A Feminist approach to Restoration - Interview with Marlène Elias
A Feminist approach to Restoration – Interview with Marlène Elias
Marlène Elias, FTA Gender focal point being interviewed on Zoom
Land degradation costs the global economy up to USD 10 trillion per year – or around 17 percent of gross world product. World leaders have recognized the problem and are now turning their attention to restoring the Earth’s degraded and deforested landscapes. The U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which launched in June and will run through 2030, will ramp up efforts to combat land degradation across the globe.
But although the Decade will be driven by the latest biophysical science, a team of scientists has argued that policymakers need to pay greater attention to social and political considerations as well.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
In this important new article, you and your colleagues speak about “social and political dimensions of restoration.” Could you explain what you mean in simple terms?
We’re essentially talking about the politics, the power relations and the social relations that underpin restoration.
Often, because restoration is a field dominated by the natural sciences, it focuses more on the ecological aspects. What we’re trying to do is center people in that field. There have been several efforts to do that, but they often focus on the economic aspects, or they speak about participation and stakeholder engagement without really engaging with the power, politics and relational aspects of restoration. So, that’s what we’re trying to bring to the fore.
Can you give any examples, either positive or negative? Are there any correlations you would like to underline?
If we ignore power relations around who captures the benefits and plan interventions without thinking carefully about how resources are allocated and who participates in restoration projects, we run the risk of elite capture.
The same goes for gender relations. If you’re not looking carefully at how labor is allocated within households, and you ask households to be in charge of providing labor for restoration, particularly unremunerated labor, then women could end up putting in labor without benefiting from it. The benefits might instead be directed to heads of household, who tend to be predominantly men in most of the contexts we work in.
So, if you don’t consider power relations and the norms that distribute labor and decision-making rights and responsibilities, and the distribution of benefits, you will run into skewed outcomes where the costs and benefits of restoration are not equitably distributed.
Restoration is one of the key FTA research domains, we have been working on those issues and developing innovations since day 1. For example, we recently released an options-by-context typology for people-centred nature-based land restoration through agroforestry. This typology can help linking knowledge with action in people-centric restoration in which all actors are brought to the table sharing responsibilities and roles. At the end of the day, empowerment of resource users and managers, including within multi-stakeholder processes, is the key component to successful restoration practices.
You use the term ‘feminist political ecology perspective.’ Why have you defined it as ‘feminist’, and what are the linkages to the historical feminist movement? How does it differ from mainstream ecological approaches?
Feminism has been linked to natural resource management issues in the past, and essentially centers the discourse on equality and equity issues. That’s precisely what we’re trying to do here. Specifically, feminist political ecology has many different dimensions, but we refer to three key dimensions that help us push our thinking forward in terms of how we conceptualize and practice restoration.
We mention the importance of thinking through power relations and also of looking at those relations at various scales to contexualize what’s happening from the local level to political and economic contexts and structures. We’re also really stressing the importance of taking that analysis and putting it in a historical perspective: what happens now is not detached from a historical trajectory in terms of power relations and political and economic contexts; and it has to be understood within that trajectory.
Restoration is inherently context-specific, but the points raised in your paper are universal as they deal with human rights. How can we reconcile that? Should we suggest that everyone should taking a feminist stance, or should we tailor our approach to the context?
What we’re proposing is more in line with a reflexive practice of restoration. We’re not saying that it will look the same when applied in different contexts, but we’re saying that the issues we raise do matter across the board. Thinking about power relations, scale and historical trajectories matters in any context. But how they will look once you carry out an analysis and engage with those issues is going to be contextually specific. I don’t think there’s necessarily a tension there; it’s really about applying that thinking in a reflexive and contextually-specific way.
What should you do when social norms are hindering or don’t comply with a feminist FLR approach? When would you advocate for a top-down approach (policies, laws, etc.) versus a bottom-up approach (e.g. knowledge, information, behavioral change)?
Change is usually a function of both top-down and bottom-up approaches. Big change is often initiated from people coming together, organizing and calling for change, which policy change then supports and reinforces. It’s not a linear process – it’s very iterative, so ideally, change should be supported through both approaches.
What we really try to emphasize in the special issue is that it shouldn’t be only a global agenda that dictates what happens on the ground. Instead, the agenda should be set by the priorities and aspirations of people who are directly engaging with and impacted by restoration. That’s where context specificity really matters. So, it’s about policies supporting self-directed change and creating an enabling environment to allow that self-directed change to thrive.
Do you think this paper fills a void in the current global discussion in FLR? What do you hope to achieve with the release of this special issue?
Yes, what’s exciting about the issue is that it’s brought so many people together around it. We’ve continued collaborating after this issue, so we’ve now produced an article that’s under consideration in another journal that looks at 10 people-centered rules for socially sustainable restoration. It essentially takes key learnings from across the special issue papers and organizes them as a set of actionable principles for restoration in terms of centering it on people and on the human and socio-political aspects of restoration.
So, that’s been quite exciting, and I hope that the combination of the special issue, the paper and all of the communications and outreach around them will have an impact. It comes just after the launch of the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which we’re trying to contribute to with the timing of this special issue. It’s been in the works for two years, but having it come out now is quite exciting. We’re hoping that it can be picked up and can contribute to the ongoing discourses and debates around restoration, many of which are now better integrating human and social considerations than in the past.
But as we point out in this special issue and subsequent paper: it’s not easy. It’s very complex; it’s very messy, and there are several reasons why it hasn’t been done in a systematic way. But there are definitely efforts made in that direction. We have to view all of these contributions and steps along a bigger trajectory, but we hope that it pushes us along.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This special issue and paper go beyond just thinking about restoration. They apply to everything we work on at FTA: the thinking and the approach can be applied more generally to natural resource management and to working in forestry and agroforestry landscapes. So, the hope is that it will also feed back into other discussions that are relevant to FTA and all those working in that area.
Forests and trees, mushrooms, bamboos, lichens, insects: empowering biodiversity in our landscapes
Forests and trees, mushrooms, bamboos, lichens, insects: empowering biodiversity in our landscapes
The FTA Kunming Science Conference 2021 will take place on 22–24 June 2021. Registrations are now OPEN!
Forests, trees and agroforestry exemplify the contributions of biodiversity and agrobiodiversity to sustainable and resilient landscapes, to green and circular economy and to sustainable agriculture and food systems for healthy diets.
On 22–24 June 2021, the CGIAR research program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) will organize an international conference to discuss the role of forests, trees and agroforestry to enhance diverse and sustainable landscapes for the implementation of the SDGs. Hosted in cooperation with the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Research Institute for Resource Insects, Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF), the FTA Kunming International Conference 2021 will showcase solutions that can be mobilized to promote healthy diets, agricultural biodiversity, resilient landscapes, and a circular green economy.
Featuring a diverse line-up of renowned speakers including (full agenda forthcoming!), it will bring together scientists, practitioners, NGOs, policymakers and more, covering a wide range of themes including agroecology, tree diversity, landscape restoration, and circular agriculture.
The FTA Kunming Science Conference 2021 will adopt a hybrid format gathering world participants online, joining up with a set of speakers and audience live from the Kunming Institute of Botany.
The conference will devote sessions to 6 themes:
Trees for agroecology and circular agriculture
Tree diversity: realizing economic and ecological value from tree genetic resources to bridge production gaps and promote resilience
Trees in the framework of the CBD
Mountain ecosystems and food security
Assessing benefits of landscape restoration
Trees for a circular green economy
The event ties in with a range of FTA’s operational priorities: agroecology, biodiversity conservation, forest and landscape restoration, biomaterials and circular economy, and enhanced nutrition and food security. The event is part of the road towards the 15th Conference of the Parties of the UN convention on Biological Diversity (CBD 15) also to be organized in Kunming, 11-24 October 2021. It will also be relevant to solutions for the UN Food Systems Summit and the Climate Change UNFCCC COP 26 in Glasgow.
By Ming Chun Tang. 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 and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
The results are based on research on the characterization of biomass accumulation potential in secondary forests in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and the contribution of timber species to this potential.
Scientists from CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) and the Center for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research (CIRAD), in collaboration with the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC, its Spanish acronym) of Costa Rica, held the webinar Potential of secondary forests, in which the results of research on the ecological and timber potential of secondary forests in Nicaragua and Costa Rica were presented, as well as the economic and environmental impact they can generate in tropical landscapes.
Marie Ange NgoBieng, a researcher at CATIE’s Forests and Biodiversity in Productive Landscapes Unit who led the research, explained that two-thirds of tropical forests are secondary or degraded and are equally relevant for the ecosystem services they provide, yet they are very vulnerable.
The activity presented the current context characterized by the vulnerability of tropical secondary forests and introduced the potential of these secondary forests to respond to the current challenges of forest systems, mainly in terms of timber supply.
In addition, from the research results presented by NgoBieng, the importance of these forests was concluded: secondary forests effectively sequester carbon from the atmosphere in their biomass, thus contributing to climate change mitigation. Also, the existence of a significant timber potential in secondary forests was highlighted, meaning that the contribution of timber species in the aboveground biomass of the plots is very significant.
“Disseminating these research results provides an extremely interesting and novel scientific basis for the planning and implementation of sustainable forest management in secondary forests, which will contribute to the well-being of producers, post-COVID19 economic revival and climate change mitigation,” said Bryan Finegan, director of Inclusive Green Development Research, who introduced the webinar.
According to NgoBieng, during the event there was an exchange of ideas about secondary forests in Latin America, taking into account not only ecological and timber production aspects, but also other important but less studied ecosystem services, such as the production of medicinal plants and the conservation of native and endemic species, among others. Her presentation is downloadable here.
The webinar, which took place on March 26 with the participation of more than 140 professionals from Mexico, Central and South America, was funded by the Forests, Trees and Agro-forestry (FTA) research program for the development of forests, trees and agro-forestry and its financial partners. Participants in the webinar included researchers, professors, students, politicians and representatives of indigenous institutions.
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.
INBAR’s new policy brief summarises how to include bamboo forestry projects in carbon markets.
In recent years, planting trees has gained momentum as a way to combat climate change. Because they store carbon, forests contribute to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As such, reforestation projects can be rewarded for ‘offsetting’ carbon, providing a possibly lucrative source of income to the project developers.
According to a recent survey, INBAR Member States are planning to restore 5.7 million hectares of land with bamboo by 2030, as a way to restore degraded soils and protect riverbanks – so why aren’t bamboo forestry projects included more often as offsets in international carbon markets?
Around the world, bamboo is being planted as a solution to restore degraded soils and protect riverbanks.
A new INBAR policy brief explains how to develop and register bamboo forestry projects, so they can be certified by carbon markets. Aimed at project developers and government actors, the brief encourages the inclusion of bamboo forestry projects in carbon offset schemes.
The main points of the report are:
More countries should be recognising bamboo’s contributions to climate change mitigation. Bamboo plants and durable products can store a lot of carbon: over a 30-year period, a plantation of giant bamboo and its harvested products can store 1.7 times the same amount of carbon as Chinese fir trees. As such, bamboo forests can be traded in carbon markets as ‘offsets’, as long as they are shown to lead to additional carbon being stored, or emissions avoided. Countries, particularly in tropical and subtropical areas where bamboo grows, should make efforts to include bamboo in national and international carbon markets, as well as their national climate strategies.
