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  • FTA's 4 events at GLF Amazonia 2021 "The Tipping Point" - review of the sessions!

FTA’s 4 events at GLF Amazonia 2021 “The Tipping Point” – review of the sessions!


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The Forests, Trees and Agroforestry research program to support 4 sessions at GLF Amazonia

The Amazon region, one of the most diverse areas on earth culturally and biologically and where the world’s largest humid-tropical forest lies, is transitioning from being a carbon sink to a carbon emitter.

This is bad news for the entire planet.

Conserving the Amazon rainforests requires the involvement of people of all ages, civil society organizations, practitioners, researchers, policymakers, financial and private-sector representatives, activists, individuals and other local and global actors.

Together, these groups have an opportunity to preserve and restore the biological and cultural diversity of the Amazon by combining local and global knowledge and solutions. Inaction is risky and could lead to accelerated global warming, compromised access to food and water for local communities, the proliferation of zoonotic diseases, decreasing nutrient input from the Amazon River into the oceans, biodiversity loss and disrupted spiritual practices for millions of people.

To underline the importance of being active in the Amazon region, FTA helped organize four events at the GLF Amazonia:

  • 21.09.21 – Farming with Trees: learning among Brazilian and Peruvian agroforestry farmers
  • 22. 09.21 – The transition to deforestation-free family farming in the Amazon as a strategy to reduce deforestation: the case of Peru
  • 22.09.21 – Facilitating spaces for women’s conservation organizations: Women’s solutions from the Amazon
  • 23.09.21 – What does Bioeconomy mean?

This news focuses on the Bioeconomy event, but all 4 are available on YouTube and can be replayed (links below).

WHAT DOES ‘BIOECONOMY’ MEAN?

Is there in fact one “Amazonian” bioeconomy?

In one of the most engaging sessions at GLF Amazonia, over 270 attendees heard different stakeholder voices from across the Amazonian region. The purpose of the session was to confront the increasingly voiced concept of “bioeconomy” to local realities and needs. “Most people don’t know what a bioeconomy is,” said José Neto, an Indigenous youth from Ygarapé, Brazil. “This is because of lack of awareness. It is important to put this term in context.”

A circular bioeconomy is an economy powered by nature — it emphasizes the use of renewable natural capital and focuses on minimizing waste and replacing the wide range of non-renewable, fossil-based products currently in use. Circular bioeconomies offer the opportunity to transform our land, food, health, and industrial systems. In countries of the Global South where people depend on forests for their livelihoods, bioeconomies could make for more sustainable local landscapes and new income opportunities. FTA promotes forest-based bioeconomies, a subsector of the circular bioeconomy concept, which focuses on the transformation of our current system through the conscious use and re-use of forest materials.

In addition to the lack of awareness from stakeholders, different understandings of ‘bioeconomy’ exist. During the event, representatives from Indigenous communities, youth, entrepreneurs, academics and policymakers discussed the regional interpretations of ‘bioeconomy.’

“We organized this session to reflect on the question, “what is bioeconomy” and to try to understand the different perspectives of the region,” said session-moderator Roberto Waack, President of the Uma Concertação pela Amazônia, Coalizão Brasil Clima, Florestas e Agricultura.

The major challenge in these different understandings is synchronizing the implementation of pro-bioeconomy practices. “In the last 30 years we have advanced a lot in this field [bioeconomy], but we have never been good at balancing the environment and economy,” said Danilo Fernandes of the Núcleo de Altos Estudos Amazônicos (Naea) and Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA). He further added that there are multiple factors to consider.

Local and Indigenous perspectives on national efforts to implement a bioeconomy were also shared during the session. Angélica Rojas of the Fundación Para La Conservación Y Desarrollo Sostenible (FCDS) los departamentos de Meta y Guaviare shared that, in Colombia, bioeconomy signifies “natural.” “[It means] there is an ability for the people to have and live from the products that are available from the different ecosystems.”

Meanwhile, in Peru, Karina Pinasco of the Amazónicos por Amazonía (AMPA) expressed the need to shift towards a “neutral country.” She said, “in 2020, we have deforested 4500 ha of land. Decision-makers are myopically focused on drug trafficking, land grabbing and corruption.” At the national level, bioeconomy is a potential tool to enhance the production of food and restore the environment while also providing income and livelihoods. Achieving bioeconomy targets could eventually help solve the persistent issues of deforestation.

The event’s panelists also raised the need to have a reality-check and to put bioeconomy in the context of social injustices and denial of human rights in the Amazon. “How do we talk about bioeconomy and deforestation when there are pressing issues about human rights — when Indigenous peoples and activists are killed?” asked Ivaneide Bandeira Cardozo of the Kanindé Ethno-environmental Defense Association.

Download the PDF!

The differing perspectives on bioeconomy show that there is no use in trying to force an all-encompassing “Amazonian bioeconomy” concept; locally-designed bioeconomy approaches differ from place-to-place, even though the principles remain the same globally. To address conflicting views and misunderstandings on the concept of bioeconomy, ongoing initiatives in the Amazon are converging towards common frameworks. These frameworks and other issues are developed in the session’s White Paper.

What is clear is that, without compromising human rights and social justice, there is a huge opportunity for bioeconomy approaches to address the pressing environmental challenges. Context-specific bioeconomies could create new value chains using forest-based products and services that generate more local profit — a win-win situation, if properly implemented.

What are the most effective paths to promote socioenvironmental development in the Amazon?  

How do we ensure “bioeconomy” is more than just another fashionable idea? Following the theme of GLF Amazonia, this session discussed the issue from the inside out. Bioeconomy negotiations need to be diverse and encourage meaningful participation “We need to have a more participative discussion. It should be multi-level, multi-actor,” said Pinasco.

Some of the most important actors for a successful bioeconomy are Indigenous peoples. Respecting on-the-ground, local and traditional worldviews was the loudest call-to-action from this session: “We need to value the Indigenous views. We need to rethink how we move forward with bioeconomy so as not to neglect the voices of the Amazonians,” said Neto.

Developing an economic model that respects the integrity and decisions of Indigenous communities is the most pressing challenge to advance bioeconomy approaches in the Amazon. “We cannot just focus on monetary benefits,” said Cardozo. “It is against Indigenous values. There should be a certain degree of respect for nature.”

Integrating Indigenous and local voices in decision-making processes is key for capacity development. When local organizations and institutions are strengthened, they could help communities better manage their territories. “We need to develop skills and materials that could help us in providing mature and informed decisions in relation to the value chains that are developed,” said Pinasco.

Tapping into the potentials of alternative forest resources, such as bamboo, was also raised by Noelia Trillo, CEO of Forest Bambu. “We see bamboo has a possibility of recovering soil to address the degraded lands in the Amazon. It gives us a number of alternative resources.”

“A bioeconomy should consider social and environmental factors while respecting Indigenous and local perspectives,” Trillo added.

Read the WHITE PAPER 

Replay the full session –>




 

FTA’s other 3 sessions also can be replayed here below!

FARMING WITH TREES: LEARNING AMONG BRAZILIAN AND PERUVIAN FARMERS

Drawing from farmers’ experience on practical solutions to sustainable farming that can be scaled up, this session brought farmers’ cooperatives and NGOs from Brazil and Peru and discussed their learning on how to continue farming and making money while also restoring ecosystem functions and enhancing biodiversity on degraded lands.

FTA and its partners are strong proponents of agroecological approaches that support food production, restoration and climate change adaptation. Agroforestry, dubbed as “agroecology on steroids” by principal scientist Fergus Sinclair – paved the way to more recent involvement, for the upscale of agroecology – has enormous potential as a nature-based solution for sustainable land management. This is true, not only in the Amazon, but in most parts of the world. FTA scientists also believe that these initiatives would only become successful if stakeholders are meaningfully participating.

In this session, solutions and practices that reconcile social and environmental goals and factors for their success and challenges in implementation were presented by the Brazilian and Peruvian agroforestry farmers themselves.

