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  • Innovating Finance Towards Sustainable Landscapes - A Report of the Session at GLF Luxembourg

Innovating Finance Towards Sustainable Landscapes – A Report of the Session at GLF Luxembourg

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Innovative Finance for Sustainable Landscapes at GLF Luxembourg
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Last Saturday, 30 November 2019, in the prestigious European Convention Center in Luxembourg, an outstanding and diverse panel discussed innovative mechanisms and initiatives to upscale sustainable finance.

Carole Dieschbourg, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development of Luxembourg, in her opening speech of the overall GLF event made clear the expected outcomes of this day:

“It is not an investment if it destroys the planet!”

Her inspiring speech paved the way to an incredible Saturday of exchanges around the topic of sustainable finance.

A diverse panel

FTA organized a session bringing together seven people with different backgrounds, representing different actor groups in the finance flow: from investors to community, smallholders or SME. The event was live-streamed and is now available to replay.

“Our work provides social benefits to over 15,000 people” – Maria Teresita Chincilla Miranda, ACOFOP

“Eventually we created a fund […] It is now financing 13 different projects.”  – Elmer Francisco Méndez Hernández

The session was opened by the FTA Director, Vincent Gitz, who reminded that FTA has made innovating finance for sustainable landscapes one of its key operational priorities. Vincent underlined how the finance sector is actively seeking for initiatives that are green, bankable, responsible and inclusive. There is an urgency for these investments to take place and for concrete actions to go in the right way, he added. He suggested 3 mutually re-inforcing pathways necessary for the transition towards sustainable finance: (i) economic growth in the productive tropical landscape, (ii) together with care for the environment and climate issues, (iii) integrating social dimension inclusiveness especially for smallholders, women, SMEs and indigenous communities.

ACOFOP/FORESCOM who manages a total annual turnover of 8-10 million from over 500 thousand hectares of FSC certified sustainable forest management in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala. A success story exemplified through the convincing words of María Teresita Chinchilla Miranda and Elmer Francisco Méndez Hernández (senior advisor and CEO respectively), after which, the moderator Gerhard Mulder from Oxylus Climate Advisors, was able to elicit point of views and suggestions from all the panelists in a lively and deep debate.

Pauline Nantongo – Director of Ecotrust in Uganda, Edit Kiss – Director of Development and Portfolio Management of Althelia Funds, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar of the Carbon Neutrality Business of Total SA, Hans Loth – Global Head UN Environment Partnership of Rabobank, Veronica Galmez of the Forest and Climate Team of the Green Climate Fund highlighted that innovation might introduce risk for investors that need to be quantified in order to be managed. Inclusiveness in financial endeavors was a major focus of the session – starting from ACOFOP’s example, but also looking at the panel itself.

“This panel is a dream come true!” – Gerhard Mulder, moderator of the session

Panelists listening to Pauline Nantongo’s experience

Gaps, risk and innovation

All panelists agreed on the importance of public funds to help reduce the risk of agriculture and forest investments in the tropics. Risk assessment and management was seen as one of the major challenges for upscaling access to finance, especially because in the agri-food sector risks are complex, need to be better understood and quantified in order to devise risk mitigation strategies and relevant financial tools.  “Understanding the different causes of deforestation is far from easy,” said Veronica Galmez.

The discussion highlighted a leitmotiv of the day: the huge gap between local financial needs and the international supply of finance. There is so much money available, but we have not found yet an efficient way to actually get that to the majority of agricultural and forestry practitioners. NGOs such as Ecotrust are good examples of possible pathways, but they are globally still few and even less investors have the patience or are prepared to take the risk to work with such organizations. As a result, both the farmers and SME working with Ecotrust and the communities organized through ACOFOP still rely mainly on public funds to strengthen their economic activities.

Hans Loth, representative of Rabobank indicated that even initiatives such as Ecotrust and ACOFOP are still relatively small and more aggregation is required, preferably involving local banks or other formal local financial infrastructures. For banks to change behavior, invest in such endeavors, for sustainable finance to upscale efficiently, strong internal leadership that drives willingness to innovate and go beyond traditional banking is required. Such innovations could then be proposed to investors and clients, with track record, documentation and assessed risk. Regulatory frameworks can also hinder innovative approaches, as they limit the options investors have to allocate funds.

“If you really want to scale up […] you really need to change the regulatory framework of banking.” – Hans Loth, Rabobank

Althelia is an example of such leadership and willingness to tackle innovation. Created in 2013 to make use of the opportunities around mitigation in the forest sector, it now invests not just in low carbon activities but also in increasing local capacities and market conditions for sustainable production.

“The idea was to innovate also on the investment side – how to deploy capital, because currently existing tools are not suitable for these types of projects.” – Edit Kiss, Althelia

As climate change is inevitable and touches everyone, innovation has to come from every sector. Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar strongly defended this position by illustrating the new business area of Total SA – the Carbon Neutrality Business. Interestingly, it operates also in the same landscape of Uganda as Ecotrust offering opportunities to invest together in sustainable, climate smart agriculture and forest conservation. Total, he said, as well as many other private companies, adheres to the Paris agreement and strive to find ways to comply with those targets, integrating them into their business models. Nature Based Solutions were agreed by the panelists as one way to move forward in emission reduction.

“Emissions come mainly from energy […] so a lot of the mitigation effort should come from that sector.” – Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar, Total

Pauline Nantongo shared a compelling story of how the NGO Ecotrust has been able to raise funding to support both productive activities and ecosystem services in a landscape heavily affected by the production of agro-commodities (sugar cane) and oil and gas exploitation.

“We work with local communities and we develop a community vision of how they would like to see their landscapes.” – Pauline Nantongo, EcoTrust

In conclusion: there are no bad people here

The interaction with the audience highlighted how some of the actors in the financial and energy sectors are now perceived as the “bad guys” from the general public. “There is always room for improvement,” said the moderator, indicating that we really need to change the way we enter into dialogue. People entered this global dialogue because we are all are seeking change. This fueled even more the discussion on how to renovate and innovate in a green and sustainable way, echoing the words of Minister Dieschbourg. It is clear that proper investments will need to generate value, without depleting the biggest capital we have: the Earth. Traceability, certifications, monitoring, etc. are all mechanisms that need to be in place for concrete sustainable finance.

The panelists, posing after the session

Having all these different actors sitting together in the same room was an exceptional event itself – hearing them talk was moving. “These connections are fundamental, ” stressed Gerhard. “There is a need for strong grassroot organisations such as EcoTrust and ACOFOP to identify opportunities and projects that benefit the landscape.” The session confirmed the enormous value of having strong local network and relationships, building on the trust of these local stakeholders. But this alone falls short. In order to scale up significantly, investors like Rabobank and Althelia are absolutely necessary to bridge the gap and connect them to sources of funding. Funding could flow through organizations such as FORESCOM or local banks or cooperatives. Finally, organizations such as GCF could provide a range of financial instruments that are fit-for-purpose for the local context.

