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Forests, trees and economic development: statement by the Director General to UNFF10

Writer: 
Paul Stapleton

Statement to the High-level Interactive Dialogue with the Heads of the member organizations of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests

by Dr Tony Simons, Director General, World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya

9 April 2013

Theme 1: Forests and economic development

“Your organization has a unique perspective on economic development and forests. Can we do more to emphasise this connection? Please tell us from your experience how.”

The World Agroforestry Centre (better known as ICRAF) is the world’s leading research and development institution combining forestry and agriculture. Our unique perspectives are gained from partnerships with farmers and forest stewards, NGOs, private sector and national governments in over 30 developing countries. We do however also link with organisations and governments concerned with agroforestry in temperate countries.

We look at economic development through the lens of trees, not of solely forestry nor solely agriculture. But even though trees have been in existence for 350 million years, not all trees are created equal. We have trees in forest, trees outside forests and trees outside trees outside forests. For those who like acronyms – they are TIF, TOF and TOTOF. Sadly, it is the technical definitions of ‘forest’ and ‘agriculture’ that have severely hampered integrated efforts to protect forests, reduce carbon emissions and enhance food security. We need to view forestry and agriculture no longer as mutually exclusive land-use practices. In essence this is the landscape approach you will hear about later from other CPF colleagues.

Allow me to quickly highlight three ways in which ICRAF progresses the connections between economic development and trees.

Firstly, with FAO we have developed an agroforestry policy initiative to assist national governments review and include relevant legislative, administrative and other policy measures concerning trees in rural landscapes. We do this through provision of robust evidence, template policies and investment options.

Secondly, trees provide goods and services and we seek to address those data gaps on the cost, price and value of these goods and services. Here we are working with investors to help prioritise research as well as working with private sector companies including MARS, DANONE, Unilever and Nestle on developing more sustainable and profitable tree crop enterprises. To achieve long-term and impactful change with tree based enterprises we need three things: (1) establish efficient, effective and achievable Agricultural Sustainability Goals, Metrics and Standards; (2) focus policies and efforts on small-holders within groups in the supply chain; and (3) provide better infrastructure and responsible investment incentives to change and to cope.

Thirdly, we are testing different payment and reward mechanisms involving trees and tree habitats. Essentially we can pay people to stop doing a bad, we can pay people to do a good or we can ask people to co-invest in things they should be doing anyway. Our website has guides, tools and pilot case studies to assist others who may wish to include such mechanisms in the own work and priorities.

Remember people who plant trees (a) live longer; (b) have more friends; and (c) enjoy a better love life – and if you don’t believe us then try it and see.

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