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  • Storytelling guide illustrates how local practices can contribute to landscape restoration

Storytelling guide illustrates how local practices can contribute to landscape restoration

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The book’s illustrations attractively portray life on the land in Sumba, Indonesia. Image by ICRAF

Researchers in Indonesia have produced an illustrated book to help farmers better understand research results.

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) recently published an illustrated storytelling guide, Menanam pohon di bukit batu (Planting trees on a stony hill), to help spread knowledge of land-restoration and food-security techniques developed by researchers and farmers in Haharu District on the island of Sumba.

“The Sumba community is similar to many others in Indonesia,” explained Elok Mulyoutami, one of the authors, who is a gender specialist and social scientist with ICRAF Indonesia. “They have little interest in reading. This presented a challenge for us. We wanted to share more widely the techniques for land restoration and improved farming that we had developed together with farmers. 

“Observing the cultural practices of the people of the district, we realized that storytelling was very popular and could perhaps become the best way of disseminating our research results, providing agricultural advice and raising people’s awareness of how to better manage their natural resources.”

Read the book: Menanam Pohon di Bukit Batu (Planting trees on a stony hill)

The book, in plain Indonesian designed to be read aloud, uses three children walking home from school in the heat to tell the stories of reforesting their land. At home, one child asks his grandfather why their island home was so hot and dry; if there were more trees wouldn’t it be cooler and fresher? His grandfather’s answers make the boy feel optimistic that Sumba would once again be forested.

The second child asks her mother about the maize they grow and learns how the stalks are used to restore soil fertility in the traditional hillside terracing system that also includes fertilizer trees. Her mother also explains how men and women work together in the fields and learn new skills and knowledge from attending training courses that helps them better manage and protect their harsh yet fragile land.

“Gender equity is relatively well established in Sumba society,” explained Mulyoutami. “Although complicated by class and caste issues. It was important that the book featured women and men collaborating according to their abilities, as happens in reality.”

A seasonal calendar developed by the researchers and farmers is faithfully reproduced in the book. Image by ICRAF

The third child vows to become a smart and good farmer, sharing knowledge and skills with others so that many people can plant more and more trees to ensure that the savanna will become a forest again.

Sumba was largely deforested by the early 2000s as individuals and companies alike sought valuable sandalwood and other indigenous species. Conditions now are harsh and life is difficult. The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and partners, Wahana Visi Indonesia and Lutheran World Relief, supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, have been working together for several years on the Indonesia Rural Economic Development program to help farmers overcome the great challenges to their very survival.

“The idea of using a children’s storybook approach to explain our research results came from the project’s specific concern for youth and children,” said Mulyoutami. “Wahana Visi Indonesia, our partner, had produced children’s books before so we were able to draw on their expertise and had their full support.”

Read also: From savannah to forest: Women’s roles in land restoration in Sumba

Working with Jakarta-based illustrator, Resi Desta, designer Riky Hilmansyah and co-author Tikah Atikah, Mulyoutami gathered technical know-how and cultural nuance from ICRAF staff members who also worked in Sumba — Iskak Nugky Ismawan, Erik Maramba, Asep Suryadi, Nikolas Hanggawali, Gerhard Sabastian, Riyandoko, Suci Anggrayani, Pratiknyo Purnomosidhi and Lia Dahlia — that resulted in a bright, accessible and accurate book that has been well received by the target audiences.

“It’s important to underline that this book is not only for children,” said Mulyoutami. “It’s also useful for agricultural extensionists, rural advisers and farmers to give them a good grounding in how local practices can contribute to restoration.”

The communities of Haharu are committed to expanding their knowledge and restoring their land to its once fertile and productive state. A book such as this is one more tool to use to help reach that goal.

By Rob Finlayson, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World. 

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  • Training a new generation of Congolese forestry researchers

Training a new generation of Congolese forestry researchers

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A young man studies in the botanical gardens at the University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR
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A young man studies in the botanical gardens at the University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), education initiatives are transforming the classroom experiences of aspiring researchers.

Among the innumerable casualties of the decades-long series of conflicts and instability in the DRC, education is one of the most overlooked. Even now, the amount of research into the wartime impact on the country’s education system is very limited — but one thing is certain. If, for decades, going to school posed more safety risks for children than staying at home or in hiding, achieving further degrees was out of the question.

As the fourth most populous country in Africa (and second largest by size), the DRC is now making its way toward recovering its social and economic health, and educating its people is an increasingly crucial component to success. Only with empowerment through knowledge and capacity development can the Congolese, and the research and development organizations and businesses that employ them, impact the growth of the country — and the sustainable use of its natural resources and landscapes.

