Forest Solutions: Nepal and the Philippines


Two young women gathering wood in Nepal.

Two young women gathering wood in Nepal.

In the last few decades, Nepal has lost over two-thirds of its forests. Yet today Nepal has some of the best forest conservation practices in the world. To that point, the Manahari Development Institute in Nepal (MDI-Nepal) was the co-winner of the 2011 award entitled “Forests for People, Forests for Green Growth” in support of the United Nations’ theme for 2010-2011, the International Year of the Forests. To learn more about their winning project, click here.

For more about forest conservation issues and efforts in Nepal, check out the World Wildlife Fund Nepal site on the issue.  It includes information such as how the need for firewood is one of the major causes of deforestation, and how reducing tree numbers is making wood gathering even harder for the women who are usually responsible for the task.

For links to several organizations working on forestry issues, the Forestry Nepal website is a wonderful resource.  Living up to their tagline “Your gateway to forestry information in Nepal,” they supply links to government sites such as the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, professional sites such as the Institute of Forestry, and a large variety of non-governmental sites such as the Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources, the Himalayan Grassroots Women’s Natural Resource Management Association, and Wildlife Conservation Nepal. If you are interested in any of these groups, we encourage you to check out their websites for more information. Many of them have programs throughout Nepal, such as the Himalayan Grassroots Women’s Natural Resource Management Association, which has over 30 chapters across the country.


Philippine forest.

Philippine forest.

The total forest cover in the Philippines has declined from 70-80% in 1900 to 17.9% in 2002, and deforestation continues at an average of 100,000 hectares per year. Thankfully, there are organizations around the country working to replant trees and conserve what remains.

The Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PTFCF) is one such organization. Their mission: “In the spirit of service and stewardship: Improve the status of Philippine forests by working with communities, catalyzing local and national actions for their sustainable management.” And their vision for what the Philippines could and should be in the future? “We envision lush and biologically diverse Philippine forests that are sustainably managed and equitably accessible to responsible stakeholders, as a collective responsibility for the greater good.”

How are they achieving this goal? They have a variety of projects focusing on different areas: Natural Resource Management, Capacity Building, Restoration or Sustainable Use, Research on Medical Use, Livelihood of Forest Dwellers, and Coastal Forest Management and Protection. To learn more about these projects, click here.  For qualified individuals, organizations and institutions in the Philippines interested in working on forest conversation in-country, PTFCF encourages you to apply for a 2012 concept proposal designed to “have a direct impact on conserving remaining natural forests.”

For a more visual representation, check out this  wonderful “photo essay” on forest conservation in the Philippines, including the drivers of deforestation and direct and indirect benefits of conservation.

Another organization working in the Philippines is Relief International, which has a USAID-sponsored program called Biodiversity Conservation through Management of Natural Resources (BCMNR).  This program works with local communities, organizations, and the government to improve natural resource management, provide environmental services, enhance enforcement mechanisms, and broaden sustainable enterprise opportunities.

Rainforest Partnership in Ecuador and Peru

This guest blog is by Maurine Winkley of the Rainforest PartnershipRead her bio and another post  by her here.

The video above is showing the forest conservation and economic development efforts led by Rainforest Partnership and our partner communities in Ecuador and Peru. Rainforest Partnership is an international non-profit enterprise committed to protecting tropical rainforests. We partner with forest communities to help them make an income that allows them to protect their forests. Together we do this by developing rainforest products: raw materials, finished goods, and services that can be found only in the rainforest. By developing the market for these products, locally, elsewhere in Latin America, and in the U.S., sales of these goods and services give residents a financial stake in protecting their forests.

Our model is collaborative, bottom-up, and results-driven. We work with communities that want an alternative to deforestation. By enabling communities to have an active role in project design and implementation and by using market-based approaches we collaboratively prevent deforestation and foster economic development. By creating a global network—linking people to people, community to community—we create long-term economic and environmental sustainability.

