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For a forest-rich country, Colombia faces a surprising economic dilemma. More than half of the country is covered by forest, and yet the growing demand for wood products is being supplied by imports – not local industry.
While the construction sector – the largest consumer of wood in Colombia – has grown by an impressive 7 percent between 2005 and 2014, the contribution of the forestry sector to national GDP has actually fallen over this time period, from 1.4 percent to 1.1 percent. Meanwhile, Colombian exports of wood products have stagnated around 3 percent of national production. Based on projections of future demand, this supply gap will only widen: by 2030, Colombian markets will need 4 million m3 more in raw wood materials than it currently produces domestically.[i]
These numbers suggest that Colombia is missing out on a significant investment opportunity, according to a new report commissioned by the Government of Colombia and the World Bank, with support from the Program on Forests (PROFOR).
The study finds that Colombia could not only use its own resources to meet all local demand for wood products, but also supply international markets, which are also on the rise: global demand for timber, pulp and paper products could quadruple by 2050.
Such an expansion would require an ambitious export scenario, where Colombia increases its commercial forest plantations by 464,000 hectares, but is well within the realm of possibility. According to recent land classifications, Colombia has 24.8 million hectares of land suitable for commercial reforestation, of which 30 percent (7.3 million hectares) are considered highly suitable. Eventually, the gross production value of Colombia’s forestry sector could be as high as 12 trillion Colombian Pesos (over 4 billion USD), while creating 35,000 permanent jobs in forest plantations and industries.
“Colombia has broad potential for developing commercial reforestation programs, given its excellent conditions for tree growth, as well as its strategic geographic location for foreign trade and numerous free trade agreements,” said Karin Kemper, World Bank senior director for the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Global Practice, at the official launch of the report in Bogotá, Colombia. “This effort would not only have important economic and social impacts by creating jobs and reducing poverty in the countryside, but also play a significant role in mitigation and adaptation to climate change.”
Indeed, commercial reforestation could contribute to Colombia’s pledge of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20-30 percent – a promise that the government takes seriously. "Colombia is committed to policies and tax reforms that help us successfully implement the Paris Agreement, as evidenced by the structural tax reform approved last year," confirmed Minister of Finance Mauricio Cárdenas.
"This report is fundamental in the context of transforming rural areas and the Colombian Government’s Green growth strategy,” said Silvia Calderón, director for environment at Colombia’s National Planning Department, in separate remarks. “Its recommendations will contribute to the sustainable use of natural resources and to the development of the forest economy."
Given Colombia’s high level of political support for green growth policies, what will it take, in practice, to fulfill the potential of the country’s forestry sector? The report lays out detailed recommendations for increasing the productivity of commercial forest plantations and the governance structure around them, as well as improving the competitiveness of Colombian wood processing industries in domestic and international markets.
“By providing very realistic and concrete recommendations, with set targets and timelines, we hope this report can guide the Colombian government in making the most of its exceptional forest resources, while also helping to protect natural forests that might otherwise be threatened by the growing demand for wood products,” said Franka Braun, World Bank senior carbon finance specialist. “Colombia has already expressed interest in commercial reforestation investments in the Orinoquía region, so this initiative is off to a promising start.”
 Unidad de Planificación Rural Agropecuaria (UPRA) 2014: Zonificación para plantaciones forestales con fines comerciales a escala 1:100,000, http://www.upra.gov.co/publicaciones/-/asset_publisher/Gcha9Rfz1eZm/content/zonificacion-para-plantaciones-forestales-con-fines-comerciales-colombia-escala-1100-000
[i] As measured in m3 of roundwood equivalents, defined as the volume of small logs typically used in the manufacture of wood-based products like wood pulp, paper, furniture and plywood.
