Study highlights link between tree cover and nutrition in children

BOGOR, Indonesia (20 January 2014) — Children living in areas of Africa with heavy tree cover tend to have more nutritious diets, adding credence to research showing that forests play a key role in food security, according to a new paper published in Global Environmental Change.

Boosting production of such energy-rich crops as rice, maize and wheat is often seen as essential to achieving global food security, but if this comes at the expense of forests, this might actually undermine nutritional security.

“Our research shows that children in Africa living in communities surrounded by forest cover have higher dietary diversity and more fruit and vegetable consumption,” said Amy Ickowitz, an economist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “In these areas, dietary diversity increases with tree cover, suggesting that in heavily treed areas, children have healthier diets.”

Read the full blog post at the CIFOR FORESTSnews.

ASSETS Management Team visiting Peru

The ASSETS management team meet in Peru from the 28th April to 3rd May 2014. Monday and Tuesday were filled with exciting and interesting meeting with policy makers, scientists and development experts in Lima. On Wednesday our researchers met with various officials in Pucallpa, the base of our peruvian partner organisation IIAP. The next day the team travelled 4 hours up-stream Ucayali from Pucallpa to visit one out of our nine research site.

Andy Jarvis, ASSETS Co-PI at CIAT was very inspired by the peruvian Amazon setting and came up with this beautiful project description:

New IIAP-CIAT agreement seeks to save the benefits of nature for food security and nutritional health

Por: Adriana Varón y Gisella Cruz-García, Perú

Find the original post at the CIAT-dapa blog or read the English google translation of the post.

Juana tiene claro que cuando de “limpiar el estómago” a sus dos hijos se trata, solo acude a la leche que da la corteza del ojé y listo. Y para cuando ella o algún familiar o vecino tienen una herida, la sangre de grado combinada con la copaiba es la cura más efectiva. Hasta se atreve a afirmar que “los hombres no deben consumir demasiado aguaje porque tiene hormonas femeninas”.

Estas recomendaciones surgieron en un intercambio de saberes entre los habitantes del caserío 7 de Junio, de la municipalidad de Yarinacocha, en la región de Ucayali, Perú. Durante la larga jornada, la comunidad, en cabeza de 10 de sus líderes, se reunió en la cancha de fútbol del pueblo, unos en el kiosko y los otros bajo la sombra de los árboles y con dibujos y gráficos representaron lo que el bosque les ha significado para sobrevivir.

Hablaron también del camu camu silvestre, la granadilla, la mullaca, el carachupa, el ronsoco y de las hojas de yarina y shapaja y sus poderes escondidos. Pero la charla donde los viejos hicieron honor a sus años y a sus conocimientos sobre la selva, también los aterrizó en una terrible realidad: muchas de las plantas medicinales, animales de caza y cultivos nativos han ido desapareciendo para dar paso a extensas áreas de palma aceitera y ganadería y la tala ilegal.

Esta experiencia fue la prueba piloto de un componente del proyecto ”Evaluación de servicios ecosistémicos para la seguridad alimentaria y la salud nutricional en la interfase bosque agricultura” (ASSETS, por sus siglas en inglés) a realizarse en Ucayali, Perú, en el marco del convenio de Cooperación Interinstitucional que fue recientemente firmado entre el Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP) y Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT).

“El proyecto tiene como objetivo documentar las relaciones entre los servicios de los ecosistemas, la seguridad alimentaria y la salud nutricional de poblaciones mestizas e indígenas en esta región. El proyecto analizará los servicios ambientales a través de los cuatro pilares de seguridad alimentaria de la FAO: disponibilidad, acceso, utilización y estabilidad”, dijo Gisella Cruz García, científica social del CIAT e investigadora del proyecto.

El proyecto ASSETS se adelanta en tres regiones que tienen diferentes grados de deforestación y que son blanco de fenómenos climáticos como lluvias y sequías extremas.

Se trata de la cuenca baja del río Caquetá en la Amazonía colombiana y la cuenca del lago Chilwa en Malawi, África. En el caso de Perú, la región de Ucayali. La investigación del nuevo convenio entre el IIAP y el CIAT se centrará en las provincias Coronel Portillo y Padre Abad y tendrá una duración de 18 meses.