We believe that the way to protect the “lungs” of the planet is to help the people who live in those “lungs” have a better standard of living, to grow their economy in harmony with their rainforest. Our mission is to partner with people who live in and around tropical rainforests to develop environmentally sustainable economies to protect and regenerate their forests. Our vision is that, together with our partners, we will become a global leader in the development of sustainable economies to preserve tropical rainforests around the world.

Forestry Solutions: Indonesia

Elephant in Indonesian forest (Photo courtesy of ForestEthics)

Elephant in Indonesian forest (Photo courtesy of ForestEthics)

Indonesia has the third largest tropical forest area in the world after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The tragic fact is that this forest is disappearing rapidly. At a meeting in Bali in July 2010, Frans Bongers, President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), said “No nation on Earth is losing forest faster than Indonesia—at a rate of roughly 1.5 million hectares a year. This is one of the most serious environmental threats we face anywhere.”  The main reasons for this deforestation are logging, conversion to plantations for palm oil, and supplying resources for the pulp and paper industries.

Organizations like the Nature Conservancy are working hard on conservation issues in Indonesia. Two of their forestry projects are working with loggers in the Berau District to “make changes that yield more intact forests, healthier people and more trees sequestering carbon;” and an education program “saving forests and training the next generation of conservationists in…[the] Lore Lindu national park.”  According to the Nature Conservancy, not only is “the protection of forests…a vital part of combating climate change,” but also, “classrooms are cultivating a new generation’s interest in conservation.” From working with loggers to school children, it is clear engaging on a direct level with the local community is key to the success of any forest conservation program.

The United Nations program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) has been working in Indonesia since 2010. The website provides links to several articles and studies on the state of forests in Indonesia, as well as current programs being undertaken. For English, click here. For Indonesian, click here.   To see what the United States is doing on REDD+ in Indonesia, check out this site.

Forestry Solutions: Rwanda and Canada


Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda

Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda

Though Rwanda has lost much of its original forest cover, its numbers have been climbing back up recently as the country has launched a comprehensive forest conservation program. In 2009, Rwanda had just 10% forest cover, but by 2011 that number had more than doubled to 22%. In 2011, Rwanda’s National Forest Policy won the Future Policy Award, organized by the United Nations World Future Council. The award “celebrates policies that create better living conditions for current and future generations.” Rwanda’s goal is to achieve 30% forest cover by 2020.

In addition to government efforts, non-governmental organizations such as the International Tree Foundation are working diligently to conserve and protect Rwanda’s forests, as well as to plant trees. The Tree Seedling Production Project “distributes a mixture of Forestry, Fruit and Agro-forestry tree seedlings to people who use them to plant them in their land, replant forests, and prevent encroachment of the remaining forests.” This project has been successful in Rwanda, resulting in 13 nurseries being set up in southern Rwanda, each producing about 20,000 saplings.

A positive development across Rwanda has been the transformation of certain areas in conserved lands, such as the Gishwati Area Conservation Program, an endeavor to create a “national conservation park” now warmly known as the Forest of Hope. Since 2007, the program has increased the size of Gishwati Forest by 67 percent, in addition to growing the chimpanzee population. Learn more about this project and others in Rwanda at the Great Ape Trust website.

It is exciting to see how Rwanda’s conservation efforts are progressing, and to see the role of the community in planting trees and conserving forests, habitats and whole ecosystems.


The Canadian Boreal Forest (Photo Courtesy of Greenpeace)

The Canadian Boreal Forest (Photo Courtesy of Greenpeace)

One of the largest forests in the world is Canada’s Boreal Forest. The Boreal Forest ecosystem supports almost 50% of the entire world’s remaining forests. What are the threats faced by the forest? Logging, hydropower, petroleum and mining industries are destroying trees, species and habitat.

In addition to being the home to a vibrant ecosystem and wildlife, the trees play a critical role in combating climate change. The Boreal Forest is “the world’s largest and most important carbon storehouse – holding 22 perfect of the total carbon stored on the earth’s land surface, and almost twice as much carbon per unit as tropical forests.” What does that really mean? It means the Canadian Boreal Forest stores about 186 billion tons of carbon in its ecosystem, which is the same as 27 years worth of world’s carbon emissions (from burning fossil fuels) in 2003. That’s a lot of carbon! For more information on how the forest acts as carbon storage, check out this site.

