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  • Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal

Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal

Terraced hillside in the Son La agroforestry landscape in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Terraced hillside in the Son La agroforestry landscape in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo

Government officers from the mountainous countries of Bhutan and Nepal have visited highly successful agroforestry sites in Northwest Vietnam that are helping to restore degraded sloping land and improve farmers’ incomes.

The steep upland farming areas of Bhutan, Nepal and Vietnam share similar challenges in establishing sustainable agricultural practices that improve livelihoods and the environment.

To share knowledge and experience from working with farmers in the steeply sloping landscapes of Northwest Vietnam, government officers from Bhutan and Nepal traveled to Son La and Dien Bien provinces to explore an array of well-developed agroforestry systems, demonstration sites, plantations and nurseries. The visitors learned how the various systems have contributed to increased food security, income stability, water availability and reduced soil erosion.

As well as designing and establishing the systems with farmers and government extension officers, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), has been working with farmers to monitor changes in soil erosion following the adoption of agroforestry practices.

Chuki Wangmo and Kinley Wangmo from the Institute of Conservation and Environmental Research of the Bhutan Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, and Ram Babu Paudyal and Bishnu Kumari Adhikari from Nepal’s Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation, noted that cultivating on a steep gradient is something that communities across all three countries were familiar with. However, the associated issues of soil and wind erosion were not easy to mitigate.

An agroforestry system is seen on a hillside in Son La province, Vietnam. Photo by Chuki Wangmo

The visitors were first shown a five-year-old complex agroforestry system in Son La, where the recorded decline in soil erosion since the introduction of agroforestry was of particular relevance to the officers from Bhutan, who work with farmers in mountainous terrain.

“Hard evidence is very important,” noted Chuki Wangmo. “If people at both the national and local levels can see how agroforestry can be of benefit to crop production, especially by addressing soil and wind erosion issues which many farmers suffer from, it would encourage wider adoption of agroforestry in our country.”

Farmers in both Vietnam and Bhutan are already significantly affected by the impacts of a rapidly changing climate. In Bhutan, changes to precipitation are exacerbating the rate of soil erosion, which is speeding a decline in soil fertility, compounded by the steep terrain. The government often has to compensate farmers affected by crop losses and damage caused by landslides and flooding.

About 70 percent of Bhutanese farmers rely on agriculture, forestry and livestock for subsistence livelihoods yet only 8 percent of Bhutan’s total land area is cultivable. The establishment of agroforestry would enable farmers cultivating small areas of land to improve the efficiency and diversity of crop production in already fragile mountainous areas, whilst meeting the socioeconomic needs of the community.

“The successful agroforestry demonstration sites we visited revealed how agroforestry systems can increase land-use efficiency for smallholders by increasing the productivity per area unit,” noted Ram Babu Paudyal.

Nepal could reap the benefits of such simple yet effective agroforestry systems to produce a diverse range of products on small areas of land.

In Son La province, the Nepali visitors heard how farmers involved in a 50-hectare demonstration agroforestry landscape had migrated from a neighboring area affected by the construction of a hydropower dam.

The role of agroforestry in improving livelihoods is particularly relevant to Nepal because it is experiencing increased out-migration from rural areas. This was a key motive of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in funding a pilot study dubbed Enhancing Rural Livelihoods in Abandoned/Underutilized Agricultural Land through Agroforestry.

“We hope that agroforestry will encourage the return of urban migrants to farms,” said Ram Babu Paudyal. “If agroforestry can be demonstrated as a land-use system that can provide sustainable sources of income and sustainable land cultivation, it could help address poverty and many national environmental concerns.”

ICRAF Vietnam recognizes the importance of establishing long-term relationships and collaboration with district and community organizations to enable the sustainable implementation of agroforestry. Agricultural and forestry extensionists or rural advisors are a key component of such relations. The visitors had the chance to speak with extensionists at the field sites to better understand their role as communicators of technical advice and guidance to, and between, farmers.

