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  • Forest science for the future: Back to the drawing board?

Forest science for the future: Back to the drawing board?

Farming land on peatland area in Mendawai village, Katingan. Central Kalimantan. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR
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FTA communications

Scientists discuss best way forward at IUFRO XXV congress

How can forest research and science, the foundations of the science of natural resource management, be renewed amid unprecedented global challenges?

At the 25th congress of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), in Curitiba, Brazil, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) hosted an official side event. It involved six top scientists from partner organizations, in addition to congress delegates who discussed priorities for future forestry research.

The talk stirred up a wide-ranging debate among scientists on how to confront the ongoing planetary crises such as climate change, threats to biodiversity and deforestation in a unified manner.

The title of the session was “Research on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry: What’s Next?

“We could be tempted to rush to the drawing board, but before this, we need to go back to the incredible amount of former research and see whether it worked or not,” said Vincent Gitz, director of FTA, the leading international research program exploring how forests, trees and agroforestry play a central role in food security, nutrition and sustainable development through improved production systems.

Scientists recognize that efforts to reach the Paris Agreement target to keep global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius below pre-industrial levels will not be met without reductions in emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation.

Forest loss accounts for about a tenth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural emissions, 35 percent of which occur in developing countries, contribute a similar amount.

This puts reducing deforestation and restoring landscapes on the menu for research attention. The sheer volume of research findings can seem daunting, which include context-specific, typology-related and other topics, but through careful synthesis, real solutions and methods can be found, participants said.

As well, gaps in knowledge exist in terms of options for sustainable land management, for too little is known about the relative costs and benefits of land management and restoration approaches, said panellist Andrew Miccolis, Brazil country coordinator for World Agroforestry (ICRAF).

“Everybody is talking about landscape approaches, but what’s really put into practice?” he queried. “We need to better understand trade-offs between agriculture, different agroforestry and forestry systems; what are the options for different contexts, for different landscapes”

Financial focus

Through benefiting from local economic value in conserving forests, communities will be able to tackle the causes of deforestation and forest degradation, and benefit from full institutional and political commitments of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions caused by Deforestation and forest Degradation), said panellist Amy Duchelle, team leader of Climate Change, Energy & Low Carbon Development Team at CIFOR.

“On restoration, we could learn from the experience of REDD+ and also explicitly link to REDD+,” she said.

To date, challenges have included agreeing how to measure forest emissions levels upon which payments should be based, what costs payments should cover and who among governments, subnational programs or local people should be paid.

Many REDD+ initiatives are currently funded by CG donors.

“There is still a clear need for rigorous assessments and how to attribute benefits to a determined intervention,” Duchelle said. “We’re at an important moment regarding finance: the first results-based payments for REDD+ have been disbursed in 2019; market based mechanisms for forests may be emerging. Much more work is needed on reference levels, as well as on units for offsetting, issue of permanence.”

Brazil was approved for a $96.5 million payout under REDD+ in February 2019 in return for reducing deforestation in 2014 and 2015, based on the concept that by slowing down deforestation according to previously measured reference levels, trees that would have been cut down were not.

“With REDD+ we’re making a large scale policy and intervention experiment,” Duchelle said. “REDD+ provides an opportunity to measure and attribute benefits to a determined intervention. And it’s gaining traction in a growing number of countries.”

But to be effective research needs to reflect not only on the ‘what,’ but also on the ‘how’,” Gitz said.

Evaluating change

“We’re in a transformative period and research needs to adapt to these changes, to new pathways for solving complex issues,” said panellist Yanxia Li, senior program officer at International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, organization having joined FTA in 2017. “Research needs to be able to create transformative processes that bring science to real practice.”

In a similar vein, Edwin Cedamon, post-doctoral fellow with Australia’s University of Adelaide said that a greater effort must be made to increase the reach of communications outreach to development and agricultural and forestry extension workers on the frontlines, typically at provincial and municipal government levels.

“We need to know how much our knowledge is reaching these people and what FTA technology and innovation are lacking for them,” Cedamon said. “There is little if not nil knowledge resources and or materials readily available in local extension and development service offices.”

Transparent trajectory

Misleading messages can also create hurdles, participants said.