Replay the full session –>




 

THE TRANSITION TO DEFORESTATION-FREE FAMILY FARMING IN THE AMAZON AS A STRATEGY TO REDUCE DEFORESTATION: THE CASE OF PERU

 The transition towards Zero Deforestation farming has been a huge undertaking. In this session, actors both from the farm-level and at the policy-level were able to share challenges and opportunities of deforestation-free import regulations to reduce deforestation in regions where commodities are produced by smallholder farmers, such as coffee and cocoa in Peru. This session explored how to minimize the risk that commodities associated with forest loss enter EU’s market and how, from companies to government and farmers, actors along the value chain are planning to meet compliance to regulations, the challenge, and the risks.

The session also solicited thoughts from farmers and practitioners in identifying strategic elements of the policy and institutional context to support the process at scale. It examined priorities to generate those conditions and progresses so far. One issue discussed is how regulatory mechanisms, depending on the implementation, can be both enabling and impeding the success and scaling up of agroforestry practices.

Replay the full session –>




FACILITATING SPACES FOR GENDER RESPONSIVE CONSERVATION: WOMEN’S SOLUTIONS FROM THE AMAZON

Women are integral in the success of Amazonian conservation. Here, the session reported preliminary lessons learned from gender inclusive initiatives that have increased women’s participation in conservation and development in the Brazilian, Colombian and Peruvian Amazon. These cases cover a diverse collection of indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant women from across the region. The hour and a half-long session facilitated a discussion of findings from multiple grassroots efforts where women increased participation in natural resource decision-making, gained more secure access to natural resources, or improved benefits from natural resource management.

The women in the Amazon are diverse in terms of settlements, age, class, ethnic background, descent, etc. Most of the women also take forest and land-based roles in the community and are holders of traditional knowledge. In spite of their diverse backgrounds, they often face the same challenges of political barriers, cultural and social bias, lack of capacity and resources, lack of trust and lack of collective awareness, and lack of sources of loans, education, and affirmative action.

Replay the full session –>





This article was written by Maria Paula Sarigumba.

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


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  • Does soybean certification help to reduce deforestation?

Does soybean certification help to reduce deforestation?


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An aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, near Manaus, Brazil. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT

If hearing the word “soy” makes you think of tofu, edamame and soy sauce, think again.

Soybean is a “hidden commodity”, and most consumers have no idea how much of the legume they eat daily. Not only is it found in thousands of processed foods and products, from margarine and chocolate to cosmetics and soaps, rising demand for meat has driven soy production to nearly 10 times what it was 50 years ago.

A full 80 percent of the world’s soybean crop is fed to livestock. Much of it is produced in the Amazon and Cerrado ecosystems of Brazil, which each lose between 5 to 10,000 square kilometers of forest each year, despite public and private efforts to limit soy production to land that has already been cleared.

Today, 2 to 4 percent of global soy production is certified as responsible, representing a niche market of concerned consumers who are willing to pay more for products guaranteed to be emissions and deforestation-free. But do such guarantees actually reduce deforestation?

Not necessarily, according to recent research by the University of Bonn’s Center for Development Research and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which compared seven soy certification schemes in Brazil.

“We find that these schemes may be able to provide consumers with deforestation-free products, but they cannot generally safeguard against the negative impacts of increasing land footprints,” said Jan Börner, a CIFOR senior associate and professor of Economics of Sustainable Land Use and Bio-economy at the University of Bonn, who co-authored a policy brief that sums up the research results.

Although all seven schemes commit to preventing illegal deforestation and support the enforcement of national laws for natural ecosystem preservation on private properties, they may simply relocate sourcing patterns or provoke indirect land use change – which is known to occur but difficult to measure.

“As long as it is a niche market, you can source soy from already deforested landscapes and label it deforestation-free,” Börner said. “So consumers are eventually paying for something that is very easy to provide, but doesn’t actually reduce deforestation.”

Additionally, some studies argue that confining soybean production to already cleared land – which is widely available – is pushing cattle production to expand new pastures along the forest margins. By converting low-value pastures to high-value cropland, cattle farmers are benefiting from differences in land prices by selling high and buying low, reinvesting profits and effectively ramping up overall cattle production.

This causes a cascading effect of different agricultural land uses with time lags, making it difficult to point the finger at specific drivers of deforestation. If the construction of roads and highways needed to get soy to export markets is factored in, it’s estimated that as much as one-third of Amazon deforestation since 2002 can be attributed indirectly to soybean expansion.

Read also: Decoding deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia

Roads and cattle farming are two major drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR

INCENTIVE OR DISINCENTIVE

Another factor that limits the spread of voluntary certification especially for bulk commodities is low cost-effectiveness. Certification costs are similar for most schemes, but the cost of implementing them can be prohibitive, depending on the supply chain model. A combination of high transaction costs and low price premiums lower the appeal for producers – especially smallholders – to invest in certification.

“For farmers who don’t have to change anything, it’s a no-regret effort to get certified,” Börner said. “But for those who would have to significantly adjust the way they operate, the premiums are too low to create the incentive to change.”

Therefore, the effect of certification is to simply shift sourcing to farmers who can provide deforestation-free soy at relatively little or no opportunity cost, rather than encouraging those who are actually driving deforestation to change their behavior.

“We’re talking about harnessing consumers’ willingness to pay for conservation, but we’re not doing that,” Börner adds. “We’re just channeling rents to different producers that happen to be deforestation-free, but this money is not actually reducing any deforestation.”

This is not to say that certification doesn’t work.

“It does work in some contexts,” Börner said. “In Indonesia, for example, FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certification was shown to make a significant contribution to natural forest conservation. Tropical timber is different than agricultural crops, though. It is primarily sourced from forest landscapes, where the adoption of sustainable practices can make a difference.”

As such, the voluntary standards and certification may serve as a complementary strategy, but they all hinge on appropriate and well implemented national.

“If you’re not even able to measure whether people are complying with national legislation, how can you ensure standards are delivering what they promise?” Börner said. “These value chain governance measures cannot serve as stand-alone tools to avoid illegal or undesired forms of deforestation – they have to be implemented in line with existing policies that need to be strengthened.”

Read also: Deep down in supply chains, zero deforestation commitments look different to what appears on paper

IF NOT CERTIFICATION, THEN WHAT?

The authors examine how responsible consumption initiatives could limit unsustainable expansion of soy production. Since voluntary payments such as certification are likely to remain niche markets, the scale of impact will be minimal unless these investments can be channeled into initiatives that can actually show impact.

For instance, if the willingness of consumers to pay for reducing their land footprint could be harnessed to finance direct conservation measures in areas threatened by deforestation, there is potential to make a big difference.

Based on this insight, Börner suggests that offsetting may be a more effective mechanism than certification.

For example, rather than paying a higher price for a certified soy product and having that money passed on to producers who just happen to cultivate soy without causing deforestation, consumers of products that are known to be associated with deforestation could be offered to support initiatives that demonstrate actual conservation impact on the ground.

“So you’re not guaranteeing the product is emission-free, but you’re guaranteeing that the extra money is actually going towards land-based emissions reduction,” he said. “Otherwise you’re actually blinding the consumer with a certificate that claims deforestation has been avoided, when it’s not actually the case.”

By Erin O’Connell, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


For more information on this topic, please contact Jan Börner at jborner@uni-bonn.de.

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


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  • Fine-scale processes shape ecosystem service provision by an Amazonian hyperdominant tree species

Fine-scale processes shape ecosystem service provision by an Amazonian hyperdominant tree species


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Conspecific distance and density-dependence is a key driver of tree diversity in natural forests, but the extent to which this process may influence ecosystem service provision is largely unknown. Drawing on a dataset of >135,000 trees from the Peruvian Amazon, we assessed its manifestation in biomass accumulation and seed production of Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) which plays a keystone role in carbon sequestration and NTFP harvesting in Amazonia. For the first time, we find both negative and positive effects of conspecific proximity on seed production and above ground biomass at small and large nearest neighbour distances, respectively. Plausible explanations for negative effects at small distances are fine-scale genetic structuring and competition for shared resources, whereas positive effects at large distances are likely due to increasing pollen limitation and suboptimal growth conditions. Finally, findings suggest that most field plots in Amazonia used for estimating carbon storage are too small to account for distance and density-dependent effects and hence may be inadequate for measuring species-centric ecosystem services.


