The agriculture-forest interface is the key to achieving global restoration goals


Deforestation and forest degradation are causing ecological and socioeconomic problems in every part of the world. It is well known that these impact the climate by increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide—affecting the environment and communities globally. Degradation of land and soil also poses substantial challenges to meeting global food needs and generates additional significant risks to people, particularly in predominantly rural and poor countries heavily dependent on natural resources. It is estimated that the global cost of land degradation due to land-use change and to the use of land-degrading management practices is about $300 billion annually. Moreover, if the current pace of land degradation continues over the next 20 years, it could reduce global food production by as much as 12 percent and increase the price of some commodities by as much as 30 percent.

Given its magnitude, the joint problems of deforestation and land degradation must be addressed globally to respond to these environmental and development challenges. However, even though it is often said that actions that transform degraded lands into healthy landscapes are less costly than taking no action, significant forces have prevented progress and the achievement of land and forest restoration goals.

The international community has worked to halt degradation and restore degraded lands for decades. The latest initiative, the Bonn Challenge, sets a global goal to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2020, and a total of 350 million hectares by 2030. A key principle underlying the Bonn Challenge is the forest landscape restoration (FLR) approach. FLR provides a framework to implement sustainable forest management while creating a substantial role for agriculture. FLR is also expected to contribute to meeting many existing international restoration commitments, including the CBD Aichi Biodiversity Targets; the UNFCCC REDD+; the Rio+20 land degradation neutrality goal; as well as the climate change mitigation and adaptation goals in the Paris Agreement and several of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Although some progress has been made towards achieving above mentioned targets, significant obstacles have prevented progress and the achievement of land and forest restoration goals. Though there are local success stories, communities living in degraded landscapes do not typically undertake large-scale restorations. Widespread adoption of such efforts is possible only if landowners, farmers, smallholders, and land managers ultimately benefit, and then only when restoration programs have stakeholder support. The active role of agriculture in such efforts is expected to encourage more direct participation by communities, helping to reduce the observed opposition to large-scale restoration projects.

Evidence shows that landscape-level interventions—such as restoration of riparian areas and wetlands to regulate water flows for agriculture, or management of tree cover both within farmland and on surrounding landscapes—can enhance the provision of ecosystem services and support functionality of agriculture landscapes. Yet, the landscape restoration movement still struggles to become operational at a large scale due to a lack of understanding of landscape complexities and perceived conflicts among the most pressing needs of some stakeholders.

A group of researchers at IFPRI and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) set out to assess the potential benefits of a globally widespread adoption of forest landscape restoration. The results of this recent work on land degradation reveal that the full inclusion of crop production in the forest landscape restoration approach could produce large-scale, worldwide benefits for food security.

The positive impacts are multifaceted and significant in size: A reduction in the number of malnourished children ranging from 3 to 6 million; a reduced number of people at risk of hunger, estimated at 70 and 151 million; reduced pressure for expansion of cropland; increased soil fertility; and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. These benefits—not only to farmers but also to the broader population—strongly suggest that a forest landscape restoration approach that meaningfully integrates agriculture can facilitate the implementation of restoration plans on large amounts of land.

As impressive as these results are, the limits of the modeling employed indicate that these numbers may actually underestimate the full potential of a widespread adoption of restoration practices. Due to current modeling constraints, the representation of agroforestry, silvopastoral, and agrosilvopastoral systems at the global level is difficult and the role of these systems on a global scale remains unexplored. This is an important area for future work because research consistently indicates that the judicious use of agroforestry can provide an additional source of vitamins and micronutrients, among other positive effects on the nutritional qualities of farm output.

The results of this new work (which has not yet been peer-reviewed) not only confirm the findings of the many studies that have investigated the benefits of land and forest restoration in more localized settings—they should also provide enough confidence to governments and policy makers to answer the many calls to invest in wide-scale restoration projects without jeopardizing their food security goals. Approaches that fully integrate agriculture in restoration projects, such as forest landscape restoration, can not only avoid trade-offs between restoration and food production, but also can provide a framework to build on the synergies of multi-functional landscapes with significant benefits to food security.