Because it is a grass, not a tree, bamboo requires different methods to measure carbon storage. Bamboo culms are hollow, and the relationship between bamboo’s diameter and height with its biomass (and related carbon storage) is different to that of trees. In addition, the denseness of several clumping bamboo species can make it impossible for surveyors to adequately measure the culms’ diameters. To solve this issue, INBAR’s 2019 Manual for Bamboo Forest Biomass and Carbon Assessment provides detailed guidelines for assessing and monitoring biomass and carbon changes in bamboo forests and plantations.
To be included in carbon markets, bamboo forestry projects must adhere to specific methodologies. There are a few existing methodologies which can certify bamboo forestry projects for a number of different carbon markets, including the Clean Development Mechanism, Verra and the Gold Standard: CDM AR-ACM 003, CDM AR-AMS 007, VCS VM 005, and VCS 007 REDD+MF version 1.6. The INBAR policy brief provides more information on each.
Further research is needed. Reforestation is not the only way bamboo can contribute to storing or reducing carbon emissions. More research is needed to explore how sustainable management of existing bamboo forests can improve their carbon storage. In addition, methodologies which help assess the carbon stored in durable bamboo products, and the emissions avoided by substituting more carbon-intensive materials with bamboo, would also help increase our understanding of how to scale up bamboo’s applications for climate-smart development.
The policy brief, ‘Integration of Bamboo Forestry into Carbon Markets’, can be read here. It can be cited as: King, C., van der Lugt, P., Thanh Long, T., Li, Y. (2021) Integration of Bamboo Forestry into Carbon Markets. INBAR: Beijing, China.
CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI.FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
The fully digital conference, titled Forest, trees and agroforestry science for transformational change, ran from 14 to 25 September 2020 and drew more than 520 participants from 69 countries around the world. It featured close to 200 interventions from scientists involved in the FTA program spread over 10 days and 26 different sessions. It included keynote speeches, controversial panel debates on “hot topics”, and technical presentations and posters.
The conference put an emphasis on collaborative research between FTA and the broader community, as 60% of the presentations were between FTA’s seven managing partners (CIFOR, ICRAF, The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI) as well as the many national partners. The 179 abstracts accepted for the event are now made available in a book on the new web-portal, with more coming next, such as selected videos.
The conference was organized around six key technical themes that are pathways for transformational change:
Inclusive value chains, finance and investments
Towards resilient and diverse landscapes and food systems
Transforming livelihoods through agroecological approaches with trees
Nature-based solutions to address the climate crisis
Inclusive governance for sustainable landscapes
Designing, implementing and evaluating research for development impact
Three plenary sessions allowed for overall framing, linking-up across themes, stock-taking of discussions. The conference featured two sessions addressing “Hot & Controversial” issues, be it in science, in development, or in the media:
Competing understandings of the restoration problem and solutions
Systemic approaches in a ‘silver bullets’ world.
Restoration has emerged in the last decade as a key global political objective and debates on the topic are intense. The “Hot & Controversial” session used a variety of techniques, including role-playing, quick polls and devil’s advocacy, to highlight and debate some of the most disputed points, allowing to discuss strengths and shortcomings of the argumentations behind, and to debunk myths.
An innovative “Green” Dragons’ Den event was organized for the second “Hot & Controversial” session, to trial five innovations coming from the program. These were defended by their authors in quick elevator pitches, trying to convince the Green philanthropist dragons to invest a “virtual” sum of three million USD. The audience was also called to a virtual crowdfunding exercise. The session was a “live learning” event, for scientists to get better at telling convincing stories on often very complex issues and tools, to best sell their results, as well as understand needs, objectives, and ways of thinking of investors.
It was the second time FTA organized a global virtual conference, after the first one held in March 2017 on “cool insights for a hot world”, that gathered 200 participants over two days.
For the 2020 conference, technical developments, including live (“synchronous”) online collaborative tools such as Mural, virtual poster rooms, live polling, role-playing sessions, and the experience of FTA’s events team, allowed for a lively and smoothness event, marking probably a new era for large scale scientific conferencing.
Participation from within the program was double the size of what it would have been if held in-person, and several high-level stakeholders could join for engagement sessions, for which otherwise they may not have been able to travel for a full week. Also, with 3 hours of “air time” per day, it left participants still with time for their other activities, while allowing participation from scientists in time zones situated 15 hours apart, from Vancouver to Hobart.
As a follow-up, the FTA is now organizing a series of “Science to Action” webinars, which are open to all, and which will focus on the way forward for actors on the ground. The first webinar was held on 26 November 2020 on the topic: Innovations to overcome barriers to access to finance for smallholders, SMEs, and women, and was developed in coordination with FTA partner Tropenbos International. You can replay the whole event here.
Looking forward to engaging even more in 2021, as we wrap up a full decade of research since 2011.
By Sandra Cordon.
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.
Uganda now has a new 10-year National Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan
Uganda now has a new 10-year National Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan
Monopodial bamboo. Copyright: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)
FTA provided key technical and financial support for the strategy
Bamboo is extremely versatile. Its sturdy, wood-like nature makes it useful in construction, and it is also a source of paper, packaging, furniture and fabric. It can be used to produce biofuels, charcoal and crafts, as well as stick-based products like curtains, mats, toothpicks, incense sticks and skewers. It is also a source of fuelwood and fodder.
As one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, it is a major carbon sink. It acts as a windbreak and its extensive root systems help control soil erosion, prevent flooding and landslides, retain moisture and raise water tables, thereby reversing desertification. Various iconic animals, including panda, gorilla and monkeys, rely on bamboo for food and shelter. Managed sustainably, it could help many countries reach their global land restoration, climate change and sustainable development commitments.
Yet it is often seen as the poor cousin to timber – viewed as less durable and with few market opportunities.
Uganda has 55,000 hectares of bamboo, including species that can be used for everything from fodder and fuel to furniture and flooring. But, despite high demand for bamboo as a construction material, few farmers are planting the crop, and the country is missing out on a global market worth an estimated USD 60 billion.
“Bamboo has huge potential in terms of timber substitute products, energy products, fiber products, furniture and crafts, as well as soil and water conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said Michael Malinga, Uganda National Coordinator for the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).
“Bamboo can be an available, scalable solution to some of Uganda’s pressing development challenges, but as in other countries, Uganda’s bamboo sector needs a more supportive policy environment to reach its full potential,” said Charlotte King, INBAR’s communications and press specialist.
New plan for bamboo
Now, that potential will be more fully tapped, as Uganda begins to implement its National Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan for 2019–2029. With technical and financial support from INBAR/FTA, the Ugandan Forest Sector Support Division (FSSD), the Ministry of Water and Environment (MoWE) and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) developed the strategy in 2019.
Research by INBAR’s Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme generated important evidence about the potential significance and contributions of bamboo to sustainable growth in Uganda, informing key aspects of the strategy. This included a regional remote sensing assessment, a property test of indigenous bamboo species, a value chain analysis and training materials.
“The focus of Uganda’s bamboo strategy is on managing the country’s bamboo resources to provide economic, social and environment benefits for all. Its vision, goal, guiding principles, strategic objectives and strategies are all tailored towards achieving a viable and sustainable bamboo industry in Uganda,” said Malinga.
The strategy is in line with international obligations to which Uganda is a signatory, like the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, as well as with national policies and planning frameworks such as the Uganda Vision 2040, the Uganda Forestry Policy 2001, the National Forest Plan 2012, the National Land Use Policy 2013, and the National Energy Policy 2002.
The strategy was approved and released by Hon. Dr Goretti Kitutu Kimono, Uganda’s Minister of State for Environment, on 24 September 2019 in Kampala. “This strategy will go a long way in redeeming the bamboo industry in this country. Bamboo could help Uganda to restore forests and create jobs,” said Dr Goretti.
A collaborative effort
A wide range of stakeholders were involved in the consultative process to develop the Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan. Two national-level stakeholder consultation workshops and a series of internal reviews from task forces, as well as senior management of the Ministry of Water and Environment, National Forestry Authority (NFA) and FTA partner the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), contributed to the development and validation process.
The overall goal of the strategy is to ensure the coordinated development of the bamboo industry to stimulate green economic development and the production of high-value products for domestic, regional and international markets.
Planting and managing bamboo will contribute an estimated 15% towards Uganda’s goal of restoring 2.5 million ha of forest landscape by 2030, of which about 28% will be on government land and the remaining on private land. The Ministry of Water and Environment estimates that the strategy will help create 150,000 full-time jobs, producing 140 million bamboo poles each year.
Long term, this could lead to the creation of 700,000 full time jobs, with 230,000 ha of bamboo planted on farms and 60,000 ha of regenerated natural bamboo forest.
Progress is well underway, and Phase II of the Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme for Uganda was designed in response to the strategy. Collaborative efforts by various stakeholders are under way to assess the country’s potential for bamboo industrialization. This is expected to supplement the information on suitable species of bamboo.
In 2020, researchers identified bamboo-growing areas and grouped them in the following clusters:
The clusters were ranked according to present status, potential for participating households, bamboo resource base, gender dynamics, current business/marketing practices, and product knowledge and skills, among other criteria. The team also started developing specific clusters for integrated bamboo development, in partnership with the National Forestry Resources Research Institute of Uganda.
The government of Uganda began the process of developing bamboo clusters for small and medium-sized enterprises and industries, tasking an ad hoc committee to develop a plan on how the country will advance the bamboo sector, and also advocate for the inclusion of bamboo in the National Development Agenda.
Despite the COVID 19 pandemic, the Ministry of Water and Environment planted nearly 80 ha of bamboo in several districts, along with over 2,000 seedlings in terraces around Echuya Forest Reserve communities to protect their hills from soil erosion. This was done in partnership with INBAR and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and local partner the Mgahinga Craft and Cultural Centre.
By the end of July 2020, the production of quality bamboo seedlings had reached over 500,000 from government and community-based nurseries, while private enterprises had produced over 2 million seedlings. And by the end of August, 144,000 seedlings were supplied to the refugee-hosting districts of Kikuube and Moyo, of which 29,600 seedlings were planted as a buffer in Bugoma and Era central forest reserves, which are in close proximity to refugee settlements. Seed imports amounted to 16 kg of quality bamboo germplasm, and another 18 kg were already in transit – an amount capable of producing more than 400,000 seedlings.
Finally, although the pandemic restrictions limited awareness-raising efforts to virtual channels, INBAR organized 10 online seminars between July and August, around two themes: environmental management of bamboo, and bamboo for poverty reduction and livelihood development. The topic of bamboo also featured in a talk show on the current state of Uganda’s forestry sector on the country’s NBS TV channel.
“INBAR is proud to have worked with Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment to support the development of this bamboo strategy, which should be an important step forward for the sector’s development,” said King.
To assess effectiveness and assist with speeding restoration, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) made restoration one of its research priorities. FTA teamed up with two other research programs — Policies, Institutions and Markets; and Water, Land and Ecosystems — to undertake a joint stocktake of the work on forest and landscape restoration of several of the CGIAR’s member centres. The synthesis study was published on 3 August 2020.
The three research programs agreed on a broad scope of restoration, focused on the restoration of ‘ecological functions’ and efforts to halt ongoing and reverse past degradation by aiming for increased functionality but not necessarily recovering past system states.
Building upon this work, a team of FTA researchers worked on a typology of the different approaches to restoration, now published in the journal, Land.
