Oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan. Photo by Ricky Martin/CIFOR-ICRAF

A powerful tool for sustainable oil palm

Gather a group of strangers around a table for a board game, and you have a great ice-breaker. But when that game is based on science and the players include smallholders, villagers, local government and private companies, it can be a tool for transformation.

The six-year Oil Palm Adaptive Landscape (OPAL) project aimed to improve the management of oil palm landscapes in Cameroon, Colombia and Indonesia – which together account for 59.4% of global palm oil production – by opening up lines of communication between industry stakeholders.

In each country, researchers and stakeholders developed a board game tailored to address context-specific issues such as supply chain problems. Role playing drew not only laughs but also insights, as each player took on a role that was polar opposite to real life.

“The head of a plantation or a local government official typically plays a smallholder farmer struggling to get a legal permit or a fair price for fresh fruit bunches,” said Heru Komarudin, a CIFOR-ICRAF researcher and policy analyst whose portfolio includes OPAL. “This shift in perspective and the friendly atmosphere allowed people to speak freely even when discussing sensitive issues.”

As a result, small-scale producers and agro-businesses became more aware of each other’s needs, and government officials gained a better sense of the nuances on the ground.

While the impacts of such exercises are difficult to quantify, there are signs of progress. In Cameroon, discussions around a national strategy for sustainable palm oil resumed after several years on hold.

In Indonesia, CIFOR-ICRAF collaborator Arya Hadi Dharmawan coordinated a group of IPB University scholars who became involved in key national processes to contribute to the development of policies on smallholder–private sector partnerships and the Indonesian Sustainability Palm Oil certification system.

And in Colombia, John Garcia of ETH Zurich said, “multiple stakeholders became aware of the considerable scope for expanding oil palm in a sustainable way, minimizing adverse impacts on carbon, water consumption, local climate and biodiversity.”

Supported by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development and the Luc Hoffman Institute

“This shift in perspective and the friendly atmosphere allowed people to speak freely even when discussing sensitive issues.”

Heru Komarudin

CIFOR-ICRAF Researcher and Policy Analyst

Agroforestry takes root in Viet Nam

Ten years ago, farmers in northwest Viet Nam began planting trees – mango, longan, plum, lemon and macadamia nut – among crops of maize and fodder grass on their crumbling mountain slopes. The result? Visibly richer, more stable soil and a lot more products to sell at market.

Achieving this took extensive collaboration among farmers, researchers and local authorities during two consecutive ACIAR-funded projects in the region, where unsustainable farming practices like maize monocropping had kept generations of people in a cycle of land degradation and poverty.

“Hundreds of individuals contributed to the success of the project, and this cooperation was recognized in an independent assessment,” said CIFOR-ICRAF scientist Nguyen Quang Tan.

The first project explored agroforestry options for smallholder farmers from 2011 to 2016, followed by research on developing and promoting market-based agroforestry and forest rehabilitation, in partnership with Southern Cross University and the Vietnamese Academy of Forest Sciences. With a view to long-term restoration success, the project worked with farmers to establish local tree nurseries, thereby ensuring a sustainable supply of seedlings.

Over the course of the decade, CIFOR-ICRAF developed seven market-oriented agroforestry systems that enabled farmers to diversify their products, boost income and slow erosion. Participating households, many of which were from ethnic minorities, noted that the agroforestry system was less labour-intensive, leaving them more time for family and other activities.

Established by CIFOR-ICRAF, the Agroforestry Network for the Northwest will pick up where the project left off. It aims to promote and expand the use of agroforestry as a means to restore degraded landscapes, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and enhance livelihoods and market access for local people – especially ethnic minority women.

Supported by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), FTA

Smallholder farmers in Gunungkidul District. Photo by Muhammad Sidik/CIFOR-ICRAF

Tools for gender equity and social inclusion

In 2021, CIFOR-ICRAF gender specialists synthesized years of research findings into an array of knowledge products and shared their insights with both local and global communities.

