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  • FTA Highlight No. 6 – Wild Meat

FTA Highlight No. 6 – Wild Meat

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FTA communications

Millions of people worldwide depend, to varying degrees, on non-wood forest products such as wild meat, including more than 150 million in the Global South.

For many rural people wild meat is the most accessible and most consumed source of protein. Urban dwellers also consume wild meat, but choose wild meat for reasons other than nutrition, including a desire to connect to a rural past or to culture.

The sale of wild meat also contributes to livelihoods for increasing numbers of hunters.

Evidence is increasing that this is depleting the populations of many forest animals. Coupled with habitat loss and deforestation, overhunting can result in the extinction of species.

As part of “FTA’s highlights of a decade,” a new series focusing on its main results since being established in 2011, the FTA program is now publishing the volume on Wild Meat.

Globally, there is evidence of the risks of overhunting. The global, local or functional extinction of populations or species of larger animals —known as defaunation — can change the long-term dynamics of ecosystems.

Campaigns around the bushmeat “crisis” emerged in the early 1990s. Those initiatives gave way to efforts to develop alternative livelihoods to replace the demand for wild meat and looked for biological and policy responses to prevent wildlife declines and promote human well-being.

The Bushmeat Research Initiative (BRI) was established in 2011 under CGIAR’s FTA Program. It has three main objectives: strengthening the evidence base for effective interventions; identifying gaps in knowledge and areas where further work is required; and recommending policy changes to address the overexploitation of wild meat.

The Bushmeat Research Initiative (BRI) has produced studies in Africa, Latin America and Asia, and a global assessment.

BRI’s work has generated a better understanding of the importance of Indigenous Peoples in protecting biodiversity.

The BRI-CIFOR team, with its partners, created the global WILDMEAT database, a powerful evidence base for policy makers, practitioners, researchers and civil society.

The association between wild meat and disease has stimulated research on wild meat and human health in general, and Ebola virus disease outbreaks.

Summary of research undertaken by the BRI and partners to investigate the potential drivers associated with Ebola outbreaks

Africa’s urban population is expected to more than triple over 40 years, which will have a strong impact on the animal populations that provide wild meat.

Wild meat network of a typical family in the Colombian Amazon, illustrating the variety of scenarios in wild meat exchanges

CIFOR via the BRI was a member of the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) programme.

Research led by BRI found that a crucial element is providing local people with alternative sources of animal protein.

The BRI-CIFOR team, with its country partners, carried out a project in 10 Baka villages in Cameroon. Baka Pygmy hunters participated in mapping their hunting territories.

Understanding the complex dynamics of wild meat use in the COVID-19 world will require increased collaboration between environmental and resource entities and the ecological and conservation sciences.

Download the publication to find out how future initiatives can build on FTA results and work in way that ensures a balance between humans and native fauna species, social inclusiveness, respect for traditional knowledge, cross-sector approaches, and capacity building.

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  • The COVID-19 pandemic and agroecosystem resilience: early insights for building better futures

The COVID-19 pandemic and agroecosystem resilience: early insights for building better futures

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John Rono harvests coriander on his farm in western Kenya for sale at an urban centre. Photo World Agroforestry
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Originally posted on ICRAF’s website.

Researchers have studied the impact on natural and managed landscapes and call for wiser and transformative solutions.

As part of socio-ecological systems, agroecosystems provide livelihoods for millions. The ecosystem services generated from agroecosystems provide the basic substances that we need to exist. Hence, the resilience of societies is dependent on well-functioning ecosystems, which is not a given in many developing nations.

As the world marks one year since the global spread of COVID-19, rupturing life as it used to be, it is time to take stock of the impacts beyond the direct medical aspects: on people, forests and agroforestry. A research team from World Agroforestry (ICRAF) studied in depth the wider effects and published their results in the journal, Sustainability.

They found that the impacts have been substantial. So much so that there will be a cesure between research done before, and research results obtained after, 2020.

‘As the reported impacts were both positive and negative,’ said Lalisa Duguma, ICRAF senior scientist researching sustainable landscapes and integrated climate actions and lead author of the article, ‘we started a systematic review of the emerging peer-reviewed literature, realizing that these still are snapshots that need to be interpreted in their local contexts.’

Owing to the disease, countries have closed land borders, ports and even their airspaces except for emergencies or medical goods and equipment supplies. With the planet more globalised than at any other time in human history, these measures, adopted to safeguard populations and contain the virus, created shocks to the broader economy, livelihoods and societal networks. This resulted in significant social effects that created further stress to the prevailing climate-change challenges, environmental degradation and increasing inequity.

