Q+A: Rainforest Alliance landscape restoration initiatives take aim at commodity supply chains

30 July 2018

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Along with his degrees in natural sciences and tropical forest ecology from Britain’s Cambridge University, Nigel Sizer brings more than 25 years of international experience in natural resources management to his current position as chief program officer at New York-based Rainforest Alliance.

Among the various environmental organizations he has worked for in the past are the World Resources Institute, where as Global Director of the Forests Program he helped launch Global Forest Watch and the Global Restoration Initiative; and Rare, a conservation organization for which he was vice-president for Asia-Pacific, and helped develop marine protection areas, community-based fisheries, and links between communities of the rural poor and global carbon markets in Indonesia.

He is certainly no stranger to Nairobi, where he will moderate a panel at the upcoming Prospects and Opportunities for Restoration in Africa Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) at UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi Aug. 29-30., having worked there with UN Environment. He will moderate a panel on the same topic during a digital summit on Aug. 21.

Q: Why are you going to GLF Nairobi?

A: I think it’s a very important meeting. I’m very happy that the Global Landscapes Forum has decided to organize a meeting more focused on Africa. I think it’s long overdue. The Rainforest Alliance has a lot of partnerships across that continent, ranging from our work with cocoa – thousands of cocoa farmers in West Africa, thousands of tea partners in East Africa, coffee partners as well, and tea partners in southern Africa, as well as forest-based communities in Central Africa. So it’s very important for us to take the opportunity to bring some of our colleagues and partners together in Nairobi so they can be with each other, and meet others who are working to address similar challenges, see what we can all learn from each other, and try to take this work to a new level.

Q: What will you talk about?

A: I will be talking about the importance and the opportunity of using supply chains for major agricultural commodities to help drive forest and landscape restoration. As we know, over 20 governments across Africa are part of the AFR100 initiative, committing to restore very large areas of land. How you actually achieve that in practice on the ground is a huge question. But there are many ideas about that, although some of them are quite expensive. When you are looking at vast areas, the approaches need to be driven by the local people who live on those landscapes, and they need to be low-cost or zero-cost if they are to scale to anything like that level. So we already have seen significant success working with cocoa, coffee and tea farmers across many countries in Africa and other parts of the world in achieving significant restoration of landscapes – tree planting, improved water management, the reduced use of chemicals. I would also say restoring them in a social way as well, to strengthen communities and their ability and incentives for them to mange these landscapes.

So that is what we will be talking about: how supply chains for major commodities can help drive forest and landscape restoration in a low-cost way.

Q: Will you be on any discussion panels?

A: We are hosting a discussion panel entitled Agricultural Supply Chains as a Driver for Forest and Landscape Restoration, which is all about this, and bringing together colleagues, some partners and some government friends to participate in that panel.

Q: Where are we in terms of landscape restoration efforts globally?

A: I think we’ve made tremendous progress in achieving commitments from governments and others to work towards forest and landscape restoration on a large scale, across many countries. And I particularly recommend the Bonn Challenge process, for its extraordinary success in capitalizing those commitments across Africa, America, and Asia.

Where there is now an enormous gap is that between commitment and action on the ground, which isn’t surprising because the commitments are fairly new. We now need to shift our attention, or add, while continuing to grow the commitment – because not everybody has joined in the process – to quickly learning and scaling how to do forest and landscape restoration locally, in a way that respects and works with the local communities, government and other local stakeholders.

Q: Can you give a few examples of what still needs to be addressed?

A: Some specific things that would be helpful to address include:

  • Much more efficient channelling of climate finance to support local restoration efforts
  • Much more community-centered work on this. The commitments so far are quite top-down. That needs to connect with a bottom up process.
  • More capacity to support efforts locally, so building the capacity of local organizations that are already interested and engaged in these issues across the many countries where commitments have been made, strengthening local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and government agencies to support communities as they embark on this journey
  • Scaling partnerships with the private sector around supply chains that connect with these landscapes

Q: How does the Rainforest Alliance certification program support this vision?

A: Part of the way in which we engage supply chains and the private sector is through our certification programs, which allows companies selling sustainable products, particularly relevant to Africa, to use the Rainforest Alliance seal on those products if they meet the standard. This is a great way to engage companies to educate consumers, and, in many cases, generate additional resources that then support local communities as they work to improve their management of the landscape where they live.

Learn more about these topics at Nairobi GLF, click here. Register to join online here.

Register for digital summit: Agricultural Supply Chains as a Driver for Forest and Landscape Restoration

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