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  • At GLF Climate, youth shared 13 sustainable forestry innovations for the Asia-Pacific region

At GLF Climate, youth shared 13 sustainable forestry innovations for the Asia-Pacific region

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More than ever, forests and trees are called upon to address the great global challenges of our times, among which are: climate change, deforestation, forest degradation, biodiversity erosion, poverty and food insecurity. Innovative technologies – including digital technologies, biological technologies, technical innovations in processes and products, innovative finance and social innovations – hold a huge potential to advance sustainable forest management and help address these challenges, globally and in the Asia-Pacific region. However, technology adoption has been slow and uneven in the region. As technology enthusiasts, forest guardians and forest managers of tomorrow, young people have a leading role to play in generating momentum and revolutionizing institutions from within to support the uptake and scaling-up of innovative technologies in Asia and the Pacific.

This is why, on Friday, 5 Nov. 2021, FAO and the CGIAR Research Programme on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) co-organized a session highlighting youth perspectives on innovative forest technologies. This event attracted over 400 attendees and was part of the GLF Climate hybrid conference, “Frontiers of Change.” “Instead of another meeting to exchange on the global and pressing issues, we wanted, during this event, to focus on innovative solutions and share a note of optimism and hope” said Vincent Gitz (CIFOR), FTA Director.

On behalf of FAO, Rao Matta, Forestry Officer, highlighted the important role innovation can play to make the forest sector more attractive to young people. He invited the youth to become “innovation champions,” to play a pivotal role in scaling-up innovative technologies, and to bring their unique forward-looking and out-of-the-box thinking perspectives to the discussion table. “FAO,” he said, “is fully committed to promote the visibility of youth and of their seminal work”.

During this event, FAO and FTA gave the floor to students and young professionals involved in the forest sector in Asia and the Pacific, to hear some of their ideas to unleash the potential offered by innovative technologies to advance sustainable forest management. 13 young people, aged 18–35, from nine different countries of the Asia-Pacific region who were selected by FAO and CIFOR after an open call for contributions presented their works in 3 minutes each.

Their talks illustrated, in various contexts, the huge potential of innovative forest technologies to advance sustainable forestry and sustainable forest management. Together, the guest speakers covered a broad range of topics, showing how technologies — both new and repurposed — can improve and facilitate monitoring and reporting, strengthen citizen engagement in forest monitoring and management and support process and product innovations in the forest sector in the Asia-Pacific region. These ideas are also inspiring globally and in other contexts.


The presentations gave way to a lively session of questions and answers with the audience. The back-and-forth discussions revealed some of the barriers to uptake and scale innovative technologies. These blockages include: (i) the limited internet connection in rural or remote areas; (ii) the high level of upfront investments that may be required for technology adoption, including for equipment, infrastructure development, capacity-building and involvement of local communities. Participants also noted that restrictive or rigid policies and regulations often lag far behind the quick evolution of innovative technologies, which can hamper their use and dissemination. For instance, current policies and rules may not allow the use of data collected by remote sensing methods in official statistics or as forensic evidence. Concluding this event, Rao Matta, indicated  that intensive, follow-up actions will be organized at country level, probably next year. Young experts will once again be invited to share their experience and views on sustainable innovations for the Asia-Pacific.

To access the 13 video presentations, please follow the links below:

Session 1: How can innovative technologies improve and facilitate monitoring?

  1. Shahrukh Kamran (Pakistan): Development, testing and implementation of insect-catching drones.
  2. Kyuho Lee (Republic of Korea): Drones for planning and monitoring forest ecosystem restoration: towards a forest degradation index
  3. Angga Saputra (Indonesia): Estimating tree height, canopy cover and tree diameter using unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology.
  4. Cecille de Jesus (the Philippines): Follow the water: advanced technologies for demonstrating forest-water-community relationships.
  5. Thuan Sarzynski (Vietnam): Google Earth Engine, an innovative technology for forest conservation.
  6. Marie Jessica Gabriel (the Philippines): Spatial Monitoring And Reporting Tool (SMART).

Session 2: How can innovative technologies facilitate the engagement of civil society, local communities, smallholders and youth?

  1. Sony Lama (Nepal): Forest Watcher: employing citizen science in forest management of Nepal.
  2. Nur Bahar (Malaysia): How to effectively engage youth in satellite-based tropical forest monitoring?
  3. June Mandawali (Papua New Guinea): Community Based Tree Nurseries in Ramu/Markham Valley of Papua New Guinea.

Session 3: How can innovative technologies support optimization of processes and products for sustainable forest management?

