- Forests matter
- Challenges and opportunities
- CIFOR’s Strategy 2008–2018
- Research domain 1: Enhancing the role of forests in mitigating climate change
- Research domain 2: Enhancing the role of forests in adapting to climate change
- Research domain 3: Improving livelihoods through smallholder and community forestry
- Research domain 4: Managing trade-offs between conservation and development at the landscape scale
- Research domain 5: Managing impacts of globalised trade and investment on forests and forest communities
- Research domain 6: Sustainably managing tropical production forests
- Positioning and comparative advantage
- Reputation for high-quality research
- CIFOR as an employer
- Global mandate, local relevance
- Maintaining CIFOR’s independence
- Effective outreach
- CIFOR’s headquarters
A strategy for a new era
This summary outlines the key features of CIFOR’s Strategy for the decade 2008–2018.To learn more about CIFOR’s strategic directions and to read the full document visit
CIFOR’s first strategy, set out in 1996, provided the foundations and direction for innovative research that had a significant impact on the understanding and practice of forest management throughout the tropics. But the world’s forests and the way we perceive them have changed dramatically since CIFOR was established.
Foremost among many changes is that forests are today centre stage in the global debate on climate change. We recognise that almost 20 per cent of global carbon emissions are caused by deforestation, and that curbing forest loss is a critical and cost effective way to mitigate global warming.
At the same time, new forces are driving both deforestation and forest degradation. For example, the promotion of biofuels by governments concerned about global warming is driving forest clearance in some areas.
To respond to these and other challenges, CIFOR has devised a new strategy for a new era. We developed this strategy through extensive consultation with staff and partners, including donors, policy makers, researchers, opinion leaders and nongovernmental organisations. Approved by the Board of Trustees in May 2008, this strategy will guide our work for the next 10 years to 2018.
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of forests. According to the World Bank, more than 1.6 billion people depend to varying degrees on forests for their livelihoods (energy, food and medicinal plants).
Forests support much of the world’s biodiversity and provide a range of ecosystem services that are fundamental to the planet’s wellbeing. They help to stabilise soils, discourage erosion and maintain a steady supply of clean, fresh water. Because they lock up atmospheric carbon, forests also reduce the main greenhouse gases that fuel global climate change.
In 2003, the international trade in sawn wood, pulp, paper and boards was worth almost US$ 150 billion – over 2 per cent of world trade. Two-thirds of the production and consumption of these forest products occurred in developing countries, where forest enterprises employ large numbers of rural people.
Forests are disappearing and becoming degraded. Once found on almost half the land on our planet, forests now cover less than 30 per cent. About 13 million hectares of natural forest are lost each year. The highest rates of deforestation in recent years have occurred in Southeast Asia, followed by Africa and South America.
In addition to clearing forests, people are degrading forest ecosystems by activities that change forest structure, composition and integrity. The consequences are reductions in the benefits we receive from forests and threats to the wellbeing of forest-dependent people, many of whom already live in desperate poverty.
We are making some progress towards managing forests in a way that is sustainable, but the dominant global trends are negative. On the positive side, loss of natural forest is partially offset by the intensive management of plantations to meet our needs for wood products. And conservation efforts are increasing.
On the negative side, we continue to degrade tropical forests and convert them for other uses. These negative trends are exacerbated by the current restructuring, downsizing and decentralisation of the agencies responsible for forest policy and forest management in many countries.
At the same time, globalisation is strongly influencing the production and trade of forest products, with multinational companies playing more important roles. China’s rapid economic growth, in particular, is having far-reaching effects on the trade in forest products and will continue to influence the way forests are used in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.
Challenges and opportunities
Governments, international agencies, nongovernmental organisations, the private sector and civil society all have roles to play if we are to arrest forest loss and degradation and improve the wellbeing of forest people. Moreover, our collective efforts must be underpinned by sound and rigorous scientific research. CIFOR is now on the cusp of a new era of increased interest in forests, linked primarily but not exclusively to climate change.
Recent increases in food prices have sparked a growing interest in agriculture, which may also result in increased attention to forestry. CIFOR is well positioned to take advantage of these trends for the benefit of forests and people.
CIFOR’s Strategy 2008–2018
We advance human wellbeing, environmental conservation and equity by conducting research to inform policies and practices that affect forests in developing countries.
