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Forest restoration and democracy: Making communities visible in Madagascar

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Farming families in Boeny District, northwest Madagascar, rely on oxen for transportation and draft power. Photo by Steven Lawry/CIFOR.
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Landscape restoration will not be fully effective unless it contributes to social as well as ecological benefits.

Recent discussions at the Global Landscapes Forum in Accra, Ghana, which revolved around tenure policy and forest landscape restoration in Madagascar, shed light on some of the issues impeding progress toward achieving positive social and ecological restoration outcomes globally.

The Bonn Challenge and the U.N. Decades on Ecosystem Restoration and Family Farming are important global restoration initiatives. They are designed, organized and funded by U.N. agencies, major donor countries, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and participating national governments that have signed on to their ambitious goals for restoring degraded forests, farmland and ecosystems.

Within the framework of the Bonn Challenge, 28 African countries affiliated in the AFR100 (African Forest Restoration Initiative) network are committed to restoring 113 million hectares of degraded forests.

There is wide agreement among experts that communities must be consulted at every stage of the restoration planning and implementation processes.

But too often “consultation” takes the form of perfunctory discussions with communities, and meaningful decisions about land use practices, funding, program design, local governance, incentives, regulation, planned outcomes and distribution of benefits are made by external entities.

In reality, communities lack any real negotiating power, including the ability to reject proposals they consider unrealistic or not in their best interests.   This lack of community authority has significant consequences.

Manony Andriampiolazana, on left, interviews a leader in Ankijabe, Boeny District, Madagascar, forest restoration priorities.


Community members actively shape landscapes through decisions about how and where land is used for forests, agriculture, housing and other uses. As such, the outcomes of restoration efforts, positive or negative, are largely in their hands.  While government and NGO planners may recommend or even prescribe adoption of new land use practices and technologies believed conducive to restoration and sustainable use, ultimately communities decide whether or not the recommended practices are practical and realistic.

Because they live and work close to the resource management problems, land users are in the best position to make informed choices about how land can be best managed and sustainably used for environmental, economic and social benefit.  Research has found that practices imposed by outside authorities often lack technical credibility and rarely possess political legitimacy (McLain et al. 2018a).

This link between success in achieving positive outcomes and democratic decision-making is often overlooked in forest restoration programs.  Reference to “consulting” local stakeholders doesn’t come close to describing the decision-making authority local people should exercise.

Governments can create incentives for restoration, but whether or not incentives are appropriate or sufficient to motivate new land use practices is largely a matter for users of land and forests to decide.

Governments can attempt to discourage destructive land use practices through direct regulation and penalties.  But over-reliance on rule making and enforcement can prove unduly burdensome and coercive and turn communities away from a restoration agenda.

Lingering legacy

Colonial powers undercut or eliminated the ability of communities to make collective, democratic decisions about local land use by concentrating ownership rights over land, forests and pasture in the state.

While regulation carefully applied may have a role, communities should have the right to adopt restoration practices as a matter of free, collective choice, derived from secure rights to their local resources, including the right to decide how they are best managed.

CIFOR research found that tenure security motivates community investments in restoration (McLain et al. 2018b).

In much of Africa but also among indigenous communities in Latin America and Asia, customary tenure arrangements ensure access to land as a social right.

In other words, locally recognized systems of resource governance and rights are in place, but these systems too often are not recognized in statute or national law.

Madagascar, which aims to restore 4 million hectares of degraded forest by 2030, and other African governments, seek to “modernize” the property rights system by linking delivery of land rights to statutory instruments, such as title and certification.

Local people who believe that their customary rights are legitimate and secure may sometimes be vulnerable to loss of those rights because customary tenure arrangements are often not recognized under law.

Madagascar case study

Despite guidelines that Madagascar’s restoration plans reflect active engagement with communities and a variety of local stakeholders, research and experience suggests that Malagasy community-based land management institutions and practices are invisible to official authorities.

What is the evidence of this invisibility?

  • Insufficient recognition of community organizations and community resource rights in law.  Malagasy civil law recognizes in principle the right of communities to manage forests.  However, the law does not describe or grant the powers necessary for communities to carry out their management responsibilities.  In practice, community representatives are sometimes consulted by government officials on land use decisions, but community organizations lack sufficient autonomy to manage and enforce local land use initiatives.
  • Failure of projects to systematically engage with legitimate local representatives.  Local NGOs sometimes assert that they legally represent local communities, or hold and exercise rights on behalf of local communities, when communities would dispute that this is the case.
  • A focus on individual property rights instruments, such as titling or certification, which are recognized in law, while most forests and landscapes targeted for restoration are used and managed collectively.  Assignment of individual title to portions of areas historically used collectively further erodes collective rights.
  • The administrative infrastructure and technical resources needed to assign title and other forms of statutory rights in rural areas are very limited.  Poor people face additional barriers to securing title due to high survey and registration costs and limited knowledge of their rights and official procedures.  Moreover, there is evidence that subsequent to the initial titling, right holders do not register transfer of rights due to sale or inheritance, largely because the level of tenure security provided under the customary system is perceived to be adequate or the costs of doing so are considered to be too high. (Ayalew et al. 2019; Lawry et al. 2017).
  • Some individuals (often migrants) who have weak customary rights in places of new arrival may claim statutory title to land as a way of securing rights in ways not possible through the local customary system.  This can undercut the ability of the community to make enforceable collective land use decisions.
  • Lack of motivation for local people who have customary rights to seek land certificates or titles through the statutory system, because of the belief that their customary rights are secure.

Reshaping the terrain

In sum, the future of restoration may be limited if insufficient democracy and tenure insecurity are not addressed. Restoration practices that contribute to positive environmental and social outcomes are more likely to be taken up by local people when they have the degree of control over forests and trees necessary to reap the benefits of their investments.

It is imperative that the Bonn Challenge’s call for engagement with local communities in forest landscape restoration planning and implementation go beyond consultation and address the importance of community governance and secure community rights to land, forests and trees.

Restoring forests, restoring communities: How secure resource rights help communities in Africa restore forests and build local economies session panelists. From left: Chris Buss, IUCN forest programme; Patrick Ranjatson, ESSA-Foret, University of Antananarivo, Madagascar; Steven Lawry, representing the Center for International Forestry Research; Tangu Tumeo, Malawi Forest Department; and Priscilia Wainaina, World Agroforestry Center, Nairobi.

Community self-governance and legal recognition of resource rights are essential preconditions for community–led restoration.  Self-governance is a precondition to negotiating consensus about use practices within communities and rights enable and catalyze action.

In the absence of rights there is no assurance that local communities will have the certainty that the benefits of their labors and investments will accrue to them.

Customary rights can be recognized statutorily, and several African countries have implemented legal reforms that recognize customary tenure (including Botswana, Kenya, Liberia and South Sudan).  But Madagascar has not.