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  • Fire- and distance-dependent recruitment of the Brazil nut in the Peruvian Amazon

Fire- and distance-dependent recruitment of the Brazil nut in the Peruvian Amazon


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The low natural regeneration of the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) in the Madre de Dios region of Peru is a major concern for the conservation and sustainable use of this species which sustains one of the cornerstone non-timber forest product economies in Amazonia. The Brazil nut is a gap-dependent, long-lived pioneer species that has been shown to regenerate more effectively in fallows than in mature forests. Aside from light and nutrient availability, recruitment success of the species might also be influenced by conspecific negative distance-dependent (CNDD) processes as shown for a myriad of other tropical tree species, but to date has not been studied in the Brazil nut. We measured Brazil nut recruitment in forty 150×10 square meter transects (totaling 60 ha), proportionally laid out in mature forest and fallow land. We found a higher likelihood of regeneration in fallows than in mature forest, which was mainly due to more successful transitioning from seedlings to saplings in fallows. Recruitment rates in fallows increased with the number of fire events occurring over the past 12 years, largely owing to the accumulation of resprouting individuals, but this positive correlation was only observed up to three fire events. We observed CNDD recruitment of the Brazil nut in fallows but not in mature forest, suggesting that pests and diseases might also condition Brazil nut recruitment. Our findings suggest that a better management of fallow land and more controlled use of fire in neighboring land uses could be a cost-effective manner to create Brazil nut rich forests through natural regeneration. On the other hand, the absence of high density Brazil nut stands in mature forests in Madre de Dios might mean that the impact of ancient humans there has been more limited than in other Amazonian regions.


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  • Strengthening social inclusion within oil palm contract farming in the Brazilian Amazon

Strengthening social inclusion within oil palm contract farming in the Brazilian Amazon


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  • Despite its promotion of contract farming (widely considered to be a relatively pro-poor approach to agribusiness expansion), Brazil’s Sustainable Palm Oil Production Program (SPOPP) cannot be considered to be an inclusive development program in its current format. Findings suggest that land- and labor-constrained households are more likely to be excluded from contract farming under this program than other households.
  • Viable options to strengthen inclusivity within the program include permitting smallholders to develop smaller plantations, promoting intercropping and reducing barriers that currently prevent smallholders under the scheme from engaging external laborers.
  • Despite civil society concerns that contract farming could result in smallholders abandoning staple food crop production to focus only on oil palm, there is no evidence to date that contract farming under the SPOPP scheme has exacerbated smallholder food insecurity.
  • Results suggest that while smallholder performance ranges widely, from highly productive farms to near abandonment of oil palm plots, the majority of smallholders involved in the scheme have been unable to meet the performance expectations of oil palm companies.
  • To increase the likelihood of success amongst the 12% of smallholders at highest risk of credit default, additional support should be provided, for example in the form of targeted capacity-building initiatives or enabling management outsourcing arrangements where successful smallholders take over plantation management through production sharing arrangements.

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  • Revisiting the ‘cornerstone of Amazonian conservation’: a socioecological assessment of Brazil nut exploitation

Revisiting the ‘cornerstone of Amazonian conservation’: a socioecological assessment of Brazil nut exploitation


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The Brazil nut (the seeds of the rainforest tree Bertholletia excelsa) is the only globally traded seed collected from the wild by forest-based harvesters across the Amazon basin.

The large geographic scale of Brazil nut exploitation and the significant contributions to local livelihoods, national economies, and forest-based development over the last decades, merit a review of the “conservation-through-use” paradigm. We use Elinor Ostrom’s framework for assessing sustainability in socioecological systems: (1) resource unit, (2) users, (3) governance system, and (4) resource system, to determine how different contexts and external developments generate specific conservation and development outcomes.

We find that the resource unit reacts robustly to the type and level of extraction currently practiced; that resource users have built on a self-organized system that had defined boundaries and access to the resource; that linked production chains, market networks and informal financing work to supply global markets; and that local harvesters have used supporting alliances with NGOs and conservationists to formalize and secure their endogenous governance system and make it more equitable.

As a result, the Brazil nut model represents a socioecological system that may not require major changes to sustain productivity. Yet since long-term Brazil nut production seems inextricably tied to a continuous forest cover, and because planted Brazil nut trees currently provide a minimal contribution to total nut production basin-wide, we call to preserve, diversify and intensify production in Brazil nut-rich forests that will inevitably become ever more integrated within human-modified landscapes over time.


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  • Challenges and opportunities for the restoration of Andean forests

Challenges and opportunities for the restoration of Andean forests


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In some parts of Ecuador, communities have started to change the landscape by clearing small patches of forest for crops and to feed their animals. Photo by T. Munita/CIFOR
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The Andes mountain range as viewed from Ecuador. Restoration efforts are underway in Andean forests across the region. Photo by T. Munita/CIFOR

Views on ecological restoration in the Andes of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

The tropical forests of the Andes in Latin America are key global ecosystems that make an extraordinary contribution to the world’s biodiversity and livelihoods. Andean forests are the source of huge rivers, and have more varied and unique species than the Amazon. But they are now are threatened by increasing demographic pressures, and by harvesting and production practices.

In the past decade, ecological restoration has become a vital strategy to recover the integrity and functionality of degraded ecosystems, to promote sustainable development, and to mitigate climate change.

Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia — the countries hosting tropical Andean ecosystems — have each set quantitative restoration targets. But what has been the real progress in these countries? And what is happening to their Andean forests?

To understand developments in tropical Andean forest restoration, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Andean Forests Program — a regional initiative of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), facilitated by a partnership between Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation and Condesan — undertook a comparative analysis to look at the progress, challenges and future prospects of Andean forest restoration in these four countries.

Over a period of 14 months, researchers examined academic, legal and policy documents and conducted more than 40 interviews. Their aim was to identify challenges and opportunities to guide the next steps in restoration policy and practice for Andean forests. The resulting analysis will prove essential in making the most of “unprecedented” levels of international attention and funds, says Manuel Guariguata, co-author of the study and leader of CIFOR’s Forest Management and Restoration Team.

“It is now essential to start the restoration process,” says Carolina Murcia, a senior researcher affiliated with the Pontifical Xavierian University in Colombia and lead author on the study. “We can’t afford to lose more natural capital; rather, it is time to start recovering it.”

Read more: Lessons from Latin America for forest landscape restoration

A peatland landscape is seen in Peru. Photo by R. Bhomia/CIFOR

DIFFERENT APPROACHES

A key finding of the study is heterogeneity among Andean forests. “Each of the four study countries has its own history, geography and socioeconomic situation, which determine its relationship with Andean forests and the restoration approach,” says Murcia.

Colombia is leading the movement, with 50 years’ experience in restoration and a historical focus on these forests: the Andes are home to 75% of country’s population, but are also fertile lands and a major source of its water. In addition, 70% of Colombia’s electricity is generated by water flowing through these forests.

The National Plan for Forest Restoration of Ecuador, for its part, identifies two priority criteria for fertile Andean areas: landslide prevention and water resource protection.

Meanwhile, the relationship of Peru and Bolivia to Andean forests is completely different. In Peru, these ecosystems, known as yungas, or “high rainforests”, originally covered 15% of the nation’s territory. With steep slopes and high moisture levels, they are seen as an area of passage to the Amazon. “In this region, all forests are often seen as ‘rainforests’ and are considered for harvesting purposes as a source of timber. Thus, restoration has also played a very discreet role,” says Murcia.

In Bolivia, there are large forest areas with low population density. According to the study, this “has resulted in a culture of abundance, where the notion of restoration does not even fit.” The current philosophy of the state, for example, “does not allow forest restoration outside a production scheme,” Murcia says.

Strangely, local people who have occupied the Bolivian highlands for decades are not aware of the disappearance of their forests. The study reveals that “the scarcity they may experience in periods of drought is not associated with loss or, therefore, restoration.” According to Murcia, all this shows why restoration is still in the early stages in Bolivia and Peru.

This heterogeneity in approaches to restoration is reflected in aspects such as policy frameworks, implementation mechanisms, and the links between decision-makers, biological resource managers, academia and civil society.