Photo: Santiago Restrepo Calle/Flickr.com
Last Updated : 10-31-2017
World Bank Indonesia
Since the Bali UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP13), Indonesia has made climate change action a priority. In May 2010, Indonesia agreed with Norway on a path-breaking, performance-based initiative for action on REDD+. In January 2011, the Government of Indonesia identified two provinces that will pilot the REDD+ partnership agreement with Norway. However, much remains to be done to prepare sub-national financing instruments that transmit incentives from international REDD+ funding sources to regional and local levels. Financing mechanisms will need to be in place for programmatic activities as well as for project type approaches, and appropriate methodologies for disbursement of benefits and carbon accounting will need to be developed. Importantly, the design of financing mechanisms needs to fulfill requirements for efficiency, equity and effectiveness, and needs to fit into the national and sub-national institutional and legal framework.
This activity drew on the existing international body of knowledge regarding Payments for Ecosystem Services, REDD+ financing, transfers, and benefit sharing both internationally and in Indonesia. Combined with an analysis of current fiscal mechanisms in Indonesia and lessons from REDD+ demonstration activities, the synthesis provided lessons that are relevant for developing an Indonesian REDD+ financing architecture -- and for developing REDD+ financing mechanisms in other countries.
Policy briefs were developed in presentation format on issues related to financing mechanisms and shared with key REDD+ stakeholders and policy makers in Indonesia (some of the presentations are available on this page). Background papers were developed on PES as a Mechanism for REDD+ Benefit Sharing in Indonesia; Green PNPM as a REDD+ Benefit Sharing Mechanism in Indonesia; and The Role of Small Grants Programs in REDD+ Readiness and Implementation. These were consolidated into a single report that underwent World Bank peer and virtual review in September 2012 and is available as a working paper on this page: Integrating Communities into REDD+ in Indonesia.
Author : World Bank Indonesia
Last Updated : 02-24-2017
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World Bank Latin America and Caribbean Region, Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF)
Chile is one of the most developed countries in the southern hemisphere and relies heavily on its natural resource base for employment and exports. Yet, despite its natural assets and economic prowess, the country is plagued by serious land degradation problems including desertification, accelerated soil erosion, and forest degradation. In addition, climate change is exacerbating land degradation through changes in rainfall quantity and regimen, and the melting of glaciers, which are critical for the country’s water supply.
An astounding two-thirds of the national territory (48 million ha) are affected or threatened by desertification and drought (CONAF 2006). Of the 1.3 million people inhabiting these areas, about 60 percent live in poverty. The main causes of desertification and land degradation in Chile are due to overgrazing, farming on marginal lands without conservation practices, and over-exploitation or poor management of forests. In fact, about half of Chile’s 15.4 million ha of forests are already degraded. Forest degradation is advancing at about 77,000 ha annually, and occurs mainly in the southern forests, where fuelwood extraction is a major contributor to the problem. Despite this alarming situation, there is only an emerging awareness regarding the degradation issues, and the country has yet to make significant advances to counter land and forest degradation. Urgent steps are needed to align country policies and programs to tackle the problem, provide technical guidance to field workers and heighten awareness nationwide.
The main objective of this activity is to provide state-of-the-art knowledge to the Chilean Government and other stakeholders on best practices and guidance for restoration of degraded lands through forestry applications suitable in the Chilean context.
This knowledge activity supported by PROFOR would include:
- a review of the many pilots and ad hoc experiences in Chile to restore degraded lands through forestry (including economic, social and environmental benefits);
- an analysis of the investment returns of select experiences, to demonstrate that the reversal of land degradation, climate change mitigation and the generation of income can be achieved simultaneously under specific conditions;
- a projection of the carbon sequestration potential for afforestation and reforestation of degraded lands in appropriate areas throughout Chile;
- a proposal for a monitoring system that would track desertification and progress in remedial efforts to address land degradation;
- outreach and awareness building activities on the scope and impact of land degradation and remedial measures needed to slow its advance, especially those related to forests and trees.
