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  • Five (or six) solutions for saving the world’s forests and restoring landscapes

Five (or six) solutions for saving the world’s forests and restoring landscapes

Tony Simons (Left) and Robert Nasi (Right) at the Global Landscapes Forum Bonn 2019 closing plenary. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF
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Working together for maximum impact

From the CIFOR-ICRAF DG column, available here.

We’ve heard a lot about ambitious tree planting initiatives in recent months. Laudable as these may be – and we offer congratulations and celebrate the community-minded impetus behind them – we need a lot more than tree planting to restore degraded landscapes and to save the world’s forests.

On International Day of Forests, we join with the United Nations to draw attention to the urgent need for general recognition of the key role these treed landscapes play in combating climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), targets aimed at alleviating poverty.

We celebrate all forested biomes, whether they are enmeshed in effective agricultural systems, natural peatlands, dry forests and mangroves. “Forgotten” forests that deserve more attention include tropical montane cloud, karst and keranga forests.

We urge the international community to implement robust, systemic changes required to address the dramatic consequences of deforestation and forest degradation, to conserve intact forests, sustainably manage secondary, disturbed or overlogged forests, increase  trees on farms, while restoring degraded lands for both global goods and local livelihoods.

The high-level frameworks and targets exist. Through the SDGs, the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), the U.N. Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity we have all we need to deploy transformations and succeed. Hopes are now weighted heavily on the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). Will it provide the structure within which governments, businesses and people will act in a united effort to offset global warming before it is too late?

But we must not forget those people who are closest to forests. We must deepen our dialogue with the communities who live, work and rely on forests.

Not only are forests the most biologically-diverse land-based ecosystems, but they are home to more than 80 percent of terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects and store vast quantities of carbon.

Consider this: these critical ecosystems containing half the planet’s species of plants and animals provide livelihoods for 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 Indigenous cultures – who rely on forests for medicine, fuel, food and shelter.

Although the financial values attributed to land degradation, forest restoration and other data are projections and estimates, we know that the orders of magnitude are valid.

Deforestation, land degradation and depletion of natural capital are common across the world, and estimated to cost $6.3 trillion in lost ecosystem services annually. That is a value roughly 10 percent of the global economy.

When packaged together as the “land-use sector,” agroforestry systems provide more than 95 percent of all human food, generate employment for over half of all adults and account for 30 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions.

And trees in forests or on farms are at the very heart of nature-based solutions for the climate emergency.

Research by CIFOR-ICRAF and others has shown that not only do trees in forests and fields sequester large amounts of carbon but they also provide food and material for farmers and foresters, renew the fertility of soils and their stability, protect watersheds for downstream consumers, and that they are the critical player in our planet’s water cycle.

And now, as we confront a climate emergency, the global community urgently needs to make better efforts to reconnect human prosperity and ecosystem resilience to forests and agriculture.

So how do we get there?

The world needs transformative scientific, development, business and financial partnerships to undertake the large-scale transformations needed and achieve the global targets so onerously worked out over the years.

There are five areas where investment can be made to rejuvenate the functions of degraded ecosystems. These will help protect, expand and value forests and their biodiversity, transform agriculture into perennial systems, and build sustainable value chains, with the combined support of governments and the private sector to make the transition to sustainable economies.

First, financing the transition requires a firm commitment from the global community. We have no shortage of money. Estimates indicate that governments spend $1.8 trillion a year in military expenditures and more than $5 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies, but only about $50 billion on landscape restoration.

We need to realign our priorities.

The investment needed to reverse land degradation around the world to meet the target of the NYDF is $830 billion, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Restoring 350 million hectares as part of the Bonn Challenge — a commitment made during U.N. Climate talks in 2014 as part of the NYDF – is estimated at $360 billion.

More must be done to catalyze funds.

As highlighted by participants in November at the Global Landscapes Forum in Luxembourg, triggering investment requires broadening the definition of “wealth” to include natural and social assets, significant collaboration between the public and private sectors and a systematic change in global supply chains and financial systems.

Second, agriculture must be more strongly connected to climate solutions. The agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors are responsible for just under a quarter of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, mainly caused by deforestation and such agricultural sources as livestock, soil and nutrient management.

Yet, agroforestry, if defined by tree cover of greater than 10 percent on agricultural land, is widespread: found on more than 43 percent of all agricultural land globally, where 30 percent of rural populations live, representing over 1 billion hectares of land and up to 1.5 billion people.

It must be expanded in both area and diversity of species to help countries meet nationally determined contributions – targets under the U.N. Paris Agreement on climate change aimed at reducing global warming – improve livelihoods, enhance food security and perennialize agriculture, taking the pressure off natural forests.

Third, mangroves and peatlands are vital carbon sinks.

Mangrove ecosystems are recognized for their ability to store large amounts of carbon and protect shorelines from erosion caused by ocean activity. They also provide a buffer by capturing sediment high in organic carbon, which can accumulate in tandem with sea level rise, according to research findings by CIFOR scientists.

Like mangroves, peatlands have a massive role to play in mitigating the impact of climate change, but they are under major threat in many countries in both the Global North and the South.

For example, in the Congo Basin concessions are up for sale and the threat of drainage is real.  Peatlands make up more than half of all wetlands worldwide and they are equivalent to 3 percent of total land and freshwater surfaces.

Built up over thousands of years from decayed, waterlogged vegetation debris, Wetlands International reports that 15 percent of peatlands have been drained for agriculture, commercial forestry and to extract fuel.

When they are drained, they oxidize and carbon is released into the atmosphere, causing global warming.

A third of the world’s soil carbon and 10 percent of global freshwater resources worldwide are stored in peatlands, according to the International Mire Conservation Group and the International Peat Society.

Any program to fix forests and landscapes must ensure peatlands are protected, rewetted and restored.

Fourth, restoring landscapes can bring impressive benefits, by some measures up to $30 for every dollar invested, but restoration investments have so far been slim.

Important steps toward this transformative investment include collaboration between private and public funders, reducing risk and uncertainty for investors, developing better measures of landscape health and building an inventory of technologies, methods and knowledge that can be expanded in scale.