“Extensionists are clearly very valuable when it comes to building cohesion between the agricultural and forestry sectors,” commented Kinley Wangmo. “We learned that there were many different stakeholders, including experts, involved in the process of enabling agroforestry on the ground. Our visit to the field sites showed that agroforestry systems differ depending on the type of landscape and that the needs of farmers in those landscapes must always be prioritized.”

By Anoushka Carter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.


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

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  • Corporate commitments to zero deforestation: An evaluation of externality problems and implementation gaps

Corporate commitments to zero deforestation: An evaluation of externality problems and implementation gaps

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This research critically examines implementation gaps and externality problems associated with the recent proliferation of zero deforestation commitments (ZDC) by large commodity producers. By developing and employing a hierarchical framework, we evaluate the policies and strategies of 50 leading ZDC adopters in high forest-risk commodity sectors (soy, oil palm, cattle and wood). The analysis shows that while most ZDC adopters formulated strong ZDCs, there is significant room for further refining implementation mechanisms. Specifically, it finds that weak commitment to full transparency, notably disclosure of sourcing locations and suppliers, and to independent verification, undermines ZDCs’ transformative potential and ability to hold companies accountable for failure to comply with their ZDCs. Our analysis also reveals that most sampled companies do not explicitly account for the socially detrimental externalities that their ZDCs threaten to produce. Where this is acknowledged, it is acknowledged implicitly through standing commitments to full voluntary certification, especially in the wood and oil palm sector. As a result, issues related to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and protection of high conservation value (HVC) ecosystems are comparatively well addressed by adopters, but challenges faced by smallholders, food security risks, and indirect land use change issues are only minimally accounted for. Our results suggest that for ZDCs to contribute meaningfully to inclusive and sustainable development potential, complementarities between private and public regulatory initiatives need to be better leveraged.

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  • Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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Fish for sale in a local market in Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding more sustainable ways to feed the world at the EAT Food Forum in Jakarta.

Creating a more sustainable global food system demands innovation in food technologies, and collaboration at the highest levels of government. These demands were echoed by many prominent leaders who attended the recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia.

More than 500 participants from 30 countries congregated at the Forum on October 30 and 31 to discuss progress on the latest food research, as well as ideas for how to transform food systems in Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned in his opening remarks that “food can trigger political problems if not managed well.” He hoped that the “EAT Forum can reach a collective understanding through international collaboration among development actors from various sectors.”

After a steady decline for more than a decade, global hunger is again on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, according to a recent UN report. The increased number of those going hungry — from 38 million people last year to 815 million people today — is reported to be mainly caused by civil conflicts, and exacerbated by climate-related catastrophes.

Gathering leaders from science, politics and business, the EAT Forum aimed to promote a more holistic approach to food, health and sustainability, filling knowledge gaps, pushing for integrated food policies and finding win-win solutions.

Read more: Feminism, forests and food security

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

A HIGH-LEVEL ISSUE

“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets,” EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen said in her opening speech.

“We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector, from multinationals to local entrepreneurs, to create new products, services and sustainable business models,” she added.

Indonesian Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that “food security has become a prominent issue due to rapid growth in global population.”

“Food security, energy security and water supply are becoming key factors for many economic activities in the world. Improvements in technology and innovation are definitely going to create both opportunities and increasing productivity, but also challenges,” she said.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Terry Sunderland from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) commended the EAT forum for its success in gathering a large number of stakeholders in the food sector, including high-level politicians.

“Getting politicians to recognize the limitations of our current food systems is a great start. Things will not change overnight, but the event in Jakarta is raising awareness. People are listening,” he said.

Read more: Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security, nutrition and the SDGs; Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda

A HOLISTIC VIEW ON FOOD SECURITY

Amy Ickowitz, another CIFOR scientist who participated in the event, said the issues covered in the Forum are in line with CIFOR’s research. But while the Forum focused more on the impacts of food systems on land-use change, CIFOR’s Sustainable Landscapes and Food team “also focuses on the flip side — the impacts of land-use change on smallholder diets,” she said.

The team recently published a paper looking at the relationship between forests and tree-based agriculture, and the diets of children in Indonesia.

Sunderland added that when talking about food security in Indonesia, forests and fisheries play an integral role.