Author : World Bank Latin America and Caribbean Region, Corporación Nacional Forestal
Last Updated : 02-24-2017
The objective of this activity is to strengthen the capacity of Governments in Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama) to develop strategies for a low-carbon emission economy in line with the commitments made at COP21 (also called the Paris Climate Conference) through a broad based regional policy and technical dialogue. The activities supported by PROFOR will specifically target the land-use, land-use change, and forest sector and will create synergies with other sectors identified in the countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), such as agriculture, water, transport, and energy. In addition, the proposed activities will support regional dialogue and exchange at high policy levels, technical exchanges through field visits and targeted workshops (South-South Knowledge Exchange), and analytical work responding to knowledge demand as identified by the countries.
Central America is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters. Given the mountainous terrain and distinct coast lines, the sustainable management of forests, including mangroves, is a core element in enhancing the countries’ resilience to climate change and natural disasters. The importance of sustainable management of forests and trees is confirmed by the fact that all Central American countries have identified forestry as a key sector in their NDCs and are REDD+ countries.
However, Central American countries continue to struggle with the implementation of their NDC commitments. While the mobilization of financial resources is commonly seen as the most challenging aspect for NDC implementation, developing implementation plans and associated monitoring systems, establishing functioning institutional arrangements, and strengthening the capacity for economic analyses for decision making are similarly challenging. Although Central American countries share this common set of challenges in a broad sense, there are many differences between the institutional and technical capacities of these countries for managing forest resources and addressing NDC targets. The spectrum ranges from countries like Costa Rica that have achieved worldwide recognition for their massive reforestation achievements over the past decades, to countries like El Salvador and Guatemala that are still characterized by large-scale deforestation and land degradation.
The activity will be organized in three different pillars: Regional Dialogue, Strengthening Institutional Capacity, and Developing Strategies and Plans. They will be accomplished through Technical South-South Exchange and Analytical work. The activity will be fully integrated into the World Bank’s ongoing programmatic approach on “Supporting CA Countries in Implementing COP 21 Commitments, ” which is addressing the needs of Central American countries for implementing their NDCs and providing a platform for regional exchange and dialogue, technical and financial assistance, learning and capacity building initiatives in support of NDC implementation. As such, the PROFOR supported activities targeting the land-use, land-use change, and forest sector will create synergies with activities in other sectors that are supported through complementary funding sources.
Last Updated : 09-26-2017
By Joaquim Levy, World Bank Group Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer
Why is ecological restoration so critical to the World Bank’s mission of reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity? Quite simply, because environmental degradation is devastating to the most vulnerable communities and perpetuates poverty around the world.
Some 42 percent of the world’s poorest live on land that is classified as degraded. The situation becomes worse every year, as 24 billion tons of fertile soil are eroded, and drought threatens to turn 12 million hectares of land into desert.
The costs associated with environmental degradation can be compared to the impacts of a natural disaster. In Indonesia, for example, a few months of peat fires created more economic damage than the Tsunami in Aceh.
Thankfully, there is still time to reverse this type of harm. Worldwide, about two billion hectares of degraded forest land could be restored, creating functional, productive ecosystems that can boost sustainable development. Governments and other stakeholders are motivated to make this happen – nothing was clearer from my participation in the 7th World Conference on Ecological Restoration, last week in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil.
So how do we take the next step and make large-scale environmental restoration a reality? We need to keep a few key principles in mind:
First, we need to think of a new forest economy. Environmental restoration at the scale we need requires going beyond conservation. It means integrating timber and food production, as well as energy and disaster risk management, particularly when it comes to water resources. We need to look at countries like Austria, Germany and South Korea, which have built entire rural economies on high-tech forest value chains that are not only highly productive, but also ecologically meaningful. The World Bank has supported this approach in several places, including China, where an erosion control project returned the devastated Loess Plateau to a thriving landscape that supports sustainable agriculture and the livelihoods of 2.5 million people.
Second, we need to find efficient, low-cost restoration solutions that can be brought to scale. This means investing in rigorously tested scientific methods, because we cannot afford to make large-scale mistakes. It also requires customized solutions capable of meeting the various restoration challenges, from evaluating whether native species are always the best choice, to considering a range of time horizons. Brazil’s commercial restoration sector is a leader in this field, with cooperative, inter-company research contributing to the success of the commercial plantation sector.