Maria Brockhaus, professor of International Forest Policy at Finland’s University of Helsinki insisted on the importance of credibility. “We need to be transparent about failure, she said. “The tipping points are crucial, we really need to be credible.”

Pablo Pacheco, Global Forest Lead Scientist with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature supported this notion.

“The worlds of science and society are disconnected,” he said. “There’s the question of credibility – you need to make your assumptions clear. We also have be careful about misleading messages.”

“Deforestation is not a problem of forestry but of agriculture, a challenge that can be addressed in part through further research on policies on agriculture and land use,” said panelist Roger Villalobos, who works with the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE)

Natural forest management is the most powerful tool for forest conservation – we need more research on policies that have an impact on forests like on migration,” he added. “We need better communication with society, farmers, decision makers.”

Urgent action

“We have no more time – we need to use what we have already learned,” said panellist Plinio Sist, director of the Forests and Societies Unit at the French Agricultural Centre for International Development (CIRAD, a managing partner of FTA). “Our current knowledge is enough to call for action.”

Sist expressed a sentiment that was echoed throughout the IUFRO congress, held under the shadow of uncertainty brought about by the climate crisis, on the heels of U.N. Climate Week in New York.

Further research is required to understand complex systems, but the situation in deforestation and biodiversity loss is so urgent that the focus should be on requesting specific actions, Sist said, adding that scientists must not shy away from initiating transformative processes to influence policy.

“We’ve accumulated enough knowledge to develop applicable solutions and concrete actions to fight deforestation and for climate change mitigation, now it is time to act” According to Sist, it’s a responsibility of scientists to also act as evidence-based advocates and activists.

Communications and interventions are central, said Gitz in his concluding remarks as moderator, adding that scientific investigations must start from the ground up – putting the needs of people first and then determining which trees are best suited to the landscape—the only way we can do this is by reshaping our approach to managing the landscape spaces within which we work.

He left the door open for further discussion within FTA, recommending action-based research which, he said, must be innovative, strongly transformative and demonstrate concrete results.

By Julie Mollins, communications specialist.

FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • CATIE presents results on sentinel landscapes in Nicaragua-Honduras

CATIE presents results on sentinel landscapes in Nicaragua-Honduras

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Photo by CATIE

One of the most innovative approaches from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the establishment of a set of ‘sentinel landscapes’.

These have formed part of a global analysis of networks and helped to understand issues and processes relevant to ecosystems worldwide.

A sentinel landscape is a geographic area or set of areas bound by a common issue, in which a broad range of biophysical, social, economic and political data are monitored, collected with consistent methods and interpreted over the long term.

CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center), in conjunction with FTA, has coordinated a Sentinel Landscapes initiative since 2012. The long-term data are essential for addressing development, resource sustainability and scientific challenges, such as linking biophysical processes to human reactions and understanding the impacts of those reactions on ecosystems.

CATIE – a regional center dedicated to research and graduate education in agriculture, and the management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, and a strategic partner of FTA – recently held four workshops for 164 participants from 45 organizations representing government, academic, productive sectors and NGOs.

The workshops, held on Nov. 5, 7, 9 and 27, 2018, focused on presenting the results and advances of the Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape initiative and were held in the cities of Matagalpa and Siuna in Nicaragua and Catacamas and La Ceiba in Honduras. The Nicaragua Honduras Sentinel Landscape is characterized by a variety of land uses. Tree cover is therefore diverse, competition for land is high, and speculation and renting land are common, but these arrangements drive deforestation, hinder long-term investments and exacerbate land degradation.

Watch: Analysis and monitoring of deforestation dynamics in FTA sentinel landscapes

The gatherings aimed to provide a space for the exchange of information between decisionmakers and key actors in the sectors of environmental management, forest management, protected areas, livestock, cocoa, coffee and biodiversity.

Around 64 participants from 45 organizations representing government, academic, and production sectors as well as some NGOs updated their knowledge of the Sentinel Landscapes initiative, exchanging information on their projects and activities, which served to improve levels of coordination among participating organizations.

Photo by CATIE

Since the initiative began, CATIE students have conducted valuable thesis studies that have contributed to improving knowledge and research methodology in the sentinel landscape.

The Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape is a mosaic of forests, agricultural lands, cattle ranches and agroforestry systems, covering 68,000 square kilometers, including two biosphere reserves and 13 protected areas.

“This landscape also contains the largest forest area in Central America,” said Norvin Sepúlveda, CATIE’s representative in Nicaragua.

Watch: CIFOR’s Robert Nasi on Sentinel Landscapes

The initiative develops and implements a standardized matrix that includes a set of indicators and livelihoods to monitor landscape sustainability in a wide variety of cultural, institutional and environmental settings.

Sepulveda also indicated that socioeconomic and biophysical baselines have been developed in conjunction with universities and local organizations.

José Manuel González, CATIE representative in Honduras, mentioned that it is important to make these databases available to organizations, to continue with studies and monitoring, as well as to strengthen local and national alliances.

In this sense, Alan Bolt, coordinator of the Collaborative Management Committee for the Peñas Blancas Protected Area and director of the Center for Understanding Nature, stated that CATIE’s support, through the initiative, had been important for the institutionalization of the committee and the thesis studies carried out by students have improved research methodology.

Indeed, sentinel landscapes can provide a common observation ground where reliable data from the biophysical and social sciences can be tracked simultaneously and over time so that long-term trends can be detected, and society can make mitigation, adaptation and best-bet choices.

By Priscilla Brenes Angulo, CATIE Communication Assistant, first published by CATIE.

For more information, contact Norvin Sepúlveda, [email protected].

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  • Agricultural research and education combine for tangible results in Latin America 

Agricultural research and education combine for tangible results in Latin America 

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A body of water is surrounded by mountains. Photo by CATIE

In light of its standing as a regional research platform and a higher education institution of international recognition, CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) holds an undeniably important position in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The work carried out by CATIE researchers is focused on generating and disseminating knowledge, putting it into practice and encouraging uptake. From restoration to climate change adaptation and mitigation, conservation strategies and silvopastoral systems, the center’s work spans not only numerous countries but also several decades.

To mark CATIE’s official 45th anniversary this year, Environmental Livestock Unit researchers Cristóbal Villanueva and Danilo Pezo, Forest Seed Bank head Francisco Mesén and genetic resources expert William Solano spoke about key work and achievements.

Read also: CATIE celebrates 45 years of putting knowledge into practice 

What is the history behind the development and use of research on silvopastoral systems at CATIE?

Cristóbal Villanueva and Danilo Pezo: CATIE’s work on silvopastoral systems started in the late 1980s, but initially the emphasis was on the use of tree fodder as a source of feed for ruminants.

Initially, most of the efforts were on native trees such as Erythrina species, Gliricidia sepium, Leucaena leucocephala and Calliandra calothyrsus, as well as the introduced Morus alba. All these were managed under different silvopastoral options, mostly the traditional live fences, and intensive fodder banks and alley farming with pastures systems.

Later, emphasis was put on other woody perennial species as well as on the role of different silvopastoral options — such as the most commonly practiced scattered trees in pastures — as a means to diversify production and improve animal welfare in livestock systems, as well as providers of timber and environmental services such as biodiversity, soil and water conservation in livestock dominated landscapes.

More recently, the role of woody perennials as part of adaptation and mitigation strategies on livestock farms has been part of CATIE’s research agenda.

Team members plant seedlings. Photo by CATIE

Over the years, CATIE has been the leader in post-graduate education and training in silvopastoral systems in Latin America, contributing to strengthening the research and development capability of many education and research institutions, as well as NGOs, technical assistance providers and farmer organizations, mostly in Latin American and the Caribbean.

CATIE research findings have also been used as inputs for the design of policies tackling the livestock and environmental interphase in the region. At a global level, CATIE has shared its learnings through several publications, as well as presentations at international congresses, conferences and seminars.

Watch: CATIE: el destino para una educación superior de excelencia

How is CATIE’s Forest Seed Bank used, and who benefits from this valuable resource? 

Francisco Mesén: The CATIE Forest Seed Bank (BSF), which has existed for 51 years, is a self-sustainable commercial unit that distributes the seeds of 50 forest species as well as coffee clones of high genetic quality.