COMMON CHALLENGES

In spite of the differences, the four countries also face common challenges. The first is to integrate a new, holistic discipline such as ecological restoration into government policies ranging from natural resource management to development. Restoration, says Murcia, means much more than increasing forest cover and capturing carbon.

An additional challenge is to comply with international restoration commitments through national programs but with local implementation — something difficult when technical capacity, technology and information are limited.

Other challenges? One is the lack of a common definition. “What restoration means for one sector may not mean the same to another,” says Guariguata, mentioning the tasks of assessing the success or failure of programs, and meeting international targets such as the Bonn Challenge. In his view, there is also a need to develop a unified vision of the discipline, which is currently fragmented into sectors such as environment, agriculture and indigenous peoples.

Restoration is a long-term process, which can take from six to ten decades to consolidate. Success, says Murcia, cannot be achieved without community commitment, and structures for management and budgetary administration that go beyond presidential terms and “protect initiatives against political whims.”

Read more: Learning from women’s and men’s perspectives on agroforestry to enhance climate change strategies and actions in Latin America

In some parts of Ecuador, communities have started to change the landscape by clearing small patches of forest for crops and to feed their animals. Photo by T. Munita/CIFOR

NEXT STEPS

Although one of the international targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity, known as Aichi #15, is to restore 15% of the ecosystems degraded by 2020, the study sets a more realistic objective: each country should start from this commitment, ensuring that in 50 years these ecosystems will be on an appropriate path of restoration for biodiversity. This means recovering the variety of species, not recovering the land for production purposes, says Murcia.

To achieve community commitment, she considers it essential to secure land tenure and to report both the effects of degradation of forest landscapes and the benefits of their recovery.

“Restoration works! What needs to be done is to guide communities and understand the social and economic drivers of degradation,” she says.

In addition, the participation of the academic sector and NGOs in program design needs to be strengthened. Verónica Gálmez, Andean Forests Program incidence coordinator, explains that “NGOs act as hinges between local and national actors and provide an overall view of territorial and sectoral levels.”

According to Gálmez, the study can help prioritize interventions and investments and determine baselines. Thus, dissemination actions are planned for the various countries.

Murcia, like Gálmez, views the future with optimism. The reason? Communities’ growing interest in recovering their forested landscapes. “In the end, restoration is much more than planting trees. It is about turning the relationship between people and nature into something positive.”

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Manuel Guariguata at m.guariguata@cgiar.org or Carolina Murcia at carolinamurcia01@gmail.com.


 This research was prepared by CIFOR and the Andean Forests Program, facilitated by Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation and Condesan and financially supported by CIFOR through the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors, and by the Department for International Development (DFID) through the KNOWFOR program. The Andean Forests Program is part of the Global Programme on Climate Change of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).


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  • Are Brazil nuts the saviors of the Amazon basin?

Are Brazil nuts the saviors of the Amazon basin?


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Brazil nut fruits are piled up, ready to be hacked open to extract the nuts. Photo by M. Simola/CIFOR
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A worker processes Brazil nuts in Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by M. Simola/CIFOR

Study reexamines the Amazon region’s ‘cornerstone of conservation’.

Want to invest directly in the preservation of the Amazon? Buying Brazil nuts might well be your simplest strategy, says Peter Cronkleton, coauthor of a new study that assesses Brazil nut exploitation from a socioecological perspective.

The weighty, nutritious nuts seem something of a poster child for the concept of ‘conservation through use’. The trees they grow on are Amazonian forest giants that can reach over 50 meters in height and live up to 400 years.

The softball-sized fruit – each containing around 20 nuts – are collected from the forest floor in rainy months by forest-based harvesters, who maintain customary rights to the resource in many areas.

As coauthor Amy Duchelle confirms, “it’s something that’s sustaining thousands of families in that region, while essentially giving value to standing forest.” It’s a relatively sustainable system, she says – but one that’s under threat.

SAME FOREST, DIFFERENT FRAMEWORKS

The southwestern Amazon region in which most Brazil nuts grow spans three countries: Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. Prior to the 20th century, the area was not clearly defined by national boundaries, but was held by rubber barons and populated by their laborers, Cronkleton explains.

When boundaries were established, different political frameworks affected how people defined access, what types of rights they had in the forest, and how well they were linked to national markets, he says. “So to a certain extent it’s a natural experiment showing how people adapt under different forest governance contexts in each country.”

Freshly harvested Brazil nuts await processing in Peru. Photo by M. Simola/CIFOR

As Duchelle adds, “it’s really interesting: you’ve got a similar forest ecosystem, but the way it’s being used is totally different just by crossing the border. We’re talking about 30 kilometers [between some study sites] and it’s a completely different world.”

On the Brazilian side of the border, in the state of Acre, Brazil nuts are “just one component of a much more diverse livelihood portfolio,” says Duchelle. The recent construction of new roads and infrastructure, coupled with a strong cattle culture, is increasing the temptation for locals to clear forested land for cattle ranching at the expense of Brazil nut-rich forest.

In neighboring Pando, Bolivia, communities are much more reliant on the Brazil nut harvest, as it’s “really one of the main livelihood activities they’ve got going on,” she says. There, a more pressing issue is contested and incomplete titles to Brazil nut tree stands, which make it difficult for residents to claim and defend their resources, adds Cronkleton.

Read more: What’s in a land title?

Similarly, he explains, in the adjacent Madre de Dios region of Peru, the complex concession system poses challenges, because concession areas for Brazil nut harvesting are not always well-defined, and often overlap with those for agriculture and mining, all of which can drive deforestation. On top of this, regulations for Brazil nut extraction and other forest products such as timber often generate conflict of use within the same concession forest.

Lead author Manuel Guariguata, a Principal Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), adds that “our study is so far the only one drawing together a comprehensive set of literature representing the three countries which produce all of the Brazil nut consumed globally. Although there have been many studies that examined different aspects of Brazil nuts across the Amazon basin, these usually have taken a more narrow focus.”

Brazil nut fruits are piled up, ready to be hacked open to extract the nuts. Photo by M. Simola/CIFOR

THREATS AND OPPORTUNITIES

While Brazil nut trees are protected from logging by law in all three countries, intensive deforestation in surrounding areas can affect the productivity of the trees, explains ecologist Pieter Zuidema, another coauthor of the study. It can also affects harvesters’ ability to cope with the high natural variation in Brazil nut tree productivity from year to year.

Usually, in low-yield years, “what Brazil nut harvesters do is go deeper into the forest [to look for nuts]. With increasing deforestation, that potential is not there anymore. So it reduces the resilience of the whole system,” says Zuidema.

However, he adds, defending Brazil nut-rich forest does not necessarily mean preventing people from doing anything else there. If done well, integrated management of multiple forest uses, such as low-intensity timber harvest and ecotourism, combined with Brazil nut harvesting, could prove both profitable and sustainable.

Read more: Moving past tree planting, expanding our definition of forests and restoration

The UN-backed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme also offers an opportunity to make Brazil nut-rich forest preservation more financially viable, through initiatives that compensate locals for keeping forests standing. This will likely require more clarity about people’s rights to land and trees, as well as how benefits are distributed, agree Duchelle and Cronkleton.

Stabilizing international prices for the nuts may also help the system remain viable. Often seen as the ‘poor cousin’ of high-end products such as hazelnuts, Brazil nut prices rise and fall erratically around the fortunes of other nut types, says Cronkleton. Enhancing state and private-sector support for the resource system, and broadening Brazil nut consumption through building consumer awareness of their health benefits, seem important pieces of the puzzle.

AN ETHICAL, EDIBLE INVESTMENT

So back to those heavy, dense nuts in the mixed-nuts packs and the health-food shops. It’s true, they’re inconveniently bigger than bite-size, admits Cronkleton, and they may not have the sweetness of almonds, or the creaminess of cashews.

But they’re high in selenium (a trace element with antioxidant properties that is deficient in many soils) and the fatty acids that help reduce heart disease. And what other Amazonian forest product could you buy with such confidence in the social and environmental ethics of your purchase?

Duchelle confesses that she doesn’t really like the taste of them any more, after eating far too many, fresh off the forest floor, during her fieldwork in the region. “But I eat them anyway!” she proclaims with laughter and conviction, “Because it’s a way to support Amazonian livelihoods.”

