Reducing Rural Poverty and Food Insecurity: Deforestation and the degradation of forests and land exacerbate the problems of food insecurity and poverty both directly and indirectly. Directly, they reduce the availability of fruits and other forest- and tree-based products to harvest for food and income. Indirectly, they decrease the availability of ecosystem services that are relevant for crop production and livestock (1).
With adequate planning and appropriate safeguards in place, investments aiming to increase the production of sustainably grown and responsibly harvested non-wood forest products can improve local communities’ wellbeing. Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) include but are not limited to foods such as fruits, game, gums, honey, mushrooms, and nuts; food additives such as herbs, spices, and sweeteners; fodder; fibers; pods and seeds; resins and oils; and plants and animals for medicinal use. Investments to increase the production of non-wood forest products can:
Land Degradation: Land degradation currently affects hundreds of millions of hectares of agricultural land, forest, and woodland. Between 1981 and 2003, approximately 24% of global land area—home to 1.5 billion people—could be classified as degrading (2). Cropland and forest are disproportionately represented in areas undergoing degradation, with consequent implications for their productivity and for the livelihoods and food security of the populations depending on these landscapes.
Food Insecurity: Despite global advances in agricultural production, the number of people affected by undernourishment, or chronic food deprivation, increased from around 804 million in 2016 to nearly 821 million in 2017—or one out of nine people around the world—and food insecurity is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa (3).
Extreme Weather Events Caused by Climate Change: The number of extreme weather events, including extreme heat, droughts, floods, and storms, has doubled globally since the early 1990s, with drought in particular causing more than 80% of all damage and losses in agriculture (3).
Low-Income, Rural Communities: The sustainable production of non-wood forest products diversifies livelihoods and increases household food security for poor, rural communities by presenting income-earning opportunities. Forest and tree-based investments also help to sustain important ecosystem services that can increase average crop yields and stabilize crop production in rainfed agricultural systems during periods of drought and other extreme weather events, helping to secure food supply and livelihoods in the context of a changing climate (4,5).
Women: Male-headed households in Africa earn more than three times as much income from the sale of woodlot products as do female-headed households (6). Because of women’s traditional involvement in harvesting and processing non-wood forest products, such as shea nuts, investments in non-wood forest product enterprises could appreciably improve gender equality, turning women’s subsistence-level involvement in forest- and agroforest-related activities into economic empowerment.
Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous Peoples represent 5% of the world’s population but comprise a third (33%) of the rural poor (7). At the same time, Indigenous and local community members are recognized as the most effective stewards of dense forests and either own or control 18% of global land (8). Investing in the production of sustainable non-wood forest products can help to protect forest resources and create additional income opportunities for people living in and around dense forests.
The Planet: Forests and trees outside of forests provide ecosystem services that underpin agricultural production systems through soil formation, nutrient cycling and the provision of green manure, the provision of water, pollination, and microclimatic regulation (9). Additionally, investing in the production of sustainable non-wood forest products by implementing agroforestry systems can increase the amount of carbon sequestered and conserve biodiversity in both tropical and temperate regions (10).
More than 75% of the Earth’s land is currently substantially degraded (11). While land degradation affects countries at all income levels, its negative impacts on communities are more pronounced in areas where degradation overlaps with poverty and weak social safety nets:
By 2050, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services projects that up to 700 million people will have migrated as a result of the combination of climate change and land degradation (11). Because climate change increases the volatility of global agricultural and commodity markets, investments in more resilient production systems across forests and landscapes are essential for a secure food supply and livelihoods for the world’s most vulnerable populations. Investments in the production of sustainable non-wood forest products can provide food and other resources directly to rural communities, as well as income for these communities when products are sold on domestic or international markets. Regarding one example of ecosystem services, in the case of soil fertility replenishment, an analysis of more than 90 peer-reviewed studies found consistent evidence that maize yields in Africa rose as a result of planting nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs (13).
Restoring 150 million hectares of degraded land could provide USD 30–40 billion per year in supplementary smallholder income and food to support approximately 200 million more people alongside an increase in the resilience of landscapes and sequestration of an additional two billion metric tons per year in carbon dioxide equivalent (14). The number of target stakeholders and area of land affected by each investment will depend on the selected approach or management system, as well as the project’s scale.
