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  • Trait-based approaches for guiding the restoration of degraded agricultural landscapes in East Africa

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


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  1. Functional ecology provides a framework that can link vegetation characteristics of various land uses with ecosystem function. However, this application has been mostly limited to [semi-]natural systems and small spatial scales. Here, we apply functional ecology to five agricultural landscapes in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, and ask to what extent vegetation characteristics contribute to soil functions that are key to farmers’ livelihoods.
  2. We used the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework (LDSF), a multi-scale assessment of land health. Each LDSF site is a 10 × 10 km landscape in which vegetation cover and erosion prevalence were measured, a tree inventory was carried out, and topsoil (0–20 cm) samples were collected for organic carbon (SOC) analysis in approximately 160 × 1,000 m2 plots. Land degradation is a recurring phenomenon across the five landscapes, indicated by high erosion prevalence (67%–99% of the plots were severely eroded). We used mixed models to assess if vegetation cover, above-ground woody biomass and the functional properties of woody vegetation (weighted-mean trait values, functional diversity [FD]) explain variation in SOC and erosion prevalence.
  3. We found that the vegetation cover and above-ground biomass had strong positive effects on soil health by increasing SOC and reducing soil erosion. After controlling for cover and biomass, we found additional marginal effects of functional properties where FD was positively associated with SOC and the abundance of invasive species was associated with higher soil erosion.
  4. Synthesis and applications. This work illustrates how functional ecology can provide much-needed evidence for designing strategies to restore degraded agricultural land and the ecosystem services on which farmers depend. We show that to ensure soil health, it is vital to avoid exposed soil, maintain or promote tree cover, while ensuring functional diversity of tree species, and to eradicate invasive species.

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  • Orphan crops for improving diets

Orphan crops for improving diets


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A fruit hangs on a baobab tree. Photo by Katja Kehlenbeck/ICRAF
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A fruit hangs from a baobab tree. Photo by Katja Kehlenbeck/ICRAF

Orphan crops, so-called because they are considered neglected and underutilized, are typically overlooked in terms of resources for their promotion. But they are now being brought out of the shadows, along with their potential health and environmental benefits.

At present, orphan crops are not extensively researched, despite their potential for realizing economic and dietary benefits for the people who cultivate and consume them, as well as bringing environmental gains to the landscapes where they are grown.

This is due in part to the “nonstandard and unimproved” landraces being grown in some locations, which are not as productive, robust or of as high quality as they could be. However, through plant genetics and crop improvement, the potential of orphan crops to address issues of malnutrition and hunger in Africa can be enhanced, if the necessary market interventions to support their use are also correctly implemented.

The African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), which aims to obtain complete sequences of DNA of 101 neglected food crops, and the African Plant Breeding Academy (AfPBA), which empowers crop breeders from across Africa through skill development, networking and information sharing, are working to improve these crops and promote their utilization.

The AOCC, based in Nairobi and launched in 2011, is hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), one of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) partner institutions. Its research is now in the spotlight following recent articles from The Economist and the Financial Times.

According to ICRAF’s Prasad Hendre, the Genomics Laboratory Manager at the AOCC, the consortium is “all about giving a voice to underprivileged African farmers through their crops, making the crops sustainably profitable for individual smallholder farmers, their families and communities.”

Members of the African Plant Breeding Academy’s Class II pose for a photo to mark their graduation. Photo by ICRAF

So far, of the overall target, AOCC researchers have fully sequenced 10 genomes and partially sequenced 19.

“The AOCC is working on 101 orphan crops – 50 trees and 51 annuals – shortlisted through larger consensus between farmers, policy makers, governments, agricultural research organizations, philanthropists and private entities,” Hendre said.

“As a first step, we are trying to bring scientific equality to these crops by making the cutting-edge application-oriented scientific tools available through group leadership of the AOCC. It is all about bringing useful and innovative technology to the doorsteps of the African research community, primarily the plant breeders, who can develop new varieties to suit local, regional and global demands.

“At the core of these technologies is the genome sequence of any crop, which directly or indirectly shapes the outcome of these crops on farms. By predicting the effect of a specific DNA signature on the performance of an individual, it is possible to design a next generation of ‘smart’ crops which are high yielding, efficient, highly nutritious and capable of facing environmental challenges. It is also important to impart the right skillsets to African plant breeders who are largely practicing traditional methods of crop improvement. The new tools and methods in their hands can speed up variety development.”

AfPBA, an initiative of the AOCC, is focusing on this skill enhancement by training African plant breeders to use genomic tools and incorporate them into breeding programs.

Mehmood Hassan of ICRAF, who is also FTA’s capacity development coordinator, explained that AfPBA is a collaboration between the University of California, Davis and ICRAF, while the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa are also closely involved.

The academy aims to equip 250 African breeders with advanced breeding skills and approaches by 2023 and to expand their horizons to incorporate African orphan crops, including trees, into their breeding agendas, according to Hassan. So far, more than 50 breeders in two groups have successfully graduated, with a third group of 34 set to graduate in June 2018.

A variety of mango grows on a farm in Machakos County, Kenya. Photo by ICRAF

“Several of the past graduates have already influenced breeding programs by expanding the focus from calorific crops to crops with wider nutritional value,” Hassan said.

AfPBA also mentors the trainee breeders in formulating international grant proposals. A few breeders have already been able to attract additional financial resources to support and expand their programs to include some of these new tools.

“The benefits of breeding these crops will be many,” said Hendre. “For local African orphan fruit tree crops, an additional benefit could be their conservation, encouraging farmers to plant highly productive varieties on farms in a sustainable manner, as compared to extractive non-sustainable harvesting from parklands, semi-wild or forest landscapes.”

“For annuals, it will help in improving their acceptance as mainstream crops due to developing easy to cook, easy to cultivate, tasty and nutritious high-yielding varieties,” he added.

For both trees and annual crops, the primary beneficiaries are expected to be farmers, who will be able to diversify their farms with multiple marketable options made available through newly developed varieties. Certified seed sellers are also likely to be among the primary beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, secondary beneficiaries will include local traders, who will be able to buy and sell the products. Tertiary beneficiaries will be both local and global food processors, who will have the chance to diversify their offerings with nutritious, sustainable and locally sourced foods.

In line with this, once improved crops are bred, both farmers and seed distributors need to be encouraged to make use of them.

“Farmers can be encouraged to adopt new varieties if they are shown benefits. The most important benefit a farmer can see is through increased income. ICRAF and FTA can help farmers see that there is a demand for their products and how they can use that opportunity to market their farm produce and enhance income,” said Hendre. “Other benefits for the environment and human health can be shown using ecological and health indicators for soil, climate and community health, among others.”

