Why agroforestry can add so much more to landscape restoration efforts

Tree planting in Gyeonggi Province. Photo: Korea Forest Service.

Tree planting in Gyeonggi Province. Photo: Korea Forest Service.

“Those who say a country can’t grow its economy and restore its forests at the same time haven’t been to South Korea,” says an article on the World Resources Institute blog about the first global assessment to show where, around the world, forest landscape restoration might be possible.

Following the Korean War, between 1953 and 2007, the country increased its forest cover from 35 to 64 per cent while its population doubled and its economy grew 300-fold. But the country didn’t stop there. Massive restoration efforts continue across South Korea while the economy grows further. This week will see the launch of yet another major restoration initiative for the country.

Economic as well as social interests are just as vital considerations in restoration efforts as the environment, especially in developing countries. This is one of the key messages that scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre will be hoping to get across during the 12th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP12), which fittingly is being held in South Korea from 6 to 17 October 2014, and has the theme: Biodiversity for Sustainable Development.

Stepha McMullin, one of these Centre’s scientists, who is also coordinating a Tree Diversity Day during the conference, is keen to ensure agroforestry is promoted as an integrated system that provides multiple benefits in restoration efforts.

“In landscape and ecosystem restoration, massive plantations are not necessarily the way forward,” explains McMullin. “With challenges such as population increase, food insecurity and increasing urbanization, we need to consider diversity in the trees that get planted so that they can provide both livelihood and environmental benefits.”

“Diverse agroforestry systems have this potential and they can also help to provide the resilience that is needed in productive landscapes to address the challenges of climate change and pests and diseases.”

While South Korea will be showcasing its achievements in forest restoration during COP12, the World Agroforestry Centre will be working hard to demonstrate what it has learnt through 35 years’ experience in agroforestry research in the tropics.

“We have a whole suite of science and knowledge that we have generated, and tools and databases that can be incorporated into decision making processes at the national level,” says McMullin.

Among these are indicators for genetic diversity and indicators and metrics that can measure and monitor changes in the landscape, whether they be positive, negative or no change at all.

McMullin believes these are particularly relevant to the 20 Aichi targets which were agreed to during the 2010 Conference of Parties to the CBDin the Japanese city of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture. These targets for 2011 to 2020 include halving the rate of habitat loss, expanding water and land areas under conservation and restoring at least 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems.

Tools such as the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework, which World Agroforestry Centre scientists helped to develop, will be explained during Tree Diversity Day, being held in the Rio Conventions Pavilion at COP12 on Friday 10 October. The Framework incorporates a set of tools, manuals and methodologies to assess and monitor land degradation; providing a scientifically rigorous framework for managing landscapes based on evidence.

The CBD Secretariat realized the full value of such tools and the Centre’s work more broadly when it visited its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya at the beginning of 2014.

Phil Dobie, Senior Fellow with the World Agroforestry Centre, will be making a statement on how trees can provide diversity in farming systems in forest areas during the launch at COP12 of South Korea’s latest restoration initiative. This joint effort between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the CBD and the Government of Korea is linked closely with the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s degraded and deforested lands by 2020.

South Korea certainly isn’t standing still when it comes to restoring its landscapes, and this focus on healthy landscapes certainly isn’t coming at the expense of the country’s economy; forecast to grow 3.8 per cent this year. Other countries participating at this year’s COP12 will certainly be taking home some lessons from such a remarkable achievement.

Find out more about the World Agroforestry Centre’s participation at CBD COP12

More about the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework


Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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