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  • Bridging molecular genetics and participatory research: how access and benefit-sharing stimulate interdisciplinary research for tropical biology and conservation

Bridging molecular genetics and participatory research: how access and benefit-sharing stimulate interdisciplinary research for tropical biology and conservation


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Molecular genetics research can benefit efforts to conserve the genetic diversity of tropical plant species. Clear and efficient procedures are needed to access DNA samples, while respecting tropical countries’ and local communities’ rights on genetic resource usage. The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing, which took effect in 2014, provides an opportunity to establish such procedures. However, scientists are concerned that its emphasis on monetary gains restricts research focused on scientific, societal, and environmental benefits. Despite much political and scientific debate, few concrete cases have demonstrated the practical functioning of the Nagoya Protocol. This paper describes the first application of the Protocol in Guatemala, where it was used to grant permission to a non-commercial study on gene flow in mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King) populations in the Maya Biosphere Reserve of Petén. On the basis of this study, we discuss five strategies to enhance the application of molecular genetics to conservation biology under the Nagoya Protocol: (1) generate short and standardized procedures; (2) enable science communication; (3) cultivate a common understanding between users, providers, and potential beneficiaries; (4) involve local research and practitioner organizations; and (5) integrate participatory research. Positive societal views on the application of molecular genetics to conservation biology generate further support for work in this discipline and promote adoption of research results for the conservation of genetic diversity of tropical plant species.


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  • Community concessions bring newfound hope for forest conservation and socioeconomic development

Community concessions bring newfound hope for forest conservation and socioeconomic development


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Men in a community forest enterprise in Petén, Guatemala, involved in milling precious woods. Photo by D.Stoian/Bioversity International
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Men in a community forest enterprise in Petén, Guatemala, involved in milling precious woods. Photo by D. Stoian/Bioversity International

Recent findings evidenced that when forests are in the hands of local communities, governance, conservation and livelihoods improve.

Reform advocates claim that local communities are better stewards of forests than the state, particularly in settings where understaffing and other limitations do not allow government agencies to live up to their mandate.

There is increasing evidence that the devolution of rights to forest communities leads to a decrease in deforestation rates, better protection of biodiversity, and significant livelihood benefits of community members, especially if linked to the development of community forest enterprises.

Bioversity International and partners are contributing to this evidence base through large-scale socioeconomic surveys in the Petén region of Guatemala where 25-year forest concessions have been granted to the communities in the late 1990s.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Dietmar Stoian of Bioversity International, who has led this research since 2014 says: “For the first time there is a complete socioeconomic data set across the nine active concessions, which show that, if carefully managed, the community concessions allow local people to move out of poverty while conserving the forest and its inherent biodiversity.”

“While we observe significant variation across and within the concessions, community stewardship of the forest resources has proven to be a viable model for forest conservation and livelihoods development,” he adds.

Members of a community forest enterprise grade leaves of the Chamaedorea palm for export. Photo by D. Stoian/Bioversity International

As the community concessions need to undergo renewal over the next few years, Bioversity International, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Asociación de Comunidades Forestales de Petén (ACOFOP) — the umbrella organization of forest communities in the Petén — organized a workshop in September.

Over 40 researchers, practitioners, and policy makers, attended the workshop to take stock of existing evidence of the concessions’ environmental and socioeconomic performance and to discuss options going forward.

CIFOR scientist Steven Lawry explained in an interview with Forests News that the approach has produced positive results: “Deforestation rates within the concessions are markedly lower than in surrounding areas. Employment has increased, and community members receive dividends from timber sales.”

What is more, the resident forest communities are now able to make an income also from regulated hunting, collecting non-timber forest products, farming, and working off-farm. The diversification of their income sources contributes to their improved livelihoods by providing greater stability and food security.

“The community forest concession model has informed other ongoing processes for rights devolution in forest regions,” said Iliana Monterroso, co-organizer of the workshop on behalf of CIFOR. In fact, Indonesia, China and Colombia are looking at how the forest concession model might benefit their countries.

Originally published on the website of Bioversity International.


This research has been supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) with funding by the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC). It is part of the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. We thank ADA and ADC for their funding and all donors who support PIM and FTA through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.


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  • Community concessions bring newfound hope for forest conservation and socioeconomic development

Community concessions bring newfound hope for forest conservation and socioeconomic development


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Men in a community forest enterprise in Petén, Guatemala, involved in milling precious woods. Photo by D.Stoian/Bioversity International
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Men in a community forest enterprise in Petén, Guatemala, involved in milling precious woods. Photo by D. Stoian/Bioversity International

Recent findings evidenced that when forests are in the hands of local communities, governance, conservation and livelihoods improve.

Reform advocates claim that local communities are better stewards of forests than the state, particularly in settings where understaffing and other limitations do not allow government agencies to live up to their mandate.

There is increasing evidence that the devolution of rights to forest communities leads to a decrease in deforestation rates, better protection of biodiversity, and significant livelihood benefits of community members, especially if linked to the development of community forest enterprises.

Bioversity International and partners are contributing to this evidence base through large-scale socioeconomic surveys in the Petén region of Guatemala where 25-year forest concessions have been granted to the communities in the late 1990s.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Dietmar Stoian of Bioversity International, who has led this research since 2014 says: “For the first time there is a complete socioeconomic data set across the nine active concessions, which show that, if carefully managed, the community concessions allow local people to move out of poverty while conserving the forest and its inherent biodiversity.”