Making up for lost time

The DRC has the world’s second-largest area of contiguous tropical forests after Brazil, and those forests are distinguished by their rich biodiversity. But, there has long been a lack of trained personnel to care for and manage them properly. In 2005, the country’s entire forestry research cadre comprised just six people with Master’s degrees; in comparison, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) employs more than 8,500 PhD holders. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), has since trained 115 Master’s students and 15 PhDs.

Goods are seen for sale on the banks of the River Congo between Kinshasa and Lukolela, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Learning tools

University of Kisangani (UNIKIS) Rector Prof. Dr. Toengaho Faustin Toengaho says his vision is “to serve the needs of the Congolese society.” To accomplish this, he has proved an exemplary policy champion of the curricula reforms, such as an innovative Master’s-level natural and social science curriculum and an international PhD program. Both programs align capacity-building efforts with the national License, Maîtrise, Doctorat initiative (Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD program, shortened to LMD) in a bid to improve land governance in the future.

UNIKIS now has partnerships with universities and research organizations in France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Belgium, and in-classroom innovations and novel teaching methods continue to heighten the impact of these programs. There’s now an electronic library, joint local and international supervision of students, UNIKIS staff trainings, article-based thesis requirements and an annual Science Week event. The Ministry of Higher Education has since adopted a similar model to Science Week and all the universities and faculties in the country promote scientific research and innovation.

To further aid student growth, a local “accompanying committee” has tracked student progress and helped students develop scientific writing skills, public speaking skills and the confidence to submit their research to publications. Since 2013, students have submitted 31 articles to international peer-reviewed journals. Perhaps the work of Congolese students will influence not just their own country, but others as well.

By D. Andrew Wardell and Gabrielle Lipton, originally published at

Further Reading

  • Molinario, G., Hansen, M.C. and Potapov, P.V., 2015. Forest cover dynamics of shifting cultivation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a remote sensing assessment. Environmental Research Letters 10
  • Nackoney, J., Molinario, G, Potapov, P., Turubanova, S., Hansen, M.C. and Furuichi, T., 2014. Impacts of civil conflict on primary forest habitat in northern Democractic Republic of Congo, 1990-2010. Biological Conservation (2014)
  • Zhuravleva, I., Rurubanova, S., Potapov, P., Hansen, M., Tyukavina, A., Minnemeyer, S., Laporte, N., Goetz, S., Verbelen, F. and Thies, C., 2013. Satellite-based primary forestry degradation assessment in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2000-2010 Environmental Research Letters 8 (2013)

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and was supported by the European Commission, Global Climate Change Alliance (Forests and Climate Change in the Congo) and European Commission Delegation-Kinshasa (11th European Development Fund, DRC).

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  • America’s legacy in its second term as facilitator of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership

America’s legacy in its second term as facilitator of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership

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FTA communications

Photo: Olliver Girard/CIFOR
In addition to being an important vehicle for forest management in Central Africa, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) also bolsters local capacity-building. Photo: Olliver Girard/CIFOR

By Denis Sonwa, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

During the first term of the U.S. leadership of the newly created Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) from 2003 to 2005, the foundations were set for the institution to play an important role in the management of forests and natural resources in Central Africa.

Established by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Johannesburg in 2002, the CBFP has worked for more than a decade to create strong institutions and policies in Central Africa in order to address climate change impacts and threats to biodiversity.

The focus during America’s second term leading the CBFP from 2013 to 2015 was to address governance challenges, emerging threats and strategic new alliances amid a shifting global agenda.

Global concerns and agreements are continuing to shape the management of natural resources in Central Africa. This includes the move from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the landmark United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, and the realization of the Aichi Declaration of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

It is in such a context that the U.S.-led CBFP provided objectives in March 2013 to support: 1) clear and concerted African leadership, 2) actions to address critical threats to biodiversity and forests, 3) full participation in efforts to adapt to and combat climate change, and 4) effective institutions, regulatory regimes and governance to address forests and wildlife.

The July 2015 CBFP Conference of Partners in Yaoundé was an opportunity to revisit these objectives and looked to the future of sustainable forest and natural resources management in Central Africa.

Academic success

In order to enhance leadership in Central Africa, one achievement has been the creation of the CBFP Academic Consortium, a network that links international universities (mainly American, but poised to grow quickly) to local universities and other institutions in the region, with the goal to support research and capacity building. This move supports the Network of Environmental and Forest Training Institutions in Central Africa (RIFEEAC), which has been a critical platform under the management of the late Dr. Ibrahim Sambo.