Each year BSF seeds reach more than 170 clients in 20 countries in America, Asia and Africa, supplying private companies to national reforestation programs. The BSF maintains commercial agreements with partners in Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru for seed distribution and promotion.

The seeds that we distribute come either from our own sources, from selected third-party sources, or from other seed banks in the region. In addition to strict internal quality control, we are also under the supervision of the Costa Rican Seed Certification Office, which certifies both the physical and genetic quality of our seeds.

In our training, marketing and promotion efforts, we develop our agenda in conjunction with our partners in member countries. We provide continuous advice to our clients as required, and we receive an average of 300 visitors per year to our headquarters, including politicians, producers, businessmen, technicians and students.

Read also: CATIE continues to improve people’s wellbeing across Latin America and Caribbean through education and research

What is the story of CATIE’s germplasm collection, and which stakeholders now benefit from its use?

William Solano: CATIE’s germplasm collections date back to the 1940s. In 1976, the germplasm bank was formally established as a center for the conservation and use of the plant genetic resources of Mesoamerica.

The collections were placed under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2004 and two years later were under the jurisdiction of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The germplasm that CATIE conserves has worldwide relevance due to its quantity and diversity.

Different types of cacao varieties can be found in CATIE’s International Cacao Collection. Photo by CATIE

The most representative field collections are coffee, cacao, peach palm and sapotaceae fruits, while the most important seed collections are those of cucurbits, tomato and pepper. Many of the accessions are unique and not represented in collections elsewhere. The collections include accessions of wild relatives of crops, a valuable resource for future genetic improvement.

There are several examples of CATIE’s germplasm distribution to users who have promoted the economic development of new crops and helped tackle new diseases in crops of high economic value. CATIE highlighted the distribution of selected seven cocoa clones resulting from its Cocoa Breeding Program — known for their high yield, resistance to moniliasis and excellent chocolate quality (two of them were in the top 10 at the Le Salon du Chocolat in Paris in 2009) — to smallholders throughout Central America.

These clones were fundamental for a key initiative of the Central American Cacao Project aimed at modernizing cocoa plantations in an integrated manner in order to improve the income and living conditions of families in the region.

The distribution throughout the region of hybrids F1 with resistance to coffee rust, which were derived from introductions in the CATIE collection, is also of great value to the coffee sector. These materials are characterized by 30 to 50 percent higher productivity than traditional varieties and have an exceptional cup quality – one of them won the Cup of Excellence competition in 2016 – as well as tolerance to adverse weather conditions such as drought, flooded soil and frost.

Also worth noting is a germplasm transfer in the 1960s, from the CATIE coffee collection to Panama, of the Geisha variety, which led to the production of a high-quality specialty coffee with a very high market value, reaching US$601 per pound. Another product of CATIE’s coffee germplasm collection is the “Nemaya” rootstock variety, which is resistant to major nematodes affecting the Central American coffee sector.

Small-scale farmers, including indigenous communities, have also benefited from native germplasm of important food crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and squash, presenting valuable agronomic traits such as nutritional quality, better taste, good adaptation to different climatic conditions and resistance to diseases and pests. CATIE makes this germplasm available to all users, in a continuing contribution to meeting the current challenges of agriculture.

Read also: Celebrating and rewarding excellence in producing high-quality cocoa: The 2017 International Cocoa Award winners

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator, and Karla Salazar, CATIE Communicator.

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  • CATIE marks 45 years of putting knowledge into practice 

CATIE marks 45 years of putting knowledge into practice 

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Flower buds grow on a coffee plant. Photo by CATIE

As CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) marks its 45th year, it is continuing to build its reputation as a renowned research platform and internationally recognized education institution.

So, what is CATIE’s vision for the future of its unique combination of education, research and innovation?

Remarking on the anniversary milestone, CATIE’s Director General Muhammad Ibrahim said CATIE’s vision over the coming years would focus on offering leadership in the generation of ‘agents of change’ and in search of solutions to challenges facing the region and the world that have been emphasized in the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“CATIE has become an ally to countries across Latin America and the Caribbean as it constantly generates new knowledge and makes it available,” he said.

