Letter from the Board and Management

M Claire O Connor

Chair of the Board of Trustees

Robert Nasi

Managing Director, CIFOR-ICRAF
Director General, CIFOR

Anthony Simons

Executive Director, CIFOR-ICRAF
Director General, ICRAF

At the start of 2020, few people predicted that a pandemic would soon transform daily life around the globe. But while COVID-19 has impacted every country, it has been experienced by people in many different ways.

CIFOR-ICRAF was uniquely equipped to address questions surrounding the source of COVID-19. Our wild meat experts were quick to respond to cries for the wholesale ban on wild meat with evidence-based perspective on the needs of those who rely on wild game as a source of protein and nutrients. This story and the others in this report – on improved tree seed and restoration work in Ethiopia, agroforestry in Southeast Asia, and a new model for sustainable use of woodfuel in refugee camps – demonstrate how, despite the pandemic restrictions, our researchers continued to deliver world-class science on forests and landscapes and to maintain our scientific record.

When key global meetings on climate change and biodiversity were postponed, we kept the conversation going through various online events, sharing the latest transformative science and innovation to help shape national policies and provide evidence for decision making on sustainable land and forest use across the Global South.

At the same time, we continued charting our path as a merged organization, harmonizing our internal processes and refining our vision and mission. Our new 10-year strategy builds the business case for how trees, agroforestry and forests can help to address five major challenges: deforestation and biodiversity loss, accelerating climate change, unsustainable supply and value chains, the need to transform food systems, and extreme inequality for women, Indigenous Peoples and vulnerable rural communities.

New holistic approaches to delivering relevant and actionable solutions for both people and the planet include: Transformative Partnership Platforms; Engagement Landscapes; and Flagship Products, which we have launched in the course of 2020. These are unique approaches that bring partners together to design and facilitate the implementation of transformative solutions aimed at achieving impact ‘on the ground’. In 2020, we also launched Resilient Landscapes, an innovative venture to radically transform land use and agricultural supply chains by serving as the nexus between science and businesses, finance, governments and civil society across forest and agroforestry landscapes.

Despite a challenging year in 2020, CIFOR-ICRAF staff have done a fantastic job of staying productive and impactful, and being supportive and empathic with our partners, beneficiaries and each other.

As 2020 ends with the promise of new vaccines and renewed hope on the horizon, we look ahead with both optimism and the determination to help ‘build forward better’ during the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – and beyond. We look to a more resilient future in which healthy trees, forests and landscapes prevent the outbreak of zoonotic diseases, mitigate climate change, boost biodiversity and agricultural productivity, and promote health and well-being.

CIFOR-ICRAF Board of Trustees 2020

  • M Claire O Connor

    Chair of the Board of Trustees

  • Getachew Engida

    Vice chair of the Board of Trustees

  • Alexander Müller

  • Bushra Naz Malik

  • Doris Capistrano

  • Kathleen Merrigan

  • Marja-Liisa Tapio-Biström

  • José Joaquin Campos Arce

  • Maria Teresa Cervera Goy

  • Kaoru Kitajima

  • Wanjira Mathai (until May 2020)

  • Vijai Sharma

  • Hamadi Iddi Boga

  • Agus Justianto

  • Anthony Simons

  • Robert Nasi


Our way of working

CIFOR-ICRAF is focused on contributing to a decisive shift in global trajectories: from a future of environmental destruction and livelihood crises to one of prosperity and planetary health. Uniquely equipped to deliver transformative research, we harness the power of science and innovation to improve the benefits that forests, trees, soils and their sustainable management can provide to all of humankind, for a more resilient, equitable and prosperous future.

Our work is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, as well as the three Rio Conventions.

CIFOR and ICRAF are members of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. CIFOR leads the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) in partnership with ICRAF and other key organizations, and we work closely with the CGIAR Research Programs on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), and Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).

Worldwide presence




Addressing five global challenges

As the world reels from concurrent and successive crises, so much is clear: food, agricultural and forestry systems will need to change if we are to ensure a future worth living for succeeding generations. CIFOR-ICRAF provides actionable, game-changing solutions to five major global challenges:

CIFOR-ICRAF Strategy 2020–2030

This year we launched a new 10-year Institutional strategy, which outlines our approach to solving the five global challenges in a way that harnesses lessons learned from our nearly seven decades of combined experience and channels them into new ways of working.

CIFOR-ICRAF has a unique way of developing actionable solutions, from our focus on partnerships to our holistic systems approach to research, to our groundbreaking knowledge-led digital engagement. Through demand-driven and innovative research, capacity building and stakeholder engagement, our scientists promote the deep transformation needed for ambitious policies and practices that can contribute to solving the five challenges.

