CIFOR-ICRAF is hosting several side events at the 58th Session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies on themes including forests and trees for adaptation, forest carbon markets, net zero food systems and the future of land monitoring.
‘We wish more people thought about tree seed’: achieving plentiful quality seed in Ethiopia with lessons for the world
By Cathy Watson
Almost 300 kilometres south of Addis Ababa in Halaba zone, a young man hits branches of a tree with a bamboo pole. As seed pods rain on to a tarpaulin, women and an older man gather them for processing, and another youth high in the tree shakes down more.
Once back on the ground, the high tree climber, Shemssu Seman, 20, says, ‘Seed is a really good source of income. We used to buy it. But the germination rate was low, and when we collected for ourselves, we had a problem of tree selection: we took from whatever trees we found. Today we collect from many.’
The group has its own nursery and now sells the seed they collect and the seedlings that ensue. It is win-win. Both are of higher quality than what was available before, and thanks to a seed collection protocol, members are growing superior trees for themselves for timber, fruit, shade, soil and water conservation, fodder for livestock, and forage for bees. Bees particularly like the flowers of Cordia africana, says Shemssu. The tree also provides timber and mulch.
This tree is one of 15 that are the focus of an innovation called breeding seed orchards. The group are among 2400 rural people newly trained in the business of seed and how to collect for valuable traits like stem straightness for timber. And the tarp and ladder that helped Shemssu climb the tree are part of a drive to equip the seed sector.
All this activity emanates from a large Norway-funded project called PATSPO led by CIFOR-ICRAF with the Ethiopian government. It is likely the most comprehensive push to build a seed sector in any country. It speaks to CIFOR-ICRAFs goal of transforming the quality of tree growing.
‘The objective is to support government to meet tree seed demand. Ethiopia has huge commitment to the Bonn Challenge. Bringing 20 million hectares under restoration by 2030 requires a huge amount of seed,’ says PATSPO leader Soren Moestrup, one of a generation of Danish foresters who have dedicated their lives to tree seed at home and abroad.
The government is fully engaged and recognizes the gaps.
‘Ethiopia’s flora is well characterized. We have rich knowledge on species distribution and diversity. But still the great majority of seed is from unknown sources from informal sector seed suppliers and is of uncertain quality,’ says Abanyeh Derero, Director of Plantation and Agroforestry Research at Ethiopia Forest Development (EFD), the country’s new forestry body.
Describing the challenge further, Yigardu Mulatu, EFD’s Tree seed unit coordinator, says, ‘Currently each woreda (district) decides which species to produce, and seed procurement is done by finance officers. We are still highly dependent on exotics yet restoration should bring back native trees to their niches. We need science-led tree planting.’
The ‘Provision of Adequate Tree Seed Portfolio in Ethiopia’ project started in 2018 and aims to support the government to strengthen existing tree-seed organizations and private and government seed dealers. Among others, it works with, the Central Tree Seed Centre in Addis Ababa and four regional ones, Gullele Botanical Garden, universities, and the government-owned Oromia and Amhara Forestry Enterprises.
It is on the 3.7 million hectares of natural and planted forest land managed by Oromia Forestry Enterprise that some of the 30 breeding seed orchards (BSOs) developed by PATSPO sit.
Danish forester Erik Dahl Kjaer, one of the originators of the BSO concept, defines a BSO as serving ‘multiple purposes’, producing seed, testing genetic entries (progeny trial), and providing a breeding population by establishing a seed orchard based on progenies from selected trees in a repeated block design’.
In simpler language, BSOs are created from seed collected from the best mother trees across areas where a species occurs; 2500 trees are planted per hectare, and 1-3 hectares per species. These are gradually thinned leaving an orchard that is a source of high quality and improved seed. Each tree has a bar code detailing where it originates from.
Gesturing to an orchard of East African Pencil Cedar (Juniperus procera), PATSPO project leader Abrham Abiyu explains that seed had been taken from 22-25 trees in each of six locations: Suba/Menegesha, Wof Washa, Dodola, Yegof-Wollo and Tigray.
‘This species is very important socially, ecologically and economically. It is termite resistant and very in demand for tools, houses, hedges, fences, woodlots and large-scale plantations. And people like the smoke.’
There are orchards as well of Grevillea robusta and Eucalyptus globulus. Of the latter, Abiyu says, ‘You can see why people plant them. It’s a cash crop that can be coppiced five times.’ The breeding objective for Cordia africana is a ‘branching habit’ of fewer branches.
‘The main thing for a BSO is that seed should be collected from 20 plus mother trees and spaced some distance apart,’ he says. ‘BSOs enable us not to wait long for elite planting materials. If we followed traditional tree breeding, it would take much longer,’ he says.
At the Amhara Forestry Enterprise in the city of Bahir Dar, Director General Biadglign Shiferaw said PATSPO had had a ‘right hand role’ in 2021 in helping them: describe and document more than 60 seed sources; set up 14 breeding seed orchards; and train 58 groups that collected 33,500 kg of seeds, earning on average $1206 each.