Read also: CATIE continues to improve people’s wellbeing across Latin America and Caribbean through education and research

In line with FTA’s role in enhancing the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security, and addressing climate change, CATIE has two very important programs, which link perfectly,” said Eduardo Somarriba, leader of CATIE’s Agriculture, Livestock and Agroforestry Program (PRAGA).

“One very important part of CATIE’s work in FTA has been the development of the Nicaragua-Honduras sentinel landscape [NHSL], where CATIE has introduced a climate smart territories methodology, carried out research initiatives and supported more than 20 master’s theses,” he added.

The sentinel landscapes initiative has made rapid progress toward understanding important metrics of ecosystem health, as well as drivers of land degradation across a range of ecosystems in the global tropics. An important part of the initiative is the integration of socioeconomic surveys and ecosystem health metrics.

Meanwhile, the CATIE-MAP project has produced a range of tools and farmer resources on alternative agricultural practices related to a range of crops and livestock.

“These include coffee, cocoa, livestock, silvopastoral systems, backyard gardening and staple cereals,” said Somarriba, “and their distribution has focused on farmers and agricultural extension services.”

Cows are pictured in a agrosilvopastoral system at CATIE’s farm. Photo by CATIE

CATIE’s work in the following areas links closely with FTA’s efforts to progress sustainable development and food security and to address climate change:

  • Forest restoration of degraded land
  • Mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the forestry sector and in the framework of conservation efforts and management of ecosystem services
  • Policy and governance of multiscale management of forests, biodiversity and hydrological ecosystem services
  • Conservation strategies for forests, biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Productive efficiency and resilience of livestock based on silvopastoral systems
  • Productive efficiency and resilience of agroforestry systems with perennial crops (coffee and cocoa)
  • Carbon stocks and greenhouse gas flows in agroforestry systems and silvopastoral areas

Read also: Nicaragua-Honduras sentinel landscape on FTA

CATIE is dedicated to research and graduate education in agriculture and the management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, introducing the knowledge generated by its research programs. This allows students, technical staff and professionals to be exposed to the knowledge and to be able to adapt it for use in their countries,” Somarriba explained.

Indeed, CATIE ensures that the knowledge it generates is put into practice and adopted on the ground across Latin America and the Caribbean. The center’s projects implement farmer field schools as the main capacity building mechanisms to influence farmers and their families.

CATIE’s graduate school has educated over 40 professionals at master’s and PhD levels using the NHSL as a research platform. These graduates then return to their home countries where they can apply their knowledge to their work in national development and education programs.

In terms of higher education overall, CATIE has seen 2,530 professionals graduate with master’s and doctoral degrees, and has trained more than 70,000 people in various fields related to sustainable agriculture development and natural resource conservation. CATIE publications are also regularly used by academic institutions in Latin America in their educational programs.

“The center also works closely with policymakers and the governance platforms of many private subsectors — such as livestock, coffee, cocoa and forestry. CATIE’s research results support the development of public policies and private development programs through these platforms. For instance, CATIE’s research has supported the development of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) interventions in the livestock sector in all Central American countries,” Somarriba said.

“We have built all this work jointly with key local partners, national and international, who we thank today for their cooperation and for joining in sustainable, rural and inclusive development alongside CATIE,” Ibrahim concluded.

Read also: CATIE aims to strengthen its work in environmental livestock, agroforestry, agrobiodiversity and family farming

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator, and Karla Salazar, CATIE Communicator.

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  • Gender in the jungle: a critical assessment of women and gender in current (2014–2016) forestry research

Gender in the jungle: a critical assessment of women and gender in current (2014–2016) forestry research

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Fields and forests are gendered spaces. Women’s crucial contributions to productive and reproductive work within and beyond the household have been made visible since the 1970s. There has also been a persistent call for mainstreaming gender in sustainable development and environmental concerns. Prior work discusses the importance of women and gender for forests, and provides guidelines and methods to integrate them in forestry research. This paper assesses the uptake of women and gender issues in recent (2014–2016) forestry research. We found that women and gender concerns are still largely absent or inadequately addressed in forestry research published in scientific journals. Despite the call for greater gender integration in forestry, much needs to be done in quantitative and qualitative terms to meet this goal.