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Manuel Guariguata at m.guariguata@cgiar.org.


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 KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID)


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  • NTFP harvesters as citizen scientists: Validating traditional and crowdsourced knowledge on seed production of Brazil nut trees in the Peruvian Amazon

NTFP harvesters as citizen scientists: Validating traditional and crowdsourced knowledge on seed production of Brazil nut trees in the Peruvian Amazon


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Understanding the factors that underlie the production of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), as well as regularly monitoring production levels, are key to allow sustainability assessments of NTFP extractive economies. Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa, Lecythidaceae) seed harvesting from natural forests is one of the cornerstone NTFP economies in Amazonia. In the Peruvian Amazon it is organized in a concession system. Drawing on seed production estimates of >135,000 individual Brazil nut trees from >400 concessionsand ethno-ecological interviews with >80 concession holders, here we aimed to (i) assess the accuracy of seed production estimates by Brazil nut seed harvesters, and (ii) validate their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about the variables that influence Brazil nut production.

We compared productivity estimates with actual field measurements carried out in the study area and found a positive correlation between them. Furthermore, we compared the relationships between seed production and a number of phenotypic, phytosanitary and environmental variables described in literature with those obtained for the seed production estimates and found high consistency between them, justifying the use of the dataset for validating TEK and innovative hypothesis testing. As expected, nearly all TEK on Brazil nut productivity was corroborated by our data. This is reassuring as Brazil nut concession holders, and NTFP harvesters at large, rely on their knowledge to guide the management of the trees upon which their extractive economies are based. Our findings suggest that productivity estimates of Brazil nut trees and possibly other NTFP-producing species could replace or complement actual measurements, which are very expensive and labour intensive, at least in areas where harvesters have a tradition of collecting NTFPs from the same trees over multiple years or decades. Productivity estimates might even be sourced from harvesters through registers on an annual basis, thus allowing a more cost-efficient and robust monitoring of productivity levels.


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  • Can REDD+ help Brazil roll back rising deforestation rates?

Can REDD+ help Brazil roll back rising deforestation rates?


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A site of deforestation is seen from the air in Brazil. Photo by CIFOR

In Brazil, the role of REDD+ in stemming deforestation since 2004 is unclear — as is its potential for reversing the recent upward trend.

Land-use change represents more than 60 percent of Brazil’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the Amazon accounts for 65.2 percent of that amount, according to government figures, although those numbers are sometimes contested. Much of the deforestation in the country stems from the promotion of private enterprises, particularly ranching, timber and mining.

Since the 1980s, Brazil has taken steps to reduce deforestation, with the greatest success occurring between 2004 and 2016, when the rate decreased by 71 percent. Some of those measures involved actions for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

Whether that improvement will be sustainable in the long run is unclear, however, as there was a recent sharp increase in deforestation rates.

A new Brazil country profile, produced as part of a Global Comparative Study of REDD+ led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), examines the drivers of deforestation in Brazil and efforts to solve the problem.

This third edition provides a fully updated overview of conditions affecting environmental policy for REDD+ in the Brazilian Amazon through 2015, when Brazil submitted its National REDD+ Strategy (ENREDD+) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

How did Brazil slow deforestation?

Reducing deforestation became a Brazilian government priority even before international climate agreements incorporated REDD+ schemes for reducing GHG emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation. International scrutiny, combined with pressure from Amazonian rubber tappers who make their living from the forest, led successive governments to tackle the problem, albeit with limited success.

In 2003, Brazil submitted a proposal for “compensated reduction” under the UNFCCC, calling for compensation by developed countries for less-developed countries that reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to land-use change in tropical forests and promote sustainable land management.

Over the next dozen years, a combination of incentives and disincentives to keep the forest standing and more effective law enforcement through command and control measures led to a dramatic drop in deforestation, especially in the “deforestation arc” around the southern and southeastern edge of the Amazon.

An aerial view of the Amazon rainforest is seen near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, Brazil. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT for CIFOR

In 2015, Brazil officially submitted its National REDD+ Strategy to the UNFCCC. By then, many REDD+ pilot initiatives and related policies had already been implemented.

There are several clear reasons for Brazil’s success in decreasing deforestation.

First, the country’s sophisticated monitoring system provides real-time information about land use change to Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA). This has reinforced command and control measures on the ground.

Meanwhile, reduction of deforestation became policy with the Action Plan to Prevent and Control Deforestation in the Amazon (PPCDAm), whose implementation began in 2004. The designation of several protected areas between 2002 and 2010, alongside new policies in 2007 and 2008 that targeted a “federal blacklist” of municipalities with critical deforestation rates, were crucial in reducing unprecedented levels of deforestation.

Finally, a series of demand-side measures (including multi-stakeholder round tables, zero-deforestation agreements and trade embargoes) began playing a key role in slowing deforestation.

Read also: Managing degraded forests, a new priority in the Brazilian Amazon

Deforestation on the rise again

But the problem is reemerging. Current deforestation rates in the Amazon are the highest in the past four years.

Between August 2014 and July 2015, Brazil clear-cut 6,207 square kilometers, a 24 percent increase over the previous period. Amid turbulent political events, national policy is now moving in the opposite direction, including several new constitutional amendments that threaten forests and the environment.

The Forest Law passed in 2012 granted amnesty to landowners who deforested illegally before 2008. Meanwhile, a measure requiring farmers to register rural properties and restore or provide compensation for illegally-deforested areas has been delayed twice.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 215 would require Congress to approve the demarcation of indigenous lands, while Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 65 would facilitate licensing of major infrastructure projects without adequate evaluation and mitigation of environmental impacts. That is of particular concern, because of proposals to build 334 dams throughout the Amazon Basin.

More than one million square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon have also been registered for mining, which would threaten forests.

Meanwhile, the number of conservation units in the Amazon has been reduced, leading to an increase in illegal occupation, while a lack of financial resources is hampering on-site monitoring of deforestation.

And much of the deforestation has shifted to the Cerrado, a tropical savanna ecosystem east of the Amazon, which is now under enormous pressure, but receives far less attention than the Amazon forest.

Until recently, the Cerrado was not considered in REDD+ programs or other policies for combating deforestation, and it remains to be seen whether new policies will successfully address the land-use-change challenges there.

REDD+ strategy still at an early stage 

Brazil’s National REDD+ Strategy, known as ENREDD+, is aimed at reducing illegal deforestation; conserving and restoring forest systems; and generating economic, social and environmental co-benefits.

The strategy calls for more monitoring and for convergence among policies (climate, forests and biodiversity) by 2020, as well as increased financing and benefit-sharing for REDD+ strategies.

ENREDD+ will be guided by the National Policy for Climate Change and the Forest Code. It identifies three sectoral plans as the primary channels for implementing REDD+: PPCDAm; the Action Plan to Prevent and Control Deforestation and Fire in the Brazilian Cerrado (PPCerrado); and the Plan for Low Carbon Agriculture (ABC).

The Amazon rainforest is pictured in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT for CIFOR

The strategy supplements these plans with cross-cutting measures, including a financial architecture for REDD+ and a set of safeguards designed to ensure that REDD+ actions do not inflict social or environmental harm.

It is not yet clear, however, what types of measures Brazil will concentrate on to implement REDD+, coordinate national and sub-national efforts, and guarantee that safeguards are in place. Detailed regulation of these issues was left to the National REDD+ Entity and its Thematic Consultation Chambers, which are still in the early stages of designing specific principles and procedures.

And evidence is still scant about the potential of sub-national initiatives to reduce deforestation, with little coordination demonstrated among the initiatives.

Read also: ‘Turning the onus of restoration into a bonus for farmers’ in Brazil

As a result, disagreements between federal and state government agencies and a lack of definition regarding financing, benefit-sharing and safeguards for local initiatives pose significant obstacles to implementation of ENREDD+.

There is an urgent need for stakeholders at all levels to join forces to ensure a more appropriate structure and strategy for the National REDD+ Entity and its Thematic Consultation Chambers and to clarify how ENREDD+ will be put into practice.

