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  • Enabling conditions to implement the 2018 forest proclamation to facilitate FLR in Ethiopia

Enabling conditions to implement the 2018 forest proclamation to facilitate FLR in Ethiopia

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  • REDD+ policy network analysis in Ethiopia

REDD+ policy network analysis in Ethiopia

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  • Guiding principles for sustainable bamboo forest management planning: Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State (BGRS)

Guiding principles for sustainable bamboo forest management planning: Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State (BGRS)

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Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State (BGRS) is the region of Ethiopia with the greatest bamboo forest cover. The resource has, however, encountered heavy degradation in recent years due to fires for farming and for hunting, mass flowering, unsustainable harvest, and land conversion. Bamboo, if harvested correctly, can become a valuable resource and a source of income for the rural population of BGRS. In order to do so, a management plan is needed at the regional level to provide guidance for future planning at the district level. This document, based on a desk study, field survey, direct observation, and a participatory mapping workshop, intends to provide this guidance for a sustainable bamboo forest management plan. It also gives recommendations on how to sustainably harvest bamboo, how to develop nurseries for future bamboo plantations, how to link bamboo forests with the private sector and the market, and the role bamboo could play in degraded land restoration.

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  • Guidelines on sustainable forest management in drylands of Ethiopia (factsheet)

Guidelines on sustainable forest management in drylands of Ethiopia (factsheet)

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The Guidelines on Sustainable Forest Management in Drylands of Ethiopia contributes to the sustainable management of dry forests by providing information on the national context on dry forests and practical dry forest management guidelines adapted to the Ethiopian context.

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  • Guidelines on sustainable forest management in drylands of Ethiopia

Guidelines on sustainable forest management in drylands of Ethiopia

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About 80% of forests in Ethiopia are dry forest. For the last 20 years they have been subject to land use changes, and replaced by agricultural land and settlements. This situation may be due to the little recognition, at the national level, of the actual and potential contribution of dry forests to the national economy, especially as a source of income for the poor and for exportation.

Despite this situation, the Government of Ethiopia has made sustainable forest management a priority, and it includes the management of dry forests. This Guidelines on Sustainable Forest Management in Drylands of Ethiopia provides information on the national context on dry forests, and practical guidelines adapted to the Ethiopian context. It fills important gaps that should help decision-makers to understand better the role and value of dry forests in the country. It shows that dry forests should be sustainably managed and protected for all the economic, social, and environmental services that they provide, and pleads for a better recognition of such an important ecosystem.

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  • New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

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The government supports gum collection from acacia trees as a source of income for Ethiopians. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

The Ethiopian government has a big dream: restoring 22 million hectares of degraded lands and forests by 2030. 

By doing so, the country aims not only to increase tree cover and restore degraded forests, but also to significantly enhance the forestry sector’s contribution to agricultural production systems, water and energy; to improve food and nutritional security; and to create more opportunities for employment and household income.

It is a bold and laudable pledge, made as part of the 2011 Bonn Challenge and the 2014 New York Climate Summit’s goal of restoring 350 million hectares worldwide by 2030. But what’s the best way to make it a reality?

With some 80% of Ethiopians living in rural areas, one approach is to pour resources into forest protection, rehabilitation and conservation by enlisting smallholder farmer labor for the cause mainly through food or cash for work programs. Until now, that has been the predominant method of action of projects supported by development partners. Meanwhile, the government’s approach has been to increase awareness of smallholders on the need to responsibly manage land and other natural resources and systematically mobilize these rural communities to provide free labor for landscape restoration tasks through annual soil and water conservation work and tree planting campaigns.

But either way, restoration must also create socioeconomic incentives for this massive population that depends on these landscapes for their livelihoods. There is a growing recognition that communities should be able to reap more economic benefits and have better control over the land they are restoring – both within restoration processes, and in general after the land has been restored.

To this end, a new forest law was enacted in January this year that is a significant step in the right direction, says Habtemariam Kassa, Team Leader of Forests and Human Well-being Research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) who supported efforts of the ministry in the process of revising the national forest law. The 2018 National Forest Law – a revised version of the 2007 forest law – now clearly recognizes the rights of communities and acknowledges their role in managing natural forests and establishing plantations, without unduly compromising ecological services or biodiversity.

Ato Kebede Yimam, State Minister of the Forestry Sector, says the new law contains the following three key changes:

  • Recognizing participatory forest management as a vehicle to enhance the role of communities in sharing responsibilities and benefits of managing natural forests in accordance with agreed-upon management plans;
  • Providing incentives for private forest developers through mechanisms such as lease-free land, better access to land use and forest ownership certificates, and tax holiday until and including the first harvest (for private investors and associations) and the second harvest (for communities); and
  • Putting severe penalties on those who expand farming into forests; tamper with forest boundaries; or set fires, harm endangered species, settle, or hunt or graze animals in state, communal, association or private forests.
Depending on the definition of ‘forest’ used, forests cover between 5% and 15% of Ethiopia’s area. Photo my M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Yimam says his ministry has been working to socialize the new law since it was enacted in January 2018. The revisions were based on inputs from policy- and decision-makers at a range of levels, as well as CIFOR scientists – which, Yimam says, make the law an impressive example of science and politics coming together for the betterment of a landscape.

“The law, recognizing the need to strengthen the role of the state in protecting biodiversity rich forests with global and national significance, has identified reserved forests where access is strictly limited,” says Yimam. “On the other hand, the law intends to promote the socioeconomic contribution of forests to the surrounding communities and to local and national economies.

“It is designed to significantly enhance the involvement and ownership of communities and associations in the establishment of plantation forests, in the restoration of degraded forests, and in responsible management and sustainable use of natural forests.”