Prasad Hendre demonstrates some of the advances in technology in genome sequencing during a laboratory visit. Photo by ICRAF

“Adopting improved varieties requires engaging with certified producers of planting material – be this seed or vegetatively propagated plants in the case of some crops – who can supply improved varieties to the farmers,” he added.

The prospects look good, with some orphan crops holding significant potential for wider consumption and improved nutrition.

“A few of these crops already have global or regional markets, such as African eggplant, African bush pear and African bush mango, Allanblackia, amaranth, baobab, marula, moringa and shea. Releasing improved varieties helps farmers to follow more profitable and sustainable cultivation practices, and allows product standardization, which lead to greater demand and better market prices. In the future, I can see many more of these crops reaching a global market as global consumer preferences change,” Hendre said.

With these efforts and the promising progress to date, new and improved varieties of orphan crops may one day sit alongside current staple foods in stores and on plates, both across Africa and around the world.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator 


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


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  • Wood fuel in the climate pledges of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Wood fuel in the climate pledges of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa


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A man transports firewood via motorbike in East Africa. Photo by Sande Murunga/CIFOR
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A man transports firewood via motorbike in East Africa. Photo by Sande Murunga/CIFOR

Nearly every rural family in the 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa relies on wood to cook, boil water, provide heat and often to build their homes. Even in many urban areas, wood is the only affordable energy source.

Since wood fuel is here to stay, at least for now, scientists from the Center of International Forestry Research (CIFOR) wanted to find out how countries in the region prioritized this energy source as part of the climate actions they intend to take under the Paris Agreement.

Known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), these proposed action plans were drawn up before the accord was signed in 2015 and will help determine if the world can achieve the Paris goals. Since Paris, the ‘intended’ has been dropped and countries have submitted their final plans, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The CIFOR team, including scientists part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), examined how wood fuel was introduced, listed or framed in the NDCs; the existence or listing of renewable energy and energy efficiency plans; and the existence of supporting national policies and strategic documents.

“We looked at 22 randomly selected countries and their planned climate actions. Although wood fuel is mentioned in most plans, they don’t say how they intend to reach their targets or what the roadmaps, timelines and legal issues are,” says Christopher Martius, CIFOR scientist and team leader. “These plans are ambitious but they are mainly a declaration of intentions.”

The researchers found that even when plans were converted from INDCs to NDCs, just over half of the countries left out a budget or had any specific energy policies in their national planning strategies.

“It appears a lot of these countries rushed to get their [INDC] plans in place and they didn’t take the opportunity to revise them before they were automatically converted to NDCs. So they were basically a copy and paste exercise,” says Ivy Amugune, CIFOR research assistant.

One exception is Somalia, which revised and resubmitted its plan. It was also the only country to provide a detailed section on the environmental impact of charcoal. Somalia’s NDCs list renewable energy as one possible solution, but funding remains an issue.

Read more: Measuring the effectiveness of subnational REDD+ initiatives

Women gather firewood in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by Sande Murunga/CIFOR

THE COST OF GOING GREEN

Renewable energy sources — mainly wind, solar and hydropower — were mentioned as alternatives by 17 countries in their action plans but implementing this strategy may not be so easy.

“Biofuels and solar energy projects have been introduced in some rural areas, but they come with a price, especially in remote areas,” says Amugune. “The problem is that setting up these systems and maintaining them costs money. Wood fuel is cheap — in fact, for most people, it is actually free.”

But rapid deforestation in many countries is making it more and more difficult for communities to harvest wood fuel.

“In Kenya, for example, you find people in rural areas have to walk for miles now to get wood and water. Changes in rainfall are occurring due to climate change. The land dries out and then suddenly there is flooding. It destroys everything and people have to start again from zero,” says Amugune.

So how can communities continue to access wood fuel without harming the environment and contributing to climate change?

The researchers looked into the question but found that few countries have evaluated this aspect, even though wood fuel has the potential to be a clean and sustainable resource. Martius says the key is good forest management.

“If you have a rotation-based strategy with communities reforesting areas and then harvesting specific areas at alternate times wood fuel can be sustainable,” he says.

This rotation system can help restore the rapidly disappearing landscapes, researchers say. “But we need more research into tree species as well as a lot of planning and control to make that happen,” says Martius.

Read more: An introduction to CIFOR’s global comparative study on REDD+ (GCS-REDD+)

PROTECT AND RESTORE

Reforestation and the restoration of ecosystems are key elements to meeting the Paris goals. Forests that are legally protected can provide a positive “carbon sink,” which absorbs more carbon than it emits into the atmosphere.

Scientists say these areas need to be protected from firewood extraction and illegal logging. But only five of the countries examined seemed to recognize the importance of this in their NDCs.

Amugune says communities need to have a good reason to restore degraded landscapes. She points to Uganda where rural communities tend to plant fast-growing species like cyprus and eucalyptus, which can be harvested and sold in a few years.

“These communities need concrete incentives to grow indigenous trees to help restore degraded ecosystems and that requires government policies and good reforestation programs,” she says.

A man stacks wood in Africa. Photo by Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR

BOTTOM UP, TOP DOWN

Amugune says a real solution involves empowering communities. If they are given the responsibility for their own future then there is a real chance to achieve sustainability.

“I’ve seen NGOs or governments come with a great offer for a community and it’s a good project, but once it ends, the work on the ground dies. We have to find ways that these projects can have a life of their own even after a project ends. That’s the only way they can transform,” she says.

She adds that the research points to more regional cooperation, as many of the countries have the same problem and together they can find joint solutions.

Martius notes that the Paris accord has brought people together from developing and developed countries and from diverse backgrounds, and that means a real debate over solutions to climate change has begun.

“But we need to continue to engage with people, not just hand over reports or studies,” he says. “Above all, we need the right policies and enforcement of those policies. It’s not easy, but if you take a few years to develop and implement the right policy, then you don’t need to worry about the next 100 years.”

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research is part of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+.

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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  • Forest Landscape Restoration in Hilly and Mountainous Regions: Special Issue

Forest Landscape Restoration in Hilly and Mountainous Regions: Special Issue


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  • Ebola outbreaks linked to forest loss, new study finds

Ebola outbreaks linked to forest loss, new study finds


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A river rund through Mau Forest in Kenya. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR
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Wildmeat is sold at Bartica market in Guyana. Photo by M. Lopez/CIFOR

Scientists track the disease to the edge of newly cleared forests.