The debate exemplified also that sustainable finance is a process, not an outcome or solution. The main questions are around how the process is organized and how to exploit the strengths of local institutions while empowering them.

“Numerous people work hard to make change, globally, but deforestation, inequality are still present. Landscape finance is still not impacting at scale.” With these words Gerhard Mulder remarked that doing better is not synonymous of doing the necessary, so he asked the panel to put in their words what would be the activity that – if they could implement – would be fundamental for change. The dream they would like to see come true. These were the answers:

  • De-risk smallholder investments – where I come from smallholders own 80% of the land and the agriculture – so we need innovations that remove, mitigate or reduce this perceived risk and allow them to access these financing sources. Pauline Nantongo
  • We have shown that we can set up profitable businesses, I would like to see banks acknowledging this and working with us. Maria Teresita Chinchilla Miranda, ACOFOP
  • We need to access funds much faster – frankly, we cannot wait 3 years to launch a fund. Edit Kiss, Althelia
  • De-risking, which is something we are already doing, and how this could upscale to a multi-stakeholder level, more and quicker. Hans Loth, Rabobank
  • Keep some acceptance to risk – as de-risking will not arrive soon – and maintain all these actors on the table discussing together, seeking change together. Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar, Total
  • We are running out of time, so we need to figure out how to include and embed all this ambition at all the different scales in making our decisions. So we need ambition and speed of change. Veronica Galmez, Green Climate Fund
  • Keep on focusing on the well-being of our communities. Elmer Francisco Méndez Hernández, FORESCOM

eDialogue – extended until 15th December!

The discussion also veered on the important study from FTA and Tropenbos International, currently in draft – being analyzed by a community of experts online through an eDialogue. The study identifies until now three innovative instruments that offer opportunities to unlock finance for SMEs, smallholders and communities while also addressing investors’ issues (e.g. rate of returns, risks, measurable impacts, etc.):

  1. Blended finance;
  2. Green bonds; and
  3. Crowdfunding.
Join the online eDialogue to access the document and the debate!

These mechanisms build on existing financial instruments, so the innovation is fundamentally in their capacity to identify and facilitate new objectives, rules and regulations. All these financial instruments can increase accessibility with more flexibility in expectations, thus liberating liquidity. However, they generally require an intermediary to facilitate fund acquisition, management and distribution. One-size-fits-all solutions are unlikely to work, nor will quick fixes. In the past, initiatives that have proven successful in integrating inclusive approaches were typically long term (>10 years) and initially supported by public funds, with commercial finance attracted later, so this needs to be taken into consideration when planning new projects with the identified sets of financial tools. Lessons learned from the past should be part of the strategic planning of today’s finance for sustainable landscapes. The main findings have also been summarized in a White Paper.

Access it here!


Given the success of this GLF Session, to allow participants and panelists to continue sharing their views, FTA, CIFOR and Tropenbos International have agreed to extend one last time the deadline for commenting the paper in the eDialogue until the 15th of December 2019.

Don’t miss the opportunity to join this debate!


By Bas Louman, Tropenbos International and Fabio Ricci, CIFOR/Bioversity.

This article was produced by Tropenbos International and 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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  • Potential of Bamboo for Sustainable Renewable Energy Production in West Africa

Potential of Bamboo for Sustainable Renewable Energy Production in West Africa

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"Using Bamboo for Sustainable Renewable Energy Production in West Africa" Regional workshop in Accra, Ghana on 27 November 2019.
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Across many rural and peri-urban areas in West Africa, a large proportion of households rely on charcoal or fuel wood as the main source of energy, especially for cooking. Over the years, the extraction of wood for charcoal production has been identified as a significant driver of forest degradation and deforestation within the region. With increasing population growth, the demand for charcoal or fuel wood is expected to increase with serious consequences for the region’s fast depleting forest resources, which provide critical ecosystem services. Again, the rapid depletion of forests will undoubtedly affect the sub-region’s carbon emission reduction efforts and climate change mitigation capacities.

The Potential of Bamboo as Energy Source

Bamboo processing. Freshly harvested sections of bamboo shoots in the pot ready to be steamed, before being fermented and dried, Tianlin County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. Photo by Hannah Brodie-Hall/CIFOR

Bamboo biomass can be processed through thermal or biochemical conversion to produce different energy products, including charcoal, pellets, and briquettes, which can serve as substitutions for wood fuel products. As an alternative source of energy, it has been used extensively in countries such as China, India and Brazil. Empirical evidence show that the thermal calorific value of bamboo charcoal (approximately 4500 kcal kg-1) is comparable to commonly used biomass resources such as acacia and teak. In addition, a comparative life cycle assessment of producing charcoal from bamboo, acacia and teak suggest that charcoal production from bamboo is a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective option. Bamboo pellets are considered reliable biomass energy sources in certain parts of the world. In terms of mass and energy density, pellets from bamboo have characteristics superior to other biomass products, such as woodchips and briquettes.  Such higher density allows for easy and cost-effective transportation and greater efficiency in energy generation with suitable properties for residential and industrial use. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, pellet production around the world grew from 7 to 19 million tons from 2006 to 2012 signifying the growing demand for pellets and its recognition as a clean energy source.

Several bamboo species exist in the West Africa sub-region; however, the most prevailing species is Bambusa vulgaris with high growth rate and biomass production. This make the b. vulgaris a potential resource for the production of bamboo energy products. With a projected rise in the consumption of wood fuels and charcoal by 2030, the prospects for bamboo-based energy products are expected to rise in terms of economic and environmental returns.

Regional Bamboo Bioenergy Workshop

A moment during the regional workshop organized by INBAR in Accra, Ghana.

The International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), in partnership with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), convened a regional workshop on “Using Bamboo for Sustainable Renewable Energy Production in West Africa” at the Royal Beulah Hotel in Accra, Ghana on 27 November 2019. The workshop provided a platform for research scientists, policy makers, entrepreneurs, policy experts, natural resource managers, and renewable energy experts from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo to deliberate on the potential of bamboo as a critical resource for producing clean energy to drive economic growth, rural livelihoods and environmental sustainability.

Participants also had the opportunity to deliberate on ways of scaling up the establishment of bamboo plantations to provide sustainable biomass for the production of renewable energy in African countries as well as address deforestation, degradation and carbon emissions challenges, which directly contributes to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals 7, 13 and 15.