Increasing the production of sustainable non-wood forest products can offer meaningful benefits to local communities who rely on forests and farmland; the amount of change depends on the type of project, product, and geography. While the change should last at least as long as the investment, additional measures can be taken to ensure long-term property rights, transfer technical and managerial skills, and promote market linkages (15). Transferring tree-maintenance skills to local target stakeholders can also increase the chances that forests and landscapes experience long-term positive changes, such as enhanced soil fertility, reduced erosion, improved water quality, and enhanced biodiversity (10).
The following is one example of impact from a project aligned with this strategy:
External risk: Investors in the forestry and agroforestry sectors should consider external environmental and climate risks, including fire, tree diseases, insect outbreaks, and extreme weather events. The perishability of many non-wood forest products, combined with the unpredictability of storage and transportation in areas with weak infrastructure, also lead to postharvest handling risks investors should consider. Insurance can protect investors against potential damage caused by fire, tree diseases, insect outbreaks and extreme weather events. Investors can also consider establishing intervention programs such as training to mitigate risks associated with weak infrastructure (17).
Execution and Drop-off Risks: Smallholders, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, often lack the information and equipment required for the proper storage, grading, packing, processing, preservation, and transportation of non-wood forest products, with the resulting risk of low-quality and high wastage of products. Training programs can help bring greater benefits to smallholders through increased efficiency in the value chain. Examples of such activities include trainings around better techniques for quality improvement, storage facilities designed to avoid market gluts, and channels for smallholders to negotiate directly with wholesalers (17).
Only the required knowledge of resource species’ abundance, distribution, and reproductive biology, along with appropriate management plans that respect these ecological limits, can prevent the risk of overharvesting non-wood forest products (18). Increasing income and profit can also encourage farmers and companies to expand the areas under production, increasing the risk of converting or degrading adjacent forests. Multilateral consultations and partnerships during project design stage can also help secure community’s long-term buy-in and mitigate external risks caused by human activities.
These risks can result in the loss of products and profits, along with the degradation of landscapes and ecosystems. Risks associated with execution can be mitigated through training in sustainable forest- and farm-management methods and processing approaches alongside careful determination of the biologically sustainable levels of harvest for a product. Third-party certification schemes, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Fairtrade International, and FairWild, can also help to mitigate execution risks by implementing appropriate safeguards and monitoring systems.
COOPEASSA is an organic and fair-trade cooperative in Costa Rica that works with farmers to produce, process, and market products such as coffee, pineapple, bananas, and oranges. Thirty years ago, farmers in the Cordillera de Talamanca mountain region primarily produced staple grains, had little access to markets, and were very poor. Producers in the region also relied on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Understanding the long-term effects that chemical inputs have on soil, water, and health, COOPEASSA committed to teaching farmers organic practices and provided its members with an organic pest repellent. Thanks to financing from Root Capital and other investors, the company has grown from 20 members to 300 while raising average incomes per member farm from USD 650 to USD 4,360 per year (19).
van Noordwijk, Meine, Viola Bizard, Prasit Wangpakapattanawong, Hesti L. Tata, Grace B. Villamor, and Beria Leimona. “Tree Cover Transitions and Food Security in Southeast Asia.” Global Food Security 3, no. 3-4 (November 2014): 200-8.
Bai, Z. G., David Dent, Lennart Olsson, and M. E. Schaepman. “Proxy Global Assessment of Land Degradation.” Soil Use and Management 24, no. 3 (September 2008): 223-34.
FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018: Building Climate Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2018.
Sileshi, Gudeta W., Festus K. Akinnifesi, Oluyede C. Ajayi, and Bart Muys. “Integration of Legume Trees in Maize-Based Cropping Systems Improves Rain-Use Efficiency and Yield Stability under Rain-Fed Agriculture.” Agricultural Water Management 98, no. 9 (July 2011): 1364-72.
Sileshi, Gudeta W., Legesse Kassa Debusho, and Festus K. Akinnifesi. “Can Integration of Legume Trees Increase Yield Stability in Rainfed Maize Cropping Systems in Southern Africa?” Agronomy Journal 104, no. 5 (September 2012): 1392-98.
Kiptot, Evelyne and Steven Franzel. “Gender and Agroforestry in Africa: Are Women Participating?” Occasional Paper No. 13, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya, 2011.