Until Madagascar and other countries take steps to design and implement laws that extend local self-governance and tenure security through, for instance, recognition of customary tenure, it is unlikely that landscape restoration at scale will occur.

By Steven Lawry and Patrick Ranjatson
This article draws on ideas discussed at the interactive session entitled “Restoring Forests, Restoring Communities,” held in Accra, Ghana, 29-30 October 2019, at the Global Landscapes Forum on Restoration in Africa.  Steven Lawry, senior associate at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), organized and moderated the session.  Patrick Ranjatson, professor at Mention Foresterie et Environnement de l’Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Agronomiques, Université d’Antananarivo (ESSA-Forêts) led a discussion on tenure policy and forest landscape restoration in Madagascar.

Funding from Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) and  the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) supported research in Madagascar in 2018-2019 on which this article was based.   PIM and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) supported the Global Landscapes Forum  interactive session where the research was presented. Opinions expressed are the authors’ alone.


Ayalew Ali D, Deininger K, Mahofa G, and Nyakulama R. 2019. Sustaining land registration benefits by addressing the challenges of reversion to informality in Rwanda. Land Use Policy. (In Press)

Baynes J, Herbohn J, Smith C, Fisher R and Bray D. 2015. Key factors which influence the success of community forestry in developing countries. Global Environmental Change Part A 35:226–38.

Lawry S, Samii C, Hall R, Leopold A, Hornby and Mtero F. 2017. The impact of land property rights interventions on investment and agricultural productivity in developing countries: a systematic review, Journal of Development Effectiveness, 9:1, 61-81,DOI: 10.1080/19439342.2016.1160947

McLain R, Lawry S, Ojanen, M. 2018a. Fisheries’ Property Regimes and Environmental Outcomes: A Realist Synthesis Review. World Development.

McLain R, Lawry S, Guariguata M, Reed J. 2018b. Toward a tenure-responsive approach to forest landscape restoration: A proposed tenure diagnostic for assessing restoration opportunities. Land Use Policy. landusepol.2018.11.053

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  • FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

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Clouds pass over Ribangkadeng village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and its partner institutions are set to make a strong showing at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn on Dec. 1-2, 2018.

This year’s GLF Bonn will be key in drawing out the next steps toward hitting global sustainability targets, with many participants expected at the World Conference Center in Germany, in addition to a worldwide audience online.

Of numerous discussion forums, FTA is hosting a session on the delivery of quality and diverse planting material as a major constraint for restoration, organized by Bioversity International in collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

FTA Director Vincent Gitz will provide the opening to the session, ahead of a range of speakers including FTA Flagship 1 leader Ramni Jamnadass, as well as FTA’s Christopher Kettle, Marius Ekeu and Lars Graudal, and representatives of numerous key organizations. Additional details are available in the session flyer.

The program is also cohosting a session from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) titled REDD+ at 10: What we’ve learned and where we go next. Looking back at 10 years of REDD+ research, the session will ask how REDD+ has evolved, and where it stands now.

FTA Flagship 5 leader Christopher Martius, who is also team leader of climate change, energy and low-carbon development at CIFOR, will moderate the session, in which CIFOR’s Anne Larson and Arild Angelsen will speak. The GLF will also see the launch of a related book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions, in the Landscapes Action Pavilion Networking Area.

Another discussion forum of note is Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future, organized by CIFOR, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and FTA, which will bring together a diverse set of panelists experienced in implementing integrated landscape approaches in various contexts.

A major feature of GLF is its schedule of side events, including Territorial development – managing landscapes for the rural future cohosted by Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), and Bamboo for restoration and economic development organized by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

The program will have a presence at the event’s pavilions, including the Inclusive Finance and Business Engagement Pavilion where a highlight session titled Making responsible investments work: Bridging the gap between global investors and local end users is set to take place, looking at success factors for inclusive and responsible businesses, which are at the core of both climate finance and responsible investments, as well as financial mechanisms that can adequately address the needs of such businesses.

Visit the Tropenbos International (TBI) and CIFOR booths to find FTA resources and to speak with FTA experts.

For the full details of FTA’s involvement in GLF, please check the event webpage.

Tune into the GLF livestream on Dec. 1-2, from 9am-7.30pm in Bonn, Germany.

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  • Local communities a driving force behind recovering Africa’s landscapes

Local communities a driving force behind recovering Africa’s landscapes

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The “Voices of the Landscape” panel presents at the Global Landscapes Forum conference in Nairobi. Photo by GLF

Every year, Africa loses 2.8 million hectares of forest, which is an area roughly the size of Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, two-thirds of its land is degraded. 

However, as countries mobilize to restore 100 million hectares by 2030 in the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), local communities are emerging as a driving force behind the movement to recover the continent’s landscapes.

Communities and collaborators across sectors and governance levels have taken center stage at the Global Landscapes Forum – Prospects and Opportunities for Restoration in Africa (GLF). The two-day event, in which several CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientists participated, ran from Aug. 29-30 and attracted 800 delegates to UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as 30,000 people online.

“If landscape degradation brings huge costs to society and restoration brings impressive returns, why we are not implementing it?” queried Robert Nasi, director general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), at the opening plenary.

Land degradation is estimated to cost the global economy up to $4.5 trillion a year, while economic benefits of restoration are an estimated $84 billion a year. In Africa, soil and nutrient depletion on cropland costs 3 percent of gross domestic product.

Watch: Robert Nasi’s opening remarks at GLF Nairobi 2018

These factors combined lead Nasi to believe it is time for a paradigm change: “from seeing restoration as a high-cost activity with no financial returns to landowners and with only environmental benefits, to one which provides increased incomes to landowners, creates jobs, and results in ecosystem goods and services for society as a whole.”


UN Environment head Erik Solheim pointed out the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) boil down to delivering benefits for both people and the planet. “To meet the SDGs we need policies that are good for the jobs, the climate, and nature at the same time. Landscape restoration does just this,” he said.

Solheim reaffirmed his commitment to El Salvador’s proposal for a UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. “The process must be led by member states, so please support El Salvador in this great endeavor,” he urged. The same period might also be devoted to rangelands and pastoralism, further increasing momentum to reclaim healthy landscapes.

Restoration can bring back ecosystem services and landscape functionality, boost agricultural productivity and enhance resilience to climate change – but it can also have even greater benefits, said Ina-Marlene Ruthenberg, country manager for Zambia at the World Bank.

A person pots a seed near Mau Forest in Kenya. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR

“The sustainable use of natural resources leads to improved livelihoods, greener economies and food security, while bringing peace, security and stability. Restoring landscapes contributes to preventing natural resource-related conflicts,” Ruthenberg said.

Stefan Schmitz, from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), urged stronger political commitment and better rural governance to unlock the potential for restoration.

“Good governance is a prerequisite for sustainable rural development,” said Schmitz, who is deputy director-general and commissioner of the BMZ One World – No Hunger Initiative.