Presenting an overview of the workshop, Ernest Nti Acheampong, the programme manager of the Inter Africa Bamboo Smallholder Livelihood Development Programme at INBAR WARO noted that in spite of the abundance of bamboo resources in many African countries and the desire of to shift to alternative sources of energy that are more environmentally friendly, African countries are limited by appropriate policies on alternative energy and the lack of technology that can support the production of affordable clean energy. He reiterated that the participatory nature of the workshop was designed to encourage networking, knowledge sharing and collaborative partnership among institutions for the strategic development of bamboo for renewable energy production at both domestic and commercial levels.

To set the tone for deliberations around the potential of bamboo biomass for sustainable bioenergy production, a total of six presentations were made by resource experts under the thematic areas: bamboo for domestic commercial energy production, bamboo for landscape restoration and degraded landscape, and bamboo for carbon mitigation highlighted the socio-economic and environmental implications of harnessing the potential of bamboo as a priority resource.

At the end of the workshop, it was observed that:

  • Bamboo presents opportunities for socio-economic development and environmental benefits in African countries by playing a vital role in substituting wood fuel which contributes to forest degradation;
  • A national strategy and action plan is needed to support the sustainable development of the bamboo value chain in African countries. It is also critical to recognize and include bamboo as a sustainable natural material in national renewable energy development plans;
  • Modern technologies for the production of bamboo based energy products offer a pathway towards energy dependency in African countries especially in a period where wooded forests are being depleted at an alarming rate. Strong policies and incentives are needed to guide bamboo development and encourage the production of affordable energy from bamboo;
  • Further research is required on the cost-benefit analysis of different technologies so as to improve the efficiency of traditional biomass use;
  • Governments need to support and promote private-public partnerships for the development of the renewable sub-sector. This means for example, investment and financial support for small and medium scale business enterprises in bamboo charcoal pellets, briquette production;
  • To expand bamboo based commercial energy production requires addressing complex issues such as streamlining current land tenure systems and rights, land use planning, and mobilizing stakeholders for the establishment of largescale bamboo plantations. Also essential is the use of highly desirable bamboo species for energy production.

With a stronger commitment to improve both rural and urban energy needs, African countries could be in a better position address it perennial energy crisis through the use of bamboo biomass as an alternative source of energy. Upscaling the development and use of energy from bamboo biomass could provide a viable market for the use of bamboo waste materials and other supplementary waste materials that are currently not being put into good use.

The economics of bamboo for commercial energy production require a thorough assessment of the cost, margins and the need for huge biomass stock. With charcoal production expected to be the main source of energy for rural communities, bamboo charcoal and briquettes have a good potential to contribute to the energy demands as well as the rural economy. Bamboo pellets production for industrial combustion is still in its infant stage due to the limited technologies and biomass stock; however, there is high potential for a shift in the demand for bamboo pellets due to the rising cost of electricity for industries in many African countries.

The workshop was deemed relevant by participants and expressed the need for further engagements and research on bamboo for bioenergy, plantation establishment and formulation and implementation of policies. Constructive remarks and comments from the workshop will feed into policy recommendations to be shared with government agencies and other related institutions working on bamboo and energy. Further engagements with key actors will continue in order to facilitate the development of innovation systems and favorable policy environments that will drive the bamboo bioenergy agenda in Africa.

By Daniel Kweitsu Obloni, INBAR.

This article was produced by INBAR and 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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  • Guiding principles for sustainable bamboo forest management planning: Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State (BGRS)

Guiding principles for sustainable bamboo forest management planning: Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State (BGRS)

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Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State (BGRS) is the region of Ethiopia with the greatest bamboo forest cover. The resource has, however, encountered heavy degradation in recent years due to fires for farming and for hunting, mass flowering, unsustainable harvest, and land conversion. Bamboo, if harvested correctly, can become a valuable resource and a source of income for the rural population of BGRS. In order to do so, a management plan is needed at the regional level to provide guidance for future planning at the district level. This document, based on a desk study, field survey, direct observation, and a participatory mapping workshop, intends to provide this guidance for a sustainable bamboo forest management plan. It also gives recommendations on how to sustainably harvest bamboo, how to develop nurseries for future bamboo plantations, how to link bamboo forests with the private sector and the market, and the role bamboo could play in degraded land restoration.

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  • Making the grade: Challenges and prospects for sustainable smallholder oil palm in Indonesia

Making the grade: Challenges and prospects for sustainable smallholder oil palm in Indonesia

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“Making the Grade” looks at challenges and prospects for sustainable smallholder oil palm in Indonesia.

This video was first published by CIFOR.

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  • Scientists urge revision of sustainable forest product certification indicators

Scientists urge revision of sustainable forest product certification indicators

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An internationally recognized product labelling system designed to assure consumers that they are buying sustainably-sourced forest products is falling short of some of its intended objectives, according to new research.

Since 1994, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification framework of agreed indicators has encouraged companies to adhere to sustainable forest management practices, which are also aimed at simultaneously increasing financial profitability.

Companies follow guidelines to extract timber responsibly, reduce impact on forest ecosystems and help reduce land and soil degradation. FSC certification, one of the most widely accepted standards aimed at assessing long term sustainable forest management worldwide, is also designed to protect the rights of workers and indigenous people.

However, a study undertaken in Brazil by scientists with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), published in the journal of Forest Policy and Economics determined that a lack of transparency and unclear reporting indicators restrict the reliability of the program.

“We found that in Brazil, FSC auditors and certification bodies don’t succeed in guaranteeing  companies are in full conformity  with labor and environmental requirements due to a lack of clarity on how standards are applied and conformity assessments administered,” said Marie-Gabrielle Piketty, who undertook the project as a researcher with the French Agricultural Centre for International Development (CIRAD). “Notably, there are really important and trustworthy agents in the certification system — everything relies on them, but we need to better understand the exact processes at stake.”

The country’s 6.2 million hectares of certified forests make up a significant amount of certified land area worldwide, more than in any other tropical country. Forest plantations make up three quarters of Brazil’s certified area, while the Brazilian Amazon includes 1.5 million hectares of certified natural forests.

FSC certification in Brazil is based on 10 principles, 55 criteria and an average of 200 indicators, which must be verified by external auditors, who report conformity and non-conformity, request corrective actions and determine whether to grant or revoke certification.

Read also: Can REDD+ help Brazil roll back rising deforestation rates?

Cattle farming is a key driver of deforestation in Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR

Piketty conducted the research with Isabel Garcia Drigo, who formerly worked with Nexus Socioambiental Ltda., a company which helps perform audits. She now works for the Institute of Forest and Agriculture Management and Certification (IMAFLORA). Together they reviewed public documents, conducted interviews, and undertook an analysis of indicators and “non-conformance” in audit reports.

