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Agroecology in the limelight at GLF Climate

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Originally posted on the Agroecology TPP’s website

As part of a three-day GLF Climate: Forests, Food and Finance – Frontiers of Change conference, held on the sidelines of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) on 5 – 7 November, the FTA-funded Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (TPP) put together a series of interactive sessions to discuss agroecological transitions with world-renowned experts, indigenous people and youth.

The plenary titled ‘Growing the momentum for agroecological transformation to resilient food systems’ set out to link the 13 agroecological principles from the CFS HLPE 2019 report, the CFS policy recommendations on agroecological and other innovative approaches and the Coalition on Transforming Food Systems Through Agroecology with the imperative to reduce the contribution that agriculture makes to global warming while adapting to effects of climate change. In a pre-recorded interview – streamed at the plenary – with Fergus Sinclair, Chief Scientist at CIFOR – ICRAF and Co-convenor of the TPP, HE Gotabaya Rajapakse, the President of Sri Lanka, talked about the challenges of implementing bold policy reforms to promote agroecological transition at a national level:

“Despite the overuse of chemical fertilisers, which leads to soil degradation, and inefficiency of farming over many years, there is still a widespread belief within the farming community that organic fertilisers lead to lower yields. For this reason, there is a lot of resistance coming from the farmers in opposition of the restrictions in place against the use of chemical fertilisers – even though such restrictions are better for human health and that of the planet.”

Gabriel Ferrero, Chair of the UN Committee on World Food Security and the Ambassador of Spain to the UN agencies in Rome, spoke about the growing momentum for agroecology as well as Spain’s and CFS’s role and commitment to supporting it:

“What I am seeing from the apex of the multilateral system where the CFS stands, is that at all levels – from national governments to sub-national and local ones, to landscapes, territories and local communities – there is a global movement emerging in support of a transition that is based on agroecological and other innovative approaches built on empowering small-scale producers, family farmers and women.”

Alfredo Mamani Salinas, Vice-Minister of Strategic Natural Resources Development at Peru’s Ministry of Environment, shared insights into the Ministry’s work and approach on climate change along with practical measures of implementing agroforestry policies, such as being inclusive and leaving no one behind, recovering ancestral knowledge and working closely with indigenous people, all the while taking into account women and vulnerable communities.

Going deeper into issue of inclusion, the plenary involved representatives from youth, women and indigenous people, such as Genna Tesdall, who articulated a very clear demand from the YOUNGO constituency to COP26 to have agroecology specifically referred to by the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, while Monicah Yator from Kenya gave a feminist take on bringing agroecology to pastoralists and Patty Fong of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food outlined a vision for inclusive agroecological transition. The vision of an inclusive food system based on the principles of agroecology was taken up by Emile Frison, an expert on agricultural biodiversity at IPES-Food, who described the Coalition on Transforming Food Systems Through Agroecology, which emerged from the UN food systems summit and already has 27 countries and 35 organizations, including five UN bodies, regional farmer organisations, civil society and research institutions, committed to making agroecological transitions a widespread reality.

The 45-minute launchpad on ‘Actioning agroecologically-conducive policies for a food system transformation’ intended to bring the policy discussion aimed at the agroecological transformation of our current food system to the forefront. The digital session discussed the findings and feedback received during an open consultation period of the ‘Agroecologically-conducive policies: A review of recent advances and remaining challenges’ background paper with its authors – Frank Place of CGIAR and TPP, and Paulo Niederle of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and TPP. Practical Action Peru’s Maria Claudia Valdivia gave her perspective on the real-life constraints that farmers face in making the transition to agroecology happen on the ground:

“So many farmers have been telling me that the agroecological transition is necessary, but just how difficult it is to make it. What we are seeing now are these islands of change. Unfortunately, farmers are not in a leading position in the decision-making process. We need to be listening to them and giving them the opportunity to speak and make the right choices by developing their skills at a local level.”

The updated version of the background paper, based on the latest discussion, will be released soon.

An hour-long interactive session on ‘Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA): linking upstream and downstream catchments in Sri Lanka’ presented the climate rationale for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) EbA project in Sri Lanka, which blends agroecological approaches and EbA as it interconnects the upstream Knuckles catchment and downstream areas in a landscapes approach, involving a broad array of adaptation measures – from governance and financing to supporting the agroecological intensification.