“Inland and marine fisheries stocks, and how they interplay with dietary and nutritional diversity, are important. We need to understand, what are the future demands for fisheries and how will this play out in terms food security? It supports we have done in the past five, six years in terms of moving towards dietary diversity,” he said.

“More support should be given to smallholder farmers so they can reduce their post-harvest waste, so they can trade in a market that’s fair and equitable. And slowly get that mindset that the transformation of our food system can be a positive thing.

Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important,” he added.

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


The EAT Forum was jointly organized by the Indonesian Government and the EAT Foundation.

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or Amy Ickowitz at [email protected].

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 and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Fish for sale in a local market in Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding more sustainable ways to feed the world at the EAT Food Forum in Jakarta.

Creating a more sustainable global food system demands innovation in food technologies, and collaboration at the highest levels of government. These demands were echoed by many prominent leaders who attended the recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia.

More than 500 participants from 30 countries congregated at the Forum on October 30 and 31 to discuss progress on the latest food research, as well as ideas for how to transform food systems in Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned in his opening remarks that “food can trigger political problems if not managed well.” He hoped that the “EAT Forum can reach a collective understanding through international collaboration among development actors from various sectors.”

After a steady decline for more than a decade, global hunger is again on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, according to a recent UN report. The increased number of those going hungry — from 38 million people last year to 815 million people today — is reported to be mainly caused by civil conflicts, and exacerbated by climate-related catastrophes.

Gathering leaders from science, politics and business, the EAT Forum aimed to promote a more holistic approach to food, health and sustainability, filling knowledge gaps, pushing for integrated food policies and finding win-win solutions.

Read more: Feminism, forests and food security

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

A HIGH-LEVEL ISSUE

“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets,” EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen said in her opening speech.

“We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector, from multinationals to local entrepreneurs, to create new products, services and sustainable business models,” she added.

Indonesian Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that “food security has become a prominent issue due to rapid growth in global population.”

“Food security, energy security and water supply are becoming key factors for many economic activities in the world. Improvements in technology and innovation are definitely going to create both opportunities and increasing productivity, but also challenges,” she said.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Terry Sunderland from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) commended the EAT forum for its success in gathering a large number of stakeholders in the food sector, including high-level politicians.

“Getting politicians to recognize the limitations of our current food systems is a great start. Things will not change overnight, but the event in Jakarta is raising awareness. People are listening,” he said.

Read more: Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security, nutrition and the SDGs; Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda

A HOLISTIC VIEW ON FOOD SECURITY

Amy Ickowitz, another CIFOR scientist who participated in the event, said the issues covered in the Forum are in line with CIFOR’s research. But while the Forum focused more on the impacts of food systems on land-use change, CIFOR’s Sustainable Landscapes and Food team “also focuses on the flip side — the impacts of land-use change on smallholder diets,” she said.

The team recently published a paper looking at the relationship between forests and tree-based agriculture, and the diets of children in Indonesia.

Sunderland added that when talking about food security in Indonesia, forests and fisheries play an integral role.

“Inland and marine fisheries stocks, and how they interplay with dietary and nutritional diversity, are important. We need to understand, what are the future demands for fisheries and how will this play out in terms food security? It supports we have done in the past five, six years in terms of moving towards dietary diversity,” he said.

“More support should be given to smallholder farmers so they can reduce their post-harvest waste, so they can trade in a market that’s fair and equitable. And slowly get that mindset that the transformation of our food system can be a positive thing.

Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important,” he added.

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


The EAT Forum was jointly organized by the Indonesian Government and the EAT Foundation.

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or Amy Ickowitz at [email protected].

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 and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Land tenure and forest rights of rural and indigenous women in Latin America: Empirical evidence

Land tenure and forest rights of rural and indigenous women in Latin America: Empirical evidence

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Latin America’s land-use and communal forests needs a better understanding through a lens of women. This research article aims to examine Latin America’s secured individual land tenure legal reforms and communal rights in indigenous territories. Two empirical case studies are presented to assess the current dynamics of rural women’s land title rights in coffee agroforestry under Colombia’s new Formalización Propiedad Rural program, and indigenous Quechua women’s communal forest land rights for indigenous foods like kañawa and quinoa farming in highland Bolivia. In doing so, it also gives an introduction to the five empirical research papers that are part of this Special Section edited by the author. The specific case studies are from the Brazilian Amazon, Bolivia’s Gran Chaco area, Nicaragua’s indigenous territories and two studies from Mexico – one from Oaxaca’s central valley and the other is based on smallholder farming in Calakmul rural area. In conclusion, the author discusses the need to prioritise women’s role in individual land rights and communal forest tenure in Latin American countries.