“People will only use resources sustainably provided they do not live in extreme poverty. If they have no choice, they will continue engaging in land degradation and deforestation.”

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn 2017: From rainfall recycling to landscape restoration


For the first time in the five-year history of the GLF, local community representatives constituted a plenary session to discuss key achievements and how they could be brought to scale.

The panelists included Haidar El Ali, who has led the world’s largest mangrove restoration project, and Daniel Kobei, who has contributed to securing the indigenous Ogiek people’s rights to Kenya’s Mau forest as their ancestral home.

Another panelist, Zipporah Matumbi, has rallied thousands of rural women around forest restoration in Mount Kenya, significantly improving their livelihoods, while Lassane Zorome (represented by Serge Zoubga) has led fellow farmers to turn 200 hectares of barren land into productive fields in Burkina Faso.

For communities, restoring landscapes is, first of all, about improving their own livelihoods. Forests in Mount Kenya were very much degraded and we, rural women, had a hard time accessing water and fuelwood,” said Matumbi, representative of Voices from the Landscape. “We are eager to engage in restoration because, otherwise, we suffer.”

“Restoring forest landscapes is even a matter of survival to prevent an escalation of conflicts related to use of land and resources,” added Zoubga, program officer at Tiipaalga Association in Burkina Faso.

Local initiatives offer lessons that can help replicate success stories across the continent. For founder of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program Daniel Kobei, for example, “restoration can only succeed by involving communities and giving them the chance to use their traditional knowledge.”

“We cannot restore land in the place of populations,” agreed Zoubga from Burkina Faso. “We must build their capacities, so they can act against land degradation.”

A mixed-use landscape is seen in South West and West Mau Forest. Photo by S. Murunga/CIFOR

For restoration to be successful, “we must also get communities to understand the benefits it brings, from increased agricultural yields to regulation of soil salinity,” said president of Oceanium and former fisheries minister of Senegal, Haidar El Ali.

Concepta Mukasa, program manager of Forestry and the Environment at AUPWAE, concluded that “scale-up can only happen if national and subnational governments make restoration a priority and involve communities and women in the process.”

In fact, restoration activities are already shifting gender relations in some areas, meaning that women are now allowed to plant trees freely, “something crucial for scale up,” said CIFOR senior scientist and session moderator, Esther Mwangi, whose work is also a part of FTA.

Read more: FTA seeks to influence debate at GLF Peatlands Matter in 2017


Over 70 percent of people living in sub-Saharan Africa depend on forests and woodlands for their livelihoods, but desertification touches 45 percent of the land on the continent and 65 percent of croplands are affected by land degradation.

Yet, Africa has 600 million hectares of both agricultural and forested landscapes with potential for restoration, and countries have committed to restoring 100 million hectares by 2030 through AFR100.

“It’s great to see — today we have already 26 countries that have committed to bringing 91 million hectares of forests under restoration,” Schmitz said, adding that competing sectors create challenges.

“There is, on the one hand, the sphere of landscapes, of natural resources, of restoration,” he said. “On the other, there is the agriculture and food system, and the challenge is to really bring those two universes together.”

Restoration work can support agriculture by providing jobs and other economic benefits, Schmitz said. “The more we succeed in providing employment and income for local communities, the more it is likely that we’ll be able to succeed in our restoration efforts. It will require a mix of national, international private and public funding.”

A delegation from Kenya’s Forest Service described the successes of a major restoration project underway in the Mau Forest, which contributes to the country’s 5.1 million hectare AFR100 target.

“In a very short time we saw results from this intervention,” said Jerome Mwanzia, explaining how livelihood benefits were introduced through tree planting, agroforestry, livestock and beekeeping initiatives to incorporate income generating activities. “We had small animals colonizing the area,” he said. “The animals were coming back — this ecosystem was regenerated.”

Despite successes in the massive catchment area, hurdles remain for meeting the full AFR100 pledge.

“Financing is going to be a major determinant as to whether we achieve targets — and the issue of community buy in,” said Alfred Gichu, who manages a broad portfolio at the Kenya Forest Service, including the climate change program, the landscape restoration initiative and the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program.

Summing up, Solheim said he believes regional global goals can only be achieved through collaboration. From his perspective, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said it best: “More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny; we can only master it if we face it together.”

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at the Global Landscapes Forum’s Landscape News.

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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  • Blend, bond and blockchain: The financial landscape is changing to fit the planet's needs

Blend, bond and blockchain: The financial landscape is changing to fit the planet’s needs

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A large cashew tree grows in Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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Upfront investment in REDD+ can be a burden for many countries in the short term, but in the long term can instill a sense of ownership, as seen in the case of Brazil. Photo by N. Palmer/CIAT

On a map of global landscapes, the most expansive ecosystem will not appear: finance.

It is the underlying rooted network channeling funds to the right places at the right times, or the superimposed atmosphere raining down fertilization where needed. However you view it, it is a constitutional source of life for its biological brethren, and enormously so.

Yet sustainable finance is also struggling to adapt to the rapidity of global development, forcing global research and dialogue to move quickly in figuring out how to keep it healthy and green. What existing mechanisms can we leverage, and what must we innovate? What financial infrastructure do we prune, replant, grow?

Such was the focus of the third annual Global Landscapes Forum Investment Case Symposium, in which the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) participated, held on May 30, 2018, in Washington, DC, the US. Looking at the state of landscape investment this year, the event pulled certain topics forward as being important of late: blended finance, bonds and blockchains, with discussions on the three synthesized in this article. REDD+ finance was also a key topic at the summit.

Read also: New study finds little private finance in REDD+ efforts, suggests blended finance as way forward


Thirty years ago, China’s Loess Plateau had reached a desperate state of soil erosion and land degradation. After centuries of unsustainable grazing and agricultural practices, an area the size of France that had once fed nearly a quarter of the country’s population had floods and crop failure as its norms, keeping millions in poverty with no way out.

The World Bank stepped in, and with the help of some US$500 million of public investment matched with about the same from the private sector, the landscape transformed. Incomes doubled, agricultural output shot up, and the dusty dry landscape gave way to fertile terraces — all in just 15 years.

“I’ve seen with my own eyes that it’s absolutely, entirely possible to transform a completely degraded landscape in a very poor environment with no capacity to do anything,” said Juergen Voegele, Senior Director of the World Bank Food and Agriculture Global Practice and member of the Loess project team.

He was describing a successful scenario of blended finance, which the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines as “the strategic use of development finance for the mobilization of additional commercial finance towards the Sustainable Development Goals in developing countries.” In other words, public or philanthropic capital is put up first to attract further investment from the private sector.

It is irrefutable that public money alone cannot fund the work imperative to achieving major restoration projects like the Paris AgreementBonn Challenge and AFR100. But despite growing pressure for the private sector to step up to the plate and chip into such efforts, its role in landscapes is — and should be — limited. Not every climate change effort should be made into a business opportunity, or prioritize financial logic and returns.

