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  • FTA Highlight No. 5 – Food Security and Nutrition

FTA Highlight No. 5 – Food Security and Nutrition

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Research by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) has been pivotal in the recognition in global debates of the contributions of forests, trees and agroforestry to food security and nutrition. Over its decade of work FTA’s research has provided strong evidence of how forests, agroforestry systems and other multifunctional landscapes significantly improve diets through a diversity of nutritious foods, ecosystem services that support agriculture, and income to smallholders.

Evidence shows that greater tree cover is associated with greater dietary diversity. Forests, agroforestry and trees also provide resilience and stability in the face of climate and other food system shocks.

Download the volume! [PDF]
Despite these important contributions, however, food trees remain an underutilized resource.

Read more about FTA’s From Tree to Fork campaign to raise awareness on some of the most fascinating fruits and vegetables out there!

As part of “FTA’s highlights of a decade,” the legacy series focusing on its main results since inception in 2011, the FTA program released the volume on Food Security and Nutrition.

During the last 10 years there has been a significant evolution in global discourses related to food security, nutrition and food systems, a narrative that FTA has helped to shape. Old approaches focused on staple food production as the main path to food security. There was an absence of a comprehensive, system-wide approach to characterize and explain the roles of forests and trees.

Efforts now emphasize alleviating all forms of malnutrition with attention not just to quantities of calories, but also the quality of diets characterized by consumption of a diversity of nutrient-rich foods. There has also been increasing attention to reducing the environmental impacts of food systems,  enhancing their capacity to sustainably produce healthy diets for all, and increasing their resilience to climate change and other risks. However, the ecosystem-level functions of forests and trees that sustain agriculture are still often not fully taken into account in land management, and land-use change has a profound impact on diets.

Photo gallery

Close to 700 million people in the world remain undernourished, but the number affected by micronutrient deficiency probably exceeds two billion. At the same time, excessive calorie consumption continues to rise globally: 39% of all adults are now considered overweight or obese.

FTA work has highlighted the direct contributions that wild and planted trees make to diets by supplying  important foods, and the roles that forests and rivers play by providing key habitats for wildlife and fish, also important for diets. FTA work has also been important in enabling farmers to produce a diversity of nutritious foods through agroforestry practices.

A recent study by FTA scientists and partners across seven tropical countries found that tree-sourced foods provided only 11% of daily food intake by weight, but accounted for 31% of the average daily intake of vitamins A and C. In a case study from Ethiopia to which FTA scientists collaborated, found that farmers living close to forests were able to keep more livestock, and use manure for their gardens, because of fodder from the forest.

FTA researchers have designed an innovative “food tree portfolio” —  a set of tree species with complementary crops that provides essential nutrients throughout the year.

Figure 1. An example of a fruit tree portfolio developed for Machakos County, Kenya.

A key domain of work of FTA relates to the domestication and improvement of a diversity of food trees, including neglected and underutilized —“orphan” — trees. FTA scientists have developed the Priority Food Tree and Crop Food Composition Database, which is useful for dietary assessments and training, among other uses.

A case study in DR Congo shows that there are often context-dependent reasons why wild foods from forests or forested lands are sometimes not used to their full potential. For this reason, increasing awareness within the forest sector of its food and nutrition contributions and how to exploit them at their full potential continues to be an important part of FTA’s work.

Download the publication to find out how future initiatives can build on FTA’s substantial contributions to global scientific progress in providing evidence of the multiple ways by which forests and trees contribute to food and nutrition security, both directly and indirectly.

Published volumes until today include:

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  • FTA highlights of a decade: Ten years of forests, trees and agroforestry research in partnership for sustainable development

FTA highlights of a decade: Ten years of forests, trees and agroforestry research in partnership for sustainable development

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FTA communications

The Collaborative Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (CRP-FTA), one of the world’s largest research-for-development partnership, is completing a 10-year cycle as a CGIAR CRP. As a legacy of its work and to define the agenda for the years ahead, FTA is now launching a series of publications to set the spotlights on the program’s main results and achievements from 2011 to 2021.

“FTA Highlights of a Decade” series includes 18 chapters that illustrate FTA work and its impacts across a range of issues of critical importance for people and for the planet. The broad-ranging topics in the series showcases FTA’s evidence based work and impact orientation. FTA work, representing an investment of about USD 850m over a decade, was supported by CGIAR funders and bilateral projects.