Fifth, biological diversity is fundamental to the existence of life on Earth. To choose the most obvious example, food crops are plants that rely on pollinators to flower and fruit. The value of these crops is almost $600 billion annually.

The vast majority of pollinators are wild, including 20,000 species of bees, and reliant on intact, diverse and healthy ecosystems. Insects are likely to make up the majority of future biodiversity loss: up to 40 percent of all invertebrate species face extinction.

Integrating a greater amount and number of trees, shrubs and other species into farms will provide habitat, pollinators, natural predators and sources of food and incomes.

And so?

We know the solutions needed to save Earth’s forests implement land restoration and we increasingly understand the implications of failure. Tree planting has inspired many to take action to protect and rehabilitate our forests. What is needed now is the financial commitment to make it happen, and happen fast.

We recall the teachings of Elinor Ostrom (1933-2012), who won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009, which she shared with Oliver Williamson, “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.”

Through her research into how commonly held lands are managed, she overturned traditional colonial-dominant perspectives. She taught us that people can work together to sustainably and effectively shape natural resource use, as long as ground rules and parameters are clear, and those who work on the land are involved. She recognized that rules should not be imposed without consultation from above by governments or other formal entities to achieve the highest level of successful land management.

She delivered the formula for success. We must ensure we live up to it by melding high-level policies with tactics deployed by sustainable land managers — the people who live and work in forests. We must continually work across sectors to achieve comprehensive results.

Listen to Ostrom: “Until a theoretical explanation — based on human choice — for self-organized and self-governed enterprises is fully developed and accepted, major policy decisions will continue to be undertaken with a presumption that individuals cannot organize themselves and always need to be organized by external authorities.”

Further reading


This article was originally posted on the DG column of Forest News.

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  • Women’s place in Africa’s growing charcoal sector

Women’s place in Africa’s growing charcoal sector

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The growing charcoal business in sub-Saharan Africa has often been seen as a male-dominated occupation, with few studies exploring gender dynamics. In reality, women are present throughout the value chain –from production to transport, sale and retail— and their involvement plays a vital role in sustaining rural livelihoods, especially in times of duress.

Gendered barriers not only hinder equal participation and benefits in the sector, but they can also undermine the efficiency and environmental sustainability of the value chain as a whole. As the charcoal business expands to cater to the continent’s growing population, it is ever more important that policies identify and address these barriers in each of the countries.

Scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) have recently come up with a framework for incorporating gender analysis in future research and policy-making in the charcoal sector.

Following an extensive review of existing studies, researchers also produced a snapshot of available information on gender and charcoal value chains, and identified knowledge gaps for future research.

Participation is not enough

The review process made clear that sex-disaggregated data on the charcoal value chain is patchy and often limited to field observations. Even when sex-disaggregated data on participation or benefits is available, few studies conduct gender analysis to make sense of the observed differences.

However, by examining selected papers, the review found that women participate throughout the value chain, although they concentrate in retail, and that female producers tend to get involved as a last resort. Hence, obstacles to women’s participation and benefits may have a disproportionate welfare impact, especially given the high numbers of female heads-of household among producers.

Yet, having more women participate in the charcoal sector does not necessarily indicate greater gender equality.

The engagement of women and men in the charcoal sector, and what they get out of it, are heavily influenced by gender differences and inequalities, which in turn often intersect with other aspects such as wealth and social class, marital status and age. Notable differences are found, particularly in access to and control over productive resources and income; social and political capital and gender roles and responsibilities.

For instance, studies suggest that women tend to produce less charcoal than their male counterparts, often due to a lack of access to tools, information and labor. Where producers’ groups channel licenses and capacity building, underrepresentation of small female producers can aggravate the disparity.

Similarly, female transporters usually ferry fewer bags per trip due to difficulties in accessing transport vehicles, while unequal access to finances can limit the ability of female retailers to store and bulk.

These observations illustrate how gender inequalities can constrain women’s abilities to earn more money through increasing production, selling higher volumes and accessing better markets.

Differences in financial and political power also put women at a disadvantage in both the informal and the formal charcoal sector. Inequalities limiting women’s access to information and tools, household finances, political connections and mobility, for example, can make it particularly difficult for female producers and retailers to comply with national charcoal regulations.

Although not always the case, poverty and inequalities have often been seen to push women into the charcoal sector, reinforcing the notion that greater female engagement is not a positive sign in itself.

The environmental impact of charcoal production offers a paradigmatic example.

Some studies note its effects are disproportionately borne by women because deforestation and forest degradation reduce their ability to generate income from firewood and other non-timber products.

As charcoal production erodes women’s alternative income sources, more of them may be forced to join the charcoal sector. In time, trees become scarce and production sites are moved further away from villages. This might further complicate things for women where it is not socially acceptable for them to work away from their homes and families.

In addition, gender inequalities may impact the sustainability of the value chain. A study in Cameroon, for example, found that women’s harvesting practices had a higher environmental impact compared to their male counterparts. This was attributed to women’s use of more rudimentary tools, which led them to cut smaller, younger tree stems close to their homes.

Addressing unanswered questions

Gender issues affect who participates in, and benefits from, each of the steps of charcoal value chain, and they also influence the efficiency and sustainability of a sector impacting the livelihoods of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

To advance the understanding of gender dynamics in the charcoal sector, there is a need for systematic and robust sex-disaggregated data on participation; more studies on gender dynamics along downstream nodes, which tend to have higher proportions of women; and a deliberate focus on the ways in which gender norms and relations influence and are influenced by factors such as institutional and governance arrangements or the social and environmental impact.

The study conducted by CIFOR and ICRAF proposes a conceptual framework to guide future research on these various issues, informing better policies and combating women’s marginalization. It encourages analysis from various perspectives, ranging from the decision-making power in the household to community-level institutions and norms as well as legal systems.

The conceptual framework explores how gender roles and relations, in combination with factors such as age, class and ethnicity, influence women and men’s motivations to participate in the charcoal sector, as well as the costs and benefits associated with their involvement.

It also intends to show how gender differences and inequalities in the value chain influence its structure, efficiency and sustainability, and the impact of broader gendered norms and relations in the nature and extend of women and men’s participation.

