘Women, bamboo and rattan’ held at the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in June 2018, as well as interviews conducted by The Centre for Indian Bamboo Resource and Technology (CIBART) in India.

INBAR is a strategic partner of FTA, 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. FTA’s gender research contributes to the development of tools, approaches, and measures that can support young men and women’s capacities, interests, and opportunities in natural resource management. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.


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  • What is success? Gaps and trade-offs in assessing the performance of traditional social forestry systems in Indonesia

What is success? Gaps and trade-offs in assessing the performance of traditional social forestry systems in Indonesia


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Despite the growing interest in social forestry (SF), how much do we understand the social, economic and environmental outcomes and the conditions that enable SF to perform? In this article, we use a content analysis of literature on existing traditional SF practiced throughout Indonesia. It examines the outcomes of these systems and the conditions that enabled or hindered these outcomes to understand possible causal relations and changing dynamics between these conditions and SF performance. We discuss the gaps in how SF is assessed and understood in the literature to understand the important aspects of traditional SF that are not captured or that are lost when the diverse traditional systems are converted into other land uses. It aims to understand the potential trade-offs in the State’s push for formalizing SF if these aspects continue to be ignored.


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

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


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Gloria Adeyiga (left), Ana Maria Paez (centre) and Emilie Smith Dumont present research findings to the community of Gwenia, northern Ghana. Photo by ICRAF

Trees are important sources of income for many women in the drylands of West Africa, yet women often have little say in decisions about how land and trees are managed or how household income is used.

This story reports on a series of community workshops organized by the West Africa Forest-Farm Interface (WAFFI) project, which set out to explore gender inequity and what might be done to change things for the better.

Community members listened with rapt attention as research findings about differences in sources of household income and decision-making powers among men and women were presented in graphs drawn on large sheets of paper. There was a lot of interesting material to digest and to discuss. The results showed large variations in access to assets and resources among men and women, and some strong imbalances in how decisions are made within households.

WAFFI is led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and Tree Aid with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). WAFFI aims to identify practices and policy actions that improve the income and food security of smallholders in Burkina Faso and Ghana through integrated forest and tree management systems that are environmentally sound and socially equitable.

Read also: Momentum builds to expand scale of land restoration for regreening of northern Ghana

At one workshop, fifteen women and eight men from the village of Gwenia in Kassena-Nankana West District in Ghana’s Upper East Region, ranging in age from late teens to early 80s, gathered in the women’s community center. Facilitating the activities were Gloria Adeyiga of the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana, ICRAF gender specialist Ana Maria Paez Valencia and Emilie Smith Dumont, who has coordinated the WAFFI project in northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso for ICRAF.

This is a region where diminishing tree resources, land degradation and climate change have increased women’s vulnerability, while restrictive sociocultural norms offer limited opportunities for women to participate in, and benefit from, landscape restoration or agroforestry initiatives. ICRAF scientists think that addressing gender inequity is key to unlocking women’s potential to make livelihoods and landscapes more productive and resilient.

In Gwenia, Adeyiga and Smith Dumont presented findings from their innovative participatory research that explored wealth variations within, and across, communities. Interviews had been conducted simultaneously with the male family head and one adult female in 36 households.

Tree dependence is high in the region, so income from tree resources was of particular interest. The data showed that while women are involved in all farm and livestock activities, they depend heavily on trees for cash income that they can control; a quarter of women bring in more than 40% of household income from tree products.

Read more: Farmers’ knowledge of soil quality indicators along a land degradation gradient in Rwanda.  

The main tree products in the area are shea nuts (Vitellaria paradoxa), charcoal, firewood, baobab fruit (Adansonia digitate), shea butter processed from the nuts, and tamarind.

For women, shea nuts are extremely important. More than half of the households surveyed receive income from the nuts, nearly all of it controlled by women. In households where income comes from firewood and shea butter, most of the income is controlled by women.

Baobab and tamarind (Tamarindus indica) are also income sources exclusively for women. But, where charcoal contributes income, as it does in more than 30% of households, women receive only a very small share of it. Of immediate concern is that shea trees are now the most common source of wood for charcoal making, so a key resource for women is being diminished by the male-dominated charcoal trade.

While tree resources in the area are decreasing because of growing pressure on them for charcoal, clearing for agricultural land, and uncontrolled bush fires, men are becoming increasingly interested in shea, as global markets expand for the precious butter and nuts, used as a cocoa-butter substitute in food, and also in cosmetic products.