“While we observe significant variation across and within the concessions, community stewardship of the forest resources has proven to be a viable model for forest conservation and livelihoods development,” he adds.

Members of a community forest enterprise grade leaves of the Chamaedorea palm for export. Photo by D. Stoian/Bioversity International

As the community concessions need to undergo renewal over the next few years, Bioversity International, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Asociación de Comunidades Forestales de Petén (ACOFOP) — the umbrella organization of forest communities in the Petén — organized a workshop in September.

Over 40 researchers, practitioners, and policy makers, attended the workshop to take stock of existing evidence of the concessions’ environmental and socioeconomic performance and to discuss options going forward.

CIFOR scientist Steven Lawry explained in an interview with Forests News that the approach has produced positive results: “Deforestation rates within the concessions are markedly lower than in surrounding areas. Employment has increased, and community members receive dividends from timber sales.”

What is more, the resident forest communities are now able to make an income also from regulated hunting, collecting non-timber forest products, farming, and working off-farm. The diversification of their income sources contributes to their improved livelihoods by providing greater stability and food security.

“The community forest concession model has informed other ongoing processes for rights devolution in forest regions,” said Iliana Monterroso, co-organizer of the workshop on behalf of CIFOR. In fact, Indonesia, China and Colombia are looking at how the forest concession model might benefit their countries.

Originally published on the website of Bioversity International.


This research has been supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) with funding by the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC). It is part of the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. We thank ADA and ADC for their funding and all donors who support PIM and FTA through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.


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  • The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil


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A worker collects oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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A worker collects oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding a way forward for profits, people and the planet.

The polemic around the expansion of oil palm plantations in the tropics continues, and increasingly involves consumers concerned with sustainability. At the core of the debate is the matter of hard trade-offs between conservation and development. Reconciling such trade-offs is still the major challenge facing governments and companies.

Available evidence suggests that palm oil production has contradictory impacts. It has positive impacts on both local and national economic growth, and in alleviating rural poverty. Yet plantations also drive social conflict in their development, and bring detriment to forests and peatlands as they expand, leading to negative impacts due to biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The palm oil sector suffers from three performance issues, namely: land conflicts between local villagers and companies as well as immigrants, differences in yields between independent smallholders and industrial plantations, and a large carbon debt resulting from oil palm expansion into forestlands and peatlands. The challenge now is to find a way to ensure sustainable palm oil supply chains, in order to sustain economic gains while supporting conservation and climate action.

Employees drive to work on a plantation. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

AIMING FOR CHANGE

Efforts are being made by governments, companies and civil society organizations on different fronts and at different levels to enhance the palm oil sector’s performance. Commitments to sustainability made by major palm oil companies have been accompanied by a more aggressive sustainability discourse by governments, and many civil society organizations have begun to play a new role as facilitators in the implementation of standards by companies, or as intermediaries between private and public actors.

In Indonesia, the previous government made important efforts to respond to the global climate change agenda, resulting in a moratorium on new licenses to develop primary forest or peatlands, which unfortunately in practice had limited impacts on reducing deforestation. The major corporate groups, through the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) brought some new perspectives to halting deforestation through supply chain interventions, yet interestingly that triggered a strong political response from the government on the primacy of state regulations.

Two new fronts have since emerged. On one front, efforts are being made to enhance mandatory standards for sustainability by strengthening Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification, accompanied by regulations on peatland intervention and restoration. On another front are efforts to safeguard the economic performance of the palm oil sector by expanding the domestic biodiesel market and applying subsidies to incentivize less competitive biodiesel production. In spite of strong arguments being made in favor of a social agenda, investments to support smallholders remain minimal.

An interesting turn of events has been the approval of an EU resolution suggesting that stronger constraints should apply to palm oil imports. This is not necessarily an opinion shared by some actors in Indonesia, who emphasize the importance of relying on national regulations. Signals have emerged that the government will be making the necessary steps to more fully embrace a sustainability framework. So far, the instrument for that seems to be a strengthened ISPO, with independent oversight. However, questions remain over the likely implementation costs, and institutional readiness at the local level.

Read also: Sustainable Palm Oil Production project synthesis: Understanding and anticipating global challenges

A young woman carries a bucket of harvested oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

WHOSE SUSTAINABILITY?

The dispute over which rules to follow, whether it be international private sustainability standards and/or methods toward zero deforestation, or mandatory national standards has brought to light competing notions of sustainability, how to achieve progress, and who should be taking the lead.

A policy network analysis of the palm oil sector in Indonesia suggests that standards and initiatives for sustainability have contrasting visibility and impact among stakeholders, for example among governments, the corporate sector and NGOs. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), stands as a reference, while efforts by the Indonesian government to promote its own standard with ISPO have yet to gain traction. Hopes remain that it could benefit from an emerging multi-stakeholder group.

Overall, the lack of progress in the uptake of sustainable palm oil practices on the ground, in the view of different stakeholders, appears to be caused more by political and legal barriers than by technical challenges or concerns for economic losses. The fact is that the palm oil sector, particularly in relation to land allocation and regulatory controls, is dominated by a complex and ambiguous layer of regulations. When we add vested local interests in profiting from plantation expansion, we are left with a difficult puzzle indeed.