“With FSC, we imagine a perfect system has been put in place, but it’s not perfect because it’s very, very difficult to comply with the standards,” Garcia Drigo said. “Being certified by FSC doesn’t mean you have perfect forest management — forests and forest management can be certified even with failures or imperfections.”

The goal of the researchers was to determine how auditors shape implementation and the amount of wiggle room that exists to interpret standards subjectively rather than objectively.

Some indicators are not open to interpretation, but others are, which means that the specific knowledge or judgement of an individual auditor can affect whether a company is certified or not. Some of the objective indicators are more difficult to check through auditing because they are too broad.

For example, one indicator includes informing workers and surrounding communities about the importance of forest management activities and their environmental implications. However, the statement does not define which information or methods of communication are essential and acceptable, Piketty and Garcia Drigo said.

Auditors can classify non-conformance as either a major or minor infraction, a major infraction can result in the suspension of certification but an act of minor non-conformance does not result in certification being revoked. They must be solved within a maximum period of a year.

However, Piketty and Garcia Drigo demonstrated that companies can be certified despite recurrent minor non-conformance. They recommend that FSC undertake a systematic review to identify areas where auditors have excessive freedom to interpret “conformance.” A limit should be set for allowable minor non-conformance concerns, they said.

Read also: Decoding deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia

Although there is a rule to label them as major non-conformance if they are repeated, in cases where indicators are too broad or too difficult to comply with – for example, if they encompass multiple aspects or are dependent on three-part actions – auditors have room to allow the recurrence.

However, this potential demonstrates a permanent failure of the forest management system, and FSC needs to review such indicators by improving them or establishing a limit on time to meet full compliance requirements.

Another challenge is that the public FSC certification database only shows recent certification reports and non-conformance assessments. Conformance assessments are not published.

“We need to know how auditors assess that a company really does follow all the rules, Piketty said. “If we don’t have access, we just don’t know, we just have to trust and accept. Consumers of certified products need assurance that they have been made from responsible sources and are verified properly to meet appropriate socio-environmental standards.”

FSC recognizes the potential fluidity inherent in its auditing practices. In 2016, the organization conducted a review of life cycle assessment practices, which are often used to support sustainability assessment or rating systems. The review determined that although the life-cycle perspective is important for addressing the environmental impact of production processes, it should be complemented with other assessment tools.

By Julie Mollins, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

This work was supported by the French National Research Agency (ANR-11-CEPL-0009).

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

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  • Spilling the beans: FTA scientists contribute to new book about sustainable cocoa 

Spilling the beans: FTA scientists contribute to new book about sustainable cocoa 

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Cacao produced in Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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With a distinguished editor and a variety of international experts as authors, including a number from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing recently launched the book Achieving sustainable cultivation of cocoa, considered a new standard reference for scientists and producers of cocoa.

Eduardo Somarriba from the Agriculture, Livestock and Agroforestry Program (PRAGA) at CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) appears as a chapter author, while CATIE’s Rolando Cerda and Wilbert Phillips are coauthors.

Bioversity International’s Stephan Weise, Brigitte Laliberté and Jan Engels also contributed to the book. Meanwhile, the Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) saw a number of contributors across various chapters, namely Philippe Lachenaud, Didier Snoeck, Bernard Dubos, Leïla Bagny Beilhe, Régis Babin, Martijn ten Hoopen, Christian Cilas and Olivier Sounigo.

Read also: Achieving sustainable cultivation of cocoa

According to Francis Dodds, editorial director of Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing, the book discusses the existing challenges standing in the way of making cocoa crops more efficient and sustainable, in order to supply increasing demand, while taking into account the increasing age of plantations, decreasing performance and greater vulnerability to illnesses. At the same time, the authors heed increasing concerns about the environmental impact of cocoa on soil health and biodiversity.

The first part of the book looks at genetic resources and developments in production technologies. The second part discusses the optimization of crop techniques to take maximum advantage of the new varieties, while the third part summarizes recent research about the understanding of and fight against major viral and fungal diseases affecting cocoa. The fourth part covers security and quality issues, and finally the last part of the book analyzes ways to improve sustainability, including the role of agroforestry, organic crops, and ways to support small producers.

Achieving sustainable cultivation of cocoa

Notably, Somarriba and Philips contributed to the first and fifth sections of the book, with Somarriba addressing the issue of the analysis and design of the shade canopy of cocoa in agroforestry systems, and Phillips looking at the main challenges of conservation and exploiting cocoa genetic resources.

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

The book was edited by the recognized and cocoa expert, Pathmanathan Umahran, director of the Research Centre for Cocoa and professor of genetic at the University of the Occidental Indies, in Trinidad and Tobago.

Martin Gilmour, Director of Research and Sustainability Development of Cocoa at Mars Global Chocolate, stated in a press release from Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing that the book would be of great interest for researchers, development agencies, governments, specialists in the industry and non-government organizations, as well as anyone interested in improving cocoa crop sustainability.

Adapted from the article by CATIE communicator Karla Salazar Leiva, originally published by CATIE.

For more information, contact Karla Salazar Leiva at or Eduardo Somarriba, Leader of CATIE’s Agriculture, Livestock and Agroforestry Program, at

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  • Achieving sustainable cultivation of cocoa

Achieving sustainable cultivation of cocoa

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There is a growing demand for cocoa. However, cultivation is dependent on ageing trees with low yields and increasing vulnerability to disease. There is growing concern about the environmental impact of cultivation in areas soil health and biodiversity. There is therefore an urgent need to make cocoa cultivation more efficient and sustainable to ensure a successful future. These challenges are addressed in Achieving sustainable cultivation of cocoa.

Part 1 reviews genetic resources and developments in breeding. Part 2 discusses optimising cultivation techniques to make the most of new varieties. Part 3 summaries the latest research on understanding and combatting the major fungal and viral diseases affecting cocoa. Part 4 covers safety and quality issues whilst the final part of the book looks at ways of improving sustainability, including the role of agroforestry, organic cultivation and ways of supporting smallholders. With its distinguished editor and international range of expert authors – including a number from CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientists – this collection will be a standard reference for cocoa scientists, growers and processors.

