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Forests and agroforestry taking its place for climate adaptation

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FTA communications

New FAO-FTA supplementary guidelines on NAPs

The potential of forests and trees to mitigate global warming has long been the main focus of climate change discussions. But forests – and the livelihoods of the 1.6 billion people who depend on them – are also greatly threatened by increasing variability in temperature and precipitation, storms, pest outbreaks and more frequent and intense fires. In fact, the ability of forests and trees to adapt to these impacts will influence their ability to mitigate climate change.

Moreover, forests and trees provide so called nature-based solutions for adaptation helping other sectors build resilience. Thanks to their crucial ecosystem services, forests support crops, livestock, and fisheries, as well as prevent flooding and erosion that can threaten infrastructure, economies and people.

Addressing Forestry and Agroforestry in National Adaptation Plans: Supplementary guidelines [pdf here]
To help countries integrate these considerations into adaptation planning, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) joined forces and developed the Addressing forestry and agroforestry in National Adaptation Plans: Supplementary guidelines. This brand new publication complements the NAP Technical Guidelines prepared in 2012 by the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A few years later, in 2017, FAO issued the publication Addressing agriculture, forestry and fisheries in National Adaptation Plans – Supplementary guidelines, which introduces the sector perspective and opportunities on NAPs. FAO also launched the Addressing fisheries and aquaculture in National Adaptation Plans – supplementary guidelines shortly after the Forestry guidlines in 2020. All guidelines build upon the lessons learned in countries and through the Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag) programme, co-led by FAO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), funded by the German Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety through IKI, which aims to address climate change adaptation concerns related to the agriculture sectors in 11 partner countries’ national planning and budgeting processes implemented 2015-2020.

The new forestry guidelines highlight the importance of forestry and agroforestry for adaptation.

As climate change impacts forests, adaptation measures are needed to reduce negative impacts and maintain ecosystem functions and its biodiversity. Also forest ecosystems contribute to adaptation by providing local ecosystem services that reduce the vulnerability of local and indigenous communities and the broader society to climate change. The potential of forests and trees is overlooked in both rural and urban areas. Forest adaptation will be crucial as part of COVID-19 green recovery, and a more resilient and sustainable future, says Julia Wolf, co-author and Natural Resources Officer, FAO.

Potential contributions of forests, trees and agroforestry to the adaptation of other sectors/systems

In the global agenda

Recognizing the multiple links of forests, trees and agroforestry with other activities and sectors, and the contributions they make to multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the guidelines takes a systemic approach based on the Integrative Framework for NAPs and SDGs defined by the LEG, allowing for a more explicit consideration of how to address the SDGs through NAPs.

The UNFCCC established the NAP process for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and for other developing countries to identify and address their medium- and long-term adaptation needs. It is the main instrument for countries to deliver on their adaptation priorities and nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, as well as aligned climate resilience and disaster risk management measures under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. By taking into account interactions between all sectors in a coordinated way, the NAP process can foster a more holistic approach to land use and landscapes.

Sample process to formulate and implement NAP

These guidelines came out in response to a call from the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO) in 2018 encouraging countries to incorporate forests into their NAPs, develop policies for adaptation through forests, take action to improve forest health and to restore degraded forests and landscapes. They mobiliz the existing body of knowledge related to forest management, vulnerability assessments and climate change adaptation, building on lessons learned in addressing climate change adaptation related to the agriculture sectors. They aim to provide guidance for policy-  and decision-makers on adaptation planning and climate financing as well as multiple actors in the forestry and agriculture sectors, in their engagement and contribution to the NAP process at national and local levels.

Possible process flow for addressing the agriculture sectors in the formulation and implementation of NAPs

To address the needs of countries more effectively, the guidelines draw on an analysis of already published NAPs, along with related documents prepared by developed countries or subnational authorities. They also draw on consultations with technical experts and key stakeholders from civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and international organizations, and from the NAP-Ag guidelines and the recommendations of the UNFCCC Least Developed Country Expert Group.

Forests at the heart of climate action

The guidelines invite countries to review the vulnerabilities of forests and forest dependent people. They can rely for this on another joint FAO-FTA publication, Climate change vulnerability assessment of forests and forest-dependent people: A framework methodology, released at CoP 25 in Madrid in  2019 in response to urgent calls for simple, effective approaches to conducting vulnerability assessments. It provides flexible, step-by-step guidance on how to undertake these assessments, with the aim of ramping up efforts to improve conditions for forests and people.

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, the international community has pledged to ambitious collective objectives. Land use is key to all of these ambitions, especially to the commitments made by countries as set out in their NDCs. Due to their important role in mitigation, for adaptation, for sustainable management of natural resources and for food security, forests and trees are at the heart of such an integrated approach.