‘We identified the need to uncover the diverse understanding and perspectives about “restoration” and to construct a typology that can help to clarify contrasts, similarities and possible synergies,’ said Meine van Noordwijk, distinguished research fellow with World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and lead author of the study. ‘The aims of the typology are to better describe the links between evolving knowledge, stakeholder-driven action, and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.’
This is important because with the goal of reversing centuries of damage to forests, wetlands and other ecosystems, getting it right is key to putting the planet back on a sustainable course. However, despite the high level of political engagement and the number and diversity of people and institutions involved from the public and private sectors, civil society and local communities, research and academia, restoration is not happening at a wide scale across the globe.
The key to this problem is whether restoration goals and means are aligned with the priorities of the people who live in, and gain their long-term livelihoods from, the landscapes to be restored.
The typology has three main components. First, it distinguishes four levels of restoration, ranging from the lowest level of intensity of intervention to the highest:
Recovery and regeneration;
Reparation and recuperation; and
Second, the huge diversity of interventions possible in this range can be broadly classified into
Assisted or managed natural regeneration; and
Tree and grass planting.
The third component is a typology of contexts, which is fundamental to understanding the suitability and effectiveness of an intervention. The typology of contexts is based on the forest transition concept: 1) forest fraction; 2) forest configuration (core, edge and mosaic); and 3) human population density, with the addition of six ‘special places’ because of their specific importance in interactions between ecosystem functions and human activities: 1) watertowers; 2) riparian zones and wetlands; 3) peat landscapes; 4) small islands and mangroves in coastal zones; 5) mining scars; and 6) transport infrastructure. Further descriptors of context that are relevant for restoration are the climatic zones and soil properties.
‘The typology will be useful in view of the lack of such structured interpretations,’ said van Noordwijk. ‘It can support further studies on the effectiveness of interventions in different contexts.’
The complete typology can be found in the open-access article, People-centric nature-based land restoration through agroforestry: a typology, in the journal Land.
About World Agroforestry (ICRAF)
World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is a centre of scientific and development excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Knowledge produced by ICRAF enables governments, development agencies and farmers to utilize the power of trees to make farming and livelihoods more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable at multiple scales. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.
About the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA)
The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
A joint stocktaking of CGIAR work on forest and landscape restoration by FTA, PIM and WLE
A joint stocktaking of CGIAR work on forest and landscape restoration by FTA, PIM and WLE
Despite the high level of political engagement and the wide range of organizations involved in restoration projects from local to global levels, beyond some success stories, restoration is not happening at scale. Research is urgently needed to design, develop and upscale successful restoration approaches. As part of this effort, FTA, PIM and WLE publish a synthesis of a survey of CGIAR’s projects on restoration.
This UN Decade could offer unprecedented opportunities to address food security, job creation and climate change simultaneously. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) considers that restoring 350 million hectares (ha) of degraded land by 2030, as committed in the New York Declaration on Forests, could generate USD 9 trillion in various ecosystem services and remove about 13–26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
However, despite the high level of political engagement and the wide range of institutions (public, private or civil society; local to global) involved in restoration projects, and beyond some success stories, restoration is not happening at scale.
“There are huge opportunities in bringing the three CRPs together to work on land restoration. Each of these CRPs works on different aspects of land restoration. Pooling this evidence in a user-friendly and accessible manner holds great potential for scaling, and for delivering enhanced impact from our CGIAR research” said Vincent Gitz, Izabella Koziell and Frank Place, the three CRP directors.
The three CRPs agreed on a broad scope of restoration, focused on the restoration of “ecological functions”, with the following definitions:
Degradation: Loss of functionality of e.g. land or forests, usually from a specific human perspective, based on change in land cover with consequences for ecosystem services
Restoration: Efforts to halt ongoing and reverse past degradation, by aiming for increased functionality (not necessarily recovering past system states).
They also discussed theories of [induced] changes underlying landscape dynamics of degradation and restoration. The following questions helped structure the discussions:
Why? What are the final goals of restoration efforts, which sustainable development goals can they contribute to?
What? What are the drivers of degradation that need to be addressed? What are the ecological functions to be restored?
Who?Who cares? Who are the stakeholders responsible for or impacted by land degradation? How stakeholders are encouraged, empowered and organized to act for forest and landscape restoration?
How? How to design effective restoration interventions? What are the land use and land management options for change in different contexts, across countries and biomes?
Where and when? How to operationalize action recognizing the connectivity across different spatial and temporal scales in the restoration process, considering the landscape’s spatial configuration and temporal dynamics?
The survey reflects the implication of different CGIAR Centers (ICRAF, Bioversity, CIFOR, CIAT, IWMI, ILRI, ICRISAT, CIMMYT and IFPRI) in restoration projects across the tropics and sub-tropics, in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Peru, or Indonesia concentrate many projects and provide strong opportunities for further collaboration among the three CRPs.
The survey shows the wide range of restoration activities undertaken by CGIAR CRPs and Centers, with their partners, from knowledge generation, methods, planning, modelling, assessment and evaluation, monitoring and mapping, to action on the ground. CGIAR restoration work can be divided into three broad categories: (1) case studies and projects; (2) tools for development; (3) approaches and conceptual frameworks.
The first category gathers case studies and projects comprising an element of field research. It comprises experimental plots, trials, local capacity building and implementation, on-the-ground assessments and surveys at different scales. It distinguishes: (i) “restoration-focused projects” where forest and land degradation is the main entry point and restoration is the main objective; from, (ii) “restoration-related projects” that can contribute to forest and landscape restoration while following other objectives (such as sustainable intensification or climate-smart agriculture). Half of the “restoration-focused” projects aim at assessing restoration practices with the view to upscale successful restoration experiences, such as the Ngitili fodder management system which contributed to the restoration of up to 270,000 ha over about 25 years in Shinyanga region, Tanzania. The others focus on climate change and climate-smart restoration, or on desertification and sand fixation. Six projects in this category focus on genetic diversity and on the performance and organization of the seed supply system, identified in this survey as a critical factor of success for restoration interventions. “Restoration-related projects” focus on various topics closely linked to restoration, including: sustainable land and water management; climate-smart agriculture; land tenure security and land governance reform; participatory governance and planning and collective farming.
The second category regroups: (i) tools, methods and guidelines, directed at decision makers or restoration practitioners at different levels, to support decision making; as well as, (ii) maps and models, measuring at different scales the intensity of degradation (i.e. efforts needed for restoration) or modeling the impacts of different land-use changes or land management practices. Models and maps often serve as the first layer for decision-making supporting tools. This category includes for instance two entries on the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework (LDSF), developed by ICRAF and applied, since 2005, in over 250 landscapes (100 km2 sites) across more than 30 countries. Using indicators such as vegetation cover, structure and floristic compositions, tree and shrub biodiversity, historic land use, visible signs of land degradation, and physical and chemical characteristics of soil (including soil organic carbon content and infiltration capacity), the LDSF, applicable to any landscape, provides a field protocol for assessing soil and ecosystem health to help decision makers to prioritize, monitor and track restoration interventions.
The third category, covering more theoretical work, includes: (i) evaluations, conceptual or theoretical frameworks around restoration and related issues; and (ii) systematic literature and/or project reviews, as well as meta-analyses on different topics linked to restoration. For instance a global survey on seed sourcing practices for restoration, was realized between 2015 and 2017 by Bioversity International, reviewing 136 restoration projects across 57 countries, and suggesting a typology of tree seed sourcing practices and their impact on restoration outcomes (Jalonen et al., 2018).
The survey describes projects operating at the landscape level or across multiple scales. This shows the importance of the landscape level to effectively combine integrated perspectives that allow synergies among different ecosystem components and functions with a deep knowledge of, and a fine adaptation to, local conditions. While many projects focus on the technical performance of restoration projects, relatively few investigate the economics, cost and benefits, of restoration and few examine their underlying power structures and power dynamics/games. This relative paucity of costs and benefit data has been noted by other organizations, an aspect that led to the launch of the FAO-led TEER initiative, to which FTA and several CGIAR centers contribute.
All the answers taken together provide useful insights for future restoration activities. In particular, they identify five critical factors of success for restoration interventions:
secure tenure and use rights;
access to markets (for inputs and outputs) and services;
access to information, knowledge and know-how associated with sustainable and locally adapted land use and land management practices;
awareness of the status of local ecosystem services, often used as a baseline to assess the level of degradation; and
(v) high potential for restoration to contribute to global ecosystem services and attract international donors.
This synthesis will inform future work of FTA, PIM and WLE. It can also be used to support the design of restoration activities, programs and projects. Finally, it also illustrates with concrete examples the powerful contribution of forest and landscape restoration to the achievement of many, if not all of the 17 sustainable development goals. In particular, forest and landscape restoration, through the recovery of a range of ecological functions, can contribute to:
enhance food security through the improvement of the ecosystem services sustaining agriculture at landscape scale
improve natural resource use efficiency, thus reducing the pressure on the remaining natural habitats and addressing water scarcity;
favour social justice by securing a more equitable access to natural resources (e.g. land, water and genetic resources), and a wider participation in decision-making processes, in particular for women and marginalized people; and,
strengthen ecosystem, landscape and livelihoods resilience to economic shocks and natural disasters in a context of climate change.
The COVID 19 crisis has shown the importance of healthy ecosystems for healthy and resilient economies and societies. We hope that this document will contribute to integrate restoration as part of the efforts to “build back better” after the crisis.
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 Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
Annual Report 2019 highlights FTA’s contribution to resilient landscapes and livelihoods
Annual Report 2019 highlights FTA’s contribution to resilient landscapes and livelihoods
In the past year, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) has brough crucial evidence to global discussions on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate. Also, it has empowered thousands of people to transform evidence into action. The newly launched Annual Report highlights these and other FTA achievements in 2019 in support of resilient and productive landscapes and livelihoods around the world.
The report examines FTA’s innovative work across the technical, financial and policy spheres of development, as well as its contribution to national and international policies and decision-making process that touch on, at least, nine of the SDGs. In terms of priority areas, it looks at FTA’s work on genetic tree resources; livelihood systems; sustainable value chains and investments; landscapes dynamics, productivity and resilience; and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Cross-cutting areas include gender, youth and capacity building.
In 2019, the program’s effort to help translate scientific evidence into better policies bore yet more fruit. With FTA’s support, for example, Nepal became the second country in the world to have a national agroforestry policy, while Uganda succeeded in adopting a 10-year national bamboo strategy and action plan, and Ethiopia established a National Tree Seed Network.
FTA’s innovations and projects resulted in the restoration of 550,000 hectares of forest, and made it possible for 220,000 farmers to embrace sustainable agricultural practices across Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Ethiopia and Kenya. More than 10,000 farmers in Africa also adopted vital land restoration techniques with FTA’s support.
FTA’s research continued informing global discussions shaping the future of food security, biodiversity and climate change. Notably, the UN Committee on World Food Security High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) report on agroecology and the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) paper on building resilient agriculture. On the biodiversity, gender and climate fronts, FTA collaborated with major global actors such as FAO, UNFCCC, IPBES and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Sustainable value chains and investments are another pillar of FTA’s efforts. Last year, for instance, FTA developed inclusive finance and business models with companies across Tanzania, Ghana and Peru, and strengthened its engagement with rubber stakeholders to make the supply of this commodity more sustainable.
Likewise, FTA sought to bring a gender perspective to global processes such as the Rio Conventions on biodiversity, climate change and desertification, and to advance ender equity along value chains for commodities such as charcoal, coffee and tea.