When it comes to farm size and access to land, there are also marked gender differences. On average, women cultivate less than half a hectare and men more than four times that much. In 40% of the households, women have no access to land to cultivate themselves. Men make the decisions about how much land is allocated to women.

Participants in Gwenia discuss where to place photos illustrating household duties based on gender norms in the community. Photo by ICRAF

There are variations in cash income between men and women and from one household to the next. On average, almost half of household income comes from crops, mostly from men’s farming, and a third from livestock. But this is not always the case: in some households all of the crop income comes from women. Importantly, as Smith Dumont and Adeyiga reported to the workshop in Gwenia, their research showed that men make most of the decisions on how household income is used.

At the end of the presentation, community members were asked if they were surprised by the gender imbalances the data revealed. One participant, Stephen Adayira, said he was surprised to see the amount of income that women contributed to the household, and that women did so much to support the household.

“Men thought they were doing that,” he said.

Read also: Implications of variation in local perception of degradation and restoration processes for implementing land degradation neutrality

Transforming gender norms

This was not the only time during the workshop that there was surprise expressed about the extent of gender inequity in the community.

In another exercise, participants were given photographs illustrating various household and farm duties, from ploughing fields, to washing clothes or sweeping a compound, to processing seeds from Parkia biglobosa trees to make the condiment dawadawa. They then allocated the photographs to either male, mainly male, mainly female or exclusively female categories that were marked on a sheet of paper, based on who generally performed the tasks.

The placement of the photos revealed that women had far more household responsibilities than men. Asked whether they thought this gender imbalance was creating problems, some female participants responded that it was indeed a problem, and that women ‘age faster’ and ‘get sick more often’ than men.

Participants agreed that there could be more balance in household duties and that a few of the all-female chores — such as washing up and cooking, for example — could readily be shared by men.

The village-level gender workshop was the first of two held under the WAFFI project, the second being in the community of Séloghin in the Nobéré Department of southern Burkina Faso. Both revealed similar gender imbalances and responses from male and female participants. But there was also agreement that things have changed since the time of their grandparents. Men have been assuming a few more previously female responsibilities, women have taken up more farming duties and now have more freedom to speak their minds in public than in the past.

The workshops also included role plays, where women dressed up as men and assumed their roles in making decisions on tree-planting, use of income and in household chores, while men acted as women. These allowed both men and women to challenge gender norms and provoke a great deal of laughter and discussion in both communities. ICRAF scientists think that building these activities into development programs might lead men and women to change their behavior.

Some of the remarks were very telling.

In Séloghin, one young man admitted that playing a woman for him was ‘tiring’ and that he felt ‘shamed’ by the need to listen to a domineering husband.

Bibata Ouedraogo said she enjoyed playing a man.

“It is very interesting being head of the household,” she said. “Even if you don’t tell the truth, you have the power.”

“This will make us change our daily lives,” commented another woman.

Can gender transformative research lead to better restoration outcomes?

Shea butter. Photo by ICRAF

The findings from the WAFFI project, including during these participatory activities, suggest that efforts aimed at land restoration and increased resilience in Sahelian countries will be more successful if they can do something to change gender norms that restrict women’s participation in decision making and undervalue their roles in the landscape and in livelihood systems.

This mirrors recent work in East Africa, showing the importance of differences in how women and men view degradation status across their landscapes and the appropriateness of different restoration options.

“I think these workshops initiated a dialogue in the communities around how gender norms and roles, which usually go unquestioned, may be limiting people from making the best use of the resources they have available,” says ICRAF’s Ana Maria Paez Valencia.

“This dialogue helps them realize these norms can change, to improve their wellbeing and resilience.”

“Tackling harmful gender stereotypes and gaps cannot be considered as an accessory to technical interventions, it is a critical requirement to achieve sustainable outcomes,” says Emilie Smith Dumont.

Gloria Adeyiga was so struck by the potential for transformative change that she now wants to focus her PhD research on the extent to which including gender transformative activities in scaling up agroforestry in the Regreening Africa program can change outcomes, in terms of what tree species are planted and retained in fields, how much income is generated and how it is used to improve the livelihoods of men, women and children in northern Ghana. This is made possible by support from FTA’s Flagship 2.

Edward Akunyagra of World Vision, who coordinates the regreening program in Ghana, said that the WAFFI research has highlighted the need to “develop approaches that integrate gender analysis and participatory methods in ways that support community dialogues around sensitive issues like gender inequity, leading to transformative outcomes and impact.”

