REDD+ impact on Indonesia’s Forest Governance

By Elizabeth Kahurani

ASB Partnership training on Land Use Planning and Management in Jambi Province, IndonesiaDespite challenges and controversy surrounding the initiative to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), there is no denying that the mechanism has set in motion structures and processes on which climate change regimes can build on both at the national and international levels. For Indonesia, there is evidence that the REDD+ initiative has had considerable impact on forest governance.

In a new study, Reform or Reversal: the Impact of REDD+ Readiness on Forest Governance in Indonesia. Scientists used a new analytical framework on REDD+ Readiness and interviews to determine how well along the country is doing in getting ready to implement the initiative and associated governance reforms. The analytical framework provides a set of functions and indicators as criteria with universal application. The main functions include: Planning and Coordination; policy, institutional, and legal framework; MRV and audit; Demonstration and Pilots; Financing; Benefit sharing.

Indonesia is known to have demonstrated high level political will and commitment when the president declared the target for the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% with national resources or up to 41% with international support by 2020. However, stakeholders interviewed in the study indicated the need to accelerate operational framework to address issues on tenure, carbon rights and conflict resolution.

There was a high score for REDD+ pilot projects as they are many and spread out within the country, though concern was with the need for better coordination and finding ways to incorporate lessons at project level to national scale.

With regard to planning and coordination, respondents cited the need for a REDD+ institution in order to enhance coordination between relevant sectors and stakeholders.

“On MRV, the country is yet to make significant strides though there is a Road Map for Forestry MRV to identify key activities,” says Putra Agung, lead author of the study. He further adds that a financial system and instruments for public and private sector funding are still in discussion and action was needed to clarify benefit-sharing mechanism.

“To demonstrate results on emission reduction, REDD+ must reward good performance and produce incentives through adequate compensation and co-investment across relevant scales,” says Dr Meine van Noordwijk, Chief Scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre.

Overall, REDD+ has had a positive impact on forest governance in Indonesia. In this study, the function on policy, institutional, and legal framework received a high score. Moreover, the REDD social safeguard, the commitment by various ministries to hasten the gazettement of forest boundaries, and the constitutional recognition of indigenous people to manage forest have been significant in attempts to resolve land tenure issues.

The study Reform or Reversal: the Impact of REDD+ Readiness on Forest Governance in Indonesia is part of a journal special issue Climate Policy vol.14, no. 6 focusing on The Political Economy of Readiness for REDD+ available on open access.

Citation: Agung, P., Galudra, G.,van Noordwijk, M., Maryani, R. 2014 Reform or reversal: the impact of REDD+ readiness on forest governance in Indonesia Climate Policy 14 (6) 748-768

Realizing landscape restoration initiatives through Landcare

By Clinton Muller & Dennis Garrity

The global agenda is turning its attention to landscape restoration initiatives. 

Visions have been set, such as the objective of Land Degradation Neutrality championed through the UNCCD at Rio+20.

Targets have been defined, including the Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020.

The new challenge now is how will these landscape restoration initiatives be realized?

National governments have demonstrated tremendous leadership in enacting sound policy to support landscape restoration initiatives. Landcare Group in Nigeria distributing seedlings as part of a revegetation project Ethiopia for instance, has committed to restore 150 million hectares of degraded land, more than one-sixth of the country’s total land area.  Likewise, Guatemala is working towards restoring 1.2 million hectares of it’s 10.7 million hectare land mass.  Many NGO’s and other agencies have also embarked on programs and activities to support these objectives.

While invariably the intent of achieving these goals are well grounded, the processes in which to fully realize them now, and into the future, are still being defined.

Landcare can bring a lot to the table to contribute to the discussion.

Founded independently, yet simultaneously in Australia and Germany in the mid 1980’s, Landcare is an approach based on the notion of communities caring for their landscape.  The model, based on the values of community empowerment and collective action to develop and apply innovative solutions to natural resource management challenges, has often been identified as ‘bottom-up’ rather than the conventional ‘top-down’ program design. 

It is the focus on the bottom up mechanism that places community at the forefront of landscape management and decision making activities.  This is not to suggest community can achieve these outcomes in isolation.  Lessons from the Landcare approach in Australia, which has scaled to a national program with more than 4,000 community Landcare groups, demonstrates the importance of effective partnerships.  Strong partnerships exist between voluntary community Landcare groups in Australia with various government agencies, NGOs and the private sector, as well as research institutes. 