Roadmaps to gender and social inclusion is a digital toolbox developed in partnership with CGIAR Research Programs on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM). This rich online portal links to various resources designed to support gender-responsive and gender-transformative activities, including a course to build a core group of women and men tenure champions, a book on adaptive collaborative management in forest landscapes, report on masculinities in forests, a brief summarizing FTA’s decade-long journey to advance gender equality in forest and tree landscapes, and links to strategy documents and key knowledge hubs.

Our work with FTA led to the online course Gender and inclusion in Forest Landscape Restoration as well as an infographic and brief to support the finalization of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Gender Plan of Action in the lead up to COP 15.

Getting it right is a how-to guide for multistakeholder forum organizers to facilitate inclusion of women and Indigenous Peoples, developed in partnership with PIM. Our work in this area led to a new collaboration with the World Bank to design a strategy for gender and social inclusion in results-based carbon finance.

Our online presence was as robust as ever, with lively podcasts and online events. Over 400 people joined a session at GLF Amazonia featuring research on gender-inclusive initiatives supportedby the World Bank-led Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program in Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

Finally, the Global Initiative for Gender Transformative Approaches is a new three-year project that aims to promote and strengthen women’s land rights in the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s rural development interventions.

“The year 2021 provided an opportunity to consolidate and reflect on many years of work on gender, and demonstrates our team’s enormous growth from studying gender to supporting transformation.”

Anne Larson

Team Leader, Governance, equity and well-being

Shea butter production process near Chiana, Kassena Nankana District - Ghana. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR

The struggle over shea

For over 200 years, women have managed the shea value chain, producing cooking oil and skin care products from the kernels of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) for both home use and local and regional trade. It is the most widely occurring tree species in West Africa’s parklands, and Burkina Faso is a major exporter of shea kernels and shea butter.

But over the past 20 years the market has shifted to meet growing demand from BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) for Cocoa Butter Equivalents (CBEs) used primarily in the chocolate and confectionary industries.

This trend, along with climate change and agricultural encroachment, is threatening the shea parklands and the ecosystem services they provide. Yet only 2 percent of the national target to restore 5 million hectares of land by 2030 has been reached.

The IDRC-FTA-financed ‘Globalizations in a nutshell’ project sought to untangle the complex dynamics and gendered nature of the shea value chain, with the aim of improving the governance of shea parklands to lessen the impacts of economic and climate shocks on women producers.

A historical analysis of the shea trade since the late 19th century highlighted how various policies, the rise of local producer groups and access to new markets promoted shea processing and marketing while the degradation of parklands continued.

CIFOR-ICRAF co-hosted a National Shea Forum with the government of Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou in June 2021. The event drew more than 175 participants and culminated in a 10-point call to action that includes support for the development of a national parkland restoration program, shea tree domestication and genetic development, and the introduction of certification schemes. This outcome supports the development of a sustainable and equitable shea value chain in accordance with Burkina Faso’s National Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

Supported by International Development Research Centre (IDRC), FTA.

Trees in dry forests provide critical ecosystem services.© Michael Balinga/CIFOR

Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

A decade of collaborative research and action

The CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Forests Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is celebrating 10 years of impactful research for development. Between 2011 and 2021, led by CIFOR-ICRAF and its strategic partners – the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and Tropenbos International – FTA upheld trees and forests as drivers of transformational change.

Last December, FTA held a ‘final’ event to wrap-up the CRP, bringing together scientists and policymakers. This was an occasion to present the FTA Highlights of a Decade series, an 18-volume collection that showcases the partnership’s most powerful contributions to key development targets. FTA also published the Integrative Impact Studies, a set of programme-wide impact assessment studies that document the ways FTA has contributed to protecting forests, restoring degraded lands, reducing unsustainable land-use practices, eliminating rural poverty and supporting nutritious diets.