The situation also calls for increased efforts to enforce regional initiatives on High Conservation Value (HCV) assessments to guide decisions on land-use planning, as well as efforts to support smallholders within wider landscapes. This is all the more important when considering proposals for limiting the expansion of concessions across the country without addressing existing concessions (‘land banks’) that are partially covered by standing natural forests, and placing little regulatory control on the additional pressures of smallholders on forest conversion.

A young man uses a contraption to harvest fruit from the oil palms. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Clearly, improvements are needed in communication and transparency among stakeholders, not only to raise the bar of sustainability beyond existing ISPO requirements and to provide a more conducive environment for corporate commitments, but also to enhance the rule of law and improve governance. Legality and law enforcement are absolute prerequisites for cleaning the sector of its worst players and practices.

THE COMPLEXITIES OF PALM OIL GOVERNANCE

Governance of the palm oil sector is becoming more complex over time. In addition to national regulations, it involves a transnational regime in the form of RSPO standards, which are widely accepted by the private sector as the benchmark criteria for sustainability, at least by players downstream the supply chain. Different initiatives by financial institutions and governments in consumer countries, grouped under the Amsterdam Declaration, as well the industry-led European Sustainable Palm Oil initiative (ESPO), are endorsing RSPO as a way to ensure uptake of sustainable practices.

Major corporate groups have also adopted individual and collective commitments to sustainability. Some of these commitments rely on RSPO as the privileged system to demonstrate achievements. Commitments to zero deforestation tend to make explicit their own criteria, targets and timeframes, which in some cases are rather ambiguous. In the palm oil sector, they often make use of High Carbon Stocks (HCS) as the approach to identifying forests to be protected.

As mentioned, the Indonesian government has embarked on a mission of strengthening ISPO, which originally emerged as a bundle of existing public regulations on palm oil production grouped under one instrument. However, doubts over ISPO’s effectiveness and slow implementation have forced the government to put in place a process to improve the scheme’s legitimacy, such as by drawing on a multi-stakeholder group, and conducting an ongoing consultation process to overcome the main design shortcomings. Much of the credibility of ISPO will nonetheless rely on how far it manages to closes the gaps with RSPO, particularly with regards to HCV and FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent).

Due to the growing complexity of palm oil governance, what we have now are three simultaneous processes for moving toward sustainable palm oil that intersect, but in different ways. One is interested in “sustainable supply”, triggered by RSPO, another is interested in “clean supply”, motivated by private commitments to zero deforestation, and the third aims to achieve “legal supply”, supported by government through a strengthened ISPO. This creates some confusion, and it is not clear what the implications are of each on the move toward sustainability.

Read also: What will it take to make sustainable palm oil the norm?

Bunches of oil palm fruit await transportation in a wheelbarrow. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

THE CHALLENGE OF INCLUDING SMALLHOLDERS

In this order of things, many independent oil palm smallholders are threatened with becoming alienated from formal markets because they lack the technical capacity and/or resources to comply with public and private sustainability standards. Thus, a major challenge is to find ways to improve conditions for smallholders in accessing finance and technical services.

Since resolving compliance barriers will require targeted interventions, it is becoming increasingly important to better understand the types of barriers faced by different types of smallholders. Research conducted in Riau, and in Central and West Kalimantan, highlights the sustainability, legality and productivity challenges arising from independent smallholder oil palm expansion. Gendered impacts of oil palm development also deserve special consideration, given the additional burden on women.

Understanding who smallholders are is important, since it has become the case that frontier expansion is often driven by larger, out-of-province and absentee farmers who engage in oil palm for investment purposes, rather than by smaller farmers (for example, with plots less than three hectares in area) who are dependent primarily on household labor. Some of this expansion is associated with land speculation, as a way to appropriate economic rents under the expectation of a future increase in the commercial value of cleared lands.

Tenure legality issues – faced especially by smallholders whose oil palm operations more closely resemble that of businesses – constitute the most significant compliance challenge. There is an ongoing debate over how to deal with illegality and to channel financial resources and technical support, not only to regulate oil palm expansion, but to enhance the performance of smallholders.

ADDRESSING CRITICAL CHALLENGES

Different and complementary initiatives are emerging to address performance issues in the sector. These embrace three broad objectives, namely: to implement traceability systems while overcoming challenges to involve smallholders; to refine and harmonize sustainability standards and tools; and to reconcile supply chain and landscape management approaches.

Enhancing traceability and smallholder inclusion

Major corporate groups in the palm oil sector are developing traceability systems to monitor and verify their performance with respect to their commitments to zero deforestation. Given the challenges to smallholder inclusion in this context, a number of companies and NGOs are collaborating to develop new business models and value chain strategies to support the inclusion of smallholders and enhance their compliance capacity. This is a work in progress.

Refining and harmonizing sustainability standards and tools

The most relevant process in this regard has been the HCS Convergence Agreement, which harmonizes methodologies to estimate high carbon stocks, and complements HCV with HCS. Other ongoing initiatives include RSPO Next, which is a set of advanced, add-on criteria for palm-oil growers seeking to comply with the aims of “no deforestation, no fire, no planting on peat, reduction of GHGs, and respect for human rights and transparency”, as well as efforts to strengthen ISPO. A major issue is how to implement on-the-ground standards that are increasingly demanding technically, and for which there are no institutional conditions, such as legality.

Reconciling supply chain interventions and landscape management

The private sector and NGOs are increasingly acknowledging that progress will only be piecemeal if underlying structural issues affecting the palm oil sector are not comprehensively addressed. Supporting efforts in specific jurisdictions to identify and register smallholder lands, and to promote district-level monitoring, reporting and verification of land-use change, are being undertaken as part of wider jurisdictional-based initiatives, emerging as a way to scale up innovations and solutions. These approaches may have potential, but have yet to prove their effectiveness.