Policies must prevent backsliding

Although Brazil has reduced emissions in recent years, it is difficult to determine how much of this was due to REDD+ initiatives. Besides analyzing performance indicators for results at each phase of REDD+, this would require an assessment of co-benefits, such as improved forest governance and poverty reduction.

REDD+ was supposed to provide benefits that would overcome the limitations of “command and control” measures. Instead, however, the ENREDD+ is mainly based on government policies and previous national efforts to reduce deforestation, such as increasing monitoring and reinstating old practices of forest conservation.

It is difficult to imagine how much of the remaining “residual” deforestation can be curbed through increased command and control, especially considering the recent opening of the Brazilian beef market to the US and China.

In its REDD+ interventions, Brazil should strive for a clearer understanding of the fundamental processes and practices that drive deforestation, such as the growing extra-local and international demand for forest and agricultural commodities, subsidies from outside the forest sector that encourage the production of such commodities, and the multifaceted and evolving issues of the different actors that are the target of these incentives. ENREDD+ has yet to clarify the role of these actors, especially the private sector.

These tasks are crucial to ensure that Brazil does not turn back the clock on its battle against deforestation.

By Maria Fernanda Gebara, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Maria Fernanda Gebara at mfgebara@gmail.com, Peter May at peterhmay@gmail.com or Maria Brockhaus at maria.brockhaus@helsinki.fi.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.


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

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


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Overview

In Peru, since 1974, more than 1,200 communities have been titled in the Amazon for over 12 million hectares, representing about 20% of the country’s national forest area. This working paper analyzes policy and regulatory changes that have influenced how indigenous peoples access, use and manage forest and land resources in the Peruvian Amazon during the last fifty years. It reviews the main motivations behind changes, the institutional structures defined by law and the outcomes of these changes in practice.

The paper discusses political priorities related to land and forest tenure, social actors involved in reform debates and the mechanisms used for recognizing indigenous rights claims. The paper argues that there has not been a single reform process in Peru; instead multiple reforms have shaped forest tenure rights, contributing to both progress and setbacks for indigenous people and communities. This working paper is part of a global comparative research initiative that is analyzing reform processes that recognize collective tenure rights to forests and land in six countries in highly forested regions.


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  • Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru


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Children from the La Roya community, in the Peruvian Amazon, pose for a photograph. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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An indigenous woman harvests goods in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Regulatory reforms are encountering both progress and setbacks in Peru. 

Over the past half-century, more than 1,300 indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon have obtained title to more than 12 million hectares of land — about 17 percent of the country’s forest area.

The gains have come through a series of regulatory reforms that have resulted in both progress and setbacks for indigenous communities, says Iliana Monterroso, a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and one of the authors of a new study that forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) on land and forest tenure reforms in Peru.

“Understanding the history of the tenure reforms in Peru is important for identifying the challenges that remain and the opportunities that exist for addressing them,” Monterroso says.

The struggle for tenure has led to the rise of local, national and pan-Amazonian indigenous organizations, which have played an increasingly active role in advocating for policies that respect their territorial rights.

Read also: Obstacles to forest tenure reform deeply rooted in the past

Fifty indigenous peoples inhabit the Peruvian Amazon, depending on the forests for their livelihoods. Despite regulatory reforms, however, it remains difficult for them to obtain legal rights to full use of those resources.

Since the first modern laws governing indigenous peoples and land rights were passed more than a century ago, most legislation has promoted colonization, agriculture or private development in the Peruvian Amazon, with a mindset that views forests as possessing less economic value than farming or ranching.

Even now, property rights are granted only for agricultural land, while the state retains ownership of sub-soil resources such as minerals, and of the forests above-ground — granting concessions or usufruct rights for use of those resources, but not relinquishing ownership.

Government officials have often viewed indigenous peoples and their claims to territory as blocking progress by making it difficult to “put the forest to use,” says Monterroso.

Indigenous communities, however, increasingly call for control over all resources- both on and under their lands. Meanwhile, programs linked to Peru’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) offer support by including funds for titling indigenous lands.


Indigenous community members in Callería, Peru, learn the art of traditional embroidery. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Stumbling blocks 

The first legal recognition of land rights for Peru’s Amazonian indigenous peoples was passed in 1974. A year later, the Forest and Wildlife Law placed forests under control of the government, which could grant the right to use them. This established the separate rules for forest and agricultural land that persist today.

Under current regulations, soil analysis determines whether land is classified as suitable for forest or agriculture — regardless of whether it is already forested. Only the area classified as agricultural land can be titled. Rights in the area classified as forests are limited to the right to use, known as usufruct, for which communities sign a contract with the government.

To commercialize forest products, a community must also apply for permits, or another type of official authorization. In many cases, they also must draw up and submit forest management plans.

Because this multi-step process is complicated and expensive, only about 10 percent of titled communities have actually obtained usufruct contracts, Monterroso says. Because of the complexity and cost, some communities are limited to using forest resources only for subsistence use, or to extracting timber and other products illegally.

Read also: The cost of oversimplification

Beginning in the 1980s, the Peruvian government passed a series of laws that promoted development, agriculture and colonization of forested land in the Amazon. Those efforts were stepped up in the 1990s, and continued into the 2000s.

At the same time, the decentralization of government administration meant that more responsibilities were transferred from the national government to regional governments.

Children from the La Roya community, in the Peruvian Amazon, pose for a photograph. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Over the next decades, different agencies were in charge of land titling, and each change meant the physical transfer of hundreds of documents. Many were lost during the transitions, slowing the titling process for communities.

In many cases, non-governmental organizations that helped indigenous organizations map their territories with geo-referenced coordinates and file paperwork had more complete records than the government

Because the government had no single national registry of land titles and concessions for use of resources, its increasingly aggressive promotion of development projects resulted in overlapping concessions for timber, mining, oil and gas, tourism and reforestation.

Many of those concessions also overlapped areas where indigenous communities were applying for titles, but they could not obtain land rights until certain overlapping claims were resolved.

Conflict fuels drive for territorial rights

Tensions over land tenure came to a head with a series of 99 legislative decrees issued after Peru signed a free trade agreement with the United States in 2006.

Government officials said the measures were needed to make Peruvian legislation comply with the trade pact, but several of the decrees weakened communal land rights and opened the way for extractive industries to operate on community lands.

In 2009, indigenous organizations staged a two-month protest against the decrees, blocking a key Amazonian highway near the town of Bagua. In June 2009, security forces attempted to clear the roadblock, resulting in a violent clash in which 34 people were killed and more than 200 injured.

The events at Bagua marked a turning point for indigenous rights. The most contentious decrees were repealed, and long negotiations led to enactment of Peru’s prior consultation law in 2011. The measure requires that indigenous people be consulted about any development project, or administrative measure, that could affect their collective rights.

The first legislation submitted to consultation was the new Forest and Wildlife Law, which re-established the exclusive rights of indigenous communities to use forest resources in their territories. That right had been revoked by a natural resources law in 1997.

By 2016, 1,365 Amazonian communities had obtained title to more than 12 million hectares of land, while 644 claims, totaling nearly 5.8 million hectares, were pending.

As an alternative to individual community titles, indigenous organizations had also won the designation of 2.8 million hectares of reserves to protect semi-nomadic groups that shun contact with the outside world, and another 2.2 million hectares in “communal reserves”, protected areas encompassing various communities.

Although Bagua put communal land rights on the policy agenda, however, titling has been slow in recent years and only a handful of usufruct contracts have been issued.

Meanwhile, promotion of development in the Amazon has persisted, and conflicts continue over the use of resources on community lands.

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

Reforms must not ignore history 

This long and complex history highlights a series of reasons why implementing land and forest tenure reform in Peru has been difficult, Monterroso says.

Lack of clarity about procedures and about which government agency is responsible slows the process. That is further complicated by an unclear and expensive procedure for classifying land use based on soil analysis, and the unclear and costly process for obtaining usufruct contracts.

Peru still lacks a single map of titles and concessions, so boundary disputes and conflicting claims continue to hamper progress on community titling.

Over the past two years, there has been a renewed effort to title indigenous communities in the Amazon, partly because of funding from climate-related programs aimed at preserving forests. That could offer an opportunity for overcoming some of the obstacles, Monterroso says.