Alessandro (Alex) De Pinto is a Senior Research Fellow in the Environment and Production Technology Division of IFPRI. Salome Begeladze is a programme officer for Forest Landscape Restoration in the Global Forest and Climate Change Programme of IUCN. This post is based on work which has not yet been peer reviewed.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the International Food Policy Research Institute and retrieved on 11/24/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Paying people to protect forests is worth it


Credit: Photo courtesy of Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust

Participants in the PES program receiving their payments for conserving trees.

A new Northwestern University study suggests that paying people to conserve their trees could be a highly cost-effective way to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions and should be a key part of the global strategy to fight climate change.

The study, led by Seema Jayachandran, associate professor of economics in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, sought to evaluate how effective “Payments for Ecosystems” (PES) is at reducing deforestation. PES is a program in which people are given financial rewards for pro-environment behaviors.

In the study, people who owned forest in 60 villages in western Uganda were given cash rewards if they kept their forest intact and refrained from deforesting it. Forest owners in another 61 villages in western Uganda received no monetary incentives.

“We found that the program had very large impacts on forest cover,” said Jayachandran, also a faculty fellow with Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. “In the villages without the program, 9 percent of the tree cover that was in place at the start of the study was gone by the end of it, two years later. In the villages with the PES program, there was 4 to 5 percent tree loss. In other words, there was still deforestation, but much less of it.

“It wasn’t the case that only forest owners who were planning to conserve anyway enrolled,” Jayachandran said. “The payments changed people’s behavior and prompted them to conserve. And we didn’t find any evidence that they simply shifted their tree-cutting elsewhere. This truly was a net increase in forest cover in the study region.”

The first of its kind, the study applies the method of field experiments, or randomized controlled trials, to the question of how effective PES is. The study design helped the researchers accurately measure the averted deforestation caused by the program.

Jayachandran said the cost effectiveness of the program compared to other approaches to reduce carbon emissions, such as subsidies for hybrid or electric vehicles in the U.S., was eye opening.

“A major contribution of the study was to compare the benefit of reduced deforestation to the cost of the program. What’s that extra forest worth to society? We do that by applying what’s called the ‘social cost of carbon,'” Jayachandran said.

“This is an estimate that others have come up with for the economic damage to the world from each ton of CO2 that is emitted. We found that the benefit of the delayed CO2 emissions was over twice as large as the program costs. For many other environmental policies, the value of the averted CO2 is in fact smaller than the program costs.”

The findings highlight the advantages of focusing on developing countries when working to reduce global carbon emissions. While the benefit of conserving a tree is the same regardless of the location, paying individuals to conserve forests in developing countries like Uganda is less expensive, making it cheaper to reduce overall emissions.

Today, with deforestation accounting for a substantial portion of human-induced carbon emissions, the researchers describe the payment program they studied as “a cost-effective way to avert deforestation in developing countries — and hence a powerful tool to mitigate climate change.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Northwestern University. Original written by Hilary Hurd Anyaso. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Seema Jayachandran, Joost de Laat, Eric F. Lambin, Charlotte Y. Stanton, Robin Audy, Nancy E. Thomas. Cash for carbon: A randomized trial of payments for ecosystem services to reduce deforestationScience, 2017; 357 (6348): 267 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan0568

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Science Daily and retrieved on 07/22/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Land-rights policies in Latin America still fall short, studies show


Source: CIFOR 2017. Indigenous community in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma for CIFOR

 JUNE 18, 2017

Scientists present their findings on forest tenure and land use at a major conference in Peru

Peru – Latin American countries have made progress in granting land rights to communities in recent years. Nevertheless, policies often fail to consider the diversity of those communities and the different ways they use their land.

Some of those differences were highlighted in studies presented by researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) at the recent Latin American Studies Association Conference held in Lima, Peru.

Government regulations often take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to forest tenure, which is out of step with local practices that vary from place to place, and sometimes even from one family to the next, said Peter Cronkleton, a senior scientist at CIFOR.

“One thing we’re finding is that forest use is very heterogeneous,” he said. “The problem is that there is very little detailed information about this heterogeneity.”