Anura Dissanayake of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation spoke about the importance of the project – to be commenced in January next year – from a local perspective:

“Out of 50,000 small tanks for rainwater storage for agriculture and drinking, around 800 – 1000 are being washed off due to heavy floods. Heavy rainfall also causes landslides and land degradation in the country’s mountainous regions. This ambitious project will give us the directions for how to interact with the cascade system of downstream and upstream water management to help reduce flooding and consequent land degradation.”

Other speakers and scientists who shared their views on the role of ecosystem-based adaptation and the GCF EbA project include ICRAF’s Leimona Beria, Roeland Kindt and Tor-Gunnar Vågen, IUCN’s Sebastien Delahaye, and GCF’s Jerry Velasquez.

Lastly, the Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (TPP) also contributed to a GIZ-organised session on ‘Ecosystem-based adaptation in agriculture: how agroecology can contribute to tackling climate change,’ in which Fergus Sinclair of CIFOR-ICRAF and the TPP called for: addressing whole food systems; eliminating perverse policies and creating enabling ones; integrating all related sectors, including water, forestry, and trade; creating landscape-level capital and policy institutions; and shifting power to benefit marginalized groups, including women and consumers.

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  • A new partnership for more sustainable and equitable food systems

A new partnership for more sustainable and equitable food systems

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Agroecology Transformative Partnership Platform just launched at a side event at the 48th Plenary of the Committee on World Food Security

Food production is the world’s leading cause of biodiversity loss. It also accounts for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions and causes widespread degradation of the land and water resources upon which it depends.

But could we redesign our food systems to work with nature, rather than against it?

Enter agroecology, a science that applies the principles and concepts of ecology to farming, making the most of nature’s resources without damaging or depleting them. It includes adopting practices that mitigate climate change, limit impacts on wildlife, and hand a key role to farmers and local communities.

A new initiative aims to spearhead the transition to agroecology. On 3 June, the Agroecology Transformative Partnership Platform (TPP) was launched at a side event of the 48th Plenary of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS 48). More than 460 people followed the discussions from 56 countries and posed questions to representatives from some of the nations implementing agroecological transitions.

Replay full event here

Initiated by the CGIAR research programme on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the French Republic via research institutions CIRAD, IRD and INRAE, and with its secretariat at ICRAF, the Agroecology TPP will accelerate uptake of agroecology by addressing knowledge and implementation gaps, coordinating the work of key partners, and providing evidence to inform policymakers, practitioners and donors.

“If we are to preserve the health of our planet and ensure human sustainability, governments the world over must not hesitate to adopt bold policies,” said His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa, one of several high-level speakers at the launch. “Such policies should support ecological conservation, help combat the loss of biodiversity and enable people to achieve their economic aspirations in more sustainable ways.”

Sri Lanka recently banned imports of artificial fertilizer and agrochemicals as part of a “long-needed national transition to a healthier and more ecologically sound system of organic agriculture,” said President Rajapaksa, adding that the Sri Lankan government will be supporting farmers and agribusinesses in the agroecological transition through subsidies and the purchases of paddy at guaranteed prices.

Listen to the full statement of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka

CFS chair Thanawat Tiensin initiated the CFS48 plenary the day after by thanking the President of Sri Lanka for his statement at the Agroecology TPP side event. President Rajapaksa’s statement was replayed in full at the plenary to kick off the country statements following the adoption of the policy recommendations around the HLPE report. IFAD vice president Dominik Ziller, speaking on behalf of the IFAD president, described the HLPE (2019) report as “an essential reference to those seeking to meet the SDGs”.

France, meanwhile, is supporting countries in the Global South in adopting agroecological practices. Prior to funding the TPP, it contributed EUR 600 million at the launch of the Great Green Wall accelerator, which it hosted in Paris, to combat desertification in the African Sahel. In November 2020, France also hosted the Finance in Common summit, which launched a new coalition of public development banks led by IFAD to improve access to finance for smallholders and small-scale agribusinesses.

“For France, it is urgent to transform our current systems towards sustainable and resilient food systems that allow everyone access to quality, healthy, safe, diversified and sustainably produced food,” said Ambassador Céline Jurgensen, France’s permanent representative to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“France calls for a paradigm shift so that an agroecological approach can replace the Green Revolution of recent decades to meet the climatic, environmental and social challenges that we all face today in both the North and the South.”

