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  • ICRAF presents the role of evidence and improved soil management for land restoration in sub-Saharan Africa at European Development Days

ICRAF presents the role of evidence and improved soil management for land restoration in sub-Saharan Africa at European Development Days

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Degraded land in Marsabit, Kenya, shows that poor land management can lead to degradation. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF
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In Marsabit, Kenya, poor land management has led to degradation. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

Approximately 70% of Africa’s population depends on its agriculture-based economy for their livelihoods, underscoring the importance of soil to the sector.

Fertile soils across the continent are under threat, however, due in large part to climate change and poor land management which leads to the depletion of nutrients and soil organic matter and increased soil erosion.

During the recent European Development Days held on June 7-8, 2017, in Brussels, Belgium, the Joint Research Commission of the European Commission led a session on sustainable soil management in Africa. Panelists drew from different organizations including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and University of Leuven.

Their discussion focused on solutions to large-scale adoption, both at policy and practical levels, of key land restoration options including integrated soil fertility management alongside practices such as intercropping and agroforestry. Scientists from ICRAF presented compelling evidence on how soil restoration can contribute to improved food security and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Many soils in Africa are naturally fertile and productive,” said Arwyn Jones of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. “However, many exhibit significant constraints related to inappropriate management and climate fluctuation.”

Human activity and natural disasters such as floods accelerate soil degradation, negatively affect natural ecosystems which in turn can negatively impacts sectors of the economy such as agriculture, environmental services and tourism. As such, soil is a key component to solving Africa’s challenges to ensure food security and address climate change. Jones recognized the importance of incorporating existing indigenous knowledge on soil management effective soil management.

Leigh Winowiecki, soil scientist at ICRAF, speaks about the role of sustainable soil management for restoration of degraded land in East Africa and the Sahel. Photo by Susan Onyango/ICRAF

“Land degradation in the drylands of Sub-Saharan Africa continues to threaten food security and livelihoods,” said Leigh Winowiecki, an FTA researcher and soil scientist at ICRAF. “To that end, sustainable soil management is key to restoration of degraded land to transform lives and landscapes.”

Her presentation looked at the role of sustainable soil management for restoration of degraded land in East Africa and the Sahel, highlighting activities from the IFAD/EC-funded project ‘Restoration of degraded land for food security and poverty reduction in East Africa and the Sahel: taking successes in land restoration to scale’.

Read also: Soil inhabitants hold together the planet’s food system

When considering options for land restoration initiatives, it is important to understand what works where for whom. Variability in social, cultural, economic and biophysical environments greatly influence the results of such initiatives. ICRAF has developed tools that map soil organic carbon and soil erosion prevalence to provide relevant soil information aimed at land restoration interventions.

“We are working with development partners in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali and Niger to implement and monitor on-farm land restoration interventions such as farmer-managed natural regeneration, soil and water conservation, micro-dosing of fertilizers, tree planting and agroforestry, use of Zai pits [small water harvesting pits] on farms and pest control,” added Winowiecki.

Tor-Gunnar Vagen of ICRAF presents on assessments of soil health. Photo by Susan Onyango/ICRAF

“We need to understand the systems we work in to design effective interventions to restore land health and reverse land degradation,” said FTA scientist Tor-Gunnar Vagen, who leads ICRAF’s GeoScience Lab.

“There are different ways to understand how the soil properties and their spatial distribution determine sensitivity to land degradation using tools such as tools such as the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework and earth observation. Assessments need to be spatially explicit and at scales relevant to farmers and land managers.”

Vagen discussed the importance of the soil health assessments for evidence-based decision using examples from Ethiopia and Kenya. He noted that, to effectively assess soil health at scale, indicators of soil need to be consistent and supported by analytical frameworks for modeling and mapping with high levels of rigor. They should also integrate biophysical and socio-economic indicators in landscapes.  Diagnostics can be used to assess interactions between social and ecological systems, including their resilience and their role as socioeconomic drivers of changes in soil health.

Vagen further explained ICRAF’s use of the SHARED approach to provide the government of Turkana County in Kenya, with information on land degradation and land/ecosystem health to support their planning and decision-making process. The Resilience Diagnostic and Decision Support Tool provides data an information for a wide-range of sectors including nutrition, education, security, livestock, land health, energy, irrigation, health, tourism and water, sanitation and hygiene.

The SHARED approach is demand driven, tailored and interactive engagement process for collaborative learning and co-negotiation of decision to achieve mutually agreed upon development outcomes. Three other counties in Kenya, as well as counties Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania have expressed interest in using the same processes and tools.

Joining Winowieki and Vagen on the panel were  Jones of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, Liesl Wiese of FAO, and Karen van Campenhout and Seppe Deckers both of the University of Leuven in Belgium. All agreed that soil management is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring food security and rural development, and providing increased resilience to climate change in Africa.