“To really start moving the billions, we need to collaborate effectively, and know our role within the ecosystem,” said Jennifer Pryce, President and CEO of non-profit social impact investment firm Calvert Impact Capital. Investing assets, she said, does not solve situations that need legal or diplomatic help.

Logs are seen on a riverbank. Photo by K. Evans/CIFOR

This is reflected in the World Bank’s Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) concept, which urges development banks and other public funders to pool their capital to help developing countries build policy framework and capacity, cement high standards and reduce as many risks as possible for environmental projects. Once these bones are in place, the private sector can — and will be more apt to — step in and flesh out efforts.

Laura Tuck, the World Bank’s Vice President of Sustainable Development, elaborated on how this manifested in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where more than half of the country’s mangroves were cleared for shrimp ponds. After the Bank helped the government mandate 50 percent of shrimp ponds to have mangroves and take out a loan for restoration, the ecosystems were revitalized, and private companies flocked in for the ease with which they could harvest organic, premium-quality shrimp.

The appeal of blended finance is not exclusive to developing countries. Private landowners and businesses has begun investing more in the US forest estate — the world’s fourth largest — following a 10-year government commitment of federal funding for community-driven projects in 23 different landscapes, to combat the country’s growing spread of wildfire and insect disease.

“That’s that model of long-term anchoring of commitment to a landscape with defined outcomes, supported by the community, that enabled others to say that this is worth leveraging the federal dollar to get additional work done,” said US Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie AC Weldon.

Read also: Making landscape finance more inclusive


With a background in molecular biology and plant breeding, Howard Yana-Shapiro, the Silicon Valley-based Chief Agricultural Officer at Mars, Inc., is a self-proclaimed “gene jockey”. Within the last eight months, he has witnessed big data advance to a point where extraordinarily complex heterozygous genomes can be annotated with ease.

If big data can do it for genes, it can do it for landscape finance, he believes. “I can’t imagine that for the things we’re talking about mixing — bonds, instruments — that you couldn’t write a 3,000-line algorithm that would give you all the answers to all the complexity you’d want to know about which particular finance facility works best in which places.”

Bonds, as he said, are one of the primary mechanisms pushing forward in the landscape arena, serving as a way to refinance and finance projects by channeling capital into an investment that then generates revenue and gets repaid.

Dr. Christine Negra, principal at Versant Vision and advisor to the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI), the foremost organization focused on advancing the bond market, said the ‘bond universe’ is still in its early days, with different forms popping up left and right. Asia’s first corporate sustainability bond was issued in Indonesia in FebruaryGlobal green bond issuance reached US$155.5 billion in 2017, and climate-aligned bonds — which include green certified bonds and non-certified bonds geared toward the low-carbon economy — currently value US$895 billion.

So far, the Forests Bond launched by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) is at the front of the pack, having received substantial acclaim. A five-year ‘green coupon bond’, it gives investors the choice of taking a 152 million bond in cash or in forestry carbon credits — which can be used to offset emissions or sold on the carbon market — purchased from a 200,000-hectare REDD+ conservancy project in Kenya.

Vikram Widge, IFC’s Global Head of Climate Finance and Policy, said that replicating this bond form in commodity sectors such as coffee, cocoa and oil palm could help build market infrastructure and provide alternative livelihoods to impoverished communities — 90 percent of which rely on forest resources — while we wait for the roughly US$300 billion needed to significantly slow deforestation rates.

A large cashew tree grows in Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

CBI is the main hand behind setting global bond standards and sector-specific criteria, to ensure the ‘green credibility’ of bonds — as well as issue a litmus test for the market. “Putting criteria out there is a way to build it and see if they come, to see the demand for certified bonds,” said Negra.

Yana-Shapiro, on the other hand, warned of having too many tick boxes, and said bond measurement should hone in on five criteria only: productivity, profitability, environmental stewardship, good government and solid management, and social inclusion.

He posed the challenge of how to make the landscape sector worth more than Apple, which is soon to break worth of US$1 trillion. “I would suggest to you that it is not an abstract idea. We are looking at things today that are equally complex in a genome as in a landscape, and we’re able to put that together… to facts and not fiction.”

Read also: Good investments in agriculture and forestry can benefit smallholders and landscapes


Landscape finance would not be properly of the times without a disrupter trying to challenge its ways. Blockchains appear to be filling this role, emerging as a viable alternative to the traditional financial system infrastructure in certain situations.

Since Bitcoin emerged in 2008, not coincidentally alongside the global financial crisis and breakdown of trust in financial institutions, cryptocurrency has grown to account for some 400 billion in capital. This capital is distributed through blockchain networks, which Katherine Foster, Advisor on blockchains to the World Bank, defined as “decentralized, distributed, public (more or less) digital ledgers used to record data transactions across many computers.”

With the safety belt of cryptography, information is shared and stored across a chain of devices in a way “considered immutable and unchangeable.” Chains can be public or contained to a private group of users, and uploaded data can include everything from photos to e-signatures and legal certifications.

Because these are peer-to-peer networks that leave out centralized banks, institutions and other middlemen, blockchains can significantly lower transactional costs, both formal and informal. Vice President for US Business Development at blockchain software company ChromaWay Todd Miller said to think of all the money one can save by keeping one’s own records rather than hiring Goldman Sachs: “It’s not black magic here. It’s a distributed database not controlled by anyone.

And for that reason, “It’s up there with drones for how sexy it is for a lot of organizations,” he said.

Blockchain technology also has two defining features of every disruptor worth entertaining: it opens up new opportunities and makes life easier. In its role as a global contractual database time-stamped, date-stamped and signed, blockchain technology could stretch the horizon of capital acquisition, allowing people to borrow or invest without stepping foot in a bank.

By storing similar information on physical assets like commodity crops, it can also help supply chains be more efficient, transparent and safe. For instance, it could help Ethiopian coffee smallholders certify their beans as fair-trade; track the beans as they move through a supply chain, documenting every value added along the way; and ultimately show consumers the origins of their morning cup.

Already, in the famously iniquitous diamond industry, blockchain technology has proven enormously effective in reducing corruption and conflict.

The biggest challenge blockchains face, however, is quality data to insert into their networks. World Bank Land Administration Specialist Aanchal Anand said she often hears institutions say, “I want to be blockchain ready by 2020.” But this raises the question of whether or not they have data in digital form. If a government’s records are written on paper with coffee stains and tears, blockchains cannot help, she said. To get meta about it, data about data going into blockchains is needed to confirm accuracy.

There also needs to be a level of comfort with the technology, which Anand says comes from on-chain trust (knowing that transactions are validated) and off-chain trust (being able to call or email someone if and when something goes wrong).