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  • Shaping a stronger global agenda for forests, trees and agroforestry at CFS44

Shaping a stronger global agenda for forests, trees and agroforestry at CFS44

A farmer fertilizes his rice field in Rammang-rammang village, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photo by T. Saputro/CIFOR
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Trees and forests play critical roles in landscapes and value chains, contributing to sustainable agricultural development. They are also key to achieving food security and nutrition, and thus the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the recent Committee on World Food Security (CFS) 44, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) coorganized two side events: one on feminism, forests and food security and one on sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition, where panelists discussed how to move forward on the implementation of the recent High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) report on sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition and CFS policy recommendations.

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

The latter side event, organized with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the government of the Netherlands, Tropenbos International, the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) and MARS, Incorporated, honed in on priorities relating to research for development.

Titled Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security, nutrition and the SDGs: Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda, the discussion on Oct. 11 contributed to CFS44’s discussions on sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition, and aimed to shape a stronger global agenda for forests, trees and agroforestry.

A village in Mount Halimun Salak National Park, West Java, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

In particular, the event sought to show how major initiatives intend to position themselves, enhance their synergies, and better work with all stakeholders to implement the CFS recommendations on sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition. The discussion also aimed to contribute to knowledge sharing and clarifying stakeholder expectations in terms of priority demands toward research and development partners. Furthermore, FTA hoped to identify ways and means for better articulation between major international initiatives, and identify priority demands as the program continues in its second phase.

The well-attended talk illustrated how key research for development points will be used in FTA’s prioritization process, with FTA considered well-placed to address the implications of the HLPE report. After introductions by FAO’s Eva Muller and myself, a number of panelists discussed the topics at hand, while audience members both in the room and online also had the opportunity to participate in the discussion.

Of the many key points to emerge was the need for responsible investments in value chains, including the fundamental role of the private sector. The panelists agreed upon the need for knowledge about how to incentivize responsible business models, and for reviews and guidelines on different inclusive business models.

Actors must quantify the constraints involved in integrating trees into farms and landscapes, despite a lack of information on successful examples, new techniques, seeds and sourcing. Social inclusiveness and gender are also vital facets of finding solutions, including the need to facilitate women’s participation and empowerment in rural development as well as food security and nutrition.

Ambassador Hans Hoogeveen of the Netherlands, who sat on the panel, outlined the need for a forward-looking perspective and cited agriculture as among the drivers of deforestation. He asked what agriculture can do for forests, and what land use can do for forests. Hoogeveen suggested that actors should focus on the private sector rather than governments. Getting a company like IKEA on board, for example, could create a transformational change, he said.

Muller then followed up on what agriculture and land use can do for forests, stating that an upcoming conference organized by FAO would look at Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 on sustainably managing forests, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss, as well as the more ambitious goal of increasing forests by 3 percent by 2030. FAO will disseminate knowledge and provide technical support, she said, adding that countries would need support, data, knowledge and innovative governance solutions.

In my role in the discussion, I described the HLPE as a stocktake mechanism, which has presented us with questions about how to move forward. We need to look at the role of trees to address food security and nutrition, climate change and the SDGs. Indeed there is a need for an integrated approach to agriculture and forestry, including the restoration of land and looking at sustainable value chains. FTA aims to inform and support stakeholders from a research perspective.

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

Moderating the side event, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Director General Peter Holmgren highlighted the need to work on rights, inclusiveness, value chain connections, entrepreneurship, investments, livelihoods and food security. That is where forestry should move, he said, adding that FTA’s partners could act as a coalition in this manner.