These studies demonstrate that FTA’s contributions have resulted in: enhanced protection for 26–133 million ha of forests, representing 24–125 Gt of avoided CO2 emissions; between 2–35 million ha of land brought under restoration; better management for 60–204 million ha of land; additional means to exit poverty and reduce vulnerability for 5.1–19.0 million people; and additional means to improve food security and nutrition for 1.1–3.5 million people.

It was a year oriented towards influencing the major global conferences on biodiversity (CBD Kunming 2022, UNFCCC Glasgow and UN Food Systems Summit-UNFSS).

Towards UNFSS, FTA contributed to the public consultations for the five UN Action Tracks and proposed 11 game-changing solutions for sustainable food system transformations, some of which were retained in the final set of recommendations of the Summit. As founder of the Transformative Partnership Platform (TPP) on Agroecology, FTA organized the official launch of the TPP during a side event of the 48th Committee on Food Security (CFS48). The Agroecology TPP brings together scientists and practitioners to devise alternatives to intensive industrial agriculture and contributed to the emergence of the coalition for agroecology out of the UNFSS. Following its launch, FTA facilitated the TPP’s global presence through several events:

10 years of impact


countries with FTA projects


million in funding


partnerships over 10 years


research publications




million downloads

On the ground

up to133

million ha of forests protected

 24–125 Gt

of avoided CO2 emissions

Reduced vulnerability/poverty for5–19k

million people

Policies for Agroecology (July), the Million Voices Initiative (September, at the UNFSS), Research on Agroecology (October) and at GLF Glasgow.

Towards CBD, FTA organized, in partnership with CAF and the Kunming Botanical Institute, the hybrid Kunming Biodiversity Conference, leading to 12 key policy recommendations that support biodiversity for use by stakeholders to the CBD.

During UNFCCC COP26 in November, FTA hosted several talks at the GLF Climate: Frontiers of Change hybrid conference. It launched its FTA Highlights series and the first co-publication with FAO on Asia-Pacific Roadmap: Forestry innovations from youth in the Asia-Pacific Region.

In 2021, the programme held a wrap-up seminar on its COVID-19 rapid research response, launched in 2020, with the final results of several key studies. FTA also led a working group of the CGIAR Covid-19 Hub – Working Group 4, which contributed to the first world-level assessment on the impacts of COVID-19 on food security, and to a set of studies on building food system resilience. The results were presented at the Building forward better: Pathways to resilience webinar in December.

FTA also launched two innovative communications campaigns – the Google Arts and Culture partnership and From Tree toFork – to raise awareness about the vital role trees play in food security and human development. These stunning digital displays communicated to a mass audience the real day-to-day benefits from trees and forests.

This year’s achievements were only possible thanks to the decade of work from all FTA partners. Together, they helped FTA achieve the highest collaboration index (6.48) of any CRP. Grounded in scientific evidence, the partnership published over 6,000 research papers, which were cited around 79,500 times and downloaded over 5,550,000 times. A complete database is available at foreststreesagroforestry.org/publications, 73% of which is open-access. An independent review conducted in 2020 outlined FTA’s high scientific productivity, ranking FTA first out of all CRPs for collaboration and among the first three for policy innovations and progress toward planned outcomes.

As 10 years of co-constructed research, discovery, innovation and advocacy wrapped up (as a CGIAR Research Program), the evidence shows that forests, trees and their environments play a critical role in achieving the aims of Agenda 2030 and beyond. With the momentum of a decade behind it, FTA has begun re-imagining itself and is looking forward to the launch of a new research-for-development partnership for forests, trees and agroforestry in 2022.

CGIAR Research Programs

CIFOR-ICRAF has worked closely with other CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs), which also concluded in December 2021 as the One CGIAR initiative was launched

Our long-term engagement with the CRP on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) produced a wealth of scientific publications and knowledge products over the year, including a brief series and webinar on governance of natural resources, an interactive map on community forest management in the Peruvian Amazon and a capacity-building workshop in forestry development for Indonesian government officers. Work on multistakeholder forums included a 7-part series in a special issue of the International Forestry Review with an associated news series, and a webinar titled ‘Puzzle pieces or poker chips?’ hosted by CIFOR-ICRAF Principal Scientist Anne Larson. See also the story on gender highlights for PIM- related outputs.