Other panelists included representatives from Switzerland and Senegal, who highlighted the role of international institutions and projects in facilitating the transition to agroecology in the buildup to the U.N. Food Systems Summit (26–28 July).

“Thirty years ago, organic products had hardly any access to the market,” said Pio Wennubst, Ambassador for the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the U.N. in Rome. “Now 20% of the food consumption in Switzerland is organic-based production.”

“All the knowledge we developed in Switzerland cannot be simply transferred the way we did in the past with positive intentions. We need another connectivity, another way to discuss and connect with the world on these issues.”

Senegal, for example, is working with FAO to reduce chemical pesticide use through the Integrated Production and Pest Management Programme, which has also increased yields by around 40%.

“Senegal encourages all participants because it is not easy to promote new technologies, said Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Senegal’s ambassador to Italy, in a statement delivered by advisor Madiagne Tall. “But by raising each other’s awareness, we will all become aware of the need to deepen such approaches.”

Civil society actors also featured at the launch, including representatives of indigenous people’s organisations and social entrepreneurs from Paraguay and Kenya, who presented initiatives on farming practices, local and indigenous knowledge and voting on pesticide bans.

The TPP builds on a series of major dialogues and reports, in line with the 13 agroecological principles and policy recommendations from the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) of the CFS. It works across eight domains in partnership with a core group of institutions including FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Biovision, CGIAR, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), AFA, AFSA and the governments of France and Switzerland.

The TPP’s approach consists of four steps, said Elisabeth Claverie de Saint-Martin, director general for research and strategy at CIRAD. “To tackle knowledge gaps, first gather the best scientists around an unsolved issue. Second, define a common methodology. Third, apply to a wide diversity of situations and contexts; and fourth, try to generate useful knowledge, both specific to the contexts and generic.”

This approach has already been applied to a growing portfolio of projects across Asia, Africa and Latin America, she added, referring to a France-funded TPP project that aims to evaluate the socioeconomic viability of agroecological practices across Africa.

“As it goes forward, the TPP will contribute to creating a level playing field for agroecological approaches to be taken up,” said Fergus Sinclair, chief scientist at CIFORICRAF and co-convener of the TPP and project team leader of the HLPE report.

“The TPP will embrace the complexity needed to transition to co-created locally relevant agriculture and food systems, and enable the horizontal integration across sectors and vertical integration across scales required to translate national and international commitments under the UNFCCC, CBD, UNCCD and AFR100 into meaningful action on the ground.”

“The contribution of agroecological approaches to achieving the 2030 agenda by applying locally adapted solutions for agri-food systems that are environmentally sustainable and economically fair and socially acceptable is increasingly recognized. That is why the FAO conference requested the further integration of sustainable agriculture approaches, including agroecology, in FAO’s work,” said Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist at FAO. She then concluded the event with these inspiring words: “Through the newly established transformative partnership platform that you presented on agroecology, FAO will actively engage in inclusive collaboration with different stakeholders to transform agri-food systems for better production better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, and leave no one behind.”

Get involved by joining the TPP Community of Practice on GLFx.


By Ming Chun Tang. 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 and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Integration is name of the game that forests and agriculture need to play

Integration is name of the game that forests and agriculture need to play

Banyan trees beside a river. Photo by FAO Forestry Mediabase
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Banyan trees. Photo by FAO Forestry Mediabase

Sustainable development of agriculture cannot be reached without acknowledging the important role forests have in landscapes and in value chains.

Agroforestry systems include not only traditional but also modern land-use systems where trees are managed together with crops and/or animal production systems in agricultural settings.

Whenever trees can be kept intact rather than be cleared for the purposes of agricultural production and forest ecosystems can thrive alongside crops, the more benefits are reaped. Considering this there is a need to facilitate the integration of agriculture and forestry relevant policies, allowing them to play better, together.

However, what is needed is a forward-looking focus on research, knowledge-generation and scaling-up with development of strong partnership among many different stakeholders. This is exactly what a side event at this year’s CFS 44 entitled “Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security and nutrition and the SDGs: Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda” aimed to debate.

The event itself was organized in a partnership between a large number of different stakeholders, including the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The Netherlands Government, Tropenbos International and SIANI.

A strong case has been made for scaling up agroforestry in order to address the need for more productive and sustainable use of the land while assuring livelihoods and quality nutrition for the growing world population. In fact, as stated by FAO in their presentation on agroforestry, there is a constantly growing body of scientific literature that clearly demonstrates the gains accruing from agroforestry adoption, especially in regards to the improvement of the environment and people’s lives.