Importantly, the available evidence shows the need to place gender analysis at the core of charcoal value chain studies and interventions, rather than approaching it as an add-on component that is haphazardly conducted in the periphery of project activities.

The charcoal sector is expanding as an affordable energy source for the growing population of the continent, and it provides people in rural and peri-urban settings with much-needed income.

This study distills the current understanding on gender and charcoal value chains, and provides guidance to address the numerous, and important, questions that remain unanswered. Questions that shall inform better charcoal-sector policies and interventions for the benefit of people and the environment across the continent.


By Markus Ihalainen, FTA Gender Specialist.

This article was originally published on Forest News. 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 Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • UN chiefs strengthen collaboration to achieve zero deforestation

UN chiefs strengthen collaboration to achieve zero deforestation

According to the UN, up to 23 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions derive from the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector
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Originally published at World Agroforestry (ICRAF).

Seven leaders of UN agencies at the Climate Conference in Madrid call for an end to deforestation to address the climate emergency

‘Forests are essential to life on Earth; we cannot afford to destroy them. UN agencies are fundamental in supporting countries to take action.’

Naoko Ishii, Global Environment Facility

Carolina Schmidt, president of the 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that deforestation is the most critical challenge faced by humanity: a bold, new stand is needed against destruction of the world’s forests. She called on the UN and the world to heed the Santiago Call for Action on Forests and work collaboratively to achieve zero net deforestation.

In response, seven heads of UN agencies joined together in the first-ever UN Heads of Organizations Leadership Dialogue, 12 December 2019 at the Climate Conference in Madrid, to strengthen their collaboration in supporting member states achieve zero deforestation.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC; Qu Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP); Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme (UNDP); Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) explained their agencies’ past actions and commitments to increasing the synergies between each other to provide maximum support to member states, especially developing nations, to stop deforestation.

‘The UN system has enormous capacities around the world,’ said Espinosa. ‘Combined, we have the knowledge, experience and capacities to facilitate actions with governments. This is the first leadership dialogue and it augers fantastically for going forward. Coordination, communication and looking for synergies between our different entities is key. This is such an enormous challenge that no one of us can do it alone. To support developing countries, in particular, we really need to work together. Importantly, when we talk about forests and land use we must bear in mind the social dimensions of the work we need to do in this area, especially the communities in the most vulnerable developing countries.’

Deforestation, degradation and restoration have been included in the Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement and other international conventions, said Zhenmin of UN DESA, but loss and degradation of vast areas of natural forests continues, particularly, in the tropical domain where 7 million hectares of forests are lost every year.

‘Zero deforestation can only be achieved through UN member states,’ he said. ‘We must all work together; all should act as one to move forward on a common framework to achieve zero net deforestation.’

He pointed out that the High-Level Forum on Forests has developed a strategic plan for forests, which was adopted in April 2017 by the General Assembly, to tackle the drivers of deforestation and degradation; to find a balance between economic growth and sustainability; and to improve the strength of the forestry sector. The plan has six goals and 26 targets in an integrated framework of action for zero net deforestation designed to unlock the potential of forests to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. If fully implemented, it will stop deforestation, increase reforestation and reduce poverty of forest-dependent people.

He committed his agency to continue support to member states to implement the plan and urged them to speed that implementation. DESA would strengthen collaboration in capacity building of member states and in mobilizing funding for forest management and deployment of technologies.

Dongyu of FAO confirmed that there was a great need to address food security and forests together holistically. Over 20 developed countries have decreased the number of malnourished people and also increased forest area. His key message was that it is possible to reconcile these issues through coordinating a land-use approach across sectors.

The synergy of agencies’ efforts can already be seen in FAO and UNEP leading the Decade of Restoration. Their aim is to massively expand the scale of restoration of degraded ecosystems, including forests. In this process, decisions must be based on evidence and the world must look beyond forests alone and build collective synergy, for example, to reduce the carbon footprints of agricultural commodities.

‘Traditional agriculture has been focused mainly on productivity but now we must look at sustainability, especially, in cash crops,’ he said.

A key to this effort is to ensure that subsidies are not driving deforestation and that enacted policies are in place for food security. Technologies and innovations are also keys to achieving rapid results and must be deployed widely, with a strong focus on environmental functions. He also emphasized that the world needs a strong and flexible set of forest monitoring tools that can readily upload and access data through technology such as mobile phones. To speed the transition to zero deforestation and stronger food security through sustainable agricultural value chains, partnerships are needed between UN agencies and businesses.

Ishii of the GEF stated that the science is clear: 73% of deforestation is driven by conversion to agriculture. How, she asked, are we to deal with the economic forces that are driving this?

‘We need to understand this better and implement all commitments, like the New York Declaration on Forests. We are failing in translating commitments into actions. Why are we failing? The lack of feet on the ground to translate into action is a lesson we have learned from the past. To address this, GEF has created a coalition of countries that have committed USD 430 million to create multistakeholder platforms that bring together ministries of forestry and of agriculture, local governments, businesses and financial institutions.’

The actions, she said, need to be based on land-use planning and adopt both landscape and value-chain approaches. To stop deforestation, protection of forests is needed with sustainability embedded right through to consumption.

‘The challenge is to get all the players together in their countries while also including the global value chains,’ she said. ‘We can do this better working together to be more inclusive of business, governments, financial institutions and communities. Would have a better success rate.’

The USD 9.8 billion in replenishment funds committed to the GEF would help speed progress.

Steiner of UNDP said that, ‘We are underperforming to meet our own objectives with the deforestation figures.’ He went on to agree that FAO has a key role to play but so do all the agencies. ‘We all have a role to play in keeping forests on national agendas.’

Steiner noted that REDD+ is a key mechanism that brought together UNDP, UNEP and FAO through UN-REDD. Norway has backed the boldest experiment in mitigation, adaptation, land use, restoration. ‘Don’t let Norway be the only supporter,’ he urged.

A focus on increasing the ambition of NDCs was needed, with particular emphasis on nature-based solutions. He noted that 100 countries were engaged with the NDC Partnership and called for ‘a far greater focus on forests to address climate/NDCs and biodiversity/CBD’.

‘On the ground, these differences between conventions don’t matter,’ he said. ‘As the UN community, it is a responsibility to bridge the conventions. Next year is the year of nature.’