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  • Making sense of ‘intersectionality’: A manual for lovers of people and forests

Making sense of ‘intersectionality’: A manual for lovers of people and forests

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The forestry sector has engaged with gender issues to the extent that including ‘women’ mattered for sustainable forest management and other forest-related goals. More recently, there has been a growing recognition that gender equality is a goal in its own right; and accordingly, considerable efforts and resources are now being devoted to ‘mainstreaming gender’ in forestry. While these are positive developments, ‘gender’ is still interpreted in simplistic and binary ways. This has prevented a deeper and more meaningful analysis of how power relations operate to situate women and men in different forested landscapes; why certain individuals and groups are, or remain, marginalized; and what role research can play in promoting gender and social justice. One of the major reasons behind this shortfall is the gulf between applied research and gender theories. Gender research in forestry has yet to engage with the concept of ‘intersectionality,’ or intersecting and interacting identities, even as the term is viewed as a gold standard for research in gender studies.This manual aims to introduce ‘intersectionality’ to researchers working on forestry and agroforestry who are unfamiliar with the term, and to provide tips and strategies for applying it in their own work. Practitioners and policymakers who are concerned with using evidence to inform gender-inclusive programs and policies would also find this manual useful. We provide a brief and accessible overview of the major approaches and debates surrounding the term in gender studies. In applying the term, we propose a five-lens approach (cognitive, emotional, social, economic and political) to identify who the marginalized are and what sustains their marginalization. We point to the value of being attentive to questions of ‘positionality’ and ‘reflexivity’ in our research; and of supporting marginalized individuals and communities to bring about socially inclusive change.

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  • Institutionalization of REDD+ MRV in Indonesia, Peru, and Tanzania: progress and implications

Institutionalization of REDD+ MRV in Indonesia, Peru, and Tanzania: progress and implications

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Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+) has opened up a new global discussion on forest monitoring and carbon accounting in developing countries. We analyze and compare the extent to which the concept of measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) for REDD+ has become institutionalized in terms of new policy discourses, actors, resources, and rules in Indonesia, Peru, and Tanzania. To do so, we draw on discursive institutionalism and the policy arrangement approach. A qualitative scale that distinguishes between “shallow” institutionalization on the one end, and “deep” institutionalization on the other, is developed to structure the analysis and comparison. Results show that in all countries MRV has become institutionalized in new or revised aims, scope, and strategies for forest monitoring, and development of new agencies and mobilization of new actors and resources. New legislations to anchor forest monitoring in law and procedures to institutionalize the roles of the various agencies are being developed. Nevertheless, the extent to which MRV has been institutionalized varies across countries, with Indonesia experiencing “deep” institutionalization, Peru “shallow-intermediate” institutionalization, and Tanzania “intermediate-deep” institutionalization. We explore possible reasons for and consequences of differences in extent of institutionalization of MRV across countries.

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  • Gender and Forests: Climate Change, Tenure, Value Chains and Emerging Issues

Gender and Forests: Climate Change, Tenure, Value Chains and Emerging Issues

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This enlightening book brings together the work of gender and forestry specialists from various backgrounds and fields of research and action to analyse global gender conditions as related to forests. Using a variety of methods and approaches, they build on a spectrum of theoretical perspectives to bring depth and breadth to the relevant issues and address timely and under-studied themes.

Focusing particularly on tropical forests, the book presents both local case studies and global comparative studies from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as the US and Europe. The studies range from personal histories of elderly American women’s attitudes toward conservation, to a combined qualitative / quantitative international comparative study on REDD+, to a longitudinal examination of oil palm and gender roles over time in Kalimantan. Issues are examined across scales, from the household to the nation state and the global arena; and reach back to the past to inform present and future considerations.

The collection will be of relevance to academics, researchers, policy makers and advocates with different levels of familiarity with gender issues in the field of forestry.