Thankfully there are groups both in Canada and internationally that are working diligently to protect the Boreal Forest and its inhabitants, including indigenous peoples. Are you interested in learning more about forests in Canada, and getting connected with some conservation organizations? This site provides a helpful list of links to organizations across the country.  From Nature Canada  to the Ecoforestry Institute Society  (“A good place to go if you want to learn more about ecoforestry”), to the Wilderness Committee, Canada’s largest membership-based citizen-funded wilderness preservation organization. For more general information on forest conservation, check out the Forest Protection Portal, which has a blog, and lots of great links and interactive content for both kids and adults. Check it out today!

Turning Over a New Leaf

This Guest Blog is about the brand new 100% electric Nissan Leaf.  Lynette Evans is a Program Officer at the U.S. Department of State. She has worked on the Global Conversations: Climate social media properties – which include a Facebook page, Twitter feed and this blog – for the last two years. She hopes that her work will encourage and inspire others to incorporate green practices into their daily life and become stewards for the environment.

The 2012 Nissan Leaf, a 100% electric car. (Courtesy Photo)

The 2012 Nissan Leaf, a 100% electric car. (Courtesy Photo)

In December 2011, my fiancé and I joined 10,000 other eager Americans across the country to be the first to own the Nissan Leaf, a no gas, 100% electric car. According to the World Resource Institute, “Worldwide, motor vehicles currently emit well over 900 million metric tons of [carbon emissions] each year. These emissions account for more than 15 percent of global fossil fuel release[d] into the atmosphere.” With this in mind, my fiancé and I decided it was time to turn over a new leaf – a phrase that means to begin to act in a better way – by getting rid of our gas guzzling car and trading it in for a zero emission vehicle.

Working on the climate change portfolio at work for the last two years has made me more conscious of how my actions impact the environment. So when the opportunity presented it, my fiancé and I decided to make this small change to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, but more importantly to be a part of the growing movement to create a greener vehicle culture in the United States. In order for car companies to produce more electric vehicles there needs to be a demand for it. In order for more infrastructure to be built to support these vehicles, more of them need to be on the road. So with this simple act, we are serving as advocates for the changes we’d like to see in our community, in the country and around the world.

Charging the Nissan Leaf (Courtesy Photo)

Charging the Nissan Leaf (Courtesy Photo)

Education is important to understanding, mitigating and adapting to climate change. Driving the Nissan Leaf has become an important tool to create awareness about climate change and the importance of energy efficiency, energy conservation and savings. People are genuinely interested in learning more about this technology and what these vehicles can do. I’ve had so many interesting conversations in the oddest places about the car: from people walking up to me in the parking lot at the grocery store as I put my bags in the car to ask me questions about it , to people frantically gesturing at me to roll down my window at stoplights to make a quick inquiry. My favorite part of each conversation is watching people’s skepticism about the vehicle melt away as I dispel myths about electric cars, educate them about the financial and environmental benefits and share my joy of driving the vehicle.

The Leaf gets its energy from the small Nissan Zero Emission charger (Courtesy Photo)

The Leaf gets its energy from the small Nissan Zero Emission charger (Courtesy Photo)

So every time I get into my light blue Nissan Leaf, hit the on button and back out of my driveway to zip around town I wear a smile on my face. I don’t hear the purr of the engine nor do I see a puff of smoke escape from my exhaust pipe. I am off on another exciting journey to educate others about the merits of zero emission vehicles and doing my part to save the environment.




The Amazon: The Most Important Rainforest in the World

The Amazon (Courtesy of Amazon Watch)

The Amazon (Courtesy of Amazon Watch)

The preparations for my upcoming trip to the Amazon made me think about the role that international summits play in determining the future of rainforests. Preserving forests and the wildlife that inhabit them has been one of the priorities of the international community since 1992, when Member States developed the Forest Principles to recognize the multiple uses of forests and fight against deforestation. However, there is still much to do to preserve them for the posterity.