Part 1 Genetic resources and breeding

1. Taxonomy and classification of cacao: Ranjana Bhattacharjee, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria; and Malachy Akoroda, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Nigeria;
2. Conserving and exploiting cocoa genetic resources: the key challenges: Brigitte Laliberté, Bioversity International, Italy; Michelle End, INGENIC (The International Group for Genetic Improvement of Cocoa), UK; Nicholas Cryer, Mondelez International, UK; Andrew Daymond, University of Reading, UK; Jan Engels, Bioversity International, Italy; Albertus Bernardus Eskes, formerly CIRAD and Bioversity International, France; Martin Gilmour, Barry Callebaut, USA; Philippe Lachenaud, Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement, France; Wilbert Phillips-Mora, Center for Tropical Agriculture Research and Education, Costa Rica; Chris Turnbull, Cocoa Research Association Ltd., UK; Pathmanathan Umaharan, Cocoa Research Centre, The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago; Dapeng Zhang, USDA-ARS, USA; and Stephan Weise, Bioversity International, Italy;
3. The role of gene banks in preserving the genetic diversity of cacao: Lambert A. Motilal, The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago;
4. Safe handling and movement of cocoa germplasm for breeding: Andrew Daymond, University of Reading, UK;
5. Developments in cacao breeding programmes in Africa and the Americas: Dário Ahnert, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Brazil; and Albertus Bernardus Eskes, formerly CIRAD and Bioversity International, France;

Part 2 Cultivation techniques

6. Cocoa plant propagation techniques to supply farmers with improved planting materials: Michelle End, INGENIC (The International Group for Genetic Improvement of Cocoa), UK; Brigitte Laliberté, Bioversity International, Italy; Rob Lockwood, Consultant, UK; Augusto Roberto Sena Gomes, Consultant, Brazil; George Andrade Sodré, CEPLAC/CEPEC, Brazil; and Mark Guiltinan and Siela Maximova, The Pennsylvania State University, USA;
7. The potential of somatic embryogenesis for commercial-scale propagation of elite cacao varieties: Siela N. Maximova and Mark J. Guiltinan, The Pennsylvania State University, USA;
8. Good agronomic practices in cocoa cultivation: rehabilitating cocoa farms: Richard Asare, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ghana; Victor Afari-Sefa, World Vegetable Center, Benin; Sander Muilerman, Wageningen University, The Netherlands; and Gilbert J. Anim-Kwapong, Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, Ghana;
9. Improving soil and nutrient management for cacao cultivation: Didier Snoeck and Bernard Dubos, CIRAD, UR Systèmes de pérennes, France;

Part 3 Diseases and pests

10. Cocoa diseases: witches’ broom: Jorge Teodoro De Souza, Federal University of Lavras, Brazil; Fernando Pereira Monteiro, Federal University of Lavras and UNIVAG Centro Universitário, Brazil; Maria Alves Ferreira, Federal University of Lavras, Brazil; and Karina Peres Gramacho and Edna Dora Martins Newman Luz, Comissão Executiva do Plano da Lavoura Cacaueira (CEPLAC), Brazil;
11. Frosty pod rot, caused by Moniliophthora roreri: Ulrike Krauss, Palm Integrated Services and Solutions (PISS) Ltd., Saint Lucia;
12. Cocoa diseases: vascular-streak dieback: David I. Guest, University of Sydney, Australia; and Philip J. Keane, LaTrobe University, Australia;
13. Insect pests affecting cacao: Leïla Bagny Beilhe, Régis Babin and Martijn ten Hoopen, CIRAD, France;
14. Nematode pests of cocoa: Samuel Orisajo, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Nigeria;
15. Advances in pest- and disease-resistant cocoa varieties: Christian Cilas and Olivier Sounigo, CIRAD, France; Bruno Efombagn and Salomon Nyassé, Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), Cameroon; Mathias Tahi, CNRA, Côte d’Ivoire; and Sarah M. Bharath, Meridian Cacao, USA;

Part 4 Safety and sensory quality

16. Improving best practice with regard to pesticide use in cocoa: M. A. Rutherford, J. Crozier and J. Flood, CABI, UK; and S. Sastroutomo, CABI-SEA, Malaysia
17. Mycotoxins in cocoa: causes, detection and control: Mary A. Egbuta, Southern Cross University, Australia;
18. Analysing sensory and processing quality of cocoa: Darin A. Sukha and Naailah A. Ali, The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago;

Part 5 Sustainability

19. Climate change and cocoa cultivation: Christian Bunn, Fabio Castro and Mark Lundy, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia; and Peter Läderach, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Vietnam;
20. Analysis and design of the shade canopy of cocoa-based agroforestry systems:Eduardo Somarriba, CATIE, Costa Rica; Luis Orozco-Aguilar, University of Melbourne, Australia; Rolando Cerda, CATIE, Costa Rica; and Arlene López-Sampson, James Cook University, Australia;
21. Organic cocoa cultivation: Amanda Berlan, De Montfort University, UK;
22. Cocoa sustainability initiatives: the impacts of cocoa sustainability initiatives in West Africa: Verina Ingram, Yuca Waarts and Fedes van Rijn, Wageningen University, The Netherlands;
23. Supporting smallholders in achieving more sustainable cocoa cultivation: the case of West Africa: Paul Macek, World Cocoa Foundation, USA; Upoma Husain and Krystal Werner, Georgetown University, USA.

This book is available for order from the publisher, Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing.

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  • Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters

Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters

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This story book is based on traditions and folk tales passed down for generations by the Olin Fobia people in Bonleu village, South Central Timor, Indonesia. These traditions have been practiced for hundreds of years. As some Olin Fobia traditions and tales are beginning to disappear, the Kanoppi Project and CIFOR are striving to document them before they do. Further, this book aims to motivate the younger generation to become involved in efforts to preserve forests, and to protect forest flora and fauna and their habitats.

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  • Playing for keeps: How a simple board game could lead to more sustainable oil palm

Playing for keeps: How a simple board game could lead to more sustainable oil palm

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Once reserved for military war games, the Companion Modeling approach has been developed and expanded over the past two decades to include the complex issues of renewable resources and environmental management. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is part of a consortium of international institutions led by the Swiss-based University, ETH Zurich, that is using ComMod to help chart a path toward more sustainable palm oil as part of a six-year project called OPAL, Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes, being carried out in Cameroon, Colombia and Indonesia – some of the world’s biggest palm oil producers.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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

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  • Carving a niche in the global market: The woodworkers of Jepara

Carving a niche in the global market: The woodworkers of Jepara

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Based on a long tradition of skilled family trade, the woodworking industry in Jepara, Indonesia, is branching out into global markets by investing in sustainable timber. With the national timber legality license now compatible with export licenses to the European Union, trade opportunities are expanding beyond borders. Scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) are finding the connections between sustainable supply chains and better business for local people.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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

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  • Integration is name of the game that forests and agriculture need to play

Integration is name of the game that forests and agriculture need to play

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Banyan trees beside a river. Photo by FAO Forestry Mediabase
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Banyan trees. Photo by FAO Forestry Mediabase

Sustainable development of agriculture cannot be reached without acknowledging the important role forests have in landscapes and in value chains.