Watch: Sustainable development of Cameroon’s palm oil

Workers take before fertilizing the next line of trees. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

LIKELY FUTURES OF OIL PALM EXPANSION

Different futures are possible for oil palm expansion, with diverse consequences for development and conservation and their trade-offs. All depends on how far the government and the private sector will go in embracing their sustainability policies, and how effectively they are implemented and monitored.

The most likely scenarios are: 1) a business-as-usual scenario, in which oil palm plantations continue to expand at the current rate; 2) a moratorium scenario, in which the government applies increasing constraints to development on primary and secondary forests and peatlands; 3) a zero-deforestation scenario, in which deforestation is completely stopped in oil palm concessions; and 4) a sustainable intensification scenario, in which expansion continues on suitable lands, with greater social inclusion.

Emerging findings from scenario analysis in Central Kalimantan, when looking at the impacts of oil palm expansion on ecosystem services (comprising carbon stock and storage, habitat quality, water yield and palm oil production), suggest that the zero-deforestation scenario is the most desirable option. This scenario, however, requires a review of the forest moratorium that should encompass all forest types, as well as a clear land-use policy, strategy and detailed land-use plan involving all jurisdictions and stakeholders. The next most desirable scenario is sustainable intensification that would avoid the release of carbon, while continuing to contribute to increased palm oil supply resulting from enhanced yields.

When looking at Indonesia as a whole, scenario research suggests that zero-deforestation commitments and the moratorium on large-scale oil palm plantation expansion could reduce deforestation by 25% and 28%, respectively. These measures could also cut GHG emissions from land-use change by 13% and 16%, respectively, over the period 2010–2030. Even under the zero-deforestation and moratorium scenarios, Indonesia is projected to increase palm oil supply between 97% to 124% over 2010–2030, partly due to higher production originating from smallholders. Both measures – zero-deforestation commitments and a moratorium on large-scale expansion – would limit future deforestation in Indonesia, while maintaining the country’s leading role in the global palm oil market.

Foresight analysis is key in the debate on sustainable palm oil development. It can provide data and information to allow for evidence-based policy making. Public and private decision-makers, and multi-stakeholder initiatives should pay more attention to likely futures analysis to guide their decisions on action to reduce deforestation and GHG emissions, while finding options to improve productivity, legality and inclusion in the palm oil sector, with solutions that are acceptable to all stakeholders, and the wider society.

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

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


This research is supported by USAID funding for CIFOR’s Governing Oil Palm Landscapes for Sustainability (GOLS) project, and this work is partly funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development KNOWFOR Program Grant to CIFOR.

This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is funded by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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  • Tropical fruit tree diversity: Good practices for in situ and on-farm conservation

Tropical fruit tree diversity: Good practices for in situ and on-farm conservation


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Farmers have developed a range of agricultural practices to sustainably use and maintain a wide diversity of crop species in many parts of the world. This book documents good practices innovated by farmers and collects key reviews on good practices from global experts, not only from the case study countries but also from Brazil, China and other parts of Asia and Latin America.

A good practice for diversity is defined as a system, organization or process that, over time and space, maintains, enhances and creates crop genetic diversity, and ensures its availability to and from farmers and other users. Drawing on experiences from a UNEP-GEF project on “Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wild and Cultivated Tropical Fruit Tree Diversity for Promoting Livelihoods, Food Security and Ecosystem Services”, with case studies from India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, the authors show how methods for identifying good practices are still evolving and challenges in scaling-up remain.

They identify key principles effective as a strategy for mainstreaming good practice into development efforts. Few books draw principles and lessons learned from good practices. This book fills this gap by combining good practices from the research project on tropical fruit trees with chapters from external experts to broaden its scope and relevance.


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  • More than putting a price tag on the planet

More than putting a price tag on the planet


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Putting a price tag on nature, really? Photo: Terry Sunderland/CIFOR
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Putting a price tag on nature, really? Photo: Terry Sunderland/CIFOR

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

How do we calculate the worth of nature? What carries the highest value: the habitat of an endangered species, a local community’s traditional landscape, or a nation’s income from, say, timber exports?

Questions like these are what a team of researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partner institutions grappled with in their latest study.

The study makes the case for a ‘new school’ of ecosystem valuation practice that allows for the weighing of multiple values in making land-use decisions.

“Ecosystem valuation can be difficult and controversial, and classical economists have often been criticized for trying to put a price tag on nature,” says Dr. Sander Jacobs, a researcher at the Research Institute for Nature and Forest and a lead author of the study.

Jacobs says one of the issues is that when people talk about valuation, they usually think about money. But in ecological economics, the word takes on a much broader meaning.

“Valuing is what we all do, all the time, when making choices,” says Jacobs.

“Valuation in the broad sense is about assigning importance, and in an ecosystem context this means looking at how people value their environment – not only economically but also socially, culturally and ecologically.”

As the world responds to the challenges of climate change, and awareness grows about its severe social and environmental impacts, there is an urgent need to integrate nature’s diverse values more comprehensively and transparently in decisions and actions.

“Agencies in charge of protecting and managing natural resources must often make difficult decisions on land and resource use,” says Jacobs.