News of an Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) outbreak strikes fear not only in Africa where it originates, but around the world. In humans, the virus produces severe symptoms such as bleeding from the eyes, nose and mouth, loss of consciousness, seizures and eventual death.

First discovered in 1976 in Central Africa, the worst outbreak happened between 2014-2016 when the virus rapidly spread through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, killing more than 11,000 men, women and children. Cases were also reported in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. With no known cure, governments must rely on prevention and control strategies to contain new outbreaks.

But in a new study, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Spain’s Universidad de Malaga and other partner institutions have uncovered a vital piece of the Ebola puzzle — when and where outbreaks can occur.

Watch: Let’s talk about bushmeat

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

“Since Ebola is transmitted to humans from wild animals we were initially very interested in the link between the virus and bushmeat practices,” says Professor John E. Fa, a Senior Associate at CIFOR and a Professor at the UK’s Manchester Metropolitan University.

“This led us to the next question: we knew there was no evidence that Ebola happens in cycles, so we asked, ‘What other conditions on the ground are there to encourage this virus to flourish and infect people?’” says Fa.

A river runs through Mau Forest in Kenya. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR

The team — made up of practitioners, landscape ecologists and modellers, the latter led by Dr. Jesus Olivero of the Faculty of Sciences in Malaga — joined forces to investigate patterns of forest loss in areas where Ebola disease outbreaks had been recorded, and other sites where no outbreaks had occurred. The question to be answered was whether there were substantial differences in the rates and extent of deforestation in these two distinct types of sites.

“The comparison is remarkable. In the outbreak areas, it’s not just more deforestation, but there is also greater forest fragmentation,” says Olivero.

The scientists point out that as large forest blocks are broken up into smaller fragments, this may become an open invitation for new instances of contact to take place between humans and potential natural carriers, thereby increasing the risk of an outbreak.

Although the possible link between forest loss and zoonotic disease has been suggested before, the findings of the present work provide strong evidence of an association between Ebola outbreak locations and deforestation. The breakthrough in the new study occurred when the team noted a pattern in the timing of deforestation prior to the outbreaks.

“For the first time, we saw a direct correlation between forest fragmentation and when EVD outbreaks happen,” says Olivero.

“We found that EVD outbreaks tended to occur in areas that experienced forest loss up to two years prior.”

Read more: Eating and conserving bushmeat in Africa

GETTING A HEADS UP

The research team says the data could lead to the development of an early warning system, which means governments in Ebola risk regions can get a head start on implementing interventions. This is key, because most EVD outbreaks happen in remote, rural communities where there are few resources.

“Once we know where these potential hotspots are, we can create a map showing where an outbreak is likely to occur and mobilize people and resources to monitor local communities,” says Fa.

This means that surveillance and medical teams, as well as community awareness activities, could make preparations in identified high-risk areas before the virus strikes and, in doing so, save lives.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION 

A sign advertises wild meat in Guyana. Photo by M. Lopez/CIFOR

The new study clearly suggests that preserving forested areas must be a high priority for nations throughout the world.

“Tropical rainforests are chock-a-block with species of all kinds, including pathogens, which means that for such a high diversity of animal hosts there are corresponding parasites, viruses, and so on,” notes Fa.

“Our feeling is that once you start playing around with an ecosystem, you might have a flurry of activity of viruses that may even start looking for new hosts,” he adds.

Fa says much more needs to be done to fully understand how EVD outbreaks occur, and how the virus is transmitted. The team is currently looking at how outbreaks may be influenced by climate, and how potential Ebola host animals, such as bats, may be linked to deforestation.

“It is now fundamental to go to the field to find out what creates disease flurries, and also to do more research into different types of forests with different levels of deforestation. We need to know what happens to the species, what happens to the virus, in these areas,” he says.

Fa adds that it’s crucial to look at the big picture, at how emerging infectious diseases like Ebola are moving out of remote areas and infecting the general public, and the role that nature plays.

“We see the importance of keeping biodiversity intact,” he concludes.

Watch: Future solutions for bushmeat in Colombia

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

This research is part of CIFOR’s Bushmeat Research Initiative. For more information on this topic, please contact John E. Fa at jfa949@gmail.com or Jesus Olivero at jesusolivero@uma.es.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. It is also supported by UK aid from the UK Government and USAID. 


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  • Ebola outbreaks linked to forest loss, new study finds

Ebola outbreaks linked to forest loss, new study finds


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A river rund through Mau Forest in Kenya. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Wildmeat is sold at Bartica market in Guyana. Photo by M. Lopez/CIFOR

Scientists track the disease to the edge of newly cleared forests.

News of an Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) outbreak strikes fear not only in Africa where it originates, but around the world. In humans, the virus produces severe symptoms such as bleeding from the eyes, nose and mouth, loss of consciousness, seizures and eventual death.

First discovered in 1976 in Central Africa, the worst outbreak happened between 2014-2016 when the virus rapidly spread through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, killing more than 11,000 men, women and children. Cases were also reported in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. With no known cure, governments must rely on prevention and control strategies to contain new outbreaks.

But in a new study, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Spain’s Universidad de Malaga and other partner institutions have uncovered a vital piece of the Ebola puzzle — when and where outbreaks can occur.

Watch: Let’s talk about bushmeat

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

“Since Ebola is transmitted to humans from wild animals we were initially very interested in the link between the virus and bushmeat practices,” says Professor John E. Fa, a Senior Associate at CIFOR and a Professor at the UK’s Manchester Metropolitan University.

“This led us to the next question: we knew there was no evidence that Ebola happens in cycles, so we asked, ‘What other conditions on the ground are there to encourage this virus to flourish and infect people?’” says Fa.

A river runs through Mau Forest in Kenya. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR

The team — made up of practitioners, landscape ecologists and modellers, the latter led by Dr. Jesus Olivero of the Faculty of Sciences in Malaga — joined forces to investigate patterns of forest loss in areas where Ebola disease outbreaks had been recorded, and other sites where no outbreaks had occurred. The question to be answered was whether there were substantial differences in the rates and extent of deforestation in these two distinct types of sites.

“The comparison is remarkable. In the outbreak areas, it’s not just more deforestation, but there is also greater forest fragmentation,” says Olivero.

The scientists point out that as large forest blocks are broken up into smaller fragments, this may become an open invitation for new instances of contact to take place between humans and potential natural carriers, thereby increasing the risk of an outbreak.

Although the possible link between forest loss and zoonotic disease has been suggested before, the findings of the present work provide strong evidence of an association between Ebola outbreak locations and deforestation. The breakthrough in the new study occurred when the team noted a pattern in the timing of deforestation prior to the outbreaks.