CHANGE OF SCENERY

According to Kassa, a key shift in the new law is its recognition of the need to maximize socioeconomic benefits of all forest types to the surrounding communities. In the past, when communities managed natural forests under participatory forest management paradigms, “the only thing that they could use were non-timber forest products [NTFP], because most experts considered that cutting [down] indigenous trees was a forbidden act,” Kassa describes. So, the economic returns for managing forests were not really worth communities’ efforts. As such, “we recommended that the law allow a certain level of timber harvesting in natural forests based on forest management plan to be developed,” he says.

To some senior foresters invited to discuss the law in draft phases, this sounded undesirable and even dangerous: “There was a certain group who were really against some of these changes, because they thought that it would open up all natural forests for individuals and communities,” says Kassa. So a new article was created, whereby forests of significant biodiversity are demarcated, and treated as ‘no-go zones.’ “This also places responsibility on the state for protecting biodiversity-rich forests, which wasn’t so obvious before,” he says. 

The 2007 law only made mention of state and private forests. This meant that all restored forest land was treated as state property, so even after decades of restoration effort by a given community, the state could reallocate the land to other users. This tenure uncertainty demotivated communities to invest in forest landscape restoration. Since they didn’t clearly stand to benefit from landscape restoration and tree-planting, there was little incentive for them to take care of state-owned lands.

The new law, in contrast, grants rights of communities to manage and benefit from forests “very explicitly,” says Yimam. It does so by recognizing four categories of forest – state, private, community and association – thereby opening up new avenues for involvement and ownership. “So where you have degraded forest, the community can organize themselves, and with the approval of the relevant authority, can have all the responsibility of managing that forest as a community forest,” he explains.

“When you have groups of women or unemployed people, you can organize them to establish plantations on degraded hillsides, or even reforest and manage degraded forest, and this can be recognized as an association forest. Communities can then also stand to benefit financially from the carbon credits available for reforestation and forest preservation.”

REVISION TO REALITY

These new developments were hard-won. Kassa and his colleagues at CIFOR attempted to contribute similar content to the law’s predecessor in 2007, but then, forestry issues fell under the Ministry of Agriculture’s jurisdiction, and the sector was not getting the political attention it deserved. “We felt we were not really being listened to,” recounts Kassa.

When the Ministry of Environment and Forests (now the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) was established in 2013, CIFOR staff and other national researchers pushed hard for it to confront and address the limitations of the 2007 law, advocating that forest sector development could bring a host of economic benefits as well as help the country attain its national and international restoration commitments. The ministry listened, set up a committee to work with the scientists, and revised the law according to their technical feedback.

However, putting a law to work is always a challenge. Kassa says the ministry and relevant regional authorities will need significant support to translate the law into concrete actions on the ground. One issue is expertise. The focus of forestry training has thus far been on enhancing the protection function of forests rather than the livelihoods of forest dependent communities, says Kassa, and now leaders and experts in forestry will need new knowledge and skills.

What’s more, “Ethiopia is a federal state, and the various regional governments have been forming different institutional arrangements to manage the forestry sector”, says Yimam. “We need to develop the understanding that the regions can produce their own guidelines to clarify and specify certain articles, but all these cannot go beyond or against the national forest law.”

Both Yimam and Kassa are hopeful that rural communities and forests throughout the country will soon experience the benefits of the new law’s possibilities. “Ethiopia’s 2018 National Forest Law is a really progressive law, and if it is implemented properly it is going to make a big difference” says Yimam.

“The next step is to support the efforts of the Ethiopian government as it attempts to put in place appropriate structures at different levels, redefine the roles of experts and build their capacity to actualize the rights of communities and other forest managers provided by the law,” concludes Kassa.

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Habtemariam Kassa at h.kassa@cgiar.org.


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

This research was supported by the Strategic Climate Institutions Program (SCIP). SCIP is financed by the Governments of UK, Norway and Denmark.

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  • New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The government supports gum collection from acacia trees as a source of income for Ethiopians. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

The Ethiopian government has a big dream: restoring 22 million hectares of degraded lands and forests by 2030. 

By doing so, the country aims not only to increase tree cover and restore degraded forests, but also to significantly enhance the forestry sector’s contribution to agricultural production systems, water and energy; to improve food and nutritional security; and to create more opportunities for employment and household income.

It is a bold and laudable pledge, made as part of the 2011 Bonn Challenge and the 2014 New York Climate Summit’s goal of restoring 350 million hectares worldwide by 2030. But what’s the best way to make it a reality?

With some 80% of Ethiopians living in rural areas, one approach is to pour resources into forest protection, rehabilitation and conservation by enlisting smallholder farmer labor for the cause mainly through food or cash for work programs. Until now, that has been the predominant method of action of projects supported by development partners. Meanwhile, the government’s approach has been to increase awareness of smallholders on the need to responsibly manage land and other natural resources and systematically mobilize these rural communities to provide free labor for landscape restoration tasks through annual soil and water conservation work and tree planting campaigns.

But either way, restoration must also create socioeconomic incentives for this massive population that depends on these landscapes for their livelihoods. There is a growing recognition that communities should be able to reap more economic benefits and have better control over the land they are restoring – both within restoration processes, and in general after the land has been restored.

To this end, a new forest law was enacted in January this year that is a significant step in the right direction, says Habtemariam Kassa, Team Leader of Forests and Human Well-being Research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) who supported efforts of the ministry in the process of revising the national forest law. The 2018 National Forest Law – a revised version of the 2007 forest law – now clearly recognizes the rights of communities and acknowledges their role in managing natural forests and establishing plantations, without unduly compromising ecological services or biodiversity.