By Susan Onyango, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World.

The session titled Sustainable soil management: the foundation for Africa’s future? was organized by the European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Agroforestry Centre and the University of Leuven at the European Development Days 2017.

This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

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  • CGIAR Portfolio 2017-2022: Transforming global agriculture and food systems

CGIAR Portfolio 2017-2022: Transforming global agriculture and food systems

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People work in a field in Kenya. Photo by Tim Cronin/CIFOR
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People work in a field in Kenya. Photo by Tim Cronin/CIFOR

CGIAR has officially launched its new research portfolio, comprising 11 research programs and three platforms, representing the second generation of its multidimensional work streams. The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is key among these programs.

FTA is a worldwide research for development partnership, led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in partnership with two other CGIAR centers, namely the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Bioversity International, as well as four international research institutions: CATIE, CIRAD, the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) and Tropenbos International.

The CGIAR Portfolio 2017-2022 aims to reduce rural poverty, advance food and nutrition security and improve natural resources and ecosystem services. It maintains momentum in selected areas while placing renewed emphasis on key issues.

FTA plays a specific role in the overall CGIAR portfolio as the only program working on all aspects of the value and benefits of trees and forests for agriculture, landscapes and livelihoods, to contribute to sustainable development, improve food security and nutrition, and address climate change.

FTA links with six other agri-food systems programs by providing tree-based and landscape-level solutions to ecological intensification of crop-based production systems. It contributes to CGIAR’s integrative programs for policies, institutions and markets, and more.

Its research explores the central role that forest, tree and agroforestry resources play in improving production systems, in securing people’s livelihoods and in promoting the equitable distribution of benefits. At the same time, forest, tree and agroforestry systems protect and enhance the resource base by clarifying the interactions between productivity and ecosystem services in tree-based systems, as outlined in a new FTA leaflet.

A person holds fruit from the shea tree in Burkina Faso. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

“FTA systems, as we call them, are crucial for the planet, critical for many countries – for economic, social, environmental reasons – and essential for the many households that depend on them for their livelihoods and food security,” FTA Director Vincent Gitz wrote in a blog titled Forests, trees and agroforestry research to advance sustainable development on his vision for Phase II of the program. “FTA at the beginning of Phase II is well equipped for joined-up work across scales, toward effective implementation and impact,” he added.

The overall strategic direction for the CGIAR portfolio (including FTA) is based on the CGIAR Strategy and Results Framework and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and has been developed and informed by the former Fund Council, CGIAR System Council, Science Council, Research Centers and other stakeholders.

CGIAR and FTA’s research will provide scientific leadership, and focus on key partnerships for achieving development impact at scale.

Focused on selected development challenges, the CGIAR portfolio is designed to contribute significantly to the achievement of key SDGs and of CGIAR’s overall goals, of 150 million fewer hungry people, 100 million fewer poor people – at least 50% of whom are women – and 190 million fewer hectares of degraded land by 2030.

This new phase of research builds on CGIAR’s long track record of impact. Across Africa, Asia and Latin America, CGIAR and its partners have improved food security, improved nutrition and increased community resilience to a changing environment in numerous ways.

The new phase of CGIAR research will draw on the expertise of CGIAR’s global network and a multitude of world class partners. The portfolio structure enables researchers to align research priorities and approaches into efficient, coherent, multidisciplinary programs allowing for collaborative research to tackle complex development issues.

World Agroforestry Centre researchers begin a journey to understand and explore a learning landscape in Vietnam. Photo by Alba Saray Perez/ICRAF

The new portfolio is structured around three clusters. The first cluster gathers seven programs around Agri-Food Systems: Fish; Forests, Trees and Agroforestry; Livestock; Maize; Rice; Roots, Tubers and Bananas; and Wheat. The second cluster consists of four cross-cutting programs: Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security; Policies, Institutions and Markets; and Water, Land and Ecosystems. The final cluster includes three research support platforms that underpin the entire research system, focused on Big Data in Agriculture; Excellence in Breeding and Genebank.

FTA has a special position within the portfolio because of its very integrated nature and because it works across the landscapes continuum, from natural forests to planted forests, tree-based systems, agro-ecological infrastructures, trees in crops systems, agroforestry and farming. In 2017, FTA’s work includes 118 projects in 41 countries in 2017.

Thanks to its funders, CGIAR research has and will continue to transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people through tangible research outcomes. CGIAR is committed to helping the world radically transform its collective approaches and strengthen operations to deliver on-the-ground solutions to the planet’s most vulnerable.