Together, the Landcare community of Australia has changed their rural and urban landscape in supporting the reversal of land degradation.  Through the collective efforts of community Landcare groups, the Australian landscape has been transformed, as witnessed by:

  • the planting of millions of trees, shrubs and grasses
  • riparian protection works
  • restored water quality through streambank stabilization and stock exclusion from waterways
  • improved ground cover, grazing methods and soil management
  • protection and regeneration of remnant native vegetation for habitat; and
  • stronger, adaptable and resilient rural communities

The success of Landcare is not just isolated to Australia.  Strong evidence exists in the more than 30 countries globally who have embraced Landcare.  Communities have reclaimed erosive hillsides in Claveria, Philippines for agricultural production.  Farmers in Kapchorwa, Uganda, have protected the forested area of Mt Elgon and rehabilitated erosive hillslopes through re-vegetation and the development of community by-laws to address free grazing.  Degraded and erosive grasslands in Iceland have been rehabilitated by farmers through the seeding of lyme grass.  These actions have all been undertaken through the Landcare approach.

Realization of initiatives to restore global landscapes will require a coordinated response.  Establishing global, regional and national targets whilst facilitating conducive policy environments is essential.  Equally so is the engagement of the community at the grassroots.  Landcare provides a mechanism to realize this. 

Ultimately the realization of the vision for Landscape restoration will rest with the community, not just in the present through the adoption of remediation works, but also the adoption of a Landcare ethic to sustain landscape management into the future.

Source: This blog is based on Chapter 11: Landcare - a landscape approach at scale of the New book: Climate-smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice

Citation: Catacutan, D., Muller, C., Johnson, M., & Garrity, D. (2015). Landcare – a landscape approach at scale. In Minang, P. A., van Noordwijk, M., Freeman, O. E., Mbow, C., de Leeuw, J., & Catacutan, D. (Eds.) Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice, 151-161. Nairobi, Kenya: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)



Developing REDD+ schemes must consider the implications of uncertainty and scale

Maps of tree cover that were used for developing schemes to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation have errors. It’s all about scale and pixels, say Betha Lusiana and colleagues

By Robert Finlayson

The ability of any scheme to meet its national target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation (REDD+) requires understanding how its processes are linked across scales, from local through provincial to national and international levels. A single approach to reduce deforestation that is effective for a project in several villages might not be as effective at an aggregated level, such as a district.

Accordingly, scale must be addressed in REDD+ schemes, including highly technical activities such as satellite mapping of vegetation cover. This is a critical feature, since knowing how the amount of carbon stock in the form of vegetation, of what type, and how it changes over time determines payments to local people for preserving, adding to, or depleting the stock.

Having a good carbon map is important for being able to monitor carbon being sequestered or emitted over time. For incentive schemes, having a map that fits closely to the reality on the ground is also important. Developing emission maps requires information in the form of land-cover maps and aboveground carbon stocks for every land-use type in the landscape. However, both types of information have errors and uncertainty.  For example, when looking at a satellite image, rubber agroforests can be visually mistaken for natural forests (even in the field it can be difficult for untrained eyes to tell them apart) and the amount of carbon stock in each type of tree cover can vary substantially, which means that when changes to the stock are monitored and aligned with payments for preservation, enhancement or reduction of said stock, there could be large errors and hence incorrect payments.

To address this, we set out to identify an appropriate resolution for mapping carbon stock in a REDD+ scheme. This work was part of a study we conducted—discussed more fully in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change—to design effective emission-reduction activities in Tanjung Jabung Barat (a high-emission district in Jambi province, Indonesia) that can be implemented by the district government.

The study of resolution accuracy involved two steps. First, we developed emission maps for the district that identified changes in aboveground carbon stocks between 2000 and 2009. The maps included calculations that allowed for uncertainty caused by errors in land-cover-map classifications and the variation of carbon, representing the many possible carbons stored in a similar-size plot of a given type of vegetation. Second, we calculated estimates of emissions based on various resolutions from the maps developed in step 1.