Ato Kebede Yimam, State Minister of the Forestry Sector, says the new law contains the following three key changes:

  • Recognizing participatory forest management as a vehicle to enhance the role of communities in sharing responsibilities and benefits of managing natural forests in accordance with agreed-upon management plans;
  • Providing incentives for private forest developers through mechanisms such as lease-free land, better access to land use and forest ownership certificates, and tax holiday until and including the first harvest (for private investors and associations) and the second harvest (for communities); and
  • Putting severe penalties on those who expand farming into forests; tamper with forest boundaries; or set fires, harm endangered species, settle, or hunt or graze animals in state, communal, association or private forests.
Depending on the definition of ‘forest’ used, forests cover between 5% and 15% of Ethiopia’s area. Photo my M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Yimam says his ministry has been working to socialize the new law since it was enacted in January 2018. The revisions were based on inputs from policy- and decision-makers at a range of levels, as well as CIFOR scientists – which, Yimam says, make the law an impressive example of science and politics coming together for the betterment of a landscape.

“The law, recognizing the need to strengthen the role of the state in protecting biodiversity rich forests with global and national significance, has identified reserved forests where access is strictly limited,” says Yimam. “On the other hand, the law intends to promote the socioeconomic contribution of forests to the surrounding communities and to local and national economies.

“It is designed to significantly enhance the involvement and ownership of communities and associations in the establishment of plantation forests, in the restoration of degraded forests, and in responsible management and sustainable use of natural forests.”

CHANGE OF SCENERY

According to Kassa, a key shift in the new law is its recognition of the need to maximize socioeconomic benefits of all forest types to the surrounding communities. In the past, when communities managed natural forests under participatory forest management paradigms, “the only thing that they could use were non-timber forest products [NTFP], because most experts considered that cutting [down] indigenous trees was a forbidden act,” Kassa describes. So, the economic returns for managing forests were not really worth communities’ efforts. As such, “we recommended that the law allow a certain level of timber harvesting in natural forests based on forest management plan to be developed,” he says.

To some senior foresters invited to discuss the law in draft phases, this sounded undesirable and even dangerous: “There was a certain group who were really against some of these changes, because they thought that it would open up all natural forests for individuals and communities,” says Kassa. So a new article was created, whereby forests of significant biodiversity are demarcated, and treated as ‘no-go zones.’ “This also places responsibility on the state for protecting biodiversity-rich forests, which wasn’t so obvious before,” he says. 

The 2007 law only made mention of state and private forests. This meant that all restored forest land was treated as state property, so even after decades of restoration effort by a given community, the state could reallocate the land to other users. This tenure uncertainty demotivated communities to invest in forest landscape restoration. Since they didn’t clearly stand to benefit from landscape restoration and tree-planting, there was little incentive for them to take care of state-owned lands.

The new law, in contrast, grants rights of communities to manage and benefit from forests “very explicitly,” says Yimam. It does so by recognizing four categories of forest – state, private, community and association – thereby opening up new avenues for involvement and ownership. “So where you have degraded forest, the community can organize themselves, and with the approval of the relevant authority, can have all the responsibility of managing that forest as a community forest,” he explains.

“When you have groups of women or unemployed people, you can organize them to establish plantations on degraded hillsides, or even reforest and manage degraded forest, and this can be recognized as an association forest. Communities can then also stand to benefit financially from the carbon credits available for reforestation and forest preservation.”

REVISION TO REALITY

These new developments were hard-won. Kassa and his colleagues at CIFOR attempted to contribute similar content to the law’s predecessor in 2007, but then, forestry issues fell under the Ministry of Agriculture’s jurisdiction, and the sector was not getting the political attention it deserved. “We felt we were not really being listened to,” recounts Kassa.

When the Ministry of Environment and Forests (now the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) was established in 2013, CIFOR staff and other national researchers pushed hard for it to confront and address the limitations of the 2007 law, advocating that forest sector development could bring a host of economic benefits as well as help the country attain its national and international restoration commitments. The ministry listened, set up a committee to work with the scientists, and revised the law according to their technical feedback.

However, putting a law to work is always a challenge. Kassa says the ministry and relevant regional authorities will need significant support to translate the law into concrete actions on the ground. One issue is expertise. The focus of forestry training has thus far been on enhancing the protection function of forests rather than the livelihoods of forest dependent communities, says Kassa, and now leaders and experts in forestry will need new knowledge and skills.

What’s more, “Ethiopia is a federal state, and the various regional governments have been forming different institutional arrangements to manage the forestry sector”, says Yimam. “We need to develop the understanding that the regions can produce their own guidelines to clarify and specify certain articles, but all these cannot go beyond or against the national forest law.”

Both Yimam and Kassa are hopeful that rural communities and forests throughout the country will soon experience the benefits of the new law’s possibilities. “Ethiopia’s 2018 National Forest Law is a really progressive law, and if it is implemented properly it is going to make a big difference” says Yimam.

“The next step is to support the efforts of the Ethiopian government as it attempts to put in place appropriate structures at different levels, redefine the roles of experts and build their capacity to actualize the rights of communities and other forest managers provided by the law,” concludes Kassa.

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Habtemariam Kassa at h.kassa@cgiar.org.


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

This research was supported by the Strategic Climate Institutions Program (SCIP). SCIP is financed by the Governments of UK, Norway and Denmark.