We are committed to:
- Innovation and critical thinking
- Respect and collaboration
We envision a world where:
Forests are high on the political agenda
People recognise the value of forests for maintaining livelihoods and ecosystems
Decisions that influence forests and the people that depend on them are based on solid science and principles of good governance, and reflect the perspectives of developing countries and forest-dependent people
- CIFOR is a leading source of information and analysis on:
- Relationships among forests, poverty and the environment, and how management and governance arrangements affect livelihood and conservation outcomes
- Ways to harness forests to mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change
- Impacts of globalised trade and investment on forests and forest-dependent communities
- CIFOR is known for analysing and communicating issues in ways that are reliably inclusive of less powerful stakeholders such as women, forest-dependent communities and developing countries
Strategic research agenda
Our research focuses on six synergistic, linked domains that reflect the cross-sectoral nature of forest management:
- Enhancing the role of forests in mitigating climate change
- Enhancing the role of forests in adapting to climate change
- Improving livelihoods through smallholder and community forestry
- Managing trade-offs between conservation and development at the landscape scale
- Managing impacts of globalised trade and investment on forests and forest communities
- Sustainably managing tropical production forests
Research domain 1
Enhancing the role of forests in mitigating climate change
Land use change due to deforestation is a significant source of carbon emissions and a contributor to global warming, releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the entire fuel-hungry transport sector. The emissions from deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia alone equal the combined carbon-reduction commitments of all Annex 1 countries during the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Finding ways to maintain terrestrial carbon pools and reduce carbon emissions from land use changes will be a key element of future United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations.
We need to ensure that schemes for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) are central to any future climate regime. At the same time, we need to reinforce measures aimed at expanding forest carbon pools through the sustainable management of forests and peatlands.
Our goal is to ensure that the international post-2012 climate regime and national-level REDD schemes are efficient, equitable and provide benefits to affected communities in developing countries. Within 4 years, CIFOR’s research will have informed negotiations towards a global REDD regime and influenced national-level REDD policies and strategies in at least five countries.
- Developing procedures and best practices for estimating and managing carbon stocks in tropical forest landscapes
- Identifying policies, governance conditions and payment mechanisms that lead to effective implementation of REDD schemes
- Understanding the political economy and barriers to adoption of policies for efficient, effective and equitable REDD regimes
Research domain 2
Enhancing the role of forests in adapting to climate change
Climate change is already having dramatic effects on forests, natural resources and people’s livelihoods. During the past century, the Earth has warmed by approximately 0.7°C. Unless we take measures to address climate change, temperatures could rise even more rapidly, by between 1.4°C and 5.8°C, during the next 100 years. Poor people in developing countries are particularly exposed to the effects of climate change, not least because they often live and work in the very areas – flood plains, mountainsides, deltas – in which natural disasters most often occur.
We face the major challenges of reducing the vulnerability of those sectors which are most sensitive to climate variability – including forest, energy and water resources – and ‘climate proofing’ future development activities. Most countries have already defined adaptation plans or projects, but few are considering forests in adaptation. We need to include forests in climate change adaptation policies for two reasons: first, because of their vulnerability; and second, because of their role in reducing the vulnerability of society to losses from climate change.
Our twin goals are to ensure that forestry policy and practice adequately address the need to protect forest-dependent livelihoods from adverse climate change and to ensure that adaptation strategies adequately incorporate improved forest management. Within 5 years, CIFOR’s research will have informed the adoption by UNFCCC of a set of tested methods for forest-related vulnerability assessments, and criteria for adaptive management of forests, and have influenced forest-related adaptation policies in at least five countries.
- Bringing climate change adaptation into forest management
- Mainstreaming forestry into climate change adaptation
Research domain 3
Improving livelihoods through smallholder and community forestry
Forest-based activities provide around 30 million informal jobs in developing countries, as well as 13 to 35 per cent of all rural nonfarm employment. Yet many of the 240 million or more people who live in forested areas live in poverty. There is surprisingly little empirical knowledge to answer basic, yet highly relevant questions about the forestry–poverty nexus.
At least one-quarter of the forested land in developing countries is under some form of community control, and that proportion is likely to increase. Domestic markets for forest products are also expanding, and should create new economic opportunities for low-income households. We need better information about policies and practices that could help smallholder and community forestry enterprises flourish.
Our goal is to improve understanding of the links between forests and human wellbeing. Within 5 years, CIFOR will have influenced the way smallholder and community forestry concerns are incorporated into poverty alleviation strategies in at least five countries.
- Identifying management practices that are appropriate for smallholder and community forestry, including provision of safety nets for forest biodiversity
- Defining effective local institutional arrangements for enhancing outcomes from smallholder and community forestry
- Developing policies and institutions to enhance coordination, productivity, sustainability and profitability of small-scale enterprises
Research domain 4
Managing trade-offs between conservation and development at the landscape scale
Conservation efforts mainly concentrate on optimising the management of protected areas, yet most of the world’s biodiversity occurs in fragmented landscape mosaics outside protected areas. These are often subject to a range of land uses. Integrating sustainable use and conservation in tropical landscapes requires a recognition that there are inherent trade-offs between the two.