From this process, we were able to propose an appropriate scale for monitoring emissions from land-use changes: for anThe effect of scale on hot spots of carbon emissions in Tanjung Jabung Barat, Jambi, Indonesia, between 2000 and 2009. Pixel resolution of 100 m equals pixel area of 1 ha and pixel resolution of 1000 m equals pixel area of 1 km2. Source: World Agroforestacceptable error of 5% (to put it another way: 95% accuracy), planners should use an emissions map with pixel resolution of 1000 m, equal to a pixel size of 1 km2.

We compared this with a map developed by planners in Tanjung Jabung Barat, who had been involved in a participatory planning process with communities, businesses and government agencies to come up with ways of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and found that the schemes they had in mind would be served well by a map with resolution of 1 km2.

Read the article

Lusiana B, van Noordwijk M, Johana F, Galudra G, Suyanto, Cadisch G. 2014.Implications of uncertainty and scale in carbon emission estimates on locally appropriate designs to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+). Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 19(6).

This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

The role of migrants in land arrangements and deforestation

Internal migrants in Indonesia have shifted land arrangements, resulting in both social and ecological damage: land conflicts increase along with deforestation. This complex relationship has been underplayed in the REDD debate, say Gamma Galudra, Meine van Noordwijk, Putra Agung, Suyanto and Ujjwal Pradhan

By Masayu Vinanda

Conflicting claims over land ownership have occurred in most parts of Indonesia, according to Gamma Galudra and colleagues, writing in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. They describe one such conflict and its implications for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in Senyerang village, Tanjung Jabung Barat district, Jambi province on the island of Sumatra.

Agroforest on peat in Tanjung Jabung Barat. Photo: World Agroforestry CentreThe recent background to the conflict in Senyerang starts in 1997, when the Ministry of Forestry granted a permit for a pulp-and-paper company to expand its concession area. About 1500 people—long-settled migrants from other parts of Indonesia—protested over the rights to the land in question, resulting in one person shot dead and two wounded. The migrants argued that the area was their communal land that had been used by the Banjar people since the 1920s. A land licence granted by the pesirah (the chief of the territory), active since the Dutch colonial period, was used as their advocacy tool. However, the company did not stop the conversion and continued planting the area with acacia.

The Senyerang situation clearly demonstrated the tenurial interaction between a group of migrants and a concession-holding company. However, interaction between the migrants and the government institution that issued the permit to the company was also part of the problem. Historical, informal negotiations between the pesirah and the migrants dated back many years and provided a more comprehensive context.

In their study, Galudra and his team analysed relations between four key groups: the state, local communities, migrants and state-sanctioned concession holders in the peat forests of the district to reveal complex, ‘underlying land ownership, power struggles and strategic positioning among stakeholders across scales’.  Those three aspects are crucial to the effectiveness of any REDD scheme in the district, they argued.

Inhabited by approximately 280,000 people, nearly half of the population of the district are migrants from other parts of Indonesia. Practically, the district is divided into two parts: the inland villages on mineral soil inhabited by people from western and northern Sumatra; and the lowland peatland inhabited by Malay people from Riau. Peatland occupies 40% of the district and half of the land is state domain, with the largest area classified as ‘production forest’.

In the 1970s, the Ministry of Agriculture issued concessions to log the forests, leaving behind huge logged-over areas in many parts of the region. These areas were easily accessed, thanks to the roads built for timber extraction, which resulted in further land clearing, particularly for oil-palm and pulp-and-paper plantations. Fifteen years later, the Forest Allotment Consensus provided a stronger legal basis to issue more permits.

‘Both permit regimes marginalized migrants and local communities’, said Galudra. ‘Interaction began between migrants and local communities in the form of land sales. Local communities sold land—to which they might have had customary but not state-sanctioned rights—to groups of migrants who expanded the crop area. Those migrant-controlled areas would sometimes then be occupied by customary landowners who claimed that the land belonged to them. To resolve the conflict, the migrants had to undertake a second transaction, paying extra amounts to the customary landowners’.

Additionally, interaction between migrants and local communities resulted in changing how land was used. For instance, one migrant group, the Banjar, had much experience in clearing and draining peat forests, land which was then transferred to the pesirah (the chief of the territory).