Three new elements are designed to deliver timely, relevant solutions to global and national challenges:

  • Transformative Partnership Platforms – Alliances focused on one critically important issue

  • Engagement Landscapes – Geographic locations where we carry out concentrated, long-term work with diverse and committed partners

  • Flagship Products – Initiatives that provide action-oriented insights into key global issues.

Read the full strategy


This year, a new Quality for Impact (Q4I) team was created to accelerate, intensify and provide evidence for how CIFOR-ICRAF is translating quality research and development (R&D) interventions into sustainable and inclusive development impact. Q4I is capturing, tracking and communicating CIFOR-ICRAF’s performance, supporting research quality reviews, and providing monitoring, evaluation, learning and impact assessment (MELIA) support to R&D initiatives. The team is also developing an integrated portfolio of ‘fit-for-purpose’ impact assessment and research methods to accelerate CIFOR-ICRAF's efforts to nudge human development onto a more inclusive and sustainable path.

The CIFOR-ICRAF network

Experience has taught us that turning scientific evidence into transformative action requires creative partnerships and clear communication channels. The entities of the CIFOR-ICRAF network reinforce and advance our collective aim to unlock the potential of trees and forests to combat climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation.

Resilient Landscapes aims to radically transform land use and agricultural supply chains by serving as the nexus between science and businesses, finance, government and civil society across forest and agroforestry landscapes. resilient-landscapes.org

The Global Landscapes Forum is the world’s largest knowledge forum on integrated and sustainable land use; since its creation, it has reached more than 995 million people from 185 countries – including many youth, Indigenous, rural and women’s groups. globallandscapesforum.org

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the world’s largest research for development programme to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. foreststreesagroforestry.org

Resource mobilization

The new, harmonized CIFOR-ICRAF Resource Mobilization (RM) Unit made major progress in identifying and disseminating funding opportunities through the new CIFOR-ICRAF RM Opportunities portal, including dedicated ‘cradle-to-grave’ support for submissions development and due diligence. The joint Resource Mobilization and Partnerships Committee was also established and is supporting the RM and Partnerships teams. Harmonization is ongoing between RM and other corporate support units to ensure further effective support to institutional delivery, and a draft joint RM Strategy and related policies are in the works.

Taking land restoration successes to scale in East Africa and the Sahel

Land restoration can be a key pathway to achieving food security and improving livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable people living in Africa’s drylands. But as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration draws closer, it has become clear that scaling up restoration efforts requires options that will work for different people in different places – not a one-size-fits-all approach.

A five-year project funded by the EU and IFAD started with the recognition that farmers are agents of change: as stewards of the land, they are constantly innovating. Therefore, empowering farmers to test and compare different restoration efforts such as increasing crop diversity and implementing agroforestry and tailored soil and water conservation methods – an approach known as ‘options by context’ – could help them meet challenges as they arise.

By bringing key partners from the public and private sectors, research, extension, market and governance institutions to work together in a co-learning cycle, the project helped create communities of practice that were able to better use their resources to restore degraded land. Over 100,000 beneficiaries were reached directly and indirectly across Niger, Mali, Ethiopia and Kenya. In Kenya, tree survival on farmers’ fields increased from 30 percent in 2016 to over 80 percent in 2019.

Researchers also identified potential synergies between restoration practices and gender equality, engaging with over 500 farming households to learn how the new restoration methods introduced by scientists affected livelihoods and the division of labour between men and women. “Women, in particular, face challenges related to food security because they tend to be the main food providers,” said Leigh Winowiecki, a soil systems scientist and leader of the Soil and Land Health theme.

Scientists discussed their findings in the IFAD podcast ‘Building back better: Land restoration, gender and research ‘in’ development’.

Project info


Restoration of degraded land for food security and poverty reduction in East Africa and the Sahel: taking successes in land restoration to scale


Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger

Funding partners

IFAD, EU, Putting Research into Use for Nutrition, Sustainable Agriculture and Resilience (PRUNSAR)

Project partners




Focal points

Leigh Ann Winowiecki, Theme Leader - Soils and Fergus Sinclair, Science Domain Leader-Systems/Principal Advisor - Regions

Better quality tree seeds in Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s green growth strategy includes a commitment to restore more than 20 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes within the next 20 years – one of the world’s most ambitious forest landscape restoration programmes. The NICFI-funded Provision of Adequate Tree Seed Portfolio in Ethiopia (PATSPO) project is designed to improve the productivity and resilience of forest landscape restoration in the country.

Since 2017, PATSPO has supported the Government of Ethiopia through the provision of high-quality tree seeds of priority species, for large-scale restoration plantings. The project has also strengthened existing tree-seed organizations and supported the establishment of additional private and government seed dealers.