Thiaw of UNCCD reminded the panel and the audience that ‘we need to feed 10 billion to come without depleting our ecosystems’ and that the UN can do better on science and policy. Land degradation neutrality was important; we need to use land but also conserve it.

Andersen of UNEP stated that 70% of forests were under threat, mostly from commodity production.

‘We are part of the problem,’ said. ‘We need to help that sector flip into sustainable production; we need to clean up our supply chains. Governments and UN leaders need to step up, especially FAO. We need to partner with the private sector. We need to help them towards positive agricultural outcomes.

She also noted that the price for carbon varies greatly (USD 26–35) but the forest carbon price was at USD 5.

‘This is why we need a good outcome for Article 6 [of the Paris Agreement],’ she said. ‘Let’s label products over time. Let’s clean up supply chains. In the context of the European Green New Deal, 2020 is the ‘super year’ for nature.

The Santiago Call for Action has seven core elements:

1) Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhance carbon sinks: countries must strengthen efforts in line with Article 5 of the Paris Agreement, expand the scale of actions and increase knowledge;

2) Increase the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) through Nature-Based Solutions based on forest activities (Including REDD+);

3) Advance NDC implementation through effective and measurable multistakeholder action; including voluntary calls such as the Bonn Challenge;

4) Increase NDC transparency: reinforcing trust in the Paris Agreement. It is important to share how countries will mitigate the impact of the climate emergency and to track progress;

5) Scale-up predictable financial support from all sources, including through REDD+;

6) Build on existing technical support for NDC implementation and reporting; expanding the scale of technical support for reporting, particularly, for developing countries;

7) Actively engage local communities and indigenous peoples, including women and youth: a holistic approach is essential to turn the tide on deforestation.

 


World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is a centre of scientific and development excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Knowledge produced by ICRAF enables governments, development agencies and farmers to utilize the power of trees to make farming and livelihoods more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable at multiple scales.

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  • Getting to the bottom of illegal plantations on Indonesia’s state-owned forests

Getting to the bottom of illegal plantations on Indonesia’s state-owned forests

A man examines oil palm fruit at a research site in Indonesia. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR
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Palm oil is used locally in cooking, and internationally in commercial food and personal care products. Photo by M. Pinheiro/CIFOR

In an ideal world, palm oil production would cause no deforestation, and have a transparent and fair supply chain. In reality, the impacts of the sector have been the cause of ethical concerns worldwide.

Palm oil is Indonesia’s most important commodity. In 2017 the country produced 37.8 million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) and exported over 80 percent of it, with a value of $31.8 billion. Indonesia is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, and its biggest exporter too.

The strong market demand of palm oil has led to a vast expansion of plantations. Currently smallholders make up around 40 percent of the production market, and around one-third of these do not have the correct land tenure permits. In some cases, the smallholders have moved into state-owned forest areas and in many cases, this occupancy creates conflict.

In 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Directorate General of Plantations found that of the 2.5 million hectares of oil palm plantations on state-owned forests, 70 percent of these were controlled by smallholders.

To get to the bottom of why oil palm plantations continue to encroach into state forest areas, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) organized a workshop in collaboration with Center for Research and Development on Social, Economics, Policy and Climate Change (P3SEPKI): ‘Linking science to policy: the role of research in the effort to accelerate solution of tenurial problems in oil palm plantation in forest areas.’

Read also: Comparative study of local nutrition and diet examines expansion of oil palm plantations into forest areas

Solving conflicts by understanding the underlying cause

In his presentation, Ismatul Hakim,  senior researcher at P3SEPKI, says that complex tenure conflicts can’t be resolved without understanding why oil palm plantations are encroaching into state forest areas. He believes assessing how different types of farmers take control of lands, what strategies they use, and most importantly, the motivations of the farmers, is needed before long-lasting resolution is achieved.

According to Hakim’s research, this can be segregated into four categories:

The first is maladministration, where a lack of coordination leads to disputes as it is unclear who legally manages the forest areas – is it the Ministry of Environment and Forestry or the local government?

Second, incomplete forest area gazettements- a legal declaration that announces state ownership- coupled with a lack of clarity and communication on where the gazetted boundaries lay, have caused local people, in need for income, to expand their plantations into unmarked forest areas.

Third, inequality of power and land ownership has caused people to encroach. Local people have watched big investors and corporations take control of and transform their ancestral land, and store land for the future (known as ‘landbanking’).

And finally, the ineffective implementation of policies for forest area release and land swap- where the government gives areas of new land to plantations in exchange for restoring degraded land. To add, he says, this is further hampered by the slow pace of conflict resolution.

Drawing from his research, Bayu Eka Yulian from Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) added “Oil palm plantations have expanded rapidly in East Kalimantan, particularly those smallholders in a silence mode.” He argued while corporations might generally adhere to tighter regulations, small holder farmers, including those with access to more capital and information, appear to expand their plantations at a scale from 0.5 to 3 hectares of land or even more, without restraint.

The attendees agreed that the situation  will keep perpetuating itself without intervention. Rapid expansion is causing damaging changes to the landscape, but farmers are also becoming trapped- as they become highly dependent on a monoculture crop, and get trapped on a single source of income.

Read also: The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

A man examines oil palm fruit at a research site in Indonesia. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR

Solving tenure issues through better governance

In September 2018, the Indonesian government issued a three-year moratorium on new oil palm plantation permits and devised attempts to increase productivity, expressed in Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2018. Along with other prevailing policies, this moratorium offers an excellent opportunity to resolve tenure issues.

However, it was feared that the temporary halt might simply not be enough.

“It was generally agreed by the workshop participants that regulations should be clear and not create legal uncertainties,” said CIFOR scientist Heru Komarudin, adding that plantations that are currently operating on state forests should be given enough time to either relocate or have their land status legally changed to non-forest areas.

He similarly believes that smallholder plantations already illegally on state forests should be given the chance to confirm their land status through agrarian reform or social forestry schemes that are already in place.

“Priority should be given to those committed to practising ethical agriculture – by preventing further deforestation and promoting fair trade working rights,” said Komarudin. To create policies that work, the “heterogeneous typology” of smallholders, and the impact of plantations on local people need to be taken into account, he adds.