“In Phase II, FTA is ready to provide integrated approaches and solutions. I would call it a multiple integration,” said Gitz. FTA takes on an integrated approach to the various roles of forests and trees within ecosystems, including agroecosystems, at different scales and applied to different contexts, to deliver on solutions to enhance these roles, integrating technical level and practices, management, policies and governance.

Adapted from material originally published at Edited by Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator.

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  • Forestry and landscapes: Solutions for sustainable development

Forestry and landscapes: Solutions for sustainable development

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  • An environmental balancing act

An environmental balancing act

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How can we reconcile conservation and food security? Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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Awareness in the importance of the landscape approach is growing. Photo: Kate Evans/CIFOR

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

As we embark on a new year in 2017, what critical social and environmental issues are we facing?

For one, some 800 million people still go to bed hungry every night – mostly in developing countries. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. When it comes to global poverty, nearly 900 million people survive on less than $1.90 USD per day. What’s more, our natural habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate due mainly to agricultural expansion in what has been termed the ‘sixth mass extinction’.

But it’s not all a doomsday scenario. While significant challenges still persist, progress has also been made. For instance, the United Nations estimates that since 1990, more than one billion people have been lifted out of poverty. Additionally, the number of undernourished people has been halved.


So how do we ensure that those most in need attain food security while we protect our environment from the ravages of climate change?

Landscape approaches seek to provide tools and concepts on how to best manage land in order to achieve a balance between social, economic and environmental goals. They are also seen as the way to achieve the Aichi targets of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity that aim to develop national strategies in 193 countries for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

Experts from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), along with partner institutions, examined how landscape approaches can help overcome major challenges in a new study. What they found was a major gap in the way these approaches have been implemented.

“Landscape approaches should be long-term commitments implemented across broad scales (processes, not projects) and this contradicts the current models of policy, research, and donor funding,” said James Reed, a landscape and food system researcher at CIFOR.

Reed says that overlaps between landscape approach philosophies, the Aichi targets, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should, in theory, provide a convincing case for donors, policymakers, and researchers to commit to well-funded and well-designed long-term, large-scale landscape initiatives.
How can we reconcile conservation and food security? Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR


Since we are talking about vast landscapes that range from remote frozen tundras to arid deserts and tropical forests – how do we ensure that what we do works?

The study stressed the need for more research on better monitoring and data collection to ensure targets are being met, and to provide a strong evidence base to track the effectiveness of various landscape approaches. This includes a well thought out ‘Theory of Change’ which includes planning, participation and evaluation components.

“A fully considered landscape approach must be underpinned by the rigorous development of a ‘Theory of Change’ model supported by metrics to measure progress along impact pathways,” said Reed.

Researchers also found that if agencies are unable to provide the required investments to measure their effectiveness, they should recognize that what they are doing cannot be accurately described as a landscape approach.

One way to make sure a specific landscape approach is working is to integrate ‘citizen science‘. By engaging the community in scientific research, we can more effectively monitor how well these landscape approaches are working and identify any major challenges.

“In order to develop long-term commitment beyond the duration of project funding, initiatives need to be locally embedded, enhance local capacity, and encourage empowerment of previously marginalized groups. Done effectively, participatory monitoring offers a way to engage local stakeholders and enable them to evaluate progress towards goals that they themselves helped to establish,” said Reed.


However, it is vital that everyone involved in the landscape approach is fully onboard. Reed says one of the major challenges is making sure there is greater political will and that all stakeholders are fully engaged. He says that everyone involved needs to have a clear outline and know what the expectations are. He also stresses the need for all stakeholders to take a flexible approach that works on the ground.

“It is important not to try to promote prescriptive approaches and instead understand that the specific situation within the landscape will often best dictate which strategies are likely to be more effective,” said Reed.

The study shows that it is vital that any implementing agency also looks for ways to provide incentives while providing alternative livelihood strategies for vulnerable groups. Looking at how donor agencies and programs are developed, research indicates that there is a real need to break down sectorial barriers across policy, research and practice.

“Often, sector-specific aims will contradict and negatively impact the objectives of other sectors within the landscape. A more holistic approach will attempt to identify where synergies and trade-offs occur within the landscape and act upon those accordingly,” said Reed.


To find ways to improve human well-being while at the same time maintaining and restoring the natural resource base upon which future societies will depend on is not an easy task. But that shouldn’t hinder actors from taking the first step.

“We don’t really need a checklist for success, just working towards these goals will be sufficient to make a start. We need to acknowledge the complexity and have an understanding that there is no blueprint for landscape approaches,” said Reed.

“It will often be a case of muddling through, using trial and error approaches, learning from mistakes, adapting governance over time and, with that, we can move forward” he added.