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  • What are the priorities for relevant, legitimate and effective forest and tree research? Lessons from the IUFRO congress

What are the priorities for relevant, legitimate and effective forest and tree research? Lessons from the IUFRO congress

A pisciculture research station is seen in Yaekama, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR
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A pisciculture research station is seen in Yaekama, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

We can all agree that forests and trees play a vital role in sustaining life on earth. Addressing climate change – both mitigation and adaptation, something that few sectors can do simultaneously – ensuring food security and nutrition, and preserving biodiversity will not be possible without the full spectrum of solutions that forests, trees and agroforestry offer.

At the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) 125th Anniversary Congress, held on Sept. 18-22 in Freiburg, Germany, by one of the world’s oldest international scientific institutions, more than 40 scientists affiliated with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) presented their latest results and findings.

Among them were Bimbika Sijapati Basnett from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and Marlène Elias from Bioversity International, who launched the Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests, a major reference to ground future research, as well as to inform curricula worldwide.

FTA senior scientist Ramni Jamnadass of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) presented on safeguarding forest food tree diversity in a session on food trees in forests and farmlands, while her colleague Sonya Dewi presented about ICRAF’s work on combining remote sensing, crowdsourcing big data and multi-objective modelling to inform landscape approaches, during a session on forest restoration policy assessment in the tropics.

One of the major subplenary sessions – Changes in Forest Governance: Implications for Sustainable Forest Management – involved FTA scientists Pablo Pacheco and Paolo Cerutti of CIFOR, who presented on changes in forest governance in South America and Africa, respectively.

In a significant joint effort on the final day of the congress, IUFRO and FTA cohosted a subplenary session titled Research for sustainable development: Forests, trees and agroforestry, aimed at discussing main research and knowledge gaps in forest and tree science in relation to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and how to address them.

The IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress took place in Freiburg, Germany, from Sept. 18-22. Photo © FVA.

Forest and trees are central to many of the challenges of our time. This raises new questions every day, as the IUFRO congress showcased. But this makes the prioritization of issues both more difficult and more necessary. What is needed most and where we should start? How should we, as researchers and research institutions, conduct research in order to best enable impact?

We faced the same issue when constructing the second phase of FTA, with a very long shortlist of 100 critical knowledge gaps and key research questions, from genetic resources to value chains and institutions.

I wonder if this centrality of forests and trees to so many challenges could not be an overarching guide to orient research prioritization. We need to fully embrace the fact that forest and tree research has to address a complex set of objectives, because forests and trees are not only concerned with SDG15 on life on land, but also with the 16 other goals. Integration is key. So the overarching issue might be how we can integrate the different dimensions of sustainable development and different objectives into the research questions, research methods and solutions we develop in practice.

For example, thanks to the integration of the work of very different scientific disciplines – tree biology, atmospheric biogeochemistry, climatology, hydrology and dendrology – there is now convincing convergent evidence on the role of forests in atmospheric water circulation, at continental scales. Forests enable rain to occur downwind at continental scales, and can help to preserve so-called bread baskets.

But we still need more work on the science base and, at the same time, on the types of institutions, policies and economic instruments to be developed so that action leads to outcomes for farmers in the field. This shows the need for integration between disciplines, scales and actors. In this particular domain, the Global Expert Panel on Forests and Water launched by IUFRO will be of tremendous use and I am particularly glad that it is being co-led by former FTA senior scientist Meine van Noordwijk, who recently retired but brought so much to FTA.

This question of the integration of objectives, of research domains and across scales, has important methodological implications, in terms of the solutions to be developed, how, with whom and for whom. It can, for a program as broad as FTA, lead to deciding to orient the priority support toward work that constructs linkages between research domains and system approaches.

The Rupa Lake cooperative improves farmers’ livelihoods and helps preserve the lake’s ecosystem. Photo by B. Saugat/Bioversity

There are two other critical dimensions to integrate:

First is the requirement to work on the full continuum from technical options to management, policy, governance and appropriate institutional arrangements. Looking at the enabling environment, such as institutional arrangements, incentive schemes and adapted business models, will facilitate upscaling and outscaling of technical options.

Second is the need to work on the “research for development” continuum, from upstream research to how the actors use this, and integrating stakeholders from the framing of questions to the development and implementation of solutions.