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  • Tree-ring record in Ethiopian church forests reveals successive generation differences in growth rates and disturbance events

Tree-ring record in Ethiopian church forests reveals successive generation differences in growth rates and disturbance events

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Forests provide fundamental ecosystem services. Environmental changes are predicted to affect forest growth directly through increased environmental stressors, and indirectly by amplifying disturbance. To increase our understanding of effects of environmental changes and disturbance on Afromontane forest growth, we used tree-ring data collected from Juniperus procera trees from church forests in the northwest highlands of Ethiopia. We used structural change models to detect structural shift in growth trends. We applied Linear Mixed Effect Models (LMM) to compare growth rate differences between successive tree generations. The running mean method and radial growth pattern analysis were used to detect disturbance events. Three groups of generations were identified based on Basal Area Increment (BAI) rates. There are significant differences (?=2204.64, P<.001) anong generations in pace of BAI, indicating that old generation trees grew at a slower pace than younger ones. Radial growth patterns were homogeneous for the old generation, but diverse in young trees. The observed high growth rates in the younger generation may have a negative effect on the longevity of the individuals and positively affect carbon accumulation in the biomass. Disturbance was detected in all generations, but worsened in the 20th century. anout 35% of disturbances matched with climate extreme events, providing evidence that the disturbance is both human-induced (i.e., site-specific) and climate-induced. Thus, forest management plans should emerge from a sound understanding of climate-forest-human interaction.

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  • Comparing governance reforms to restore the forest commons in Nepal, China and Ethiopia

Comparing governance reforms to restore the forest commons in Nepal, China and Ethiopia

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  • Finding evidence for land-restoration strategies 

Finding evidence for land-restoration strategies 

An agricultural landscape in Eastern Uganda. Photo by Madelon Lohbeck/ICRAF
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An agricultural landscape in Eastern Uganda. Photo by Madelon Lohbeck/ICRAF

Restoration has never been more important, with almost a third of the world’s land surface degraded. But what exactly is restoration? And how do we know if it works?

More than 1.5 billion of the world’s poorest people are directly affected by degraded land. The Bonn Challenge aims to have 350 million hectares restored by 2030. Private- and public-sector land managers have already promised almost half that amount. This is very encouraging but how will we even know whether the Bonn Challenge was a success? In other words: what do we mean by restoration?

One common notion is that land restoration returns an ecosystem to some previous, ideal state. Yet it is typical for degraded land to be inhabited by people, who are often among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Restoration has the potential to improve their livelihoods if, indeed, restoration outcomes respond to local needs. But returning to a previous state (whichever state that is) is often not feasible nor desirable. So, if restoration is to succeed in some form, it is imperative to set specific goals together with the people living on the land. Most importantly, what aspects of the functionality of the land are to be restored?

Another common notion of land restoration is that it is done through planting trees. But do we know if land is always in better shape with more trees? And what aspects of the functionality of the land can be restored with trees? Does it matter which trees?

A newly published paper, Trait-based approaches for guiding the restoration of degraded agricultural landscapes in East Africa, addresses these questions. The paper is published in a special feature, Functional Traits in Agroecology, in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

A man records soil samples in Mwingi, Kenya. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

The study

Researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) studied degraded agricultural landscapes in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Farmers suffered the consequences of degradation through declining soil fertility and crop productivity. The researchers focused on soil functions to quantify the extent to which land was degraded or restored. Instead of conducting field experiments, they looked at the variation present in the landscapes and tested whether the variation in soil functionality could be explained by vegetation cover, the number of trees, and by the traits of the trees. The study was observational and reflected the variation in real land-use practices and restoration measures actually being applied.

The researchers not only looked at the number of trees but also their size and traits to assess their impact on key ecosystem functions. This way, trees with certain traits, for instance, high wood density, could be seen to increase a certain function, such as carbon stock, more effectively than trees with low wood density. This would then give clear guidance for land-restoration planners: if the goal was to restore carbon stock then promote the use of high wood density trees.

Read more: Trait-based approaches for guiding the restoration of degraded agricultural landscapes in East Africa

Results 

The researchers found that in the degraded agricultural landscapes, trees were associated with more productive soils. But more important than the number of trees was the non-woody vegetation cover. With higher vegetation cover, the soil was more fertile (had higher organic carbon) and less erosion took place. In addition, the diversity of functional traits of the trees on the land was shown to enhance soil fertility; invasive species tended to increase erosion.

The results had clear implications for restoration of soil health: avoid bare ground, plant trees, prioritize the removal of invasive species and promote diversity of trees on farms. Such evidence for restoring specific ecosystem functions is urgently needed.

The study also illustrated that evidence for restoration can be found through systematic assessment of vegetation, similar to an approach common in functional ecology. Applying a trait-based approach to existing projects on land-health monitoring would allow the study of complex processes more mechanistically and would eventually generate more impact on the ground. Integrating the approach into new and existing projects would be feasible for three reasons: 1) the growing body of evidence on which traits promote which functions; 2) the large amount of freely available trait-data online; and 3) the fact that many traits are easy to measure.

Read more: Second-growth forests: a boon for land restoration and climate change mitigation

By Madelon Lohbeck, ICRAF Scientist.

Reposted with permission from The Applied Ecologist’s Blog.


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

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  • How are China, Nepal and Ethiopia restoring forest landscapes?

How are China, Nepal and Ethiopia restoring forest landscapes?

A researcher explains the use of ground penetrating radar to measure peat depth to professors and students. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR
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Comparative study launched on sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum finds success in devolving property rights.

Forest landscape restoration has gained a high political profile internationally, but still faces the challenge of how best to involve local communities to ensure the success of programs on the ground. This is an issue that is all the more challenging given the diversity of environmental and sociopolitical contexts around the globe.