Several studies by CIFOR researchers that compare advances in tenure reform and indigenous initiatives in various countries worldwide provide a window into local practices, shedding light on areas of policy and legislation that require more attention, said Cronkleton.


In Peru, indigenous communities have gained title to more than 12 million hectares of forest land, and 5.7 million more are pending.

Progress is slow, however, because of the number of steps involved and because in recent years, different government agencies have been responsible for granting titles, said Iliana Monterroso, a post-doctoral fellow at CIFOR.

Overlapping land claims and a lack of a single national land registry also complicate the process, because a community cannot title its land if overlapping claims exist.

Once an indigenous community does obtain title, it does not automatically have the right to use forest resources commercially. The community can only title land used for agriculture, while the state retains ownership of forests. The community can obtain government-granted usufruct rights and permits for commercializing forest products, but this requires another series of steps that often are too expensive for communities unless they have outside support.

The problems revealed by her study point to opportunities for improving policies and regulations said Monterroso, who recommends a stronger role for sub-national governments in the titling process.

Communities need allies in those government agencies, to help them move their applications through the often-confusing titling process, she added.

“Non-governmental groups also have an important role to play in monitoring progress and remaining problems,” said Monterroso. “They have kept records and may have more complete information than government agencies or the communities.”


Just having title does not necessarily enable community members to improve their livelihoods, the researchers say. Other policies are needed to support them, but those policies must take into account the different ways in which people use their forests.

REDD+, conservation, and rural livelihoods

six-country comparative study of initiatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is examining those uses and the economic importance of forests for local communities.

The study— conducted in Peru and Brazil in Latin America; Cameroon and Tanzania in Africa; and Vietnam and Indonesia in Asia—surveyed 4,000 households in 150 villages from 2010-2011 and again from 2013-2014, to gauge the impact of REDD+ programs on people’s livelihoods.

Surveys in 2012 and 2014 in eight villages in the Amazonian region of Ucayali, Peru, showed that villagers combined cash-producing activities with subsistence production. It also calculated the economic importance of the subsistence activities.

Family income averaged nearly USD $6,000 in 2012, and USD $3,755 in 2014—a drop researchers are still trying to understand, Cronkleton said.

Nevertheless, the largest proportion of villagers’ income in both years—more than two-thirds in 2012 and nearly half in 2014—came from forest-related activities, with farming and non-farm work making up smaller percentages.


Fish and game from the forest accounted for the largest percentage of villagers’ income. The fish are extracted from riparian forests, where they are an essential part of the ecosystem, spawning during the annual flood season and dispersing the seeds of forest trees.

Villages also reported income from timber and non-timber forest products, in percentages that varied from community to community.

Policymakers must consider not just these variations, but also the different ways in which men and women use forest resources in indigenous and non-indigenous communities, said Anne Larson, a principal scientist at CIFOR.

The Miskitu and Mayangna people in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCN) also combine subsistence agriculture with the sale of forest products and some wage labor.

Both indigenous and non-indigenous households extract firewood, timber, wild animals, wild fruit, herbs, honey and craft materials from the forest. Except for firewood, however, indigenous people depend on the forest far more than non-indigenous people, according to surveys of indigenous and non-indigenous women and men conducted in that region.


Men and women extract different products in different proportions, studies show.

“The prevailing wisdom on gender and forest products is that men extract timber and women extract firewood and non-timber forest products, however, our data concur with other studies showing that this does not hold true in Latin America,” said Anne Larson, a principal scientist at CIFOR.

Tenure reform: Lessons from the Global South

Her study in Nicaragua found that women extract fewer products from the forest than men do. This is true even of firewood and non-timber products in indigenous households, which use a much larger variety and quantity of forest products than non-indigenous families.

When products are sold, however, indigenous women tend to handle sales more than non-indigenous women, and they sell more fruit, herbs and craft materials than the men in their households.

But while women may play a larger role in household decisions about resource use, their voice in community-wide decisions is often muted because leaders limit them to traditional roles, said Larson.