Nevertheless, in comparison to Wells Fargo, for example, when consumers were oblivious to the grand misuse of their information, blockchains offer a new alternative with enormous positive potential. “We need to evaluate blockchains not compared to a perfect world,” said Miller, “but to the world we’re in today.”

By Gabrielle Lipton, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

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

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  • FTA seeks to influence debate at GLF on peatlands

FTA seeks to influence debate at GLF on peatlands

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A plant emerges from the ground in Mendawai, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR
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A plant emerges from the ground in Mendawai, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF): Peatlands Matter takes place on May 18 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The significance of the conference is underscored by the need to reach a common understanding of problems and solutions around peatlands — key hotspots at the intersection of certain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including food security, water and biodiversity — and of addressing climate change.

The GLF is an important forum for a program like FTA, which is not only a research program but a research for development program. Because of this, FTA works in the sphere of research, and beyond that in the sphere of influence, in order to affect the way stakeholders behave and adopt suitable solutions.

Working with stakeholders is also important to ensure the “legitimacy” of the research that FTA designs and implements, so users feel that the research and researchers have understood and accounted for their interests, values and concerns — necessary for successful uptake.

Read also: Strength in numbers: How the Global Landscapes Forum connects the land use community

A man plants a young tree in Mendawai, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Importantly, working with stakeholders is fundamental for issues where the nature of the problem (and related solutions) is not easily agreed upon. Peatlands are one such issue, as one cannot apply a single lens (be it the carbon lens, the local environment lens, the biodiversity lens or the livelihood lens) to understand the potential solutions.

That is why FTA and its partners are proud, once again, to be one of the key providers of knowledge at the GLF, namely for mutual understanding and action. At the Jakarta conference, this will feed into three debates on the “science behind peatlands”, set to be heard during the event’s discussion forums.

Fueling three debates

The first discussion forum, titled “Black gold” for climate mitigation? The rediscovered carbon stocks in tropical wetlands and peatlands and hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), looks at the latest tools for identifying and locating wetlands and peatlands, and reveals how scientists are reassessing carbon stocks.

Ahead of the conference, CIFOR produced a set of six briefs illustrating the science behind peatlands, all the result of research under FTA. The briefs point out that peatlands are the most threatened type of ecosystem, especially in Southeast Asia, due to agricultural development. Another publication, Managing peatlands in Indonesia: Challenges and opportunities for local and global communities, shows that the drainage of peat swamp forests and their conversion into agricultural land causes considerable and irreversible environmental, social and economic damage.

CIFOR has also published a new map that reveals more peat in the tropics, with “unprecedented extents and volumes […] three times the size of previous estimates, and mainly outside Asia.” It states that “South America appears as the main host of peat areas and volumes with Brazil at the top of the list, closely followed by Indonesia.” These publications address where peatland can be found, its characteristics, what can be done at a management level to protect it, and the human aspect relating to those who live on and around it.

A canal runs through a peat landscape in Mendawai, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

A second debate at the GLF covers Peatland fires, haze and health, a session organized by UN Environment, raising awareness on the impacts of peatland fires on the climate and human health, and showcasing innovative tools for tracking, preventing and managing the impact of fire and haze events.

There is a need to support local governments and planning agencies in understanding the need for clear spatial planning for peat areas and identifying areas for planting and restoration. This discussion is informed by FTA’s work, and especially builds on the UK Department for International Development (DFID)-supported project with Indonesian and UK scientific partners on the political economy of fire and haze.

Third, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) holds People and peat: Livelihoods in context, focusing on livelihood options for local communities using a case study landscape in Jambi, Indonesia, as the starting point. The case looks at conflict resolution in forests.

ICRAF previously acted upon a request from farmer groups to help with “zonation management rights”, said the session’s moderator Ingrid Öborn and FTA scientist Meine van Noordwijk. They could therefore provide “on-demand help”, they explained, as they sought to “manage wet forests in ways relevant for people”. The session is expected to explore social aspects of the peatlands issue, including how local livelihoods can be secured in such areas.

A policy brief published by ICRAF, titled Agroforestry on peatlands: combining productive and protective functions as part of restoration, states that: “In order to control the use of fire and to avoid the deep drainage that is responsible for degradation, government commitments need to go beyond good intentions alone. Land-use solutions are needed that provide local livelihoods while keeping the peat profiles wet.”

A CIFOR research assistant measures root growth in an oil palm plantation in Jambi province, Sumatra. Photo by Adam Gynch/CIFOR

FTA’s role in the GLF motto of “reaching 1 billion”

The GLF aims to reach 1 billion stakeholders to advance landscape approaches and address sustainable development challenges. This event will gather key stakeholders from around the world around on the issue of peatlands.

The role of FTA is to engage in debate and provide scientific evidence that sheds light on broad and complex issues, which integrate social, environmental, economic and governance elements.

Therefore, FTA’s goal at the GLF is to bring relevant, credible and legitimate results to the forum, which will contribute to the overall effectiveness of FTA’s research, for progress, mutual understanding and to change perspectives on the ground.

As applied at this GLF peatlands thematic event, FTA’s ambition to is to lay the groundwork for evidence-based, legitimate and effective debates, to enable agreements between stakeholders on solutions to be rolled out for the sustainable management of peatlands and to preserve this inestimable resource.

Click here to find out more about attending the GLF or watching the livestream. 

By Vincent Gitz, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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

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  • Strength in numbers: How the Global Landscapes Forum connects the land use community

Strength in numbers: How the Global Landscapes Forum connects the land use community

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The idea… sounded simple

Why don’t we bring together the key actors in land use to address urgent challenges and find solutions?

The starting point…was complicated

From 2007 to 2012, there was a stark division between the forest and the agricultural community. This found its expression in two separate special days, held on the sidelines of the UNFCCC COPs over several years.

Forest Day, was launched in 2007 at COP 13 in Bali, Indonesia, and Agriculture and Rural Development Day at COP 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The next Global Landscapes Forum: Peatlands Matter will take place on 18 May in Jakarta, Indonesia. Click here for more information

The solution… had to be promoted

Advocates on both sides of the—imaginary—trench started to harness the growing acceptance of integrated landscape approaches to merge the two into one bigger event. The landscape approach has been recognized as a useful framework for integrating measures to boost agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods, and the protection of forests, water and biodiversity. Landscape approaches embrace compromise amongst competing social, environmental, political and economic demands to produce multiple benefits from limited resources.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) leveraged its role as the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) to drive this concerted effort.

A first effort was made during COP 18 in Doha, when Forest Day was held back-to-back with the first ALL Day, under the shared theme of “Living Landscapes.”

The outcome… was impressive

The first Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Warsaw 2013 succeeded in introducing the landscapes approach to more than 1,200 climate and development policy makers. By focusing on breaking the silos that continue to exist between land use sectors, the Forum brought together more than 60 international organizations working in forestry, agriculture, mountains and watershed management, land use planning and human development.