Forests are not only biodiversity hotspots; they also play a central role in the regulation of climate and sustain the livelihoods of the people that inhabit them. Forests have a close relationship with water resources. They purify river flows and provide protection against natural disasters caused by floods and soil erosion. In other words, forests are important for the prolongation of the world as we know it.

Despite the Forest Principles, worldwide deforestation has not stopped because of land conversion for agriculture, illegal logging, subsistence farming, industrial activities and cattle ranching. Between 1990 and 2000, the area of forest lost was estimated at 8.9 million hectares per year, an equivalent of 0.22 percent per year. Meanwhile, between 2000 and 2005, a total loss of approximately 7.3 hectares per year was recorded. In summary, during the past decade the global deforestation rate was close to 16 million hectares per year. Fortunately, even though deforestation continues, the net loss of forests is decreasing thanks to afforestation and the proliferation of programs such as UN-REDD and REDD+.

The Amazon Rainforest

Brazil has the largest rainforest area in the world thanks to the Amazon. The Amazon Rainforest covers over a billion acres, encompassing areas in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and the Eastern Andean region of Ecuador and Peru. Two key facts to know about the Amazon are:

• More than half of the world’s estimated 10 million species of plants, animals and insects live in the Amazon’s tropical rainforests. Thousands of living species are yet to be discovered.

• One-fifth of the world’s fresh water is in the Amazon Basin.

Deforestation in the Amazon (Courtesy photo)

Deforestation in the Amazon (Courtesy photo)

Despite the importance of the Amazon, many factors still threaten the survival of this amazing habitat. Urban sprawl, agricultural expansion, and big hydropower projects are intensifying the pressures over natural resources and creating an Arc of Deforestation. Additional proposals to the Brazilian Forest Code might increase the size of the arc by opening 75,630 hectares for new development. This Arc is expected to keep expanding into protected areas, weakening the ecological equilibrium of the rainforest and slowly transforming it into a savannah.

The Government of Brazil is already taking action to protect the Amazon. Since 1988, they have been monitoring the basin to guarantee that the Forest Code is implemented as a tool to reduce the impacts of deforestation. The law requires landowners to maintain at least 80 percent of forest areas as legal reserves. Additionally, the government has established over 20 million hectares of new federally-protected areas. Brazil also uses advanced remote-sensing programs, such as DETER and PRODES, for monitoring deforestation. Using this technology, civil society representatives can access monthly reports and updated satellite images over the internet.

How can the international community help the Amazon Rainforest?

Because of the importance of forests for our well-being and survival, countries must articulate the need to protect them. So far, the international community has taken steps to show their commitment to forest conservation. Nonetheless, innovative approaches should be developed to effectively promote a sustainable use of our biological diversity and ecosystems. World leaders must recognize the importance of developing capacity-building programs in order to enable conservation programs in regions with valuable ecosystems such as the Amazon Rainforest.”

Amazon word bubble

Amazon word bubble

To learn more about the UN-CSD and my trip to the Amazon Rainforest, you can follow me @Oli_mar or join the UN-CSD Major Group of Children and Youth.

Olimar Maisonet-Guzman is a 2011 Boren Fellow to Brazil and a member of the SustainUS Youth Delegation that will participate in the Rio+20 Earth Summit. She is currently in Brazil studying water and energy policy, with a particular focus on hydropower development. She also serves as a Rio+20 taskforce member for the UN CSD Major Group of Children and Youth.  Read Olimar’s first blog for us here.

Forestry Solutions: Nigeria

Usumana Ndaysu, senior elder of the Sukur Ka-Mariya in Nigeria, his son and the tall nggu drums carved out of tree trunks that are particularly associated with Damay. (Orland/Wikimedia)

Nigeria has rich biological diversity in its forests that is being threatened by logging, oil industry encroachment, and a growing population. The deforestation rate in the country is about 3.5% per year, or 350,000-400,000 hectares of forest land per year. The remaining forests represent only about 10% of Nigeria’s original forest land, and they lost 21% of their forests between 1990-2005 alone.