Continuing to invest in research is therefore essential. As FAO outlines “the agroforestry systems are dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management systems that diversify and sustain production in order to increase social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all scales.”

Click here to read the full story on the CFS website, by #CFS44 Social Reporter Ksenija Simovic.

As part of the live coverage during CFS44, this post covers the Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security and nutrition and the SDGs side event.

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  • Why good policies and public funding (only) won’t change the world

Why good policies and public funding (only) won’t change the world

Photo by G. Smith/CIAT
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Photo by G. Smith/CIAT

We have been cutting trees to plant food crops since the beginning of time. Forest cover loss is a major contributor to climate change – the biggest challenge of our times. So, we won’t save the world without saving forests.

However, while the connection between forests and climate is very well recognized, agriculture is an elephant in the room at climate talks and a rare bird at discussions about forestry.

International deforestation curbing policy infrastructure is well developed. It includes the New York Declaration on Forests, the Bonn Challenge, Initiative 20×20, AFR100 and now also the UN Strategic Plan on Forests 2017-2030, just to mention a few of its components.

These are all great, but throwing billions at conservation and afforestation won’t work without making agriculture sustainable and zero-deforestation.

“Foresters must get out of the woods and focus more on deforestation drivers!” invokes Hans Hoogeveen, Ambassador to the FAO of the Netherlands, at the “Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security and nutrition and the SDGs” side event during the 44th session of the Committee on World Food Security.

Click here to read the full story on the CFS website, by #CFS44 Social Reporter Ekaterina Bessonova.

As part of the live coverage during CFS44, this post covers the Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security and nutrition and the SDGs side event.

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  • Sharing better, for better research

Sharing better, for better research

In Nalma village, Nepal, land is used for rice fields, gardens and housing. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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A woman walks home from the fields in Nalma, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

For the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), a research for development (R4D) program, engaging in knowledge sharing fundamentally conditions the program’s effectiveness and impact, both in the policy environment and on the ground. Better sharing leads to better research.

That is why FTA, in recent months, has invested heavily in knowledge sharing. For us at FTA, knowledge sharing is never a one-way street, but an exchange. As we share our knowledge with stakeholders, we learn just as much, and we use that learning to set our next research priorities and better design the research that we do, to ensure greater legitimacy and relevance.

1. Knowledge sharing starts with better explaining the work we do, how we do it, with whom and for what.

FTA’s proposal for Phase 2 (2017-2022) amounts to over 500 pages. That’s the length needed to provide full details on a multimillion dollar six-year program as wide-ranging as FTA, with work from tree genetic resources to management, value chains, institutions and governance.

But not everyone can afford to spend a full week reading the whole thing. This is why we have created, with the program’s scientists, a set of brochures that explains in a nutshell the work being done and the work that we aim to develop across FTA. Six brochures have already been published and the last two will be released before the end of the year, including one on the brand new Flagship 2, which has just been rated “strong” by the Independent Science and Partner Council (ISPC) after a recent resubmission.

Read more: What is FTA?

To find the brochures, please take a look at our new webpage. We hope that in turn, resource partners will have clearer minds on what we do and what we bring on the ground, and will be even more keen to invest in FTA.

2. Knowledge sharing means engaging with key partner institutions with an aim to bridge the world of research with the world of development and people on the ground.

This means being able to understand, confront and match the various demands from development, and what research can supply and how. Three key events in September enabled us to put this into practice.

First, on Sept. 5-8 in Bern, Switzerland, FTA participated in the first International Conference on Research for Sustainable Development, in two panel sessions organized between the CGIAR and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

This provided a means to better understand Switzerland’s priorities in terms of development actions, as well as to test the interest in joint works with Swiss private sector actors on sustainable value chains and responsible finance, and on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

FTA Director Vincent Gitz speaks during the IUFRO subplenary session. Photo by Bethany Davies/CIFOR

The quality of the exchanges in Bern was very high and this provided a strong impetus for FTA to engage even more with Swiss upstream partners, in particular with universities such as the University of Bern and ETH Zurich, to downstream actors, and with SDC. As we will take this on board, this means working toward even more relevant and effective research in FTA.

