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The ASB Partnership turns 20!

In 2014, the ASB Partnership celebrates twenty years of high impact scientific research on options to combat deforestation while improving livelihoods in the tropical forest margins. It is a partnership that has consistently championed the issue of deforestation and has had far reaching effects and contributed to global debates and initiatives on environment, particularly on climate change. Over the years, ASB Partnership has worked with local communities, governments and scientists in finding compromise between livelihood needs, development and environmental conservation

More than 50 institutions through multidisciplinary and long-term co-location of research in benchmark sites across the humid tropics have published more than 1000 scientific publications, including articles, books and book chapters; as well as over 40 signature ASB policy briefs that have become popular with various audiences and especially policy and decision makers.

“The evolution of ASB can well be compared to the story of the phoenix bird that rises after earlier incarnations crashed and burned in the sense that the partnership has had to change and renew focus after challenging afresh old and existing theories,” says Dr Meine vanNoordwijk, Chief Scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre who was among pioneers of the ASB Partnership.

During phase I of the partnership, the hypothesis was to stop deforestation through agricultural intensification, maximizing on yields in available agricultural land in order to spare forests. With time however it was realized that this could actually lead to more deforestation as agriculture became more profitable. Phase II was an effort to explore whether intensification would work if integrated with appropriate policies, technology and institutional reforms through a win-win hypothesis. This approach encountered challenges on implementation particularly across scale from local to national government. This led to Phase III of incentives hypothesis where environment and development needs could be met with the right mix of incentives supported not just by the governments in developing countries but through global investments such as payments for ecosystem services.

The partnership is currently at Phase IV -sharing-sparing-caring hypothesis- where emphasis has been on a multifunctional landscape approach to emission reduction. Through the Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses project, ASB is among pioneer institutions to provide evidence on the need for a landscape approach to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), as it overcomes implementation challenges related to a narrow focus on forests. This has been picked up in various forums with negotiators at the last United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP 19) saying that a landscape approach is the next best alternative to REDD+. A global forum on landscapes was also held for the first time at the margins of COP 19.

“The success of the ASB Partnership lies in the diverse, dynamic, multidisciplinary team of scientists drawn from national and international research institutes, universities, community organizations, and farmer’s groups,” says Dr Peter Minang, ASB Partnership Global Coordinator.

The ASB approach provides the right mixes of disciplines to test various theories and working with communities informs their practicality and application on the ground.

“Going forward, ASB will continue to work on issues around the agriculture-forest interface,” says Dr Minang. “Shifting cultivation remains a huge challenge in the Congo Basin and more attention would thus be given to that part of the world. Overall, research will focus on promoting multi-functionality in landscapes along tropical forest margins in the context of green economic development.”

Over the next 20 years, ASB Partnership hopes to continue reporting positive impact on lives, livelihoods, forests and ecosystem services.

The ASB Partnership 20th anniversary celebrations in New Delhi

The ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins held its inaugural 20th Anniversary celebration in New Delhi, India on Thursday, February 13 2014 as a special event during the World Congress on Agroforestry.  

Key highlights of the celebrations included the release of a new book Partnership in the Tropical Forest Margins: a 20-year Journey in Search of Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn which consolidates the ASB twenty year journey as documented in the ASB policy brief series. A video with a narration of the ASB story within the framework of a twenty-year timeline was also screened. 

In his opening statement, Prof Tony SimonA panel of ASB Partners and scientists who have worked with the Partnership over the 20 year period give their reflectionss, the ASB Partnership Chair and Director General at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) noted that, “There is no other single partnership agency that has stayed the cause in working with all of those issues at the agriculture –forestry interface in the tropical forest margins.”

In attendance at the celebrations were ASB partners, some who have been working with the partnership since its inception in 1994 and were part of even earlier discussions leading to its formation. These included: Dr Dennis Garrity, Senior Board Fellow at ICRAF and former ASB Chair; Dr Tatiana Sá, former Executive Director, Embrapa and now a senior researcher with the same institution; Prof Fahmudin Angus of the Indonesian Soil Research Institute (ISRI); Dr Vu Tan Phuong, the ASB Partnership national facilitator in Vietnam; Dr Jofel Feliciano, ASB national facilitator in the Philippines, working with The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development.

Dr Peter Minang, the current ASB Partnership Global Coordinator indulged them in a panel discussion on their work and reflections with the partnership over the years.

They acknowledged ASB’s impact over the years in shaping policies and debates both at national and international levels, training of farmers and government officials at local level and producing high impact scientific publications, manuals and other resources that have widely been used by decision makers. But they also mentioned some of the challenges and work areas within the Partnership’s mandate that still need to be tackled. “There still remains a need to explore options for sustainable agriculture among the poor farmers practicing shifting cultivation in the Congo basin,” said Dr Dennis Garrity. New Book: Partnership in the tropical forest margins: a 20-year Journey in Search of Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn released at the inaugural ASB 20th anniversary celebrations

The celebrations concluded with a virtual tour of the ASB benchmark sites in form of a poster session and an art gallery that illustrated various activities on shifting cultivation as practiced in Southeast Asia.

What is agrobiodiversity and how is it impacted by policy?

Agrobiodiversity refers to the dynamic and complex relations among human societies, cultivated plants and the environments where they interact, and it is directly related to food security, nutrition, health, social equity and justice, environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation.

REDD+ within reach in rural Brazil

Brazil’s land reform program that aimed to bring “People without land to land without people” has resulted in over 8,500 settlements covering more than 84 million hectares of forest throughout the country.

Strategic Planning for Climate-Smart Landscapes

At the invitation of the World Bank, ASB Scientists Peter Minang and Douglas White made a presentation on best approaches to climate smart agriculture (CSA) at the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C in the US.

Methodology for low carbon emission strategies at local government level

As part of ASB Partnership’s REALU project, a new strategy that provides a model of how consensus among multi-stakeholders can be achieved including how communities can be part of decision making and implementation process in finding sustainable solutions to development has been released.

Submissions to the UNFCCC - Reference Emission Levels (REL)

REDD+ is a mechanism that aims to reward developing countries that avoid deforestation and/or implement activities that sequester carbon.

The World Agroforestry Centre at Rio+ 20

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) supports Rio+20’s focus on sustainable development and hopes the conference will establish a sound development basis for the rest of the 21st Century by adopting as a guide, strategies agreed upon at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), agreements from World Summit on adopting Sustainable Development (WSSD) an

A key resource: manual on estimating opportunity costs of REDD+

A recent version II of the manual titled Estimating Opportunity Costs of REDD+ can be found

Climate change and deforestation pose risk to Amazon rainforest

A recent study by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre shows that if forty percent of the Amazon were to be deforested, the rainforest ecosystem would pass a 'tipping point' that would trigger a feedback loop between fore

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