“As a result of these efforts, both the physical and genetic quality of seed has improved,” said Kiros Hadgu, a CIFOR-ICRAF scientist and country representative for Ethiopia.

PATSPO conducted sector analysis and, in partnership with the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC), established the national Tree Seed Network to foster collaboration among all stakeholders in the tree seed sector, including private companies.

The project has also provided species-specific knowledge for priority species, a critical mass of tree genetic resources for the future, and capacity development to monitor and deliver quality seeds and seedlings of the species required for large-scale restoration. An atlas on the distribution of 150 tree species in Ethiopia is being finalized, as well as an app called ‘What trees to plant where’.

“If partners are given time to adapt and adopt the project’s activities, these collaborative efforts are expected to help put Ethiopia’s restoration goals on the path to sustainability.”

Søren Moestrup, Senior Team Leader for PATSPO

Project info


Provision of Adequate Tree Seed Portfolio in Ethiopia (PATSPO)



Funding partners

Government/Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) represented by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Addis Ababa

Project partners

Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission, Ethiopia, Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute

Focal point

Lars Graudal, Principal Investigator and Co-Leader, Tree Productivity and Diversity

GCS REDD+ marks another milestone

The Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS REDD+) wrapped up its third phase in 2020, focused on assessing policy design and the impacts of actions to ‘reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation’ (REDD+). Through a series of virtual national stakeholder workshops, GCS REDD+ brought together policymakers, practitioners, researchers and donors to discuss the latest knowledge on REDD+ and how to translate it into action.

In Peru, CIFOR-ICRAF worked with Peru’s Protected Areas Service (SERNANP) to codevelop the tool ¿Como Vamos? (‘How are we doing?’), which enables participatory reflective monitoring on multistakeholder forums. In Vietnam, scientists have been invited to join a National Task Force to develop Vietnam’s Forestry Development Strategy (2020–2030). And through deep engagement in Indonesia and Peru, GCS REDD+ provided technical support for the inclusion of peatlands in the countries’ respective Forest Reference Emission Levels (FREL) and contributed to the Peruvian National Strategy on Forest and Climate Change.

“Our role of independent international observer and credible analyst of the REDD+ process, along with an ability to reach and convene diverse stakeholders and stimulate debates, make us a unique player in this space.”

Amy Duchelle, Team Leader for Climate change, energy and low-carbon development

ID-RECCO – the largest global database on REDD+ projects and programmes reddprojectsdatabase.org

Project info


Global Comparative Study on REDD+


22 initiatives in 6 countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia

The following funding partners have supported GCS REDD+:

Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID); CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (CRP-FTA) with financial support from the contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund; David and Lucile Packard Foundation; European Commission (EC); Government of Finland; International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU); Mott Foundation; Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad); the Department for International Development (UKAID); and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

CIFOR focal point

Amy Duchelle, Team Leader, Climate change, energy and low-carbon development

SWAMP continues to leverage new opportunities for deeper emission cuts

Knowledge generated by the Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Programme (SWAMP) triggered policy processes with Indonesia’s Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas), leading to a Ministerial Decree in October 2020. This formed the legal basis to establish a Strategic Coordination Team tasked with meeting the SDGs and low-carbon development agenda through the development of a roadmap of management strategies for peatland and mangrove ecosystems.

SWAMP also contributed to greater confidence in improving Indonesia’s FREL following its diagnosis of missing sources and sinks of GHG emissions.

“These collaborative efforts on wetlands are very timely and central to developing research-based strategies to tackle climate change”

Daniel Murdiyarso, Principal Scientist and recipient of the Habibie Prize 2020

Project info


Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP)



Funding partners

United States Agency for International Development (USAID), FTA

Project partners

United States Forest Service

CIFOR focal point

Daniel Murdiyarso, Principal Scientist

Agroforestry in Southeast Asia policy

Agroforestry – growing trees on farms – can provide alternative resources, diversify livelihoods and mitigate the impacts of climate change. With support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, CIFOR-ICRAF brought agroforestry expertise to the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change (ASFCC), a 10-year multi-partner collaboration with far-reaching impacts in Southeast Asia.

“We led the development of the ASEAN Guidelines for Agroforestry Development, provided technical support to Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development – which revised its national forestry law to include agroforestry – and facilitated the agroforestry roadmap for Cambodia,” said Delia Catacutan, Regional Coordinator for Southeast Asia.

Knowledge Tree on Social Forestry is a rich source of information about social forestry practices in Southeast Asia, based on 10 years of ASFCC research.