‘The local people of the district lacked this knowledge’, said Galudra, ‘but the Banjar people were able to extend the village’s claims over territory in the peatland. The migrants did this to build a better relationship with the locals. The clearing was seen as an initial investment in easier access for all to use the land’.

Often, an even more complex situation appears when analyzing interactions between migrants and the private sector. Competing claims over land between migrants, local communities and private concessions arose owing to changing policies after decentralization took place, affecting the power relations between the central and local governments. For example, local people and migrants understood that the land they claimed was classified as ‘non-forest area’, a belief justified by such a designation in the District Spatial Plan of 1993. However, private companies believed the area was classified as ‘conversion production forest’ as shown in the records of the central government’s 1985 Forest Allotment Consensus. The conflicting land-use policies have seen an increase in concession permits and the status of forests changed to ‘conversion production forest’ to meet the demand for expansion by the palm-oil and pulp-and-paper industries.

Galudra and team argue that examining the complexities of tenurial interaction—particularly how migrants balance power with local communities, businesses and government authorities at the local level—will help ensure an effective implementation of REDD.

Clear and secure land and forest ownership is required if any progress is to be made. If forest or land tenure insecurity has been resolved, there is no doubt that the benefits or incentives generated from REDD initiatives can then be equally and fairly distributed.

Read the article

Galudra G, van Noordwijk M, Agung P, Suyanto, Pradhan U. 2014. Migrants, land markets and carbon emissions in Jambi, Indonesia: Land tenure change and the prospect of emission reduction. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 19(6).

 This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry


Dragging a knowledge chain through the peat

Lack of understanding of peat is not the weakest link in the chain, say Meine van Noordwijk and colleagues

By Amy C. Cruz

The high emissions of greenhouse gases from tropical peatlands caused by changing their land use have become a problem for policymakers that they can no longer deny, as their own scientists have now confirmed what external critics told before.

Researchers at the World Agroforestry Centre Indonesia are assessing the viability of rubber agroforestry on peat. Photo: World Agroforestry CentreThe emissions need to be reduced to mitigate the effects of climate change but because of the complex issues involved, governments, societies and private businesses are still ‘muddling along’ when it comes to conserving peatlands. The peat models we have so far are as clear as mud.

Given the urgency and political sensitivity, peat and peatlands have become an interesting test ground for understanding the chain that links knowledge with action. Who needs to know, who can act and where is knowledge the weakest link in the chain's limiting action?

Such a ‘knowledge value-chain for peatland conservation’ can trace steps from fundamental understanding of peatlands all the way to multilevel actions towards conservation and reduction of emissions.

‘We found that there are four separate parts of an overall knowledge value-chain concept that links fundamental understanding to action’, said Meine van Noordwijk,  leading a team of authors in a recent publication in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, ‘and there are several weak links that need to be strengthened in a complex chain. Coordinated research and action is needed to achieve positive policy actions and behaviour changes.”

The research team had looked at how people’s understanding, willingness, ability and actions towards peatland conservation have progressed over time. Understanding peat and its processes was the first section in the value chain, including the fundamental point of agreeing on the definitions of ‘peat’ and ‘peatland’ so that they can be correctly identified and assigned more attention, if necessary.

Towards this, different studies had been carried out to develop more accurate ways of quantifying and attributing emissions from peatlands and yet there was still room for improvement, especially because peatlands are variable by nature, making it hard to ensure accurate measurements. In addition, different land uses on peat also result in differences in emissions.

‘Hard science may seem easy compared to what it takes to get a globally agreed set of default values that can be used for transparent emissions’ accounting’, said Dr van Noordwijk.

The second section of the chain is the willingness to act to reduce emissions. For example, in the past, policymakers could not ignore the problem of smoke haze caused by peatland conversion because its effect on visibility was too obvious. Conversion without use of fire seemed an acceptable alternative. The invisible carbon emissions from the conversion and drainage itself could be ignored. However, when emission estimates, mostly from peat drainage and fires, identified Indonesia as the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases there were hardly any Indonesian scientists who had experience and data to challenge or corroborate the claims.

‘Now that weak link has been strengthened, as is evident by the four papers by Indonesian scientists in the REDD-ALERT special issue. Indonesian policymakersnow acknowledge the importance of reducing emissions from peatland as part of the broader debate’, said Dr van Noordwijk.