Second, on Sept. 18-22 in Freiburg, Germany, more than 40 FTA scientists participated in some way in the historic International Union of Forest Research Organizations’ (IUFRO) 125th Anniversary Congress. At the congress, FTA and IUFRO cohosted a subplenary session on research priorities titled “Research for sustainable development: Forests, trees and agroforestry”. If you missed it, you will soon be able to watch it here.

The session enabled us to take the scientific forest research community out of its comfort zone, to put in question the priorities it should focus on, and look at how it should work in light of today’s development challenges. With research becoming increasingly specialized, the overarching challenge is to integrate the different dimensions of sustainable development and different objectives into the research questions, research methods and solutions we develop in practice. And to integrate research “in” development. This is easier said than done, but it will definitively serve as a guide for FTA’s internal priority setting, which will give primers to such integrated initiatives.

Read more: What are the priorities for relevant, legitimate and effective forest and tree research? Lessons from the IUFRO congress

In Nalma village, Nepal, land is used for rice fields, gardens and housing. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Third, FTA participated in a three-day high-level conference on food security and nutrition in an era of climate change, coorganized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Quebec. The conference showed Quebec’s potential in terms of supporting international development, especially in francophone areas such as West Africa. One of the highlights was the participation of First Nations and Inuit representatives.

Food security challenges for people in northern Canada are already considerable, and climate change has important impacts, as it will have for many other indigenous groups worldwide. This is testimony to the immense systemic changes that are ongoing right now because of climate change. We need to properly consider social impacts and dimensions to enable positive and durable change.

We need to embed this in our research, and in fact reconsider the way we do research: doing research with indigenous peoples and marginalized groups, and considering them not as the object of research, but including them in research as generators of knowledge in their own right. Here, engagement is a synonym for better learning and more legitimacy.

3. Knowledge sharing means engaging with policy and multistakeholder platforms.

In November and December FTA will be mobilized in three multistakeholder platforms of global importance, each dealing with one key impact area of FTA: food security and nutrition, climate change, and sustainable landscapes.

First is the 44th plenary session of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the highest food security governance body on the planet, which runs from Oct. 9–13. FTA is coorganizing two side events: the first focuses on feminism, forests and food security, with key Swedish partners, and the second focuses on priorities along the R4D continuum for improving the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in food security and nutrition, with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Netherlands, the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) and Tropenbos International.

FTA scientist Terry Sunderland discussed the HLPE report at the IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress. Photo by Bethany Davies/CIFOR

And after having heavily contributed to the High Level Panel of experts (HLPE) report providing the evidence base to the CFS negotiations on Sustainable Forestry For Food Security and Nutrition, FTA will participate in the policy round table itself, alongside governments and all actors gathered at CFS. This illustrates the double role of a R4D program like FTA: feeding multistakeholder discussions and decisions with evidence and knowledge (inclusively generated), and at the same time being an active stakeholder in the implementation of solutions, alongside all partners.

Then in November, FTA is set to engage further through several events with climate actors at the Fiji-led United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. FTA will aim to provide, with partners, a focus on gender, on REDD+ and on finance for sustainable value chains.

Finally, in December, FTA will be in Bonn once again for the major global multistakeholder platform on landscapes, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF). There FTA will aim to feed knowledge and organize discussions on forests and water, and on land restoration.

While knowledge generation remains the core of FTA’s work, we believe that it may not be effective without efficient knowledge sharing and stakeholder engagement. Such an investment is necessary for a R4D program, which aims at the uptake of solutions on the ground. It is also synergetic with the research itself. It confronts us daily with new questions, and with the various beliefs, views and expectations of stakeholders.

If we genuinely measure the implications of the feedback we receive, on the research we do and its very design, then knowledge sharing and engagement is not simply adding “feel-good moments” to research that has already been done: It is fundamental to the quality of the research that is to come.

By Vincent Gitz, FTA Director 

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

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

Forests are a crucial source of nutritious food for a myriad of rural communities around the world. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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Forests are a crucial source of nutritious food for a myriad of rural communities around the world. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

It’s a bit ironic that while wild foraged ingredients are increasingly popping up on Michelin-starred menus around the world, the communities who have traditionally subsisted on these foods are consuming them less and less.

Baobab fruit and bush mango for vitamins and minerals; bushmeat for fats and micronutrients; bamboo shoots for fiber; ferns for complex carbohydrates and various essential oils — these are just a few of the nutritious and diverse food sources that have long been staples in the diets of rural communities living in and around forests.