Cecile Ndjebet, President of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF), highlighted the role of women in particular, saying they were key actors to combat hunger, poverty and climate change. Other priorities include investing in underutilized nutritious foods, and linking non-timber forest products to markets.

Rene Boot, Director of Tropenbos International, focused on inclusive business development and business models, as smallholders produce 75 percent of food worldwide. There is clearly a need for inclusive and responsible investments, he said, adding that how to best connect investors was an issue.

A woman picks maize near Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Kerstin Cisse of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) said agroforestry was a recognized technology and was economically viable. She also highlighted women’s central roles in rural development and food security and nutrition. One challenge was how to make research results available and usable, especially for small-scale farms, she said. Youth and women hold untapped potential that needs to be developed, she added, before outlining the need for new thinking and new questions. 

Additionally, Agusdin Pulungan, President of the Indonesian Farmer and Fisher Society Organization (WAMTI), highlighted challenges for farmers including a lack of information on successful examples, information on new techniques, competing land uses, a lack of equipment, insufficient land availability, and a lack of seeds. It can be difficult for farmers to invest without reserves, he explained, and they need incentives to introduce trees. The role of research for development should be to provide information on incentive schemes, while farmers could be more motivated through good examples and discussion, he said.

The panelists and audience members thus helped to outline a range of issues that will help to prioritize research – relating to integration, protecting forests, intensifying agriculture and working on drivers of land-use change, most of which are outside forests. Demand is growing for agriculture products and the renewable material of wood, so we need to understand how plantations can be sustainable and we need to fight institutional boundaries. 

Indeed, as Holmgren mentioned, this involves the involvement of all stakeholders – from private sector and civil society to communities, as well as governments.

Read more: Sharing better, for better research

The other major messages gained from the side event included that there is a need to invest in underutilized nutritious food crops. Meanwhile, plantations are needed to ensure the growing supply of wood and other products. There is an overall need for integration, as most drivers of change, such as land-use change, exist outside forests.

To devise solutions, actors must integrate agriculture and forestry. A key challenge in this light is how to make research results available and usable, especially for small-scale farms, in light of knowledge and development gaps.

Ultimately, to implement the CFS agenda and achieve global food security, the panelists agreed that countries will need support, data, knowledge and innovative governance solutions, with the involvement of all partners. 

By Vincent Gitz, FTA Director.


The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (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, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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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 [email protected].


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

High Level Panel of Experts launches landmark report on sustainable forestry

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

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

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

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

Forest and trees: key to food security and nutrition

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

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

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

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

A new perspective, beyond arbitrary divides

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

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

Implications for the research agenda, and for FTA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Vincent Gitz, FTA Director.

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  • ICRAF presents the role of evidence and improved soil management for land restoration in sub-Saharan Africa at European Development Days

ICRAF presents the role of evidence and improved soil management for land restoration in sub-Saharan Africa at European Development Days

Degraded land in Marsabit, Kenya, shows that poor land management can lead to degradation. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF
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In Marsabit, Kenya, poor land management has led to degradation. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

Approximately 70% of Africa’s population depends on its agriculture-based economy for their livelihoods, underscoring the importance of soil to the sector.

Fertile soils across the continent are under threat, however, due in large part to climate change and poor land management which leads to the depletion of nutrients and soil organic matter and increased soil erosion.

During the recent European Development Days held on June 7-8, 2017, in Brussels, Belgium, the Joint Research Commission of the European Commission led a session on sustainable soil management in Africa. Panelists drew from different organizations including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and University of Leuven.

Their discussion focused on solutions to large-scale adoption, both at policy and practical levels, of key land restoration options including integrated soil fertility management alongside practices such as intercropping and agroforestry. Scientists from ICRAF presented compelling evidence on how soil restoration can contribute to improved food security and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Many soils in Africa are naturally fertile and productive,” said Arwyn Jones of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. “However, many exhibit significant constraints related to inappropriate management and climate fluctuation.”

Human activity and natural disasters such as floods accelerate soil degradation, negatively affect natural ecosystems which in turn can negatively impacts sectors of the economy such as agriculture, environmental services and tourism. As such, soil is a key component to solving Africa’s challenges to ensure food security and address climate change. Jones recognized the importance of incorporating existing indigenous knowledge on soil management effective soil management.