  1. Sanjayaraj Tamang (Nepal): Invasive species management in Nepal: a pathway to sustainable forest management.
  2. Clarence Gio S. Almoite (the Philippines): Building back Philippine biodiversity through geotagging mother tree species for modernized and mechanized forest nurseries.
  3. Prachi Gupta (India): Advances in the wood anatomical studies with innovations in microscopy.
  4. Deasy Ramatia (Indonesia): Binderless particleboard: production process and self- bonding mechanisms.
Download the PDF!

All of these 3-minute presentations have been developed in detailed scientific articles and gathered in a FAO and FTA co-publication entitled, Innovative forestry for a sustainable future. Youth contributions from Asia and the Pacific.

This youth publication is part of a broader roadmap jointly developed by FAO and FTA on innovative forest technologies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Click here for more information on this roadmap process.


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  • A guide to investing in collectively held resources

A guide to investing in collectively held resources

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Impact investors typically finance businesses that seek to challenge the status quo, valuing environmental and social outcomes to deliver more sustainable returns on investment. Microfinance institutions such as Grameen and FINCA lead the way in financing poor and marginalized groups. Now, however, increasing attention is being given to help investors respect land rights and form equitable partnerships with communities living in rural areas. Communities are increasingly being given rights to manage the world¹s remaining common pool resources (CPR) – such as forests, pastures and fisheries – as common property. As such, investors interested in accessing and developing these resources have the opportunity to work with a new investment partner, the community user group (CUG). This guide is designed to help investors better understand the challenges and opportunities of investing in resources managed collectively by a community – where the community is the principal investment partner! In this guide we draw on examples and lessons learned from four case-study countries considered to have the most successful arrangements for collectively managing natural resources. The case countries are Guatemala, Mexico and Nepal, which have devolved forest rights to communities, and Namibia, which has devolved wildlife rights.

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  • Forest biodiversity monitoring: Guide to community-based approaches

Forest biodiversity monitoring: Guide to community-based approaches

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Monitoring of natural resources and their management is a key element for effective decision-making in constantly changing and uncertain situations. Monitoring can reduce risks, increase transparency and accountability, enhance learning, and improve the successful implementation of activities. It helps ensure that changes to management approaches come from learning and reflection instead of hasty reactions or unilateral decisions. Involving local communities in monitoring initiatives makes the process more participatory and contextually relevant, less dependent on external inputs, simpler and usually less expensive. Participatory monitoring initiatives, particularly the ones that are community driven, can increase the sense of ownership towards the management of natural resources and favour the development of adaptive management strategies by facilitating discussion, participation and learning within local communities. This guide is designed to help facilitators develop community-based monitoring initiatives for forest biodiversity by providing a series of steps, recommendations and examples to guide the process. While the guide applies to forest biodiversity, similar approaches can be used to monitor other aspects of natural-resource management. The guide includes tips on using participatory tools for the collection of biodiversity data and insights on how to encourage the participation of local actors across social groups in decision-making processes that affect forest biodiversity resources in their communities and surrounding landscapes.

Access this publication.

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  • Are community forests a viable model for the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Are community forests a viable model for the Democratic Republic of Congo?

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Since the second half of the 2000s, several options for implementing community-based forest management in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), like the local community forest concession (LCFC), have been discussed in the country’s technical and political circles. Proposals and pilot testing have increased in the last five years, but the funding of initiatives is often proposed for divergent purposes and taking different approaches. We reviewed current experiences in the Eastern province of the DRC and found that nobody has carried out an estimation of the financial returns of the business models they drew up for/with the communities involved. We therefore conducted a financial feasibility analysis for two case studies, estimating the costs of developing/implementing activities and the benefits expected for the communities within the next five years. Three main conclusions were drawn from the analysis: (1) most activities conducted under the LCFC model deal with rural development, and not with forestry operations per se; (2) several forestry activities such as biodiversity conservation or carbon sequestration are not detailed in the management documents and appear to have little legitimacy for local populations; (3) the two LCFCs show a negative financial performance because the inception and implementation costs are substantially higher than the medium-term profits. Community forestry is unlikely to develop in the DRC unless local people are guaranteed that it will contribute to improving their livelihoods, notably their financial and physical capital. This requires that LCFC initiatives focus on actual productive uses of forest resources, which financial performance is systematically assessed ex ante. A simplification of the legal constraints is also needed to reduce the cost of creating and managing a LCFC.

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  • Citizens support data collection on water towers that help to supply their communities

Citizens support data collection on water towers that help to supply their communities

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In Kenya’s Sondu Basin, local communities take water measurements to aid monitoring. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR
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In Kenya’s Sondu Basin, local communities take water measurements to aid monitoring. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR

Montane forests in East Africa play a crucial role as water towers, holding freshwater long enough for it to recharge aquifers that supply local communities. 