Esta región de la selva amazónica peruana es una de las más golpeadas en Latinoamérica por la tala indiscriminada de árboles producto de los procesos de colonización, lo que conlleva al incremento de actividades de cambio de uso del suelo.

Entre los años 2004 y 2012, el CIAT logró monitorear e identificar zonas de cambio en la cobertura vegetal en la región Ucayali través de la herramienta Terra-i. Entre el 2011 y 2012 fueron convertidas 2.600 hectáreas de bosques en extensas plantaciones de palma y cacao, esta última por la demanda del mercado.

La metodología

La investigación se llevará a cabo a través de métodos participativos y encuestas familiares para identificar las diferencias entre los hogares, así como a nivel comunitario en el acceso a, y uso de, los servicios ecosistémicos y su contribución a la seguridad alimentaria.

Asimismo, se desarrollará una revisión documental del uso de las tierras y de las políticas económicas clave nacionales y locales; además de sistemas de gobernanzas que afectan la cobertura de tierras y provisión de servicios ecosistémicos.

Esta información permitirá identificar los factores determinantes de la inseguridad alimentaria que podrían afectar hogares y comunidades enteras. También se hará un análisis de escenarios para evaluar de manera ex ante cómo los niveles de contribución de los servicios ecosistémicos a la seguridad alimentaria pueden variar a medida que cambia el uso de tierra, las fuentes de ingreso, e incluso, el clima.

De acuerdo con José Sánchez Choy, investigador del IIAP, el estudio se desarrollará en tres etapas: una primera que será la evaluación participativa con familias de nueve comunidades asentadas en las riberas del río y a lo largo de la carretera; la segunda etapa, encuestas a 300 hogares teniendo en cuenta dos momentos importantes: época de lluvias y temporada seca.

Por último, un equipo de modeladores desarrollará un modelo de predicción que presentará alternativas de gestión de los servicios ambientales que se reflejen en la adopción de políticas multisectoriales adecuadas.

“Nuestro objetivo es llevar información a los gobiernos locales, municipales, departamentales y nacionales para que incrementen y mejoren sus políticas de conservación del medio ambiente, salud y nutrición de las zonas rurales”, dijo el ingeniero Sánchez Choy.

Por su parte, Ingrid Gutiérrez, enfermera de profesión, quien conforma el equipo encuestador, aseguró que “toda la información que nos dé la comunidad se la vamos a regresar para que se concientice de lo que está pasando en sus bosques y que afecta su alimentación y su salud. También vamos a orientar a la gente para que no permita que la selva se siga agotando”.

El pasado, presente y futuro

Enoc fue seleccionado por la comunidad del 7 de Junio para dibujar en aquella jornada de intercambio de saberes, los frutos que la selva les ha dado en la historia del caserío.

De manera casi perfecta plasmó en un pliego de papel las hierbas medicinales, las frutas y animales de caza y de río que han sido protagonistas en la lucha diaria por sobrevivir de las 280 personas mestizas que conforman la comunidad, distante a una hora de la capital Pucallpa por una carretera sin asfaltar.

Lo que tenían hace 30 años, hace 20, hace 10, lo que tienen hoy y lo que creen tendrán en 10 años les dejó una reflexión:

“Hace 30 años nos dábamos el lujo de escoger qué tipo de pescado queríamos comer, ahora tenemos que esperar a que lleguen la crecientes. ¿Qué nos puede esperar en 10 años?”, dice Mariano. Sin embargo, no quiere darse por vencido. “Nada es imposible y en nosotros está en no dejar que se acabe la selva y seguir viviendo de lo que sabiamente nos ha dado la madre naturaleza”.

Aunando esfuerzos

*El Convenio Marco de Colaboración Interinstitucional firmado recientemente entre el IIAP y el CIAT tiene como objetivo establecer las líneas principales y mecanismos de cooperación interinstitucional para aunar esfuerzos en acciones de interés recíproco de acuerdo con la misión y objetivos de ambas instituciones en temas de investigación, conservación y asistencia técnica en la Amazonía Peruana, brindando soporte científico, tecnológico y de colaboración.