After four years, the GLF, a well-known acronym among the hundreds of partners, has been established “as the global platform leading the debate on sustainable land use and forestry.”

FTA has co-financed all GLFs. FTA partners such as CIFOR, the World Agroforestry Centre, CIAT, CIRAD, CATIE and Bioversity International have been key actors throughout the years, hosting discussion forums and side events as well as sharing information and advocating in their communities of practice.

The reward… international recognition

In November 2016 at the UNFCCC COP 22 in Marrakesh, the German government committed to host the GLF for the next four years.

In Marrakesh, more than 5,500 people from 95 countries connected in person and online to forge solutions to the planet’s greatest climate and development challenges through sustainable land use.

The high point of the event was the commitment by the German government and GLF partners to support the long-term future of the Forum and its vision of reaching one billion people.

The history

Before this, the GLFs in Warsaw (2013), Lima (2014) and Paris (2015) had created strong momentum for productive cooperation between different sectors, agencies, governments and private businesses. The GLF is usually structured around five themes: Restoration; Financing; Rights; Measuring Progress; and Food and Livelihoods.

In 2015 and 2016 a second GLF, called The Investment Case, was held in London to focus on how to finance sustainable land use and landscapes.

The Investment Case brought together experts from the financial services industry with leaders from the corporate sector, government and academia to take investments into sustainable landscapes “to the next level”. It is meant to be a platform for experts to explore the role of private finance in enhancing livelihoods and landscapes across the globe. FTA is one of three supporters of this event.

Presenting FTA research…

In principle, practically all that was discussed at the GLFs pointed directly to FTA research, and many scientists presented FTA research:

… and more

From the start, GLF was conceived as a platform and avoided monopolizing the agenda for core FTA research coming from CIFOR as the lead Center. More and more partners outside of the research arena were encouraged to collaborate and bring in their issues and solutions: governments, business, civil society and development agencies.

Many CGIAR Centers outside of FTA (e.g. ILRI, IFPRI, CIP), and CGIAR Research Programs (CCAFS, WLE) participated in the GLF to drive home their message of integrated solutions to issues such as deforestation, global warming, sustainable and inclusive value chains, food security, water, indigenous people’s rights, gender and a greener economy.

And now?

Today, the GLF has become the world’s largest and only science-led multi-sectoral platform designed to produce and disseminate knowledge and accelerate action to build more resilient, climate friendly, diverse, equitable and productive landscapes. Its platforms connect diverse stakeholders; provide learning opportunities; allows people to gather and share knowledge; and accelerate action to produce sustainable solutions to complicated problems.

For 2017, four GLF events are planned: A Peatlands Matter conference in Jakarta on 18 May, a Restoration conference in Cameroon in September, an Investment Case conference in New York in October, and a Global Forum in Bonn in December.

By Kerstin Reisdorf, FTA Communications. 

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  • Harnessing multi-purpose productive landscapes for integrated climate and development goals

Harnessing multi-purpose productive landscapes for integrated climate and development goals

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By Peter Holmgren, originally published on CIFOR’s Forests News

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) welcomes the ratification and early entry into force of the Paris Agreement. This is a major step towards effective global climate action. We also welcome the recent progress on REDD+ results based payments at the Green Climate Fund.

The land sector will be key in achieving the well below 2 or 1.5 degree goal agreed in Paris and this is clearly reflected in the long term goal of net zero emissions, Article 5 and the Preamble of the Agreement. This role however is not limited to that of forests or agriculture in isolation, but across the landscape. It will be the actions that are taken on the ground by smallholder farmers, local communities, small to medium business and other non-state as well as State actors that will drive the outcomes concerning climate. Climate mitigation and adaptation will inevitably be a co benefit of the actions taken across the landscape.

We urge world leaders to emphasize integrated solutions that harness ecosystem services derived from intact, productive and adaptive landscapes, and to move away from the business-as-usual rhetoric of forest (or ecosystem) conversion for development. Integrating these objectives harmoniously in a complex world requires approaches that are based in science, are socially, culturally and environmentally responsible, and take the needs of all stakeholders into account through open, fair and equitable participation, and that are rooted in recognition of rights.

Uganda, 2008. ©Center For International Forestry Research/Douglas Sheil
©Center For International Forestry Research/Douglas Sheil

Our experience studying REDD+ over 6 years shows that there are no lasting climate solutions involving tropical forests if the livelihoods of the people in those forests are not sustained or improved – global environmental sustainability requires local economic sustainability. While action at the international level is important, international climate action meets the requirements of the world’s forest dependent communities when implemented on the ground.

Turning to the negotiations in Marrakesh, we are concerned that the international climate community was unable to come to an agreement on concrete next steps related to the agriculture agenda item. It is essential that moving forward, to implement the Paris Agreement and achieve the much needed transformational change, an approach that addresses agriculture as a major driver of deforestation, whilst putting in place measures at the international level to ensure food security and protect rights will be essential.

We welcome the road map that has been agreed in Marrakesh as an important step forward in terms of developing the rule-book to ensure the Paris Agreement is implemented. We hope to see the completion of this important work by 2018, in particular on topics concerning accounting for nationally determined contributions, adaptation communications, transparency and compliance. We hope this work will encourage parties to put in place the much-needed steps to increase their ambition. In this work, world leaders should place importance on the use of science and evidence as key to assessing and monitoring the performance of NDCs in policy and practice, across multiple sectors and levels of government.

We encourage countries to revise their NDCs to enhance ambition and address the operationalization of the agreed climate objectives, and doing so within multifunctional landscape objectives, clear strategy plans and actionable roadmaps, unambiguous designation of accountability, and effective participation of all sectors and levels of governments. This will require collaboration with non-state actors (from the corporate sectors to civil society) across those sectors, with enhanced transparency arrangements, while striving to avoid negative social and environmental impacts, especially on smallholder farmers and rural and indigenous communities.

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  • FTA event coverage: Gaining traction on climate goals

FTA event coverage: Gaining traction on climate goals

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Deforestation in Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Asep Ayat for 2014 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
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Deforestation in Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Asep Ayat for 2014 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
Deforestation in Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Asep Ayat for 2014 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally posted at CIFOR’s Forests News

An increasing number of states are embracing commitments made under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise. But how do these grand ambitions play out in reality?

In practice, climate action gains traction at the ground level — ‘where the rubber hits the road’, so to speak — and that requires collaboration among a whole range of different stakeholders.

Besides national governments, subnational governments are increasingly involved in action on climate change in the land use and forestry sectors. Non-state actors, including indigenous groups (which sometimes own and manage important territories), non-governmental organizations and the private sector, are also playing a growing role.

So how can the efforts of these various groups be best coordinated to meet national and international pledges, bringing real action on climate change?

A political world

Anne Larson, a Principal Scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), has led research on this issue in five countries as part of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+ under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, including two national studies on systems of monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).