One organization working to protect Nigeria’s remaining forests and plant more trees is the African Research Association (ARA).  ARA “has been tackling forest degradation and environmental degradation which are the key drivers of climate change, promoting environmental governance and provision of alternative livelihood in the tropic forests and Savannah grassland areas of…Nigeria.” ARA’s main work is their rural community action project, Development in Nigeria (DIN). ARA’s research in poor rural communities has convinced them of the deep connection between poverty (resulting from lack of opportunities) and forest degradation (in areas where poor communities are reliant on the forest for their livelihood).

So how do they achieve poverty reduction and reduce forest degradation? By working with the people who depend on the forests, and incorporating programs into the community. “Activities… are focused on sustainable natural resource management through reducing poverty, promoting sustainable alternative livelihoods, adaptation to climate change impacts and capacity building through activities such as providing adult literacy services and farmer field schools.” Check out their Community Forest page for more information.

Two organizations working on preserving the diverse life within the forests of Nigeria -and, thus, the forests themselves- are Cercopan and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Cercopan was started in 1995 and works on conservation issues in Cross River State, Nigeria, particularly on primate rehabilitation, environmental education, community rainforest conservation and research. Their Community Rainforest Conservation programs were started in 1999 and are based largely on “establishing mutual trust and respect, and putting gin place economic incentives through training, establishing royalties and community development funds, and employment.” To learn more about the goals of the programs, see photo galleries and read community newsletters, check out the page.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) states that Nigeria’s forests and savannah parks and wetlands “Rank among the continent’s most important.” Their current work involves developing a “community-led model for protected area conservation in the Mbe Mountains and continu[ing] to identify and monitor remaining gorilla populations.” According to WCS, the forests need to link together in order to provide an ideal habitat for animals like gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants. The booming population and expanding agricultural and timber farmsmake these forest connections very difficult to maintain. For more information, check out their website with links to articles about their efforts.

Forestry Solutions: India

India has about seventy million hectares of forests, and about 250 million people depend on the forests for their livelihoods. However, forest degradation is still a major concern as the timber and wood product industries, as well as the population boom and development that comes with it.

Elephants of Coimbatore Forests, Tamil Nadu, India (Mohan Raj/Wikimedia)

Elephants of Coimbatore Forests, Tamil Nadu, India (Mohan Raj/Wikimedia)

There are organizations across the country working towards planting trees, conserving existing forests, and engaging community members through education and economic programs. One such organization is The Sapling Project, whose motto is “Breathe easy, let’s plant some trees!” They explain their mission: “We don’t want to change the world or end economic sanctions in Zimbabwe, we are working towards a simple mission, to plant and share saplings with one and all in different parts of our city. While most tree plantation drives are done in Parks or Forest areas, we think it’s the colonies and buildings that need more trees and also one can monitor the health and progress of one’s planted sapling.” To learn more about their efforts to bring trees to the communities, and connect with them if you are interested in participating, check out their website.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India works on forestry issues all over the country. For basic facts on forests and the issues they face, check out their website.  WWF India states its goal as “the protection of India’s ecological security through… broad programme objectives,” going on to list projects such as “Minimizing pollution, reducing the use of toxic chemicals and ensuring improvised management of toxic waste,” as well as “Promoting the active involvement of rural and traditional communities in the sustainable management and conservation of natural resources.” Specifically in relation to forests, 20 years ago WWF established the Global Forest & Trade Network (GTFN) to combat the annual destruction of over 30 million acres of natural forest for wood and agricultural products. GTFN in India is specifically focused on issues of forest degradation and trade (including of animals like the Bengal Tiger) in India, with lots of great links, news stories, and tips.

If you live in India, what other forest conservation organizations have you heard of and/or worked with? Let us know in the comment section!