By Joan Baxter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.

For more information, please contact ICRAF’s Ana Maria Paez Valencia at a.paez-valencia@cgiar.org


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  • Agricultural intensification has fed the world, but are we healthier?

Agricultural intensification has fed the world, but are we healthier?


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Changing diets in Kapuas Hulu CIFOR / Icaro Cooke Vieira
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Grow more food on less land? Agricultural intensification has intuitive appeal. The Earth has a growing human population to feed, and few new places to cultivate crops without further threatening its dwindling biodiversity.

Source: CIFOR Forests News.


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  • Why what ‘wilderness’ is matters

Why what ‘wilderness’ is matters


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Maize grows near Yangambi, Democratic Republic of Congo. CIFOR/Axel Fassio
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Indonesia – Five countries hold 70 percent of the world’s natural ecosystems, according to an article published in the journal Nature by researcher James Watson and colleagues.

In “Protect the last of the wild,” the authors urge an increase in conservation activities in a number of locations to safeguard the planet from biodiversity loss and the projected dire consequences of climate change. They raise important arguments for conservation.

Source: CIFOR Forests News.


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  • Momentum builds to expand scale of land restoration for regreening of northern Ghana

Momentum builds to expand scale of land restoration for regreening of northern Ghana


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Parkland in Ghana. Photo by ICRAF

Participants in a recent workshop have called for more trees to restore landscapes and improve livelihoods in northern Ghana.

“There is an urgent need in northern Ghana for metro, municipal and district assemblies, NGOs and civil society organizations to act immediately to address issues such as land tenure, bush fires, indiscriminate tree cutting, and a lack of financial resources, so that we increase tree cover and improve land health and livelihoods. This is our call to action.”

So reads the powerful declaration from a workshop in Bolgatanga, capital of Ghana’s Upper East Region. The unanimity of the participants in issuing their urgent call for action to expand the scale of land restoration for the regreening of northern Ghana and beyond was surprising, and very encouraging, given the diversity of their occupations and backgrounds.

The nearly 40 people who gathered to explore practices and policies that could encourage more trees in landscapes so as to reverse land degradation and improve livelihoods and food security, included leading farmers and extension officers from three districts — Kassena-Nankana West, Bawku West and Garu-Tempane — as well as representatives of Catholic Relief Services, Tree Aid and World Vision, and researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

The participants identified the many benefits of increasing trees and forests in landscapes, such as the conservation of soil and water and the important economic, medicinal and nutritional value of indigenous species.

They also examined the complex constraints — cultural, climatic, legal, gender — that confront everyone working to improve the management of agricultural, pastoral and forest land in the region, including tree-planting activities that do not take into account the importance of species, context, management and timing.

Along with the call to action, the workshop produced a series of recommendations for policies and actions to improve tree cover, forests and land health in the three districts, including new laws to prevent indiscriminate tree-cutting, analyses and mapping of soils in the communities, and more emphasis on agroforestry systems with indigenous trees and crops.

The workshop was convened by two projects: West Africa Forest–Farm Interface (WAFFI), funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), led by CIFOR and implemented by ICRAF in Ghana and Burkina Faso; and the five-year- Regreening Africa, funded by the European Union, in which ICRAF is a leading partner.

Shea nuts. Photo by ICRAF

With such a diverse group of people, discussions naturally ranged widely, covering many of the issues that afflicted the region.
For example, Thomas Addaoh, CIFOR field coordinator of WAFFI Ghana, noted that the demand for charcoal in urban centres in northern Ghana is resulting in the widespread harvesting of shea trees (Vitellaria paradoxa) for their wood as a source of the fuel. Research undertaken for WAFFI found that more than a quarter of the charcoal in the region was derived from shea, making it the most common source of wood for the widely-used fuel.

Shea is also a vital source of income for women, who sell the shea nuts, which produce a quality oil with a growing global market because of its use in cosmetics and as a cocoa butter substitute in food, or process them into shea butter for local use. The cutting of shea trees for charcoal production, Addaoh said, meant female harvesters and sellers of the shea nuts were competing with male harvesters and vendors of the wood, something that requires urgent attention to ensure sustainable management of the fuel-and-oil resource and equitably meet the income needs of households.

More generally, Edward Akunyagra of World Vision, the project manager of Regreening Africa in Ghana, said that the project is working to reverse the loss of trees, aiming to influence policy and mindsets through an advocacy campaign.