In the coming months, FTA’s will continue building on these successes to create healthier landscapes and enhanced livelihoods for women and men worldwide.
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 Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
This article is a longform, part of a new series of FTA blogs aiming at providing in-depth analysis of mature FTA projects. By consulting/interviewing all the scientists involved in the study, these longforms give a detailed overview of specific projects, augmented by the comments from the scientists who developed them. This longform is issued in conjunction with International Mother Earth Day 2020.
A peculiar perspective on the first reports from the pioneering Sentinel Landscapes program
We are living in the Anthropocene.
Sometime in the 1950s, it is proposed, we finally broke from 11,650 years of history and entered a entirely new epoch. Rather than glacial advance and retreat, this epoch is defined by the industrial activity of humankind.
Deforestation, soil erosion, construction, river dams and nuclear weapons will leave permanent relics in the stratigraphy of the earth: as deposits in the sedimentary record, as ghostly technofossils, or as lethal fallout signatures.
There are two possible responses – if we rule out burying our heads in the degraded soil – either we wait for nature to overthrow industry or we apply our human ingenuity, so often the curse of ecological wellbeing, to its restoration.
But how can we hope to turn things around if we do not know what is driving deforestation and degradation? Or if we do not know how many trees we have or how quickly they are disappearing? Or if we do not fully understand the consequences we face if forests disappear from the landscape?
To develop interventions that will work, the first step is knowing what is going on there, and for this we need data, credible data, large data, multi-year data.
Medical research has epidemiological studies that monitor large cohorts of the population over long periods of time to track global health and help predict and eliminate disease. What does forest conservation have? Sentinel Landscapes.
Sentinel Landscapes: A health check for tropical land use
Driven by the Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) program led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Sentinel Landscapes initiative is an audacious commitment to collect data on biophysical, social, economic and political dimensions across and monitor respective indicators across a network of eight carefully chosen tropical forest landscapes over extended periods of time.
Using the same standardized methodologies, this data promises to provide common ground for comparison – and, crucially, extrapolation. The Sentinel Landscapes program is the global health check that we desperately need so that we can face climate change, land degradation, poverty and food security with clear vision.
The idea for Sentinel Landscapes was hatched during conversations between colleagues at World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and CIFOR in 2011 and 2012. Since those first conversations, more and more academic organizations have joined the FTA program and participated to the Sentinel landscapes initiative, including Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), Bioversity International, Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. In the words of one scientist, it has always been “super collaborative”.
Sentinel Landscapes have now been established across borders in Borneo-Sumatra, the Nile-Congo, Cameroon, the Mekong, West Africa, Western Ghats in India and the Western Amazon. But the first to report, in February 2020, was the Sentinel Landscape of Nicaragua-Honduras.
The Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape
The lead author of the report is Norvin Sepúlveda at CATIE, who is coordinating the Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape (NHSL).
The NHSL is a “mosaic of forests, agricultural land, cattle ranches and agroforestry systems” covering an area the size of the Republic of Ireland or twice the size of the Netherlands.
Straddling the border of two countries, the NHSL encompasses the largest remaining forest area in Central America and hosts at least twelve different ecosystems, including cloud forest, premontane humid tropical forest and pine savannahs.
According to the new report, as well as astonishing botanical and fauna diversity, the landscapes of the NHSL also sustain 822,175 farm families and 21,000 indigenous peoples.
Different kind of “forest transitions” do take place in the area, representing different situations along the “forest transition curve” concept coined by FTA.
Nicaragua is currently plummeting down the “forest transition” curve, with forest cover being lost at an increasingly rapid rate. Meanwhile, Honduras is a late-transition country, with deforestation slowing in whatever small fraction of forests remain.
It would be impossible to survey such a vast territory in its entirety, so as part of the Sentinel Landscapes (SL) monitoring sampling methodology, the NHSL team selected four study blocks, two in Nicaragua and two in Honduras, which each represent different points on the forest transition curve. Each block is 100 sq km.
The concept of the SL was to integrate three different standardized methodologies to collect:
political and institutional data and
These harmonized data collection modules were coordinated by the Research Methods Group (RMG) at ICRAF. The work on biophysical methods began in West Africa in 2005, with the research of Tor-Gunnar Vågen of ICRAF
“We chose the four sites using GIS data and a special set of criteria,” Sepúlveda explains, “so that we got a range of different sites and a combination of diverse farm typologies and conservation issues.”
In Nicaragua, the El Tuma La Dalia study block is mountainous terrain, largely cultivated with coffee, but with some pine and cloud forests. Also in Nicaragua, Columbus Mine is less cultivated with staple cereal crops, but has more forest and is known for its tropical humid climate.
Across the border in Honduras, Rio Platáno is primarily forest with little cultivation, whereas the Rio Blanco study block, nestled in a valley, is mostly pasture for livestock with only small pockets of surviving forest.
Beyond case studies: the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework
Tor-Gunnar Vågen is now head of the GeoScience lab at ICRAF, based in Nairobi, Kenya. For the past fifteen years, Vågen and soil systems scientist Leigh Ann Winowiecki, have worked to implement the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework (LDSF).
A systematic method for collecting data and measuring land degradation, the LDSF builds up a biophysical baseline that covers key indicators including land use, land cover, land degradation, soil health, topography and impact on habitat..
But the real strength of the LDSF is in its consistency: it can be applied to any landscape and will give standardized and thus comparable data.
Before the LDSF, most forest conservation data was based on case studies that answered a specific question in a specific location. Although very useful, case study data makes it impossible to compare contexts or to generalize, and impossible to answer questions like ‘What role do trees have on farms in different locations and contexts?’ or ‘What is the potential for soil to sequester carbon in different locations and contexts?’
As a standardized, randomized data collection method, the LDSF solves this problem and helps scientists compare and scale up their localized findings into potentially globally-applicable conclusions.
“Applying the same framework and then replicating this across most major ecosystems means we can start answering the bigger questions,” Vågen says. “We can look at the larger patterns.”
At the start of the Sentinel Landscapes program in 2012, Vågen and Winowiecki trained the local field teams in Nicaragua and in Honduras so that data collection would be consistent.
Tracking degradation and climate change
From the biophysical baseline indicators, Sepúlveda, Vågen, Winowiecki and their fellow authors expect the NHSL to suffer badly from the impacts of climate change, particularly when it comes to the flow and contamination of the water supply.
The geographical location of Nicaragua and Honduras make both countries vulnerable to extreme weather events and a pattern of freak rainstorms alternating with withering drought is becoming more common.
In late 2007, Hurricane Felix destroyed almost 510,764 ha of forest in northeastern Nicaragua – that’s an area four times the size of New York City.
Of course, it is not only Nicaragua-Honduras that faces the challenges of climate change. The eight Sentinel Landscapes scattered across the tropics are critical for monitoring the progress of climate change with a consistent methodology, over long time periods.
But seeing climate change impacts is irrelevant if not looked through the lenses of land-use and land-use change impacts. Although the forest is now in recovery, the NHSL report found that slash and burn agriculture and livestock are encroaching on former forest landscapes.
“One thing that isn’t looked at enough is the interaction between climate change and land degradation,” Vågen says. “When we started out, the focus was more on land degradation per se: soil erosion, loss of soil function and the reduction in soil quality due to land-use change. But of course this data has many other applications and understanding the impacts of climate change is one of them.”
“The ability of a landscape to adapt to changes in climate is affected by land degradation and, of course, degraded land can contribute to emissions.”
The Sentinel Landscapes program tracks this degradation, but the data also points to solutions.
Sentinel solutions: Soil organic carbon
The Sentinel Landscapes data offers remarkable insights into where governments, municipalities and farmers can optimize their landscapes from multiple perspectives, including carbon capture and protection from erosion, and the potential for virtuous circles.
“For example, we see higher tree densities in non-eroded soil,” Winowiecki says, “and higher soil organic carbon in non-eroded landscapes.”
Most people know that forests can act as carbon sinks, but of the total carbon found in terrestrial ecosystems nearly 80 percent is actually stored in the soil. Soil carbon reservoirs are also at risk, and the team has published widely on the link between land degradation and soil organic carbon.
Furthermore, Rattan Lal, director of Ohio State University’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, estimates that, with cultivation, the world’s soil has lost up to 70 percent of its original carbon stock. If researchers could find a way to maximize soil organic carbon sequestration, then that would be a significant blow in our Herculean labor to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
According to the new report, soil organic carbon levels are low across all four of the NHSL study blocks. Even small increases in soil organic carbon, when multiplied over large areas, would make a measurable difference – as well as increasing overall soil quality.
“One of the things we’re able to do now is map soil organic carbon over very large areas and look at the potential for storage of carbon in the soil,” Vågen explains.
Combining field data collected with the LDSF and remote sensing imagery from satellite, Vågen and his team are able to produce maps of key soil and land health indicators at a scale relevant to farmers and decision makers, for example at 30 meter resolution, with high accuracy (using the Landsat satellite imagery, the resolution is 30 meter squared).
“We can say what the trends are and what the potential is to store carbon in the soil,” Vågen says. “And we can do that down to the level of individual farmers.”
Of course, this information, however precise, would mean nothing at all unless the farmers could do something about it.
Winowiecki, a specialist in soil organic carbon, has good news: “With good land and landscape management we can increase soil organic carbon,” she says. “But the data shows wide variation, even within one site, so it’s important that we tailor the management to each specific farm.”
It sounds like a lot of work, but it should come as no surprise that there is no “one size fits all” solution.
“We talk a lot about ‘Options by context’,” Winowiecki says. “That means developing local options for the local context.”
Different areas can vary enormously, not only by physical environment, but also by local governance and even household structure. These factors go beyond the LDSF method and the second strand of the Sentinel Landscape approach is a socio-economic survey that attempts to capture the wider context in which the landscape is embedded.
“For any intervention to work,” Winowiecki says, “you have to understand the context and that’s exactly what the Sentinel Landscapes have done.”
Context is everything
The socio-economic surveys was every bit as impressive an undertaking as the biophysical baseline study of the LDSF. The development of the socio-economic methodology and design of the household module was coordinated by Anja Gassner, while the subsequent analysis of data generated for all the landscapes was led by Brian Chiputwa (both with the Research Methods Groups at ICRAF) in consultation with CATIE.
The socio-economic surveys were designed to capture baseline information on households’ production systems, livelihood portfolios, asset endowment and use of natural resources such as forests. This data was then used to construct various indicators that can be used as proxies for household’s dependency on natural resources (land, water and forests), food security and nutrition and poverty status. These indicators can provide important insights into household economic activities.
Based in Costa Rica, CATIE agroforestry scientist Arlene López-Sampson helped analyze the reams of NHSL data. “You can’t just look at the condition of the trees and ignore the people,” López-Sampson says, “because they are constantly choosing among options and it’s them we need to address. Sentinel Landscapes are relevant because they recognize the importance of people as agents of change and bring them back into the equation.”
Teams of researchers spoke to 849 households in dozens of communities across the four study blocks of the NHSL, spending 3-5 days in each village, conducting interviews and workshops that explored in detail the relationship between people and landscape.
“There are a lot of people involved and we need the trust of the local municipalities and grassroots organizations,” López-Sampson says. “It’s very context dependent. What’s happening in Nicaragua is different to what’s happening in Honduras and to what’s happening in other parts of the world.”