For the past two years, CIFOR has continued capacity building in post-conflict context through the Master’s and Ph.D. programs to elevate research institutions and universities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During this time, the University of California, Los Angeles completed an important milestone by creating the Congo Basin Institute (CBI) housed at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Yaoundé-Cameroon. The CBI will train Africans and Americans in multidisciplinary research and offer access to world-class facilities. To consolidate the region’s research agenda, CIFOR has started to bring together the Research institutions that will need to work closely with RIFEEAC.

With the aim of capacity building, the academic consortium is expected to increase its focus beyond biodiversity conservation and to recruit academic institutions from Europe and Asia. The post-conflict research and university support process initiated by CIFOR in DRC needs to be extended to the Central African Republic, and the consideration given to youth at the regional level needs to be expanded to the national and sub-national levels.

A recent CIFOR study under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry shows that youth at the local level are often not consulted during governance planning and decision-making processes. In addition, African leadership needs to broaden its considerations beyond biodiversity conservation to consider the recently agreed upon SDGs.

Looming large

Overcoming threats to biodiversity and forests is the primary aim of the CBFP. In addition to the well-established threats from agriculture and poaching, illegal trans-boundary wildlife trafficking is linked to other security issues, and has emerged as a compelling new threat. Moving beyond the traditional protected areas network, the U.S. is supporting the extension of the Wildlife Enforcement Network (WCN) from the horn of Africa to the heart of the continent.

The region hosted an international conference on the illegal exploitation and trade in African Wildlife in Brazzaville where these issues were discussed with leaders from across the continent. The idea of trust funds was presented during the 15th CBFP conference of partners in Yaoundé as a potential option to sustain biodiversity conservation. And, CIFOR continues to support research findings on bushmeat, moving the problem from a wildlife conservation issue to one of food security in order to assure protein for local communities living within forest landscapes. Conflict and post conflict situations prevailing in certain parts of the heart of Africa will continue to fuel the threats to biodiversity and forests.

We must find solutions to these crises. Increasing research attention on zoonosis such as Ebola needs to happen. Sustaining the livelihoods of smallholders living in forest landscapes also needs to be part of the solution to protecting biodiversity and forests.

Expanding the scope of the CBFP

Since the first U.S. facilitation of the CBFP in the early 2000s, attention to climate change has increased. In 2009, through the Global Climate Change initiative, the U.S. signaled its interest in helping African countries prepare for extreme weather and climate events, develop clean and affordable systems and reduce deforestation in the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Africa.

Since President Barack Obama’s objective of reducing deforestation dovetailed with biodiversity protection, the U.S. has been supporting the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) as well as the Central African Satellite Forest Observatory (OSFAC) as vehicles to address the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) agenda in the region. Assessing and protecting forest habitats and resources have thus gained more importance in the CARPE and OSFAC initiatives.

REDD+ responses in the region have hence been mainly on some pilot projects but also on MRV (Monitoring Reporting and Verification) process. CIFOR established the first GHG (Green House Gaze) lab in Central Africa. Partners of the CBFP Support countries of COMIFAC in developing their INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) in the perspective of UNFCCC COP 21of Paris. Adaptation to climate change did not meet the same donor attention as REDD+. Nevertheless, adaptation is now part of the 10 years convergence plan of COMIFAC.

Focusing on institutional effectiveness has resulted in the revitalization of key groups within the Central Africa Forests Commission (COMIFAC). New private sector and agricultural institutions have joined the CBFP since 2013, and the ten-year convergence plan (2015-2025) has been published. The State of the Forest Report 2013 was published with key findings on emerging threats, and a specialized state of the forest report on protected areas was released in 2015.

The emphasis on highlighting local leaders is an innovation that all partners can benefit from, and will hopefully strengthen the coordination and resolve of the Conference on Dense and Humid Forest Ecosystems of Central Africa (CEFDHAC) to continue to play a key role in local governance of forest resources.

Expecting that CBFP will continue to strengthen COMIFAC and its constituencies (including its technical groups and platforms), it is hoped that coverage will be expanded to topics such as livelihoods, agriculture, capacity building, water and energy in the forest landscapes of Central Africa.

In July 2015, when the announcement was made regarding the transition of CBFP’s leadership to the European Union (EU), it was clear that the second term of U.S. facilitation spurred new actions and pathways.

In 2016, the EU have the challenge of defining a new road map for the CBFP, which is eagerly awaited by all partners.

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  • Sustainable investment in Africa starts with the law

Sustainable investment in Africa starts with the law

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Diamonds, gold, oil, natural gas, extensive forest and farm land: Africa has such abundant resources that it is little wonder that, each year, billions of dollars in investments flow into the continent from abroad.

Yet such investments tend to enrich mainly elites and outside investors, to the detriment of the poor and the environment—and so don’t necessarily contribute to sustainable development.