For more information on this topic, please contact James Reed at or Terry Sunderland at
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • Harnessing multi-purpose productive landscapes for integrated climate and development goals

Harnessing multi-purpose productive landscapes for integrated climate and development goals

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By Peter Holmgren, originally published on CIFOR’s Forests News

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) welcomes the ratification and early entry into force of the Paris Agreement. This is a major step towards effective global climate action. We also welcome the recent progress on REDD+ results based payments at the Green Climate Fund.

The land sector will be key in achieving the well below 2 or 1.5 degree goal agreed in Paris and this is clearly reflected in the long term goal of net zero emissions, Article 5 and the Preamble of the Agreement. This role however is not limited to that of forests or agriculture in isolation, but across the landscape. It will be the actions that are taken on the ground by smallholder farmers, local communities, small to medium business and other non-state as well as State actors that will drive the outcomes concerning climate. Climate mitigation and adaptation will inevitably be a co benefit of the actions taken across the landscape.

We urge world leaders to emphasize integrated solutions that harness ecosystem services derived from intact, productive and adaptive landscapes, and to move away from the business-as-usual rhetoric of forest (or ecosystem) conversion for development. Integrating these objectives harmoniously in a complex world requires approaches that are based in science, are socially, culturally and environmentally responsible, and take the needs of all stakeholders into account through open, fair and equitable participation, and that are rooted in recognition of rights.

Uganda, 2008. ©Center For International Forestry Research/Douglas Sheil
©Center For International Forestry Research/Douglas Sheil

Our experience studying REDD+ over 6 years shows that there are no lasting climate solutions involving tropical forests if the livelihoods of the people in those forests are not sustained or improved – global environmental sustainability requires local economic sustainability. While action at the international level is important, international climate action meets the requirements of the world’s forest dependent communities when implemented on the ground.

Turning to the negotiations in Marrakesh, we are concerned that the international climate community was unable to come to an agreement on concrete next steps related to the agriculture agenda item. It is essential that moving forward, to implement the Paris Agreement and achieve the much needed transformational change, an approach that addresses agriculture as a major driver of deforestation, whilst putting in place measures at the international level to ensure food security and protect rights will be essential.

We welcome the road map that has been agreed in Marrakesh as an important step forward in terms of developing the rule-book to ensure the Paris Agreement is implemented. We hope to see the completion of this important work by 2018, in particular on topics concerning accounting for nationally determined contributions, adaptation communications, transparency and compliance. We hope this work will encourage parties to put in place the much-needed steps to increase their ambition. In this work, world leaders should place importance on the use of science and evidence as key to assessing and monitoring the performance of NDCs in policy and practice, across multiple sectors and levels of government.

We encourage countries to revise their NDCs to enhance ambition and address the operationalization of the agreed climate objectives, and doing so within multifunctional landscape objectives, clear strategy plans and actionable roadmaps, unambiguous designation of accountability, and effective participation of all sectors and levels of governments. This will require collaboration with non-state actors (from the corporate sectors to civil society) across those sectors, with enhanced transparency arrangements, while striving to avoid negative social and environmental impacts, especially on smallholder farmers and rural and indigenous communities.

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  • Reflections on COP22 and gender

Reflections on COP22 and gender

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Photo by Marco Simola for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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By Markus Ihalainen, originally published on CIFOR’s Forests News

Thanks to lobbying efforts by gender equality advocacy groups, the recent climate talks in Marrakesh yielded a significant decision that extended the mandate of the Lima Work Program on Gender (LWPG) over the next three years.

The two-year work program – first adopted at COP20 in Lima – contains a two-fold objective of: 1) Enhancing the gender-balance in the negotiations and 2) Providing guidance to Parties on gender-responsive climate policy.

Actions under the program included trainings for delegates on gender-responsive climate policy, capacity building for women delegates, and developing guidelines for implementing gender considerations in climate change activities.

While the extent to which the LWPG has achieved its objectives is debatable, it has opened up a space for more specific discussions and recommendations with respect to enhancing the gender-responsiveness of various policies and mechanisms under the UNFCCC. The decision to extend the mandate of the work program was thus received with much appreciation by gender equality advocates at COP22.

Here’s a look at some key dimensions of this decision in the context of the broader debates around gender and climate change.

Photo by Marco Simola for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Photo by Marco Simola for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).


One of the criticisms of the previous iteration of the LWPG is that despite its mandate, it “failed to articulate work on gender-responsive climate policy in relation to broader international obligations to human rights and gender equality”. This, in turn, allowed for a fair amount of confusion with respect to what ‘gender-responsive climate policy’ actually means.

It is thus positive that the preamble to the new decision maintains the ‘importance of coherence between gender-responsive climate policies … and the provisions of international instruments and outcomes’, including the Beijing Declaration, the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What this text actually means for policy design, implementation and monitoring remains unclear. It is, however, essential that the above provision guide the work under the new iteration of the LWPG, as it opens up a crucial space for conceptualizing the role of gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate policy and action in a much broader sense.