Norvin Sepúlveda coordinated the field teams in Nicaragua and Honduras: “A combination of GIS and household data is very important to give us a better idea of what is happening,” he says. “While the GIS did the overview, we were face to face with the people, taking information directly from them.”
Sepúlveda gives a good example of how the dual approach works. “In one area, the GIS showed patches of forest left,” he says. “So we went to the household to find out why: it was to protect the water supply.”
Trees act like giant sponges, collecting and filtering rainwater before releasing it gradually into streams and rivers. Take away the trees and you get flash floods, soil erosion and a sharp reduction in water quality.
“It’s very important for us to find out why forest is left standing,” Sepúlveda says. “It often depends on a farmer’s education, on the state of his land, and on whether he has legal rights to the land.”
And so we come to the thorniest issue faced by the NHSL team: conflict and governance.
Within the socio-economic surveys, the institutional mapping and natural resource governance activities were implemented using the International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) methodology, developed by Scientists at the University of Michigan, USA.
“The one big challenge”
“The major challenge of the whole project was operating in the border,” Sepúlveda says. “Lack of governance there is the one big challenge.”
“In Nicaragua, El Tuma La Dalia is doing well with restoration, earning some extra money for coffee farmers,” Sepúlveda explains. “But at Columbus Mine, the deforestation has been very bad.”
Columbus Mine is the home of the Tasba-Pry indigenous group and, according to the report, their practice of communal land ownership, although recognized by the government, is coming into conflict with the growing population of settlers who pursue private ownership.
It is a similarly mixed story in Honduras: “At Rio Platáno they are approaching forest management, which is good,” Sepúlveda says. “But in Rio Blanco livestock is taking down all the forest that is left.”
Rio Platáno is home to several different indigenous groups, whose land rights have not been recognized by the government. As a result, the NHSL study reports, they have fallen victim to land grabs.
“We also have problems there with drug trafficking,” López-Sampson says. “It’s really hard to work in that kind of geography because it’s not only about land management; it’s also about organized criminal activities.”
But of course these kinds of challenges are not unique to the NHSL and researchers must understand the whole picture in order to change behaviors.
“We chose a combination of both different contexts and people,” Sepúlveda explains. “It makes for a contrast to the other agricultural sites, which are more stable.”
Sentinel solutions: Making change happen
The Sentinel Landscapes program is a breathtaking display of the research possible when scientists from different disciplines collaborate at every scale, from collecting soil samples on the ground to capturing remote sensing data from space to conducting focus group discussions with farmers or interviewing individual farmers on their farms.
“We need a lot of people to do our work,” López-Sampson says. “The coordination of knowledge is really important: between academics, but also among the local organizations who are doing all the interventions we try to promote so that we all have healthy ecosystems.”
The team hopes that the work they have done in the NHSL can help Honduras move further up that forest transition curve and encourage Nicaragua to bottom out their deforestation sooner rather than later.
“Trees are now part of the agenda,” López-Sampson says. “Trees are now seen as important to have on the farms, not only to provide timber, but as part of local community strategies to provide incomes and help maintain a healthy ecosystem by providing a link between the landscape and the agroforestry system.”
Meanwhile, Vågen is ambitious about the future: “Using LDSF we can accurately track changes over time and create bespoke interventions for specific plots and specific farmers to maximize land conservation, biodiversity and soil organic carbon capture.”
It is clear that the long term monitoring of the Sentinel Landscapes approach is absolutely necessary to bring clarity to the slow processes of landscape management and climate change.
“Five, ten years isn’t long enough,” Sepúlveda concludes. “I really hope these projects carry on, in order to see restoration, in order to see people change their minds and in order to see the new generations make change happen.”
The ultimate goal of the Sentinel Landscapes approach is to build up on these diverse data over longer periods and be able to integrate the socio-economic, biophysical and political indicators. For example, with long-term data, it will be interesting to map out causal links between household poverty levels (see diagram below) and land degradation over time in the four sites; and how these vary through different governance structures across communities.
The Economist recently published an interesting report in 2017 titled “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data”. With adequate investment and if collected in a dynamic, responsive and consistent way, big data approaches that monitor and integrate indicators from diverse disciplines such as the natural and social sciences, can lead to more complete and actionable set of insights for better adaption and mitigation strategies against climate change. Initiatives such as the SL could well be the next oil in future.
“A warning shot”: Sentinel Landscapes research and Coronavirus
At the time this article was written, all the NHSL scientists were already all working from home (be it in Costa Rica, Nicaragua or Kenya), in a global attempt to slow the transmission of coronavirus. “Our heavy reliance on industrial agriculture, with large, uniform herds, makes us vulnerable to outbreaks,” Vågen says. “The information we can provide, such as landscape diversity, could be a valuable contribution down the road.”
Vågen warns that ecological degradation makes diseases such as Covid-19 much more likely and, in our hyper-connected world, we need to start paying closer attention.
“It’s one of those up and coming things that we need to be looking at,” Vågen says. “And not just coronavirus, but other diseases,” he adds. “For me, it’s a warning shot. It’s something that we need to understand better, how it relates to the state of our planet in general.”
In times past, sentinels were flesh and blood watchers responsible at all hours to warn their kinsfolk of any approaching existential threat – whether wild beast, enemy army, fire or plague.
Today, our most valuable sentinels are scientific: the ice core samples that warn us of global heating; the remote sensing data that warn us of deforestation.
The Covid-19 outbreak shows what can happen when we have no sentinels – or, worse, when we ignore them. Without sufficient, credible warning, our society becomes extremely vulnerable to unseen existential threats.
By David Charles. 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 Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
Chiputwa, B., Ihli, H.J., Wainaina, P., Gassner, A., 2020. Accounting for the invisible value of trees on farms through valuation of ecosystem services, in: Rusinamhodzi, L. (Ed.), The Role of Ecosystem Services in Sustainable Food Systems. Elsevier Inc., pp. 229–261. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-816436-5.00012-3
FTA, 2011. CGIAR Research Program 6 – Forests, Trees and Agroforestry: Livelihoods, Landscapes and Governance Proposal. Document available here
Pramova, E.; Lavorel, S.; Locatelli, B.; Colloff, M.J.; Bruley, E. 2020. Adaptation in the Anthropocene: How we can support ecosystems to enable our response to change, CIFOR. https://doi.org/10.17528/cifor/007588
Sepúlveda N, Vågen T-G, Winowiecki LA, Ordoñez J, Chiputwa B, Makui P, Somarriba E and López-Sampson, A. 2020. Sentinel Landscape stocktaking pilot study: Report Nicaragua-Honduras. Working Paper 2. Bogor, Indonesia: The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). https://doi.org/10.17528/cifor/007537
Vågen, T.-G.; Winowiecki, L.A. Predicting the Spatial Distribution and Severity of Soil Erosion in the Global Tropics using Satellite Remote Sensing. Remote Sens.2019, 11, 1800. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/11/15/1800
Vågen, T-G and Winowiecki, L. 2013. Mapping of soil organic carbon stocks for spatially explicit assessments of climate change mitigation potential. Environmental Research Letters. 8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/015011
Restoring Forests, Restoring Communities: Lessons from Shinyanga
Restoring Forests, Restoring Communities: Lessons from Shinyanga
A restored Ngitili system in the Shinyanga Region, Tanzania. Photo credit: Lalisa A. Duguma / ICRAF
How secure resource rights help communities in Africa restore forests and build local economies
“Landscape restoration is not new,” said Steven Lawry, former director of CIFOR’s Forests and Governance Research portfolio. “But global and national commitments such as the Bonn Challenge and AFR100 and the urgency of addressing climate change mean that a qualitatively different approach is needed if we’re going to achieve the kind of success that we aspire to.”
The story begins in Shinyanga, northern Tanzania, with a landscape restoration project that is – or perhaps was – held up as a bright example of successful collaboration between government, conservation scientists and local communities.
Priscilla Wainaina, agricultural economist at World Agroforestry (ICRAF), led a research team to investigate what made the Shinyanga restoration so successful.
The region suffered from severe landscape degradation as early as the 1930s when British colonial authorities encouraged the clearing of woodlands for various reasons, including the eradication of disease-carrying tsetse flies and increased demand for wood. But this was only the beginning. “In the 1960s and 70s, cash crops – mainly cotton and tobacco – intensified this degradation,” Wainaina said.
The degradation was so severe that, by the 1980s, Shinyanga had become known as the “desert of Tanzania”. “That’s when the government of Tanzania, together with ICRAF, came up with the HASHI restoration project,” Wainaina explained.
Building on the existing local practice of Ngitili fodder reserves, the HASHI restoration project encouraged cattle farmers to plant trees on their grazing land. As they matured, these trees supplied the farmers with fodder for livestock, as well as wood they could use or sell for fuel and construction.
When the HASHI project started in 1986, there were only around 600 hectares of land managed under the Ngitili system. By the time the project ended in 2004, over 250,000 hectares of Ngitili had been restored and were being managed by local communities.
In 2004, management of the restored landscapes were taken over by local communities under the leadership of the village councils, supported by a government body dedicated to community empowerment.
The project was hailed as a triumph by conservation scientists across the globe. But recently there have been troubling signs for the future of Shinyanga, and the problem centres around land tenure rights.
“This goes beyond just troubling”
“When it comes to land tenure rights in Tanzania,” Wainaina said, “land is owned by the state, but it’s managed by local households and communities. This gave communities an incentive to restore their landscapes so as to strengthen these property rights.”
And, for the last 30 years, this is exactly what happened: the customary rights of local communities to the communal restoration areas had, in the words of Priscilla Wainaina, “grown stronger”.
“But in 2018,” Wainaina continued, “a new ministerial directive to shift some of these communally-owned restoration areas to the state was issued, so they can be state managed.”
Wainaina was quick to add that the state had good intentions for this decision. Naturally, the Tanzanian government has access to much greater resources, both human and financial, to better manage the restoration in Shinyanga than the local communities do.
But Wainaina also reported that, “the local communities feel like [the decision] was not well communicated: it was top-down as opposed to participatory”.
“Now communities are not sure about the future ownership of the communal restoration areas,” Wainaina said. Because it is the local communities who are responsible for the majority of the landscape restoration, this new insecurity is, according to Wainaina, “really clouding the restoration efforts”.
Although her concerns were stated in the straight-forward language of an agricultural economist, Lawry was quick to pick up on the significance of Wainaina’s comment. “It’s a bit troubling to hear that there are now questions in the air about the ability of the communities to retain the tenure rights that have contributed to the success of the project,” he said.
Chris Buss, Director of the Forest Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), went further: “We use Shinyanga as one of the great examples of restoration,” he said. “If the land and trees are being taken away under different ownership systems, then this goes beyond just troubling. It goes to the heart of what we’re trying to achieve.”
Secure land tenure: “The heart of what we’re trying to achieve”
Secure land tenure is the foundation of successful landscape restoration, as Steven Lawry explained: “Research – considerable research, in fact – identifies secure tenure as a necessary condition for successful community forestry, including for forest landscape restoration adoption.”
Landscape restoration goes far beyond simply planting trees. It takes a much broader view of degraded sites, restoring the whole mosaic of land uses that draw from and contribute to the landscape. Without the involvement of the local communities who live and work on the land, such a holistic approach is impossibly difficult. But without secure tenure, what motivation do local communities have to invest in the landscape?
