Annual Report

Bolstering nature’s resilience

In forests and on farms, trees stabilize and enrich soil, absorb water and nutrients from the ground and carbon from the air, and create microclimates – while also supporting food security and livelihoods. CIFOR-ICRAF’s work on tree genetic resources, restoration, sustainable forest management, and soil and land health continues to raise the critical importance of trees and biodiversity.

Regreening Africa is an ambitious five-year effort to improve livelihoods, food security and climate resilience among smallholder farmers by restoring ecosystem services through agroforestry in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal and Somalia. Findings show that, of the 140,000 households that were introduced to agroforestry-related and regreening practices, over 95% had applied the approaches across 184,000 hectares, with additional tree planting on communal lands. Overall, there was a 60% increase in regreening action, with varying results across countries.

In Ethiopia, the second phase of the Provision of Adequate Tree Seed Portfolio project was launched to further ensure that forest-restoration and tree-planting initiatives have access to high-quality seeds of the most important tree species. CIFOR-ICRAF produced a climate change atlas of tree species prioritized for forest landscape restoration, as well as the What To Plant Where in Ethiopia portal, which allows users to find suitable tree species and their best matching seed sources at any planting location in Ethiopia. There are plans to develop similar portals for Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda and possibly other countries.

Not only do trees on farms support farmers by supplying fuelwood and controlling water runoff, they also help conserve biodiversity by connecting fragmented wild habitats and protected areas, and conserving soil biodiversity. In June 2022, CIFOR-ICRAF researchers presented the draft of a ‘trees on farms’ roadmap to representatives of Peru’s national public sector and civil society, and put out a call for world leaders to include productive and managed ecosystems in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, asking if trees on farms are a biodiversity blind spot.

Our work on tree genetic resources continued in its aim to deliver on the best science needed to safeguard tree diversity, domesticate trees and deliver suitable tree planting material to growers. The Agroforestry Species Switchboard underwent a major update in 2022, now featuring almost 240,000 plant species. The latest version of the GlobalUsefulNativeTrees database (GlobUNT) includes 14,014 useful tree species – that’s one-quarter of all known tree species – and now holds the largest number of useful tree species available online. Researchers published an opinion piece on a ‘systems approach’ to plant breeding, and prepared a paper ahead of the UN biodiversity conference on how digital sequence information is changing the way genetic resources are used in agricultural research and development.

CIFOR-ICRAF demonstrated leadership in soil and land health research and soil spectroscopy science, with the purchase of two new spectrometers. Milestones include the scaling of soil and land health assessments in six countries using our Land Degradation Surveillance Framework, and the scaling of soil spectroscopy in Africa, including a partnership with the Government of Rwanda to build a comprehensive national soil information system.

Our soil scientists were highly active at major conferences, including the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP15). CIFOR-ICRAF scientists were on the steering committee for the preparation of the Global Land Outlook 2 (GLO2), contributed to UNCCD policy-oriented recommendations based on evidence of integrated land-use planning for achieving land degradation neutrality, and co-organized the UNCCD COP 15  Science Day. We also contributed to the G20-UNCCD Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats draft strategic framework (2021–2030) and operation plan (2021–2024).

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), where the first-ever Food Systems Pavilion was co-hosted by the Coalition of Action 4 Soil Health (CA4SH), scientists urged world leaders to kick-start the restoration of soil ecosystems.

CIFOR-ICRAF continues to support the implementation of the 22 projects supported by Landscapes For Our Future, through technical guidance and the co-creation, synthesis and disseminate knowledge and lessons learned.

Sahel Mosaic Engagement Landscape

Sahelian farmers and pastoralists face a daunting future: their incomes are among the world’s lowest, and their livelihoods are further threatened by global heating and environmental stresses. Yet despite decades of investment in rural development, progress has been limited by a poor enabling environment, a profound lack of resources and ineffective top-down approaches. Widespread food insecurity and rising outmigration are not only accelerating land degradation, they have also driven the spread of nsurgencies across several countries, compounding an already fragile situation.

Yet there are proven restoration successes in the region, from the parklands of Niger to the Tigrayan highlands. The Sahel Mosaic Engagement Landscape aims to prime the pump of economic development across the Sahel by creating green jobs, improving livelihoods and strengthening resilience to climate change through the large-scale co-development of special regeneration zones. These combine the governance systems, technical knowledge and community vision needed to restore degraded ecosystems. Beyond simply boosting incomes, these zones can give farmers and pastoralists the ability to invest in their future – and the stability to attract external investors – inspiring adjacent areas to adopt the same approach.

© Ollivier Girard/CIFOR-ICRAF

This work has been supported by Biovision; Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC); Ethiopian Forestry Development; European Union; Green Climate Fund (GCF); International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUV); Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI); and the World Resource Institute (WRI).