CIFOR-ICRAF also worked with the CRPs on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).

GLF Climate, University of Glasgow, UK. © GLF

Global Landscapes Forum

By the end of 2021, the GLF had reached 1.5 billion people, establishing it as the leading global movement on sustainable landscapes. The GLF’s connection with communities, grassroots actors and local change-makers, as well as large, multilateral donors puts it in a unique position to catalyse transformative change at scale. In 2021, the GLF continued to seek solutions and rally action to solve the most urgent challenges of our time. It ran three major hybrid or full digital events, GLF Africa, GLF Amazonia and GLF Climate, with 900 speakers and 18,000 participants from 186 countries. 2021 also saw the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration with the GLF as its core partner.

GLF Flagship Programs

Sustainable Investment and Value Chains – shifting financial flows towards sustainable land-use models through the only global forum focused on nature-based investment, GLF Investment Case, and contributing to FOLUR - Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration Impact Program. Knowledge & Learning – providing free, online learning opportunities. Twenty thousand people have completed courses on the Landscape Academy, developed by world class institutions and led by experts. Pioneering Youth Leadership – growing global movement of 60,000 young people in 160 countries. The second edition of the Restoration Stewards program funds and highlights the work of six youth-led restoration projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Digital Knowledge Commons – building a digital community that co-produces knowledge, information, content and experience across geographies, positions and perspectives on digital platforms. Community-led GLFx Chapters – fostering community-led action on the ground through independently organized local chapters worldwide.

GLF has connected








event participants from 185 countries


leading global development institutions serving as Charter Members

GLF has reached




reached through media outreach in 2021


on social media

Resilient Landscapes

Incubated by CIFOR-ICRAF with a mission to catalyse investments in nature-based solutions from the private sector and financial institutions, Resilient Landscapes delivers results-driven action across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

2021 project snapshots

Land restoration and bioenergy production in Serbia

A landscape transformation program in Vojvodina aims to restore the links between the demand for woody biomass and existing resources and local economic networks in the agricultural landscape, while simultaneously regenerating vital landscape functions. During COP26 in Glasgow, a special event was organized by CIFOR-ICRAF, Resilient Landscapes and E3 International, to showcase the Serbia project focusing on the growth of energy crops. After a successful first trial period, the objective is to expand the initiative further.

Oil palm agroforestry to restore soils and biodiversity in Brazil

The project will scale up an innovative way of producing palm oil – in association with other tree crops like cocoa, açai, timber trees and non-timber like pepper – based on a CIFOR-ICRAF agroforestry experiment implemented over more than 10 years across 60 hectares. Resilient Landscapes is working with CIFOR-ICRAF Brazil from project design to fundraising in order to build a phased growth of the project, its stakeholders and its processes.

Forestry in Papua New Guinea

Endorsed by the Governor of the Oro Province, Gary Juffa, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Honourable James Marape, the project is designed together with the Papua New Guinea government, local partners and local communities. The project aims to empower the 150 clans and 22,000 households living in the Managalas protected forest to leverage carbon financing at premium offset prices, develop sustainable supply chains that maintain the forest’s natural capital and support local communities through sustainable timber production, tree-crop commodities, diversified agricultural systems, enhanced value chains and value webs, and ecosystem services. A high-level meeting was organized at the UN climate conference to present a business case for the Managalas as an ideal case for forest habitat protection, provision of ecosystems services and sustainable and remunerative community stewardship of forests.

GLF Climate drew over 480 people to the University of Glasgow and 4,500 digital participants. Photo by GLF

GLF Climate 2021: Forests, Food, Finance – Frontiers of Change

‘Tipping points’. The term conjures images of uncontrollable global heating and collapsing ecosystems. But what about positive tipping points? Is there a way to turn vicious cycles into virtuous ones?