According to the Upper East regional director of Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Francis Ennor, who attended the workshop along with three district directors from the ministry, land degradation and loss of tree cover in the region are ‘extremely serious’. Rampant bush fires destroy groundcover and trees, and expose the soil to the weather, such as heavy rain and wind, which leads to erosion and loss of fertility.

However, Ennor said the workshop was addressing his concerns and he hoped that from now on local authorities would take tree management and planting very seriously and that every community would have a land-use plan to increase tree cover.
Such land-use plans, Ennor said, could designate degraded areas for restoration through farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR). This could create community forests, such as the one supported by World Vision Australia that the workshop participants had visited the previous day in Saaka Aneogo.

Ennor argued that there is a need for policies to protect such community forests and make their management sustainable and less vulnerable because of insecure land tenure. This is a prerequisite for increasing the scale of FMNR and encouraging planting to increase tree cover in croplands and across whole landscapes.

Indeed, the purpose of the workshop, according to ICRAF’s Emilie Smith Dumont, was to bring together a range of people working for transformation of the Upper East Region to examine ways to ‘create synergies for resilient livelihoods’. Smith Dumont coordinates the WAFFI project in northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso and also acts as a focal point for Regreening Africa in Ghana.

“We have many projects in the northern belt,” Smith Dumont said. “Some are working in silos, so today we are trying to bring all those people together to share lessons and promote action.”

By Joan Baxter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


For more information, please contact Emilie Smith Dumont at e.smith@cgiar.org.

The West Africa Forest-Farm Interface (WAFFI) is led by CIFOR in collaboration with ICRAF and Tree Aid with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development. WAFFI aims to identify practices and policy actions that improve the income and food security of smallholders in Burkina Faso and Ghana through integrated forest and tree management systems that are environmentally sound and socially equitable.

Regreening Africa is a five-year project that seeks to reverse land degradation among 500,000 households across 1 million hectares in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Incorporating trees into crop land, communal land and pastoral areas can reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes. In Ghana, the work is led by World Vision in collaboration with ICRAF and Catholic Relief Services.

WAFFI is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. 

This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Regreening Africa project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.


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  • Momentum builds to expand scale of land restoration for regreening of northern Ghana

Momentum builds to expand scale of land restoration for regreening of northern Ghana


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Parkland in Ghana. Photo by ICRAF

Participants in a recent workshop have called for more trees to restore landscapes and improve livelihoods in northern Ghana.

“There is an urgent need in northern Ghana for metro, municipal and district assemblies, NGOs and civil society organizations to act immediately to address issues such as land tenure, bush fires, indiscriminate tree cutting, and a lack of financial resources, so that we increase tree cover and improve land health and livelihoods. This is our call to action.”

So reads the powerful declaration from a workshop in Bolgatanga, capital of Ghana’s Upper East Region. The unanimity of the participants in issuing their urgent call for action to expand the scale of land restoration for the regreening of northern Ghana and beyond was surprising, and very encouraging, given the diversity of their occupations and backgrounds.

The nearly 40 people who gathered to explore practices and policies that could encourage more trees in landscapes so as to reverse land degradation and improve livelihoods and food security, included leading farmers and extension officers from three districts — Kassena-Nankana West, Bawku West and Garu-Tempane — as well as representatives of Catholic Relief Services, Tree Aid and World Vision, and researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

The participants identified the many benefits of increasing trees and forests in landscapes, such as the conservation of soil and water and the important economic, medicinal and nutritional value of indigenous species.

They also examined the complex constraints — cultural, climatic, legal, gender — that confront everyone working to improve the management of agricultural, pastoral and forest land in the region, including tree-planting activities that do not take into account the importance of species, context, management and timing.

Along with the call to action, the workshop produced a series of recommendations for policies and actions to improve tree cover, forests and land health in the three districts, including new laws to prevent indiscriminate tree-cutting, analyses and mapping of soils in the communities, and more emphasis on agroforestry systems with indigenous trees and crops.

The workshop was convened by two projects: West Africa Forest–Farm Interface (WAFFI), funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), led by CIFOR and implemented by ICRAF in Ghana and Burkina Faso; and the five-year- Regreening Africa, funded by the European Union, in which ICRAF is a leading partner.