“Sometimes environmental and human needs can co-exist, but often there are trade-offs and leaving certain values out of such decisions can have a devastating impact on everyone.”

A timber yard with wood from the amazon, Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Tomas Munita for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

MORE THAN MONETARY VALUE

For decades, there has been strong scientific debate between monetary and non-monetary schools of ecosystem valuation. In order to tackle current global challenges, a growing group of researchers argues that a new approach is needed – one that will balance ecological, socio-cultural and economic concerns, leading to better-informed and fairer decision making.

“We need a new culture, a new take on valuation,” says Jacobs.

“Everyone knows the main approach we have followed is a monetary approach, mainly because there are a lot of tools and methods for this, and there are a lot of economists around. But when confronted with real-life practice, a single-method approach is shown to be flawed. We found that what is needed is a new valuation school that takes a cohesive, inclusive approach, rather than pitching one [method] against the other.”

“We need decision makers to see the economic information and then say, ‘Interesting, but now I also need the social and ecological data to make a full evaluation,’” he adds. “And when you look at the reality – the real-life context where decisions are being made – decision makers are taking into account different values. They just need the balanced information.”


AN APPROACH THAT WORKS

The researchers based their findings on more than two dozen valuation studies, covering subjects ranging from urban planning in France to impacts of fracking in Australia and social struggles in environmental conflicts in Colombia. These were presented together with the complete valuation school study in a special issue of the journal Ecosystem Services, complemented by theoretical underpinnings on valuation and a twin issue on shared values.

A key lesson drawn from the studies is that an integrated valuation approach is more widely accepted by decision makers, while a single-valuation approach – scientifically elegant as it might be – is often disputed, discarded, or simply ignored in practice.

Recent policy initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which assesses the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides to society, were also considered in the study and found to take an integrated valuation approach that achieves positive results.

“What’s exciting about IPBES is that this is a politically legitimate assessment: governments, NGOs and indigenous people are all represented, and they agree on important conclusions,” says Jacobs.

“So this sends a strong message. For example, while scientists and NGOs already knew pesticides were hurting our bees, through IPBES it became a political fact that could leverage actions and can have a major impact on future policy decisions.”

IPBES is championing an integrated valuation approach in its global assessment on the values of nature, which will take into account these studies, as well as others being conducted around the world.

The IPBES assessment takes into account three ‘value dimensions’: the value of nature itself, regardless of its use to humankind; nature’s contributions to humankind; and the high quality of life that our relations with nature provide.

“It’s important that knowledge gaps in these three areas are filled,” says Jacobs. “But it is great to see that these concepts are being worked on and can be integrated into high-level policy documents.”

NO SILVER BULLET

The study states that in order to have an impact beyond academic theorizing, ecosystem valuation researchers need to learn from real-world application of valuation methods, sharing successes and failures, and actively tailoring research processes to fit with reality on the ground.

“Of course, there are no silver bullets,” says Jacobs. “Scientists like to present them, but they don’t exist. We will have to adapt the methods to every single context, and this is a key message. There is no perfect template.”

In the end, he says, researchers need to ask themselves: ‘Who am I doing this research for, what will it be used for, and who will be impacted?’ To this end, researchers must be careful to include in their research the values of the entire range of stakeholders, particularly those at risk of being under-represented in decision-making processes.

“Valuation scientists need to go to the field and see the reality for themselves before even thinking about what method or expertise is needed. We need to involve all value dimensions and consider each one to inform decisions,” says Jacobs.

“We, as scientists, need to go beyond the theoretical. We need to solve real problems.”

For more information on this topic, please contact Sander Jacobs at sander.jacobs@inbo.be.
This research was supported by the Openness FP7 Project

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  • An environmental balancing act

An environmental balancing act


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How can we reconcile conservation and food security? Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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Awareness in the importance of the landscape approach is growing. Photo: Kate Evans/CIFOR

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

As we embark on a new year in 2017, what critical social and environmental issues are we facing?

For one, some 800 million people still go to bed hungry every night – mostly in developing countries. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. When it comes to global poverty, nearly 900 million people survive on less than $1.90 USD per day. What’s more, our natural habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate due mainly to agricultural expansion in what has been termed the ‘sixth mass extinction’.

But it’s not all a doomsday scenario. While significant challenges still persist, progress has also been made. For instance, the United Nations estimates that since 1990, more than one billion people have been lifted out of poverty. Additionally, the number of undernourished people has been halved.

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL

So how do we ensure that those most in need attain food security while we protect our environment from the ravages of climate change?

Landscape approaches seek to provide tools and concepts on how to best manage land in order to achieve a balance between social, economic and environmental goals. They are also seen as the way to achieve the Aichi targets of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity that aim to develop national strategies in 193 countries for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

Experts from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), along with partner institutions, examined how landscape approaches can help overcome major challenges in a new study. What they found was a major gap in the way these approaches have been implemented.


“Landscape approaches should be long-term commitments implemented across broad scales (processes, not projects) and this contradicts the current models of policy, research, and donor funding,” said James Reed, a landscape and food system researcher at CIFOR.

Reed says that overlaps between landscape approach philosophies, the Aichi targets, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should, in theory, provide a convincing case for donors, policymakers, and researchers to commit to well-funded and well-designed long-term, large-scale landscape initiatives.
How can we reconcile conservation and food security? Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

STAYING ON TRACK

Since we are talking about vast landscapes that range from remote frozen tundras to arid deserts and tropical forests – how do we ensure that what we do works?