Property rights, for instance, are widely accepted as a crucial starting point for restoration — but policymakers struggle to clarify and secure rights over forests. In view of this, researchers at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), turned to successful FLR programs in China, Nepal and Ethiopia to identify lessons that could be applied elsewhere.

A woman prepares rice for cooking in Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Specifically, they examined how the devolution of access and management rights to local communities provided incentives for them to invest in restoration activities. The study, included in a Special Issue of International Forestry Review on forest landscape restoration, focuses on people managing forests in mountainous and hilly areas.

The special issue was launched on the sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, where FTA also participated in discussion forums and panels.

By drawing examples from dramatically different national contexts, the comparative study illustrates “the diversity of paths that the devolution of rights took, but how it had similar results,” says CIFOR senior scientist and lead author Peter Cronkleton.

All three cases of forest tenure reform led to the decentralization of forestry institutions and the partial devolution of management rights to local forest-dependent people, Cronkleton says. This resulted in different comanagement systems that reflect national and local contexts.

However, the general outcome was the same: local households that gained clear and secure benefits from restoration efforts not only invested in management activities, but also helped to protect the resources from overuse and excluded outsiders. Ultimately, this led to an increase in forest cover and improvements in livelihoods.

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn 2017

COMANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

In Nepal, devolution passed rights to community-level user groups controlling nearby remnant forests, while in China’s Changting county, reforms resulted in a varied array of individuals and local groups controlling different types of forest for different purposes, the study notes.

In Ethiopia, a national forest was subdivided to grant control to local organizations representing subgroups from surrounding communities.

“All or most forests in question started as public or collective property within systems that placed strict restrictions on forest access and use for local stakeholders. However, in each case, national agencies or other authorities lacked the capacity or political will to control and enforce restrictions,” the research points out.

This led to forest degradation and deforestation, as various stakeholders “extracted what they could, and there was little incentive to forgo immediate benefits or invest in the resources’ future.” This scenario, common to the various case studies, started changing following tenure reform.

Now, “Nepal is known as a global leader in community-based forest management,” says CIFOR senior scientist Himlal Baral. More than 20,000 Community Forestry User Groups, making up 40 percent of the population, now manage 33 percent of Nepal’s forests.

“Before, locals had a tendency to overutilize resources,” says Baral. “Today, they have incentives to protect the landscape, and they see restoration as being closely connected to their livelihoods.” From his perspective, this illustrates how the multiple benefits of FLR are key to advancing environmental targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.


In Changting, China, policy reform took a different path. In the study area, collective property rights over forests offered low incentives for restoration. In this case, the key was devolving rights to individual households. Individual forest rights combined with credits and subsidies provided incentives for households, cooperatives and enterprises to invest in FLR.

In Ethiopia, some of the poorest forest-dependent residents organized into user groups under participatory forest management programs (PFM). They were encouraged to develop management plans for lands that were not classified as production or protected forests, and were allowed to extract non-timber products in return.

An estimated 1.5 million hectares of forest are currently under PFM institutions, and an additional two million could be rehabilitated with this mechanism as part of the commitments under the Bonn Challenge.

Read more: Forest Landscape Restoration in Hilly and Mountainous Regions: Special Issue

BETTER FLR PROGRAMS

Indicators of forest devolution success range from an increase in tree cover to reduction in conflicts between local communities and the state, as was the case with the Chilimo PFM program in Ethiopia. Though there were many successes in FLR, the study also points out emerging challenges.

One is whether local communities have ownership over the environmental services produced by their restoration efforts, often by forgoing other benefits, and whether they should be compensated by other stakeholders. “This will be an ongoing question: how to create equitable and efficient systems for having payments for those services,” says Cronkleton.

In comanagement systems, communities are required to demonstrate their compliance with forestry regulations. According to Cronkleton, “the tendency to impose more and more elaborate management and reporting requirements can create a disincentive.”

From his perspective, devolving property rights to local actors is as important as including them in determining how the restoration should take place. “Comanagement should involve an ongoing negotiation and adaptation to new learnings. It is a process rather than a one-off decision.”

Further research could explore how different ways of devolving rights affect restoration efforts. For now, scientists hope this study will raise awareness among policymakers and practitioners of the need to involve locals when designing rights systems and compliance mechanisms. After all, says Cronkleton, “it is key to the success of the initiative.”

Read more: Forest and landscape restoration severely constrained by a lack of attention to the quantity and quality of tree seed: Insights from a global survey

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

For more information on this topic, please contact Peter Cronkleton at p.cronkleton@cgiar.org or Himlal Baral at h.baral@cgiar.org.


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

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government.

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  • Research team looks at changing landscapes, from forests to food

Research team looks at changing landscapes, from forests to food

A woman picks edible leaves. Photo by M. MacDonald/CIFOR
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A woman picks edible leaves. Photo by M. MacDonald/CIFOR

New work challenges conventional wisdom on agricultural expansion.

The growing demand for food — demand that is expected to double by 2050 — has led to widespread agricultural expansion, primarily at the expense of forests.

It is estimated that between 1980 and 2000, more than half of new agricultural land across the tropics was developed on forested land and a further 28 percent opened up on secondary forestland. Despite this expansion and significant progress made to reduce hunger, the UN estimates that more than 840 million people worldwide remain hungry and undernourished.

Food security is increasingly linked to a range of sectors such as biodiversity, conservation, maintenance of ecosystem services, food production, sustainable livelihood provision, and climate change mitigation.

Numerous theories have been put forward that aim to find a balance between food security, conservation and livelihoods. But do these ideas work?