Third, we need to ensure legal rights for forests. There can be no thriving forest economy without sound tenure rights, including for Indigenous and traditional peoples. Some countries are making progress on this front. In Nicaragua, for instance, all ancestral territories of Indigenous Peoples in the Caribbean Region are now mapped and titled thanks to legal, policy, and institutional reforms that began 15 years ago, with World Bank support.
Fourth, we need to better understand the value of our forest services. Adopting natural wealth accounting that values assets such as land, forests, and minerals as a companion to GDP would help state the economic cost of degradation and the benefits of restoration. Armed with such information, Ministers of Finance may become restoration champions, and governments would have the tools to develop a forest-smart approach that works across economic sectors and at the right scale. Consider the case of Costa Rica: by establishing forest accounts, the government documented that forests contributed close to 10 times more to GDP than was previously thought.
The last missing link is financing. We need to consider all levels of financing, starting with small and medium-sized enterprises. Forest development and integrated agriculture need to be made attractive to entrepreneurs, including women and the young.
In addition, tax and transfer systems must recognize the importance of environmental services. Providing strong governance and guidance on the use of environment compensation fees, such as Brazil’s “compensaçao ambiental,” ought to be a priority. Local solutions need to be discussed everywhere, along with international incentive systems.
Finally, when adequately-funded and accountable research starts to generate the right technology, sizeable financial resources will flow to restoration.
To recap: ecosystem restoration is critical for sustainable development and poverty alleviation; there are significant opportunities for putting these approaches into practice; and we have a solid understanding of the core principles that contribute to successful restoration efforts.
At the World Bank Group, we stand ready to support countries’ restoration efforts through our financing tools and partnership programs like the Program on Forests (PROFOR). Together, our efforts can have a transformative impact on improving the lives of the poorest and benefitting the environment.
Last Updated : 09-11-2017
Over the past decade, commitments and support for Forest Landscape Restoration have grown significantly. As part of the Bonn Challenge, for instance, some 40 countries, sub-national jurisdictions, and non-governmental entities have now pledged to restore forest landscapes across 148 million hectares. Although the environmental benefits in terms of ecosystem services, soil restoration, water, biodiversity and climate resilience are evident, the tremendous economic arguments and the value proposition for poor people living in, or nearby, the forests, are not always at the forefront of the efforts to restore landscapes.
In fact, some 1.3 billion people around the world depend on forests for their livelihood—that is 20% of the global population. This includes income from the sale of trees and tree-related products. It also includes the value of fruit, fodder, medicines, and other direct or indirect products that they consume. However, the restoration of forest landscape at a global scale needs a new vision for an integrated forest economy which appreciates and understands forests along their entire value chain. Thus it is crucial to see forest landscape restoration efforts as much more than just protecting forests, but as a force for economic growth and poverty reduction.
Indeed, restoring forest landscapes could bring renewed economic opportunity, improved water supply, and climate resilience. IUCN estimates the annual net benefit of restoring 150 million hectares of land at approximately US$85 billion per year. In addition, such restoration would sequester massive amounts of greenhouse gases and go a long way towards stabilizing climate change at 2 degrees Celsius.
It is in this context that forest landscape restoration is receiving increasing attention due to a huge growth in demand for forest products and bioenergy around the world. A recent study undertaken in six tropical countries confirms the rapidly widening supply gap of harvested wood products and wood-based energy. PROFOR, with the support of its partners and donors, has translated this challenge into coherent regulatory and governance solutions that can support smallholders and small and medium forest enterprises, through land and forest tenure, new technology, adequate finance and market access.
If the ambitious scale for the global and national forest restoration targets is to be achieved, the economic arguments should be back at the center, along with the conservation ones. It is not just forests that matter. In most cases it will help to approach the challenges by looking at tree-based systems. Trees on farms are more widespread than mostly reported, and can provide substantial benefits.