The study stressed the need for more research on better monitoring and data collection to ensure targets are being met, and to provide a strong evidence base to track the effectiveness of various landscape approaches. This includes a well thought out ‘Theory of Change’ which includes planning, participation and evaluation components.

“A fully considered landscape approach must be underpinned by the rigorous development of a ‘Theory of Change’ model supported by metrics to measure progress along impact pathways,” said Reed.

Researchers also found that if agencies are unable to provide the required investments to measure their effectiveness, they should recognize that what they are doing cannot be accurately described as a landscape approach.

One way to make sure a specific landscape approach is working is to integrate ‘citizen science‘. By engaging the community in scientific research, we can more effectively monitor how well these landscape approaches are working and identify any major challenges.

“In order to develop long-term commitment beyond the duration of project funding, initiatives need to be locally embedded, enhance local capacity, and encourage empowerment of previously marginalized groups. Done effectively, participatory monitoring offers a way to engage local stakeholders and enable them to evaluate progress towards goals that they themselves helped to establish,” said Reed.

THE BIG PICTURE

However, it is vital that everyone involved in the landscape approach is fully onboard. Reed says one of the major challenges is making sure there is greater political will and that all stakeholders are fully engaged. He says that everyone involved needs to have a clear outline and know what the expectations are. He also stresses the need for all stakeholders to take a flexible approach that works on the ground.

“It is important not to try to promote prescriptive approaches and instead understand that the specific situation within the landscape will often best dictate which strategies are likely to be more effective,” said Reed.

The study shows that it is vital that any implementing agency also looks for ways to provide incentives while providing alternative livelihood strategies for vulnerable groups. Looking at how donor agencies and programs are developed, research indicates that there is a real need to break down sectorial barriers across policy, research and practice.

“Often, sector-specific aims will contradict and negatively impact the objectives of other sectors within the landscape. A more holistic approach will attempt to identify where synergies and trade-offs occur within the landscape and act upon those accordingly,” said Reed.

JUST DO IT

To find ways to improve human well-being while at the same time maintaining and restoring the natural resource base upon which future societies will depend on is not an easy task. But that shouldn’t hinder actors from taking the first step.

“We don’t really need a checklist for success, just working towards these goals will be sufficient to make a start. We need to acknowledge the complexity and have an understanding that there is no blueprint for landscape approaches,” said Reed.

“It will often be a case of muddling through, using trial and error approaches, learning from mistakes, adapting governance over time and, with that, we can move forward” he added.

For more information on this topic, please contact James Reed at j.reed@cgiar.org or 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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  • Beyond opportunity costs: who bears the implementation costs of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation?

Beyond opportunity costs: who bears the implementation costs of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation?


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Authors: Luttrell, C.; Sills, E.O.; Aryani, R.; Ekaputri, A.D.; Evnike, M.F.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) in developing countries is based on the premise that conserving tropical forests is a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and therefore can be fully funded by international actors with obligations or interests in reducing emissions. However, concerns have repeatedly been raised about whether stakeholders in REDD+ host countries will actually end up bearing the costs of REDD+. Most prior analyses of the costs of REDD+ have focused on the opportunity costs of foregone alternative uses of forest land. We draw on a pan-tropical study of 22 subnational REDD+ initiatives in five countries to explore patterns in implementation costs, including which types of organizations are involved and which are sharing the costs of implementing REDD+. We find that many organizations involved in the implementation of REDD+, particularly at the subnational level and in the public sector, are bearing implementation costs not covered by the budgets of the REDD+ initiatives. To sustain this level of cost-sharing, REDD+ must be designed to deliver local as well as global forest benefits.

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 1381-2386

Source: Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change

DOI: 10.1007/s11027-016-9736-6


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  • Valuing the Cameroonian Forest: Special Issue

Valuing the Cameroonian Forest: Special Issue


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  • Can conservation funding be left to carbon finance? Evidence from participatory future land use scenarios in Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico

Can conservation funding be left to carbon finance? Evidence from participatory future land use scenarios in Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico


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Authors: Ravikumar, A.; Larjavaara, M.; Larson, A.M.; Kanninen, M.

Revenues derived from carbon have been seen as an important tool for supporting forest conservation over the past decade. At the same time, there is high uncertainty about how much revenue can reasonably be expected from land use emissions reductions initiatives. Despite this uncertainty, REDD+ projects and conservation initiatives that aim to take advantage of available or, more commonly, future funding from carbon markets have proliferated. This study used participatory multi-stakeholder workshops to develop divergent future scenarios of land use in eight landscapes in four countries around the world: Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico. The results of these future scenario building exercises were analyzed using a new tool, CarboScen, for calculating the landscape carbon storage implications of different future land use scenarios. The findings suggest that potential revenues from carbon storage or emissions reductions are significant in some landscapes (most notably the peat forests of Indonesia), and much less significant in others (such as the low-carbon forests of Zanzibar and the interior of Tanzania). The findings call into question the practicality of many conservation programs that hinge on expectations of future revenue from carbon finance. The future scenarios-based approach is useful to policy-makers and conservation program developers in distinguishing between landscapes where carbon finance can substantially support conservation, and landscapes where other strategies for conservation and land use should be prioritized.

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 1748-9326

Source: Environmental Research Letters 12: 014015

DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa5509


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  • How effective are tropical forest conservation policies?

How effective are tropical forest conservation policies?