Shea nuts. Photo by ICRAF

With such a diverse group of people, discussions naturally ranged widely, covering many of the issues that afflicted the region.
For example, Thomas Addaoh, CIFOR field coordinator of WAFFI Ghana, noted that the demand for charcoal in urban centres in northern Ghana is resulting in the widespread harvesting of shea trees (Vitellaria paradoxa) for their wood as a source of the fuel. Research undertaken for WAFFI found that more than a quarter of the charcoal in the region was derived from shea, making it the most common source of wood for the widely-used fuel.

Shea is also a vital source of income for women, who sell the shea nuts, which produce a quality oil with a growing global market because of its use in cosmetics and as a cocoa butter substitute in food, or process them into shea butter for local use. The cutting of shea trees for charcoal production, Addaoh said, meant female harvesters and sellers of the shea nuts were competing with male harvesters and vendors of the wood, something that requires urgent attention to ensure sustainable management of the fuel-and-oil resource and equitably meet the income needs of households.

More generally, Edward Akunyagra of World Vision, the project manager of Regreening Africa in Ghana, said that the project is working to reverse the loss of trees, aiming to influence policy and mindsets through an advocacy campaign.

According to the Upper East regional director of Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Francis Ennor, who attended the workshop along with three district directors from the ministry, land degradation and loss of tree cover in the region are ‘extremely serious’. Rampant bush fires destroy groundcover and trees, and expose the soil to the weather, such as heavy rain and wind, which leads to erosion and loss of fertility.

However, Ennor said the workshop was addressing his concerns and he hoped that from now on local authorities would take tree management and planting very seriously and that every community would have a land-use plan to increase tree cover.
Such land-use plans, Ennor said, could designate degraded areas for restoration through farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR). This could create community forests, such as the one supported by World Vision Australia that the workshop participants had visited the previous day in Saaka Aneogo.

Ennor argued that there is a need for policies to protect such community forests and make their management sustainable and less vulnerable because of insecure land tenure. This is a prerequisite for increasing the scale of FMNR and encouraging planting to increase tree cover in croplands and across whole landscapes.

Indeed, the purpose of the workshop, according to ICRAF’s Emilie Smith Dumont, was to bring together a range of people working for transformation of the Upper East Region to examine ways to ‘create synergies for resilient livelihoods’. Smith Dumont coordinates the WAFFI project in northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso and also acts as a focal point for Regreening Africa in Ghana.

“We have many projects in the northern belt,” Smith Dumont said. “Some are working in silos, so today we are trying to bring all those people together to share lessons and promote action.”

By Joan Baxter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


For more information, please contact Emilie Smith Dumont at e.smith@cgiar.org.

The West Africa Forest-Farm Interface (WAFFI) is led by CIFOR in collaboration with ICRAF and Tree Aid with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development. WAFFI aims to identify practices and policy actions that improve the income and food security of smallholders in Burkina Faso and Ghana through integrated forest and tree management systems that are environmentally sound and socially equitable.

Regreening Africa is a five-year project that seeks to reverse land degradation among 500,000 households across 1 million hectares in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Incorporating trees into crop land, communal land and pastoral areas can reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes. In Ghana, the work is led by World Vision in collaboration with ICRAF and Catholic Relief Services.

WAFFI is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. 

This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Regreening Africa project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.


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  • Review of large-scale tree plantations suggests need to consider socioeconomic impacts

Review of large-scale tree plantations suggests need to consider socioeconomic impacts


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A systematic review of the available literature has found that large-scale tree plantations require more consideration of the socioeconomic impacts on local people. Intensively managed, large-scale tree monocultures now make up roughly 1 percent of global forests. From this relatively small area, they supply around one-third of the world’s industrial round wood. Researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the University of Helsinki and Yale University analyzed 92 papers featuring case studies from around the world, mostly from Southeast Asia, South America, Africa and Australasia.


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  • Sparking debate over fire use on agricultural land in Indonesia

Sparking debate over fire use on agricultural land in Indonesia


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Traditional burning practices are under scrutiny by scientists and policymakers because peatlands are effective carbon sinks. They are made up of layers of decomposed organic material built up over thousands of years. When they burn, warming gases are released into the atmosphere exacerbating climate change. Fires often burn out of control, damaging vast areas and drying out the land, rendering it useless for farming. In 2015, the impact of wildfires was far reaching. Fire destroyed more than 2.6 million hectares of land — an area 4.5 times the size of the Indonesian island of Bali, according to the World Bank. The price tag for the damage was more than $16 billion, the bank said. Indonesia has since boosted efforts to ban the use of fire to clear forested peatlands to plant oil palms, maize or rice by establishing the Peatland Restoration Agency in 2016.