*El proyecto ASSETS se lleva a cabo gracias al consorcio internacional conformado por la Universidad de Souhthampton, Conservación Internacional, el Centro Vasco para el Cambio Climático, la Universidad de Malawi y el CIAT.

ASSETS forma parte de la iniciativa ESPA, es financiado por DFID, NERC y ESRC y pertenece a los programas de investigación del CGIAR sobre Agua, Tierra y Ecosistemas, así como el programa de Bosques, Árboles y Agroforestería.

http://espa-assets.org/

http://wle.cgiar.org/blogs/2013/05/22/the-role-of-ecosystem-services-on-food-security-and-nutrition-in-the-amazon/

http://dapa.ciat.cgiar.org/participatory-methods-on-ecosystem-services-in-the-colombian-amazon/

http://dapa.ciat.cgiar.org/ecosystem-services-and-food-security-a-new-line-of-investigation/

Escrito por: Adriana Varón y Gisella Cruz-García

Endangered Foods: The Loss of Agricultural Biodiversity and Slow Extinction of What We Grow and Eat

Monday 24 March 2014 | 12:30-14:30 (including lunch 12:00-12:30 and Q&A)
Building 34, Room 3001, Highfield Campus,
University of Southampton SO17 1BJ

Poster Simran Sethi

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates 75 percent of crop varieties have disappeared since 1900. This shrinkage of genetic variance echoes through every link in our food chain and strips inputs, crops, livestock and aquatic life of their ability to adapt to changes in the environment, thereby putting our entire food supply at risk. This extinction of food is a process: buried in the soil, hidden within feedlots and immersed in the sea. Journalist and educator Simran Sethi will detail this slow loss of biodiversity and explain solutions that are innovative, compelling and delicious.

Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist, strategist & educator who teaches & reports on sustainability, environmentalism & social media for social change.

Register for the keynote at eventbrite.

more information:
simransethi.com
www.southampton.ac.uk/interdisciplinary
@intersoton & #IDRWeek

What can agroforestry contribute to a more sustainable future?

Two weeks after attending the 3rd World Agroforestry Congress (10-13 February) in Delhi and I am still reflecting on the many interesting presentations I saw and the relevance of the topic to our ASSETS Project.

The opening of the congress by the President of India and the presence of six ministers from the region indicate that the benefits of agroforestry are now being recognised at the highest policy level. India is the first country to develop a national agroforestry policy as part of its move to increase forest cover from 25% to 33% in a way that also supports local livelihoods. The new policy seeks to overcome one of the biggest institutional challenges for agroforestry to-date, namely whether it falls in the remit of agriculture or forestry ministries, by providing for a coordinating unit within the Ministry of Agriculture, which will leverage up to 1 billion dollars from existing funding schemes across several ministries.

Agroforestry

© Kate Schreckenberg

Having also attended the 1st Congress organised in Florida in 2004 and the 2nd Congress in Nairobi in 2009, it was good to see how much progress has been made. We have definitely moved away from a narrow definition of agroforestry as a range of separate technologies to a more holistic view of agroforestry as any agricultural or pastoral system including a tree component. This means that many of the issues discussed in Delhi are of direct relevance to our work in ASSETS with its focus on the forest-agriculture frontier, typically characterised by a shifting combination of annual crops, trees and livestock.

In my keynote speech – Agroforestries of the future: what science do we need? –  I highlighted the fact that agroforestry practices are helpful in meeting all three of the planetary boundaries which, according to Johan Rockström et al. (2009), we have already transgressed. First of these is biodiversity loss – while there is much research to be done on the relative merits of land sparing and land sharing approaches, there is no doubt that most agroforestry systems are by their very nature more diverse than conventional agriculture. The second boundary relates to human interference with the nitrogen cycle, where the use of leguminous trees in agroforestry systems and a strong focus on healthy soils helps reduce the need for synthetic fertilisers. Thirdly, the fact that agroforestry systems produce multiple crops in space and time can support adaptation to the vagaries of extreme weather brought about by climate change while inclusion of trees and their associated above- and below-ground carbon storage can contribute to mitigation.