Besides revealing such gender differences, research points to ways of increasing women’s participation in forest management decisions.

According to Larson, more research into how people use forest products is needed because Latin America lags behind Asia and Africa in data. Across all three regions, there is very little data on gender-differentiated forest use in collective lands.

“We need to take a closer look at differences within populations and cultures.”


Indigenous people are playing an increasing role in shaping policies for preserving their forests and using their resources, according to researchers.

In Peru, where deforestation is the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the government has set a goal of preserving 54 million hectares of forest, said Emily Dupuits of the University of Geneva.

She compared two approaches to REDD+ in indigenous communities in the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, an indigenous territory in Peru’s southeastern Madre de Dios region.

What’s in a land title?

A national government program that focuses on carbon storage pays indigenous communities to preserve their forests in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The program operates only in communities that have formal land titles.

An alternative program promoted by national and Amazonian indigenous organizations focuses on indigenous rights instead of carbon storage and includes financing to help communities obtain titles.

The government-managed national program is based on forest management plans and productive projects for the communities, while the alternative program takes a more holistic approach to territory and includes mapping the way the Harakmbut people have traditionally occupied their territory, said Dupuits.

The different models are examples of the evolving process of co-management of forests by governments and indigenous communities, said Cronkleton.

Challenges remain, as tensions arise between national and sub-national government authority, and the value of incentives is not always clear, he said, adding that issues like those point to needs for future research.

“There are challenges and difficulties, but processes are underway that are mitigating the impacts and strengthening the advances,” said Cronkleton. “When we look at the progress that has been made in tenure and rights, there is a reason to be optimistic.”

For more information on this topic, please contact Peter Cronkleton

at or Anne Larson at or Iliana Monterroso at This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. This research was supported by European Commission, the Global Environment Facility, The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Center for International Forestry Research and retrieved on 06/18/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Sustainable agriculture for healthy forests


Farmers are beginning to transform agriculture in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula through techniques that allow them to grow more on less land, reducing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Above, slash and burn agriculture (right) compared to a non-burn strategy in a milpa system. Photo: J. Van Loon/CIMMYT

June 5, 2017

TEXCOCO, Mexico (CIMMYT) –  Farmers in Mexico’s ecologically-fragile Yucatán Peninsula are beginning to adopt innovative practices to manage traditional mixed-cropping systems called “milpas” that can slow or even stop deforestation and soil degradation.

Agriculture is the second-largest emitter of global greenhouse gas emissions and largest driver of deforestation, making the sector one of the top contributors to climate change and biodiversity loss.

Fifteen percent of global emissions is due mostly to agricultural expansion into tropical forests. Rising populations and changes in dietary preferences for more energy intense foods, like beef and soybean, are expected to boost agricultural emissions a further 15 percent by 2030.

Agricultural expansion and resulting deforestation of tropical areas also threaten more than half of all the world’s plant and animal species, contributing significantly to what many scientists say is Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

“Sustainable agriculture can bring large benefits to tropical areas by optimizing land use while improving farm management and techniques for farmers,” said Jelle Van Loon, a mechanization expert at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) who is working with farming communities in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula – an area compromising much of the largest remaining tropical rainforest in the Americas after the Amazon.

Nearly 80 percent of vegetation has been deforested or degraded in the peninsula, with more than 80,000 hectares being cut down annually.

“Agriculture in the Yucatán Peninsula is extremely diverse – there’s everything from industrial farms that operate around forest areas to small community farmers practicing the traditional milpa system in the interior,” said Van Loon.

Milpa farming – a traditional mixed cropping system in which maize, beans, and squash are grown – contributes to about 16 percent of deforestation in the region, and is typically practiced by subsistence farmers through slash and burn agriculture.

Milpa systems vary across communities in the region,” said Van Loon. “Sometimes plots are burned, farmed and left within two to three years for a new plot, and others are more permanent.”