Twenty scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partner institutions representing a range of disciplines set out to answer that question.

Led by CIFOR scientist Terry Sunderland, the team looked at six pantropical landscapes, in Zambia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, to find out what is actually happening on the ground.

“We wanted to challenge conventional wisdom that as economies and people develop, we have to transition from forest to agriculture to manufacturing and service industries and assume the outcomes are always positive,” says Sunderland.

Food security is increasingly linked to a range of sectors such as biodiversity, conservation, maintenance of ecosystem services and food production. Photo by M. MacDonald/CIFOR

“We wanted to test if that is actually the case, particularly for rural dwellers, and if it really has a net benefit in the longer term,” he adds.

Sunderland says the research team wanted to get a broader perspective on the impact of this transition to agriculture in these forested areas. So they took a wider approach, looking at not only socio-ecological aspects but socio-economic factors as well.

“We found that it is not a linear process. This transition impacts in the short term and in the long term. It affects the environment, health, diet and social and cultural impacts too,” he says.

ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL

One of the strongest points that came out of the study is that when you look at rural communities in changing landscapes, you need to not only examine each factor, but how each relates to its specific circumstances. Sunderland says one of the problems is that people often generalize when it comes to the lives of local people living in these rural areas.

“We tend to come out with sweeping statements about forest dependence, forest reliance and diets and so on, but it really it depends on a whole range of other externalities like culture and economies, so the local context is really important,” says Sunderland.

One surprising finding emerged in Ethiopia, for example, where the scientists found that people who lived further away from the forest were actually poorer because they didn’t have access to fuel wood.  These communities were forced to burn manure as fuel instead of putting it on their crops.

“This situation led to decreases in crop yields and grazing lands and that led to these communities becoming considerably poorer,” says Sunderland.

One example of relying on assumptions comes from Indonesia, where there is the general argument that oil palm does great things for the local economy. Sunderland says that may be the case, but that this point has been oversimplified.

When the researchers spoke with oil palm workers they found a huge dietary transition from a very varied, nutritious diet, often from forest foods, to a very simplified diet that relies on sugar and fats.

“It’s an ‘instant noodleization’ of diets of sorts. When people have a bit more money in their pockets they tend to buy pre-packaged food. It’s a status thing, too. And it is these things that are usually never thought about,” says Sunderland.

He says food security shouldn’t be counted just in calories, but should also include people’s actual diets and hence nutrition.

THE MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION

So, how do we maintain economic growth and food security without ruining the environment?

“What this study is saying is it’s not about keeping people forest-dependent, but it is keeping people cognizant of the fact that forests play an important role in food security, for example in terms of ecosystems and their impact on forest agriculture,” says Sunderland.

He says once you are on the ground you quickly realize that many of these concepts such as land-sharing and land-sparing, are often more conceptual than anything, and imply a “grand design” at the landscape scale that simply is not there. He says there is a need to really get down to the complexities of these landscapes.

A Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) site is seen in Tigray, Ethiopia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Over the years, critics have asked: how are you going to feed the world if you don’t have massive agricultural expansion across landscapes?  But the research shows it is not a question of ‘either/or’. Forests and trees have a key role to play.

The new study references previous research which estimates that over 1.3 billion people utilize forests, and that trees and forested landscapes generate significant income for local people who could earn as much from foraging forests and wild lands as from cultivating crops.

“There is now evidence of a clear dichotomy between the environment and food security. So it’s not as black and white as it seems,” says Sunderland.

Sunderland says that the impact on landscapes from climate change emphasizes this message, so there is a need to help farmers diversify in the future and do more with what they have.

“Farmers who are growing eight different types of crops are much less likely to suffer from the environmental or economic impact of climate change, as opposed to a farmer who is growing just wheat and he happens to have a catastrophic year and everything is lost,” he says.

The researchers also looked at aid projects that were being implemented in their research areas. These projects focused on issues like agriculture, sustainability and livelihoods, and lasted for a relatively short time, from three to five years.

“That’s great for short term, but not the long term. So we are advocating moving away from projects to more process-oriented interventions and even understanding how landscapes change over time and why,” says Sunderland.

Moving forward in this research, the team recognizes is a great need to take a multi-disciplinary approach — when social scientists work together with environmental scientists you get a much better outcome, Sunderland says.

“There’s no silver bullet. There’s only a complex reality and you really have to get a grasp on it to move on. We need to understand these landscapes before we can manage them,” he concludes.

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

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


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

This research was supported by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Landscape restoration in Ethiopia brings watershed to life

Landscape restoration in Ethiopia brings watershed to life

Water is now abundant in Gergera after “treatment” of the catchment with gabions, planting of trees and elephant grass, and natural regeneration of vegetation. Photo by Cathy Watson/ICRAF
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Water is now abundant in Gergera after “treatment” of the catchment with gabions, planting of trees and elephant grass, and natural regeneration of vegetation. Photo by Cathy Watson/ICRAF

Ethiopia is suffering from severe drought. But there is water in Gergera. Twenty years of restoring its hills and valley has brought life back to this area in the state of Tigray.

The work has been painstaking, complex and multidimensional and continues to this day. But its hard-won results offer up two key lessons. First, landscape restoration in drylands hinges on water management. Second, restoration can create a base for better livelihoods and jobs for youth who formerly left in droves.

Ministers visited the watershed on May 31, 2017 after a meeting at which the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), as part of work supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), signed a memo of understanding to establish a National Agroforestry Platform to support climate-resilient green growth and transformation.