This implies, as spearheaded by Brian Belcher, FTA’s monitoring, evaluation and learning and impact assessment head, the need to revisit what we mean by “quality of research”, enlarging it to four dimensions. The traditional dimensions of relevance and scientific credibility need to be completed by legitimacy and effectiveness.

  • Legitimacy means that the research process is fair and ethical, and perceived as such, with consideration of the interests and perspectives of the intended users.
  • Effectiveness means that research has high potential to contribute to innovations and solutions. It implies that research is designed, implemented and positioned for use, which implies work along what we call a “theory of change”.

We can complement CGIAR by embracing this framework to define and measure the quality of research for development. This requires building appropriate partnerships, starting with development actors, and working on the enabling environment to translate knowledge to use. In FTA, for a substantial part of our research, we embed research in development projects. We aim at doing research “in” development, rather than research “for” development.

To enable this, FTA aims at playing the role of a boundary institution:

  • To understand the frontiers of science, working with universities, research institutions
  • To understand the need of beneficiaries, working with local stakeholders, governments
  • To understand the priorities of funders
  • To organize the dialogue between the three, and provide packages that bring them all together

This is a good reason why, in the future, we at FTA would like to further strengthen our relations with IUFRO.

By Vincent Gitz, FTA Director

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FTA Gender Research Updates – June 2017

Coffee grows in the shade in the highlands of Nicaragua. Over half of the farmland in Central America has more than 30% tree cover. Photo by ICRAF
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Coffee grows under a canopy of shade in Nicaragua. Photo by ICRAF

Gender, access to information and trees on farms: Considerations for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

This project analyzes the conditions under which women’s participation in community-level groups may influence their capacities to access and implement information on the use of trees on farms, in a territory distinguished by high climatic risk in north-central Nicaragua.

The research, which forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), is carried out through collaboration between CATIE and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) researchers based in Costa Rica and in Nicaragua.

The field site coincides with the Climate Smart Village of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Tuma la Dalia and the FTA Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape.

Read also: Going deep on gender: research on climate-smart agroforestry in Nicaragua

The Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape is characterized by a variety of land uses. Tree cover is therefore diverse, competition for land is high, and speculation and renting land are common, but these arrangements drive deforestation, hinder long term investments and exacerbate land degradation.

This Sentinel Landscape hopes to address some of the following questions:

  • What conditions underlie the recuperation of tree cover?
  • What is the current land uses on the landscape and the different models to re-introduce trees?
  • Do current legal frameworks favor sustainable management or practices for the recuperation of trees?
  • What are the implications of the different models of tree re-introduction (in terms of quantity, functional and taxonomic, for mitigation of climate change, hydrological network and connectivity within the landscape)?
  • What are the changes to human welfare related to the different models of tree re-introduction?
  • Where are areas of conflicts within the landscape?
  • What are the trade-offs between social-ecological vulnerability and efficiency of the system under different models of tree re-introduction?
  • What opportunities and limitations are therefore the different models of tree re-introduction?
  • How to support initiatives for the re-introduction of trees in farms and landscapes to secure ecosystem restoration
Coffee grows in the shade in the highlands of Nicaragua. Over half of the farmland in Central America has more than 30% tree cover. Photo by ICRAF

Correspondingly, the research bases itself on data from the CCAFS gender household survey carried out in the territory in 2015 as well as on research insights from the NHSL project. Through funding from the Independent Science and Partnership Council, meetings with local stakeholders were recently carried out in order to share results and solicit feedback and inputs on research development.

The visits included the following organizations: the Research and Development Institute (NITLAPAN) of the Central American University (UCA) of Nicaragua; Christian Medical Action (AMC); the Organization for Rural and Urban Area Social and Economic Development (ODESAR); the Knowledge Management Network for Rural Development in Matagalpa and Jinotega (Red Gescon); and the Augusto Cesar Sandino Union of Farming Cooperatives (UCA San Ramón).

The sessions with local partners served to promote knowledge sharing on local gender dynamics and agricultural and agroforestry trends, with a focus on socially inclusive rural development and gender-sensitive climate change strategies.

For more on this project, visit the Sentinel Landscape page or click here for information in Spanish.

By Tatiana Gumucio, Gender Social Scientist, FTA Gender Integration Team. 

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

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