Agroforestry systems include not only traditional but also modern land-use systems where trees are managed together with crops and/or animal production systems in agricultural settings.

Whenever trees can be kept intact rather than be cleared for the purposes of agricultural production and forest ecosystems can thrive alongside crops, the more benefits are reaped. Considering this there is a need to facilitate the integration of agriculture and forestry relevant policies, allowing them to play better, together.

However, what is needed is a forward-looking focus on research, knowledge-generation and scaling-up with development of strong partnership among many different stakeholders. This is exactly what a side event at this year’s CFS 44 entitled “Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security and nutrition and the SDGs: Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda” aimed to debate.

The event itself was organized in a partnership between a large number of different stakeholders, including the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The Netherlands Government, Tropenbos International and SIANI.

A strong case has been made for scaling up agroforestry in order to address the need for more productive and sustainable use of the land while assuring livelihoods and quality nutrition for the growing world population. In fact, as stated by FAO in their presentation on agroforestry, there is a constantly growing body of scientific literature that clearly demonstrates the gains accruing from agroforestry adoption, especially in regards to the improvement of the environment and people’s lives.

Continuing to invest in research is therefore essential. As FAO outlines “the agroforestry systems are dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management systems that diversify and sustain production in order to increase social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all scales.”

Click here to read the full story on the CFS website, by #CFS44 Social Reporter Ksenija Simovic.

As part of the live coverage during CFS44, this post covers the Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security and nutrition and the SDGs side event.

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  • The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

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A worker collects oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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A worker collects oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding a way forward for profits, people and the planet.

The polemic around the expansion of oil palm plantations in the tropics continues, and increasingly involves consumers concerned with sustainability. At the core of the debate is the matter of hard trade-offs between conservation and development. Reconciling such trade-offs is still the major challenge facing governments and companies.

Available evidence suggests that palm oil production has contradictory impacts. It has positive impacts on both local and national economic growth, and in alleviating rural poverty. Yet plantations also drive social conflict in their development, and bring detriment to forests and peatlands as they expand, leading to negative impacts due to biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The palm oil sector suffers from three performance issues, namely: land conflicts between local villagers and companies as well as immigrants, differences in yields between independent smallholders and industrial plantations, and a large carbon debt resulting from oil palm expansion into forestlands and peatlands. The challenge now is to find a way to ensure sustainable palm oil supply chains, in order to sustain economic gains while supporting conservation and climate action.

Employees drive to work on a plantation. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR


Efforts are being made by governments, companies and civil society organizations on different fronts and at different levels to enhance the palm oil sector’s performance. Commitments to sustainability made by major palm oil companies have been accompanied by a more aggressive sustainability discourse by governments, and many civil society organizations have begun to play a new role as facilitators in the implementation of standards by companies, or as intermediaries between private and public actors.

In Indonesia, the previous government made important efforts to respond to the global climate change agenda, resulting in a moratorium on new licenses to develop primary forest or peatlands, which unfortunately in practice had limited impacts on reducing deforestation. The major corporate groups, through the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) brought some new perspectives to halting deforestation through supply chain interventions, yet interestingly that triggered a strong political response from the government on the primacy of state regulations.

Two new fronts have since emerged. On one front, efforts are being made to enhance mandatory standards for sustainability by strengthening Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification, accompanied by regulations on peatland intervention and restoration. On another front are efforts to safeguard the economic performance of the palm oil sector by expanding the domestic biodiesel market and applying subsidies to incentivize less competitive biodiesel production. In spite of strong arguments being made in favor of a social agenda, investments to support smallholders remain minimal.

An interesting turn of events has been the approval of an EU resolution suggesting that stronger constraints should apply to palm oil imports. This is not necessarily an opinion shared by some actors in Indonesia, who emphasize the importance of relying on national regulations. Signals have emerged that the government will be making the necessary steps to more fully embrace a sustainability framework. So far, the instrument for that seems to be a strengthened ISPO, with independent oversight. However, questions remain over the likely implementation costs, and institutional readiness at the local level.

Read also: Sustainable Palm Oil Production project synthesis: Understanding and anticipating global challenges

A young woman carries a bucket of harvested oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR


The dispute over which rules to follow, whether it be international private sustainability standards and/or methods toward zero deforestation, or mandatory national standards has brought to light competing notions of sustainability, how to achieve progress, and who should be taking the lead.

A policy network analysis of the palm oil sector in Indonesia suggests that standards and initiatives for sustainability have contrasting visibility and impact among stakeholders, for example among governments, the corporate sector and NGOs. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), stands as a reference, while efforts by the Indonesian government to promote its own standard with ISPO have yet to gain traction. Hopes remain that it could benefit from an emerging multi-stakeholder group.

Overall, the lack of progress in the uptake of sustainable palm oil practices on the ground, in the view of different stakeholders, appears to be caused more by political and legal barriers than by technical challenges or concerns for economic losses. The fact is that the palm oil sector, particularly in relation to land allocation and regulatory controls, is dominated by a complex and ambiguous layer of regulations. When we add vested local interests in profiting from plantation expansion, we are left with a difficult puzzle indeed.

The situation also calls for increased efforts to enforce regional initiatives on High Conservation Value (HCV) assessments to guide decisions on land-use planning, as well as efforts to support smallholders within wider landscapes. This is all the more important when considering proposals for limiting the expansion of concessions across the country without addressing existing concessions (‘land banks’) that are partially covered by standing natural forests, and placing little regulatory control on the additional pressures of smallholders on forest conversion.

A young man uses a contraption to harvest fruit from the oil palms. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Clearly, improvements are needed in communication and transparency among stakeholders, not only to raise the bar of sustainability beyond existing ISPO requirements and to provide a more conducive environment for corporate commitments, but also to enhance the rule of law and improve governance. Legality and law enforcement are absolute prerequisites for cleaning the sector of its worst players and practices.


Governance of the palm oil sector is becoming more complex over time. In addition to national regulations, it involves a transnational regime in the form of RSPO standards, which are widely accepted by the private sector as the benchmark criteria for sustainability, at least by players downstream the supply chain. Different initiatives by financial institutions and governments in consumer countries, grouped under the Amsterdam Declaration, as well the industry-led European Sustainable Palm Oil initiative (ESPO), are endorsing RSPO as a way to ensure uptake of sustainable practices.

Major corporate groups have also adopted individual and collective commitments to sustainability. Some of these commitments rely on RSPO as the privileged system to demonstrate achievements. Commitments to zero deforestation tend to make explicit their own criteria, targets and timeframes, which in some cases are rather ambiguous. In the palm oil sector, they often make use of High Carbon Stocks (HCS) as the approach to identifying forests to be protected.