But as deforestation and plantations replace them, less access to forests coupled with newfound income means that these natural pantries aren’t being used the way they once were.

Sustainable Forestry and Food Security and Nutrition, a new report commissioned by the Center on World Food Security (CFS), to which the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) contributed knowledge and science, takes a deep look at the interplay between sustainable forestry and food security and nutrition — a topic that has, up to this point, lacked the focus of substantial socialized research.

A High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) consisting of scientists and specialists on food security and nutrition used information gathered from forest landscapes worldwide to test the hypothesis that the sustainable use of forests leads to better health and diets of communities within their proximity.

Read also: High Level Panel of Experts launches landmark report on sustainable forestry

In Sindri village, Burkina Faso, baobab fruit is called Monkey Bread. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

QUALITY AND QUANTITY

“By 2050, there will be an estimated nine billion people in the world,” says FTA scientist Terry Sunderland, who is also Principal Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and head of the HLPE team.

“In response to the growth in global population and incomes, and to the evolution of diets, a continuation of recent trends would imply global agricultural production in 2050 to be significantly higher than present. However, with the findings of this report we would hope such expansion would take into account the critical role of forests and trees for food security and nutrition.”

As the research goes to show, this means mitigating pressures from the increasing demand for timber and wood products in order to help communities — largely rural and smallholder farmers — conserve their forests and continue using them as food sources in a sustainable way.

The natural biodiversity of forests leads to more variation in diets, which results in better nutrition rather than simply increasing caloric intake.

“At CIFOR, our research found that people living in proximity to forests and tree-based landscapes have better diets than their compatriots, regardless of poverty,” says Sunderland. “Wild vegetables, snails, numerous other sources of micro-nutrients and proteins are incredibly important and cannot be underestimated.”

In addition to the direct foods they provide, forests also have immense effects on the sustenance of agriculture in their proximity. They host the pollinators that help many of our agricultural crops reproduce. They also help purify water, support grazing livestock, provide traditional forms of medicine and healthcare and supply wood – the primary source of fuel for one-third of the world’s population. Without energy for cooking, food would be far less palatable and water would remain unsterilized.

A migrant bamboo farmer prepares bamboo shoots in a plantation before they are fermented, dried and sold to a local processing factory in Tianlin County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. Photo by N. Hogarth/CIFOR

However, the positive effects of forests on agricultural production can lead to a tricky paradox. As plantation cash crops such as oil palm and wheat thrive, more money is put into the pockets of local communities, allowing them to purchase rather than grow or gather their food.

This can often result in their replacing produce with simple carbohydrates, refined sugars, and trans-fats – a dietary transition that isn’t accompanied by dietary education. More modern renditions of food sovereignty, in other words, can lead to unhealthier diets.

“This is a very strong trend all over the world — this middle class aspiration and the fast food obsession,” says Sunderland. “In Indonesia, for example, incidents of stunted growth is very high due to poor diets.”

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

A less obvious but no less important goal of this report is to break down the barriers between the agricultural, forestry, nutrition and conservation communities and increase cross-sector collaboration in order to best tackle this issue. The HLPE report will hopefully encourage experts from different fields to harmonize their research, knowledge, and policy goals.

“If we’re serious about global food security, we can’t ignore the role of forests and trees in direct provisioning. We want the nutritionists to understand the importance of forests and trees, and we want the forestry community to understand why and how trees contribute to nutrition.”

Furthermore, when looking at forests as a major source of sustenance for local communities, it leads to the fact that denying or limiting communities’ access to them directly correlates to their access to food and water. This raises major issues of human rights with regard to food access.

“The right to food is enshrined in almost every [multilateral] agreement since 1945,” says Sunderland. “If we’re generating evidence that forests are really important to the provision of food and nutrition, how can we justify preventing people access to them?”

Read also: What’s causing the holdup in REDD+ results-based finance?

This perspective will ideally help escalate the findings of this report — which will be further discussed at the Association of Tropical Biology Conference held this week in Merida, Mexico — to influence global initiatives, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and REDD+.

But first and foremost, it aims to change conventional wisdom about food security and forests. Rather than being in competition with one another, the two are more critical to the other’s existence than we previously thought.

By Gabrielle Lipton, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

The Sustainable Forestry and Food Security and Nutrition report was commissioned by the Committee on World Food Security.

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at t.sunderland@cgiar.org.