Tangu Tumero, Principal Forestry Officer at the Department of Forestry in Malawi, tells a story that illustrates the same motivations, but on an individual scale.
“In Malawi, we have a tradition in some cultures where, when a man marries a woman, the man moves to live in the woman’s community. But, if the marriage ends, he must go back to his village,” Tumero said. “As long as he feels like he doesn’t belong with this community, he is not going to plant a tree from which he would benefit [in the future]. ”
This thinking plays out on a larger scale when the whole community does not feel like they have rights to the land they work. “Secure tenure motivates investments in land, including community investments in forest landscape restoration,” Lawry explained.
Unfortunately, as Wainaina showed with her research on Shinyanga, secure land tenure is far from the norm.
Interview with Priscilla Wainina during GLF
“Indigenous peoples and local communities occupy some 50 percent of the total land area in the tropics,” Lawry said, “but only have legal rights to a very small portion of those resources and governments still struggle with how to understand and secure customary rights.”
Restoration management is already a very complex task, but it is made even more complex when, as Wainaina discovered in Shinyanga, projects fail to take account of who exactly owns the land and to accord statutory protection to existing customary land tenure arrangements.
Chris Buss learned this lesson the hard way when he was working in Malawi. “There was a fuel wood project that planted millions of trees,” he said. “It was very successful for three years, until the trees got to a decent size and all the local chiefs said ‘These are our trees and we’re going to harvest them now.’”
“Over three or four years, the project looked very successful,” Chris said, “but we hadn’t addressed the critical tenure issues and the trees were cut down.”
Tumero agreed that understanding the local context is paramount. “When we’re developing our programs,” she said, “we make sure that they are locally driven as much as possible. Otherwise, we can overlook some of these things that look minor but are going to be very crucial in terms of how we make progress.”
Customary land rights are typically not written into law but are rather rights that are recognised by the local community. Importantly, customary tenure principles grant all bona fide members of the local community land as a social right. However, the introduction of individual, statutorily recognized rights, can have the effect of dissolving long-standing customary rights, making poorer community members particularly vulnerable; hence, the importance of extending statutory recognition to existing customary rights, at a legal status equal to private land and state land.
The absence of statutory recognition of customary tenure creates what Patrick Ranjatson, professor in Forestry and Environment at the University of Antananarivo, calls “invisible communities”. “Community is always there, but people have a tendency to overlook them,” Ranjatson said. “Government agencies, NGO projects and even sometimes the community’s own members are not aware of the importance of their community.”
“Simply put,” Steven Lawry concluded, “the future of forest landscape restoration is limited if we do not solve the tenure problem where the problem exists.”
Return to Shinyanga: Choosing Intrinsic over Extrinsic Incentives
For solutions to the problems of land tenure rights and invisible communities, we return to Shinyanga, and Priscilla Wainaina.
“Restoration in Shinyanga has been going on for 30-plus years,” Wainaina said. “When the HASHI project ended in 2004, the communities, with support from the government, were able to continue the restoration efforts. So, what made restoration so successful in this landscape?”
Wainaina’s research (awaiting publication) found the answer to be, not one incentive in particular, but a pattern of incentives and disincentives that complemented each other.
“The incentives that stood out particularly were conservation benefits,” Wainaina explained, “the ecological, economic or even cultural benefits communities derive from restoration.”
These conservation benefits were predominantly what Wainaina described as intrinsic motivators. “These are motivators that rely on self-desire more than external factors,” Wainaina explained, “and these intrinsic motivators were the key drivers of restoration in Shinyanga.”
“Restoration in this area focussed more on local people and local knowledge and that focus really got the communities involved, in addition to the other actors,” Wainaina said. “The communities, together with their village governments, owned the projects and that was a really key motivator.”
Patrick Ranjatson issued a final note of caution. “Strengthening communities doesn’t mean that we strengthen communities to the detriment of the state,” he said. “If there are people doing slash-and-burn agriculture, then the forest will be finished very rapidly. We need to find this balance, so if it’s not local community who bring this idea of sustainability, then it has to be either the government or partners such as NGOs.”
Wainaina’s research also found that extrinsic motivators – such as top-down cash incentives – were not as important for restoration in Shinyanga as policy-makers might imagine. “External motivators, although they supported the restoration, they were not as strong as the intrinsic ones,” she explained.
Wainaina gave the example of the United Nations REDD+ programme, which uses cash incentives to encourage the reduction of net emissions of greenhouse gases by improving forest management and restoration in developing countries.
“REDD+, although it’s usually a motivator in most of the restoration projects in most countries, didn’t actually achieve the benefits they intended in Tanzania because it was a pilot project,” Wainaina said. “It only ran for four years and then it was gone. The discontinuation was a disappointment for the farmers and the local community.”
Extrinsic incentives like REDD+ need careful deployment, otherwise they can back-fire and discourage communities from supporting landscape restoration.
A surer bet for successful restoration, according to Wainaina’s research, is to empower local communities with intrinsic motivators like education and land rights that will secure for them the ecological, economic and cultural benefits from conservation.
“We hope that, with participation through the village government and the national government, they will reach a consensus on the way forward in regards to land tenure rights,” Wainaina said.
As for Steven Lawry’s “qualitatively different approach”, these researchers believe that approach must include land rights for local communities.
“Most of these communities are advocating for registration of their land rights,” Wainaina said. They feel as if this is the only way they can secure the benefits that they get from this restoration. They started the restoration areas, they managed them successfully for the past years and they feel like they still have the capacity to do it.”
Participants: Chris Buss (IUCN); Patrick Ranjatson (ESSA-Foret, Madagascar); Priscilla Wainaina (ICRAF-Nairobi); Tangu Tumero (Forestry Dept—Malawi); and Steven Lawry, Moderator (CIFOR).
Funding from the CGIAR Collaborative Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) supported the event. 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.
‘Well-written book useful to farmers, foresters, landowners and policy makers,’ says world expert in agroforestry in Latin America at Yale
Agroforestry systems (AFS), which combine trees and crops on the same land, can increase productivity in the short and long term while promoting biodiversity and bringing social, environmental and economic benefits to the farmer and society. They are also increasingly relevant in conservation, adaptation and mitigation of climate change, and restoration of degraded ecosystems.
This is the premise of Agroforestry Systems for Agroecological Restoration: How to reconcile conservation with Production, Options for the Cerrado and the Caatinga, a book just released in English. Rich in technical and scientific information, it will be useful to many. Brazil’s Ministry of Environment has reprinted 4000 copies of the Portuguese version since it was published in 2016.
The Cerrado and Caatinga are two vast biomes that are less well known outside Brazil than the Amazon rainforest but are also critically important, not only for the country, and are both facing formidable threats.
The Cerrado is a savannah, South America’s largest and the world’s most biodiverse. Interspersed with forest, its 2 million km² provide livelihoods to about 470,000 small farming families, over 80 indigenous groups, and groups like extractivists, which include rubber tappers, and quilombola communities founded by escaped slaves.
‘Some have lived there for hundreds of years and live with its diversity and extract its natural resources sustainably, while others still depend on traditional slash-and-burn,’ says the book. But rather than being a rural idyll, the Cerrado is ‘one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems due to the expansion of mechanized agriculture and the annual monocropping of soybeans, maize and cotton.’
These and other activities, such as the opening of new areas for livestock, new forests planted for pulp and charcoal, and new hydroelectric dams, lead to the clearing of some 30,000 km² per year. The Cerrado – known as ‘the cradle of water in Brazil’ – also saw an 800% rise in fires in 2019. According to the book, agroforestry could offer a solution for these problems: ‘AFS are excellent alternatives, because they respect the potential of local resources and the region’s ecological and productive possibilities.’
The Caatinga is South America’s largest dry tropical forest, covering about 844,000 km². ‘Life is extremely hard for locals, known as sertanejos,’ says the book. ‘Ever since Brazil was colonized by Europeans, the region has suffered from forest clearing for cattle grazing and charcoal production, which are still its main economic activities. Its plant cover had declined by nearly 50% by 2009.’
In the Caatinga, agroforestry systems to produce animal feed, short-cycle crops and fruit-bearing trees can improve the quality of life for farming families and others of its 27 million inhabitants, who face longstanding drought. The practice of agroforestry, says the book, can also reduce socioeconomic inequality, reverse desertification, counter soil degradation soils, and protect and make better use of native vegetation.
The book was funded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its lead author is Andrew Miccolis, who heads World Agroforestry in Brazil. Its five chapters begin with basic concepts of ecological and landscape restoration, using a multidisciplinary, holistic approach. Likewise, several chapters present the definition of agroforestry systems and their most frequent types with details on design, implementation, financial analysis and adoption.
In total, the authors describe 11 agroforestry systems practiced in the cerrados and caatingas, placing emphasis on farmer objectives, key species, and management practices. The description of one specific system to restore a riparian zone begins with ‘No agrochemicals or heavy machinery should be used.’ The next step in this process is to plant ‘a row of fruit, wood and biomass trees (as well as bananas) followed by rows of ornamental plants, food crops and medicinal herbs’ because many of these species ‘play an important role in occupying the lower stories, maintaining microclimate and replacing grass, which is a major contributor to forest fires’. It further advises ‘intensive management of the cultivated strips and selective weeding and pruning in the natural regeneration strips to promote succession. Resulting organic matter should be piled around the native plants valued by the farmer’.
Backed by up-to-date literature, such highly detailed passages are good examples of where productive agriculture can achieve food security, landscape restoration, biodiversity conservation, and climate change resiliency, using appropriate agricultural practices that support functioning agroecosystems.
The book also displays testimonies from practitioners. Luiz Pereira Cirqueira from Araguaia in the Cerrado compares the meagre returns from five cattle on a hectare of grass with the far higher returns from a hectare of cassava with trees, saying ‘The agroforest is the way I found to make a living and I’m happy, which makes me an example for others.’
From Ceará state, farmer Ernaldo Expedito de Sá describes how agroforestry transformed his land in the Caatinga. “This area was very ugly. It was nearly all desertified, which is what happens to fallow land if you don’t feed it or protect it, out in the sun all day. Then ten years ago, I met Chico and Elviro, who were working with AFS. My dream was to produce food both for me and nature too.’
The authors also place emphasis on the use of species for recovering degraded areas, a section which is particularly beautifully illustrated. ‘Species able to store water can be vital for situations with extreme water shortage, including most of the Caatinga and Cerrado, where the
yearly dry season is well-defined and prolonged,’ says the book, adding that some species like Jacaratia spinosa and cajá-mirim
(Spondias purpurea var. lutea) have underground storage structures called xylopods that are ‘veritable water tanks’.
The conversion of degraded, simplified systems to diverse, agroecological, resilient systems is challenging, and the scaling-up of these systems will require a combination of scientific and technological innovation, policy, economic, and market incentives tailored to different scales.
The book lays out how AFS can be a tool for rural development and provides a series of successful experiences that are also in use or can be used in other tropical dry regions of Latin America as well. It is greatly enriched by diagrams, figures and excellent pictures of the AFS and other land uses, which will make it particularly useful to farmers, foresters, landowners, land managers, land use planners, and policy makers researchers and students at academic institutions. Though focused mainly on family farmers, its techniques and options can also be applied by medium to larger farmers.
Agroforestry Systems for Agroecological Restoration is a welcome addition to reading lists of textbooks on agroforestry and restoration that can be used by instructors and students of a full range of educational levels. It is very pleasant to read and a welcome addition to the assemblage of published works on restoration and AFS with interest and emphasis on both Latin America and worldwide.