Hosted digitally and in Glasgow alongside COP26, the GLF Climate hybrid conference tackled that very question. It started with a call for ambitious, concrete action to stop the climate crisis – and finished by equipping a record number of people with new tools for transformation.

Racking up over 1 million views from over 140 countries, GLF Climate reached more than 42 million people on social media, and provided a crucial platform for 400 speakers – of which 50 percent were women – to explore the potential of three key climate solutions: forest restoration, resilient food systems and sustainable finance.

Leading scientists, activists, Indigenous leaders, financiers, youth and policymakers led or engaged in discussions during 67 plenaries, interactive sessions, launches and climate talks held in English, Spanish and French. Their audience included 4,500 digital participants from 145 countries, along with 481 in-person participants at the University of Glasgow. Messages spread on social media rallied 42 million people around concrete, effective and immediate ways to address the climate emergency.

New initiatives launched at GLF Climate include the Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program by GEF and World Bank, Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD) by Crop Trust and the Government of Norway, Transparent Monitoring in Practice and Actioning Agroecologically Conducive Policies for a Food System Transformation by CIFOR-ICRAF and partners, The Forest Allies community of practice by Rainforest Alliance and partners, and Restore Africa by EverGreening Global Alliance.

Supported by German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program, and Global Environment Facility (GEF)

“Because we are part of the community, we thrive with the community, we rise and fall together as a community.”

His Majesty Ngwenyama Inkosi Ya Makhosi Gomani V.

King of the Maseko Nguni/Ngoni

Breaking the cycle of malnutrition and migration in Odisha

Smallholder farming is fraught with challenges in parts of India’s Odisha State. Frequent droughts, floods and water shortages often prevent the cultivation of more than one crop per year, driving farmers and landless labourers to migrate to neighbouring states to work in brick kilns or other jobs during the rainy season.

One project sought to break this cycle by building the capacity of farmers to adopt better farming practices such as intercropping and agroforestry using improved seed varieties and, ultimately, to improve the consumption of diverse and nutritious foods while generating employment and income for marginalized populations. Those who took up the practises – such as introducing fruit trees along with bio-fortified and high-yielding rice – are enjoying better food, nutrition and income security.

“Despite the challenges introduced by the Covid pandemic, the project managed to achieve or surpass all targets,” said Shiv Dhyani, a senior agroforestry specialist at CIFOR-ICRAF.

Although researchers were able to hold only 80 direct farmer-scientist interactions, farmers received technical guidance on agroforestry and many increased harvests by as much as 282 percent. During its four years of implementation, the project introduced improved varieties of rice over 10,923 hectares. Some of these varieties boost protein intake by over 10% as well as greater amounts of zinc and iron.

“This nutritional and income stability has eliminated the need to migrate for many smallholders,” said Dhyani.

To support them, CIFOR-ICRAF’s India country team, its Spatial Data Science and Applied Learning Lab (SPACIAL), the Central Agroforestry Research Institute of ICAR, and the Agriculture Department of the State Government of Odisha developed an agroforestry app that allows farmers, extensionists and decision makers in Odisha to access best practices for agroforestry systems (both trees and crops) from their smartphones. Users register to access modules including information on crops and trees, as well as an agroforestry planner and locations of nearby nurseries.

“The app gives recommendations of suitable crops, trees and agronomic practices, enabling farmers and extension workers to identify the right agroforestry species for farms, including sources of quality planting material, and receive appropriate suggestions for tree and crop combinations,” said Rajkumar Singh, a geoinformatics research scientist at CIFOR-ICRAF.

The ‘Enabling Smallholders to Produce and Consume more Nutritious Food through Agroforestry Systems in Odisha project’ ran from May 2018 through March 2022 and was implemented by CIFOR-ICRAF in collaboration with the Central Agroforestry Research Institute, Central Arid Zone Research Institute, National Rice Research Institute, Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Development, and other line departments with funding from the Government of Odisha.

