CGIAR research program calls for new partners

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and AgroforestryUnderstanding the roles trees play in landscapes is a critical task undertaken by a global research partnership. At Asia-Pacific Forestry Week 2016, scientists called for more partners to join them so that knowledge can be shared more effectively.


Since 2011, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry has been working hard, marshalling a global, multidisciplinary team of hundreds of researchers to better understand forests and the trees beyond them, in particular, agroforests: trees planted and/or managed by farmers.

While woody perennials feature prominently in the title of the program, the human side of the equation is what occupies much research interest, especially given the increasing world population with a concomitant increasing demand for food and competition over land.

More partners are being called on to join with the Program’s researchers to increase the scope of research and maximise the spread of its knowledge to governments, businesses and farmers.

CGIAR research programs. Source: CGIAR

CGIAR research programs. Source: CGIAR

The Program is one of 16 that align the work of the 15 agricultural research centres that comprise the CGIAR—a global partnership for a food-secure future—and their national and international partners into efficient, coherent, multidisciplinary programs. The Program is led by the Center for International Forestry Research in collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Bioversity International, Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropicale (International Centre for Tropical Agriculture), Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development) and Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center). A host of national research institutions, farmers’ associations, government agencies of all sizes and jurisdictions, large and small businesses and farmers work with the Program’s main partners on a range of projects in around 35 countries.

Since its inception, the program’s researchers have been focusing on critical issues affecting the planet to do with trees and poor farmers’ livelihoods in the developing world, such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation (REDD+), agroforestry systems for tropical and dryland areas, reform of forest tenure regimes, forest fires in Indonesia and ‘climate-smart’ agriculture.

Meine van Noordwijk. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Robert Finlayson

Meine van Noordwijk. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Robert Finlayson

‘Scientists of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry are the source of much of the research findings being discussed here at Asia-Pacific Forestry Week’, said Dr Meine van Noordwijk, referring to the regional bi-annual conference co-hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which was held this year from 22 to 26 February at Clark, the Philippines. He was speaking at a special session of the Week held to encourage other organisations to join the research program.

‘The second phase of the program starts next year’, he said, ‘so we are calling on other organisations to join with us not only to better share the knowledge we have already accrued but also work together to more effectively research emerging critical areas’.

The world is at a turning point, he said, and the work of the program is already having impacts on the decisions made by politicians, bureaucracies, businesses and farmers in the face of climate change, increasing demand for food and the need to protect and maintain the services provided by ecosystems.

Christopher Martius. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Robert Finlayson

Christopher Martius. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Robert Finlayson

‘The world has made huge progress on development but at a huge cost to environmental integrity’, he emphasied. ‘We can continue and it will crash or we can move towards a sustainable future’.

To more quickly understand how we can reach that future through better use of trees, the program has bundled activities around common topics and functions organized by scale, such as livelihoods, landscapes, trade, governance, climate change, biodiversity, gender, capacity development, communications and partnerships.

‘Fundamental questions remain to be answered’, said co-presenter Dr Christopher Martius, ‘such as what influences people to transform their behaviour instead of carrying on business as usual’.

One large experiment conducted by the Program is examining this question, among many others: the Sentinel Landscapes Network comprises seven landscapes that straddle 13 countries from Africa to Asia, involving 280 villages, 8500 households and 4480 points for verification of research on the ground.

As part of the continuing finesse of the Program’s research scope, from May through November 2014 a call for questions of high priority in forestry and landscapes received 2500 responses, which were ranked into a final set of Top Twenty Questions divided into six main topics: 1) Afforestation/ecosystem restoration (5 questions); 2) Local knowledge (2 questions); 3) Landscape-scale approaches (4 questions); 4) Rights and benefits (4 questions); 5) Environmental services (3 questions); and 6) Greening business models (2 questions).

Farmers need the results of research. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Farmers need the results of research. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Analysis of the list revealed that much of the knowledge to answer the questions already existed, begging a further question of what was stopping this knowledge from being more widespread. It seemed that researchers had been satisfied with the answers but hadn’t been able to find effective ways to share them with other people on farms, in agricultural advisory services, forestry agencies, development organisations or governments.

‘Accordingly, it seems most likely that a multi-layered system of knowledge creation and sharing is needed’, said Dr van Noordwijk, ‘where people in the field can more easily get hold of the knowledge they need to effectively manage their farms or forests or whole landscapes and where researchers and governments can more easily learn from local knowledge about natural and human systems.

‘This has prompted our call to other national and international organisations to join us to share knowledge. If research can become even more participatory and local while still linking to the national and international levels then there will be a much greater chance of us all—and the planet— creating the sustainable future we want through the effective management of trees in landscapes. Please join us in making this happen’.

Join the partnership

Dr Meine van Noordwijk:

Dr Christopher Martius:




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Supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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