The FTA Highlights Series:

  1. Introduction: Ten Years of Forests, Trees and Agroforestry Research in Partnership for Sustainable Development
  2. Tree Seed and Seedling Systems for Resilience and Productivity
  3. Conservation of Tree Biodiversity and Sustainable Forest Management
  4. Forest and Landscape Restoration
  5. Food Security and Nutrition
  6. Wild Meat
  7. Trees on Farms to Improve Livelihoods and the Environment
  8. Biomass, Bioenergy and Biomaterials
  9. Improving Rural Livelihoods Through Supporting Local Innovation at Scale
  10. Sustainable Value Chains and Finance
  11. REDD+: Combating Climate Change with Forest Science
  12. Adaptation to Climate Change, with Forests, Trees and Agroforestry
  13. Multi-Functional Landscapes for Sustainable Development
  14. Governing Forests, Trees and Agroforestry Landscapes for Delivering on the SDGs
  15. Advancing Gender Equality and Social Inclusion
  16. Capacity Development
  17. Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning and Impact Assessment
  18. The Way Forward

This list represents the order of the volumes in the series and not the time sequence of publication.

These highlight publications aim to illustrate the work of FTA in demonstrating the importance of forests, agroforestry and trees to give ways to the sustainable development agenda. When forests, trees and agroforestry are effectively used, managed and governed, they do improve production systems, ensure peoples’ food security, enhance livelihoods and help address climate change.

Each item in the series has two purposes. First, to showcase the research work of FTA and its partners, the influence of the program to deliver effective technical, social and institutional innovations for a range of stakeholders, including decision makers at the local, national and international level, connecting policy and practice. Second, in telling the story of FTA work on a topic, to shed a special “FTA” light on each topic’s story and its – often quite significant – evolution during a decade.

The topics of the volumes were chosen based on the operational priorities of FTA and the whole series is written by FTA scientists, elaborated under the overall guidance of an editorial committee and the oversight of the FTA Independent Steering Committee.

The first highlights to be released are the Introduction, Highlight No. 1, and the volume on Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR), Highlight No. 4.

Volume 1 – Introduction

FTA’s work aims to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. This means impacting positively the life of those estimated 1.6 billion people that depend on forests and trees for their livelihoods. But more broadly the ambition is to be relevant for every people on the planet, as in a way or another, we are all connected to trees and forests.

If the history of humankind is 300 thousand years old, the history of trees and forests is 300 million years old. But humanity has a complex relationship with trees. Our growing population shares the planet with approximately three trillion trees, which represents almost half of the trees present on the planet at the start of human civilization. Part of the reason for this tree loss is due to agricultural lands expanding. The more people there are, the more crop, livestock, fish, timber the world needs to grow, the more space it needs for cities and infrastructures. Does this necessarily need to be done at the expense of forests, and at the expense of trees in farming systems and of trees in landscapes?

FTA’s vision is that humankind can change the direction of its development trajectory to avoid a doomsday scenario, and towards a pragmatic path of sustainability that balances productivity and preserves the integrity of the environment. We call this path a “sustained agility”, where productivity is carried out in harmony with nature.

The dot in the figure below represents our current situation.

Underpinning the “sustained agility” scenario is a fine understanding of what trees and forest can bring to a range of challenges, if these resources are properly managed, and if the right governance is in place. Whether it is about the future of cities, of our energy system, of material resource systems, of our food systems, of our landscapes, and of our climate, forests, trees and agroforestry are – almost always – an ingredient to our most promising solutions. They are the key to our future.

 Making complex pathways easy to grasp

One of the pillars of the FTA program is the forest transition curve (the red line in the figure below) – whose very definition was coined by FTA scientists, and now worldwide known. Looking at the totality of the world landscapes at a certain point in time reveals a quite complex set of land-use patterns. But a new light is shed when we look at these patterns through time: the curve enables us to better understand and anticipate the consequences (both positive and negative), over time of economic development on forests, land use and the environment. It also enables to figure out the levers of action to prevent degradation of ecosystems and improve overall productivity and ecosystem services.

The “forest transition curve,” depicting the different stages of forests, after human anthropocentric activity. Different restorative activities such as native habitat conservation, natural forest regrowth, commercial tree plantations, woodlots, enrichment plantings, and agroforestry systems may be implemented across this transition, along with soil restoration and conservation measures (adapted from CGIAR 2011). More on restoration in our FTA Highlight No.4.