Forest solutions: Tanzania

Acacia tree on a sunrise safari in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Gopre92/Wikimedia)

Acacia tree on a sunrise safari in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Gopre92/Wikimedia)

Tanzania has a wealth of highly biodiverse forests. Unfortunately, they are currently under threat from uncontrolled fires, illegal harvesting, overgrazing, encroachment from agriculture and other land use, and bushmeat hunting amongst other things. Thankfully there are a variety of organizations working in Tanzania to help conserve forests and the ecosystems of which they are an integral part.

The Tanzania Forest Conservation Group is working to “conserve and restore the biodiversity of globally important forests in Tanzania for the benefit of the present and future generations.”  Their strategy is to use “capacity building, advocacy, research, community development and protected area management” on what they call Tanzania’s most import forests: those in the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal forests. Their website provides links to the different conservation projects they are working on, as well as information about the specific areas (Where We Work) and what you can do as an individual to get involved (What You Can Do). There is even a list of helpful links for those interested in more forestry conservation information:

The Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative works alongside the District Forestry Office in Kilwa, in south-eastern Tanzania.  Their main initiative is Participatory Forest Management, under which communities are encouraged to mark some of their forests Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFR). This puts the forest under the management of the local village, and the goal is to create a truly sustainable forest that both helps the local village and preserves the forests. To learn more about the Mpingo organization and their work in Tanzania, check out this Conservation International blog post, “A Better Future in Tanzania’s Forests.” The post explores the role of community ownership in preserving the Mpingo trees and empowering local residents.

For more information on forestry conservation in Africa (including Tanzania), check out these links:



Guest Blog: Forests and Climate Change

This is the final post in a three-part series of guest blogs about forests by the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. You can read Part 1 and Part 2. Part 3 (below) was written by Florencia Montagnini, from Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the United States.

Just about all human activities in our modern world produce greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), and thus contribute to climate change. The use of fossil fuels for transportation, generation of electricity, and industries is the main source of CO2 emissions. However, the removal of trees from forested land also generates GHGs: mature forests, having absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere while growing, store carbon in wood, leaves, and soil, and this C is released when people clear forested land. Documented sources affirm that in the last decade the destruction and degradation of forestland accounts for about 12 % of global GHG emissions.

The world’s forests are ecological wonders that house myriad plants and living creatures on Earth, regulate global climate by absorbing large amounts of CO2 and support the livelihoods of human societies. Forests, however, are under pressure from logging and degradation at a time when we them more than ever.

Forest destruction and degradation also lead to fragmentation of landscapes that lose their natural connectivity. Bird and other animal movement among isolated patches of forest is very difficult and often impossible. The same happens with pollen and seeds that would disperse to other portions of the landscape helping to maintain biodiversity.

Strategies to decrease forest conversion to other land use can also serve for adaptation ormitigation of climate change. Restoration of degraded lands and adoption of sustainable forest practices can thus develop into “win-win” situations.

The world’s soils contain about 3 times as much carbon as the world’s vegetation, therefore soils play a crucial role in the global carbon budget. Techniques that enhance soil carbon conservation and sequestration such as intercropping, use of residue mulch and minimum tillage can have strong impact on global carbon.

Many techniques used in agroforestry systems (AFS), the combination of trees/shrubs and crops/animals on the same land, are also geared to recover or protect soils. AFS, including silvopastoral systems (SPS) have larger soil carbon sequestration potential than conventional range lands and grasslands.

AFS can contribute to climate change mitigation due to carbon sequestration in trees and soils, with the advantage of increasing productivity, being biodiversity friendly, and bringing social and economic advantages to the farmer. In many AFS temperatures are 2-5 0C lower under the tree canopy compared to temperatures measured in the open. Thus, the incorporation of shade trees can contribute to adaptation to climate warming.

In cases where planting trees or shrubs may be in conflict with the desired land use, woody species can still be used effectively for similar purposes as described above with arrangements that give minimal interference, such as in lines, hedges, windbreaks, fences, small woodlots and other designs. Farmers and technical personnel use their creativity in designing systems that can fulfill these multiple needs using species that are better adapted to the local situation. The sky is the limit when it comes to innovation!

Also check out the ECPA Senior Fellows Facebook page: and website: