One tree, many trunks: ASEAN, national governments and smallholders (Part 2)
The new global agenda has one goal: a sustainable Earth. The contribution of agroforestry in achieving this was discussed in detail at Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, led by Dr Meine van Noordwijk (see part 1) as part of the contribution from the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change phase 2 project. Part 2 documents responses by panellists and audience members and outlines the ASEAN Secretariat’s support for agroforestation.
Following Dr van Noordwijk’s presentation at Asia-Pacific Forestry Week 2016 (see part 1), a panel of regional experts was invited to comment and see if they could challenge his arguments.
First, Imelda Bacudo of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-German Programme on Response to Climate Change in Agriculture and Forestry said that, ‘Meine’s presentation matches with ASEAN’s priorities, such as green growth. What he outlined can be a framework for analyzing the goals of the ASEAN plan for cooperation in food, agriculture and forestry that is in place from now until 2025’.
From Ms Bacudo’s own experience with projects in the region, she said it was hard to see the desired convergence of forestry and agriculture yet this was something that was much needed. According to her, the ASEAN Multi-Sectoral Framework on Climate Change and Food Security (AFCC) was a vehicle that could help. AFCC is an ASEAN framework that covers agriculture and forestry sectors to contribute to food security and minimize the risks from climate change. In addition, the ASEAN Climate Resilience Network was another regional network that was anchored to AFCC and which specifically focussed on the promotion of climate-smart agriculture practices.
‘We have to move forward on how to merge the sectors’, she urged. ‘What’s preventing us from doing this is that we are challenged by administrative borders. Throughout the region, ministries of agriculture and of forestry are divided or if they are in one ministry they are divided within. We need to address this problem. It’s the biggest challenge we face’.
Ms Nguyen Tuong Van of VNFOREST, Viet Nam, agreed: ‘There are many links between agroforestry and the Sustainable Development Goals and Viet Nam already has a lot of agroforestry models. But agroforestry still falls between forestry and agriculture. Even though in Viet Nam we have one ministry, the sectors are two different departments and neither takes care of agroforestry. We need to combine these. But negotiating between departments even in one ministry is a big problem. ICRAF can support countries to do this. Agroforestry should be under one institution. This is important for attracting investment and driving action’.
The same case applied in Indonesia, said Mr Wiratno, who is director of Social Forestry Land Preparation of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry and chairperson of the ASEAN Social Forestry Network secretariat.
‘Sectoral egoism is very big. This is our common challenge. We have an agroforestry program in which we have to support 50,000 ha every year and also deliver state forests to local communities’, he said, referring to the government program of allocating 5.5 million hectares of forest to local people within the next four years towards a total of 12.7 million hectares by 2020. ‘But getting access to forests doesn’t mean that local people automatically improve their livelihoods; there are lots of problems with value chains etcetera. Social forestry is a very big program in Indonesia that is also facing big challenges: some of the agencies required to implement it may not have adequate experience or interest in working with smallholders; it can be easier to work with large-scale investments’.
The situation regarding agroforestry in the Philippines has been longer established and has had more successes, however, according to Mr Antonio Manila of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources: ‘In the Philippines, we started social forestry with agroforestry 30 years ago, under many different names and acronyms. Agroforestry is a major part of the National Greening Program, which is set to end this year. About 1.2 million hectares have now been established and they will be part of our SDG reporting. The government works in partnership with people’s organisations to establish plantations and protect and maintain them. The Department of Agriculture and many other departments work together to achieve this. A recent National Economic Commission survey of the program found all positive results. We argue that the president should extend and expand the program for another 12 years’.
Mr Hendri Binahon, Philippine farmer with a long history of success in agroforestry, said that he saw the greatest challenge was ‘changing the mindset of farmers, extensionists, government officials, policy makers and then we can have agroforestry in most of the landscapes in tropical countries’.
He agreed that the agricultural sector doesn’t appreciate agroforestry systems. ‘They say the farm must be called agriculture not agroforestry because otherwise the taxes will go to the forestry sector! But agroforestry is a blend of agriculture and forestry: crops, livestock and trees that mimic a forest ecosystem that provides food for the family; commercial crops sacrifices food for the family. Agroforestry should focus on food security first’.
Dr Rex Cruz of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, responded to Dr van Noordwijk’s presentation as a fellow researcher, stating that it was difficult to find anything to challenge in what he said because with a growing population and increasing development, ‘it is inevitable we will change the natural face of our landscape. The only question is how far do we want to change it and how can we use agroforestry as a strategy to generate the types of goods and services we demand from the land’.
‘Agroforestry is a strategy that can really help achieve the SDGs’, he continued. ‘Even the SDG on equitable access to quality education is linked to increasing knowledge about agroforestry’.
To make agroforestry work as a facilitator for achieving the SDGs, he argued that we need to know more. ‘For example, agroforestry is going to take space in the landscape; we need to know what and where are the safe operating spaces; to what extent can we extend into the natural landscape; what impact would an agroforestry system have on ecosystem services; and what impacts it would bring. We need to know the trade-offs when we use agroforestry as a substitute for pure agriculture or pure forestry’.
Dr Cruz echoed the previous panellists, agreeing that the other major challenge was also the need to transform mindsets and skills to facilitate the transformation of political, administrative, biophysical and socioeconomic landscapes.
Linking those of the 187 targets of the SDGs that were relevant to an agroforestry intervention on a given piece of land could demonstrate to governments how to translate the detailed targets into using agroforestry to achieve the SDGs in practice within their own jurisdictions.
Mr Dian Sukmajaya of the ASEAN Economic Community Department of the ASEAN Secretariat made important closing comments, summing up the session and adding a call for action.
‘Not much has changed in institutions and mindsets right across the region’, he said. ‘Yet, agroforestry has been practised for thousands of years, contributes directly to SDG 17 and others, and offers efficient use of land. There are different views of landscapes— segregated or integrated—and there is a need to synergise actors to change ways of thinking so that the full potential of agroforestry to improve productivity and reduce competition for land can be realised.
‘The weak point is the lack of policy. We need to bring policy from ASEAN to national to local levels and also address the contest between small and large enterprises. These are our challenges. There is a lot of homework for us to present recommendations to ASEAN on how to bring agroforestry into national policies. At regional level, ASEAN can do the policy work to accelerate policy development at national levels. We need to promote this to the decision makers through dialogues throughout the region. We have the ASEAN Multi-sectoral Framework on Climate Change and Food Security and a sectoral body to address these issues through the policy window at the regional level. The ASEAN Secretariat will support this process. Lastly, we need to enhance partnerships between agriculture and forestry and food to implement agroforestry successfully—starting locally—and to do all of this we need support for the region and the Asia-Pacific from donors’.
The ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change phase 2 project consists of the ASEAN Social Forestry Network, World Agroforestry Centre, Center for International Forestry Research, RECOFTC: The Center for People and Forests, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture and the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme Asia with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.