Hall, Gillette and Ariel Gandolfo. “Poverty and Exclusion Among Indigenous Peoples: The Global Evidence.” World Bank Voices (blog), August 9, 2016. https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/poverty-and-exclusion-among-indigenous-peoples-global-evidence.
Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). Who Owns the World’s Land? A Global Baseline of Formally Recognized Indigenous and Community Land Rights. Washington, DC: RRI, September 2015.
Reid, Walter V., Harold A. Mooney, Angela Cropper, Doris Capistrano, Stephen R. Carpenter, Kanchan Chopra, Partha Dasgupta et al. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis. Report of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005.
Jose, Shibu. “Agroforestry for Ecosystem Services and Environmental Benefits: An Overview.” Agroforestry Systems 76, no. 1 (May 2009): 1-10.
Montanarella, Luca, Robert Scholes, and Anastasia Brainich, eds. The Assessment Report on Land Degradation and Restoration. Bonn: Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 2018.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The State of the World’s Forests 2018: Forest Pathways to Sustainable Development. Rome: FAO, 2018.
Sileshi, Gudeta W., Festus K. Akinnifesi, Oluyede Olu Ajayi, and Frank Place. “Meta-Analysis of Maize Yield Response to Woody and Herbaceous Legumes in sub-Saharan Africa.” Plant and Soil 307, no. 1/2 (June 2008): 1-19.
GCEC (Global Commission on the Economy and Climate). “Land Use.” In Better Growth, Better Climate, edited by Marion Davis and Gerard Wynn. Washington, DC: New Climate Economy, 2014.
Gilmour, Don. Forty Years of Community-Based Forestry: A Review of Its Extent and Effectiveness. FAO Forestry Paper 176. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: 2016.
Helping Indigenous Smallholders Become Restoration Entrepreneurs in Mexico. Initiative 20×20. Accessed May 2019. https://initiative20x20.org/restoration-projects/helping-indigenous-smallholders-become-restoration-entrepreneurs-mexico.
Jamnadass, Ramni H., I. K. Dawson, Steven Franzel, R. R. B. Leakey, Dagmar Mithöfer, Festus K. Akinnifesi, and Zac Tchoundjeu. “Improving Livelihoods and Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa through the Promotion of Indigenous and Exotic Fruit Production in Smallholders’ Agroforestry Systems: A Review.” International Forestry Review 13, no. 3 (September 2011): 338-54.
Wong, Jennifer L. G., Kirsti Thornber, and Nell Baker. Resource Assessment of Non-Wood Forest Products: Experience and Biometric Principles. Non-Wood Forest Products 13. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001.
COOPEASSA: Growing a More Sustainable Future for Farmers in Costa Rica. Root Capital. Accessed May 1, 2019. https://rootcapital.org/meet-our-clients/stories/coopeassa-growing-a-more-sustainable-future-for-farmers-in-costa-rica/.
Agroforestry, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), https://www.usda.gov/topics/forestry/agroforestry.
Convention on Biological Diversity. “Article 2. Use of Terms.” 1992. https://www.cbd.int/convention/articles/default.shtml?a=cbd-02.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Glossary of Statistical Terms. s.v. “Carbon dioxide equivalent,” accessed May 2019. https://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=285.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “Forest Degradation.” 2006. http://www.fao.org/3/j9345e/j9345e08.htm.
Ding, Helen, Peter G. Veit, Allen Blackman, Erin Gray, Katie Reytar, Juan Carlos Altamirano, and Benjamin Hodgdon. Climate Benefits, Tenure Costs: The Economic Case for Securing Indigenous Land Rights in the Amazon. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute, 2016.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000: Appendix 2, Terms and Definitions. FAO Forestry Paper No. 140. Rome: FAO, 2000. http://www.fao.org/3/Y1997E/y1997e1m.htm#bm58.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Towards a Harmonized Definition of Non-Wood Forest Products.” Unasylva 50, no. 198 (1999): 63-64.
This mapped evidence shows what outcomes and impacts this strategy can have, based on academic and field research.
Bauhus, J.; Van der Meer, P.; Kanninen, M.; (eds.). 2010. Ecosystem Goods and Services from Plantation Forests. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Earthscan: London, UK.
Vira, B., Wildburger, C. & Mansourian, S. (eds.) 2015. Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition: A Global Assessment Report. IUFRO World Series, Volume 33. International Union of Forestry Research Organisations: Vienna, Austria.