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.

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  • UN Women’s evaluation of gender in the SDGs: What'’s the role for the CGIAR?

UN Women’s evaluation of gender in the SDGs: What’’s the role for the CGIAR?

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  • The UN Women’s 2018 report on gender equality within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underscores the importance of monitoring the SDGs in order to: translate global commitment to results, foster public debate and democratic decision-making, and strengthen accountability for actions or omissions.
  • The report serves to demonstrate the inadequacies of the current Global Indicator Framework for gender responsive monitoring of the SDGs. It highlights that women and girls face multiple forms of disadvantage and calls for recognizing, redistributing and reducing the paid and unpaid burdens women face, so as to overcome structural barriers to gender equality.
  • The CGIAR gender research community is uniquely positioned to contribute by tracking progress against the goals, identifying achievements and gaps, and highlighting implementation challenges. However, the report does not significantly showcase CGIAR gender research and research publications.
  • Looking forwards, the CGIAR can play a bigger role in the 2030 Agenda by leveraging its globally comparative, high-impact and innovative research to contribute to global and national efforts to monitor the SDGs. This will necessitate seizing opportunities to inform future reports as well as consolidating and harmonizing our research and findings to have a bigger voice and effect.

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  • Gender lessons for climate initiatives: A comparative study of REDD+ impacts on subjective wellbeing

Gender lessons for climate initiatives: A comparative study of REDD+ impacts on subjective wellbeing

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Although REDD+ is primarily a mechanism for reducing carbon emissions from forests, concerns regarding social benefits, wellbeing and gender are increasingly part of its mandate. This is consistent with the Paris Declaration as well as SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Critics have argued, however, that REDD+ design, both in policy and projects, does not take gender into account effectively, rather marginalizing women from decision making processes and exacerbating inequalities. Most of that research has been site specific or on single countries. This article uses data from a longitudinal study of subnational REDD+ initiatives in six countries to analyze their gendered impact on perceived wellbeing. Comparative research on subjective wellbeing was conducted at 62 villages participating in 16 REDD+ initiatives and 61 control villages at two periods in time, using a before-after-control-intervention (BACI) design. Focus groups with villagers (68% male) and women (100% female) permit a gendered comparison of definitions of wellbeing and outcomes of initiatives. The results highlight that while definitions of wellbeing overlapped between the two groups, almost half of the women’s focus groups thought that having their own source of income was important. Outcomes regarding wellbeing change suggest that perceived wellbeing decreased in REDD+ villages both for villagers as a whole and for women, relative to control villages, but the decrease was much worse for women – a decrease that is significantly associated with living in a REDD+ village. These declines may be due to unrealized expectations for REDD+, combined with little attention to gender in REDD+ initiatives, in spite of an important portion (46%) of specific interventions that women view positively. These interventions provide insights into potential ways forward. Overall, however, REDD+ initiatives appear to be repeating past mistakes, with insufficient attention to gender equality and safeguarding women’s rights. More effort needs to be paid to ensuring that gender is an integral part of future initiatives to combat climate change in rural communities.

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  • Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’ 

Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’ 

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Mau Forest and tea plantations are pictured in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR
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A paddy field and palm oil plantation area is seen from above in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

Halting and reversing deforestation are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Paris agreement on climate change.

Within SDG 15 on life on land, Target 15.2 calls for halting deforestation by 2020, while the UN Strategic Plan for Forests (UNSPF) adopted in 2017 by the UN General Assembly calls for reversing the loss of forest cover and increasing forest area by 3 percent worldwide by 2030.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests organized a conference titled “Working across sectors to halt deforestation and increase forest area” on Feb. 20-22 to discuss with various actors and stakeholders the possible ways of meeting these targets.

The conference aimed to provide substantive input to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), the United Nations’ central platform for follow-up and review of the SDGs, that will this year have a particular focus on SDG 15. The objective was thus to identify ways to help halt deforestation and increase forest cover and to engage actors in this objective. The chairs’ summary of the conference has now been released.

At the conference in Rome, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) led the organization of a session on stakeholders, and coorganized with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) a session on science and research. Scientists from FTA also participated in various other sessions, on areas such as landscape management, agroforestry, restoration, sustainable agriculture, governance and finance.

“The role of different stakeholders” session was jointly hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), IUFRO and FTA. It was grounded in the fact that most drivers of deforestation lie outside the forest sector, are rooted in wider social and economic issues, and are related to the interaction of numerous factors at local and global levels. Deforestation and forest degradation, in turn, affect a wide range of actors, threatening incomes, livelihoods and ways of life for forest-dependent populations and compromising the provision of ecosystem services.