Furthermore, there is opportunity to raise state funds by getting tenure issues right. Legislating and governing the use and rental of state forest can then be further propped up by compensation payments by companies who have illegally encroached. While strict law enforcement could be used to police the tenure issues, granting land amnesty to those that depend heavily on these lands may be a breakthrough.

Internationally, the European Union Renewable Energy Directive which plans to phase out the use of palm oil for biofuel by 2030, has put pressure on the Indonesian palm producers. In responding to this development, workshop attendees agreed that foreign diplomacy should be strengthened by consolidating the national position, which in turn would make the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification credible.

“Building solidarity with other producing countries to promote best practices and a sustainable and legal palm oil industry is essential,” says Maharani Hapsari, PhD and lecturer of international relations at Gadjah Mada University. “Indonesia should focus its diplomacy on palm oil global trade not only to strengthen authority, but also to enhance legitimacy of forest and oil palm governance by the broadest possible range of stakeholders.”

By Nabiha Shahab and Dominique Lyons, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Heru Komarudin at [email protected].


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

This research is part of the Governing Oil Palm Landscapes for Sustainability (GOLS) project, which is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The GOLS project supports effective and equitable implementation of the New York Declaration on Forests commitments by helping to align public and private policies and actions, and by delivering targeted, research-based evidence to key stakeholders and practitioners.

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  • Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

Subnational decision-making needed for climate gains

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A man walks in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Global climate negotiations take place on the international stage, bolstered by countries’ national policies. But preventing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes requires work at the local level.

For those efforts to be effective, it is important to understand who is involved at each level and in every sector, and how they interact, say scientists from CIFOR, who have conducted research about such multi-level governance.

“Land use and land-use change happen in a geographic space that is affected by multiple levels of decision making,” says senior scientist Anne Larson, who heads CIFOR’s Equal Opportunities, Gender, Justice and Tenure Team. “You can’t talk about land-use change or climate change adaptation and mitigation if you don’t take into account all levels, from the global to the ground”.

That means that local and regional governments, as well as local communities, have an important role to play in REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) initiatives – or other, similar efforts, Larson says. “There’s a lot of talk at climate negotiations about bottom-up planning, and that must be done below the national level” she adds, “We can’t expect global decisions to have an impact if we don’t have sub-national governments that can implement and manage plans in local jurisdictions”.

That assumes coordination among various groups with different interests. Depending on the place, they may include government agencies (with different sectoral priorities), private companies, local communities and non-governmental organizations. But sub-national coordination is easier to discuss than to implement, according to researchers who are conducting a global comparative study on REDD+.

Risks and opportunities

One obstacle arises when governments are only partly decentralized. This invariably leads to subnational governments who have “authority” but without resources to carry out their mandate. In some cases, national governments are reluctant to give up control to local or regional governments, even when power-sharing is established by law. In Mexico, the federal government maintains a great deal of decision-making power over forests — something that must be considered when implementing programs at a local level.

Another risk is that local or regional governments could favor the interests of economically powerful private companies over those of local communities that depend on forests for their livelihoods. But in the same instance, local governments may be more willing to protect their interests as they are often more responsive to their citizens.

When there are tensions among stakeholders, it can be tempting to do top-down planning that focuses on technical solutions and faster results. But when that was done in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s REDD+ pilot province, local people felt that they were “guinea pigs” in an experiment instead of active participants, studies found.

Processes that ensure the involvement of local people, instead of seeing them as “beneficiaries,” and that protect the rights of forest-dwelling communities may take longer and be more complex, but the outcomes are often more equitable, according to research conducted in Vietnam. In many places, local communities — especially women, young people and indigenous people — have been marginalized from decisions. Giving them a central place in decision making builds their negotiating skills and can create new local venues for discussing local issues, the researchers say. “When decision-making is done at a sub-national level, transparency and accountability are key”, Larson says. “That requires monitoring, but the kind of monitoring depends on your goals”.

Read more: Does the monitoring of local governance improve transparency? Lessons from three approaches in subnational jurisdictions

Different tools for different needs

The Marechal Rondon Highway runs 1550 km from Porto Velho to Cuiabá in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR

When local stakeholders from different sectors are involved in developing monitoring processes, local priotities are discussed- says Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti, a postdoctoral fellow at CIFOR working on the global comparative study of REDD+. He and other researchers examining sub-national landscape governance implemented three different types of monitoring tools in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua.

The Sustainable Landscape Rating Tool (SLRT) uses evidence-based evaluation of conditions as indiactors, to determine sustainability in land-use planning and management, land and resource tenure, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, stakeholder coordination and participation, and community production systems.

The SLRT was developed by the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance and is being used by jurisdictions belonging to the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. Aimed at fostering governance policies for sustainability, the tool is mainly designed to assess the enabling conditions required. Its success depends on the availability of the information required by each indicator, which can be an obstacle in jurisdictions where data are lacking.

The Multilevel Governance Monitoring Process (MLGMP) grew out of scenario-building processes that assessed carbon emissions in eight landscapes in four countries. The prototype was designed in Peru’s Amazonian Madre de Dios region, where land-use planning and governance is complicated by social conflicts related to overlapping land claims by loggers, miners, farmers, tourism operators and others.

The process brought people together to develop a shared vision for the future and set goals for working toward it. In Madre de Dios, representatives of seven government agencies participated in workshops to identify potential indicators and strategies for monitoring, but the process was hampered by lack of commitment by key regional government officials.

A similar process in Mexico involved national and sub-national government agencies, as well as civil society groups, donors, community representatives and researchers. At workshops in the Yucatán and Chiapas, participants identified and prioritized challenges to good governance, set goals and agreed on indicators for measuring progress.

The tool can be adapted to local needs and priorities, but participants said the one-day workshops were not sufficient to work out details, including how the monitoring would be implemented and by whom. The workshops also revealed differences in levels of participation by women, which should be addressed in monitoring, the researchers said.

A third tool, the Participatory Governance Monitoring Process (PGMP), was designed to better involve local people in forest governance and strengthen women’s participation in decision making in their communities. It was developed as part of a research project in indigenous communities and territories in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region.