‘These BSOs will produce a huge amount of seed from a small plot of land,’ said the forester. ‘Without seed sources, there is no forest development. And if there is no forest development, there is no forest industry. ‘
Across the project more than 200 seed sources have been documented and described, and BSOs of 15 species assembled. Eight species are indigenous: Cordia africana, Albizia gummifera, Hagenia abyssinica, Juniperus procera, Podocarpus falcata, Olea europaea ssp. cuspidata, Moringa stenopetala and Faidherbia albida. Seven are exotic: Grevillea robusta, Eucalyptus grandis and globulus, Cupressus lusitanica, Acacia decurrens, Pinus patula and Casuarina equisetifolia.
Species for future BSOs include Prunus Africana, Boswellia sacra, the primary tree that produces frankincense, and Millettia ferruginea, which is endemic in Ethiopia. Separate activities are on-going for indigenous fruit trees such as Adansonia digitata (baobab) and Ziziphus mauritiana.
A PATSPO survey deduced that just 20 species constitute 99% of trees currently planted in Ethiopia, and Eucalyptus species account for 90%. There is a need for greater representation of some of Ethiopia’s 1200 trees.
‘This is a new model. We can recommend it. We are successful with promising results,’ says Abiyu.
‘We wish more people thought about tree seed,’ says Amhara Forest Enterprise DG Shiferaw.
PATSPO is funded by the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) through the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia (RNE). World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is responsible for the implementation of the project, in coordination with the Ethiopian Forestry Development. A second four-year project commenced in May 2022.
The University of Indonesia’s Climate Change Research Center (RCCC-UI), together with CIFOR and partners are implementing a Global Comparative Study on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (GCS-REDD+). Through this project, we foster the co-creation of knowledge and learning exchange at all levels, ensuring policymakers and practitioners have access to – and use – the information, analyses and tools needed to design and implement effective, efficient and equitable REDD+ policies and actions. The Science and Policy Dialogue series is one of the key components introduced in GCS-REDD+ Phase 4 and aims to tailor research to country-level needs, policies and targets pertaining to forest-based climate mitigation.
Science and Policy Dialogue meetings bring experts and policymakers together to discuss research and development surrounding forest and climate governance. The first dialogue on 16 December 2021, under the theme “From COP26 to G20: How research can support aligning forest, finance and development planning in Indonesia”, held in December 2021 set the tone for the whole series in regard to the importance of research in supporting policymaking. At the second dialogue, “Improving REDD+ information to advance REDD+ architecture”, conducted on 25 April 2022, CIFOR-ICRAF and partners shared latest research findings to leverage the national commitment to transform FoLU sectors to achieve the net carbon sink target by 2030
The main objective of this third discussion is to share lessons learned and best practices on designing and implementing REDD+ benefit sharing mechanisms to strengthen climate finance (including current and planned policies in Indonesia) to fund mitigation activities. The lessons learned and shared in this science-policy platform will feed not only our Knowledge Tree on REDD+ benefit sharing, but also our scenario building and modelling activities, which will be discussed in upcoming dialogues at the end of 2022 and in 2023. It is important to take stock of and build on existing efforts in each country to safeguard continuity, promote integration of efforts, and enhance the legitimacy of our results.
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Sweden honors CIFOR-ICRAF Executive Director for his scientific contributions
Professor Tony Simons one of five international experts bestowed the honorary title of ‘Lifetime Fellow of Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry’
Sweden is well renowned for its appreciation of science with some of the oldest science academies in the world, in addition to the annual awarding of the Nobel Prizes. Stunningly, the country has a disproportionately large number of patents and scientific inventions to its name.
The global positioning system (GPS), the zip, the flatscreen monitor and oat milk may not be as famous as Alfred Nobel’s dynamite invention but have all significantly helped change the world. Furthermore, we rely on the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus for the system for scientific naming of all living plant and animal species. Sweden is fifth in the world for the highest percentage of GDP spent on Research and Development (R&D), third country in the world for the highest number of scientists per million inhabitants, and first in the world for the highest proportion of individuals working in R&D who are scientists as opposed to being technicians.
Sweden’s high appreciation for science is both historical and recent. On June 12, 2022, this was evident in the awarding of fellowships and prizes by the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia. In a six-hour ceremony and banquet held at the prestigious Stockholm City Hall, the work of both Swedish and international scientists and their respective institutions was heralded with great fanfare and accolades. The Center for International Forestry and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) was among the select group of international institutions recognized for its great contributions to international research and Swedish scientific cooperation.
CIFOR-ICRAF Executive Director, Prof. Tony Simons, was one of five international experts who were bestowed the honor of ‘Lifetime Fellow of Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA)’ this spring. Though the honor was originally bestowed in 2021, COVID delayed the in-person festivities for 18 months.