Instead of viewing empowerment or equality as a vehicle for achieving other policy objectives, this framing allows us to flip things around and look at how various policies can impact equality or empowerment across a much wider set of political, economic, social and cultural indicators.

As such, this ‘rights-based’ framing departs from popular ‘business case’ arguments, which assert that women’s empowerment will lead to better economic, environmental or social outcomes. A rights-based argument does not ignore women’s contributions to promoting development and conservation; however, it does not make the granting of rights contingent on how effectively women contribute to the latter.

A strong rights-based framework is especially important now that policies and programs are increasingly aligning themselves to the SDG framework. Anchoring ‘women’s empowerment’ in broader international conventions could help mitigate the unfortunate tendency to water down empowerment to tokenistic participation in meetings simply to allow policies and programs to ‘hit as many SDGs as possible’.

Instead of simply assuming win-wins between social, economic and environmental objectives, a rights-based approach also allows us to have a much clearer and more honest conversation about leveraging synergies – as well as reconciling potential tensions – between the different SDGs.

Photo by Tomas Munita for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Photo by Tomas Munita for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).


In addition to a continued mandate, the new decision also requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) to ‘develop a gender action plan in order to support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates under the UNFCCC process’.

While the development of a gender action plan under the UNFCCC was not a given, it follows the trajectory of the other Rio conventions, which already have such plans in place. The priority areas for the action plan still needs to be defined, but this decision invites Parties, observers and other stakeholders to provide inputs to the formulation of the action plan.

A collaboratively developed, comprehensive Gender Action Plan (GAP) could prove useful for coordinating the efforts of various bodies and stakeholders, channeling funding towards specific actions outlined under the GAP, and for developing salient indicators for evaluating the gender-responsiveness of various climate policies.

However, it is important to note that the content of the GAP is to be defined over the coming year. So given the urgency of beginning the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the immediate priority in terms of gender equality in climate policy is still to ensure that all Parties to the Agreement take substantial actions on the national level towards safeguarding women’s rights and enhancing the gender-responsiveness of the climate policies and actions as outlined in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

This is particularly important given the fact that out of 188 INDCs submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat prior to COP21, only 63 submissions included specific references to women or gender. A closer look shows that these references are often very general and superficial, mostly just outlining women as ‘vulnerable populations’.

It is also noteworthy that all of the 63 INDCs mentioning ‘women’ or ‘gender’ came from developing countries. Despite high-flying rhetoric, there seems to be a tendency among donor countries to view gender-responsive climate policy mostly as a priority for developing countries.

Concerns are being raised over whether donor commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment actually translate into concrete funding. A recent OECD DAC report estimated that investments in women’s economic empowerment remained unchanged in the period from 2007-2012, and represented only two percent of total bilateral aid. This is a significant concern, especially as many commitments in developing countries’ INDCs remain conditional on the availability of funding.

During a discussion forum on gender held at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum, panelist Lorena Aguilar, Senior Advisor of the Gender Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), stated that 21 countries have developed specific climate change and gender action plans (ccGAP). Yet, she warned, a lack of funds is hindering many governments from implementing these plans.

To enhance the implementation of gender-responsive climate policies, it is thus crucial that the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism – including the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility – are held accountable vis-à-vis the gender policies that both entities now have in place.

It is reassuring that the COP22 decision requests financial entities to provide information on the ‘integration of gender consideration in all aspects of their work’. However, it contains no references to the allocation for financial resources towards the implementation of gender-responsive climate action. Issues around financial responsibilities, targets and accountabilities thus remain largely unresolved.

At the same GLF forum, Eleanor Blomstrom, Co-Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), stressed the need to improve gender-responsive tracking and monitoring of finance for enhancing – and enforcing – the implementation of gender-responsive climate policies at the national level.

Ugwono Pauline plants Gnetum (okok) in the village of Minwoho, Lekié, Center Region, Cameroon.   Photo by Ollivier Girard for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR


While it is important to monitor what policies are in place and to track their implementation, it is arguably even more important to understand the impact of these policies on the lives of local women and men. Policy processes removed from local realities are less likely to yield transformative results on the ground.

CIFOR’s research shows that climate change vulnerability tends to be highly contextual and depends on various socioeconomic, cultural and environmental variables. Despite this, gender is still primarily tackled as a men-versus-women dichotomy in climate change studies, according to a recent CIFOR paper.