Participants gathered together to decide what ‘good governance’ was. Characteristics such as a strong community, good leaders, more participation by women and good forest management were agreed, before a series of ‘yes-or-no’ questions determined whether the requirements were being met.

Using the questions as indicators, the results informed a tool that builds local community participation into both planning and monitoring, says Sarmiento. “This can be used to determine the degree of local participation, especially by women”.

The three tools have different purposes, and the best to use in a particular case depends on the local situation and specific monitoring goals, Larson adds.

Global commitments require local implementation

At the Paris climate summit in 2015, countries made commitments to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Those commitments, known as Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs), will be used to measure their progress toward their targets.

In countries whose NDCs include reducing emissions by controlling deforestation and forest degradation, sub-national governments must play a key role, Sarmiento says.Nevertheless, countries with REDD+ commitments do not always highlight the importance of sub-national governance in their NDCs. Of the 60 countries that have REDD+ programs or strategies, only 39 mention sub-national governments. Of those, 21 define a specific role for them, but in only seven NDCs is that a decision-making role, according to a CIFOR study.

“This could be a missed opportunity,” Larson says.  “Climate negotiators hail the Paris agreement as a ‘bottom-up’ accord, but what they consider to be the bottom is usually the national level,” Sarmiento says. “Implementation won’t work without attention to sub-national governance.”

Research like the CIFOR studies reveals both the difficulty of bringing stakeholders from different sectors and levels of government together. They also unearth the opportunities offered by participatory approaches that enable local communities to make decisions together with sub-national governments, with the goal of ensuring equitable solutions for forest dwellers.

“Governance always has a local flavor to it,” Sarmiento says. “That is why its monitoring needs to be informed by local people’s practices and their perceptions of what it means to govern well.”

Read more: Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Anne Larson at [email protected] or Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti at [email protected].


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

This research was supported by NORAD and BMUB/IKI.

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  • Is bamboo a sustainable alternative for bioenergy production in Indonesia?

Is bamboo a sustainable alternative for bioenergy production in Indonesia?

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For thousands of years, people in Indonesia have used bamboo for a huge range of purposes. It is a ready source of food, fibre, firewood and construction material, and its abundance and availability has earned it the moniker of “timber of the poor.”

Now, scientists are exploring its potential in another critical realm: energy production and restoration of degraded land.

Energy demand in Indonesia has increased significantly in recent years, as a result of population growth, urbanization and economic development. The government is also working to up its energy provision from renewable sources, in line with its commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the international Paris Agreement on climate change. As a country with a rich biomass base, bioenergy seems an obvious port of call.

Watch: Integrating bioenergy and landscape restoration in the tropics: the key to a sustainable future

However, growing crops for bioenergy is not without its risks and tradeoffs. At present, Indonesia’s biofuel comes chiefly from oil palm, which has spurred widespread deforestation, peatland drainage and many other grave social and environmental impacts. So, say researchers from Australia’s RMIT University and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), it is crucial to start looking for other species that can provide sustainable supplies of biomass for energy production, without compromising food security or unduly affecting the wider landscape.

And that is where bamboo comes in, said RMIT and CIFOR researcher Roshan Sharma in a just-published opinion piece for the journal Sustainability. The fast-growing, perennial plant grows well on degraded land with minimal water or fertilizer input, and also thrives when planted in combination with other crops in forestry and agroforestry systems. What is more, there’s no need to chop the whole stand down and start again when it’s time to harvest: once mature (after around three to four years), the crop can be systematically thinned every year, and this may actually increase its productivity over time.

Bamboo cultivation can also be a “powerful ally” in restoration processes, say the co-authors. Its extensive root systems help to control erosion and retain water, while its copious leaf litter contributes significantly to soil fertility. Because it grows fast, it quickly creates habitats for enhanced biodiversity, and sequesters carbon in the process. What’s more, points out CIFOR scientist and contributing author Himlal Baral, the financial benefits of cultivating bamboo for bioenergy make restoration a much more economically viable prospect, which will be crucial for scaling it up.

Read more: Integrating bioenergy and landscape restoration in the tropics: the key to a sustainable future

Villagers transport bamboo with a small boat in Selimbau, Lake Sentarum, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. CIFOR/Ramadian Bachtiar

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Another advantage of generating bioenergy from bamboo is that it allows for decentralized energy production, say the scientists. Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, many of which are not connected to the national power grid: according to Jaya Wahono, co-author  and chief executive of Clean Power Indonesia (CPI), there are around 12,500 villages across the country that don’t have reliable power. Diesel is imported in drums to many of these places and used to power generators, but it’s expensive and unreliable, which limits options for economic development, says Wahono.

As such, CPI has set up pilot bamboo power plants on the remote Mentawai islands, with considerable success: they’ve brought reliable electricity to 1,200 households in three villages, each of which has their own power plant. Bamboo harvesting provides jobs, and also allows farmers to diversify their income streams, reducing their vulnerability to crop failure and helping them adapt to climate change.

Wahono says CPI is now keen to replicate the model across Indonesia. Since bamboo cultivation and use is already a familiar aspect of everyday life, they hope that locals will be willing and able to participate in bamboo-based bioenergy production right across the archipelago.

Bamboo plantations will need to be carefully managed, notes Baral, as they can pose a threat as an invasive species which can displace surrounding vegetation. It will also be important to ensure bamboo is cultivated on degraded and under-utilized land, so it doesn’t displace food crops or cause clear-felling of native vegetation while reducing the risk of invasiveness.

According to Sharma, the research team’s next step will be “to explore how much local bamboo is available in Indonesia, identify sites for possible bamboo plantations, and study the economic feasibility of producing bamboo by farmers and the economics of land restoration using bamboo.”

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn

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


This research is part of the CIFOR Bioenergy project funded by NIFoS (National Institute of Forest Science, South Korea) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) with financial support from the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Top of the tree: FTA in 2018

Top of the tree: FTA in 2018

A variety of mango grows on a farm in Machakos County, Kenya. Photo by ICRAF
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The year 2018 saw the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) chalk up some notable achievements in the worlds of sustainable development, food security and addressing climate change.

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

A number of the program’s research findings reverberated throughout the scientific community, impacting discussions at major events and informing work on the ground.