Timber production is seen in Tanzania. Photo by N. Mtimgwa/CIFOR

The session gathered an impressive set of panelists, with a considerable range of experience, while I had the pleasure of moderating the discussion. The Honorable Lamin B. Dibba, The Gambia’s Minister of Forestry, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, delivered a keynote on policies implemented in The Gambia. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Regional Vice President of Conservation International, Conservation Biodiversity’s Regional Director for Mexico and Central America and former environment minister for Costa Rica, retraced the implementation of policies to protect forests in his country.

Cécile Ndjebet built on her broad experience in civil society organizations, including as founder of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF), to recommend facilitating the engagement of all actors. Petra Meekers, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development at Musim Mas Group, explained how the private sector is increasingly concerned and engaged.

In addition, Salina Abraham, President of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) and youth coordinator for the Global Landscapes Forum emphasized, the importance of youth as a vector of innovation and change. Marco Albani, Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, and member of the Executive Committee of the World Economic Forum, highlighted the synergies between government and private sector action.

Participants emphasized the importance of having all actors involved, recognizing the crucial role of governments to ensure the coordination of policies and to create an enabling environment and mechanisms for actors to fully play their roles and engage with one another. Deforestation is a global phenomenon which requires global, regional and national efforts to address it. It calls for the coordination of efforts of all stakeholders along two dimensions: vertical along value chains; and horizontal, across scales, particularly at landscape level.

The example of Costa Rica shows the potential of effective coordination between policies, grounded on clear shared recognition of the value of natural capital. National policies and the rule of law are the basis, which require transparency and good governance.

Voluntary standards and corporate responsibility are insufficient by themselves but they can also play a role in facilitating the adoption of rules. The private sector, to answer demand, and civil society as triggering it, have thus a fundamental role at both global and national levels. Sustainable production and production (SDG 12) can strengthen this movement.

Mau Forest and tea plantations are pictured in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR

Value chains have many actors, all along the chain. It is essential to have all these actors, men and women, at the center of actions and activities. Their roles and contributions need to be properly recognized and rewarded. They need to be supported, through capacity building and financial support, so that they can engage with one another and with the private sector. There is considerable untapped potential in women, youth, and more broadly in civil society.

The private sector is increasingly willing to act, taking seriously its responsibilities. It is not always easy. It is important to have an entry point to engage with local communities, like sustainable land use, and to have the engagement of local government. There is a need for different business models. We must give back more to communities, taking into account social issues, gender dimensions, and food security and nutrition. Academia can help a lot.

The example of The Gambia shows how community management, with a return of income from forests to forests and communities, can be a powerful mechanism for sustainable forest management and rural development.

Ensuring coordination between sectors requires appropriate mechanisms, some of which have already shown their merits. For instance, the Forest Forum in Finland has for 21 years been engaging decisionmakers not only from the forestry sector but also from connected sectors, raising awareness and learning from each other. This mechanism is now being adopted in other countries.

In various countries there are already mechanisms to organize the participation and coordination of actors, at local, subnational and national levels. They are often linked to a clear jurisdictional level, which facilitates implementation. There are opportunities to improve their efficiency, to bring in new actors, and to give them more meaningful representation. In that regard the participation of civil society, women and youth can bring new perspectives and trigger action on the ground.

The private sector is willing to be part of these collective dynamics and can make a key contribution to the implementation of the SDGs.

From these exchanges the following key points can be deduced:

  • We need coordination of efforts between all stakeholders along value chains, and across scales, particularly at landscape level.
  • Governments play a crucial role in ensuring coordination of policies and in creating the enabling environment and the mechanisms for actors to fully engage.
  • The private sector, to answer demand, and civil society as triggering demand, have fundamental roles in shaping enabling environments at both global and national levels.
  • The different roles and contributions of all value chain actors, both men and women, need to be properly understood, recognized and rewarded. There is a considerable untapped potential in women, youth and broader civil society.
  • The private sector is increasingly willing to act, and is taking its responsibilities seriously.
  • Community management, with the return of revenues from forests to communities, can be a powerful mechanism to foster sustainable forestry management and rural development.
  • Coordination between sectors requires appropriate mechanisms. Some countries already have mechanisms to organize the participation and coordination of actors at local, subnational and national levels.
  • Private sector actors and large corporations, especially large-scale crop plantations, can act as role models in enforcing zero-deforestation commitments throughout their operations, and in taking care of environmental and social concerns.
  • To improve interactions between stakeholders, quality governance is key to genuinely confront multiple objectives and demands, agree on priority actions and align solutions informed by scientific evidence, shaping integrated zero-deforestation policies and enabling environments.