Leigh Winowiecki, soil scientist at ICRAF, speaks about the role of sustainable soil management for restoration of degraded land in East Africa and the Sahel. Photo by Susan Onyango/ICRAF

“Land degradation in the drylands of Sub-Saharan Africa continues to threaten food security and livelihoods,” said Leigh Winowiecki, an FTA researcher and soil scientist at ICRAF. “To that end, sustainable soil management is key to restoration of degraded land to transform lives and landscapes.”

Her presentation looked at the role of sustainable soil management for restoration of degraded land in East Africa and the Sahel, highlighting activities from the IFAD/EC-funded project ‘Restoration of degraded land for food security and poverty reduction in East Africa and the Sahel: taking successes in land restoration to scale’.

Read also: Soil inhabitants hold together the planet’s food system

When considering options for land restoration initiatives, it is important to understand what works where for whom. Variability in social, cultural, economic and biophysical environments greatly influence the results of such initiatives. ICRAF has developed tools that map soil organic carbon and soil erosion prevalence to provide relevant soil information aimed at land restoration interventions.

“We are working with development partners in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali and Niger to implement and monitor on-farm land restoration interventions such as farmer-managed natural regeneration, soil and water conservation, micro-dosing of fertilizers, tree planting and agroforestry, use of Zai pits [small water harvesting pits] on farms and pest control,” added Winowiecki.

Tor-Gunnar Vagen of ICRAF presents on assessments of soil health. Photo by Susan Onyango/ICRAF

“We need to understand the systems we work in to design effective interventions to restore land health and reverse land degradation,” said FTA scientist Tor-Gunnar Vagen, who leads ICRAF’s GeoScience Lab.

“There are different ways to understand how the soil properties and their spatial distribution determine sensitivity to land degradation using tools such as tools such as the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework and earth observation. Assessments need to be spatially explicit and at scales relevant to farmers and land managers.”

Vagen discussed the importance of the soil health assessments for evidence-based decision using examples from Ethiopia and Kenya. He noted that, to effectively assess soil health at scale, indicators of soil need to be consistent and supported by analytical frameworks for modeling and mapping with high levels of rigor. They should also integrate biophysical and socio-economic indicators in landscapes.  Diagnostics can be used to assess interactions between social and ecological systems, including their resilience and their role as socioeconomic drivers of changes in soil health.

Vagen further explained ICRAF’s use of the SHARED approach to provide the government of Turkana County in Kenya, with information on land degradation and land/ecosystem health to support their planning and decision-making process. The Resilience Diagnostic and Decision Support Tool provides data an information for a wide-range of sectors including nutrition, education, security, livestock, land health, energy, irrigation, health, tourism and water, sanitation and hygiene.

The SHARED approach is demand driven, tailored and interactive engagement process for collaborative learning and co-negotiation of decision to achieve mutually agreed upon development outcomes. Three other counties in Kenya, as well as counties Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania have expressed interest in using the same processes and tools.

Joining Winowieki and Vagen on the panel were  Jones of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, Liesl Wiese of FAO, and Karen van Campenhout and Seppe Deckers both of the University of Leuven in Belgium. All agreed that soil management is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring food security and rural development, and providing increased resilience to climate change in Africa.

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


The session titled Sustainable soil management: the foundation for Africa’s future? was organized by the European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Agroforestry Centre and the University of Leuven at the European Development Days 2017.

This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

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  • Trees for Food Security

Trees for Food Security

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Trees for Food Security Project goal is to enhance food security for resource-poor people in rural Eastern Africa through research that supports national programmes to scale up the use of trees within farming systems in Ethiopia and Rwanda and then scale out successes to relevant ago-ecological zones in Uganda and Burundi.
Through the project, 5 Rural Resource Centers (2 in Rwanda, 2 Ethiopia and 1 in Uganda) and nurseries to enhance training and supply of improved tree germplasm have been established. The RRCs have provided business opportunities for farmer groups and unemployed youth particularly through grafted fruit trees.
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Read more about the project here


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