Read on to find out which news articles, research publications, presentations and videos were most-viewed on the FTA website throughout the year.

Gender, agroforestry and combating deforestation were strong points of interest among news articles, topped off by research on orphan crops – underutilized crops that are being brought out of the shadows by plant breeding – which was also covered by The Economist and the Financial Times. The 10 most-viewed news articles on the FTA website in 2018 are as follows.

  1. Orphan crops for improving diets
  2. The power of science to halt deforestation
  3. Climate change atlas presents suitability maps for agroforestry species in Central America
  4. Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’
  5. FTA’s research domain on livelihood systems receives strong rating
  6. Picks and spades can triple farmers’ yields in Kenyan drylands
  7. Good investments in agriculture and forestry can benefit smallholders and landscapes
  8. Innovation and excellence from chocolate producers
  9. Agroforestry offers pathways to sustainable landscape restoration
  10. Woman on a mission: Pushing for rights and a seat at the decision-making table
Findings have shed new light on the role of forests and trees in the climate debate. Photo by Eko Prianto/CIFOR

Research publications are of course not only viewed via the FTA website but also via the websites of partner institutions or scientific journals.

Of those collated on the FTA website, however, the top 10 most-viewed encompassed ecosystem services, value chains and climate, along with the relationship between trees and water – a popular topic that was the subject of a two-day symposium in 2017 and a follow-up discussion forum in 2018:

  1. Co-investment in ecosystem services: global lessons from payment and incentive schemes
  2. Analysis of gender research on forest, tree and agroforestry value chains in Latin America
  3. Decision support tools for forest landscape restoration: Current status and future outlook
  4. Certifying Environmental Social Responsibility: Special Issue
  5. Suitability of key Central American agroforestry species under future climates: an atlas
  6. Landscape Restoration in Kenya: Addressing gender equality
  7. Forest ecosystem services and the pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness
  8. Tropical forest-transition landscapes: a portfolio for studying people, tree crops and agro-ecological change in context
  9. Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world
  10. Bridging molecular genetics and participatory research: how access and benefit-sharing stimulate interdisciplinary research for tropical biology and conservation
Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making.

As always, FTA scientists presented their work to colleagues and to broader audiences at workshops and events around the world. The top 10 most-viewed presentations of those collected on the FTA website looked at governance, REDD+ and tenure.

  1. Comparing governance reforms to restore the forest commons in Nepal, China and Ethiopia
  2. A personal take on forest landscapes restoration in Africa
  3. Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making
  4. Are there differences between men and women in REDD+ benefit sharing schemes?
  5. Conflict in collective land and forest formalization: a preliminary analysis
  6. Implications of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) for trans-boundary agricultural commodities, forests and smallholder farmers
  7. Reconciling policy and practice in the co-management of forests in indigenous territories
  8. Informing gender-responsive climate policy and action
  9. Assessing REDD+ readiness to maximize climate finance impact
  10. Forest policy reform to enhance smallholder participation in landscape restoration: The Peruvian case
Drone technology for science.

FTA’s partner institutions produced compelling video content in 2018, drawing in viewers interested in drones, nutrition, landscapes and more. The top 10 most-viewed videos posted on the FTA website are as follows.

  1. Agroforestry in landscape restoration for livelihoods, climate and ecosystem services
  2. Drone technology for science
  3. Daniel Murdiyarso talks about the interaction between land and oceans
  4. Expansion of oil palm plantations into forests appears to be changing local diets in Indonesia
  5. Lessons learned from REDD+: progress in 8 countries and the way forward
  6. Restoring landscapes, respecting rights
  7. Creating a movement on sustainable landscapes
  8. Developing and applying an approach for the sustainable management of landscapes
  9. Social inclusion, equity and rights in the context of restoration – lessons from the ground
  10. Integrated landscapes approaches: From theory to practice

Finally, a special mention goes to a well-received infographic from FTA’s gender team: Gender matters in forest landscape restoration.

As the program forges ahead into 2019, it expects to see a continued presence at high-level events and even wider dissemination of its work, in line with its innovative research projects ongoing around the world to further the contributions of forests, trees and agroforestry to sustainable development.

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  • Implementing sustainability commitments for palm oil in Indonesia: Governance arrangements of sustainability initiatives involving public and private actors

Implementing sustainability commitments for palm oil in Indonesia: Governance arrangements of sustainability initiatives involving public and private actors

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The palm oil sector in Indonesia has seen the adoption of zero deforestation commitments by the larger companies in the form of various pledges around No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation (NDPE). At the same time, at the national and sub-national level, new governance arrangements are emerging for sustainability initiatives involving government, the private sector and other non-state actors. These initiatives have created new forms of governance relationships, most notably a shift in the types of function that were once the sole domain of the state. Some initiatives are independent and formulated outside of the state, but others interact with, and support, state actions. This paper explores the interactions between public and private sectors in the palm oil arena in Indonesia. It examines tensions and complementarities between these sectors, the degree to which, and manner in which, private standards are pushing the sustainability debate and implementation, and the likely outcomes in relation to their design.

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  • Does soybean certification help to reduce deforestation?

Does soybean certification help to reduce deforestation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read also: Decoding deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia

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

INCENTIVE OR DISINCENTIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IF NOT CERTIFICATION, THEN WHAT?

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information on this topic, please contact Jan Börner at [email protected].

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

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  • Interactive map provides tools for corporate accountability and land-use planning in Papua

Interactive map provides tools for corporate accountability and land-use planning in Papua

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The contrast between oil palm plantation and forest is seen in Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Agus Andrianto/CIFOR

Scientists hope a new interactive atlas that tracks deforestation annually will enable local governments to plan for change and avert widespread destruction of the forests on which indigenous people depend for food and livelihoods.

Due to its remote location and sparse population, Papua, Indonesia, harbors one of the Pacific’s last remaining expanses of pristine tropical forest. However, recent spikes in deforestation rates, accompanied by the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations, are signs that rapid change is on the horizon.

“The Papua Atlas will show where forest is being cleared on the island and who is responsible for the deforestation,” said David Gaveau, a research associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), who demonstrated a prototype of the atlas at the International Conference on Biodiversity, Ecotourism and Creative Economy (ICBE) in Manokwari, Papua, on Oct. 7 to 11, 2018.