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Aerial view of a mangrove forest in Jaring Halus, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by: M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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Aerial view of a mangrove forest in Jaring Halus, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by: M. Edliadi/CIFOR
Aerial view of a mangrove forest in Jaring Halus, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by: M. Edliadi/CIFOR

By Sven Wunder and Jan Börner, originally posted at CIFOR’s Forests News

Numerous types of forest conservation policies are being implemented in the tropics today. Alongside traditional instruments like protected areas, other initiatives including development programs, certification schemes and payments for environmental services (PES) are also being carried out.

Yet rigorously-quantified knowledge about what works and what does not work remains highly-fragmented, especially for incentive-based tools.

A new collection of studies that evaluate the effectiveness of tropical forest conservation policies attempt to change this. Scientists compiled new evidence and insights from 13 evaluation studies of forest conservation initiatives covering eight countries across four continents. Considering how scarce the current evidence base is, this new research provides innovative food for thought.

Conservation effects were calculated in terms of annual forest cover change. Four studies in the collection looked at the effectiveness of protected areas in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Indonesia. They showed incremental conservation effects in the range of 0.08 percent to 0.59 percent per year.

In the most effective protected areas (in this case the Brazilian Amazon), almost 6 percent more forest cover would be safeguarded in comparison to unprotected land in the span of just one decade. In the case of the least effective protected areas (in this case Indonesia), just 0.8 percent more forest cover would be preserved over a 10-year period.


Three additional studies from Brazil measured the effectiveness of other command-and-control policy tools within the mix of instruments that have jointly helped reduce Amazonian deforestation by more than two-thirds since 2004.

Forest law enforcement was found to reduce annual forest loss by 0.13 percent and 0.29 percent respectively. Meanwhile, a jurisdictional conservation approach that involved budgetary incentives with local governments in the Eastern Amazon contributed to reducing deforestation rates in some, but not all, years studied.

Kalimantan drawing of the future: his child foresees the forests of their area replaced by large-scale development of agriculture and roads. Photo by Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Kalimantan drawing of the future: his child foresees the forests of their area replaced by large-scale development of agriculture and roads. Photo by Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

EVALUATING INCENTIVE-BASED CONSERVATION

The research collection also examines incentive-based approaches to conservation by looking at two PES schemes in Costa Rica and Mexico.

The Costa Rican program exhibited intermediate forest conservation effects of 0.32 percent per year, whereas the sub-national Mexican scheme boasted a strong 2.91 percent annual conservation increment. The long-term effects of PES were evaluated by a study on a sub-national payment scheme in Colombia where impacts were almost entirely maintained even after the program ended. Thus, where a previous meta-study had mostly found low environmental impacts from PES schemes, these new studies paint a somewhat rosier picture.

The overall largest forest conservation impact (4.56 percent annually) among incentive tools was measured when comparing forest cover changes between certified and non-certified timber concessions in Indonesia.

CONSERVATION AND LIVELIHOODS

Three studies featured in the research collection also examined the socioeconomic and development impacts of forest conservation policies. PES in Costa Rica were found to be welfare-neutral, whereas community-based forest management initiatives in Tanzania and Namibia exhibited significant positive effects on health and educational outcomes.

Apart from providing empirical evidence on the effectiveness of forest conservation policies, the research collection also features methodological contributions that focus on the challenges involved in evaluating area-based policy interventions and PES programs.

What works and what does not in forest conservation is more than a question of choice between policy instruments. Both instrument design and the implementation context matter significantly.

It is possible to design and roll out effective tropical conservation policies that do not hurt the welfare of rural populations. Effective conservation is not merely about choosing the right policy tool. It is just as much about identifying the adequate policy mix, and designing customized interventions that fit local and regional contexts.

To learn more from conservation impact evaluation in the future, we need more innovative studies that go beyond average treatment effects to link variable performance in space and time to variations in instrument design and in underlying environmental pressures.

For more information on this topic, please contact Sven Wunder at s.wunder@cgiar.org or Jan Börner at jborner@uni-bonn.de.
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • Measuring the effectiveness of landscape approaches to conservation and development

Measuring the effectiveness of landscape approaches to conservation and development


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Authors: Sayer, J.A.; Margules, C.; Boedhihartono, A.K.; Sunderland, T.C.H.; Langston, J.D.; Reed, J.; Riggs, R.; Buck, L.E.; Campbell, B.M.; Kusters, K.; Elliott, C.; Minang, P.A.; Dale, A.; Purnomo, H.; Stevenson, J.R.; Gunarso, P.; Purnomo, A.

Landscape approaches attempt to achieve balance amongst multiple goals over long time periods and to adapt to changing conditions. We review project reports and the literature on integrated landscape approaches, and found a lack of documented studies of their long-term effectiveness. The combination of multiple and potentially changing goals presents problems for the conventional measures of impact. We propose more critical use of theories of change and measures of process and progress to complement the conventional impact assessments. Theories of change make the links between project deliverables, outputs, outcomes, and impacts explicit, and allow a full exploration of the landscape context. Landscape approaches are long-term engagements, but short-term process metrics are needed to confirm that progress is being made in negotiation of goals, meaningful stakeholder engagement, existence of connections to policy processes, and effectiveness of governance. Long-term impact metrics are needed to assess progress on achieving landscapes that deliver multiple societal benefits, including conservation, production, and livelihood benefits. Generic criteria for process are proposed, but impact metrics will be highly situation specific and must be derived from an effective process and a credible theory of change.

Pages: 12p.

Publication Year: 2016

ISSN: 1862-4065

Source: Sustainability Science

DOI: 10.1007/s11625-016-0415-z

Source: CIFOR’s library


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  • Using indigenous knowledge to link hyper-temporal land cover mapping with land use in the Venezuelan Amazon: “The Forest Pulse”

Using indigenous knowledge to link hyper-temporal land cover mapping with land use in the Venezuelan Amazon: “The Forest Pulse”


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Authors: Olivero, J.; Ferri, F.; Acevedo, P.; Lobo, J.M.; Fa, J.E.; Farfán, M.A.; Romero, D.; Blanco, G.; Real, R.

Remote sensing and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) can be combined to advance conservation of remote tropical regions, e.g. Amazonia, where intensive in situ surveys are often not possible. Integrating TEK into monitoring and management of these areas allows for community participation, as well as for offering novel insights into sustainable resource use. In this study, we developed a 250-m-resolution land-cover map of the western Guyana Shield (Venezuela) based on remote sensing, and used TEK to validate its relevance for indigenous livelihoods and land uses. We first employed a hyper-temporal remotely sensed vegetation index to derive a land classification system. During a 1,300-km, 8-day fluvial expedition in roadless areas in the Amazonas State (Venezuela), we visited six indigenous communities who provided geo-referenced data on hunting, fishing and farming activities. We overlaid these TEK data onto the land classification map, to link land classes with indigenous use. Several classes were significantly connected with agriculture, fishing, overall hunting, and more specifically the hunting of primates, red brocket deer, black agouti, and white-lipped peccary. We then characterized land classes using greenness and topo-hydrological information, and proposed 12 land-cover types, grouped into five main landscapes: 1) water bodies; 2) open lands/forest edges; 3) evergreen forests; 4) submontane semideciduous forests, and 5) cloud forests. Our results show that TEK-based approaches can serve as a basis for validating the livelihood relevance of landscapes in high-value conservation areas, which can form the basis for furthering the management of natural resources in these regions

Publication Year: 2016

ISSN: 0034-7744

Source: Revista de Biología Tropical 64(4): 1661-1682

DOI: 10.15517/rbt.v64i4.21886


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  • Eating and conserving bushmeat in Africa

Eating and conserving bushmeat in Africa


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Authors: Wilkie, D.S.; Wieland, M.; Boulet, H.; Le Bel, S.; Van Vliet, N.; Cornelis, D.; BriacWarnon, V.;Nasi, R.; Fa, J.E.

In Africa, overhunting of tropical wildlife for food remains an intractable issue. Donors and governments remain committed to invest in efforts to both conserve and allow the sustainable use of wildlife. Four principal barriers need to be overcome: (i) communities are not motivated to conserve wildlife long-term because they have no formal rights to benefit from wildlife, or to exclude others from taking it on their land; (ii) multispecies harvests, typical of bushmeat hunting scenarios, place large-bodied species at risk of extinction; (iii) wildlife production cannot expand, in the same way that livestock farming can, to meet the expected growth in consumer demand; and (iv) wildlife habitat is lost through conversion to agriculture, housing, transportation networks and extractive industries. In this review, we examine the actors involved in the use of wildlife as food and discuss the possible solutions required to address urban and rural bushmeat consumption. Interventions must tackle use and conservation of wildlife through the application of context-relevant interventions in a variety of geographies across Africa. That said, for any bushmeat solution to work, there needs to be concurrent and comparable investment in strengthening the effectiveness of protected area management and enforcement of wildlife conservation laws.

Publication Year: 2016

ISSN: 1365-2028

Source: African Journal of Ecology 54(4): 402-414

DOI: 10.1111/aje.12392


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  • Natural regeneration as a tool for large-scale forest restoration in the tropics: prospects and challenges

Natural regeneration as a tool for large-scale forest restoration in the tropics: prospects and challenges


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Authors: Chazdon, R.L.; Guariguata, M.R.

A major global effort to enable cost-effective natural regeneration is needed to achieve ambitious forest and landscape restoration goals. Natural forest regeneration can potentially play a major role in large-scale landscape restoration in tropical regions. Here, we focus on the conditions that favor natural regeneration within tropical forest landscapes. We illustrate cases where large-scale natural regeneration followed forest clearing and non-forest land use, and describe the social and ecological factors that drove these local forest transitions. The self-organizing processes that create naturally regenerating forests and natural regeneration in planted forests promote local genetic adaptation, foster native species with known traditional uses, create spatial and temporal heterogeneity, and sustain local biodiversity and biotic interactions. These features confer greater ecosystem resilience in the face of future shocks and disturbances. We discuss economic, social, and legal issues that challenge natural regeneration in tropical landscapes. We conclude by suggesting ways to enable natural regeneration to become an effective tool for implementing large-scale forest and landscape restoration. Major research and policy priorities include: identifying and modeling the ecological and economic conditions where natural regeneration is a viable and favorable land-use option, developing monitoring protocols for natural regeneration that can be carried out by local communities, and developing enabling incentives, governance structures, and regulatory conditions that promote the stewardship of naturally regenerating forests. Aligning restoration goals and practices with natural regeneration can achieve the best possible outcome for achieving multiple social and environmental benefits at minimal cost.

Publication Year: 2016

ISSN: 1744-7429

Source: Biotropica 48(6): 716-730

DOI: 10.1111/btp.12381


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