And that may be because existing legal frameworks tend to favor the powerful and vested interests, a new study of laws governing land use in three African countries suggests.

“There are several factors at play in legal systems in these countries that thwart sustainable landscapes governance and investments,” said one of the study’s authors, Andrew Wardell, a senior manager at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“These are barriers that reflect the realities that marginalize people, and perpetuate the trap and cycle of poverty, particularly among rural communities.”

Building enabling legal frameworks for sustainable land-use investments in Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique: A synthesis

Wardell and his co-authors from the International Development Law Organization and faculties of law at the Universities of Zambia, Mozambique and Nairobi analyzed legal documents from Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, neighboring countries whose similarities and differences allow for meaningful comparisons.

All three countries officially espouse principles of sustainability and have developed climate change strategies, environmental safeguards and governance mechanisms. Yet these laws do not result in land-use investments that contribute to sustainability or poverty alleviation, the study found.

“The law, in whatever form it takes, whether statutory or customary, provides a framework to negotiate the multiple uses by different actors in a landscape,” he said.

“I think that’s the best way to interpret law and understand why there are these discrepancies between the provisions of the law and what actually happens in practice.”


One key finding was that laws tend to be skewed in favor of large-scale developments in sectors such as mining, agriculture and forestry. Therefore, the authors argue, incentives to support small- and medium-sized enterprises could help fight poverty.

One example they cite of how legal frameworks can support sustainable businesses is Tanzania’s Kilimo Kwanza (“Agriculture First”) program, a government initiative that provides smaller enterprises with access to financing and credit.

These are barriers that reflect the realities that marginalize people, and perpetuate the trap and cycle of poverty, particularly among rural communities.

Andrew Wardell

Another challenge is the confusion around customary land tenure, stemming from a lack of transparent documentation and regulations detailing land rights of rural communities who often do not have land titles.

And all three countries have laws that allow ministers to authorize strategic development—for example, in the mining sector in Mozambique—often without consulting local communities to determine whether they might already be using the same land in some way.

“Decision-making is still very centralized,” Wardell said.

The overlap between customary authority and the central government can also have negative consequences for rural communities, he added.

Looking for common language for investments in land use

“What came through very clearly was the continued tension between customary and statutory law and its application in many parts of Africa and the role that local chiefs can play completely outside of statutory frameworks,” Wardell said.

That leaves the door open to at times predatory external investments—that is, “the way in which investors can then very cleverly identify the lines of least resistance that enable them to acquire property, which can also be completely outside of any statutory framework,” he added.

Customary leaders were just as likely as elected leaders to succumb to the temptations that lead to “elite capture,” in which a handful of people already in power benefit from land-use decisions while the majority sees little, if any, return, Wardell noted—another reason to support decentralization of power to strengthen accountability.


All of which means there is a need for clearer regulations governing land use—but even that won’t be enough to make a difference.

“How do you translate the aspirational notions of a law or a regulatory framework to ensure the law is enforced into practice?” Wardell said. “This is clearly where there are still fundamental gaps.”


A landscape picture from Cameroon


Sustainable land-use investments would also be supported by better sharing of information on the law and legal processes, the study showed; in addition, when negotiating the competing pressures on a landscape, a broad spectrum of societal needs to participate, and decision-making processes need to be transparent at every level of governance.

However, the authors caution, “there are no laws in Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique that broadly guarantee access to information.”

“It’s surprising to realize that in 2015, despite all the talk and the Aarhus Convention on the right to environmental information, there’s still a chronic lack of information, particularly at the local governance level,” Wardell said.

This topic will be featured at Climate Law & Governance Day
during the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris, France
4 December, Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne
View the event details


Nevertheless, all three countries have initiatives that, if capitalized on, could enable sustainable development.

The Village Land Act that Tanzania passed in 1999 is one example, Wardell said.

“That was the first time since the colonial period that village communities actually had the right to decide how to dispose of the resources on their land,” he said. “It’s unique to sub-Saharan Africa, and one of the reasons Tanzania was included in this research.”


Analysis: How does land tenure affect agricultural productivity in Africa?


Mozambique is also making strides in that direction, he added.

Yet even where laws that could encourage sustainable investments are in place, the process of supporting those frameworks is moving slowly.

“You emerge from a study in 2014 with similar findings to those conducted decades earlier,” Wardell said. “The one surprise for me was realizing that on several fronts, legal precedents that were put in place 20 years ago are still struggling to ensure that there’s complete compliance with them.”

See the rest of the story at

What the climate talks could mean for REDD+ (and the world)
COP21 could revitalize REDD+ … or not
Thinking restoration? Think big and think inclusive

Source: Forests News English

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