The platform, due to launch in mid-2019, will track deforestation on a monthly basis over the long-term.

Local government officials in charge of spatial planning welcome the development of the atlas, which they can use to help plan land use as the local population grows and demand for roads and other services increases in tandem. For example, the annual data provided by the atlas will provide insight into the dynamics of forest loss and the expansion of industrial oil palm concessions, and roads into forested areas.

Old-growth forest in Indonesian Papua shrank by 2 percent, a loss of 600,000 hectares, between 2000 and 2017 (Fig. 1).

Annual forest loss in Indonesian Papua has accelerated gradually since 2000, reaching a peak in both provinces in 2015 and 2016, with 98,000 hectares and 85,000 hectares lost, respectively, before dropping markedly in 2017 (Fig. 1b & c).

Meanwhile, industrial plantations, mainly for oil palm, have nearly quadrupled since 2000, with the largest expansion in Papua province. Gaveau’s studies indicate that about 30 percent of all forest loss since 2000 has been due to clearing for industrial plantations.

Fig 1. Annual loss of forest area from 2001 to 2017 in (a) Indonesian Papua, (b) Papua province (b) and (c) West Papua province.

“The island of New Guinea is perhaps the last large equatorial island that is still pristine,” Gaveau says. “It is still 90 percent natural forest, and it is sparsely populated.”

Because of its distance from key trading routes, Pacific ports and cities, it is expensive to install industrial facilities, such as palm oil refineries in Indonesian Papua. But the island is not immune to the spread of the palm oil industry, which has expanded throughout other islands, such as Borneo.

“As prime land becomes scarce on other islands, companies are turning their eyes to Papua,” Gaveau says.

That’s where the Papua Atlas comes in.

The interactive map is similar to the Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, also known as the Borneo Atlas, which Gaveau, a landscape ecologist, and Mohammad Agus Salim a Geographic Information Systems expert with CIFOR, developed to monitor deforestation on that island. The Borneo Atlas allows users to verify the location and ownership of more than 460 palm-oil mills on Borneo and monitor deforestation in the surrounding area.

Data about ownership show which companies linked to plantations are encroaching on forests and peat lands.

“The principle of the Papua Atlas is the same,” Gaveau says. “The overarching idea is to hold companies accountable for the deforestation they might have caused, whether or not it is done legally. The idea is that the Indonesian local and national governments can check those deforestation footprints in concessions to review the permits.”

See also: Atlas of deforestation and industrial plantations in Borneo

PLANNING FOR CHANGE

The arrival of industrial plantations is not the only change threatening to transform Papua’s pristine forest landscape. Logging for timber exports is increasing, tailings from a copper mine are destroying mangrove swamps, and people migrating from other islands are swelling urban populations.

As cities and towns expand, residents demand more public services, including better transportation. In planning everything from roads to housing, local government officials will have to assess the many tradeoffs  that inevitably accompany development.

To ensure that the Papua Atlas is especially useful to land-use planners, Gaveau and Salim consulted extensively with local governments.

“New roads are being built to link the provinces of Papua and West Papua, and we know that with roads comes deforestation,” Salim says.

That could jeopardize the livelihoods of the indigenous people who live in the island’s forests and who depend on forest products for food, housing materials, fuel and their livelihoods.

Government officials are taking steps to put the brakes on some undesired impacts.

West Papua was declared a conservation province in October 2015. The government of West Papua has committed to keeping 70 percent of the province’s land under protection.

Only about half the province’s land is currently protected, so the challenge will be to increase that area.

In September 2018, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a three-year moratorium on new oil palm concessions on forest land managed by the national government, although the ban does not apply to forest within existing concessions or forest land controlled by local governments.

The Papua Atlas can help observers determine whether the moratorium is being respected, Gaveau says.

Government officials will also be able to use it to analyze land-use patterns and review licenses for agricultural concessions. Knowing which companies hold concessions and how they are using their land will enable government officials to adjust tax rates, Salim says.

“The atlas can be an important tool for conservation and land management,” he adds.

Read also: New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

A settlement is seen from the air in Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Agus Andrianto/CIFOR

A LOCAL VIEW OF A GLOBAL

As the use of freely accessible platforms for tracking land use becomes more common, the Papua and Borneo atlases stand out for the degree of detail they offer.

Users can see which companies are clear-cutting old-growth forest, how much newly planted areas companies are adding, and where palm producers are moving into sensitive areas such as peat lands, which are crucial for carbon storage. The database also shows corporate relationships among companies, enabling users to better understand the market forces behind deforestation and to track corporations’ zero-deforestation commitments.

The atlas will provide a view of deforestation over time, with animations that show how plantations and roads have expanded, where land has been burned, where new land has been planted, and where forest and landscape restoration are under way.

“It’s important to be able to see both forest loss and the newly planted area, because you can then measure the conversion of forests to plantations,” Gaveau said “If forest was cleared and a plantation was established all within one year, there’s little question that both were the work of the company located in that place.”

The map can also be used to gauge impacts of those changes. When deforestation and planting occur near a river, for example, increased erosion is likely to affect aquatic life and ecosystems downstream.

Gaveau and Salim also hope it will solve a mystery. Deforestation on the island spiked in 2015 and 2016 even though no new concessions were granted in those years, which puzzles local government officials.

The interactive map can also link to platforms and databases developed locally, placing more useful information at the fingertips of local government officials.

“We are trying to develop ways of looking at the data that are important for analyzing impacts and planning for the future,” Gaveau said.

“These interactive platforms that promote corporate accountability and make it possible to trace products to their place of origin are just a start,” he added. “In a few years, we will have intelligent systems that will provide more detailed information, more frequently.”

Not only will that information provide a record of the past, but it will also give a glimpse of what lies ahead.

“Papua is important — it’s the last frontier of Indonesia, and one of the last in the tropical world,” Salim says. “The question is what do its people want for the future?”

The Papua Atlas will provide guideposts in the search for an answer.

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

For more information, contact David Gaveau at [email protected] and Mohammad Agus Salim at [email protected].


The Papua Atlas is being developed with financial assistance from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID).

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


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