But willingness to act is not enough. Third, relevant authorities need to be able to influence companies and people to actually reduce emissions. While peatland conversion appeared to be attractive to companies because it brought less conflict with local people and their land-right claims than conversion elsewhere, peatland use now gives oil-palm companies a bad name internationally and potentially affects their sales. Where the long process of issuing permits has already started, however, it is not easy for a local government to stop the conversion and reverse permits. Players at this level need to be aware of how emission reductions are calculated and valued. Local governments need to secure jobs and revenue, so alternative scenarios need to meet their expectations.

The fourth section of the chain is formed by farmers and their communities living in or near peatlands. Slowing current conversion and redirecting land-use changes without alternatives that provide improved livelihoods for local people is not attractive for any policymaker.

‘There are not yet sufficiently viable, alternative uses of peatlands that do not contribute to higher emissions but provide for local incomes and livelihoods’, said Dr van Noordwijk. ‘Thus, the primary focus for this section of the chain needs to be on testing and improving the various locally developed solutions, such as agroforestry involving locally adapted trees for which a market exists’.

Looking over the whole length of the knowledge chain, Dr van Noordwijk and colleagues conclude that progress has been made in the first three sections but peatland countries, such as Indonesia, and international supporters now have to focus on improving the fourth section. 

‘If good science, accurate numbers, a willingness and ability to act on emission estimates are not accompanied by viable alternatives for local livelihoods then the ultimate goal of reducing emissions cannot be achieved,’ conclude Dr van Noordwijk and the research team.

Read the article

Van Noordwijk M, Matthews R, Agus F, Farmer J, Verchot L, Hergoualc’h K, Persch S, Tata HL, Khasanah N, Widayati A, Dewi S. 2014. Mud, muddle and models in the knowledge value-chain to action on tropical peatland conservation. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 19(6).

This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry





Womens decisions can lead to more greenhouse-gas emissions

Decisions by women can lead to more changes in land use because of their willingness to accept offers from outsiders. To avoid deforestation, the value of natural ecosystems needs to be instilled

By Tess Beyer

Indonesia is the world’s third largest producer of greenhouse gas, with 85% of its emissions coming from the destruction of natural forests, the main driver of which in the 21st century is industrial-scale, export-oriented agriculture, such as palm-oil producing monocultures.

Women’s land-use decisions might increase greenhouse-gas emissions. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Noviana KhususiyahThe conversion of forests to other land uses typically has dramatic effects not only on the landscape but on the lives of humans who interacted with the forest. Those effects can be different for men and women and could lead to more greenhouse-gas emissions if women make the decisions, according to a study by Grace Villamor and colleagues in the forest margins of the province of Jambi on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

‘Changing a landscape alters the roles of the humans who have previously related to it in perhaps traditional ways developed over generations’, said Dr Villamor, ‘including various rights of use, which can be different for men and women’.

To help contextualise the recent changes in Sumatran land use and cover, the role gender played was examined. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know what influence a person’s gender had on the willingness to adopt alternative land uses. They used role-play games with local residents to assess their responses to new land-use opportunities, some of which might increase, rather than decrease, the emission of greenhouse gases.

Divided into men-only and women-only groups, the games showed that rapid land-use change occurred when women responded positively to external investors and in doing so out-performed men in meeting income targets. Women managed to negotiate bids up to three times higher than the set price for changing land uses to more profitable ones, such as converting higher carbon-stocked old rubber agroforests to lower carbon-stocked oil-palm plantations. This occurred even more rapidly when faced with shocks or stressors, such as forest fires, population increases and fluctuations in commodity prices.

Further, women from upland areas perceived rubber agroforests as economically superior to natural forests because they provided both conservation and financial benefits. In their eyes (in the context of the game), changing forests to agroforests carried no perceived environmental or income risks.

On the other hand, in the game the men from upland areas left their forests intact. This conservation perspective was probably shaped by the value of timber they collected plus a strong sense of stewardship formed during their long association with various organisations, such as the World Agroforestry Centre.

In the game, the men often made use of a double subsidy from a non-governmental organization and a government agricultural agency to conserve their agroforests. They used the subsidies throughout the game to continuously add to their agroforestry allotment.