Though COVID effects were global, developing countries were the most affected owing to disruptions to economic activities, including production and trade. The pandemic exposed faults in the highly advocated export market, revealing the weak readiness countries have when global issues arise.

In particular, in Sub-Saharan Africa, countries experienced a significant rural-to-urban movement over the last few decades, leading to expansion of urban areas that are strongly dependent on rural agroecosystems. Employment opportunities mainly drove the migration, either as casual or other forms of employment. Most rural households have one or more family members who have moved to urban areas seeking employment.

With the emergence of COVID-19, and measures taken to curb its spread, many employers laid off and reduced staff and casual labourers. Since they lost their jobs and had no other income sources, urban dwellers who were formerly remitters turned for help to their family members in rural areas. Others who lost their jobs returned to their rural areas, increasing demand for consumables. This may increase demand for agricultural land, which is often gained at the expense of forests and woodlands, especially by those living on the margins of forests.


A woman watering vegetables in Burkina Faso. Photo: World Agroforestry/Sophie Mbugua
A woman watering vegetables in Burkina Faso. Photo: World Agroforestry/Sophie Mbugua

In the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors, most interventions are time-sensitive, that is, seasonal, and if the schedule is missed, then farmers have to wait for the next year to implement similar tasks.

Owing to movement restrictions, field inventories, surveys, data collection and other field activities were slowed or discontinued completely to avoid risks to personnel and communities within which activities were to take place. Manenti and others, using responses from managers of protected areas, found that the managers were challenged to implement activities. The lockdowns led to the flourishing of invasive species that were usually managed when access was not restricted.

At farmers’ level, the impacts have been far-reaching. For instance, owing to the non-essential travel and movement restrictions and lack of prior preparation, farmers could not access input supplies, such as fertilisers, disease and pest control inputs and improved seeds.

One vital sector that usually generates substantial revenue for natural resource management in many countries is tourism. In many African countries, the tourism sector is strongly dependent on ecosystems. With the movement restrictions, tourists have temporarily abandoned the region and revenue from the sector has shrunk significantly. It is important to note that the sector supports most wildlife reserves, sanctuaries and private parks in Africa. For example, the United Nations World Tourism Agency indicated that, as of April 2020, almost half of global tourist destinations had closed their borders either totally or partially.

With the shrunken revenue owing to the pandemic, most of the natural resources (wildlife, landscapes and other natural habitats) that the sector relied on have received limited management investment owing to resource scarcity. Unless there are new support schemes, these resources may face significant degradation owing to lack of effective management. Unfortunately, the countries where such resources are located are also facing financial constraints, forcing them to channel available resources to priority and urgent interventions to control COVID-19.

Net impacts varied across continents and within countries, with global chains most at risk and some local supply chains actually flourishing. Diverse agroforestry landscapes with multiple options had ways to cope with the stress while overspecialized landscapes locked into, and dependent on, global supply chains were the most vulnerable. At least, that’s how it appears to be so far, write the team. Further compilations and analysis will be needed.

Overall, whether mitigative, adaptive, transformational or re-imaginative, all actions would need to be backed up by massive investments, policies and incentives. Investments will have to be justified by meeting the current and future generations’ expectations. Above all, leadership, collaboration and joint action will be needed if impacts from COVID-19 like stresses on socio-ecological systems would be minimised in the future.

‘In looking for a suitable “framing” for understanding the cascading effects in socio-ecological systems,’ said Meine van Noordwijk, ICRAF distinguished research fellow and part of the team, ‘we tried to combine the adaptive learning cycle of a resilience analysis scheme, with its breakdown of existing linkages and stored capitals, before the buds of new solutions can be identified among the rubble, with the various types of decisions in the driver–pressure–system–impacts–responses scheme.’

The SARS-CoV2 virus, the source of COVID-19, has had an impact on all Sustainable Development Goals and generated new visions of how humans should interact with nature. Source: Image 1: SARS-CoV2 virus:; Image 2: United Nations (; Image 3: World Agroforestry/Meine van Noordwijk
The SARS-CoV2 virus, the source of COVID-19, has had an impact on all Sustainable Development Goals and generated new visions of how humans should interact with nature. Source: Image 1: SARS-CoV2 virus:; Image 2: United Nations (; Image 3: World Agroforestry/Meine van Noordwijk

The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of broader agroecosystems and related sectors and the livelihoods they support. Addressing these vulnerabilities needs measures that cascade from the national level to landscape and household levels. It needs a concerted effort across scales with decentralised roles and responsibilities at the various levels. It would be essential to design and focus on building back better actions around adaptive, transformational and re-imaginative approaches that target systemic changes over the long term. Adaptive, integrated approaches need to focus on adjusting socio-ecological system dynamics to be sufficiently responsive to COVID-19 types of stresses.