One of the key hopes of CIFOR gender experts at COP22 was thus to contribute to a more nuanced picture of gender and climate change. Understanding that the vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities of women and men are structured by various societal power relations – and not just by virtue of their sex – can help enhance the responsiveness of climate policies. In order to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, it is vital that such ‘intersectional’ thinking is translated into implementation processes and impact assessment tools and instruments.

This requires that the voices of local people be accounted for in policy processes, particularly when it comes to adaptation, says Houria Djoudi, a scientist at CIFOR who was a panelist at the GLF event. Women in impacted communities are not sitting around waiting for international agreements to come in place – they use various strategies to adapt to climate change every day. However, rural women often lack a voice in national policy processes. As a result, many locally grounded, potentially up-scalable adaptation and mitigation initiatives risk going unnoticed, or replaced by top-down, inflexible programmatic responses with little local ownership.

It is therefore good to see the new decision taken in Morocco encourage Parties to recognize the value of grassroots women’s participation in gender-responsive climate action at all levels.

However, much remains to be done to move beyond lip-service towards meaningfully integrating local-level action in national climate policy and action, and to ensure that adequate capacities and resources are in place at the national and sub-national levels to support and scale up successful initiatives.

For more information on this topic, please contact Markus Ihalainen at
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • “Agroforestry as micro-nexus for the SDGs”: the right moment to make a strong case for agroforestry science

“Agroforestry as micro-nexus for the SDGs”: the right moment to make a strong case for agroforestry science

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Rubber agroforestry in Nigeria: a farmer checks his beehive. Photo: Julius Atia (World Agroforestry Centre)
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Agroforestry near Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre
Agroforestry landscape near Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

By Kerstin Reisdorf

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) has a lot to offer to help developing countries reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and should make agroforestry exemplary for a nexus of different land use-issues. This was one of the main messages of ICRAF’s Science Week 2016. But there are challenges, participants agreed, such as fostering cross-sectoral approaches with the right science. Director General Tony Simons expressed satisfaction that agroforestry was gaining more recognition, e.g. the French agriculture ministry just released an agroforestry development plan. The 120 scientists also debated the “refreshing” of ICRAF’s strategy in the light of the SDGs and the climate agenda, before it will be handed over to the Board in November. Plenaries also dealt with hypotheses to guide ICRAF’s science, and land restoration, among others. As is customary, field trips were organized to show the work of ICRAF partners.

Silos no more

slide2“Integration is at the core of what needs to happen to make the SDGs work,” said Peter Minang, Leader, Environmental Services research unit Domain at ICRAF. Division of land uses into different sectors, as it is today, has to be overcome to drive the nexus of food, water, energy plus the factor income. He deplored that in governance “there is no bonus for agriculture and forestry working together” when cross-sectoral action was key to really make progress on the way to reaching the SDGs and to address trade-offs and create synergies at the landscape level.

Scientists need to ask questions on how agroforestry compares to other land uses and how it supports the process towards integrated action by also meeting other objectives within the landscape, Minang added. Trade-offs and conflicts between land users have to be managed so that synergies can be created. These processes need negotiation support and this is “where our work really comes in handy, as it provides the evidence that is needed.”

“We have to do a bit more work on finance,” Minang said. There are two aspects of finance to enable the nexus approach, blended finance from multiple sources, and performance-based finance. He gave the example of the pilot project DRYAD on community in Cameroon. “You put in public money as a start-up process that generates a sustainable land-use-based enterprise.” This money is tied to the recipients’ meeting their deliverables.

Insights from agroforestry

Alexander Müller. Photo: TEEB
Alexander Müller. Photo: TEEB

His theme of integration was echoed by guest speaker Alexander Müller, Study Lead TEEBAgriFood, hosted at UNEP. “The silo orientation of the past is not going to solve the problems of the future.” An integrated approach would help to look at the competition for natural resources everywhere. He argued for a participatory approach, bringing together scientists and the people in the landscape to identify the issues.

But the interdependency of the elements food, water, energy plus income was also relevant at the global level, e.g. biofuels have an impact on the landscape but are also closely related to global trade, he added.

Müller, who is also a Member of the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE), sees agroforestry as “kind of a micro nexus” for the SDGs, because in agroforestry one has to deal with food, energy, water and income.

With its capacity to analyze problems and present evidence for solutions, “ICRAF has a lot to offer,” he said. “Why not use the insights gained from agroforestry to present the management of natural resources at the landscape level in an integrated way and make it part of the successful implementation of the SDGs.”

Overcoming barriers

slide2Deputy Director General Research, Ravi Prabhu urged his colleagues to come up with “liberating hypotheses”. “We are not going to get a nexus approach unless we tackle the barriers,” he warned. The barriers could be structural, i.e. lie in the ways that societies are organized.

To break down the barriers on the way to a nexus approach it needs a revolution—from the researchers in a context of agriculture in and for development, Prabhu said. ICRAF has to define hypotheses to address the nexus of food, water, energy plus income if it wants to be part of the solution.