This conservation perspective held true for men from the lowlands as well, who had witnessed the reality of mining degrading the environment without providing long-term wealth. Because of this, most were reluctant at first to deal in the game with an agent representing a coal mine.

For Dr Villamor and colleagues, it was clear from the results of the game that the women’s chosen pathways of land-use changes would lead to substantial carbon losses and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Extrapolating from this, if women were to have greater involvement in landscape-level decision-making then activities might be necessary that built awareness of the value of ecosystem services. Women’s established skills as entrepreneurs and traders of goods and services from forests and agroforests could also be developed in a positive direction that supported the conservation of treed landscapes.

According to the researchers, more explicit attention should be paid to the different responses offered by men and women of drivers of both deforestation and conservation.

Any government program that aims to modify land-use decisions needs to adopt a gender-balanced approach. Environmental protection cannot thrive unless women and men both see the net benefit.


Read the article

Villamor GB, Desrianti F, Akiefnawati R, Amaruzaman S, van Noordwijk M. 2013. Gender influences decisions to change land use practices in the tropical forest margins of Jambi, Indonesia. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 19(6).


This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Landscape approaches special issue write-shop at the Rockefeller Bellagio Centre, Italy

The Rockefeller Foundation funded the ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins from the World Agroforestry Centre to convene twenty three (23) participants for a write-shop on Landscape approaches to REDD+. The write shop was held on March 25-27 2014 at the Rockefeller Bellagio Centre in Italy.

Participants from various disciplines were drawn from countries in the Amazon, Southeast Asia and the Congo Basin where the ASB Partnership has set up benchmark study sites to explore integrated approaches to environmental conservation that also sustain livelihoods. Participants at the write-shop in a peer review session.

Importance of a Landscape Approach

Climate change remains the single most challenge facing humanity to-date. Negative effects of global warming can already be felt and developing countries will be hardest hit.

REDD+ - Reducing Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation is an initiative under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreements that proposes to reward developing countries for keeping their forests. Since the agreement in 2010, commitments have not been implemented partly attributable to many challenges arising from the initiative’s narrow focus on forests.

For over a period of three years now, the ASB Partnership has been collecting data on the feasibility of a landscape approaches as a more effective pathway to climate change mitigation and adaptation that overcomes REDD+ implementation challenges.

At RIO +20 and recent UNFCCC discussions, the idea of a landscape approach has been forged as ‘the next best alternative to REDD+’. However, there is lack of scientific evidence on the definition and feasibility strategies for a landscape approach.

The purpose of the write-shop was to fill this gap by collecting together data from different countries across the tropics where pilot studies on a landscape approach have been conducted. Once published, these papers will contribute to the body of knowledge and evidence guiding scientific and policy debates/discussions on climate change.

The write-shop also had a built-in peer-review process and a special group of experienced reviewers working at the science-policy nexus who challenged the authors of the different papers to new, fresh levels of critical thinking in the development of their paper drafts. “I thought my paper was 90% before coming here, but after interaction with reviewers and my peers I think I am  only at 20%!” said one of the authors.

Landscape Approaches special issue writeshop at Rockefeller Bellagio Centre. The papers will be published in a special journal issue to guide climate policy on effective approaches to climate mitigation and adaptationAll the participants felt that the conference facility and environment was inspiring and had a special connection with the subject of the writeshop. “Here we are at one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, discussing ways to save the planet. Let us all resolve to make a difference because we can,” said Dr Ravi Prabhu, Deputy Director, research at the World Agroforestry Centre who was one of the reviewers.

At the end of the three-day write-shop, participants had developed seventeen (17) draft papers for submitting a proposal for a special issue to an appropriate high impact journal. The target is to have submitted full draft papers to the journal by November 2014.

The conference program was a great opportunity and contributed to the mission of the Rockefeller Bellagio Centre by bringing together teams from different parts of the continent to share ideas, become innovative and map out a pathway to answering questions concerning one of the single most challenge facing humanity today.  It also links with Rockefeller Foundation focus areas on climate resilience and food security.

Participants at the write shop came from eight (8) countries and represented six (6) organizations including the CGIAR institutions – The World Agroforestry Centre, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and International Center for Tropical Agriculture as well as Conservation International and the UN-REDD Programme.

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.

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