Mitigating and adapting to climate change through market-driven forest landscape restoration
FLOURISH is an innovative four-year forest landscape restoration (FLR) initiative that uses market forces combined with community forestry to combat climate change, restore degraded forests and improve the well-being of forest communities. It is funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Energy (BMU) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI).
FLOURISH pilots are underway in three landscapes in three Mekong countries: Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. The lessons learned at these sites will help to improve FLR in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide.
FLOURISH pilots differ from many other FLR initiatives in the way they harness market forces to restore forest landscapes. The pilots establish commercial business partnerships between forest communities and companies to plant production forests, make sustainable products and sell to markets. The FLOURISH approach gives communities a secure interest in restoring and sustainably managing their forest landscapes.
Forests and climate change
Forests are essential to overcoming the climate crisis. A healthy forest absorbs greenhouse gases and locks in carbon. A healthy forest also increases resilience to climate change for the people, animals, plants and plants that live there. Healthy forests also have higher agricultural productivity than degraded forests because of improved pollination, resilience to pests, higher nutrient and water levels. On the other hand, deforestation and forest degradation release greenhouse gases, accelerating climate change. Moreover, reduced or degraded forests are more vulnerable to wildfire, soil erosion, flooding, drought and other effects of climate change.
Despite international agreements, forests are cut and degraded at an alarming rate around the world, and restoration efforts are lagging behind agreed international goals. About 30 percent of the world’s original forested area is gone, and 20 percent is degraded. Southeast Asia alone lost more than 30 million hectares of forest between 1990 and 2015, or 11 percent, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
As forests disappear, so does biodiversity, livelihoods and protection against climate change. The poorest and most vulnerable communities are the most at risk of climate-induced natural disasters, food insecurity and migration. However, we all lose: the worldwide cost of forest loss is 2 to 5 trillion US dollars a year.
Forest landscape restoration
The United Nations agreements on climate change and biodiversity call for restoration of deforested and degraded forestlands. About 2 billion hectares of land worldwide would benefit from restoration. International agreements emphasize the interest of local communities in restoring and preserving their forest landscapes. The benefits are both immediate and long-term: improved livelihoods, restored habitats, absorption of greenhouse gases and greater resilience against the impacts of climate change.
Solutions for Mekong countries
Deforestation and forest degradation in the Mekong region are driven by rapid economic growth and associated infrastructure development, natural resource exploitation and agricultural plantations, particularly rubber, banana and other monocultures. The FLOURISH approach takes into account the ecological functionality of the landscape as a whole, and seeks to create a mosaic of land uses. FLOURISH encourages cultivation of native species and development of locally owned smallholder plantations. Each of the three pilot sites tests a solution for a particular landscape and country context.
FLOURISH in Lao PDR
Lao PDR loses 16,000 hectares of forest a year to deforestation and forest degradation. FLOURISH is helping to reduce this trend and improve livelihoods in a corridor along the Mekong River in the northwest of the country, 2 to 5 kilometres wide, and spanning the provinces of Bokeo and Xayaboury. Here, community forests are already producing teak for timber and non-timber forest products from bamboo.
In these provinces, communities have been harvesting teak earlier than the 15 to 30 years it takes to reach maturity in order to take the income sooner. This has meant that their trees did not absorb as much carbon dioxide as they could have in order to mitigate climate change. Nor did they attain the highest possible commercial value.
FLOURISH is now working with pilot communities to help them make the most of both teak through improved production practices and private-sector partnerships. The approach provides incentives to let teak trees grow to a higher market value where they can capture as much carbon as possible. FLOURISH is also exploring the potential of using forest biomass for energy, which may also help to reduce the risks of forest fires.
FLOURISH in Viet Nam
Viet Nam lost 10,383 hectares of natural forest a year in the period from 2010 to 2018. FLOURISH aims to reverse this trend through its work with a cluster of five communes in Nghe An Province where smallholders have rights to manage natural bamboo production forests and natural forests. In this province and neighbouring Thanh Hoa Province, the centre of Viet Nam’s bamboo industry, there is a well-established market for bamboo and other wood products. In Nghe An, FLOURISH is working with smallholders to improve the volume of their production and their earnings.
FLOURISH in Thailand
In Thailand, the number of hectares of forest has been increasing in recent years. However, the amount of living forest biomass, an indicator of forest health, has been falling. In response, the government aims to restore degraded forests across 40 percent of Thailand’s territory. FLOURISH is working with communities in the northern Nan Province, a major source of timber. Here, smallholders produce timber for the state-owned Forest Industry Organization. FLOURISH is engaging all stakeholders to restore the landscape and improve both timber productivity and income for forest communities.
FLOURISH is helping communities to clarify their land rights, use low-impact harvesting methods and reduce the carbon footprint of timber transport by encouraging the further development of local timber processing operations. The focus is on plantations that are in buffer zones around conservation forests.
RECOFTC manages FLOURISH with support from several implementation partners listed below, as well as forest communities, smallholders, community-based forest enterprises and forest companies.
- Department of Forestry, Lao PDR
- Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Thailand
- Hug Muang Nan Foundation, Thailand
- Institute of International Forestry and Forest Products, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
- International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation
- Nan Community College, Thailand
- Nghe An Provincial Forest Protection and Development Fund, Viet Nam
- Provincial and District Forestry and Agriculture Offices, Lao PDR
- Royal Forest Department, Thailand
FLOURISH contributes to achieving the goals and targets of several international agreements and initiatives.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The UNFCCC is a global convention that aims to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the Earth’s climate. The Convention includes the 2016 Paris Agreement which agrees to limit the rise in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius. Countries that signed the Paris Agreement are committed to conserving and enhancing forests to achieve this target.
United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The 2030 Agenda is a global framework of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. It integrates social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, as well as peace, governance and justice elements. The Agenda includes 17 global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. FLOURISH contributes to many goals and is especially relevant to Goal 15 Life on Land, which aims to “sustainably manage forests” and achieve a “land degradation-neutral world” through restoration and conservation.
Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity is the international legal instrument for the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
Bonn Challenge and the New York Declaration on Forests
The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030. It was launched in 2011 by the Government of Germany and IUCN, and later endorsed and extended by the New York Declaration on Forests at the 2014 UN Climate Summit. FLR underpins the Bonn Challenge in the restoration of ecological integrity while improving human well-being through multifunctional landscapes.
REDD+ is an initiative to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The plus sign recognizes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.
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