Deforestation is a problem for everyone, and fighting against deforestation is everyone’s fight. Zero-deforestation should be an essential element of SDG12 on responsible consumption and production, including outside the forest sector in food, feed and bioenergy.

By Vincent Gitz, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) Director. 

For more details about the Halting Deforestation conference, view the conference program or watch recordings of the plenary sessions.

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

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  • Unlocking private finance for climate and sustainable development

Unlocking private finance for climate and sustainable development

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Rice fields and forest plantations are integrated in the landscape in Libo County, Guizhou Province, China. Photo by Louis Putzel/CIFOR
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Wind turbines generate renewable energy in Adama, Ethiopia. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

As the challenges of climate change come into clearer focus, international initiatives such as the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals lay out ambitious targets to shift humanity’s course to a less-destructive trajectory.

But change requires financial investment as well as political will, and there’s a significant funding gap between what’s been committed and what’s actually required to achieve these aims. Private finance presents a powerful – and oft-cited – possibility to close the gap, with trillions of dollars of investment apparently available to be deployed for the purpose.

So why isn’t the money coming in yet? Given the nature of the private sector under capitalism, if these investment opportunities were available and viable, “you wouldn’t actually need to unlock them – the finances would already be flowing,” says Robyn Clark, a consultant for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and lead author of a new policy brief and paper on the topic.

“That made me start asking the question: what’s hindering the sector from being unlocked in these types of investments, if we’re saying there’s trillions of dollars just sitting there and waiting?”

Read also: Green Climate Fund steps up to reduce deforestation and forest degradation


Embarking on the research, Clark quickly discovered one of the key barriers holding these investment flows back: availability of information. Even with her finance background, she and her co-authors “really struggled” to find an empirical evidence base or concrete information regarding projects, would-be investors and existing financial flows.

“So I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for projects or their investors to find the information,” she says. “The projects are saying ‘we can’t find money’, and then the investors are saying ‘we can’t find projects’.” The lack of information and transparency makes it difficult for investors and financial institutions to comprehensively adjudicate and mitigate risk.

This also makes the bigger picture – what financial mechanisms are out there, and what’s happening to achieve global goals – decidedly difficult to envisage and assess. “Everyone’s working on their own specific niche,” says Clark, and not enough reporting and information-sharing is happening to keep track of the cumulative effort. “You can’t actually pinpoint what resources are going where, especially given that most projects have multiple objectives, which can lead to overstated investment figures.”

While there’s plenty of momentum around the topic at the moment, Clark is concerned that decisions are being made on the basis of limited and incomplete data, which makes for a vulnerable financial system. “So there’s a ton of research still to be done.”

A key recommendation of the policy brief, then, is the establishment of a centralized convening body to connect people and resources. “I think that would be a great starting point,” says Clark, “and it would also help push the bigger policy changes and recommendations.”

Rice fields and forest plantations are integrated in the landscape in Libo County, Guizhou Province, China. Photo by Louis Putzel/CIFOR


One major policy shift that would help make low-carbon and environmentally friendly investments more attractive than others, entails valuing natural capital – the world’s stocks of natural assets, including geology, soil, air, water and all living things – more accurately.

When companies are not obliged to cover their negative externalities, such as the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of their production processes, “it creates a false economy,” says Clark. If policies took natural capital into account, many high-carbon activities would no longer be cost-effective, and investment would flow to lower-carbon activities instead, she says.

Policy and institutional shifts are also required to encourage long-term investment decision-making. Cost is frequently cited as a barrier to transitioning to a low-carbon economy. However, when a longer-term view is taken, a low-carbon model often works out just as cost-effective as continuing the status quo – if not actually cheaper, as one Citibank study found.

“So not only are you achieving those goals, and staying below the threshold that we need for climate change, but it’s actually more financially feasible as well,” says Clark. “It’s not that it’s not possible, it’s just that we’re still in the mindset of thinking about short-term profit.”

Relying on voluntary commitments to the global goals, she says, is not enough. “It requires a shift in policy to create a political and economic environment that really redirects the bulk of private finance. You can’t just rely on things like green finance or corporate social responsibility, which are maybe 1 percent of the whole market.”

Read also: What’s causing the holdup in REDD+ results-based finance?


What this report calls for, then, is nothing short of a paradigm shift.

“We can’t operate under existing business models, continuing business-as-usual, and expect transformational change to happen,” says Clark.

To unlock private investment, she reiterates, “we just need to create the enabling conditions that would make that a viable choice over the environmentally degrading activities which are currently incentivized.”

And it’s possible, she says: “just not within the current system. We need to make major changes, in order to see major changes. We can’t do the same thing and expect different results.”

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Robyn Clark at

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

This research was supported by USAID and UKAID from the UK government through their Knowledge for Forestry Program.

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