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

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  • High Level Panel of Experts launches landmark report on sustainable forestry

High Level Panel of Experts launches landmark report on sustainable forestry

Project Team Leader Terry Sunderland presents during the HLPE report launch at FAO Headquarters. Photo ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
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The HLPE launches its latest report at FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy, on June 27, 2017. Photo ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

The High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) launched on June 27 a landmark report on sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition (FSN). The HLPE is the independent science-policy interface of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS). It provides a comprehensive evidence base for the political, multistakeholder discussions at the CFS.

The launch marked the first time that the CFS discussed the contributions of forests and trees to world food security, and how to enhance them. This is a very significant debate at UN level.

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) welcomes this report, and is proud to have significantly contributed to its elaboration by providing science and knowledge. The project team leader for the report, Terry Sunderland, a Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist, is also a research cluster leader for FTA.

Forest and trees: key to food security and nutrition

FTA Director Vincent Gitz speaks during the launch of the HLPE report at FAO Headquarters in Rome. Photo ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

The report presents a very compelling argument for the contribution of forests across the four major dimensions of food security and nutrition, which are availability, access, utilization and stability.

Forests and trees contribute directly and indirectly to food security and nutrition in many ways: the provision of food, primary energy (wood fuel for cooking), employment and income, and ecosystems services such as water regulation, soil protection, pest control pollination, and protection of biodiversity, which are all critical for sustainable food security and nutrition.

In addition, they play an important role in climate change mitigation at the global level, and adaptation at the local level, particularly in certain areas of the world and especially for those communities, often the most marginalized, that rely on forests for their livelihoods.

A new perspective, beyond arbitrary divides

A novelty of this report is that it goes beyond and leaves behind the traditional and somewhat arbitrary divides and distinctions between forest types and definitions, toward a more holistic approach to the roles of forests and trees, and the diversity of situations and roles of trees in landscapes, agriculture, farms and food systems, as key contributors to sustainable development, food security and nutrition.

Recommendations

The report makes 37 recommendations, grouped under the following seven headings, which pave the way for an action agenda on forests and trees for food security and nutrition:

  1. Rapporteur Francois Pythoud (left to right), FAO Deputy Director-General Climate and Natural Resources Maria Helena Semedo, HLPE Chairperson Patrick Caron, CFS Chairperson Amira Gornass, Project Team Leader Terry Sunderland and HLPE Coordinator Nathanael Pingault launch the report at FAO Headquarters. Photo ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

    Develop and use policy-relevant knowledge on the direct and indirect contributions of forests and trees to FSN

  2. Enhance the role of forests in environmental processes at all scales without compromising the right to adequate food of forest-dependent people
  3. Support the contributions of forests to improve livelihoods and economies for FSN
  4. Promote multifunctional landscapes for FSN that integrate forests and trees as key components
  5. Acknowledge the importance and strengthen the role of forests and trees in enhancing resilience at landscape, community and household levels for FSN 
  6. Recognize and respect land and natural resource tenure and use rights over forests and trees for FSN
  7. Strengthen inclusive forest governance systems across sectors and scales for FSN

Implications for the research agenda, and for FTA

This report, at the same time as taking stock of the breadth of existing knowledge on the role of forests and tree-based systems for FSN and their potential contribution to reducing global hunger and malnutrition, also highlights the need for further data collection and analysis that will enable the case-by-case assessment all of these contributions, whom they benefit, and at which geographical and temporal scales.

Project Team Leader Terry Sunderland presents during the HLPE report launch at FAO Headquarters. Photo ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

The HLPE report also shows the need for a better understanding of the drivers of change, and of the dynamics at play in landscapes — all areas that are at the heart of FTA research.

Situations are very diverse, socio-economical contexts are very different, and this shows the need for options-by-contexts to make the most of this potential. In FTA, we have good examples of what works, and how this can work in partnership for impact.

FTA can provide the evidence and tools to generate, pilot and, with partners (governments, the private sector, foresters and farmers), to scale-up and scale-out a range of solutions, according to a diversity of contexts.

We look forward to the discussion and the expressions of need in relation to research that will be discussed in the CFS policy convergence process, which will lead to decisions at the upcoming CFS 44 plenary on October 9-13, 2017.

We will use the results of that process to inform FTA’s future research priorities, and to fine-tune these to the needs of stakeholders for even greater relevance, legitimacy and effectiveness in the work we do.

By Vincent Gitz, FTA Director.


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