Agroforestry can also help to address many of the factors Kate Raworth (2012) has highlighted as being part of the social foundation below which nobody should fall. While homegarden systems are designed to provide a diverse and nutritious range of food, shade-grown cocoa is an important smallholder income-generating activity and coconut-cattle sylvopastoral systems can provide employment for the rural poor. Organising farmers into producer and marketing groups is a first step to empowering them to raise their voices and negotiate better deals.

In fact, as one conference delegate from the business sector put it, ‘agroforestry is gold’, and for many it is hard to fathom why uptake is still so low. Some of this may be due to insufficient dissemination and poor targeting of specific agroforestry practices. But much of the blame must be laid at the door of the wider political economy. Until the many ecosystem services produced from agroforestry systems are properly valued by society and farmers are compensated for producing multiple products (for both local and global consumption), there will be little incentive for them to undertake what is clearly a more complex business than producing monocultures. As long as smallholder farmers do not have secure tenure, are often cut off from markets by poor infrastructure and lack access to cheap loans it will not be worth their while to invest in systems which may be more sustainable but also take more years to reach full productivity. As long as smallholder farming is considered a low-status occupation not worthy of promotion, it will be more attractive for the young to leave the land and take their energy and creative capacity to the nearest big city.

It was hopeful, therefore, that a whole day of the conference was devoted to some very thought-provoking debates on the role of business in agroforestry. This was perhaps not entirely surprising given that agroforestry systems produce some of the most important commercial tree crops in the world – cocoa, coffee, palm oil, rubber and diverse nut crops to name a few. It was good to see businesses well represented and engaging actively, though their priority is clearly to maintain a secure and good quality supply chain – which requires healthy and happy producers as well as long-term sustainable (and disease-proof) production systems. There remains an important role for governments and NGOs, therefore, to help farmers and farmer associations negotiate fair deals with the private sector. There is also an onus on consumers of these products (and as a tea-drinking, nut-loving chocaholic I must include myself in this group) to think about how much we are willing to pay to ensure that companies do not drive producers down to the lowest price but are able to pay them living wages.

As highlighted in a new paper by a number of ASSETS collaborators (Poppy et al., 2014), an ecosystem services approach may be helpful, suggesting that we first need to recognise the multiple products in space and time produced by a system like agroforestry, acknowledge that each product may be destined for a different beneficiary (with varying levels of power and persuasion) and start to develop more transparent ways to negotiate the inevitable trade-offs. At the heart of any decision-making about which benefits should be prioritised and how farmers can be properly compensated for their efforts, should be a concern for equity (McDermott et al., 2013). Not only should we be concerned, for example, about possible costs (in the form of shade or increased pest damage) imposed on neighbours when farmers receive incentive payments to plant trees for carbon sequestration, but we also need to think about how agroforestry producers (e.g. of cocoa or coffee) in one locality may be played off against those in another, and support fair and informed negotiations between producers and downstream actors (e.g. processors, retailers) in the value chain.

The presence of over 1000 knowledgeable and enthusiastic delegates in Delhi gives me hope that when the 4th Congress comes around in five years’ time, agroforestry will have achieved much greater policy prominence as an adaptive and adoptable land use system which is both environmentally sustainable and socially just.

For more information visit the World Congress on Agroforestry website and, for the importance of science read the blog post  ‘Science matters‘ by Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre.

Food security in a perfect storm

It’s accomplished – the first ASSETS publication is available:

Food security in a perfect storm: using the ecosystem services framework to increase understanding

The ASSETS authors are: G. M. Poppy, S. Chiotha, F. Eigenbrod, C. A. Harvey, M. Honzák, M. D. Hudson, A. Jarvis, N. J. Madise, K. Schreckenberg, C. M. Shackleton, F. Villa and T. P. Dawson

The paper is published in Philosophical Transactions B (volume 369 / number 1639). The issue is based on a Discussion Meeting held at the Royal Society on 3-4 December 2012 and provides a timely reminder about the role that science must play in achieving sustainable intensification (SI) of crop production. It reports the capacity for significant advances in the plant sciences that are already supporting advances internationally.