Partners: Government of Odisha, State departments for agriculture, horticulture, livelihoods and bamboo, ICAR- Central Agroforestry Research Institute, and ICAR-National Rice Research Institute

Trees for Food Security in Eastern Africa – A highly successful second phase

Agroforestry can help tackle environmental, food security and nutritional challenges – but only if farmers choose to take up the practise.

Building on activities from phase one, T4FS-2 focused on tree diversity as the cornerstone of smallholder system intensification, integrating tree management with value-chain development, better water management and new approaches to govern livestock management.

In four years, the ACIAR-funded Trees for Food Security project (T4FS-2) increased the uptake of agroforestry technologies by over 145,000 beneficiaries in Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Over 48,000 households participated directly in various scaling up strategies, including the adoption of context-specific agroforestry technology options established through 5,036 participatory trials. Rural Resource Centres (RRCs) and satellite nurseries in the three countries produced over 4.2 million high-quality tree seedlings with support from the project, and 184 maps were generated outlining cost-effective suitable land and water management interventions for the different sites.

Policy engagement through the project contributed to the development of Rwanda Agroforestry Strategy and Action Plan (2018–2027) and the formation of a sustainable grazing platform in Ethiopia. In Uganda, CIFOR-ICRAF together with other stakeholders contributed towards the review of the existing national agroforestry strategy.

The project also identified country-specific tree value chains (timber, fruit and fodder) and associated financing options, offering insights to relevant stakeholders including private sector and local communities keen on commercializing the value chains. Capacity-strengthening efforts directly improved business skills among 200 traders and businesses – of whom 30% were women.

Over 10,000 beneficiaries, including women and youth, participated in agroforestry trainings and demonstrations, which – combined with improved supply of high-quality tree planting material – have spurred tree-based enterprises that are improving incomes, food and nutrition for households.

Another highlight is the development of an innovative agroforestry curriculum guide for tertiary academic institutions for upgrading of agroforestry training in the East Africa region, based on a comprehensive assessment of agroforestry curricula and extension training in higher learning institutions in the region. Eight PhD and two MSc students were supported by the project.

Key tools were among the project’s over 100 scientific outputs, including the APSIM Next Generation model and the ‘Interactive Suitable Tree Species Selection and Management Tool’ for Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda, which promotes tree diversity on farm and in landscapes, including useful exotic tree species not captured by existing vegetation maps.

Finally, T4FS-2 gained recognition/accreditation in Uganda by the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (QCC) initiative.


Funding partner: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)

“The project has demonstrated that involving farmers in research promotes cross-learning and helps to determine sustainable and profitable options that match their specific contexts and needs while providing maximum returns. This motivates them to continue and adapt the technologies.”

Catherine Muthuri

CIFOR-ICRAF County Director for Kenya and Regional Convener for East Africa

Harnessing the power of forests, trees and agroforestry


In 2021, as the Covid-19 pandemic started to turn a corner and new hope sprang from the launch of global initiatives on restoration and land use, CIFOR-ICRAF completed a successful three-year merger process, finishing the year with a project pipeline of USD 430 million and fully harmonized management, research and regional processes.

This report highlights some of our solutions to five global challenges: deforestation and biodiversity loss, climate change, dysfunctional food systems, unsustainable supply and value chains, and inequality. Achievements include informing national policies in Peru and Viet Nam, applying new technologies in the Congo Basin and India, and co-creating solutions with partners and communities in Indonesia and Cameroon – all while integrating considerations of the rights of women, Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) has reached over one billion people. The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) wrapped up 10 years of impact. And Resilient Landscapes is fast becoming a nexus between science, business and finance, with projects starting in Papua New Guinea, Serbia and Brazil.

With the momentum of a combined 70 years’ experience, CIFOR-ICRAF is forging ahead with its valued partners, finding new ways to harness the transformative power of forests, trees and agroforestry for a more resilient future.