“It’s important that there is a clear road map, so the benefits of land and forest tenure reforms reach the communities they were meant to benefit,” she says.

The responsibilities of national and regional government agencies in the titling process must be clear, they need to coordinate among themselves, and they must have the necessary staff and budget funds, she says. Indigenous communities also need allies in those agencies who can help them navigate the system.

Tenure reform can also be linked to sustainable resource management in communities. Indigenous groups in Peru have proposed an “indigenous REDD+” scheme, which uses climate-related funding to promote titling and livelihood plans.

“Opportunities for improvement are clear,” Monterroso says. “Unfortunately, if the challenges are not resolved, there is a risk of continued conflict.”

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Iliana Monterroso at I.monterroso@cgiar.org or Anne Larson at a.larson@cgiar.org.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

This research was supported by the European Commission, Global Environment Fund, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


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  • Managing degraded forests, a new priority in the Brazilian Amazon

Managing degraded forests, a new priority in the Brazilian Amazon


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Overview 

By taking drastic steps, Brazil has succeeded in reducing the annual deforestation rate for Amazonia from 27 770 km2 in 2005 to 5 830 km2 in 2015. However, those steps have not had any effect on forest degradation, notably the partial destruction of the canopy.

In the Brazilian Amazon, degraded forests dominate the landscape along pioneer fronts. The region now faces a major challenge: stopping degradation and managing its forests sustainably. In this issue of Perspective, researchers highlight four priorities for research: developing degraded forest characterization and monitoring methods, drafting specific management plans, understanding the role played by all social players, and supporting policies on a territorial level.

Nowadays, degraded forests are a forest category in their own right. They could play a major role in mitigating climate change. They could also contribute to better ecological functioning on a territorial level. Drafting policies with the dual aim of reducing degradation and optimizing these forests requires strong support from research.


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  • Improving sustainable cattle production in the Brazilian Amazon

Improving sustainable cattle production in the Brazilian Amazon


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Roads and cattle farming are two major drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by Kate Evans for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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Roads and cattle farming are two major drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by Kate Evans for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

By Pablo Pacheco, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

The successful Brazilian experience in slowing down deforestation in the Amazon has captured a lot of attention in the global arena, but serious concerns linger about its possible resurgence.

While it is important to strengthen public and private arrangements to reach zero deforestation, or at least to stabilize it at relatively low absolute levels, more attention needs to be placed on the actions necessary to facilitate the transition from a zero-deforestation model to one of territorial sustainability.

This is the focus of a recent infobrief produced by scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD)  and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) in the context of the TerraCert Project, which is implemented in the Municipality of Paragominas in the State of Pará.

The paper’s main argument is that while constraining deforestation expansion on farms is a necessary condition, it is not enough to facilitate the adoption of more sustainable land uses and production practices at the farm and landscape levels — both of which are essential to increasing territorial sustainability in the Amazon.

Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Brazil. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Much of the current debate on the slowdown of deforestation and territorial sustainability has to do with improving the sustainability of cattle ranching, which is seen as the main culprit of forest loss in the Amazon. Pasture expansion is responsible for more than two-thirds of the total accumulated deforestation in this region. Deforestation is generally associated with large and medium-scale ranching, but it also involves smallholders.

In light of this evidence, common thinking suggests that halting deforestation while simultaneously supporting the intensification of cattle production (i.e. allowing more intensive agriculture to replace low productive pasture lands) and promoting integrated crop-livestock-tree farming systems could constitute effective ways to support more sustainable landscapes in the Brazilian Amazon.

Up until now, a governance approach combining public policy and private initiatives has been effective in slowing down deforestation, but it has been unable to support a transition to more sustainable production systems. Building on current successes in reducing deforestation, new steps are necessary to achieve territorial sustainability. These require combining institutional arrangements and sociotechnical options.

New technical intensification models must be identified for low-productivity systems in degraded lands and adapted to the biophysical, social and technical conditions of the Amazonian landscapes. But since multiple constraints inhibit the uptake of these intensification options, reversing them requires that all constraints be addressed in a coordinated way.

Based on our research, we suggest three sets of actions to support making that vision a reality by involving the use of adapted production technologies, adopting monitoring systems that empower local actors, and implementing new public-private institutional arrangements.

Keys to slowing down deforestation

It is now a known fact that efforts to enforce environmental regulations coupled with commitments from soy traders and the meat packing industry has helped to reduce deforestation. A critical step was the adoption of the Agreement for the Adjustment of Conduct (TAC) by which the meat packing industry agreed to enact stricter controls on their suppliers, forcing them to follow state regulations. This agreement was followed by another one signed between three major meat packing groups and the NGO Greenpeace with similar terms to those agreed under the TAC, but with the added layer of control mechanisms over indirect suppliers.

In addition to these two agreements, other types of initiatives to support progress toward more sustainable intensification of cattle ranching have also emerged in the Brazilian Amazon based on the understanding that decoupling cattle ranching development and deforestation requires embracing cattle intensification and low-carbon development.

One group of initiatives is trying to establish guidelines, standards and pilot projects to support the intensification of cattle ranching, while another group is now seeking to provide the necessary incentives for farmers to embrace these improved farming systems.

The expansion of extensive cattle ranching has generated large areas of low-productive pasture. These lands are prime candidates for pasture intensification, and different initiatives have emerged to do that. EMBRAPA has proposed two main models: 1) Integrated crops-livestock-trees systems 2) The Good Practice Program for intensive pasture management. Additionally, several private pilot initiatives, as well as others promoted by NGOs, are implementing intensive systems in experimental farms with diverse outcomes.

One main consideration in the implementation of these systems is financing. Farmers are limited financially to uptake improved farming systems. To remedy this, the Brazilian government has developed a large credit plan for financing low-carbon agriculture called the Agricultura de Baixo Carbono (ABC) Program. However, the reach of this program is still limited, and farmers face difficulties meeting its requirements, specifically in regards to land titling. In addition, commercial banks are constrained since they face relatively high financial and reputational risks when financing economic activities in the Amazon.

Challenges for sustainable ranching

Sustainable cattle ranching in the Brazilian Amazon cannot be limited to reducing deforestation linked to the increased intensification of direct suppliers of the meatpacking companies who are mainly large-scale producers. Instead, it should aim to improve land, pasture and other economic assets to achieve a reduction in deforestation, while also enhancing the social, economic and environmental performance of cattle ranching production systems (i.e. the restoration of environmental liabilities).

So far, the meat packing industry has upheld their commitments with the government tracing their direct sources of supply, but it is becoming difficult to control indirect suppliers. While large-scale direct suppliers follow high production standards, indirect suppliers, including medium-scale and smallholder farmers, should also play by the same rules.

The Brazilian Amazon also holds significant potential for biomass production (much higher than other Brazilian regions) especially for the production of forage, grains, perennial crops and timber. The proposed technical production models aim to maximize land productivity with relatively high costs of labor, equipment and inputs, and are very demanding in knowledge and labor quality. For this reason, these models risk increasing environmental impacts linked to the massive use of chemical inputs. Also, it is likely that a large number of less resource-endowed farmers will not be able to adopt these production models.

Moreover, intensification processes tend to occur in more fertile and accessible lands, which are not necessarily the degraded lands in most need of recovery. Degraded pastures are unlikely candidates when it comes to paying for costs and delivering the economic returns demanded by the currently promoted intensification systems. Alternatives have not been sufficiently explored that might be better adapted to degraded lands, small-sized farms, and taking advantage of existing natural resources in the Amazon region. These alternatives are more compatible with the concept of agroecology, in contrast to the high-input models.

Aerial view of Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Brazil. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Linking sustainable ranching to territorial sustainability

Achieving sustainability in the Brazilian Amazon’s agricultural frontiers requires not only public-private institutional arrangements aimed at enforcing compliance of environmental laws, but also incentives and reward systems that facilitate the uptake of improved production practices, thus fostering a transition from production systems that negatively affect natural resources to systems that use natural resources more efficiently. Three complementary actions may contribute to achieving this goal:

1) Developing and operationalizing adapted technologies

Focusing on technologies with the potential to better utilize the existing natural resources in the Amazon (i.e. soil fertility, hydric resource availability) instead of using massive chemical inputs. This approach has the potential to support a large number of less resource-endowed farmers rather than only a handful of large-scale well-capitalized cattle ranchers, and is adapted to vast areas of degraded land. An essential aspect to consider is the spatial configuration of these systems at the landscape scale, which should match the location of natural resources in order to build eco-efficient landscapes.