Jose, S. “Agroforestry for Ecosystem Services and Environmental Benefits: An Overview.” Agroforestry Systems 76, no. 1 (May 1, 2009): 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-009-9229-7.
Jamnadass R, Place F, Torquebiau E, Malézieux E, Iiyama M, Sileshi GW, Kehlenbeck K, Masters E, McMullin S, Weber JC, Dawson IK. 2013. “Agroforestry, food and nutritional security.” ICRAF Working Paper No. 170. World Agroforestry Centre: Nairobi, Kenya. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5716/WP13054.PDF
Simelton, E., B. V. Dam, D. Catacutan. 2015. World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) “Trees and agroforestry for coping with extreme weather events: experiences from northern and central Viet Nam.” Agroforest Syst 89:1065–1082. DOI 10.1007/s10457-015-9835-5.
Pinho, R. C., R. P. Miller, and S. S. Alfaia. 2012. “Agroforestry and the Improvement of Soil Fertility: A View from Amazonia.” Review Article in Applied and Environmental Soil Science 2012: 616383. doi:10.1155/2012/616383.
Mbow, C., P. Smith, D. Skole, L. Duguma, and M. Bustamante. 2014, “Achieving mitigation and adaptation to climate change through sustainable agroforestry practices in Africa.”
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 6: 8–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2013.09.002
Ferraro, Paul J., Kathleen Lawlor, Katrina L. Mullan, and Subhrendu K. Pattanayak. “Forest Figures: Ecosystem Services Valuation and Policy Evaluation in Developing Countries.” Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 6, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 20–44.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. October 2015. State of the World’s Forests: Enhancing the socioeconomic benefits from forests. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Rome, Italy.
Each resource is assigned a rating of rigor according to the NESTA Standards of Evidence.
Number of full-time equivalent employees working for enterprises financed or supported by the organization as of the end of the reporting period.
Organizations should footnote all assumptions used. See usage guidance for further information.
This measurement should be relatively easy to measure by analyzing a business’ daily operations. This metric focuses on formal jobs provided by the business. Employee working conditions and wages should also be considered and described.
Bringing new jobs to communities can contribute to prosperity at the local level. Since employment is generally easy to measure, it functions as a proxy for the development of shared prosperity between the business and the community, and can help determine the long-term involvement and interest of the community.
Average agricultural yield per hectare of individuals who sold to the organization (supplier individuals) during the reporting period.
Organizations should footnote all assumptions used as well as the details on the group and unit of measure reporting against. See usage guidance for further information.
In agroforestry systems, yields can include both tree crops and crops grown between rows of trees or under a forest canopy.
Change in agriculture yields is a key metric for monitoring the impact of agroforestry investments on local communities and smallholders. Since yield is relatively easy to measure, it can function as a proxy for improvements in soil fertility.
Number of poor individuals who sold goods or services to the organization during the reporting period.
Organizations should footnote all assumptions used as well as details on the assessment tools used to identify the poverty level of suppliers. See usage guidance for further information.
The metric captures the total number of poor individuals who sold non-wood forest products to the organization through an outgrower scheme. Payments made to suppliers should also be monitored. This metric can be disaggregated by gender and indigenous affiliation.
The number of poor supplier individuals selling non-wood forest products to an organization through an outgrower scheme is a key metric for monitoring poverty alleviation efforts.
Number of individuals who received training offered by the organization during the reporting period.
Organizations should footnote the type and extent of the training provided as well as who the training was provided to. See usage guidance for further information.
The metric captures the number of individuals who received training services (of any type) provided by the organization. Training may or may not be restricted to clients of the organization. Examples of training types, which should be footnoted, might include enterprise or business development and use of new technology or service. This metric should be disaggregated by gender, income level, and indigenous affiliation.
Investors in organizations that include knowledge transfer, training, or follow-up support in addition to their products and services may consider including this metric in their data collection. Trainings and follow-up support can increase an investment’s positive impact. These data are useful both for reporting impact and for improving products and services.
Indicates whether the organization implements a strategy to manage its interactions with local communities affected by its operations.
Organizations should footnote the relevant details about their community engagement strategy, and how it is being implemented. See usage guidance for further information.
One way to consider which communities to engage is to look at historical land titles. LandMark (http://www.landmarkmap.org/) provides data on indigenous and community land rights.