Compared to annual crops, trees have the particularity to force anyone to consider, inherently, the time dimension. What you do to forests now, will impact you for decades. The decision to plant a tree today, to organize differently your farm system with trees, is a decision that has consequences through time. An intervention that contains trees is therefore always a “change” on top of an evolution (in time). A change, on top of another change. This is why FTA uses the language of ‘Theory of Induced Change’ (leverage points, intervention) over a ‘Theory of Change’ (the forest transition curve representing the “baseline” evolution of the system due to various social-ecological processes and their drivers). This distinction clearly allows to identify leverage points to modify pathways of change and development, through context specific action.

Analytical framework for understanding people (centre) in landscapes interacting with livelihoods and policies, as part of a process in time where today’s options lead to tomorrow’s choices; ES = ecosystem services.

Download the volume! [PDF]
FTA, the collaborative Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry program is coming to an end in 2021 as a CGIAR CRP. However, it has depicted for itself a clear way forward, to include new, innovative, large-scale, and long-term research. The partnership has grown, it has energy, it is ready for another decade, towards 2030.

Download the Introduction to learn more about FTA’s efforts in 10 years of research in partnership. And stay tuned for more highlights! Each one will allow you to discover or rediscover – through FTA “eyes” – milestones in the forests, trees and agroforestry research advancement. A way to read about how knowledge, linked to peoples’ buy-in and power, well used can really make a change for our global agenda in sustainable development!

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Vincent Gitz, FTA Director

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  • Launch of a new citizen science campaign to support global transition to agroecology

Launch of a new citizen science campaign to support global transition to agroecology

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Tea harvesting at Finlays Tea Estate, Koricho. Photo by Patrick Sheperd/CIFOR
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At an independent side event of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, on 24 September the Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (TPP) has launched a new Million Voices initiative: citizen science to support agroecological transitions to help accelerate global efforts to redesign the current food system.

A one-hour virtual session saw over 300 registrations and an extensive Q&A section, in which event’s attendees were given an opportunity to indicate what, in their opinion, should be a priority for the initiative’s implementation phase.

In his opening remark, Michel Evequoz, Senior Advisor at the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation (SDC) rightly underlined that:

“Agroecology has emerged as one of the most promising solutions to the problems of our food systems, and now, a broad coalition of actors is forming and gaining momentum.”

The building of the momentum is reflected by the Coalition for Food Systems Transformation through Agroecology, which has been signed by 19 countries and nearly 30 organizations, including those of the United Nations (UNDP, UNEP, WFP and IFAD), regional and national farmers organizations (AFA, ROPPA, etc.) and research organizations (CIFOR-ICRAF, CIRAD, etc.), among others.

Michel Evenquoz also highlighted the fact that, in its essence, agroecology is based on inclusiveness and empowerment:

“Agroecology is a movement, a set of practices, but also a scientific discipline. In all these aspects, agroecology is a dynamic, inclusive, transformative power to change the food systems.”

The event’s moderator, Fergus Sinclair, Chief Scientist at CIFOR-ICRAF and co-convenor of the TPP on Agroecology, touched on the two important aspects of citizen science, namely the extent to which science is responsive to the concerns and needs of citizens; and the extent to which citizens are involved in providing information, which generates scientific knowledge. Both of these aspects should always be considered when designing and implementing any citizen-centric campaigns.

One interesting example of citizen science approaches already being used in agroecology was given by Tor Gunar Vagen, Head of CIFOR-ICRAF Spatial Data Science and Learning Lab. Called the Regreening Africa App, the assisted crowd-sourcing tool for tracking land restoration at scale allows for data gathering on a number and species of trees being planted as well as their precise location. It also helps to monitor the survival rate of those trees, therefore making it an extremely powerful tool to actually measure progress.

Speaking of data, Anna-Verena Nosthoff and Felix Maschewski from the Data Politics Lab at the Humboldt University of Berlin shared a critical perspective on big data and big tech platforms and addressed the need for data alternatives, such as open-source technologies.

“The concentration of power is problematic. Not only because the marketplace owned by a single company enables that company to set standards, define code of conduct and control the barriers to market entry, but also because it can then dictate who will be able to act on that market, when and under what conditions. A single company can also create proprietary forms of knowledge,” – pointed out Felix Maschewski.

In the event’s final section, attendees shared their views on those aspects of agroecology that the Million Voices initiative should address – the words ‘soil’ and ‘co-creation’ were the most prevalent.

When asked what is more important: citizens doing the science and collecting the data or citizens’ concerns and needs being considered by scientists, the dominant 53% of respondents chose the latter, while the remaining 47% went for the first option. With the audience split in half, the importance of collaboration, inclusivity and empowerment is ever more evident, all of which, as noted by Michel Evenquoz in the event’s opening section, can be tackled by the agroecological transition.

Through a series of open-ended questions, the event’s participants could also indicate some of the challenges and opportunities that they see in citizen science more broadly. The responses received are of great value and include comments such as ‘capacity building of farmers’‘giving a voice to disadvantaged people’; and ‘strengthening and further connecting the agroecological movement.’ When it comes to challenges, respondents highlighted the difficulties with ‘using platforms that do not co-opt farmers’ data for private interests’‘exclusion of underrepresented groups due to literacy issues’; ‘imbalance in the relationship between citizens and science’ as well as ‘homogenised collection of data’.

Over the next months, a series of national and regional events will follow to consolidate the focus of the initiative and then put citizen science into action in support of agroecological transformation.

Originally posted on GLFx.

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  • Agroecology takes center stage at the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

Agroecology takes center stage at the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

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Wild coffee nursery in Yangambi - DRC. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR
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Held on 23 September, the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 saw over 200 commitments from all constituencies after engaging with hundreds of thousands of people from around the world ready to act and transform the global food system.

One of the Summit’s strongest outcomes and commitments to action is the Coalition for the Transformation of Food Systems Through Agroecology, already signed by 19 countries (Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Spain, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and others) and nearly 30 organizations, including Agroecology Europe, Biovision, CIFOR-ICRAFCIRADUNDPUNEP and many more.

The video prompting organizations and member states to join the Coalition, which sits under the Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (TPP) umbrella, has been featured at one of the Food Systems Summit’s plenary sessions, which can be accessed directly on the Summit’s website (Session 1 – Multi-stakeholder Commitments and Constituency Voices, at 1:12:40) or on Vimeo.

Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Food Systems Summit 2021, underlined the importance of the Coalition as one of the game-changing approaches to building more sustainable food systems that benefit both people and the planet.

Join the initiative!

Originally posted on GLFx.

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  • Sustainability of Brazilian forest concessions

Sustainability of Brazilian forest concessions

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Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Marco Simola/CIFOR
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In 2006, the Brazilian Forest Service (SFB) started an ambitious program to establish forest concessions so as to provide a legal framework for long-term sustainable timber production in Amazonian forests. Forest concessions in the Brazilian Amazon currently cover only 1.6 million ha (Mha) but we estimate the area of all potential concessions as 35 Mha.

This paper assessed the conditions under which the present and potential concession system can ensure an annual production of 11 Mm3. yr−1 to meet the estimated present timber demand. For this we used the volume dynamics with differential equations model (VDDE) calibrated for the Amazon Basin with a Bayesian framework with data from 3500 ha of forest plots monitored for as long as 30 years after selective logging.

Predictions of commercial volume recovery rates vary with location. We tested 27 different scenarios by using combinations of initial proportion of commercial volume, logging intensity and cutting cycle length. These scenarios were then applied to the current area of concessions and to the area of all potential concessions (35 Mha). Under current logging regulations and the current concession area (mean logging intensity of 15–20 m3.ha−1, a harvest cycle of 35 years and an initial commercial timber volume proportion of 20%), timber production can be maintained only for a single cutting cycle (35 years). Only the scenario with a logging intensity of 10 m3ha−1 every 60 years with a 90% initial proportion of commercial timber species can be considered as sustainable. Under this scenario, the maximum annual production with the present concession areas is 159,000 m3 (157–159), or less than 2% of the present annual production of 11 Mm3. When considering all potential concession areas (35 Mha), under current rules, the total annual production is 10 Mm3yr−1 (2–17 Mm3yr−1, 95% credibility interval) but is not maintained after the first logging cycle.

Under the most sustainable scenario (see above) and a concession area of 35 Mha, the long-term sustainable annual production of timber reaches only 3.4 Mm3yr−1. Based on these results we argue that the concession system will not be able to supply the timber demand without substantial reforms in natural forest management practices and in the wood industry sector. We argue that alternative sources of timber, including plantations linked with forest restoration initiatives, must be promoted.

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