The Chairperson of the CIFOR-ICRAF Board, Professor Getachew Engida, who was formerly the Deputy Director General of UNESCO, commented with immense pride on the recognition that CIFOR-ICRAF and Tony Simons received from the Royal Swedish Academy. He said: “In an era of fake news, knowledge power grabs, and self-interested narratives, it is pleasing that the evidence-supported, nature-based and long-term work that we engage in is so prominently highlighted by KSLA. Tony Simons, along with Robert Nasi, has brought the research, development, policy and delivery dimensions of our scientific and operational work to new heights following the CIFOR-ICRAF merger in 2019.”
Dr. Lisa Sennerby-Forsse, the former Vice-Chancellor of The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and former President of KSLA – who was also previously the Deputy Chair of the CIFOR-ICRAF Board – attended the event. On the receipt of the fellowship by Prof. Simons, Lisa remarked: “Tony has a real gift to help explain complex science in powerful verbal imagery in his seminars and presentations, and this has really benefitted the communication and understanding of landscapes which are so fundamental to more sustainable management and wiser stewardship of agricultural, forest and other land uses.”
Alongside its excellence in science, Sweden ranks number one in Europe on the Gender Equality Index. One third more women (42%) than men (31%) go on to Tertiary education in Sweden, and 56% of all Board Members of Research Funding Organizations are women. Moreover, 52% of Government Ministers are women. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, the former Director of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Gender Program based at CIFOR-ICRAF, credited Tony with similar priority attention to gender balance and equity: “Tony has been a real champion for Science in Africa but more specifically, a champion for women in Science across the continent. Tony’s support of AWARD has led to a notable strengthening of the pipeline of female scientists as well as adoption of gender responsive research practices across the continent. AWARD owes its success to 12 years of Tony’s visionary support, a real testimony to his principled commitment to inclusion and fairness in science and management.”
The Royal Academy event coincided with the Stockholm +50 event the week prior. Simons shared his views on the juxtaposition of the two events: “Human prosperity can be measured in two main ways: standard of living and quality of life. The 300-year-old Swedish Academies and the 50-year-old first-ever UN conference on the Human Environment demonstrates how important nature is to Swedish society, and how long-term Sweden’s perspectives on science, research, technology and innovation are.”
CIFOR-ICRAF will host side events at the 56th session of the subsidiary bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Status of research on Moringa oleifera: genetic variation, genomic resources and the future
Moringa oleifera or drum stick tree is valued around the world for its nutritional value and the potential it holds for supplementing diets. A high proportion of Africa and Asia’s population, mainly women and children, suffer from nutrition-related health issues. As it is rich in various minerals, vitamins, and health promoting compounds and is easily cultivated, Moringa has many benefits and could be a sustainable addition to diets that can be locally sourced and even sold to support livelihood of farmers. A growing interest in this tree in recent years has created global awareness which has led to development of advanced research resources including a sequenced genome, a database of global genetic diversity, and new international partnerships. This event will gather global experts on Moringa genomics, breeding, biodiversity, and nutrition to present and discuss the latest research and identify critical knowledge gaps.
Evidence for Action: Aligning the Climate and SDG Agendas
The climate emergency and the Sustainable Development Goals are two major issues facing the world today. Both require enormous investments in new technology and infrastructure, together with transformative reforms in governance and management. With shrinking resources in the wake of COVID-19, can these two massive efforts be coordinated and aligned, or must they compete for scarce resources?
The academic and international development community is invited to provide evidence on policies and measures that can achieve the climate goals and SDFs at the same time. This symposium will provide input to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).
Locally managed ecosystems
The International Land Coalition Africa in conjuction with CIFOR-ICRAF and partners will host this one-day virtual workshop to present current and planned activities in sub-Saharan Africa that contribute to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
The workshop is led by ILC Africa’s Locally Managed Ecosystems brings together national, regional and international stakeholders to empower and influence local communities and government in restoration and conservation of diverse landscapes. ILC Africa’s Locally Managed Ecosystems is managed and hosted by CIFOR-ICRAF in Mali
- Show on-going and planned activities in different ecosystems contributing to the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration,
- Inform all parties on how the initiative’s activities integrate priorities of the UN-Decade for restauration,
- Share information and ideas regarding new activities promoting ecosystems restoration and conservation
- Identify key stakeholders/partners that adhere to the restoration and conservation of ecosystems.
Landscape Partnership Asia is kicking off the first webinar in its series on how stakeholders are addressing dryland degradation across Asia. Climate change and human activities are exacerbating desertification, and this trend is spreading around the world. Asia is home to the largest area of dryland ecosystems, increasing the region and its population’s vulnerability to land degradation.
This series is part of the Asian Drylands Knowledge Hub, bringing together diverse individuals and groups to exchange lessons learned from successful restoration models.
Landscape Partnership Asia is the largest initiative aiming to restore Asian drylands, founded by Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO), Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF), and the Global EverGreening Alliance (Alliance).
The Regional Climate Weeks 2021 will set the stage for regional stakeholders to contribute to COP26. The events will explore climate challenges and opportunities and showcase solutions. Side events will enable grassroots exchange of knowledge and best practices on the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions, UN Sustainable Development Goals, and Global Climate Action.