Screenshot 2014-02-24 13.14.06It also, however, reports analyses of the current status of human, ecological and environmental health in sub-Saharan Africa and reveals that we have a long way to go before SI can be fully realised. The issue further includes the ‘Kavli Declaration’, calling for a transformation in agricultural systems that focuses upon efficient resource use and the restoration and conservation of degraded lands to meet both our food production and environmental goals. It is edited by Guy Poppy, Paul Jepson, John Pickett and Michael Birkett.

Apart from the above mentioned paper the ASSETS team members Celia A. Harvey, Ferdinando Villa, Dalitso Kafumbata, Daniel Jamu, Sosten Chiotha, and Guy Poppy authored additional ecosystem service related papers in this issue.

Access full content

The print issue can be purchased at the reduced price of £35.00 (code TB 1639) at the Royal Society of London.

You may also be interested in Food security: feeding the world in 2050, an issue from our archive which is free to view.

Call for Papers/Abstracts: The Fifth Workshop on the Ostrom Workshop (WOW5)

The Working Group on “The relevance and practical application of multi-level governance arrangements for managing natural resources” is seeking contributions for oral presentations at the Fifth “Workshop on the Ostrom Workshop” (WOW5) to be held at Indiana University in Bloomington between June 18-21, 2014.

Abstract Submission Deadline: Friday, December 6th, 2013, GMT

The Working Group (WG) on “The relevance and practical application of multi-level governance arrangements for managing natural resources” aims to gather empirical, interdisciplinary insights into the design, functioning and impacts of multi-level governance (MLG) institutional arrangements on the sustainable use, management and conservation of natural resources (forest, fisheries, pastures, etc.) around the world.

Read more here.

Our food and agriculture in numbers

Have a look at this new FAO infographic – it contains some interesting ecosystem services relevant numbers. FAO collates and disseminates food and agriculture statistics from approximately 245 countries and 35 regions from 1961 to the present. Agricultural statistics form the basis of policy and decisions, from where to invest and what to grow, to whether the population has enough food to eat. This infographic shows only a fraction of all the numbers collected, for more data visit FAOSTAT.

Charcoal: The reality. How much can you learn from a book?

by Harriet Smith, University of Southampton PhD Student

Since starting my PhD in January, I have spent the past 6 months reading endless books and journal articles on anything and everything related to Malawi and charcoal. I knew that reading would only take me so far in learning about a country, in the ways that people behave, their humour and how they go about their daily lives, as I have spent many years living abroad. For this reason, I was incredibly excited at the opportunity to spend three weeks getting to grips with Malawi, and more importantly for my research, sussing out the urban fuel situation of charcoal.

Having recently completed a literature review on the laws regulating the charcoal trade, and coming to the conclusion that although they were well formed on paper, in reality they were not effectively implemented, I knew that the charcoal industry would be an interesting topic to study.  Within the first two hours of arriving in Malawi, during the drive from Blantyre to Zomba, (in broad daylight) I saw countless bags of charcoal heaped onto rickety bicycles, travelling in the direction of Zomba. From this alone, I knew then how important charcoal was to urban users and the Malawian economy, and also how perplexingly useless the laws and regulations in Malawi are (100% of charcoal production in Malawi is illegal).

Charcoal Transport in the Zomba area (c) Miroslav Honzak

Charcoal Transport in the Zomba area (c) Miroslav Honzak

On our first village visit, I had the opportunity to informally chat to some village natural resource management committee (VNRMC) members, to get an initial idea of village-level charcoal issues, and to also see what was possible in terms of research methods. Village natural resource management committee members (as the title suggests) are those responsible of managing natural resources in the village. One would suppose that these people would be quite knowledgeable with regards to charcoal. Indeed they were: within five minutes I knew how to produce charcoal, where I could find the perfect ‘charcoaling’ trees, how much I should sell it for, where I could sell it, and to whom I should sell it. Committee members personally knew charcoal producers, and they also knew that charcoal production was illegal (although they clearly stated that no one in their village produced charcoal). Interestingly however, the VNRMC members didn’t know that charcoal production could be done legally, but if they knew how to do it, they would want to. I asked similar questions in all the villages I visited, and responses were the same. Interestingly, in one village, I asked the community forest guard whether he was aware of the legal specifications for producing charcoal. The forest guard knew, but hadn’t shared this information with the village members. The reason for not telling them, was that the village didn’t have suitable trees (indigenous miombo) on their land so there was no point.

