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.