A study in four sub-Saharan countries shows that one third of rural farms report growing trees and, on average, these farms are economically better off than those who don’t. The study also shows evidence that trees on farms can improve the productivity of landscapes. Trees on farms, however, are overlooked both by national agriculture and forest policies as they fall somehow in between these two camps. As a result, PROFOR is now preparing a new guidebook on how agricultural household services can systematically include tree relevant data.
Two other PROFOR studies try to understand the key factors driving the adoption of tree-based systems (TBS) at scale in Malawi and Rwanda, which result in improved soil fertility, higher crop yields, and increased agricultural production by helping control soil erosion, replenishing soil organic matter and nutrients, while diversifying income and building resilience to climate shocks.
In Malawi, tree-based systems have been widely promoted to help increase agricultural production among smallholder farmers who cannot afford to buy chemical fertilizers. Using conservative assumptions and estimates, the total savings from replacing subsidized fertilizer with fodder (Gliricidia) fertilizer is $45.98 per year per household. Assuming that more than 1,5 million households could potentially be reached, and that all of them adopt Gliricidia/maize intercropping systems, the potential total annual savings is estimated at $71 million per year.
In Rwanda, TBS in agricultural lands are widespread. For a country where most poor families live in rural areas, shows how the spread of tree-based systems could help farmers in boosting crop yields and diversifying their incomes. The adoption of TBS for the production of fruits, wood products, milk, soil erosion control, and soil fertility management has already led to higher incomes.
As more evidence starts to show not only the environmental benefits but also the economic ones, it will be important to look at tree-based economic systems in a more holistic way, systematically analyzing the regulatory, financial and technical assistance needs that small holders and small companies would need, not only during the planting process, but along the entire value chain.
These examples are evidence of the great environmental, economic and poverty reduction opportunities that forest landscape restoration can offer. They are also a reminder that when thinking of forests, we must not forget to see the economic value of trees.
Last Updated : 07-24-2017
This PROFOR activity aims to build the necessary evidence base and rationale for developing a regional and harmonized program on landscape restoration and sustainable management in the arid, semi-arid, and desert areas of sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, and the Mashreq.
In MENA and sub-Saharan African countries, there is a growing awareness of the important social, economic and environmental roles played by forests, rangelands, and oasis landscapes. All of these ecosystems face threats from agricultural expansion and increasing demand for food, fiber, fuel, and minerals, as well as misguided agricultural policies.
There is also growing evidence of significant negative externalities from landscape degradation - including the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, air pollution, soil erosion, rural poverty, and migration. These issues are gaining political attention at the global, regional, and national levels, but while several initiatives have been launched to combat landscape degradation and strengthen resilience to climate change, more transformative investment is needed.
This activity will first review existing literature on the extent, impact, and economic costs of land degradation and desertification over the last couple of decades in MENA and Sub-Saharan African countries.
Subsequently, the team will assess progress made by national and regional restoration programs, and identify the primary barriers to furthering that progress using PROFOR’s PRIME framework. Other land restoration programs will be evaluated for lessons learned and applicability to the targeted regions, including experiences from China (e.g. the Green Wall Initiative) and the United States (e.g. actions taken to combat the Dust Bowl phenomenon).
Based on this analysis, this activity will explore how the World Bank can best leverage its convening power to bring together (and finance) restoration initiatives. An economic feasibility study will be carried out, looking at the potential for a regional program on landscape restoration and sustainable management.
This activity is ongoing. Results will be reported as the implementation of this project progresses.
Last Updated : 07-21-2017
This PROFOR activity aims to improve stakeholders’ knowledge on the potential for improved and more sustainable management of forest, pasture and other lands owned by lower-level (primaria) local public authorities (LPA) in Moldova. This activity includes addressing the main impediments for LPA collaboration.
Moldova has one of the lowest forest covers in Europe—only 11%. Currently, 81% of forests are owned by the state and managed by Moldsilva (the central public administration body on state policy in forestry and hunting in the country) and its subordinate state forest enterprises. On the other hand, 13% of forests are owned by local public authorities (LPAs), 4% by other state institutions (e.g. Botanical Garden, Central Authority for Waters), and less than 1% is privately owned.