Forestry projects often require involving traditional landowners, or others from the community who rely on the land. This metric is essential for better understanding the needs and interests of the communities the project wants to support. To deliver long-term impact on local communities and the forests they depend on, a community engagement strategy is an important first step to understand which services the project can best provide for the community (e.g., training, access to market, etc.). Metrics can then be formed around the successful delivery of these individual goals.
Area of land that has been reforested by the organization during the reporting period.
Organizations should footnote all assumptions used.
Land can be reforested through a variety of different techniques and the total area should be carefully measured using GPS data points to measure progress over time.
If pursuing a sustainable non-wood forest product strategy focused on degraded or deforested land, this metric can show the area of land that benefited from additional trees.
Area of land directly controlled by the organization and under sustainable cultivation or sustainable stewardship. Report directly controlled land area sustainably managed during the reporting period.
Organizations should footnote details about the nature of the direct control relationship and all assumptions used. See usage guidance for further information.
This measurement will depend on the definition of “sustainably managed”. Asset owners and managers should clearly outline their management approach and/or forest certification system used.
Due to the many problematic forestry sector practices, focusing on the amount of land that has been brought under sustainable management is key to measuring a wood products strategy’s impact. Project developers and managers will need to clearly outline their forest/plantation management practices (and monitor biophysical changes overtime) in order to demonstrate environmental sustainability.
Area of land indirectly controlled by the organization and under sustainable cultivation or sustainable stewardship. Report indirectly controlled land area sustainably managed during the reporting period.
Organizations should footnote details about the nature of the indirect control relationship and all assumptions used. See usage guidance for further information.
This measurement will depend on the definition of “sustainably managed”. Asset owners and managers should clearly outline their land/forest management approach.
For companies that employ an outgrower model (or distributed plantation model), measuring the amount of land that participating smallholders/land owners sustainably manage can demonstrate the overall environmental impact of the project.
Indicates whether the organization implements a forest management plan.
Organizations should footnote the relevant details about their forest management plan. See usage guidance for further information.
See metric usage guidance for information about typical information included in a forest management plan.
A forest management plan is important for ensuring the application of appropriate technical forestry principles, practices, and business techniques to the management of a forest to achieve the landowner’s objectives. Moreover, in cases where third-party forestry certification is not currently feasible, robust forest management plans with clearly defined sustainability principles are key to ensuring socially and environmentally sustainable practices.
Describes third-party certifications for products/services sold by the organization that are valid as of the end of the reporting period.
Organization should footnote the certification name, certifying body, and date since the product/service has been continuously certified for all product/service level certifications obtained by the organization.
Key product certification systems include Fairtrade International, Fair Trade USA and FairWild. The main forestry certification systems include the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Certifications help to differentiate projects that employ ethical and enviornmentally sutainable practices from those that do not. Third-party systems help to ensure responsible forestry managenement and labor practices.
Units/volume purchased from smallholder farmers who sold to the organization during the reporting period.
Organizations should footnote all assumptions used.
Organizations that work with local suppliers to source non-wood forest products should monitor the volume of product purchased from smallholders, along with payments made.
Purchasing non-wood forest products from smallholders through outgrower schemes, and providing fair compensation, can be a key contributor to local economic growth.
Indicates whether the organization has undertaken biodiversity-related assessments to evaluate the biological diversity present on the land that is directly or indirectly controlled by the organization.
Organizations should footnote details about what the assessments evaluate. See usage guidance for further information.
Depending on what kind of biodiversity the project is interested in measuring, a variety of different resources can help with biodiversity assessments, including the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (https://www.ibat-alliance.org/).
A biodiversity assessment helps to identify which flora and fauna species are supported by the project. This type of assessment can help to determine which tree species to plant, which harvesting techniques to employ and which sections of a forest to conserve with the goal of maintaining or increasing local biodiversity.
Indicates whether the organization implements a strategy to address the effects of climate change on the organization’s operations.
Organizations should footnote the details of the strategy, how it is being implemented, and how climate resilience is incorporated into risk models. See usage guidance for further information.
Organizations focused on contributing to local communities’ climate resilience should develop a strategy that outlines the types of vegetation and species that will survive extreme weather events. The strategy should also include detailed information on climate-smart production techniques and training programs for employees or suppliers. When developing a climate resilience strategy, reliable local data should be prioritized.
A climate resilience strategy helps to identify which vegetation and production techniques will be most beneficial to climate vulnerable populations.