During my time in Zomba, I took every and any opportunity to meet with as many people as I could, to discuss the issues related to charcoal and to also run through my research plan with them. I spoke to researchers at the Forest Research Institute of Malawi, Zomba’s District Forest Officer, and retired employees of the Forest Department. These discussions were not only highly informative, but incredibly fruitful in terms of refining my research methods.

In Zomba, the District Forest Office carries out one road patrol a week (due to resource restrictions, they cannot do more). During these patrols, they confiscate about 50x50kg bags of charcoal per month. Small scale, impromptu studies that they have carried out suggest that only about 15-20% of charcoal that enters Zomba Municipality is produced in the district. An estimated 80% is produced in neighbouring districts. The majority of charcoal is produced from trees on government owned forest reserves and plantations, however a small amount is sourced from village land, increasingly from graveyard areas (graveyard areas are sacred, and tend to have indigenous miombo trees growing in them). The preliminary mode of transport for charcoal is piled high onto the back of a rickety bicycle (the maximum I’ve seen is 4 bags on one bike).  The cyclists tend not to be producers, but instead act as a ‘middle man’, buying directly from producers for about 1200 Kwacha (roughly £2.20) and selling in town for 2000 Kwacha (£4). Given the illegality of charcoal production, the majority of charcoal is transported during the night. Additionally, there is no open charcoal market in Zomba, instead it is sold directly to households. Therefore, once charcoal has entered Zomba town, it is difficult to track. Peri-urban users are the main consumers of charcoal, however nearly all households in the town will use it due to the inconsistent electricity supply.

On my final day, whilst travelling to Blantyre Airport, I decided to do a ‘rough and ready’ observational study to count the amount of charcoal sacks on the road. In total, I saw 151 large sacks of charcoal, either piled onto a bicycle, sitting on the side of the road or divided up into small grocery-bag sized bags for sale at small markets; the drive took 1 hour and 45 minutes. As my trip came to an end, this final charcoal count confirmed my beliefs of the importance of charcoal, not only as a source of urban energy but also as a significant livelihood for the countless people who produce, transport and sell it. It also highlighted how under-resourced the forest department are, and how challenging a task they have. I leave Malawi with an appreciation that I could never have had from relying solely on literature. The three weeks I spent here have been invaluable.

Assessing the cultural values of land uses in Malawi: An ecosystem services approach

by Sophie Van Eetvelt, undergraduate student (Master of Environmental Science), Faculty of Engineering and the Environment.

I’m just about to start the fourth and final year of a Master of Environmental Science in the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment. I’ve chosen the sustainable management pathway and enjoy the breadth of topics that my degree covers, however I never thought I’d end up researching cultural ecosystem services! Ecosystem services are a rapidly emerging area of research and it’s exciting to be part of such a new and dynamic field. I’d already decided that I wanted to conduct my dissertation research broadly around poverty-environment interactions and then the opportunity to work with ESPA’s (Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation) ASSETS (Attaining Sustainable Services from Ecosystems through Trade-off Scenarios) project in Malawi came up.

Working with a field team of six other Southampton students, I’ve spent a month in the Zomba region of southern Malawi. I conducted group interviews and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) exercises in four villages in order to gain a better understanding of cultural ecosystem services, a generally neglected part of ecosystem service research. I am looking to understand the spatial distribution of such services, their current status and how they have changed in the past and may change in the future, and finally to critically analyse the methodology behind assessing cultural ecosystem services. I’m particularly interested in critiquing the use of a rapid appraisal approach for such a qualitative and spatially variable subject.

I now have just under a year to compile my data and produce a journal article-style dissertation. I’ve really enjoyed working in the field conducting PRA’s and it has definitely made me more aware of the possibilities for further research in this area after graduation. ESPA ASSETS has established research bases in Malawi, Colombia and now Peru – so who knows where this area of expertise will take me in the future!

——————–

Original post available at the University of Southampton Multidisciplinary Blog.

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