Unregulated harvesting and land degradation in Moldova occurs more in areas under LPA management due to weak and inadequate management. Several World Bank activities have focused on LPA lands, including the development of forest management plans for selected LPA forests and the Moldova Climate Adaptation Project, which is still under preparation. Other donors, such as the European Union ClimaEast Program, have also supported LPAs in their land management. However, concentrated efforts to better understand the capacity and potential of LPAs would help make these support activities more effective. In addition, collaboration among LPAs is fragmented due to the numerous local entities that exist in Moldova, consisting of an estimated 982 incorporated localities and 32 raions (districts) at a higher level. Therefore, PROFOR’s program seeks to improve stakeholders’ knowledge on the potential for improved and more sustainable management of forest, pasture and other land owned by LPAs in Moldova, which will also address impediments to LPA collaboration and strengthen joint resource management.
This PROFOR activity consists of analytical work, field research, and direct technical assistance with the following sequential components:
- Analytical work to collect information on the current forest and land uses and management practices in LPAs. One part of the analytical work will identify the key legal and institutional issues in LPA land management. It will also help identify champions in local communities to be involved in monitoring more sustainable land, pasture, and forest management in the future.
- Gap analysis and model identification will use the analytical work described above to identify key development needs and innovative models (both from Moldova and internationally) that could be tested and replicated in other LPAs. This activity will form the basis for technical assistance in the next phase.
- Testing and technical assistance will be conducted with a selected number of LPAs to test and further develop the models identified above. Hands-on support will be provided on improving management processes, practices, and decision making (including financial planning), while improving communication with community members, and other LPAs and state authorities.
- Knowledge management will involve the collection of lessons learned and presentation of key observations and recommendations to relevant stakeholders.
By accomplishing these components, the program seeks to better inform stakeholders on the requirements for professional management of LPA lands and improved decision making that will lead to more resilient rural production landscapes and related social benefits in Moldova.
This activity is on-going. Results will be reported as the implementation of this project progresses over time.
Last Updated : 07-19-2017
Across the globe, demand for wood products is increasing and expected to quadruple by 2050. This trend is exacerbating deforestation and forest degradation. But it also presents an opportunity for a better approach to farming and managing forests.
A new report, Harnessing the Potential of Private Sector Engagement in Productive Forests for Green Growth, shows how sustainably harvesting wood products can help meet growing demand while providing jobs, mitigating climate change and conserving primary forests.
While it’s well known that trees and forests provide an important carbon sink, the carbon stored in forest products is often overlooked. Forest products and materials such as those used for construction and furniture store carbon for decades and even centuries.
Choosing wood products over other non-renewable materials, such as concrete and steel for construction materials, also offers climate benefits. Concrete and steel require fossil fuel to produce, making these alternatives much more carbon intensive. For example, producing a concrete wall puts 15 times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than making a wooden one.
The new report, funded by the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and the Program on Forests (PROFOR), examined the economies of six countries - Ethiopia, Colombia, Mexico, Mozambique, Peru and Vietnam - to estimate the potential climate mitigation benefits from forest-based supply chains. Together, the six countries could sequester more than 150 million tons of CO2e (see table below) by 2030 with adequate investments in forest restoration and the increased production and use of wood products. Such an approach could help countries meet their climate commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
Investing in wood supply to meet demand through landscape restoration and other means also brings benefits, especially by creating new forest industry jobs in rural areas. Potential employment benefits in the six countries studied are depicted in the table below. In addition, projected demand for wood products could encourage the private sector to make long-term investments in productive forests, plantations, and wood processing.
Moving forward on sustainably harvesting forests is a delicate balance between production and conservation. If promoting forest products leads to deforestation, then climate mitigation is lost. To get the balance right, governments must create an enabling environment through better law enforcement and governance. That would help to protect and more sustainability use forests, improve land tenure, and provide the incentive mechanisms to attract private sector investments. Plantations will be key for renewable energy - sustainable charcoal and wood chips - in the future. Private investors, rural communities and forest owners also need technical assistance to help with forest management and production, as well as easier and quicker access to market information.