‘The most immediate responses of people minimize the damage of a newly emerging threat, before adaptation can occur,’ said Peter Minang, leader of ICRAF’s landscape research and a member of the team, ‘but building back better requires decisions at the transformative and re-imaginative levels, otherwise we may repeat the fragility that we have now observed.’

Specific to the zoonotic starting point of the coronavirus that triggers the COVID-19 disease, there is a debate on the degree of ‘segregation’ that is needed between human activities and the rest of the living world, write the team.

‘Some plead for a strict hygienic corridor, minimizing human interactions with potential sources of further zoonotic diseases,’ said van Noordwijk, ‘while others argue for accepting that humans are part of Nature and that no single wall can prevent human vulnerability, rather, resilience will have to be based on defences at multiple scales, including diversified livelihoods’ options and avoiding “lock-ins” that become a risk during “lock-downs”.’

The debate will continue, write the team, but it would be a missed opportunity if existing ‘engagement landscapes’, where researchers can understand the contexts, are not used to describe and analyse the cascading impacts and the bottlenecks to, and opportunities for, new solutions to emerge.

Read the journal article

Duguma LA, van Noordwijk M, Minang PA, Muthee K. COVID-19 Pandemic and Agroecosystem Resilience: Early Insights for Building Better FuturesSustainability. 2021; 13(3):1278.

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  • International Day of Women & Girls in Science 2021 - Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society

International Day of Women & Girls in Science 2021 – Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society

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Pamela Tabi working on the field. Arnauld Chyngwa/CIFOR
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FTA communications

This year’s international day of women and girls in science (11 February 2021) focuses on the role of Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. FTA has long acknowledged both the important role of women in the fight against the pandemic and their importance to build back better, increasing resilience of agricultural systems. At the same time, we have stressed the fact that women, especially rural women, are often among the most vulnerable of categories, suffering greatly from the consequences of this global pandemic.

Today, 11 February 2021, the 6th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly will be held at the United Nations Headquarters virtually. Its theme is specifically: Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society. We chose to focus on this topic, as FTA has always given gender equality a vast space in its research.

Women scientists have a particular viewpoint: they faced in their own personal experience many of the challenges deriving from social norms and obligations, but through their studies, they have also acquired knowledge and intellectual strength to overcome these. At the same time, they are constantly researching for solutions to wider, planetary problems. This is why their testimonies are so powerful: they bridge sectors, they go beyond borders.

Last year FTA had some powerful motivational statements from Ramni Jamnadass and an interview with Violet Chanza Black. Stories of struggles and ultimately the empowerment through education. 

This year we had the pleasure to talk with Houria Djoudi, senior CIFOR-ICRAF scientist. Houria has 20 years of work experience in understanding human and ecosystem interaction in different socio-ecological systems in North and West Africa and Central Asia.

We asked Houria about her personal story: how and why did she choose to become a scientist? What were her challenges? Our conversation touched upon many themes, from the times she was a girl, in a little Amazigh village, hiding on the slopes of the Djurdjura mountains of Algeria. She explained to us about her realization, early in life, that nature represents the greatest treasure we have. This mountainous landscape was shaped by old cedar and oaks trees, olives and figs. Through the ancestral practice of drying figs, her parents would store fruits for the cold winters, securing nutritious and delicious sweets. Houria remembers how important these were during her long morning walks to reach school, a taste that “warms the body and gives a young child the feeling that life is inestimable”.

“I owe my entire life to the trees, and so do the lives of my parents, grandparents and all our ancestors. From here comes my deep respect for the farmers, many of which women, who feed their families and the world. With the force of their body and the strength of their minds and spirit, and with their millennial knowledge, these people are able to transform even the most harsh landscapes into places full of life and diversity, where humans, animals, trees, stones, rivers all are one.”

Houria also focused on challenges: the desire to fight against the injustice she saw being perpetrated to her indigenous community while trying to personally overcome many of the hidden or visible limits inherent in social norms and values. “Women can encounter those lines and borders everywhere,” she underlines.