As mentioned, the Indonesian government has embarked on a mission of strengthening ISPO, which originally emerged as a bundle of existing public regulations on palm oil production grouped under one instrument. However, doubts over ISPO’s effectiveness and slow implementation have forced the government to put in place a process to improve the scheme’s legitimacy, such as by drawing on a multi-stakeholder group, and conducting an ongoing consultation process to overcome the main design shortcomings. Much of the credibility of ISPO will nonetheless rely on how far it manages to closes the gaps with RSPO, particularly with regards to HCV and FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent).

Due to the growing complexity of palm oil governance, what we have now are three simultaneous processes for moving toward sustainable palm oil that intersect, but in different ways. One is interested in “sustainable supply”, triggered by RSPO, another is interested in “clean supply”, motivated by private commitments to zero deforestation, and the third aims to achieve “legal supply”, supported by government through a strengthened ISPO. This creates some confusion, and it is not clear what the implications are of each on the move toward sustainability.

Read also: What will it take to make sustainable palm oil the norm?

Bunches of oil palm fruit await transportation in a wheelbarrow. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR


In this order of things, many independent oil palm smallholders are threatened with becoming alienated from formal markets because they lack the technical capacity and/or resources to comply with public and private sustainability standards. Thus, a major challenge is to find ways to improve conditions for smallholders in accessing finance and technical services.

Since resolving compliance barriers will require targeted interventions, it is becoming increasingly important to better understand the types of barriers faced by different types of smallholders. Research conducted in Riau, and in Central and West Kalimantan, highlights the sustainability, legality and productivity challenges arising from independent smallholder oil palm expansion. Gendered impacts of oil palm development also deserve special consideration, given the additional burden on women.

Understanding who smallholders are is important, since it has become the case that frontier expansion is often driven by larger, out-of-province and absentee farmers who engage in oil palm for investment purposes, rather than by smaller farmers (for example, with plots less than three hectares in area) who are dependent primarily on household labor. Some of this expansion is associated with land speculation, as a way to appropriate economic rents under the expectation of a future increase in the commercial value of cleared lands.

Tenure legality issues – faced especially by smallholders whose oil palm operations more closely resemble that of businesses – constitute the most significant compliance challenge. There is an ongoing debate over how to deal with illegality and to channel financial resources and technical support, not only to regulate oil palm expansion, but to enhance the performance of smallholders.


Different and complementary initiatives are emerging to address performance issues in the sector. These embrace three broad objectives, namely: to implement traceability systems while overcoming challenges to involve smallholders; to refine and harmonize sustainability standards and tools; and to reconcile supply chain and landscape management approaches.

Enhancing traceability and smallholder inclusion

Major corporate groups in the palm oil sector are developing traceability systems to monitor and verify their performance with respect to their commitments to zero deforestation. Given the challenges to smallholder inclusion in this context, a number of companies and NGOs are collaborating to develop new business models and value chain strategies to support the inclusion of smallholders and enhance their compliance capacity. This is a work in progress.

Refining and harmonizing sustainability standards and tools

The most relevant process in this regard has been the HCS Convergence Agreement, which harmonizes methodologies to estimate high carbon stocks, and complements HCV with HCS. Other ongoing initiatives include RSPO Next, which is a set of advanced, add-on criteria for palm-oil growers seeking to comply with the aims of “no deforestation, no fire, no planting on peat, reduction of GHGs, and respect for human rights and transparency”, as well as efforts to strengthen ISPO. A major issue is how to implement on-the-ground standards that are increasingly demanding technically, and for which there are no institutional conditions, such as legality.

Reconciling supply chain interventions and landscape management

The private sector and NGOs are increasingly acknowledging that progress will only be piecemeal if underlying structural issues affecting the palm oil sector are not comprehensively addressed. Supporting efforts in specific jurisdictions to identify and register smallholder lands, and to promote district-level monitoring, reporting and verification of land-use change, are being undertaken as part of wider jurisdictional-based initiatives, emerging as a way to scale up innovations and solutions. These approaches may have potential, but have yet to prove their effectiveness.

Watch: Sustainable development of Cameroon’s palm oil

Workers take before fertilizing the next line of trees. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR


Different futures are possible for oil palm expansion, with diverse consequences for development and conservation and their trade-offs. All depends on how far the government and the private sector will go in embracing their sustainability policies, and how effectively they are implemented and monitored.

The most likely scenarios are: 1) a business-as-usual scenario, in which oil palm plantations continue to expand at the current rate; 2) a moratorium scenario, in which the government applies increasing constraints to development on primary and secondary forests and peatlands; 3) a zero-deforestation scenario, in which deforestation is completely stopped in oil palm concessions; and 4) a sustainable intensification scenario, in which expansion continues on suitable lands, with greater social inclusion.

Emerging findings from scenario analysis in Central Kalimantan, when looking at the impacts of oil palm expansion on ecosystem services (comprising carbon stock and storage, habitat quality, water yield and palm oil production), suggest that the zero-deforestation scenario is the most desirable option. This scenario, however, requires a review of the forest moratorium that should encompass all forest types, as well as a clear land-use policy, strategy and detailed land-use plan involving all jurisdictions and stakeholders. The next most desirable scenario is sustainable intensification that would avoid the release of carbon, while continuing to contribute to increased palm oil supply resulting from enhanced yields.

When looking at Indonesia as a whole, scenario research suggests that zero-deforestation commitments and the moratorium on large-scale oil palm plantation expansion could reduce deforestation by 25% and 28%, respectively. These measures could also cut GHG emissions from land-use change by 13% and 16%, respectively, over the period 2010–2030. Even under the zero-deforestation and moratorium scenarios, Indonesia is projected to increase palm oil supply between 97% to 124% over 2010–2030, partly due to higher production originating from smallholders. Both measures – zero-deforestation commitments and a moratorium on large-scale expansion – would limit future deforestation in Indonesia, while maintaining the country’s leading role in the global palm oil market.

Foresight analysis is key in the debate on sustainable palm oil development. It can provide data and information to allow for evidence-based policy making. Public and private decision-makers, and multi-stakeholder initiatives should pay more attention to likely futures analysis to guide their decisions on action to reduce deforestation and GHG emissions, while finding options to improve productivity, legality and inclusion in the palm oil sector, with solutions that are acceptable to all stakeholders, and the wider society.

By Pablo Pacheco, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Pablo Pacheco at

This research is supported by USAID funding for CIFOR’s Governing Oil Palm Landscapes for Sustainability (GOLS) project, and this work is partly funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development KNOWFOR Program Grant to CIFOR.