Integration starts with data sharing

Valentina Robiglio, a Landscape Ecology and Climate Change Specialist in Latin America, called on her colleagues to promote intergovernmental cooperation by encouraging all units within a government to work off the same data. “That would be a start towards more integration,” she said.

Rubber agroforestry in Nigeria: a farmer checks his beehive. Photo: Julius Atia (World Agroforestry Centre)
Rubber agroforestry in Nigeria: a farmer checks his beehive. Photo: Julius Atia (World Agroforestry Centre)

Overall, the “nexus” discussion on the last day of the annual meeting was somewhat exemplary for the current discourse at ICRAF. Many other important debates took place in the sub-plenaries, and a recurring theme was—in simple terms—how does ICRAF produce relevant science?

View from outside

The donor perspective was brought into the discussion by Steve Twomlow from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): He urged scientists first of all to communicate their work to the users in much simpler terms.

View from the ground

Post-doctoral fellow Mary Njenga brought in the perspective from the ground by reminding the audience that rural women in Africa are in need of safe energy sources while facing a myriad of constraints; starting with the time they spend on collecting firewood, a recurring shortage of woodfuel and the health hazard from indoor cooking fumes, to name only a few.

She suggested to include bioenergy production in the CGIAR FTA, under Climate change mitigation and adaptation. “The big question is: How can we sustainably produce bioenergy in developing countries?” Njenga said. The aim would be to realize an integrated food and bioenergy production policy and practice. Her message was underpinned by a film on women in Kenya’s West Aberdares, produced by Stockholm Environment Institute.

All presentations can be found at

For more stories from ICRAF’s Science Week watch this space.



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Panel discussion: Agroforestry helping to achieve the SDGs

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As part of ICRAF’s Science Week 2015, held in Bogor, Indonesia, a panel discussion explored the Sustainable Development Goals as the new language in which the agroforestry experience and story has to be retold.

Panel members are drawn from ICRAF’s development, policy and research partners in Indonesia and use the interactions in the Indonesian context to appreciate how such issues, themes, and actions may play out in any country or regional context, given their specificities.

Questions addressed include:

i) How do you see agroforestry as part of the sustainable development debate? Does the articulation of the interlinks between specific SDGs and agroforestry resonate with you, your organization and with the challenges and potential in Indonesia?

ii) From your perspective, what should ICRAF and the community of interests and practice in agroforestry focus on? What are some of the biggest ideas, issues and critical uncertainties that we should be working on?

iii) What advice would you have for the community of interest and practice on how to be more strategic and effective in getting these messages across?

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  • FTA event coverage: Agro + forestry = SDGs

FTA event coverage: Agro + forestry = SDGs

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Farming Gliricidia and Maize. Photo: Nicolas Vereecken
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Originally published at Agroforestry World Blog in 2 parts (here part 2)

Farming Gliricidia and Maize. Photo: Nicolas Vereecken
Farming Gliricidia and Maize. Photo: Nicolas Vereecken

The new global agenda has one goal: a sustainable Earth. The contribution of agroforestry in achieving this was discussed in detail at Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW), FTA Flagship 3 coordinator Meine van Noordwijk led the charge. This blog by Rob Finlayson gives an account of his presentation and how well his arguments resonated with experts at the conference. The blog was shortened and edited for the FTA website.

All the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are interconnected; we can’t achieve one without the others,’ says Meine van Noordwijk, chief science advisor with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and coordinator of the landscapes Flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

He divides the SDGs into six groups and argues that agroforestry relates to all of them:

  • Agroforestry clearly contributes to the SDGs around poverty reduction (SDG 1) and economic growth (SDG 8) through provision of income from tree products;
  • For the SDGs on zero hunger (2), good health and well-being (3) and responsible consumption and production (12) agroforestry is very relevant through the provision of nutritious food and all the other benefits that trees can bring to a household;
  • Clean water and sanitation (6) and life below water (14) link to healthy, agroforested watersheds and coastal agroforests, including mangroves;
  • Affordable and clean energy (7), industry, innovation and infrastructure (9) and sustainable cities and communities (11) need trees as sources of bioenergy, including by-products from fruit and shade trees. Green cities can be cooled down by trees.
  • Of course trees feature critically for SDGs 13, keeping climate change in check and 15, conserving biodiversity;
  • The other SDGs (dealing with issues such as conflict, equity, transparency and gender), relate to the so-called ‘soft’ side of agroforestry, which is about people and their interactions with each other and the environment.
A farmer harvests plantain from a rubber-based agroforest. Photo: ICRAF
A farmer harvests plantain from a rubber-based agroforest. Photo: ICRAF

To achieve the SDGs, ‘we need to combine knowledge systems’, explains van Noordwijk: Knowledge can not only come from science, but also has to stem from local and indigenous sources, from the public sector and policy makers, and many others.