“Investing in sustainably managing and using forests offers longer-term benefits over the frequently under-productive and disorganized use of many forests today,” says Gerhard Dieterle, program manager for the World Bank’s Forest Investment Program. “As found in this study, doing so would unquestionably benefit people and the planet.”
Click here to watch the video on the interview with the authors.
Last Updated : 09-11-2017
Imagine that you’re standing in a forest. Far below your feet, there could be valuable oil or mineral deposits that are probably owned by a national government. The soil that you’re standing on belongs to whoever holds a title to that land – an individual, a corporation, a community, or a local or federal authority. But who owns the trees?
In Latin America the answer to that question is, increasingly, indigenous peoples and local communities. “There was a spike in the trend of transferring access and control of forest resources from governments to indigenous communities,” said Gerardo Segura Warnholtz, Sr. Natural Resources Management Specialist and author of a new, PROFOR-supported book on forest tenure regimes in Latin America. “These changes were driven by governments realizing that they don’t have the capacity to adequately manage forests, and by the demands of local communities advocating for forest rights.”
Worldwide, secure land and forest tenure is gaining recognition as a key component of many sustainable development efforts, from promoting economic growth, to conserving biodiversity and reducing carbon emissions, to protecting human rights. “Tenure is seen more and more as a common denominator across several sectors, including agriculture, rural poverty, and climate change initiatives like REDD+ that depend on clarifying ownership of carbon,” Segura said.
Encouragingly, studies have shown that, where communities have strong forest rights and sufficient government support, deforestation rates (and associated carbon emissions) are much lower compared to areas outside community forests. This is crucial from a climate change perspective, as an estimated 25 percent of all carbon stored aboveground in tropical forests is being collectively managed by indigenous people and local communities.
However, many indigenous peoples are part of tenure systems that lack sufficient legal standing, and individuals may face severe challenges in exercising political power. “We are talking about basic human rights,” Segura emphasized. “It’s especially important to remember that most forested lands are, or have been, inhabited by local communities, many of whom have been marginalized.”
Consequently, Latin America’s recent efforts to reform forest tenure regimes are a crucial step in the right direction. But do they go far enough? Segura and his research team used the “bundle of rights” concept to analyze 10 tenure systems in six different Latin American countries: Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru. Of the 10 systems, the team found that seven meet all of the requirements for a full bundle of rights, meaning that communities on these lands were entitled to access forests and exclude others from doing so; use and manage forest resources at their discretion; challenge a government’s decision to infringe on these rights; and hold these rights indefinitely.
That said, many countries have yet to fully implement these legal frameworks. In Peru, for instance, land titling initiatives have moved slowly, and have concentrated on the Amazon region, where local and national activism efforts have been the strongest. Across all of the countries analyzed, limited institutional, technical and financial capacity poses obstacles to comprehensive forest tenure reform.
In addition, three regimes in Segura’s analysis maintain some restrictions on the bundle of rights, while El Salvador has yet to reestablish collective land ownership since it was abolished in the late 1800s. The country also only recognized the legal status of indigenous minorities in 2014. “El Salvador is the outlier in this study, but in a general way it acts as a good illustration of what happens when we don’t act,” explained Segura. “El Salvador lost most of its forest a long time ago, and its agricultural economy is on the verge of collapse. We are seeing so many threats to forests around the world - if we’re not more careful about forest management, the consequences could be devastating.”
Segura’s hopes that, with the publication of his new book and ongoing PROFOR work to consolidate and promote understanding and best practices around forest tenure reform, governments and development institutions will be convinced that undertaking forest tenure reform is well worth the risk.
“This topic is seen as so complicated, risky and contagious,” he said. “How can we de-risk it? We need to translate the knowledge we have into tools that are directly useful to practitioners. Governments need to keep devolving rights to communities, as well as establishing and enforcing management rules in a transparent and inclusive way. If we can achieve that, there will be positive outcomes for conservation and for development.”
Last Updated : 07-24-2017