This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is funded by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

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Women assemble a sofa in Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo by M. Usman/CIFOR
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Women assemble a sofa in Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo by M. Usman/CIFOR

Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing is like an anak sholeh — a good and pious child — according to several speakers at a recent national policy dialogue held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

From forests to workshops, marketplaces and homes, Indonesia’s timber products form a long and complex supply chain, which FLEGT is helping to regulate and strengthen.

The country’s timber exports are valued at US$11 billion annually. Thanks to its timber legality verification system known as SVLK and the subsequent issuance of FLEGT, with which businesses can export timber and wood products to the European Union with greater ease, the government expects furniture exports to increase significantly.

Indonesia is the only country in the world to have implemented the licensing so far, giving its furniture a competitive advantage in an increasingly discerning market as consumers pay more attention to the issues of a green environment, illegal logging, deforestation and sustainable production.

Watch: Policy dialogue: CIFOR cohosts FLEGT talks in Jakarta

Speakers pose with tokens of appreciation made from SVLK-certified wood following one of the sessions at the National Policy Dialogue in Jakarta. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

However, issues remain in the widespread implementation of FLEGT in Indonesia, especially among small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The recent policy dialogue, cohosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) on July 13, tackled the topic of FLEGT licensing and supporting SMEs to access global markets.

The dialogue brought together scientists, government representatives, local furniture producers and community leaders to discuss challenges for SMEs to meet FLEGT requirements; a strategy to maximize the impacts of the license on SMEs; and the role of province and district governments to ensure the legality of SME production.

Read more: Indonesia’s timber going green – and global

Ida Bagus Putera Parthama, Director General of Sustainable Forest Management at Indonesia’s Forestry and Environment Ministry, said the initiative stemmed from an effort to eliminate illegal logging, and a desire to “stop the stigma attached to Indonesia about illegal wood.”

He described the license as “a good boy that the whole country has been waiting for” and said “everyone should support it.”

“The final outcome we expect from the system is to increase our market share, competitiveness of products, revenue for communities and in the end improve the livelihoods of those involved,” Parthama explained.

Charles-Michel Geurts, deputy head of the EU Delegation to Indonesia and Brunei, speaks at the National Policy Dialogue in Jakarta. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Charles-Michel Geurts, deputy head of the EU Delegation to Indonesia and Brunei, concurred. “The world is looking to Indonesia,” he said. “Anak sholeh is a role model; everybody likes him [and] wants to adopt him.”

However, some business people voiced concerns. Jepara Small-Scale Furniture Producers Association (APKJ) representative Sulthon Muhamad Amin said that while medium and large companies may not be lumbered with the requirements, the costs associated with the licensing were too onerous for small-scale workshops. Thus, some still preferred to partner with exporters in the local market rather than become exporters themselves.

Sulthon later said small businesses must change this mindset. However, he questioned how this could happen, stating that many small-scale businesses had never heard of FLEGT.

Despite dissemination efforts, local administrations must be more proactive in providing assistance to small businesses, Sulthon said. “If an SME is like a small boy being led by a mother, it doesn’t mean he can be given the information and then left alone.”

Read more: Brexit rattles Indonesia’s timber trade prospects with Europe

FTA scientist Herry Purnomo of CIFOR speaks at the National Policy Dialogue. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

FTA scientist Herry Purnomo of CIFOR, whose work looks at furniture value chains, said SLVK promoted a balance between economic progress and environmental conservation. The system was not only driven by the EU’s system, he explained, as advancing people’s economies through participation and in an environmentally friendly manner was also mandated by the country’s Constitution.

In line with this, sustainable value chains and investments to support forest conservation and equitable development are a key part of FTA’s work.

Purnomo also echoed Sulthon’s thoughts, saying small-scale businesses faced different issues to big companies. Thus, local administrations should be more active in maximizing the benefits of FLEGT licenses for SMEs.

“We should also think about the domestic market, not only about the EU market,” Purnomo added. “Maybe we need to use SVLK more in domestic procurement processes.”

Taking note of Indonesia’s status as the first country to have FLEGT licenses, the scientist said environmental awareness would continue to grow, including in other emerging markets across the region such as Korea and Singapore. “Later it will be very difficult for us to catch up.”

For business people, exporters and consumers, FLEGT is a new kid on the block worth getting to know.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

Related publications

This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). We would like to thank all donors who supported this work through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

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  • Landscape-scale management for sustainable development

Landscape-scale management for sustainable development

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  • CIAT Annual Report 2015-2016: Sustainable Food Futures--Getting the Fundamentals Right

CIAT Annual Report 2015-2016: Sustainable Food Futures–Getting the Fundamentals Right

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Originally published at CIAT blog

The world has never produced or consumed so much food. We cannot, however, ignore the pressure that food production is putting on the environment and the ecosystem services we all depend on. We cannot ignore either the unprecedented threat that climate change poses on agriculture – and the need to adapt swiftly. And we must ensure that food production and distribution systems give farmers in developing countries – men and women alike – a fair deal, and consumers around the world, adequate access to varied, affordable, and nutritious foods.

In this Annual Report covering the period April 2015 through March 2016, CIAT offers a dynamic overview of our contribution in addressing these challenges and building sound fundamentals for sustainable food futures. Working with hundreds of partners, we are helping conserve the integrity of vital ecosystem services in Latin American, African, and Asian rural landscapes, while generating increased economic and social benefits. Inspired by our experience with Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to better shield important value chains from climate variability, we are now extending our support to Peru and Honduras.

The fourteen country profiles on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) that have been produced so far also enable policymakers and investors to quickly and easily review the opportunities for CSA prioritization at a national level. As one of the pioneers of big data in agricultural science, CIAT uses large, uncontrolled, real-world data sets, and cutting-edge analytics to scour the data and produce reliable and highly site-specific recommendations.

CIAT’s big data operation has yielded game-changing discoveries for the Colombian rice industry – solutions that can easily be scaled up and broadened to include other crops. To boost explanatory power, scientists are looking at incorporating data on soils, pests, and diseases, as well as other factors. Of the 169 targets that make up the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, over 60 relate in some way to the food system.

By conserving bean and cassava varieties as well as tropical forages and their wild relatives in our genebank, accelerating genetic gain, spreading sound agronomic practices, and by promoting business models that give farmers and the environment a better deal, CIAT and our hundreds of partners contribute actively to shaping a sustainable future. More investments and efforts in agricultural research for development are needed. With 21 offices and almost 1,000 staff strategically located across the tropics, we are uniquely placed to pursue sustainable food futures for tropical agriculture in collaboration with our partners, including policy makers, and the private sector.

Read the Annual Report here

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