But today, as a senior scientist at CIFOR-ICRAF and looking back at her life, she realizes that not shying away from these difficulties had a truly transformative power. “Every adversity I faced made me stronger and sharpened my understanding and my determination to overcome barriers,” she says now with energy.

“There are unfortunately still too many reasons why a woman can feel vulnerable in the scientific community, some of them are very subtle and hard to grasp. What I want to say to all the young women scientists is: I know women have the power to transform vulnerabilities into strengths and resilience, and this is the first step to transform the world into a better place.”


After talking with Houria, we interviewed a junior scientist on her decision and experience in choosing the path of science for life. This year we had the pleasure to talk to Pamela Tabi, a Cameroonian living and working in Yaoundé. Pamela started working at CIFOR as an intern in 2011 while doing her master’s research on the VPA FLEGT programme in Cameroon’s community forests.  After obtaining graduating with her MSc degree and a short period in the private sector she was recruited as Research Assistant at CIFOR-ICRAF in the GML Project (Governing Multifunctional landscapes in Sub-Saharan African countries). The project aims to develop strategies to sustainably manage wood fuel value chains. Pamela’s interests lie in many aspects of the forest sector: illegal logging, community forestry, forest certification, and woodfuel value chain. Let’s meet her!

This year the UN Assembly will be discussing the theme: “Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society” – what does this mean for you? Should it be rather “equity”? Did you have to cross a lot of borders to get where you are now? 

Before answering this question, it is important to define “equality” and “equity.” From my perspective, “equality” means provide the same/similar consideration among gender, race, disability, etc. allowing people to achieve the same level of competences. “Equity” means considering the divergences/differences among people and allowing people, even the most vulnerable, and designing pathways to have access to the same opportunities.

For me, “Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society” means to allow everybody in the field of sciences the same opportunities. Speaking overtly about equity could highlight the necessity to consider the differences among people before assigning them certain tasks or positions.

I struggle a lot to be at the level where I am. As a woman and a mother, I could be perceived as a person who has too many hurdles and might not give the best of herself to achieve the planned milestones, compared to someone has less social obligations. In this situation, I find myself sometimes working double to prove my skills and meet expectations.

Did science bring more equality in your life? How? Was it a path of (internal/external) challenges? Which ones and how did you overcome them?

I learned a lot from my experience as a young scientist woman. In my daily life, science did not directly impact me, but a scientist’s profession has many challenges. First, we have to dig into the internal. We shall be transformed in our way to see and analyze things and to view the external. Sometimes, we have to reduce or be selective of the social activities that we attend. Some of our relatives don’t always understand those transformations. The best way to overcome those challenges is to speak out with them and invite them into our universe!

Tell us when you decided you were going to be a scientist? How did that happen? Was there a “spark” that made you take this decision?

In my understanding, having a Ph.D. degree can have more opportunities, responsibilities and be recognized worldwide as a scientist.

Is there a significant anecdote from your family life or your academic life that has impacted your decision to pursue a scientific career? Which one?

The passion truly sparked when I was working on my bachelor’s degree. One of our professors organized a 3-day trip to learn more about biodiversity and inventory methods for flora and fauna. The time I spent in that forest, without electricity, without a network signal, surrounded by trees: it was just amazing. That experience instilled in me a huge desire to become a forester for life.

What is the most important feature to become a scientist (determination, creativity, etc.)? Why? What would be your advice to a young girl undecided whether to study science or not?

The most important feature is to love what you do and have a passion for that. Then, determination and creativity will follow naturally. When you love your job, you don’t feel like it’s work, because what you do is an integral part of your life.  My advice for a young girl is, first of all identify what you want to dedicate your life to and then, whether it should be in the field of science or not, give yourself all the means to achieve your goal. People will see your determination, detect your talent and open the right doors to you.

Why is achieving gender equality in the scientific community essential for you?

Because women have so much to offer, equality can be beneficial to the community as a whole and individually for many women who perceive the scientific environment giving them less opportunities. There are many examples – from the most famous French scientist Marie Curie, the Senegalese Rose Dieng-Kuntz, and the Lithuanian-American astrophysicist Vera Rubin.

Rubin famously said, “There is no scientific problem that a man can solve that a woman cannot.”

Any other thing you’d like to add?

I want to encourage agencies and funding organizations which support research to keep their belief, their confidence and their hopes on what woman can deliver in the field of science.

The last word will be to thanks all those who had faith in me and who allowed me to be where I am. There are more and more challenges to be achieved. Science is waiting for us. The show must go on! Thank you for the opportunity given for this interview.

By the FTA Communication Team.

This article was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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