Planting Mangroves. Photo: Putu Budhiadnya for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
Planting Mangroves. Photo: Putu Budhiadnya for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition

She says that even with apparently technical issues like MRV, political tensions tend to emerge both horizontally and vertically among stakeholder groups when trying to turn ideas into reality. This shouldn’t discourage efforts to take action but suggests that we need to take a different approach.

“We can’t ignore political realities,” she says. “We have many great ideas, but no matter how great they might sound technically, we always bump into reality when we hit the ground and try to start implementing.”

Also read: FTA project update: Understanding REDD+ across the globe

“Politics is not necessarily good or bad, it just is. We need to embrace this and learn to work in this reality.”

Pham Thu Thuy, another CIFOR scientist involved in the study, says her research in Vietnam found that politics not only influenced coordination, but also shaped perceptions of goals and challenges among different levels of governance.

“Different levels perceive different problems. But also how they actually define the problem is based on their own perception and their political interest,” Thuy says.

The answer to coordinating those differences, she says, is to take a landscape approach.

Click to read: Exploring the agency of Africa in climate change negotiations: the case of REDD+
Click to read: Exploring the agency of Africa in climate change negotiations: the case of REDD+

You have to be aware of these politics and think about how you can bring together every piece of information and every active group to make a policy work,” she says.

“And I think that for the land-use system, if you want something to work, basically it has to be at the landscape level.”

A landscape view

At the Global Landscapes Forum in Marrakesh, subnational and non-state actors were invited to share their perspectives on the matter of catalyzing action on the ground.

The term ‘non-state actors’ includes researchers, civil society and other community-level groups, but via global climate negotiations in recent years has become shorthand for the private sector.

Also read: COP22 Special: REDD+ monitoring is a technical and political balancing act

Bruce Cabarle, Team Leader of Partnerships for Forests, an initiative for investment in sustainable use of land and forests, said in discussion at GLF that public-private-people partnerships were key to applying lessons learned into the future.

“The more interesting question is: How do we get synergies and complementarity between voluntary certification schemes and government regulations so that they are mutually reinforcing?” he asked.

Christoph Thies, a forest campaigner for Greenpeace, welcomed cooperative efforts among sectors, but maintained that states should take the lead.

“The private sector should never replace the roles and responsibilities of governments,” he said.

For Thies, the answer lies in understanding political factors as both challenges and opportunities for change.

“Technical barriers can be overcome,” he said. “To really address the landscape requires political will.”

On the ground

Fernando Sampaio, Executive Director of the PCI (Produce, Conserve and Include) Strategy State Committee in Mato Grosso, Brazil, acknowledged the importance of both private-sector and civil society involvement in ground-level efforts, from a subnational government perspective.

“The private sector is an important part of the process, but we also need to include other stakeholders who are excluded from the process,” he said.

Excluded groups often include indigenous peoples, whose land rights are not always recognized. Norvin Goff, President of MASTA, an indigenous federation that represents the Miskitus of the Honduran Mosquitia, said that blueprint approaches to land and forest use rarely work at the ground level for indigenous communities.

“We don’t need a set formula that has been used in the past, we need to create an approach together,” Goff said.

He urged closer partnerships between government and indigenous groups.

“Instead of an enemy, they should consider us as part of the solution,” he said.

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  • Peter Holmgren: ‘Climate solutions will have to happen in the landscape’

Peter Holmgren: ‘Climate solutions will have to happen in the landscape’

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Peter Holmgren: ‘Climate solutions will have to happen in the landscape’. Click to watch
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By Leona Liu, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Peter Holmgren is the Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). He spoke on the sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum about the landscapes approach, what it means for the global climate agenda, and what’s coming up next for the GLF, the key event under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

How does the Global Landscapes Forum relate to climate change?

Well, very much so. Because the climate solutions that we’re looking for, many of them will have to happen in  the landscape. Dealing, for example, with the food systems or reducing deforestation; restoring degraded lands. So, many of these benefits will have to happen in landscapes. And by doing this right, and by meeting all those other values in the landscapes, we can come to a situation where the climate benefits are actually co-benefits of sustainable landscapes.

What’s the connection to COP22?

I think the COP negotiations are going well, under the circumstances. It is a big job to get the Paris Agreement into implementation and into action. I think that the Global Landscapes Forum provides one avenue where we can reach some of the ambitions that are expressed in the Paris Agreement.

What’s next for GLF?

We want to launch the new phase of the Global Landscapes Forum, where we will scale up and reach out, and in the next five years we hope to reach a billion people to be engaged and learn from the landscape approaches, to figure out solutions that are good for them in their landscapes.

Wanjira Mathai: ‘Landscape restoration is about gender equality’

How can we reach a billion?

The main part is to be serious about having the stakeholders in landscapes engaged on their own terms, with their own priorities. And try to avoid having an expert, top-down approach, as we are trying to scale up the landscape approach.

*This is part of a series of interviews from the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum: Climate Action for Sustainable Development in Marrakesh, Morocco

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  • FTA event coverage: Climate, business and landscapes: Mobilizing large-scale investment for smallholder farmers

FTA event coverage: Climate, business and landscapes: Mobilizing large-scale investment for smallholder farmers

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Smallholder farmers play a key role in the production of agricultural crops for domestic and global markets. But, smallholders remain disenfranchised, often facing economic, financial and institutional constraints that make the adoption of more efficient practices, technologies and business models difficult.

This discussion forum at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum in Marrakesh explored the multiple perspectives of development practitioners and financiers, including impact investors, by drawing on specific cases, experience and innovative approaches.

The session was co-hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and moderated by Pablo Pacheco, Coordinator of the theme Global governance, trade and investment of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • FTA event coverage: ‘Landscape restoration is about gender equality’--Wanjira Mathai

FTA event coverage: ‘Landscape restoration is about gender equality’–Wanjira Mathai

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By Leona Liu, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Wanjira Mathai is the Director of Partnerships for Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER) at the Wangari Maathai Institute (WMI). She previously directed International Affairs at Green Belt Movement (GBM), which was founded by her mother, the late Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai.

She spoke to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) at the Global Landscapes Forum about gender and climate change, and the need to empower women in order to achieve the targets set out by the Paris Agreement.

As co-chair of the Global Restoration Council, Mathai also discussed the importance of landscape restoration and why it is crucial for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Hear more from Mathai in the video below:

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  • FTA event coverage: Global Landscapes Forum is entering a new phase

FTA event coverage: Global Landscapes Forum is entering a new phase

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This video shows highlights from the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum, held on 16 November 2016 in Marrakesh, Morocco.

At the closing plenary, on behalf of the German Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Economic Cooperation, State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth pledged support for the long-term future of GLF – and explained why he sees the Forum at the center of efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The GLF is undergoing a transformation, from focusing on policy advice to implementing action on the ground and tracking progress toward new climate and development goals. Through scientific input, capacity-building programs, online engagement, thematic symposiums and global events, GLF aspires to introduce one billion people by 2020 to the landscape approach – and connect them in embracing it.