The book can be purchased at no profit to ICRAF from Amazon.co.uk HERE or downloaded from the link below.
Florencia Montagnini is a Senior Research Scientist and Director, Program in Tropical Forestry and Agroforestry at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University. Dr. Montagnini has written ten books on agroforestry systems and ecological restoration, including a major textbook in tropical forest ecology and management, and over 250 scientific articles. She participates in Yale’s Environmental Leadership Training Initiatives (ELTI) and teaches and advises individual project courses in agroforestry, landscape restoration, and soil conservation and management. She holds honorary professorships at several universities in Latin America.
Miccolis A, Peneireiro F, Marques H, Vieira D, Arco-Verde F, Hoffmann M, Rehder T, Pereira A. 2019. Agroforestry Systems for Agroecological Restoration: How to reconcile conservation with Production, Options for the Cerrado and the Caatinga (English edition) World Agroforestry. Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza. Brasilia. 240 pp.
This research was conducted by World Agroforestry (ICRAF) as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, 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. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) leads the Research Program in partnership with Bioversity International, Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), ICRAF and Tropenbos International (TBI). The work of the Research Program is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
Restoring degraded lands for bioenergy can offer economic and social returns as well as environmental benefits
Restoring degraded lands for bioenergy can offer economic and social returns as well as environmental benefits
Panelists of the Global Landscapes Forum Luxembourg 2019 Session, Restoration of Degraded Land for Bioenergy and Rural Livelihoods: a Promising Business Case from Indonesia.
Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF
Indonesia bets on biomass to power local economies
Indonesia is committed to supplying energy to all of its people, but with 260 million citizens scattered across 17,500 islands, this is no small ambition.
The audience was treated to a lively and interactive session with live polls that allowed the panel to gain insight on the collective feeling on particular issues. At the very beginning the collective expectations on the session converged on one topic: restoration.
A further set of questions were posed to the audience during the course of the session expanding the dialogue between audience and panel. In particular, attendees indicated that in order for the bioenergy developments to benefit smallholders and rural communities, energy needs to be affordable and accessible to them. Interestingly, capacity building was identified by the audience as the most important safeguard for coupling the bioenergy transition with landscape restoration. Finally, with a surprising twist, the audience did not fully agree that in general coal transition to biomass is the dominant pathway with respect to the development of other renewables. However, it was deemed extremely important, especially in cases like the one discussed by the panelists.
Ending the poverty-energy trap
For 50 million Indonesians in off-grid rural communities, energy bills are 10 to 20 times higher than in cities due to the steep cost of kerosene lamps and diesel-generators. Higher bills add to the existing poverty-energy trap, where the poorest people are less likely to have access to power, and without it, they are more likely to remain poor.
“This is also the case for people in Mentawai Islands, a world-class surfer destination off the West of Sumatra with thousands of visitors per year,” explained panelist Maria Wahono. She is president commissioner of Clean Power Indonesia (CPI), a private developer that, in 2018, sealed a 20-year agreement with a state-owned utility company and communities to provide three villages in Mentawai with bioenergy.
As part of the project, Indonesian authorities supported communities to establish 300 hectares of bamboo forest in degraded or underutilized lands, and people now sell this biomass to CPI’s power plant.
The facility transforms the bamboo into combustible gas and provides 1,300 homes with power at a subsidized tariff, allowing communities to realize income from selling bamboo after paying electricity bills. In addition, the plant employs 150 people.
“For this type of biomass energy project to be commercially feasible and replicable across the country, we need three separate investments: a state-owned utility company that provides the network distribution and off-taker guarantee to de-risk the investment; the regional government or ministries responsible for promoting biomass supply, including bamboo farming activities; and private actors that focus exclusively on power plant development,” explained Wahono.
The Mentawai energy project set up the first bamboo-based biomass power plant in Asia-Pacific, and now wants to spread to more than 40 villages, advancing national plans to reach a bioenergy capacity of 500 MW in the next five years.
Just as importantly, the lessons learned from this project are informing biomass initiatives elsewhere, pointed out Ingvild Solvang, Sustainability and Safeguards Manager with GGGI –an intergovernmental organization that helps governments’ transition into green growth economic models.
Sustainable business models
GGGI is currently scoping a business model in West Timor that mirrors the project in Mentawai. “We are building on each other’s work and showing that ‘collaboration is the new competition’,” said Solvang.
In the new model, the state company would also be tasked with ensuring a reliable supply of biomass into the 2.2 MW power plant, and the project could generate USD 1 million in revenues for communities. “In Eastern Indonesia this is sorely needed because livelihoods are the number one priority for people and the government,” said the panelist.
The plant is set to create jobs and to power local enterprises, which are instrumental to sustain demand in the long term. For Solvang, “the use of electricity for productive purposes is essential to ensure a viable and sustainable business model, and to fuel local economic development.”
Wahono pointed out the importance of using tropical bamboo as a sustainable biomass option, instead of some preferred alternatives in other areas of Indonesia. This grass is native to most islands in the archipelago; it can grow up to two meters per week; its plantations are inexpensive to maintain, and it is culturally appropriate.
“Also, its root system is amazing,” said Solvang. “It keeps carbon in the soil, improves water retention, reduces erosion and improves overall land productivity.”
Panelists reiterated that potential benefits of renewable energies are many-fold, and that well thought-out bioenergy models offer opportunities on various fronts: baseload electricity production, job creation, land restoration for biodiversity and production purposes, as well as the fight against climate change.
This is why GGGI is also conducting broader assessments on the opportunities for green jobs creation under Indonesia’s commitments to the global climate agenda, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
“Policy-makers need to balance the short-term need to create jobs with longer-term climate targets that may appear more abstract,” said Solvang. “By providing figures on the social and economic co-benefits of climate action, we can create political and social demand for it.”
In Indonesia, the expansion of sustainable bioenergy models is encouraged by the national Low Carbon Development framework, as explained by the BAPPENAS Director of Energy Resources, Minerals and Mining, Dr. Yahya Rachmana Hidayat.
The country’s plans seek a boost in energy efficiency in the next five years, as well as a 30 per cent increase in the production of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2040.
“There are huge opportunities lying ahead of us: our current installed capacity of renewable energies amounts to less than 3 percent of its potential, which we estimate at 420 GW,” said the Director.
“We have developed a five-year strategy to develop energy plantation forests, and we seek to increase the contribution of the bioenergy industry to the national economy,” added Yahya, noting the willingness of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and that of Energy and Restoration to work closer together.
Indonesia’s policy framework envisages the creation of energy forests and the use of organic waste from various industries. The same approach is adopted for a new biomass energy and restoration project to be implemented in Lampung, Southern Sumatra.
The objective of the project, which is in the design stage, is to convert an existing inland coalfired power plant to run on biomass fuel. Up to 40 percent of the biomass will be supplied by community-based forestry and agricultural activities, and the rest will come from an agreement with a state-owned plantation of rubber, palm oil and sugar cane meant to ensure security of supply.
Several panelists highlighted the need to adopt appropriate safeguards and to address governance issues ahead of project implementation, as emphasized by George Winkel, Head of the Bonn Office and Governance Programme at the European Forest Institute (EFI).
“There is a pressing need to ensure coordination across land use sectors and different levels of governance, so projects stay connected to the interests of local communities,” said the expert.
For example, provisions should be taken to ensure energy plantations do not jeopardize food security, lead to displacement, or lock communities into disadvantageous business deals.
Hence, Winkel called for land use planning that convenes all relevant stakeholders around the use that should be given to degraded lands, and noted the importance of clarifying legal frameworks and land tenure rights before embarking on any restoration and bioenergy initiative.
“A possibility is connecting restoration and bioenergy projects with ongoing FLEGT and REDD+ initiatives, many of which are already working on the relevant governance issues,” he pointed out.
Solvang from GGGI also encouraged cooperation between the bioenergy initiatives themselves to reach many more people: “We are building on each other, and we will hopefully come up with projects that can be bundled together and presented as interesting opportunities for investors.”
Collaboration was a red thread running through all the panelists interventions. A prerequisite to design and implement sustainable bioenergy ventures on a large scale with a view to healing landscapes while improving livelihoods. To this end, all of the panelists plan to be involved in the new biomass project at Lampung, which is entering the feasibility assessment stage.
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.
Forest restoration and democracy: Making communities visible in Madagascar
Forest restoration and democracy: Making communities visible in Madagascar
Farming families in Boeny District, northwest Madagascar, rely on oxen for transportation and draft power. Photo by Steven Lawry/CIFOR.
Landscape restoration will not be fully effective unless it contributes to social as well as ecological benefits.
Recent discussions at the Global Landscapes Forum in Accra, Ghana, which revolved around tenure policy and forest landscape restoration in Madagascar, shed light on some of the issues impeding progress toward achieving positive social and ecological restoration outcomes globally.
The Bonn Challenge and the U.N. Decades on Ecosystem Restoration and Family Farming are important global restoration initiatives. They are designed, organized and funded by U.N. agencies, major donor countries, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and participating national governments that have signed on to their ambitious goals for restoring degraded forests, farmland and ecosystems.
Within the framework of the Bonn Challenge, 28 African countries affiliated in the AFR100 (African Forest Restoration Initiative) network are committed to restoring 113 million hectares of degraded forests.
There is wide agreement among experts that communities must be consulted at every stage of the restoration planning and implementation processes.
But too often “consultation” takes the form of perfunctory discussions with communities, and meaningful decisions about land use practices, funding, program design, local governance, incentives, regulation, planned outcomes and distribution of benefits are made by external entities.
In reality, communities lack any real negotiating power, including the ability to reject proposals they consider unrealistic or not in their best interests. This lack of community authority has significant consequences.
Manony Andriampiolazana, on left, interviews a leader in Ankijabe, Boeny District, Madagascar, forest restoration priorities.
Community members actively shape landscapes through decisions about how and where land is used for forests, agriculture, housing and other uses. As such, the outcomes of restoration efforts, positive or negative, are largely in their hands. While government and NGO planners may recommend or even prescribe adoption of new land use practices and technologies believed conducive to restoration and sustainable use, ultimately communities decide whether or not the recommended practices are practical and realistic.
Because they live and work close to the resource management problems, land users are in the best position to make informed choices about how land can be best managed and sustainably used for environmental, economic and social benefit. Research has found that practices imposed by outside authorities often lack technical credibility and rarely possess political legitimacy (McLain et al. 2018a).
This link between success in achieving positive outcomes and democratic decision-making is often overlooked in forest restoration programs. Reference to “consulting” local stakeholders doesn’t come close to describing the decision-making authority local people should exercise.
Governments can create incentives for restoration, but whether or not incentives are appropriate or sufficient to motivate new land use practices is largely a matter for users of land and forests to decide.
Governments can attempt to discourage destructive land use practices through direct regulation and penalties. But over-reliance on rule making and enforcement can prove unduly burdensome and coercive and turn communities away from a restoration agenda.
Colonial powers undercut or eliminated the ability of communities to make collective, democratic decisions about local land use by concentrating ownership rights over land, forests and pasture in the state.
While regulation carefully applied may have a role, communities should have the right to adopt restoration practices as a matter of free, collective choice, derived from secure rights to their local resources, including the right to decide how they are best managed.
CIFOR research found that tenure security motivates community investments in restoration (McLain et al. 2018b).