2) Implementing monitoring frameworks that empower local actors

Assessing progress towards the achievement of sustainable cattle intensification must be part of broader territorial performance monitoring — not only to assess progress, but also to identify the factors limiting such progress. Jurisdictions capable of measuring progress in their performance to show that they are doing their part in improving sustainability will likely be more attractive to investors. This can help prioritize public interventions (i.e. land regularization, public credit lines). This process, however, requires important collective action.

3) Fostering institutional arrangements that embrace territorial approaches

Public and private agreements to reduce deforestation and achieve sustainable cattle intensification have to be conceived as part of efforts to improve territorial performance in sub-national jurisdictions, like municipalities. It is at this level that achieving sustainability (including social inclusion, gains in productivity and the maintenance of environmental services) can be better specified. Additionally, territorial approaches have the potential to articulate efforts from a diverse range of actors, and can trigger partnerships to stimulate technical and institutional innovations and mutual learning.

These three actions — aimed at improving the uptake of adapted eco-efficient technologies; monitoring and certifying the progress of territorial performance towards sustainability; and enhancing institutional arrangements to trigger innovation and mutual learning — are the constituent pieces of an approach aimed at achieving territorial sustainability in specific jurisdictions. Different players are already investing efforts in this direction. Let’s keep working together to make territorial sustainability a reality.

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CIFOR in collaboration with CIRAD and the Working Group on Sustainable Beef (GTPS) is organizing the session “Territorial approaches to reduce deforestation and support sustainable supply in the Amazon” at the Second General Assembly of the TFA 2020. This session will host a discussion about ongoing experiences to reduce deforestation while supporting production intensification by embracing territorial perspectives. It will discuss the advantages and limits of the different territorial approaches, and highlight main issues that require further consideration from the perspective of different stakeholders. The session will be held on 20 March, from 16:00 to 17:30 at the Hotel Royal Tulip Brasilia.

For more information on this topic, please contact Pablo Pacheco at p.pacheco@cgiar.org.

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Decoding deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia


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An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

By Pablo Pacheco, Coordinator of Flagship 3 of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Recently, I came across a much publicized article in The New York Times about the impact of two of the world’s biggest grain traders, Cargill and Bunge, on deforestation trends in the agricultural frontiers of Brazil and Bolivia. Since we have entered an era of private commitments to deforestation-free supply chains, this article shows that there is still a way to go for some companies to improve their performance.

Deforestation estimates in 2016 from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE) indicate a resurgence of deforestation in the Amazon, and deforestation hotspots identified by the Word Resources Institute suggest increasing pressure on the savanna forests in the Cerrado region, a biodiversity-rich ecosystem. Additionally, while there are no official deforestation estimates in lowlands Bolivia, it has remained at high levels, according to Terra-I. This suggests a need to examine the culprits.

Cattle farming is a major cause of deforestation in Brazilian Amazon.Photo by Kate Evans for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Don’t miss the forest for the trees

The article mentioned above discusses a new report by the environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth that identifies deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia linked to Cargill and Bunge. Drawing on satellite imagery and supply-chain mapping information processed by the Stockholm Environment Institute, the article makes the case that new large-scale forest-clearing by Bolivian and Brazilian farmers for soybean production is associated with the demand from these two American-based food giants.

It is interesting to note that companies like Cargill and Bunge still buy soybeans originating from forestlands converted to agriculture and fail to implement due diligence procedures to verify their origin. In some cases, these purchases directly trigger soybean expansion across Brazil and Bolivia’s frontiers. Cargill and Bunge have argued, in their defense, that their role is minor, and that deforestation is a complex issue that requires all major buyers — not just them — to get involved.

While it is useful that environmental groups like Mighty Earth track how company supply chains are ‘contaminated’ by ‘dirty supply’, it would be more helpful if they could place these trends within a wider context. This would foster more practical and durable solutions, because even if these two soybean traders stopped buying soybeans from the Matopiba region in Brazil and the eastern lowlands in Bolivia, it is likely that deforestation would continue to expand in both of these regions.

In this sense, the New York Times article fails to provide an in-depth understanding of the complex dynamics shaping these two agricultural frontiers, and misleadingly mixes two very different situations. Moreover, while the article refers to deforestation trends in the Amazon, it looks mostly at the Cerrado areas, where a greater pressure associated with agricultural expansion is taking place.

To its credit, the article does highlight two important trends that have been perceived by academics yet hardly studied until now: 1) Efforts to contain deforestation in the Amazon have shifted to the Cerrado areas; and 2) Efforts to contain deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon have placed pressure on other countries, mainly in Bolivia and Paraguay’s deciduous and dry forests. In these regions, different regulations governing conversion of forests apply less rigid standards than in the Amazon.

Two main issues came to my attention while reading this article. The first is the clear limits of the soy moratorium, since it only applies to the Amazon region. The second is how easy it remains for companies to circumvent their sustainability commitments when playing around with specific national regulations that still allow for forest conversion. But what is most interesting in our current times is that companies have to now face the reality of their own commitments under the scrutiny of civil society.

The two companies blamed as culprits of deforestation argue that they have a relatively low share in total soy supply originating from the regions under scrutiny. Cargill sources 8 percent from Bolivian municipalities and Bunge sources 20 percent from Matopiba, Brazil. Thus, slowing deforestation has to go beyond the actions of just these two companies. More action should be required to revise the land-use and forest conservation regulations in the Cerrado areas.

Governments, not just companies, need to step up

What I found thought-provoking in this article were the views expressed by Stewart Lindsay, Bunge’s vice president for global corporate affairs: “One company alone cannot solve this issue … a positive step would be for more companies to adopt zero-deforestation commitments, apply controls to block crops grown in illegally cleared areas from entering their supply chains, report publicly on progress, and invest millions of dollars to support sustainable land-use planning efforts.”

His perspective is correct, but it falls short. It is correct in the sense that deforestation is a complex issue that cannot be solved by one single company, especially as the largest share of deforestation is not necessarily driven by soy, but from pasture expansion, which the domestic markets absorb an important portion of. Pasture is still the largest source of deforestation in both Brazil and Bolivia.

While it is important that the article highlights the pressure placed by Mennonites on forests for the production of soy sold to Cargill, much of the deforestation in lowlands Bolivia is currently related to the expansion of pasture for cattle production in the Chiquitania. This, of course, is not related to any transnational company, but to a growing national demand for beef associated with land speculation. Unfortunately, the government of Bolivia has not been able to adequately control this process.

Thus, institutional agreements between governments, industries and retailers in the domestic market have an important role to play in abating deforestation. Brazil is the poster child for this in terms of drastically reducing deforestation in the Amazon region. However, these agreements constitute a double-edged sword given the effects they can have on excluding certain suppliers like medium-scale farmers and smallholders who cannot adopt the improved production practices required by traders and end-buyers.

Something that is becoming more perverse in Brazil, and even more so in Bolivia, is that agricultural frontiers continue to expand under more complex land-use interactions. Over time, producers are facing more difficulties to keep yields and production volumes up, due to more intense and longer dry-spells caused by climate change. This is having adverse impacts on overall production, but banks and insurance systems often do not take into account climate change-related variables.

In addition, production models promoted by transnational trading companies and backed by environmental NGOs that tend to spare forests are resulting in the expansion of more intensive production systems based on large-scale and highly intensive use of chemical inputs. This is in opposition to more integrated and agro-ecological production systems that could take better advantage of the natural resources existing in the Amazon and Cerrado regions, and could better preserve them.

In conclusion, while it is important to continue discussing ways to achieve zero deforestation in supply chains with the help of traders and buyers, it is also important to look at the role of governments to provide guidance on clearer regulations and enforcement methods in ways that apply uniformly across different regions. More attention should be placed on innovative options to manage more sustainable agricultural frontiers, and to create schemes that answer the needs of all stakeholders involved.


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