Climate-smart landscapes: can REDD+ create them?
To help farmers, governments and companies adapt to a changing climate, researchers have been studying different ways of ensuring any given landscape can be ‘climate proofed’. At Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, SNV and the World Agroforestry Centre shared some of what they had learned through REDD+ work.
‘In our work, we began to see that sometimes agricultural development could have a negative impact on forests and vice versa’, said Dr Richard McNally, global climate-change coordinator with SNV Netherlands Development Organization. ‘We realised we needed to understand how to balance the demand for agricultural products—especially with food demand predicted to increase by 70% by 2050—and local biomass-energy needs whilst also improving the livelihoods of local communities. We needed to know how to do this in a manner that did not continue the extensive clearing and/or degradation of forests and which was responsive to climatic change’.
Accordingly, SNV set about examining more closely the trade-offs between intensification and deforestation, especially in relation to commodity booms, such as those of oil palm and rubber, through the REDD+ Energy and Agriculture Program, which was funded by the German government. They found that a trade-off of forest conservation in favour of agriculture was the general rule but that ‘win-win’ situations did occur from time to time under certain circumstances. They concluded that different approaches were needed, which depended on the type of agriculture and the specific location of the forest–agriculture interface. In short, a ‘landscape approach’ was required for fully understanding the commodities and the places. More work was undertaken to understand ‘climate-smart landscapes’, deforestation-free supply chains and ‘evergreen agriculture’, the latter in collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).
In Indonesia and Viet Nam, the SNV team began with spatial analysis to determine suitable sites for testing sustainable palm-oil production, combined with a risk assessment based on sustainability criteria that led to identifying the best type of intervention.
In Indonesia, the team examined suitability of oil palm, coffee and cocoa in North Sumatra and found that cocoa would be the most suitable, particularly given climate predictions. They also developed options for lessening risk, the first of which was to engage with businesses to develop deforestation-free supply chains that went beyond farm-level sustainability certification, involved multiple companies, ensured robust traceability systems and supported smallholders to enter the chain.
In the case of a mangrove landscape in Viet Nam, the team introduced an integrated mangrove-shrimp model to an initial 1400 farmers and supported development of policies on payments for ecosystem services and sustainable aquaculture. They also worked with companies to ensure sustainable sourcing and premium arrangements with farmers.
Mr Do Trong Hoan of ICRAF Viet Nam presented a case from Bac Kan, a poor northern province with nearly 70% forest cover (set to rise to 82% by 2020) but persistent deforestation through illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. The basic question was which way to go for the province: conservation, economic development or both? Farmers and policy makers differed in their views: farmers wanted to improve their livelihoods and policy makers wanted conservation of the forests.
Mr Do and team set out to find out if these competing interests could be accommodated within the same landscape. They found that a scheme such as Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses, which would see the widespread slash-and-burn practice replaced by agroforests, could be a ‘win-win’ scenario, if incentives were provided by government. They recommended that reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation (REDD+) should be designed to achieve multiple objectives and should encompass ‘bottom–up’, multi-stakeholder land-use planning. While carbon was important, it was also important not to forget other environmental services and people’s livelihoods.
Dr Richard Rastall of SNV presented results from work on integrating environmental and social safeguards in sub-national planning for REDD+ in Viet Nam.
‘It is a challenge translating broad principles into national policies and practice’, he said, referring to the various international safeguards’ agreements. ‘Climate-smart agriculture can meet some of these challenges because such initiatives can be country-led and need not be limited to REDD+’.
In the case of Viet Nam, although reporting on REDD+ is done at the national level, safeguards against unwanted social and environmental impacts need to be in place at sub-national levels.
The initial work carried out by SNV once again started with spatial analysis to prioritise landscapes for intervention based on carbon, biodiversity and social criteria, which are verified through stakeholder consultation. A safeguards’ review process followed that led to integration into the provincial plans of participatory benefits and risks assessments.
A panel of regional experts at the session reflected on the experience in their respective countries.
Dr Nur Masripatin of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry confirmed that from her perspective a ‘landscape approach’ was ‘the ideal approach that we want in reality. REDD+ itself is a landscape approach, philosophically. However, foresters are taught watershed management—which is basically a landscape approach—but also management of different forest types. Plus there are different jurisdictional approaches. We need to bring all these together, especially for areas that are beyond specific jurisdictions. The challenge is to create harmony between natural and administrative boundaries’.
Dr Felix Mirasol of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources described how management of national parks in the Philippines is being decentralised to protected area management boards, which carry out planning, management and enforcement of local laws.
Dr Kinnalone Phommasaek of the REDD+ Division, Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao PDR commented that the government had three main goals for forested land, which aligned with REDD+ objectives: 1) 70% forest cover by 2020; 2. Adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change; and 3. Eradication of poverty.
Dr Pham Trong Thinh of the Viet Nam Forest Inventory and Planning Institute said that Viet Nam had applied ‘landscape and socioecological approaches for a long time. We have management plans for the nine agro-ecological zones based on a landscape approach that link to REDD+ action plans’.
Closing the session, Dr Meine van Noordwijk, chief science advisor with ICRAF, noted that it might be useful to think of scale, of a nested system that on one end is an individual farmer and at the other is the national government and beyond.
‘If a landscape is in that nested process then we need to know the interactions between all elements involved. The more we learn the more we can build not only safeguards but a dynamic learning loop. We will need to continue this discussion and bring new elements into the dynamics’.
For more from Asia-Pacific Forestry Week 2016, see One tree, many trunks: agroforestry and the Sustainable Development Goals (Part 1) and One tree, many trunks: ASEAN, national governments and smallholders (Part 2).