In much of Africa but also among indigenous communities in Latin America and Asia, customary tenure arrangements ensure access to land as a social right.
In other words, locally recognized systems of resource governance and rights are in place, but these systems too often are not recognized in statute or national law.
Madagascar, which aims to restore 4 million hectares of degraded forest by 2030, and other African governments, seek to “modernize” the property rights system by linking delivery of land rights to statutory instruments, such as title and certification.
Local people who believe that their customary rights are legitimate and secure may sometimes be vulnerable to loss of those rights because customary tenure arrangements are often not recognized under law.
Madagascar case study
Despite guidelines that Madagascar’s restoration plans reflect active engagement with communities and a variety of local stakeholders, research and experience suggests that Malagasy community-based land management institutions and practices are invisible to official authorities.
What is the evidence of this invisibility?
Insufficient recognition of community organizations and community resource rights in law. Malagasy civil law recognizes in principle the right of communities to manage forests. However, the law does not describe or grant the powers necessary for communities to carry out their management responsibilities. In practice, community representatives are sometimes consulted by government officials on land use decisions, but community organizations lack sufficient autonomy to manage and enforce local land use initiatives.
Failure of projects to systematically engage with legitimate local representatives. Local NGOs sometimes assert that they legally represent local communities, or hold and exercise rights on behalf of local communities, when communities would dispute that this is the case.
A focus on individual property rights instruments, such as titling or certification, which are recognized in law, while most forests and landscapes targeted for restoration are used and managed collectively. Assignment of individual title to portions of areas historically used collectively further erodes collective rights.
The administrative infrastructure and technical resources needed to assign title and other forms of statutory rights in rural areas are very limited. Poor people face additional barriers to securing title due to high survey and registration costs and limited knowledge of their rights and official procedures. Moreover, there is evidence that subsequent to the initial titling, right holders do not register transfer of rights due to sale or inheritance, largely because the level of tenure security provided under the customary system is perceived to be adequate or the costs of doing so are considered to be too high. (Ayalew et al. 2019; Lawry et al. 2017).
Some individuals (often migrants) who have weak customary rights in places of new arrival may claim statutory title to land as a way of securing rights in ways not possible through the local customary system. This can undercut the ability of the community to make enforceable collective land use decisions.
Lack of motivation for local people who have customary rights to seek land certificates or titles through the statutory system, because of the belief that their customary rights are secure.
Reshaping the terrain
In sum, the future of restoration may be limited if insufficient democracy and tenure insecurity are not addressed. Restoration practices that contribute to positive environmental and social outcomes are more likely to be taken up by local people when they have the degree of control over forests and trees necessary to reap the benefits of their investments.
It is imperative that the Bonn Challenge’s call for engagement with local communities in forest landscape restoration planning and implementation go beyond consultation and address the importance of community governance and secure community rights to land, forests and trees.
Restoring forests, restoring communities: How secure resource rights help communities in Africa restore forests and build local economies session panelists. From left: Chris Buss, IUCN forest programme; Patrick Ranjatson, ESSA-Foret, University of Antananarivo, Madagascar; Steven Lawry, representing the Center for International Forestry Research; Tangu Tumeo, Malawi Forest Department; and Priscilia Wainaina, World Agroforestry Center, Nairobi.
Community self-governance and legal recognition of resource rights are essential preconditions for community–led restoration. Self-governance is a precondition to negotiating consensus about use practices within communities and rights enable and catalyze action.
In the absence of rights there is no assurance that local communities will have the certainty that the benefits of their labors and investments will accrue to them.
Customary rights can be recognized statutorily, and several African countries have implemented legal reforms that recognize customary tenure (including Botswana, Kenya, Liberia and South Sudan). But Madagascar has not.
Until Madagascar and other countries take steps to design and implement laws that extend local self-governance and tenure security through, for instance, recognition of customary tenure, it is unlikely that landscape restoration at scale will occur.
By Steven Lawry and Patrick Ranjatson This article draws on ideas discussed at the interactive session entitled “Restoring Forests, Restoring Communities,” held in Accra, Ghana, 29-30 October 2019, at the Global Landscapes Forum on Restoration in Africa. Steven Lawry, senior associate at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), organized and moderated the session. Patrick Ranjatson, professor at Mention Foresterie et Environnement de l’Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Agronomiques, Université d’Antananarivo (ESSA-Forêts) led a discussion on tenure policy and forest landscape restoration in Madagascar.
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Seven leaders of UN agencies at the Climate Conference in Madrid call for an end to deforestation to address the climate emergency
‘Forests are essential to life on Earth; we cannot afford to destroy them. UN agencies are fundamental in supporting countries to take action.’
Naoko Ishii, Global Environment Facility
Carolina Schmidt, president of the 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that deforestation is the most critical challenge faced by humanity: a bold, new stand is needed against destruction of the world’s forests. She called on the UN and the world to heed the Santiago Call for Action on Forests and work collaboratively to achieve zero net deforestation.
In response, seven heads of UN agencies joined together in the first-ever UN Heads of Organizations Leadership Dialogue, 12 December 2019 at the Climate Conference in Madrid, to strengthen their collaboration in supporting member states achieve zero deforestation.
Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC; Qu Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP); Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme (UNDP); Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) explained their agencies’ past actions and commitments to increasing the synergies between each other to provide maximum support to member states, especially developing nations, to stop deforestation.
‘The UN system has enormous capacities around the world,’ said Espinosa. ‘Combined, we have the knowledge, experience and capacities to facilitate actions with governments. This is the first leadership dialogue and it augers fantastically for going forward. Coordination, communication and looking for synergies between our different entities is key. This is such an enormous challenge that no one of us can do it alone. To support developing countries, in particular, we really need to work together. Importantly, when we talk about forests and land use we must bear in mind the social dimensions of the work we need to do in this area, especially the communities in the most vulnerable developing countries.’
Deforestation, degradation and restoration have been included in the Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement and other international conventions, said Zhenmin of UN DESA, but loss and degradation of vast areas of natural forests continues, particularly, in the tropical domain where 7 million hectares of forests are lost every year.
‘Zero deforestation can only be achieved through UN member states,’ he said. ‘We must all work together; all should act as one to move forward on a common framework to achieve zero net deforestation.’
He pointed out that the High-Level Forum on Forests has developed a strategic plan for forests, which was adopted in April 2017 by the General Assembly, to tackle the drivers of deforestation and degradation; to find a balance between economic growth and sustainability; and to improve the strength of the forestry sector. The plan has six goals and 26 targets in an integrated framework of action for zero net deforestation designed to unlock the potential of forests to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. If fully implemented, it will stop deforestation, increase reforestation and reduce poverty of forest-dependent people.
He committed his agency to continue support to member states to implement the plan and urged them to speed that implementation. DESA would strengthen collaboration in capacity building of member states and in mobilizing funding for forest management and deployment of technologies.
Dongyu of FAO confirmed that there was a great need to address food security and forests together holistically. Over 20 developed countries have decreased the number of malnourished people and also increased forest area. His key message was that it is possible to reconcile these issues through coordinating a land-use approach across sectors.
The synergy of agencies’ efforts can already be seen in FAO and UNEP leading the Decade of Restoration. Their aim is to massively expand the scale of restoration of degraded ecosystems, including forests. In this process, decisions must be based on evidence and the world must look beyond forests alone and build collective synergy, for example, to reduce the carbon footprints of agricultural commodities.
‘Traditional agriculture has been focused mainly on productivity but now we must look at sustainability, especially, in cash crops,’ he said.
A key to this effort is to ensure that subsidies are not driving deforestation and that enacted policies are in place for food security. Technologies and innovations are also keys to achieving rapid results and must be deployed widely, with a strong focus on environmental functions. He also emphasized that the world needs a strong and flexible set of forest monitoring tools that can readily upload and access data through technology such as mobile phones. To speed the transition to zero deforestation and stronger food security through sustainable agricultural value chains, partnerships are needed between UN agencies and businesses.
Ishii of the GEF stated that the science is clear: 73% of deforestation is driven by conversion to agriculture. How, she asked, are we to deal with the economic forces that are driving this?
‘We need to understand this better and implement all commitments, like the New York Declaration on Forests. We are failing in translating commitments into actions. Why are we failing? The lack of feet on the ground to translate into action is a lesson we have learned from the past. To address this, GEF has created a coalition of countries that have committed USD 430 million to create multistakeholder platforms that bring together ministries of forestry and of agriculture, local governments, businesses and financial institutions.’
The actions, she said, need to be based on land-use planning and adopt both landscape and value-chain approaches. To stop deforestation, protection of forests is needed with sustainability embedded right through to consumption.
‘The challenge is to get all the players together in their countries while also including the global value chains,’ she said. ‘We can do this better working together to be more inclusive of business, governments, financial institutions and communities. Would have a better success rate.’
The USD 9.8 billion in replenishment funds committed to the GEF would help speed progress.
Steiner of UNDP said that, ‘We are underperforming to meet our own objectives with the deforestation figures.’ He went on to agree that FAO has a key role to play but so do all the agencies. ‘We all have a role to play in keeping forests on national agendas.’
Steiner noted that REDD+ is a key mechanism that brought together UNDP, UNEP and FAO through UN-REDD. Norway has backed the boldest experiment in mitigation, adaptation, land use, restoration. ‘Don’t let Norway be the only supporter,’ he urged.
A focus on increasing the ambition of NDCs was needed, with particular emphasis on nature-based solutions. He noted that 100 countries were engaged with the NDC Partnership and called for ‘a far greater focus on forests to address climate/NDCs and biodiversity/CBD’.
‘On the ground, these differences between conventions don’t matter,’ he said. ‘As the UN community, it is a responsibility to bridge the conventions. Next year is the year of nature.’
Thiaw of UNCCD reminded the panel and the audience that ‘we need to feed 10 billion to come without depleting our ecosystems’ and that the UN can do better on science and policy. Land degradation neutrality was important; we need to use land but also conserve it.
Andersen of UNEP stated that 70% of forests were under threat, mostly from commodity production.
‘We are part of the problem,’ said. ‘We need to help that sector flip into sustainable production; we need to clean up our supply chains. Governments and UN leaders need to step up, especially FAO. We need to partner with the private sector. We need to help them towards positive agricultural outcomes.
She also noted that the price for carbon varies greatly (USD 26–35) but the forest carbon price was at USD 5.
‘This is why we need a good outcome for Article 6 [of the Paris Agreement],’ she said. ‘Let’s label products over time. Let’s clean up supply chains. In the context of the European Green New Deal, 2020 is the ‘super year’ for nature.
The Santiago Call for Action has seven core elements:
1) Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhance carbon sinks: countries must strengthen efforts in line with Article 5 of the Paris Agreement, expand the scale of actions and increase knowledge;
2) Increase the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) through Nature-Based Solutions based on forest activities (Including REDD+);
3) Advance NDC implementation through effective and measurable multistakeholder action; including voluntary calls such as the Bonn Challenge;
4) Increase NDC transparency: reinforcing trust in the Paris Agreement. It is important to share how countries will mitigate the impact of the climate emergency and to track progress;
5) Scale-up predictable financial support from all sources, including through REDD+;
6) Build on existing technical support for NDC implementation and reporting; expanding the scale of technical support for reporting, particularly, for developing countries;
7) Actively engage local communities and indigenous peoples, including women and youth: a holistic approach is essential to turn the tide on deforestation.
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