Global Landscapes Forum in Nairobi, 2018. GLF photo.

Incentivize sustainable farming to reverse forest loss in Africa, World Bank report says

Nuanced, regionalized approaches

NAIROBI ( Landscape News) – The land sector could provide one third of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 with only 3 percent of the available climate finance. However, a growing global population and the increasing demand for food and fuel means pressure on forests and soils is mounting, especially in the tropics.

In response, a World Bank Program on Forests (PROFOR)-funded study has examined what it will take to put agricultural value chains on the side of both the people and the planet, drawing on examples from Asia and Latin America. Specifically, the research focuses on six commodity production systems (coffee, cocoa, beef, soybean, oil palm, and shea butter) and their role in tree cover loss and restoration.

The report was discussed at the 2018 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) conference in Nairobi, which was attended by 800 researchers, natural resource managers and the private sector and watched by thousands more online.  Conversations focused on a 10 year period of learning how best to increase agricultural productivity while conserving forests in Africa.

“There is an urgent need to increase access to finance, and we must also shift away from unilateral corporate zero-deforestation pledges towards more collaborative approaches,” said senior environmentalist at the World Bank Dora Nsuwa Cudjoe, echoing the recommendations of the study for markets.

The report, entitled “Leveraging agricultural value chains to enhance tropical tree cover and slow deforestation (LEAVES),” also mentions the need to recognize, reward and enable innovative producers through appropriate finance, resolution of land tenure uncertainty, and technical assistance.

“We must incentivize farmers who are doing a great job on the ground and support them to respond to consumer demand for sustainability,” said Nsuwa.

According to the study, governments also have a role to play when it comes to balancing regulatory measures and incentives; fostering cross-sectoral collaboration; and developing policies that bolster forest-friendly development.


A key takeaway from LEAVES is the need to approach deforestation and tree enhancement from the perspective of farmers and local governments by shifting from “black and white” approaches to sustainability, to nuanced, regionalized approaches that recognize and inspire long-term progress towards sustainability, the report states.

“Punitive measures, regulations and market exclusion must be complemented by mechanisms for tapping into human pride: recognizing, celebrating and rewarding innovation on the ground,” said Nsuwa. Something that can only be achieved if corporations, farmers, communities and governments build a common vision.

Panelists agreed on the need to align the various stakeholders and to provide communities with alternative sources of income to halt the drivers of landscape degradation.

“How do we balance the needs and interests of governments, farmers and the private sector on a daily basis?”, queried Mi Hyun Miriam Bae, senior social development specialist at the International Finance Corporation. “Managing trade-offs is a challenge.”


Other experts delved into the issue of livelihoods. “We must respond to the needs of communities and help them diversify their sources of income to really get them on board restoration efforts,” said Irene Ojuok, environment and climate change expert at World Vision International.

Senior forestry officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Regional Office for Africa Nora Berrahmouni agreed:

“The need for food, fodder and fuel drive land degradation and deforestation, so we must look at landscape restoration and the resilience of communities at the same time.”

“To achieve landscape restoration goals, we must connect individual decisions and policies and the national and regional level,” concluded director general of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Tony Simons.



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