Balancing conservation and production with forest-smart solutions

New approach to developing risk-reduction strategies

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Forest-smart solutions permit a strategic response to the challenge of balancing production and conservation goals.

About 13 million hectares of natural forests are destroyed each year, and many habitats are reaching the tipping point beyond which biodiversity and ecosystem services will be unable to recover, said delegates from the World Bank, Flora and Fauna International, and the governments of Madagascar, Jamaica and Colombia speaking at a session at the Global Landscapes Forum  (GLF) in Bonn, Germany in December.

Forest smart solutions should engage sectors that have historically had adverse impacts on forests such as mining, said Karin Kemper, senior director for Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice at the World Bank.

Strategic implementation of forest-smart solutions should expand into sectors beyond environmental to incorporate diversity into forest-smart solutions, said Werner Kornexl, manager of the World Bank’s Program on Forests (PROFOR). Additionally, solutions should be forged by embracing a broad spectrum of ideas, including policy and economics, he said.

PROFOR already works towards translating the forest-smart concept into practical solutions that can be implemented at scale, making it easier for decision-makers in various sectors to take forests into account when designing programs.

To PROFOR, the forest-smart approach entails maximizing the benefits from development investments, while minimizing the negative impacts to forests and forest biodiversity. Among its potential benefits are improved food security, job creation, resilience and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“It’s very important to be prepared to listen to the needs of other sectors,” Kornexl said, adding that it is also important to focus on nutrition, livelihoods and youth.

PROFOR’s work is led by experts from sectors that have historically had adverse impacts on forests, and it intends to change mindsets and practices by demonstrating how forests can be an attractive component of investments in these sectors.


During the session, panelists promoting forest smart solutions to encourage environmental sectors to work collaboratively, rather than in competition. explored how forest-smart disaster risk management, mining, governance and energy can help meet both environmental and development goals.

Anthony McKenzie, director of environmental management and conservation at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) in Jamaica, highlighted an example from the Caribbean island, which was hit by five major hurricanes between 2001 and 2012.

“Jamaica is one of the most-at-risk countries in the world,” McKenzie said, explaining that 82 percent of the country’s population lives along the coast and that storms in the region are set to intensify.

The country has incorporated forest-smart solutions as part of its approach to developing a risk-reduction strategy.

“Mangroves could be risk-reduction champions,” he said. “They attenuate waves; protect against floods; and are soil builders, which helps adapt to rising sea levels — a clear advantage over hard infrastructures. Nature-based infrastructure contributes to climate change adaptation and is an accessible, cost-effective approach that makes coastal areas more attractive.”

In Madagascar, reforestation of watersheds is helping protect rice paddies, which provide the staple crop in the country, explained Liva Ramiandrarivo, permanent secretary of the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

Trees can also sow seeds of peace, according to Angela Betancourt, who represented the government of Colombia at the session. Five years ago, the country started rolling out a multi-sectoral strategy for rural development with a twin goal: facilitating peace-building while fostering development.

Strategies such as agroforestry are already boosting productivity and household income among poor, rural families, Betancourt said. However, clarifying land tenure — an ongoing process — is a prerequisite for the strategy to deliver all its potential benefits.


According to a study about mining operations by Flora and Fauna International, there are three types of companies: those that are answerable so broader organizations, such as sectoral associations; large corporations that do not answer to anyone other than themselves; and a myriad of small businesses that are not answerable to anyone at all.

“The weakness lies in the governance and the legal frameworks,” said Pippa Howard, director of the organization’s Business and Biodiversity Program.

For Mohammad Arif Rasuli, senior environmental specialist at the World Bank Afghanistan country office, a key to the success of forest-smart solutions is focusing on livelihood impact. “Then, it will make sense for them to take care of the environment,” he said.

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