Forests and Rural Livelihoods: 5 Perspectives

On Friday, March 4, Frances Seymour, Director General of CIFOR, visited IFAD to speak with staff.  ICRAF Director General Dennis Garrity, also in town, joined the discussion as an impromptu special guest, making the ensuing discussion even more rich. Here are

1 - Frances Seymour, Director General, CIFOR: I was in Rome for the first meeting of the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council, and happily accepted IFAD’s invitation to have a discussion with their staff last Friday.  My objectives were to highlight the contribution of forests to rural livelihoods, present CIFOR’s research programme (in the context of broader partnerships in the new CGIAR), and explore how CIFOR’s research agenda and IFAD’s US$1billion lending portfolio might join forces to the benefit of rural poor people (see my ppt). I provided a sneak peek of upcoming CIFOR research that shows households in forest communities derive on average 24% of their income from forests. This includes wood products, food including fruits, honey, bushmeat and fish, energy and medicinal plants. Beyond those communities, expanding out from every forest’s edge, are communities that depend on the environmental services that forests provide.  Agricultural and rural communities benefit from the climate regulation, water quality and flow regulation, and pollination services (to name just a few) that forests provide.  I see enormous potential for CIFOR-IFAD collaboration to ensure that forests are managed in ways that ensure poor and marginalized people – including women and indigenous peoples – benefit from climate finance and manage the risks and opportunities from other major investments happening now and in the decades to come, including in agriculture, rural infrastructure and governance.  The discussion revealed that helping such people increase their security over forest resources is clearly a common objective.

2 - Jesús Quintana, Latin America and Caribbean Region Climate and Environment Specialist, IFAD:   I had the pleasure of following Frances with a presentation of the preliminary outcomes of a recent portfolio review focusing on IFAD and forests (see my ppt). Given IFAD’s focus on managing natural assets – land, water, biodiversity, etc., one could easily argue that forests should be at the core of IFAD’s work. As a matter of fact, they are.  A recent portfolio review undertaken by the Environment and Climate Division showed that nearly 10% of projects included forest activities as part of the pro-poor strategies proposed with smallholder farmers and poor communities alike.  Forest practice in IFAD gravitates around three main areas, (a) community and participatory forestry, (b) agroforestry, and (c) compensating for environmental services generated, which reflect well our approach and priorities. One new area of attention will be value chains, with a view to diversifying production systems and making the whole product cycle more green. A second area of focus will put more emphasis on the interactions between agriculture and forestry, and the third focus area will aim to help rural poor benefit from new climate financing and mechanisms that can provide multiple win benefits.

3 - Francisco Pichón, Country Programme Manager for Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, IFAD:  I moderated a lively discussion that followed the presentations by Frances and Jesus.  I was struck by the multiple functions that forests offer in helping us to tackle poverty reduction as well as the challenges of biodiversity loss, energy and climate change.  REDD+ and forest-based carbon markets may offer co-financing options under IFAD operations for realizing some of that “multiple-benefit” potential, but their success will depend on how these instruments can be integrated into each country’s policies, including how available financial resources are received and distributed among stakeholders at different levels.

Ensuring that the new REDD+ mechanisms not only target deforestation and forest degradation,  but also translate into benefits for poor and vulnerable groups, including Indigenous Peoples and other IFAD target groups, is absolutely vital. For many IFAD target groups, forests are not the only source of livelihood. Therefore, if compensation schemes are to be sustainable, they must respond to community needs and demands in practical ways that include but also look beyond forests.  IFAD can bring value-added to this process through capacity-building and empowerment to enable meaningful participation by marginalized forest-dependent groups and ensure their active engagement in REDD+ processes moving forward. For example, IFAD projects use tools including participatory community mapping for natural resources assessment and management.

4 - Elwyn Grainger-Jones. Director, Environment and Climate Division, IFAD:  We are very grateful to Frances for taking the time to come across town and engage in a great discussion with IFAD staff - it was good to see examples of seeing forests as a part of integrated landscapes.  Rural poor people suffer from the fact that here at the international level we work in “sectoral silos” that too often miss the interactions and complexity that rural poor people face at the community level.  We are working hard to help IFAD’s portfolio become “climate-smart” and “environmentally sound” by highlighting the opportunities to scale up approaches that are integrated at the landscape level, and that do not hinge on “false choices” between economic growth, food security, climate change and environmental sustainability.  A draft ENRM Policy, which embodies these concepts and will guide their implementation here at IFAD, goes to the Board of Directors this May.

5 – Dennis Garrity, Director General, World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF): IFAD has played a major role in the evolution of the New CGIAR, particularly through the leadership of Rodney Cooke (Director, Technical and Advisory Division, Programme Department, IFAD). Thus, it was a real pleasure to join Frances and to be involved in the discussions about the CGIAR Research Programme (CRP) on Forests, Trees, and Agroforestry. I highlighted that food security is indeed a major concern of this CRP, although the links between food and trees are not always obvious to the average observer. Globally, we find that the conversion of natural forest to agricultural land actually has very little aggregate positive effect on food production. This is because the vast majority of land that is now being cleared from forests for agriculture has a low potential for food crop production. But only if we can develop ways to forestall deforestation by linking its protection to generating alternative livelihoods other than low-yield farming, will we succeed in protecting forests in a time of food crisis. I also noted that the agroforestry contribution to the CRP is particularly focused on the role of farm-grown trees in enhancing annual food production through the ecological intensification of agriculture. I referred to the mounting evidence of the enormous potential for the integration of trees into food crop fields of the tropics. For example, in many agroecosystems there is strong evidence that maize, sorghum, millets and other cereals are grown under a full canopy of trees, and that this results in major short and long-term increases in crop yields and sustainability. This is already happening on millions of hectares in West Africa and Southern Africa, and is a process that is now called Evergreen Agriculture. The CRP research aims to investigate Evergreen Agriculture as a vision for transforming tropical agriculture, with enormous implications to address the imperative of enhancing nutrient availability on the 80% of African smallholder farms where mineral fertilizers are not applied. This transformation is all the more urgent in the face of the dramatic increases now occurring in the price of fossil-fuel based nitrogen fertilizers. These systems also enhance long-term soil health toward achieving sustainable agricultural production.