A technician learns how to operate a two-wheeled tractor. Technicians working with CIMMYT will perform field trials evaluating the efficiency of equipment like this in their work areas. Photo: J. Van Loon/CIMMYT

Van Loon is working with a team of CIMMYT scientists and other partners in the region to see how farmers can apply sustainable technologies and practices across the peninsula’s milpa systems, as well as large-scale mechanized farms that operate in the area.
“It’s extremely important that the unique circumstances of each community are taken into account when new technologies are being promoted,” said Van Loon, citing that many programs exist to support local communities, but is often challenging to organize support in an integrated fashion that’s adjusted to local conditions.

Milpa provides more than crops for food – the slash and burn system also provides game and timber for these communities, so there are many factors that need to be taken into account when we try and promote sustainable practices.”

Two years ago CIMMYT successfully trialed a sustainable agriculture initiative with farmers in Hopelchén, a small community in Campeche where indigenous and Mennonite farmers grow maize following traditional farming practices.

Decades of soil degradation had forced farmers to convert rainforest areas into growing fields to continue farming, but when the farmers adopted sustainable intensification methods such as minimal soil movement, surface cover of crop residues and crop rotations, they were able to achieve higher yields even after two months of drought.

The Hopelchén farmers prove the dual benefits of sustainable agriculture in forest areas – forests that would otherwise have been cut down for farmland are preserved, acting as a ‘carbon sink’ by absorbing carbon dioxide that would have been free in the atmosphere, further contributing to climate change. These practices also help farmers adapt to the effects of climate change, like drought and erratic rainfall.

“In order to get adoption right, we are really taking a system-wide approach,” said Van Loon. “We want to integrate mechanization, soil quality, planting density and other approaches like inter-planting with trees to improve biodiversity to get the most efficient system possible.” Van Loon will specifically work with communities to explore mechanization opportunities, from improved hand tools to lightweight motorized equipment like two-wheel tractors.

“The goal is to optimize the benefits from the land that farmers are working, find ways to reduce pressure on opening new land and as such slow the rate of deforestation, preserve biodiversity and provide farmers with techniques for improved and more sustainable practices,” said Van Loon. “Ultimately, we’d like to see these practices adopted across the peninsula.”

CIMMYT is leading sustainable intensification efforts in the Yucatan through the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture (MasAgro) program, along with CitiBanamex, Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya, local partners, non-governmental organizations and the Mexican government.  


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by The CIMMYT – International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and retrieved on 06/20/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


East Africa: An urgent need to monitor the forests

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

Source: CIFOR, 2017 – Tropical forest landscape in Uganda. Photo credit: Douglas Sheil/CIFOR

ANALYSIS by:  & : – The region looks to a new observatory to help protect its remaining forests.

Africa – East Africa is home to some of the world’s most diverse forests: Montane forests, which include some of the highest and oldest mountains in Africa; coastal forests; Miombo woodlands; tropical rain forests; and mangrove forests.

Like many forested areas across the globe, they are increasingly threatened by agricultural expansion and deforestation for fuelwood and timber purposes.

Although regional authorities, governments, NGOs and international organizations are working hard to protect these forests, without an accurate data set, there is no effective way to monitor the ecological, environmental, and social aspects of these forests.

Today, there are a number of observatories in East Africa monitoring forest activities. However, they lack precise country and regional level data that will help determine future strategies for protecting forests, reporting on countries’ obligations under the Paris Agreement, and evaluating the success of their initiatives under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) schemes.


Experts from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) are now working with the Regional Center for Mapping Resources for Development (RCMRD) and the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD) to lay the groundwork for a new regional observatory in East Africa.

Throughout the year, scientists will be conducting a comprehensive study to gather forestry data and assess the status of forests, REDD+ activities, institutional systems and monitoring capabilities across four East African countries (Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda).

This past February, a meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya, with government representatives from the four countries to get the ball rolling. This new project will draw upon the experience of Observatoire des forêts d’Afrique Centrale (OFAC), a similar observatory now operating in Central Africa.


CIFOR scientist Paulo Cerutti, who helped establish OFAC, says the biggest advantage of having an observatory is that the information can be verified by the government.

“The data collected is more reliable because it focuses on a smaller scale, rather than on a global scale.”

Experts like Cerutti point out that global data sets, which are meant to compare larger regions, are not always effective when it comes to smaller regions because they can contain disparities.