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  • Bees make a buzz in peatland conservation areas in Indonesia

Bees make a buzz in peatland conservation areas in Indonesia


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Bees are transforming the livelihoods of residents in the Indonesian province of Riau where honey production is on the rise. Indonesia is intensifying efforts to ban the use of fire to clear land as part of a broader effort to conserve peatland areas through its Ministry of Environment and Forestry in collaboration with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). A project known as as “Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods” aims to empower local communities in nine villages across three districts in Riau province through retraining. Researchers are exploring the potential for new livelihood options in the villages, providing capacity building to support local people. Information gathered will be funneled into the Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystem in Indonesia project, led by the ministry.


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  • Storytelling guide illustrates how local practices can contribute to landscape restoration

Storytelling guide illustrates how local practices can contribute to landscape restoration


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The book’s illustrations attractively portray life on the land in Sumba, Indonesia. Image by ICRAF

Researchers in Indonesia have produced an illustrated book to help farmers better understand research results.

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) recently published an illustrated storytelling guide, Menanam pohon di bukit batu (Planting trees on a stony hill), to help spread knowledge of land-restoration and food-security techniques developed by researchers and farmers in Haharu District on the island of Sumba.

“The Sumba community is similar to many others in Indonesia,” explained Elok Mulyoutami, one of the authors, who is a gender specialist and social scientist with ICRAF Indonesia. “They have little interest in reading. This presented a challenge for us. We wanted to share more widely the techniques for land restoration and improved farming that we had developed together with farmers. 

“Observing the cultural practices of the people of the district, we realized that storytelling was very popular and could perhaps become the best way of disseminating our research results, providing agricultural advice and raising people’s awareness of how to better manage their natural resources.”

Read the book: Menanam Pohon di Bukit Batu (Planting trees on a stony hill)

The book, in plain Indonesian designed to be read aloud, uses three children walking home from school in the heat to tell the stories of reforesting their land. At home, one child asks his grandfather why their island home was so hot and dry; if there were more trees wouldn’t it be cooler and fresher? His grandfather’s answers make the boy feel optimistic that Sumba would once again be forested.

The second child asks her mother about the maize they grow and learns how the stalks are used to restore soil fertility in the traditional hillside terracing system that also includes fertilizer trees. Her mother also explains how men and women work together in the fields and learn new skills and knowledge from attending training courses that helps them better manage and protect their harsh yet fragile land.

“Gender equity is relatively well established in Sumba society,” explained Mulyoutami. “Although complicated by class and caste issues. It was important that the book featured women and men collaborating according to their abilities, as happens in reality.”

A seasonal calendar developed by the researchers and farmers is faithfully reproduced in the book. Image by ICRAF

The third child vows to become a smart and good farmer, sharing knowledge and skills with others so that many people can plant more and more trees to ensure that the savanna will become a forest again.

Sumba was largely deforested by the early 2000s as individuals and companies alike sought valuable sandalwood and other indigenous species. Conditions now are harsh and life is difficult. The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and partners, Wahana Visi Indonesia and Lutheran World Relief, supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, have been working together for several years on the Indonesia Rural Economic Development program to help farmers overcome the great challenges to their very survival.

“The idea of using a children’s storybook approach to explain our research results came from the project’s specific concern for youth and children,” said Mulyoutami. “Wahana Visi Indonesia, our partner, had produced children’s books before so we were able to draw on their expertise and had their full support.”

Read also: From savannah to forest: Women’s roles in land restoration in Sumba

Working with Jakarta-based illustrator, Resi Desta, designer Riky Hilmansyah and co-author Tikah Atikah, Mulyoutami gathered technical know-how and cultural nuance from ICRAF staff members who also worked in Sumba — Iskak Nugky Ismawan, Erik Maramba, Asep Suryadi, Nikolas Hanggawali, Gerhard Sabastian, Riyandoko, Suci Anggrayani, Pratiknyo Purnomosidhi and Lia Dahlia — that resulted in a bright, accessible and accurate book that has been well received by the target audiences.

“It’s important to underline that this book is not only for children,” said Mulyoutami. “It’s also useful for agricultural extensionists, rural advisers and farmers to give them a good grounding in how local practices can contribute to restoration.”

The communities of Haharu are committed to expanding their knowledge and restoring their land to its once fertile and productive state. A book such as this is one more tool to use to help reach that goal.

By Rob Finlayson, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World. 


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