‘We need to understand how knowledge is created in each of these arenas and how to use these experiences to change the trajectory our world has been on,’ says van Noordwijk.

Many different types of agroforestry can already be seen around the world: the mechanised row-cropping favoured in the European Union, swidden systems in tropical forests, rice fields surrounded by planted fruit and timber trees.

‘There is no single way to define agroforestry other than: it is the interface between farmers and forests,’ he adds.

How agroforestry can help the SDGs

  • To meet the SDGs, land productivity in both agriculture and forestry will have to increase. Agroforestry is one of the most efficient ways of using land. As a land-use system in-between forest and open-field agriculture, it can—with appropriate combinations of trees, crops and livestock—provide a range of goods, benefits and services simultaneously, such as nutritious food, renewable energy and clean water while conserving biodiversity. Efficient, multifunctional land use, such as agroforestry, supports ‘sustainable intensification’.
  • Segregating forest land from agrarian communities leads to conflicts that reduce land productivity and increase inequity. Agroforestry needs to become an institutional response to contested resources, allowing enhancement of gender and social equity. There is no valid method of drawing a line between agriculture and forestry. The only validity is ‘agro + forestry’.
  • Development challenges are in part the result of the sectoral approach that dominates government systems, with the various SDGs attributable to separate conventions and ministries. Agroforestry as an integrated mindset can help create synergy between the SDGs in multifunctional landscapes, breaking out of the artificially-constructed institutional silos.

Expert from various countries of the region responded positively to Meine van Noordwijk’s arguments.

Imelda-Bacudo-190x300Imelda Bacudo of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-German Programme on Response to Climate Change in Agriculture and Forestry said it was hard to see the desired convergence of forestry and agriculture, yet this was something that was much needed.

‘We have to move forward on how to merge them’, she urged. ‘What’s preventing us from doing this is that we are challenged by administrative borders. Throughout the region, ministries of agriculture and of forestry are divided or if they are in one ministry they are divided within. We need to address this problem. It’s the biggest challenge we face.’

Nguyen-Tuong-Van-202x300Nguyen Tuong Van of VNFOREST, Viet Nam, agreed: ‘There are many links between agroforestry and the Sustainable Development Goals and Viet Nam already has a lot of agroforestry models.

But agroforestry still falls between forestry and agriculture. Even though in Viet Nam we have one ministry, the sectors are two different departments and neither takes care of agroforestry. We need to combine these.

But negotiating between departments even in one ministry is a big problem. ICRAF can support countries to do this. Agroforestry should be under one institution. This is important for attracting investment and driving action.’

Wiratno-291x300The same case applies in Indonesia, said Wiratno, Director of Social Forestry Land Preparation of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry and chairperson of the ASEAN Social Forestry Network secretariat.

‘Sectoral egoism is very big. This is our common challenge. We have an agroforestry program in which we have to support 50,000 ha every year and also deliver state forests to local communities,’ he said, referring to the government program of allocating 5.5 million hectares of forest to local people within the next four years towards a total of 12.7 million hectares by 2020.

Rex-Cruz-(left) and-Hendri-Binahon
Rex Cruz (left) and Hendri Binahon

According to Hendri Binahon, a Philippine farmer and successful practitioner of agroforestry, the greatest challenge is ‘changing the mindset of farmers, extensionists, government officials, policy makers and then we can have agroforestry in most of the landscapes in tropical countries’.

Rex Cruz of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, thinks that van Noordwijk’s arguments cannot be contested in the face of a growing population and increasing development: ‘It is inevitable we will change the natural face of our landscape. The only question is how far do we want to change it and how can we use agroforestry as a strategy to generate the types of goods and services we demand from the land.’

Dian-Sukmaja-300x169Dian Sukmajaya of the ASEAN Economic Community Department of the ASEAN Secretariat called on policy makers to change their mindset – and policies in order to overcome landscape segregation. ‘Agroforestry has been practiced for thousands of years, contributes directly to SDG 17 and others, and offers efficient use of land.’

Photos of experts at APFW by Rob Finlayson



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FTA Director: “Science shows you what can be done”

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Robert Nasi, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, explains the role of research related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): showing the way through the trade-offs in complex situations.

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  • Behind CIFOR's Strategy 2016-2025: Forestry for sustainable development

Behind CIFOR’s Strategy 2016-2025: Forestry for sustainable development

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In February 2016, CIFOR released its new strategy, aligning its work with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This video looks at the links between the SDGs and forestry, and with CIFOR’s work over the next decade.

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