Before the new observatory can become fully operational, all four countries need to have the same capacity and expertise level to effectively contribute to the platform. Currently, the countries have different levels of technical skills, scientific equipment and data collection methods. Even the terms used to describe the types of forests can vary across borders.

The availability of data is another key issue for experts to overcome. For example, in Uganda, information on taxes and revenues from non-timber forest products is not available because they are not formally traded. Meanwhile, in Mozambique, remote sensing data on forests is only available at the national level. In Tanzania, there is a lack of remote sensing data for forest monitoring.

The new observatory would offer the region a more compatible, streamlined data system that would unite the four countries. It would also provide a new avenue for regional collaboration.

“The Observatory will provide strong opportunities for synergies between the different focal points in each country and strengthen national capacity to monitor the forests,” says Alfred Gichu, head of the Climate Change Response Program at the Kenya Forest Service.

Countries in the region would be able to access a platform for sharing, exchanging and accessing data and information related to regional forests and REDD+. It would also provide a unified system for reporting on each country’s obligations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Stakeholders agree that regional cooperation gives everyone an opportunity to share their experiences and challenges and to build a stronger platform for the entire region.

“The Observatory will help bring East Africa together as a collective working group to give it a voice in high-level discussions,” says Joaquim Macuácua from Mozambique’s Department of Inventory of Forest Resources.

Experts point out that the current lack of coordination is resulting in different agencies producing the same data.

“The Observatory will help avoid this duplication of efforts across the region, and even within individual countries,” says Mugisa Micheal, the executive director of Uganda’s National Forestry Authority.


The project will be carried out through March 2018. Upon its completion, a database and website for the regional forestry observatory will be developed. This data will be made available to the public through the Observatory.

Additionally, a thorough analysis of the state of forests and REDD+ activities across the four countries will be completed.

If these above objectives are successfully met, a five-year project will then be initiated to bring the Observatory to life as part of the project’s second phase.

For more information on this topic, please contact Esther Mwangi at or Laura Vanessa Mukhwana at This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. This research was supported by the European Commission.



Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the contributors of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and was retrieved on 04/28/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.




Collective forest tenure reforms: Where do we go from here?


Source: CIFOR 2017. The March 2017 – World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty provided an important forum to reflect on collective land tenure reforms. Photo credit: CIFOR


ANALYSIS – A scientist’s reflection on the 2017 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty

The recent World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, held this past March in Washington D.C., provided a unique opportunity to reflect on collective land tenure reforms not only from a research point of view, but also from that of governments.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) organized a South-South Exchange at the Conference, as part of its Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reforms. Seven government officials from Peru, Colombia, Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda and Kenya were invited to participate. These officials represented land offices from Latin America and forestry offices from Africa and Asia.

The Conference speakers and participants provided me with much room for thought on the subject of land tenure reforms, which I will outline below.

Overall, the topic of collective tenure reforms reminded me of that simple chromatography experiment in elementary school where you put black ink on a wet coffee filter and watch the colors of the spectrum emerge and spread.


The black ink represents the idea of forest reforms to recognize or grant rights to communities living in or near forests. Although some developing countries began to address such issues by the early 20th century – such as Mexico, which granted land (including forest land) rights to communities after the 1910-1917 revolution – the ink hit the wet coffee filter in a few key Asian countries (i.e. Nepal and India) in the late 1970s and for most countries after 1980. Others are just beginning to consider community forest rights.


The result today is that some countries are still grappling with first-generation questions, while others have moved on to the other colors in the spectrum, including second and third-generation challenges.

The former were exemplified at the Conference in the frustrations of those who have been working on these issues for 10 to 20 years or more, who asked, “Haven’t we come further than this by now?”

But some countries are still questioning what types of rights (content, extent, duration), if any, communities should have over forests and/or forestland.

In fact, it is notable that even in the countries that have moved into second and third -generation questions, this first question is still relevant. It concerns new geographical locations, new rights and the relationship between land and forest rights.