CIFOR-ICRAF collaboration with the Green Climate Fund

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) recognizes that keeping global warming below 2 degrees requires nature-based solutions. CIFOR and COWI were selected by the GCF to write the Sectoral Guides on forests and land use, and on ecosystems and ecosystem services. CIFOR-ICRAF is involved in a number of GCF-supported projects:

  • In The Gambia, where annual rainfall has decreased and become more erratic and temperatures have risen by up to 2°C, scientists are providing technical support to the government to use an ‘ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA)’ approach to restore degraded community forests and community protected areas, reduce human–wildlife conflict and help move the country towards climate resilience.

  • In Sri Lanka, CIFOR-ICRAF partners across government are pioneering highland restoration to protect the water storage capacity of reservoirs – vital for irrigating lowland rice – and are introducing payments for environmental services to sustain it. This addresses the climate change double whammy of higher, more intense and erosive rainfall in the uplands but increased drought in the lowlands, where much of the nation’s staple food is grown. CIFOR-ICRAF also acts as delivery partner to support the National Designated Authority in implementing a GCF ‘readiness’ project.

How to prevent the next pandemic

When the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, CIFOR-ICRAF was in a unique position to respond. For over 20 years, our wild meat experts have researched the implications of interactions between wild animals and humans in forested landscapes – including zoonotic diseases – and recently collaborated with the Convention on Biological Diversity on joint guidelines for a sustainable wild meat sector.

Amid the sudden cries to ban wet markets and the harvesting, trade and consumption of wild meat worldwide, CIFOR-ICRAF scientists stepped up with evidence in hand. In March 2020 they published a Forests News editorial demonstrating how such a ban would put millions of communities who have no other source of affordable protein – many of them Indigenous Peoples – at risk of malnutrition.

“Unsustainable harvesting of wild meat is a major driver of biodiversity loss, but the real issue lies with massive rural–urban migration. As people bring their taste for wild game to the city, they create a demand that fuels widespread illegal hunting, threatening to leave behind ‘empty forests’,” explained Robert Nasi, Managing Director of CIFOR-ICRAF.

Through the Sustainable Wildlife Management programme, CIFOR and partners are developing models to conserve wildlife while improving the food security of people who rely on wild meat for nutrition. And in partnership with Oxford University and the Wildlife Conservation Society, scientists are assessing the pandemic’s influence on perceptions around wild meat consumption and wildlife management policies.

In April, experts held a webinar to discuss what COVID-19 means for wild meat, and in June Dr Nasi was invited to serve as a panellist at a briefing to US congressional staff and Washington-based agencies organized by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation. He shared evidence linking ecosystem fragmentation and degradation to the emergence or re-emergence of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Lyme disease, including recent CIFOR-ICRAF research on deforestation and Ebola.

August saw the launch of a new project supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) that aims to identify and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on legal and sustainable wildlife trade in low and medium-income countries. The UKRI GCRF TRADE Hub Indonesia also launched this year and held a webinar on COVID-19 and the wildlife trade in Papua.

Finally, in October, the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management and FAO released a joint statement outlining four guiding principles to reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases through ‘nature-based stimulus packages.’

The WILDMEAT database, currently being developed with support from USAID and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, can be used to identify areas where key vector species (i.e. bats, primates, pangolins) are being hunted or traded, potentially helping to predict hotspots where viruses could spill over into human populations.

Read our feature story on COVID-19 and wild meat.

forward better


In 2020 – a year like no other – CIFOR-ICRAF continued to deliver the world’s best science on forests and trees in agricultural landscapes, shifting the conversation online as the Covid-19 pandemic evolved.

This annual report features stories about expertise, dedication and perseverance. When people responded to the pandemic with calls to ban wild meat, CIFOR-ICRAF experts stepped forward with recent, highly relevant evidence in hand, highlighting the needs of communities who rely on wild game for nutrition. Other scientists forged ahead to deliver compelling research findings on improved tree seed and restoration work in Ethiopia, agroforestry in Southeast Asia, and a new model for sustainable use of woodfuel in refugee camps – among many other topics.

CIFOR-ICRAF continued to chart its path as one organization, with a new 10-year strategy that outlines game-changing solutions to five global challenges: deforestation and biodiversity loss, the climate crisis, unsustainable supply and value chains, the need to transform food systems, and extreme inequality for women, Indigenous Peoples and vulnerable rural communities.

Three new holistic approaches will deliver actionable solutions to these challenges: Transformative Partnership Platforms, Engagement Landscapes and Flagship Products. And the newly launched Resilient Landscapes aims to leverage the power of the private sector to spur greater investment in nature-based solutions.

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) held its first fully virtual conference in June and didn’t stop there, seeing unprecedented digital growth during the year. And the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) marked its 10th science conference – also virtual – while continuing to demonstrate the power of partnership.