On the other hand, a recent project from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Kenya that forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) has been examining what communities can do for the water towers.

“The state of forests in Kenya is really critical, so we wanted to estimate their water supply services to inform authorities and society of their value,” says Mariana Rufino, Senior Associate at CIFOR and Chair of Agricultural Systems at the UK’s Lancaster Environment Centre.

Read more: Bridging research and development to generate science and solutions

When she and fellow researchers found there were no consistent datasets on the state of water resources in the Sondu-Miriu River basin, a remote catchment in western Kenya, they decided to test an approach that is rarely used in developing countries, and even more uncommon in the field of hydrology: involving citizens in monitoring and crowdsourcing data collection.

“Collecting data for water flow and quality is expensive, so we set out to find low-cost alternatives to the sophisticated standard methods used elsewhere,” says Rufino.

The team installed 13 water-level gauges equipped with signs explaining the monitoring process, instructing passersby to send measurements via text message. They would then receive immediate feedback on their phones.

Over the course of one year, experts compared the crowdsourced data with that of automatic gauging stations installed nearby.

Watch: A technical overview: The role of citizen science in monitoring water towers in Kenya

In addition to overcoming data scarcity, the project sought to answer two key questions: first, if rural communities in a remote tropical setting would engage in citizen science; and if so, whether or not they would produce data of high enough quality to inform water resource management.

The scientists published a report on their findings, as well as producing two videos to show the benefits of citizen monitoring to local and national natural resource managers and land-use planners.

“We thought that showing our project locations and sharing the stories of people we collaborated with would also increase interest in the role of forests in the supply of water,” says Rufino.

Read more: FTA scientists feature in innovative series of talks on landscapes


In the end, 124 citizens reported 1,175 valid measurements. Less than 5 percent of the data points was invalid.

“We were struck by the participation rate,” says coauthor of the paper Lutz Breuer, Chair of Landscape, Water and Biogeochemical Cycles at the Research Centre for Biosystems, Land Use and Nutrition at Justus Liebig University Giessen in Germany.

“The quality of the data was also excellent, with almost no difference against that of our sophisticated equipment,” says Rufino. “Communities were interested in the initiative, and they told us why: their livelihoods depend on water, so they want to know the state of the resource.”

Based on phone surveys on the socioeconomic background of volunteers, the study concludes: “The active participation is not depending on the actual education level, but rather induced by their personal perception of and dependency on their environment.”

“We are talking about open access data: data that belongs to the people, and that could be used by them to make decisions about resource use,” says Breuer.

“Monitoring the condition of a resource by its users is an important aspect of governance, as it is generally expected to be the basis for the design or adjustment of the use and management of the resource,” echoes CIFOR Principal Scientist Esther Mwangi.

Watch: Opinions and testimonials: The role of citizen science in monitoring water towers in Kenya


This is not to say that citizens can entirely replace scientists and authorities. Certain hydrological parameters are too complex for citizen management, and Rufino says the team is seeking to engage Kenya’s Water Resources Agency to help implement the project in two new sites.

And, there’s the issue of keeping people engaged over a long period of time.

To address this, the study paid back the transmission costs (1 US cent per text message) sent from one of the stations, twofold. This proved to increase participation rate, which there was between 2.5 and 7 times higher than at other stations.

However, Rufino believes that “true, sustained engagement will come when locals see value in the data collection and can do something with it.”

For example, if communities understand that a lack of vegetation leads to runoff and lower water tables, they may decide to increase tree cover. Likewise, if they see the links between logging and increased sediment in their drinking-water streams, they may take steps to manage the felling.

“A logical next step would be an assessment of whether and how such locally generated data can spur local actions aimed at sustainable resource management,” says Mwangi.

The scientists will also explore hydrological modeling approaches, both to fill gaps in irregular measurements taken by citizens and to model future alternatives for the region.

“By modeling the effect of land-uses on water fluxes, we can anticipate impacts on water supply, and advise people how to improve agricultural and forest management,” Breuer says.

For Rufino, the project proved that crowdsourcing is the way forward. “We are confident this data-collection model can disseminate in East Africa, and we will make ourselves available to discuss the implementation of this approach with water resource management agencies in the region.”

For low-income countries, the scientists agree that this low-cost approach can work.

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

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

This research was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Corporation for International Cooperation.

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  • Gender relations in forestry: beyond a headcount

Gender relations in forestry: beyond a headcount

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By Kate Evans, originally published on CIFOR’s Forest News

A Kichwa woman takes a rest from cutting down the forest. They are clearing an area to sow corn to feed their livestock near the Napo River in Orellana, Ecuador (Photo by Tomas Munita/CIFOR).
A Kichwa woman takes a rest from cutting down the forest. They are clearing an area to sow corn to feed their livestock near the Napo River in Orellana, Ecuador (Photo by Tomas Munita/CIFOR).