In Colombia, as discussed during CIFOR’s Policy Roundtable at the Conference by Andrea Olaya, Principal Advisor to Colombia’s National Land Agency, this refers to new institutions emerging from the recent peace accords, as well as the demand for land from former combatants and displaced peoples in relation to existing rights.

In Indonesia, it refers to the new “asset agrarian reform”, as stated by Pak Hadi Daryanto, Director General for Social Forestry and Environmental Partnership at the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry. These reforms resulted in the return of the first 13,000 hectares of customary land to nine indigenous communities in January of this year.


Ronald Salazar, Director of Agrarian Property and the Rural Cadaster Office at Peru’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, pointed out that the distinction between forest rights and land rights in Peru leads to separate laws and government institutions. This is not uncommon among countries, and follows a logic that people in communities may find baffling, or outright oppose. For instance, indigenous activists in Peru are now demanding that their titles recognize “territorial integrity,” covering not only agriculture and pasture but also forestlands.

This fundamental question about what rights for communities also concerns rollbacks to rights where new demands, or sometimes political and economic constituencies, threaten rights that had already been recognized, such as those behind economic reforms in Peru or Brazil.


The second-generation questions are about rights protection and livelihoods. Formal rollbacks are not the only challenges to tenure security. Even after formal recognition, communities need access to justice if rights are infringed upon or eliminated.

And even secure rights are not enough to secure livelihoods. As one government official said during a private forum: “Why do we have reforms if not also to improve livelihoods?”

At the Policy Roundtable, Krishna Prasad Acharya, Director General of the Department of Forests at Nepal’s Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, said there are now 20,000 organized groups in Nepal, and forest area has increased from 39 percent to 44 percent, but more still needs to be done to support forest use and management.

At the same event, Gerardo Segura, Senior Natural Resource Specialist at the World Bank, highlighted the importance of removing barriers to communities for forest management.

“Tenure reforms take time, but are urgent”

Gerardo Segura, Senior Natural Resource Specialist at the World Bank


Third-generation questions are focused on problems such as community differentiation, gendered outcomes and how to prevent elite capture at the community level – that is, assuring that livelihood improvements reach those most in need.

At the Policy Roundtable, Dr. Prasad noted that women leaders are emerging in community forestry in Nepal. Bob Kazungo, Senior Forestry Officer at Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment, spoke of the importance of affirmative action and a gendered approach.

On other panels, speakers expressed concern that reforms may be detrimental to women’s tenure rights. For example, researchers reported cases where rights were registered to men as household heads, whereas under customary systems both men and women had previously held rights.

Advancing equality in Uganda


Emilio Mugo, Director of the Forest Service at Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Water, asked: “How do we address community leaders who, on the one hand, serve as custodians, but on the other, play the role of gatekeepers?” This question speaks to institutional strengthening as a way to fight elite capture.


The invited officials were quick to distinguish themselves as public servants, from the politicians who define policy direction and priorities. Dr. Mary Goretti Kitutu, Ugandan State Minister for the Environment, introduced herself on the Roundtable as “the only politician here” and stressed the importance of packaging information on tenure and linking it to development, in order to reach politicians. Dr. Daryanto highlighted the importance of having the budgets necessary for implementation.

When asked by the audience how officials should “insulate themselves from politics”, Dr. Mugo reminded them, “Everything you touch in natural resources is political.” This underscores the importance of building a community of practice and coalitions for change.

“Everything you touch in natural resources is political.”

Emilio Mugo, Director of the Forest Service, Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Water

No country has addressed all forest demands from communities, and most still face competing claims or outright opposition to the recognition of collective forest tenure rights.

On the one hand, these three generations of questions suggest that countries are at different places and thus, research for impact needs to prioritize accordingly.

On the other hand, they highlight the importance of South-South exchanges and knowledge sharing. As some countries begin to address the multi-colored spectrum of challenges, mutual learning can suggest ways to address complex issues such as tenure security, livelihoods, and gender from the beginning of reform processes, therefore increasing the potential for success.

For more information on this topic, please contact Anne Larson at

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. This research was supported by FAO, IFAD, EC and GEF.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the contributors of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and was retrieved on 04/26/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only.The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.

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