How IUFRO’s Special Programme for Development of Capacities (SPDC) contributes to enhancing forest science communication within the framework of a Climate Change Adaptation Program in Bhutan.
Would you like to see your forest be wrapped up in plastic? Well, this is what Bhutanese society will witness due to a research project that aims at simulating drought, which may affect the region’s forests in the future as a result of climate change. In order to inflict drought stress on mature trees, entire research plots of considerable size have been covered with plastic roofs in about 2 m height above ground level, preventing rain water from reaching the soil and roots of trees. But would local people show understanding for such a measure and approve of it easily?
Forests, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation: Charting a new research agenda
By Peter Dewees, Forest Advisor, World Bank
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment defines ecosystem services as the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems. And ecosystem themselves are, speaking in economic terms, an asset, while their services would represent the flow of benefits. So paying for ecosystem services, once the benefits have been valued, has become a topic of interest especially with governments.
Ecosystem services are closely related to poverty alleviation, but it might be just a conventional wisdom to think that the deterioration of ecosystem services automatically leads to an aggravation of poverty. As a matter of fact, there is evidence that human wellbeing has been increasing while the environment and ecosystem services are declining. The Human Development Index illustrates this situation. So what are the underlying causes for this disconnect?
It might be that we are measuring the wrong things and disregard important factors, e.g. the time lag between the decline of ecosystems and the impact.
With regard to forests, global forest cover is declining and forest degradation is increasing for many reasons, yet in some rural landscapes tree numbers are growing. For the farmers, trees are important in many ways. In countries like Kenya, for example, they serve as field boundaries. Trees on farms can increase productivity and thus increase household incomes, they also help build resilience due to diversification of species. Trees on farms can build soil carbon.
So, incorporating trees in land management strategies is an important contribution to climate change mitigation. Consequently, what is really needed is to put in place policies to create incentives for better landscape management. Policies need to be informed by good data, and this is where research comes into the picture and the focus should be on fully recognizing the complexity of landscapes.
The data required should fulfil a set of criteria, of course. They need to be representative, suited for being aggregated, up-to-date, policy relevant and address the right questions.
In conclusion, Dewees particularly points out two research areas that should feature more prominently and deliver good data:
a) The role of household environment income with respect to productivity and consumption; risk and vulnerability; and equality;
b) Policy and public finance with regard to how to support farmer based adaptation and how to identify other points of entry such as social safety nets.
Jose J Campos, Director General, CATIE, took centre stage once again giving an inspiring presentation entitled, “Climate smart territories- fostering production, resilience and reduced emissions through socially inclusive land management.” He opened by saying that it is important to think and to work on the territorial level. We should strive to optimize the goods and services in a territory, and to craft a vision with the different players in a territory. It is possible to diversify the economy and recover forest coverage, and noted that countries such as South Korea, and Finland are already doing so.
He stressed what is needed is collective actions from stakeholders; to give a positive result in a territory and ensure that we can improve our landscapes. He noted that this will take indigenous knowledge, new technologies, increased research and time, and it is important not to be spontaneous in how we approach the problems.
Key messages from his presentation include:
- Global challenges increasingly threaten human security; climate, food, water, energy, etc.
- System approaches (livelihoods, territorial, sustainable production and value chains) could effectively manage synergies and trade-offs among global challenges.
- There is a need for collective action through effective local governance and co-management of natural resources.
- “Climate smart technologies” are a tool that links top=down and bottom-up actions for collective impact.
He continued to explain that we do not need to reinvent the wheel. We need to find territories and existing projects to use as a model. He finished by saying that the key to this is in future professionals and in new interdisciplinary science. He stated there is a need to link students to ongoing development initiatives through fieldwork and case studies, to link their education to research, to local development processes and their contributions to society. If we work together we can create a virtuous circle for inclusive and sustainable human well-being.