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Using a cross-sectoral landscapes approach to improve forest livelihoods

Scientists seek to understand the impact of climate change on smallholders and shifting agriculture.

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Helping farmers in the tropics face the challenges of climate change would profit from an interdisciplinary landscape approach that accounts for the complexity of the biophysical, social, and political contexts in which they live and work, a top scientist has said.

“Many smallholders all over the world already use a landscape approach to managing resources, and the good news for them is that we have now, at last, actively embraced it too,” said Christine Padoch, director of the forests and livelihoods program at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“This is an improvement because the forestry, agriculture, conservation and development communities haven’t employed the approach in the past, which is reflected in a lot of the problems smallholders have in trying to improve their livelihoods,” she said in an address at the Global Landscapes Forum on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Warsaw, Poland.

The session focused on the impact of climate change on smallholder farmers.

Most governments criminalize shifting cultivation, a landscape approach used widely in the tropics, Padoch said.

The landscapes created and managed by shifting cultivators are very dynamic — in effect, forests and agriculture change places in a rotational, cyclical manner, Padoch said.

“We need to understand these complex systems and to attempt to improve them, rather than merely condemn and replace them. For instance, we still know little about how much carbon they sequester,” she said.

Linking forests to nutrition and health can also be important components of a landscape approach — CIFOR is conducting research into how forest cover links to dietary diversity in some 20 countries in Africa with a specific focus on the diets of children.

“To effectively work within a landscape approach, we need a different kind of science that bridges different sectors,” Padoch said.

The panel, which included Elwyn Grainger Jones from the International Fund for Agricultural Development; Delia Catacutan from the World Agroforestry Centre; Bernard Giraud of the Livelihoods Fund; Peter Dewees, forests advisor to the World Bank; and Alain Billand of CIRAD, explored the challenges of working with smallholders, using a landscape approach and implementing changes in tackling climate change.

For further information on the topics discussed in this article, please contact Christine Padoch at c.padoch@cgiar.org

This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

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Topic(s) :   Food security Community forestry Landscapes