“For the first time, we saw a direct correlation between forest fragmentation and when EVD outbreaks happen,” says Olivero.

“We found that EVD outbreaks tended to occur in areas that experienced forest loss up to two years prior.”

Read more: Eating and conserving bushmeat in Africa

GETTING A HEADS UP

The research team says the data could lead to the development of an early warning system, which means governments in Ebola risk regions can get a head start on implementing interventions. This is key, because most EVD outbreaks happen in remote, rural communities where there are few resources.

“Once we know where these potential hotspots are, we can create a map showing where an outbreak is likely to occur and mobilize people and resources to monitor local communities,” says Fa.

This means that surveillance and medical teams, as well as community awareness activities, could make preparations in identified high-risk areas before the virus strikes and, in doing so, save lives.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION 

A sign advertises wild meat in Guyana. Photo by M. Lopez/CIFOR

The new study clearly suggests that preserving forested areas must be a high priority for nations throughout the world.

“Tropical rainforests are chock-a-block with species of all kinds, including pathogens, which means that for such a high diversity of animal hosts there are corresponding parasites, viruses, and so on,” notes Fa.

“Our feeling is that once you start playing around with an ecosystem, you might have a flurry of activity of viruses that may even start looking for new hosts,” he adds.

Fa says much more needs to be done to fully understand how EVD outbreaks occur, and how the virus is transmitted. The team is currently looking at how outbreaks may be influenced by climate, and how potential Ebola host animals, such as bats, may be linked to deforestation.

“It is now fundamental to go to the field to find out what creates disease flurries, and also to do more research into different types of forests with different levels of deforestation. We need to know what happens to the species, what happens to the virus, in these areas,” he says.

Fa adds that it’s crucial to look at the big picture, at how emerging infectious diseases like Ebola are moving out of remote areas and infecting the general public, and the role that nature plays.

“We see the importance of keeping biodiversity intact,” he concludes.

Watch: Future solutions for bushmeat in Colombia

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

This research is part of CIFOR’s Bushmeat Research Initiative. For more information on this topic, please contact John E. Fa at jfa949@gmail.com or Jesus Olivero at jesusolivero@uma.es.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. It is also supported by UK aid from the UK Government and USAID. 


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  • Small flame but no fire: Wood fuel in the (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Small flame but no fire: Wood fuel in the (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa


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Woodfuel is extremely important for energy security in Africa. About eighty percent of both rural and urban populations in the 49 countries that comprise South-Saharan (SSA) Africa rely on wood-based biomass to satisfy their energy needs, especially for cooking. Under the Paris Agreement for Climate Change, countries have submitted their ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs) to the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), to define their national ambitions. After Paris, these have now become legally binding NDCs. Therefore, the role that woodfuel plays in the NDCs of SSA countries needs to be assessed.

We reviewed and assessed INDC/NDCs of a selection of SSA countries to identify how they focus on wood fuel. This paper provides a first analysis of the role that wood fuels play in the NDCs. Only five of the 22 countries analyzed do not mention wood fuels at all. While all of those that do mention roadmaps, only just over half of them offer budgetary considerations, and about half of them identify institutional responsibilities for the woodfuel sector. In many NDCs, woodfuel is seen as a backwater technology, and not the renewable energy source it could be come if sustainably harvested and managed. We find that, overall, next iterations of the NDCs in SSA countries need to become more specific regarding the role of woodfuels in national climate and development policies.


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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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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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  • Nutrition and trees in sub-Saharan Africa: Jennifer’s secret

Nutrition and trees in sub-Saharan Africa: Jennifer’s secret


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Not even Jennifer’s children know where she hides the chikanda. Why? The small, brownish orchid tubers are highly valued as a cultural delicacy among the Bemba people who live in the Luwingu district of northern Zambia. Overharvesting of chikanda for sale is an important issue in East and southern Africa, but local women have a way to harvest it sustainably. Jennifer explains why chikanda is so important in her culture.

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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  • Gender Research Fellowship's second round kicks off in Kenya

Gender Research Fellowship’s second round kicks off in Kenya


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The workshop participants pose for a photo in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by C.Magaju/ICRAF
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The workshop participants pose for a photo in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by C.Magaju/ICRAF

Building on a successful first phase, the Gender Research Fellowship Programme is back for round two.

This unique program has been designed to strengthen the capacity of researchers and partners working within the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) to conduct research that can support gender equality and other desired project outcomes, such as the sustainable management and conservation of tree genetic resources.

The Gender Research Fellowship Programme is funded by FTA and is coordinated by two of FTA’s partners, Bioversity International and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Partner institutes actively involved in the Gender Research Fellowship Programme include Association tipaalga, Centre National de Semences Forestières (CNSF – Burkina Faso), Feed the Children, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), and Université de Ouagadougou.

Read also: Building on past success for better quality science: FTA gender research in 2017

The four gender fellows. Photo by M. Elias/Bioversity International

The program’s specific objectives are to:

  • Strengthen the knowledge base regarding gender and the sustainable management and delivery of tree genetic resources
  • Build FTA staff and partner skills in gender analysis and methodologies that support gender-transformative research
  • Develop a community of practice around engaged gender research

From Aug. 28 Sept. 1, 2017, the new Gender Fellows came together in Nairobi, Kenya, to launch the second edition of the Gender Research Fellowship Programme. The four Fellows — two women scientists from Kenya and two from Burkina Faso — developed plans to conduct research on gender and restoration in West and East African countries.

Read also: Listening to different voices – revealing local knowledge through research

Three days of the inception workshop were open to other FTA participants who wished to learn approaches to move “Beyond gender-disaggregated data: Towards engaged research to exert change,” as the title of the workshop indicated. The other two days were reserved for the Gender Fellows to discuss — despite language barriers — how to work together to implement some of those engaged research approaches in their respective projects.

Over the coming year and a half, the Fellows will share their experiences using different approaches for social and gender analysis. They will test the usefulness of scalable, participatory and mixed method approaches to promote gender equity and sustainable natural resource management.

The Fellows will be tasked with producing blogs, reports and scientific papers based on their research. Stayed tuned for more from them!

To learn more about the launch of the second phase of the Gender Fellowship, check out the presentation on intersectionality delivered at the workshop by the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Markus Ihalainen.

By Marlene Elias and Manon Koningstein, FTA Gender Integration Team. Originally published on the website of Bioversity International


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


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  • Finding a way in for better landscape governance

Finding a way in for better landscape governance


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A water porter makes his way to a gold panning area in Sindri village, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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A dry landscape is seen in Burkina Faso. Photo by D. Tiveau/CIFOR

Study in Ghana and Burkina Faso finds an entry point for landscape approaches in natural resource management schemes.

Landscape approaches provide a framework to find solutions to social, environmental and economic challenges in Africa. In the past, sectoral approaches were often used to manage land, but more and more experts agree that integrated approaches are needed to ensure that landscapes are managed sustainably.

With this kind of approach, a landscape would be managed in such a way that it provides environmental services for more than one group or sector. For example, a single landscape could be managed in an integrated way to become a source of water for local communities and agriculture, provide trees for timber, support local biodiversity and give shade for cocoa farming. In this way, integrated landscape approaches can also contribute to solving global environmental challenges such as biodiversity loss, food insecurity and climate change.

Read also: Stepping up to the challenge to end poverty and hunger without trashing the planet

Scientists from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) explored three established natural resource management schemes in the West African nations of Burkina Faso and Ghana to see if they could identify locally embedded entry points for implementing integrated landscape approaches.

“All three have interacting land uses, whether through agroforestry systems common throughout Burkina Faso, or a mosaic of wildlife reserves, food production and timber tree planting in Ghana,” said researcher Mirjam Ros-Tonen from the University of Amsterdam.

“But they all face deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change and persistent poverty,” added Samson Foli, also from UvA.

A water porter makes his way to a gold panning area in Sindri village, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

THREE SCHEMES, THREE RESULTS

All three schemes target landscape degradation and involve local communities. The Chantier d’Aménagement Forestier (CAF) scheme encompasses forest management sites across Burkina Faso.

In Ghana, the Modified Taungya System (MTS) aims to restore degraded forest reserves while allowing farmers to interplant food crops, and the Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) target wildlife conservation and livelihood diversification at the fringes of protected areas and wildlife reserves, through participatory natural resource management.

The team scored each scheme on five design principles for integrated landscape approaches derived from a previous study. These include extent of integration, adaptive management and continual learning, polycentric governance, multi-stakeholder involvement and capacity-building. The degree of alignment with these principles help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the schemes as entry points for landscape approaches.

“We found challenges in all areas to varying degrees. For example, we found that farmers in Ghana’s MTS had a share in the timber revenues but little say in the design, implementation and running of the MTS,” says Ros-Tonen.

“Secondly, farmers are unable to produce food on MTS lands after about three years when food crops do no longer survive under the shade of the canopy.”

Read also: Forests as food: New report highlights important relationship between forest landscapes and healthy diets

The study shows that a lack of long-term funding and economic incentives threaten the program, while top-down governance arrangements stifle a genuine move toward more collaborative decision-making, power-sharing and institutional diversity.

In Burkina Faso, it was a similar story.

Trees dot the scenery in the Kongoussi area, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

“In Burkina, the CAF scheme called for co-ops to be involved in decision-making, but a lot of the time local people don’t have the resources to go or prepare for the meetings, so they don’t attend,” Foli says.

ONE SCHEME RISES TO THE TOP

Although these two schemes could succeed if improvements are made, Ghana’s CREMA approach showed more potential.

“The CREMA does a better job at various levels by allowing people to be directly involved in conservation and natural resource use because they have total autonomy,” Foli says.

“They have the liberty to do establish ecotourism initiatives, or game sanctuaries, or other income-generating and local capacity-building projects. Because they are empowered, they have a progressive trajectory, and with government assistance, they receive periodic training from the Forestry Commission or NGOs,” he adds.

The study shows that the CREMA is the only scheme that explicitly deals with trade-offs between conservation and development aims. The CREMA was also found to take a more flexible approach compared to the other two schemes that have a more rigid decision-making structure.

The researchers found that government forestry and land-use planning institutions conduct conservation programs with little consideration for existing norms used by local people in conserving natural resources. Only the CREMA initiative takes local knowledge and practices for the conservation and sustainable use explicitly into account.

“But the CREMA isn’t perfect. We found that all three schemes needed to have a monitoring and evaluation component. This is especially needed here, as all three have been established as a response to failure of past conservation strategies. So we need to know if they are fulfilling their set goals or not,” Foli says.

MORE WORK AHEAD

The study also points to the need for continual learning and a management structure that can adapt to change. The researchers concluded that the CREMA can be improved by building platforms for the exchange and co-creation of knowledge and experimental learning at all levels. In other words, working toward a holistic landscape approach guided by an advanced set of the principles.

“We are also seeing more and more stakeholders becoming involved — NGOs, government, researchers, communities — and that’s a good thing. But for any scheme to be successful, the community and local groups need a bigger voice,” Foli says.

The researchers stress that a realistic perspective is needed to ensure integrated landscape approaches succeed, and that means being flexible in translating the guiding principles based on local context and conservation objectives.

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


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

This research was supported by the Conservation and Sustainable use of Tropical Forest Biodiversity program financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and WOTRO Science for Global Development/Food and Business Applied Research Fund through the TREEFARMS project.


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  • Gender-responsive participatory research for social learning and sustainable forest management

Gender-responsive participatory research for social learning and sustainable forest management


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Abstract

Participatory research on forests has been commended for fostering social learning, innovation, community empowerment, social inclusion, and leading to more sustainable resource management. Yet, critiques of participatory approaches – and of the simplistic ways they are, at times, employed to address gender and social exclusion – also abound. These call for new strategies to meaningfully engage socially differentiated men and women in research on natural resource management.

This special issue focuses on the nexus between gender and participatory research in forest and woodland management. It examines: (1) the diversity of stakeholders’ forest-related knowledge, skills, needs and priorities in forest-dependent communities through the use of gender-responsive participatory approaches, and (2) choices in research design that can foster inclusive participation, knowledge sharing and social learning within and among social groups.

In this introductory paper, we position the special issue in relation to critiques regarding the lack of attention to gender in participatory research. We then summarize the authors empirical findings, contextually rooted across four African and Asian countries, and their importance for understanding the value, opportunities and challenges of working with participatory methods, both from the perspective of the researchers and of the research participants. The papers illustrate that traditional ecological knowledge is neither homogeneously distributed within communities nor concentrated among socially more powerful groups who, in the absence of a gender-responsive approach, are often the ones selected as research participants.

The authors offer an optimistic view of the potential participatory methods hold, when applied in a gender-responsive way, for sharing knowledge and promoting inclusive social learning on forests and tree resources. Papers demonstrate the need to carefully consider when to create segregated or mixed spaces – or indeed both – for participants to create situations in which social learning within and across diverse social groups can occur.

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  • ICRAF presents the role of evidence and improved soil management for land restoration in sub-Saharan Africa at European Development Days

ICRAF presents the role of evidence and improved soil management for land restoration in sub-Saharan Africa at European Development Days


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Degraded land in Marsabit, Kenya, shows that poor land management can lead to degradation. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF
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In Marsabit, Kenya, poor land management has led to degradation. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

Approximately 70% of Africa’s population depends on its agriculture-based economy for their livelihoods, underscoring the importance of soil to the sector.

Fertile soils across the continent are under threat, however, due in large part to climate change and poor land management which leads to the depletion of nutrients and soil organic matter and increased soil erosion.

During the recent European Development Days held on June 7-8, 2017, in Brussels, Belgium, the Joint Research Commission of the European Commission led a session on sustainable soil management in Africa. Panelists drew from different organizations including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and University of Leuven.

Their discussion focused on solutions to large-scale adoption, both at policy and practical levels, of key land restoration options including integrated soil fertility management alongside practices such as intercropping and agroforestry. Scientists from ICRAF presented compelling evidence on how soil restoration can contribute to improved food security and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Many soils in Africa are naturally fertile and productive,” said Arwyn Jones of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. “However, many exhibit significant constraints related to inappropriate management and climate fluctuation.”

Human activity and natural disasters such as floods accelerate soil degradation, negatively affect natural ecosystems which in turn can negatively impacts sectors of the economy such as agriculture, environmental services and tourism. As such, soil is a key component to solving Africa’s challenges to ensure food security and address climate change. Jones recognized the importance of incorporating existing indigenous knowledge on soil management effective soil management.

Leigh Winowiecki, soil scientist at ICRAF, speaks about the role of sustainable soil management for restoration of degraded land in East Africa and the Sahel. Photo by Susan Onyango/ICRAF

“Land degradation in the drylands of Sub-Saharan Africa continues to threaten food security and livelihoods,” said Leigh Winowiecki, an FTA researcher and soil scientist at ICRAF. “To that end, sustainable soil management is key to restoration of degraded land to transform lives and landscapes.”

Her presentation looked at the role of sustainable soil management for restoration of degraded land in East Africa and the Sahel, highlighting activities from the IFAD/EC-funded project ‘Restoration of degraded land for food security and poverty reduction in East Africa and the Sahel: taking successes in land restoration to scale’.

Read also: Soil inhabitants hold together the planet’s food system

When considering options for land restoration initiatives, it is important to understand what works where for whom. Variability in social, cultural, economic and biophysical environments greatly influence the results of such initiatives. ICRAF has developed tools that map soil organic carbon and soil erosion prevalence to provide relevant soil information aimed at land restoration interventions.

“We are working with development partners in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali and Niger to implement and monitor on-farm land restoration interventions such as farmer-managed natural regeneration, soil and water conservation, micro-dosing of fertilizers, tree planting and agroforestry, use of Zai pits [small water harvesting pits] on farms and pest control,” added Winowiecki.

Tor-Gunnar Vagen of ICRAF presents on assessments of soil health. Photo by Susan Onyango/ICRAF

“We need to understand the systems we work in to design effective interventions to restore land health and reverse land degradation,” said FTA scientist Tor-Gunnar Vagen, who leads ICRAF’s GeoScience Lab.

“There are different ways to understand how the soil properties and their spatial distribution determine sensitivity to land degradation using tools such as tools such as the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework and earth observation. Assessments need to be spatially explicit and at scales relevant to farmers and land managers.”

Vagen discussed the importance of the soil health assessments for evidence-based decision using examples from Ethiopia and Kenya. He noted that, to effectively assess soil health at scale, indicators of soil need to be consistent and supported by analytical frameworks for modeling and mapping with high levels of rigor. They should also integrate biophysical and socio-economic indicators in landscapes.  Diagnostics can be used to assess interactions between social and ecological systems, including their resilience and their role as socioeconomic drivers of changes in soil health.

Vagen further explained ICRAF’s use of the SHARED approach to provide the government of Turkana County in Kenya, with information on land degradation and land/ecosystem health to support their planning and decision-making process. The Resilience Diagnostic and Decision Support Tool provides data an information for a wide-range of sectors including nutrition, education, security, livestock, land health, energy, irrigation, health, tourism and water, sanitation and hygiene.

The SHARED approach is demand driven, tailored and interactive engagement process for collaborative learning and co-negotiation of decision to achieve mutually agreed upon development outcomes. Three other counties in Kenya, as well as counties Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania have expressed interest in using the same processes and tools.

Joining Winowieki and Vagen on the panel were  Jones of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, Liesl Wiese of FAO, and Karen van Campenhout and Seppe Deckers both of the University of Leuven in Belgium. All agreed that soil management is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring food security and rural development, and providing increased resilience to climate change in Africa.

By Susan Onyango, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


The session titled Sustainable soil management: the foundation for Africa’s future? was organized by the European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Agroforestry Centre and the University of Leuven at the European Development Days 2017.

This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.


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  • Trees for food security in Eastern Africa

Trees for food security in Eastern Africa


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Clemena showing bank account and family insurance certificates paid for by proceeds of tree tomato sales. Photo by A Mamo/ICRAF
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Clemence shows bank account and family insurance certificates paid for with proceeds of tree tomato sales. Photo by A. Mamo/ICRAF

By Akefetey Mamo, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World

Eastern Africa is home to four out of the nine hunger hotspots in Africa. Across much of the region declining soil fertility coupled with lack of resources to afford inherently risky inputs such as fertilizers, constrains crop production.

For millions of smallholder farmers these problems are exacerbated by more frequent and extreme weather events including droughts and floods associated with climate change. It has been established that trees on farms can contribute to improving food security – directly through food provision (fruits, nuts, and leaves) and indirectly both, from the sale of tree products generating income that is then used to purchase food, and through system intensification, where trees improve soil fertility and the regulation of water flow increasing crop yields.

Often, intermediate tree products such as fodder and fuelwood produced on farm save labour otherwise used to collect them, that can then be used for other intensification options and trees are associated with higher abundances and activity of beneficial soil organisms that promote long term soil health. Trees may also buffer temperatures, useful in adapting to climate change.

“Working across field, farm and landscape scales, it is known that trees can play a key role in making efficient use of water and nutrients while maintaining soil carbon.” says Fergus Sinclair, Systems Science Leader at the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, “this can be instrumental in developing a climate smart agriculture through the intensification and diversification of farm production.

Further they can also have knock on effects within farm systems. For example in Ethiopia, if instead of using dung for fuel, farmers get firewood from farm trees, they can return the dung to crop fields and improve yields, while in Rwanda stakes from pollarded trees can be used to support climbing beans that increases bean yields.”

While these processes are understood in principle, it remains a key research challenge to match tree species and management practices to the range of farm circumstances encountered across Eastern Africa and predict their impact on food security.

Understanding structures and tailoring options to contexts

The potential of the right trees as eco-efficient options for farmers is demonstrated through the work of projects such as the ICRAF led multi-partner effort known as the Trees for Food Security Project (T4FS). T4FS targeted two key agro-ecologies: highland humid and lowland semiarid areas in Ethiopia and Rwanda, eventually scaling out lessons learned to similar agro-ecologies in Burundi and Uganda. The aim was to demonstrate evidence and select the most appropriate options for thirty thousand farmers across representative contexts in the rural regions where an estimated 10 million people are facing acute food insecurity.

“Analyzing and understanding the selected farming systems before designing intervention mechanisms was key to address the barriers to farmers enhancing tree cover on their farms” says Catherine Muthuri, a Research Scientist at ICRAF leading the project, “it was an important activity that helped us to target appropriate interventions by supporting matching of species and management options to the sites and circumstances of the farmers.”

The food security and agroforestry conditions of the farmers and their landscapes was characterized and mapped through seven large scale baseline studies.  Ranging from the biophysical to the socio-economic, including studies on extension systems, seeds and seedlings systems, rapid market appraisals and local knowledge studies, the baselines further provided an understanding of farmers’ decision-making processes and shed light on pertinent issues such as policies, institutions, governance and germplasm management to guide T4FS implementation mechanisms.

According to Miyuki Iyama, an ICRAF socio-economist who with her team, published a seminal study on farmers’ decision-making process in Ethiopia’s Oromia State, “this ‘Options by Context’ approach is essential to meet tree-growing targets, be they local, regional or global. Such an approach will be key to meeting country-led efforts such as AFR100, which seeks to restore100 million ha of land in Africa by 2030.” (Read more of the story here).

A key finding was that farmers were using a far more diverse range of tree species in particular farm and landscape niches than had previously been appreciated. A key baseline in selecting trees is knowledge of the natural vegetation and while there were already maps for some countries a new map was developed for Burundi and integrated within ICRAF’s Vegetation map for Eastern Africa, and tree species selection tools were developed for Rwanda and Ethiopia. According to Leigh Winowiecki, a Soil Systems scientist at ICRAF, “the tools provide spatially explicit analysis for improved targeting of interventions, including identification of erosion hotspot mapping across the action sites”.

Strengthening productive farming systems

The efforts of the T4FS partnership between primary national research partners such as the National Forestry Resources Research Institute (NAFFORI)Rwanda Agriculture BoardEthiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR)Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi ; development partners such as World Vision  as well as CGIAR organisations such as CIMMYT and the International Livestock Research Institute has been crucial to the success of its objective.

Preliminary results show that quick win benefits for household nutrition and incomes for a number of families have been generated from the sale of products from fast growing grafted fruit and fodder trees, better access to markets through knowledge and negotiation skills, and higher crop yields from using stakes for climbing beans and tree litter as mulch.

This is exemplified in the transformational stories of women such as Clemence Mukarugwira, a farmer trained in the grafting and management of tamarillo (tree tomato) at the Karago Rural Resource centre in Rwanda, as well as women of the Elgon Women’s Trust in Uganda (ELG) who are now employers and job creators in their community. (Read their stories here).

Clemence was able to sell a 100 kg of tree tomato in the first year of establishment realising an income of 80,000 RWF (125 USD) and doubled this in the second year, enabling her for the first time to open a bank account and purchase health insurance for her family. She has already trained another 20 women in how to grow tree tomato.

The domino effect of transformation are also exemplified through the stories of people like Samuel, a casual labourer who used to work for ELG in Uganda. Samuel left ELG to open his own nursery just across the street from his employers. By combining his wit and knowledge acquired from the project, Samuel says he now makes an additional income of between UGX 500,000 (USD 152) and UGX 1 million (USD 303) per year from the nursery which he says allows him to send four of his children to school. (Read his story here)

Edushe Guye, a farmer in Gerbi village in Ethiopia, explains his innovations to Abayneh Derero, EIAR project lead in Ethiopia. Photo by Albert Mwangi/ICRAF

In Rwanda, the Gishwati Umugunda: a national farmer’s cooperative system, have been instrumental in saving the community’s sloping lands from erosion through the incorporation of Alnus acuminata trees. According to Athanase Mukularinda, project lead at ICRAF Rwanda,“the Alnus trees are improving the productivity of farm lands and have additionally had a positive effect on the rehabilitation of Lake Karago – one of the most important lakes in the region at thee intersection of the Nile and Congo watersheds which was badly affected bysoil sedimentation”.

T4FS led to approximately 250,000 trees being generated in the rural resource centre and planted on over 50 ha of land in key places within the ‘model forest’ being established through a Government initiative with a number of partners. The fast growing Alnus acuminata trees are also replacing napier grass as more effective and longer lasting stakes for climbing beans, enabling a tripling of the bean yields. This simple solution is a very important outcome for the people of Rwanda who eat beans more than anything else says Gislain Tenge Asene of the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB). (Read the story With climbing beans, farmers are climbing out of poverty, nutritional insecurity)

Skills, knowledge and capacity building

T4FS spawned innovations in information and knowledge-delivery mechanisms for agroforestry uptake such as Rural Resource Centres (community based and entrepreneurial initiatives combining nursery production with provision of other inputs and knowledge about how to use them). These have not only been instrumental in supporting access to knowledge and much needed high quality germplasm, especially to women and jobs to unemployed young people, but also as a model that is now being replicated.

Six resource centers were established during the project in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi and they contrinue to provide extensive training on nursery and grafting technologies as well as seedlings to members and extension agents. (Read about Rural Resource Centers here). Data shows that close to four thousand smallholder farmers are trying out some form of agroforestry intervention, which is contributing to their food security. Through the project, about 2 million tree seedlings have been provided to farmers across the project sites and their performance is being monitored through innovative data collection protocols developed with farmers.

According to Dr. Mark Cyubahiro Bagabe, Director General of the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), “partnership and knowledge acquisition methods in the project have been and will continue to be instrumental in realizing the policy of the Rwandan Government to cover 2 million ha of land with agroforestry. Having seen the successes achieved, RAB will invest in establishing a further seven rural resource centres across the country”.

Knowledge and capacity building has also been a key outcome for the project says Catherine Muthuri, where the active involvement and deliberate policy to train national researchers through formal and informal mechanisms will ensure continuity long after the project ends.

Understanding tree crop interactions in different species and contexts

Integrated tree and cropping system innovations in long term and participatory trials form part of the project’s major initiatives. Yields depend greatly on the context of where and how the crop is grown, including the Agro Ecological Zone (AEZ), site characteristics, the tree and the crop species being intercropped, and the management practices being used.

Predictions of impacts of tree species and management on crop productivity, water resources and nutrients at field, farm and landscape scales are allowing quantification of impacts across a range of contexts. Currently four long-term tree diversity trials are running, alongside more than 20 controlled on farm and on station trials of various agroforestry options, involving over 5,000 farmers. These show both complementarity and competition between trees and crops depending on sites, species and management.

In Ethiopia, for example, wheat yields increased by 28% – 43% under the canopy of unpruned Faidherbia albida trees – a nitrogen-fixing, acacia-like species found throughout African savannas. In contrast, in Rwanda competitive effects of Grevillea robusta on maize were reduced by pruning to control tree water uptake so that maize grown under pruned Grevillea robusta was 15% to 29% higher than a control with no trees but under unpruned Grevillea robusta maize yields were 29% – 57% lower than the control.

Farmer Richard Naumunya in Uganda explains about the sap flow instruments he is hosting as part of the on-farm trials. Photo by May Muthuri/ICRAF

Trees could be critical for adapting to climate change according to Frédéric Baudron and his team at CIMMYT, a CGIAR partner on the T4FS project. Their study showed that “maximum temperatures under the canopy of Faidherbia albida were consistantly 4 to 5°C lower than temperatures outside the canopy – this led to a longer grain filling period and higher yields.

By 2050, the maximum daily temperature in wheat-growing areas of Ethiopia is predicted to rise by 3°C. This could significantly reduce yields of wheat, a crop that accounts for 18 percent of Ethiopia’s cereal area and nearly a fifth of its cereal production. The crop is key to the food security and incomes of smallholder farmers who grow it and using trees to buffer high temperatures could be an important adaptation strategy” they add. (Read highlights of CIMMYTs achievements in T4FS here).

Richard Namunyu, an innovative lead farmer who hosts some of the long term trials in Uganda says it had been instrumental for him to be involved in the trials.  “Farmers usually plant trees without prior knowledge of how they behave towards other crops and the environment as a whole” he says and adds that the experience with hosting research has led to much knowledge he hadn’t known before which others farmers are now keen to tap into.

Modelling tree-crop interactions

Substantive progress on agroforestry modeling has also been made with T4FS partner CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia. According to Philip Smethurst of CSIRO “Until now global models of crop production have ignored trees, despite significant tree cover on much of the world’s agricultural land. This is now changing thanks to a new tree-crop modeling initiative”.

CSIRO has commenced coding of what is called the APSIM agroforestry module using a new APSIM version (working title APSIMX). The model can now simulate crop and pasture production under trees by taking several important positive and negative tree-crop interactions into account (Read more about the model here).

According to Tony Bartlett, the Forestry Research Program Manager at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) under whose portfolio the project lies, “the Trees for Food Security project was very successful. It generated some new high-quality scientific information on tree-crop interactions, established a tree-crop modelling capability within the CSIRO APSIM model, which is of global utility, and enhanced the knowledge and capacity of over 30,000 people in East Africa. In doing so it provided a very strong foundation for follow on research and development activities under the second phase of the ACIAR funded project.”

“Trees for Food Security has been a very important project for us,” adds Fergus Sinclair, “it is because of our partners that we have managed to reach thirty thousand farmers in one way or another, some with a few improved high value trees others with transformational change through adopting income generating agroforestry practices, but through research we have also levered improvements in the understanding of a number of issues that affect food security on farms.

“These encompass improved understanding of tree-crop-livestock interactions at field and farm scales and their impacts on water resources and soil health. We’ve revealed that extension staff need a diverse set of species and management options that can be tailored to sites and farmer circumstances; we’ve shown what seed and seedling systems and associated extension approaches work best in different contexts as well as the system interaction effects of enhancing tree cover for food security on rural livelihoods.

“This will have continued long term effects on transforming the lives, livelihoods and landscapes of Eastern Africa’s rural people long after the completion of the project. We are delighted that ACIAR have agreed to fund a second phase with major national co-investments including an invitation from the Ministry of Agriculture in Ethiopia to assist in developing a national platform for scaling agroforesty and a commitment from RAB in Rwanda to establish seven additional rural resource centres.”


T4FS has produced an extensive list of publications, engagement processes and dissemination activities that were critical to effecting the changes described in this outcome story and continues to produce more.

The links to the publications and outputs can be found here:

https://www.worldagroforestry.org/project/aciar/publications

https://www.worldagroforestry.org/project/aciar/outputs


Project locations: BurundiEthiopiaRwandaUganda

Project time frame: June 2012 to Nov 2016

Funding: Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA)

Partners: Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), National Forestry Resources Research Institute (NAFFORI), Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center(CIMMYT), lnternational Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), World Vision led by the World Agroforestry Centre and funded by the ACIAR and FTA.

We would like to thank all donors who supported this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.


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FTA events: Training workshop for Africa Tree Finder


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By Roeland Kindt, Senior Ecologist, World Agroforestry Centre

In collaboration with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Agroforestry Centre is organizing a workshop in Uganda to train users of the new version of the Africa Tree Finder. The workshop is planned for the first week of April with IUCN finalizing the exact dates right now. Watch this space for more information.

The Africa Tree Finder is a smart phone application developed for the www.vegetationmap4africa.org. The App can easily be installed on a smart phone with the Android operating system via the Google Play store.

Similar to the objectives of the web-based and Google Earth versions of the vegetationmap4africa, the main objective of the Africa Tree Finder is to enable selection of ‘the right tree for the right place’ by combining information on the distribution of indigenous tree species in natural vegetation types with information on products and services that these tree species can provide.

A specific objective of the App is to support forest landscape restoration activities related to the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. In response to the Bonn Challenge, Rwanda has committed to restore 2 million hectares, whereas Uganda has committed 2.5 million hectares, Kenya 5.1 million hectares and Ethiopia 15 million hectares.

 In the newest version of the Africa Tree Finder, information is provided on the origin, local names (a key feature requested by local users), species description, ecology, uses, propagation, seed treatment, seed storage and management for species listed in the RELMA-ICRAF useful tree species series. The newest version of the App also enables users to upload geo-referenced imagery that documents progress on restoration projects or that can be used to verify the accuracy of the map.


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