Over 40 prominent figures attended, including Ministers of State Dr. K Urgesa and Dr. G Gebreyohannes, Dr. W Tadesse of the Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute, Dr. F Kebede, advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, and Dr. E Gabre Madhin, founder of Ethiopia’s commodity exchange. Also present were the ambassadors of Australia and Ireland, M Sawyers and P McManus, representatives of the Finnish, US, Dutch, German and Norwegian embassies and development agencies, and leaders from civil society groups such as OXFAM, Farm Africa, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and Packard.

Ministers Eyasu Abraha and Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes listen to the community. Photo by Cathy Watson/ICRAF

In Gergera, the visit began at the head of the valley where community leaders had gathered. Alighting and looking around, Ethiopia’s minister of agriculture and natural resources was visibly moved. “I know this place. It was abandoned and untouched. This is very incredible to me,” said Dr. Eyasu Abraha.

The group stood under tall trees, bathed by bird song, with luscious grasses and pools of clean water at their feet. So that it can regenerate, this part of Gergera has long been closed to cattle. “The first thing you notice is the change of vegetation,” said ICRAF’s Director General Dr. Tony Simons, pointing out a Sclerocarya birrea, a tree with a nutritious plum-like fruit with an oil-rich kernel.

With the consent of the community, only cutting and carrying grass to livestock and beekeeping are permissible in this upper catchment. Indeed, the wooded hillsides are rife with carefully placed hives. Gabions built by members of the community slow the rainwater when it courses down the chasm, which, formerly too deep to cross, is gradually filling as earth builds up behind the structures.

Critically, this earth now retains rainwater, which seeps into the ground and emerges as groundwater in the valley where 1000 hectares of land are now under small-scale irrigation. It was not always like this.

“During the period of the Emperor and the Derg, degradation was so severe,” an elder said, referring to the regime that was in place from 1974 for 17 years. “Once we were forced to dismantle a church at risk of being swept away!”

Read more:

Preventing gulley expansion is key to restoration. The gulley in Gergera is over 40 km long. Photo by Cathy Watson/ICRAF

But the fall of the Derg brought a groundswell of activity to address agricultural productivity in an area once struck by famine.

“The people took the initiative to rehabilitate the environment,” explained administrator Habtom Woreta. “That is when Irish Aid came in and we became a model watershed for the region and the world. You can see how the area is transformed! Biodiversity has increased and we have hand-dug wells at 1 meter deep because of recharge. And none of this is in vain. Now we have TVs in the houses. Before we slept on mats, now we have beds.”

Once a hot spot for the perilous out-migration of youth, even that has changed. When Irish Aid representative Aileen O’Donovan asked “about job creation for the youth, who are motivated but restless”, Kebele village leader Tsuruy proudly said: “We have 1070 youngsters, of whom 506 are employed due to restoration.”

“This is music to my ears,” said the minister of agriculture, whose government recently completed a Rural Job Opportunity Strategy.

Down in the valley, young men were building gabions to deflect a gulley away from the fields that would be destroyed if the water went unchecked in the rains. They are paid under the Poverty Safety Net Programme, Ethiopia’s cash transfer scheme. But they also donate 40 free days of their time, both as a social obligation and in anticipation of receiving reclaimed land from the state.

ICRAF Director General Tony Simons is seen in Gergera’s upper catchment. Photo by Cathy Watson/ICRAF

Asked why they were doing this, they shouted, “To earn daily bread and stop the loss of land. The land was going!” Placing a boulder into a square of wire mesh, the ICRAF director general told the group that if good tree cover was kept in the watershed, the water would also come with less velocity.

There were more young men as well as women at the rural resource center, a former government nursery now supported by ICRAF, which technically guides the entire restoration. They earn their living selling trees, particularly avocado, and 13 fodder grass species. They currently have tree seedlings and vegetable plantlets worth $11,523 and $10,000 in the bank.

“Our vision is how these youngsters can eventually be extension workers,” said Professor Mitiku Hailu of Mekelle University.

Read also: ‘No one leaves any more’: Ethiopia’s restored drylands offer new hope

As the trip wrapped up, the community served bread and honey from the recovering hills. State Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Dr. Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes said “what has been seen today is job creation” and “cash transfers improving the lives of the poor”.

Dr. Kiros Hagdu, who leads ICRAF in Ethiopia, said his center was committed to evidence-based restoration of farms and landscapes with the government and communities and that now was “the time to scale-up the successes nationally.”

The minister of agriculture had the last word. “Agroforestry is becoming the heart and the mind of the government,” said Dr. Eyasu Abraha. “What we see here is really the beginning of transformation. All those youngsters who wanted to migrate will have productive land.”

By Cathy Watson, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World


This work has been supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. The World Agroforestry Centre is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

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  • Soil management and land restoration vital to meeting climate change and sustainable development targets

Soil management and land restoration vital to meeting climate change and sustainable development targets

Landscape in restoration in Abreha Atsbeha, Tigray, Ethiopia. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/ Ake Mamo
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Landscape in restoration in Abreha Atsbeha, Tigray, Ethiopia. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/ Ake Mamo

By Susan Onyango, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World Blog

Land degradation impacts the health and livelihoods of about 1.5 billion people worldwide. Further, the annual costs associated with land degradation worldwide is estimated to be US$ 231 billion as measured in terms of loss productivity and the costs to due to loss of ecosystems services.

Given that the state of the environment and food security are strongly interlinked in tropical landscapes, the increasing need for land for food production, urbanization and other uses pose several threats to sustainability in the long term. There is increasing recognition that more integrated approaches to ecosystem health assessments are needed to meet the targets of the 2030 Agenda, including SD 15.3 on combating desertification and restoring degraded land and soil. In addition to systematic and reliable biophysical and socio-economic assessments, stakeholder engagement with evidence is crucial.

The Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon, hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,  FAO, in Rome, Italy from 21-23 March 2017, brought together more than 300 participants to act on worldwide ambitions to preserve soil organic carbon and re-carbonizing degraded soils. The objective of the symposium was to review the role of soil and soil organic carbon in the context of climate change and sustainable evidence, and to build scientific evidence that will contribute to the IPCC Assessment Reports and reports to UNFCCC, UNCCD and on the SDGs.

Leigh Ann Winowiecki, soil scientist, and Tor-Gunnar Vågen, senior scientist, at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) presented advanced analytics on soil carbon accounting and highlighted integrated approaches for stakeholder engagement with evidence using ICRAF’s SHARED approach, a demand driven, tailored and interactive engagement process. Their presentation,  “Spatial assessments for the mapping and monitoring of soil organic carbon: Using stakeholder engagement processes”, co-authored by Constance Neely, Sabrina Chesterman and Mieke Bourne, demonstrated the integration of land and soil health maps with socio-economic datasets. Kenya’s Turkana County Government’s Resilience Diagnostic and Decision Support Tool was developed using a similar approach.

“We have established maps of soil organic carbon for the continent of Africa and are creating a large systematic database of soil organic carbon across the tropics. These maps can be used for prioritizing initiatives and baseline assessments for carbon accounting.” Leigh Ann Winowiecki, World Agroforestry Centre

Tor-Gunnar Vågen, senior scientist at the World Agroforestry at the Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Leigh Ann Winowiecki
Tor-Gunnar Vågen, senior scientist at the World Agroforestry at the Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Leigh Ann Winowiecki

Winowiecki and Vågen‘s  presentation highlighted the advanced spatial mapping analytics available at the Centre’s GeoScience Lab. The analysis is supported by the project, Restoration of degraded land for food security and poverty reduction in East Africa and the Sahel: taking successes in land restoration to scale, funded by IFAD and the European Commission.

Symposium participants also engaged in discussions on maintaining and/or increasing soil organic carbon stocks for climate change mitigation and adaptation and the SDG 15.3 on land degradation neutrality, and on managing soil organic carbon in soils with high organic content.

A scientific document highlighting the role of soils and soil organic carbon management in meeting the climate change and sustainable development agendas  will present an overview of state-of-the-art soil organic carbon monitoring, measures to maintain and enhance soil organic carbon, and recommended methods for monitoring and reporting soil organic carbon.

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

Also see:

Presentation – Spatial assessments for the mapping and monitoring of soil organic carbon: Using stakeholder engagement processes

Vågen, T-G., Winowiecki, L.A., Neely, C., Chesterman, S., and Bourne, M. 2017. Spatial assessments for the mapping and monitoring of soil organic carbon- Using stakeholder engagement processes, a paper presented at the Global Symposium on Soil Carbon, Rome, Italy, 21-23 March 2017.

Vågen, Tor-G., Winowiecki, L., Tondoh, J.E., Desta, L.T. and Gumbricht, T. 2016. Mapping of soil properties and land degradation risk in Africa using MODIS reflectance. Geoderma. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoderma.2015.06.023

Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon website

Project website: Restoration of degraded land for food security and property reduction in East Africa and the Sahel: taking success in land restoration to scale

World Agroforestry Centre Landscapes Portal 

Blog: Put soils first, African Soil Seminar concludes

For more information, contact Leigh Winowiecki at the World Agroforestry Centre: l.a.winowiecki@cgiar.org

We thank the European Commission and IFAD for financing the project, Restoration of degraded land for food security and poverty reduction in East Africa and the Sahel: taking successes to scale.

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  • The frankincense tree Boswellia neglecta reveals high potential for restoration of woodlands in the Horn of Africa

The frankincense tree Boswellia neglecta reveals high potential for restoration of woodlands in the Horn of Africa

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Authors: Mulugeta Mokria, Motuma Tolera, Frank J. Sterck, Aster Gebrekirstos, Frans Bongers, Mathieu Decuyper, Ute Sass-Klaassen

Boswellia neglecta S. Moore is a frankincense-producing tree species dominantly found in the dry woodlands of southeastern Ethiopia. Currently, the population of this socio-economically and ecologically important species is threatened by complex anthropogenic and climate change related factors. Evaluation of tree age and its radial growth dynamics in relation to climate variables helps to understand the response of the species to climate change. It is also crucial for sustainable forest resource management and utilization. Dendrochronological and remote-sensing techniques were used to study periodicity of wood formation and leaf phenology and to assess the growth dynamics of B. neglecta. The results show that B. neglecta forms two growth rings per year in the study area. The growth ring structure is characterized by larger vessels at the beginning of each growing season and smaller vessels formed later in the growing season, suggesting adaptation to decreasing soil moisture deficits at the end of the growing season. Seasonality in cambial activity matches with a bimodal leaf phenological pattern. The mean annual radial growth rate of B. neglecta trees is 2.5 mm. Tree age varied between 16 and 28 years, with an average age of 22 years. The young age of these trees indicates recent colonization of B. neglecta in the study region. The growth rate and seasonal canopy greenness (expressed by Normalized Difference Vegetation Index – NDVI) were positively correlated with rainfall, suggesting that rainfall is the main climatic factor controlling growth of B. neglecta. The observed temporal changes in leaf phenology and vessel size across the growth rings indicate that the species is drought tolerant. Therefore, it can be regarded as a key tree species for restoration of moisture-related limited areas across the Horn of Africa.

Published at  Forest Ecology and Management 385 (2017) 16–24

 


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