The GLF is more than just a series of events: it is a dynamic platform with which diverse stakeholders can collaborate to create a more sustainable world.

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  • FTA event coverage: Reaching one billion — Launch of the future Global Landscapes Forum

FTA event coverage: Reaching one billion — Launch of the future Global Landscapes Forum

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At the closing plenary of the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum, the German government announced its future support for the event and the vision behind it. This video shows the full session.

The Forum is undergoing a transformation, from focusing on policy advice to implementing action on the ground and tracking progress toward new climate and development goals.

Through scientific input, capacity-building programs, online engagement, thematic symposiums and global events, GLF aspires to introduce one billion people by 2020 to the landscape approach – and connect them in embracing it.

The GLF is more than just a series of events: it is a dynamic platform with which diverse stakeholders can collaborate to create a more sustainable world.

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  • FTA event coverage: Forgotten Forests of the Sahel

FTA event coverage: Forgotten Forests of the Sahel

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Revitalizing communities is part of the restoration plans. Photo: Carol J. Pierce Colfer/CIFOR
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The Sahel is a transition zone between the arid north and the tropical green forest that borders the maritime coast, covering a surface area of 5.4 million km2. Vegetation in the Sahel region is composed of mainly stunted and scattered trees, shrubs, bushes and grasses. Sahel, Africa. Photo by Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR
The Sahel is a transition zone between the arid north and the tropical green forest that borders the maritime coast, covering a surface area of 5.4 million km2. Vegetation in the Sahel region is composed of mainly stunted and scattered trees, shrubs, bushes and grasses. Sahel, Africa. Photo by Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR

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

The Paris Agreement has shone a spotlight on the vital role that forests play in climate change – and for the first time, heavily-forested nations have pledged to support conservation and sustainable management of forests.

But most of the attention has been focused on rainforests.

Dry forests in places like Sahel barely make the news, or tap the interest of policy makers, and yet, more than one billion people make their living from these dry tropical lands.

People rely on these forests, which have an extended dry season, to yield not only food, but also timber, charcoal and other products such as shea butter.

One of the largest areas of dry forest lies in the Sahel region of western and north-central Africa, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean eastward through parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and into Sudan.

Under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) are studying contributions that dry forests make to people and landscapes in Africa.

“The most surprising finding is that dry forests remain a neglected ecosystem in terms of development and investment focus,” said Terry Sunderland, a principal scientist at CIFOR.

For Sunderland, the fate of the forest is inextricably interlinked to that of the people who live there. Each depends on the other for survival.

“These ecosystems are extremely important reservoirs for carbon,” said Sunderland. “They help maintain a balanced ecosystem and the ecosystem services provided by these forests also support agricultural production in terms of pest and disease control, pollination and other services.”

A discussion forum at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum in Marrakesh dealt with issues of regreening the Sahel. Photo: Pilar Valbuena/CIFOR
A session at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum in Marrakesh dealt with issues of regreening the Sahel. Photo: Pilar Valbuena/CIFOR


The Sahel region is beset with increased temperatures and drought. Even with rainfall, this dry zone may be counteracted through evaporation, according to the UNFCCC. This makes community reliance on the land and dry forests even more tenuous.

The European Union (EU) estimates that in the Sahel region, 37 million people are severely or moderately food insecure, including 6.3 million people in need of emergency food assistance.

And when harvests fail, or forests no longer provide sustenance, communities are often forced to leave their homes.

“One of the major risks is that people will migrate to urban centers where they still will not have enough food due to food insecurity,” said Paola Agostini, Global Lead for Resilient Landscapes for the World Bank. “Eventually, they might even migrate outside their country and still not find a better source of livelihood.”

Agostini moderated the Discussion Forum on Regreening heritage landscapes and revitalizing communities in the Sahel and Sahara at the Global Landscapes ForumThis event, which took place on 16 November, was the largest side event on the sidelines of the COP22.

Paola Agostini. Global Lead for Landscapes, World Bank at the GLF session. Photo: Pilar Valbuena/CIFOR
Paola Agostini. Global Lead for Landscapes, World Bank moderated the GLF session. Photo: Pilar Valbuena/CIFOR


Unless the diverse causes of food insecurity are addressed, there will be no permanent solution for the Sahel region. Re-greening has been touted as one way to solve the problem, but there are still many aspects linked to re-greening that need to be addressed, including land ownership and community needs.

“Encouraging people to plant trees is not a straightforward prospect,” said Sunderland. “Reforestation depends on secure land and resource tenure and there are few incentives in place to encourage local people to take the initiative here.”


So how can these dry forests be maintained? How can communities move forward?

Agostini advocates taking a regional approach to solve the diverse problems of the countries in the Sahel.

“Ecosystems don’t have borders, so we need to have a program that connects all the countries from Senegal to Ethiopia and also North Africa using real landscape approaches to ensure better ecosystems services and alternate livelihoods,” she said.

Revitalizing communities is part of the restoration plans. Photo:  Carol J. Pierce Colfer/CIFOR
Revitalizing communities is part of the restoration plans. Photo: Carol J. Pierce Colfer/CIFOR

According to Agostini, the World Bank’s approach is to make sure that these interventions make sense and are financially, socially and environmentally sustainable.

“The idea is to restore degraded landscapes in order to make them a better place to live,” she said. “If real carbon markets develop, we will prepare communities for carbon. But that’s just the cherry on the cake.”

CIFOR-conducted research has identified an urgent need for evidence-based policy on dry forests and the need for more research and data to meet this need.

A 2015 CIFOR study showed that policies that reinforce the rights of the most vulnerable to access key resources and sustainable development programs will simultaneously increase their ability to adapt in the face of climate change and improve food security.

Scientists also found that reforesting lands should integrate the value of trees for livelihoods and diversity that can provide food in times of scarcity. It suggests that the integration of forests and landscape restoration should be improved as part of land-use plans to ensure food security of smallholders in the Sahel.

“We need to develop strategies that are more inclusive of forests in development strategies and provide formal incentives for their conservation and restoration,” said Sunderland.

“If we don’t, they will continue to be denuded and lost, with the associated impacts on both livelihoods and ecosystem services.”

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FTA event coverage: Climate meets landscape, opening plenary 2016 Global Landscapes Forum

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The opening plenary of the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Marrakesh brought together leaders from policy, research, civil society and grassroots activism to share their visions for realizing climate solutions – utilizing the landscape approach and identifying key next steps to achieving tangible, implementable action. Speakers were Peter Holmgren, Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Bambang Permadi Soemantri Brodjonegoro, Blairo Maggi, Matt Hansen, Hindou Ibrahim, Wanjira Mathai. They shared their hopes for the event and raised questions that were discussed in the more than 25 interactive and breakout sessions. GLF is the biggest event related to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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