The land boundary dispute with the neighboring village had gone on for years.

But Aditi*, the 60-something female president of her local Forest Rights Committee, used skillful negotiation to convince the neighboring chief that both communities, including members of different indigenous groups, could work together to protect the forest, and continue to collect forest products there – resulting in a positive outcome for all.

This recent story, from the Indian state of Odisha, highlights the role women can play as ‘critical actors’ in defending and managing their forests, says Ph.D. candidate and gender researcher Priyanka Bhalla from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

“A lot of times when people talk about success stories they focus on the numbers – one third of the committee were women, etc. – but they forget about women as agents,” she says.

“I wanted to get away from the numbers, to change the language and say, women are positive agents, they are implementing positive processes and they have been doing so for a long period of time at many different scales.”

In a chapter of a new book on Gender and Forests published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bhalla examines women’s participation in India’s forest tenure reform process in the state of Odisha, and the ways critical events and processes have influenced their involvement.

In 2006, following a nationwide mobilization demanding local rights over forests, India passed its Forest Rights Act. The new law legitimized the rights of tribal groups (and some other forest dwellers) to access and use ancestral forest lands, providing a framework for communities to govern these territories through village-based Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) and assemblies known as gram sabhas.

The Act came into force in 2008, and required that a third of FRC members be women, and that women make up at least half of assembly attendees.


Bhalla volunteered her time with an Odisha-based NGO called Vasundhara, and visited villages in four different districts, investigating how the FRA is being implemented on the ground.

The quota system isn’t enough to ensure women’s participation in decision-making, she discovered.

“Even though the committee is supposed to be comprised of a third women, most of the time there are one or two token female members, and they’re often individuals that don’t know anything about forest rights or indigenous rights.”

Higher caste women and wives of local authority figures tend to be over-represented, she says.

“You can’t assume that just by putting a woman on the committee that she is going to speak for all women – in fact, normally she doesn’t. If she’s a landowner, she’s not going to take into consideration the issues of landless women, for example.”

And in India’s predominantly patriarchal society, “there’s a community culture of women’s exclusion that’s been there for a really long time,” Bhalla says.

“Sometimes women aren’t informed about meeting times, they won’t know about the agenda of the meeting, or they’ll arrive and the meeting is already over, and the men just want their signature in the registration book.”

So in looking beyond the numbers, Bhalla focused her attention on “critical actors” and “critical acts” – that is, individual women like Aditi who had made an impact, and influential events that provide an opportunity for change to benefit women.

Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR.
Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR.

One of those acts occurred in 2012, when the FRA was amended to introduce specific guidelines for its implementation: how to properly constitute the Forest Rights Committees, how to do the process of land verification, and how to actually distribute the titles.

This amendment made a huge difference, Bhalla says, with many FRCs re-constituted, thereby increasing participation by women and indigenous groups.

“I went to a couple of different villages where people said again and again, ‘We had a committee from 2008, but we weren’t really sure what it was supposed to do – but then in 2012 it was explained to us how [the FRA] works and why it was done, and since then things have been better,’” Bhalla says.


The Vedanta Case was another ‘critical act’ in Odisha, according to Bhalla. Mining company Vedanta Resources wanted to develop an open-cast bauxite mine in the upper reaches of the Niyamgiri hills – an important wildlife habitat and sacred place for the Dongria Kondh indigenous group.

In 2010 the Ministry of Environment and Forests refused to approve the project. The company contested it in India’s Supreme Court – which in 2013 ordered that, under the Forests Rights Act, the decision had to be made by the Niyamgiri villagers themselves.

A series of gram sabhas (village assemblies) in 12 villages in 2013 made it clear that the people did not want the mine to go ahead – and the Supreme Court backed them.

“That was another turning point because it showed that this whole issue of consent can actually be taken seriously,” Bhalla says.


However, she’s concerned a new piece of Indian legislation threatens to undermine the recent gains for women and indigenous people.

The Compensatory Afforestation, Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Bill, introduced in July 2016, could shift power back to the central government, Bhalla says.

“It’s basically in direct conflict with some of the content in the Forest Rights Act, in particular getting consent from local people through the forest committees,” she says.

“So it’s really problematic – let’s say a group has community rights in their village, but under this new bill, the Forests Department can waltz in and undertake planting projects wherever they want.”

“I’m worried about what is going to happen. Nobody knows yet what the scale of its consequences will be.”

* Disclaimer: To protect the identity of individuals, names has been changed.

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