Interest is increasing in directly targeting the delivery of forest services through payments for environmental services (PES). Through PES, compensation is used as a tool to reconcile hard trade-offs between the interests of landowners and service users. To understand fully the potential of PES schemes, it is necessary to compare their effectiveness with alternative conservation approaches. There is an urgent need for sound science to identify better ways of managing the trade-offs between conservation and development.
Our goal is to shift policy and practice towards conservation and development approaches that are more effective, efficient and equitable. Within 7 years, the policies and practices of at least two significant international conservation organisations and donor agencies, and at least five national governments, will begin to reflect the results of CIFOR’s research.
- Developing better methods for assessing environmental services
- Establishing platforms for negotiating conservation and development trade-offs
- Understanding the relative effectiveness of institutional frameworks and alternative conservation approaches
Research domain 5
Managing impacts of globalised trade and investment on forests and forest communities
Increased trade in forest products and investment in forest-based industries have the potential to stimulate economic growth. Developing countries export more than US$ 23 billion worth of wood products a year, yet in many places just a small fraction of the profits benefit small-scale producers and forest dwellers. Unfair trade practices, distorted markets, corruption and weak governance all undermine the contribution forests could make to improving local livelihoods.
During the coming years, a number of global trends – including China’s demand for wood products, the geographic shift in industrial timber production away from Asia, greater investment in industrial tree planting and the increasing demand for biofuels – will have a significant impact on forests and the people who depend on them. To better manage the impact of globalised trade and investment on forests, governments and other stakeholders need research to construct scenarios that illuminate the implications of current and projected trends for forests and forest-based livelihoods.
Our goal is to catalyse significant shifts in global investment standards in areas such as risk assessment, monitoring and information disclosure. Within 5 years, CIFOR research will have influenced at least three countries’ decision-making processes for more effectively managing the impact of trade and investment on forests and forest-dependent communities.
- Understanding trade and investment trends
- Assessing tools for managing the national and local impacts of trade and investment trends
Research domain 6
Sustainably managing tropical production forests
As production forests will constitute up to 80 per cent of the permanent forest estate in many tropical regions, a large number of forest-dependent people living in or near them are likely to be affected by the way they are managed. Over the past two decades, the global community has been searching for long-term approaches to promote sustainable forest management. These efforts have resulted in increasing amounts of natural forests being set aside for timber production under sustainable management. However, sustainability remains an elusive goal in many countries where the basic tenets of forest management have not really changed over the past few decades.
Most existing models for sustainable forest management are viable only for large concessions. They are designed for big companies exploiting unlogged primary forest, not for medium- or small-scale enterprises working in secondary or logged-over forests. There is a need for research to review existing management paradigms for tropical production forests and facilitate the design of new, equitable and more environmentally friendly management rules.
Our goal is to precipitate a paradigm shift in how production forests are managed, and by whom. Within 10 years, CIFOR research will have contributed to a significant increase in the area of production forests managed for goods and services beyond timber in at least five countries. At a global level, the investment decisions, standards and guidelines of key donor and forestry agencies will increasingly reflect this paradigm shift.
- Defining better forest and forest policy regimes
- Developing tools and information for better-managed production forests beyond Reduced Impact Logging
- Understanding local people’s values, rights and benefit sharing
Positioning and comparative advantage
We will focus our research on areas where our strengths and expertise are likely to have the greatest impact. We will maintain the unique qualities that distinguish our research from that of other organisations and give CIFOR a comparative advantage. This advantage derives from our:
- High-quality, multidisciplinary staff
- Diverse partnerships with institutions and individuals around the world
- Ability to address global issues through nationally relevant research
- Rich understanding of the needs and views of poor and disadvantaged forest people
- Brand name, which is associated with high-quality research and analysis
Reputation for high-quality research
We aspire for CIFOR to be the first port of call for forest researchers, practitioners and policy makers seeking credible information and analysis. Of course, different forest stakeholders measure credibility in different ways. To the scientific community, credibility is gauged by the quality of the research, with a focus on innovation, objectivity and an established track record of publishing in top scientific journals. Policy makers, on the other hand, judge credibility by the quality of analysis and advice, and relevance to pressing policy issues. From a donor’s perspective, credibility comes from using limited resources effectively and appropriately, fostering partnerships to achieve impact and providing high-quality information. Under our new strategy, we will ensure that our research satisfies all these stakeholders.
To maintain credibility as a source of international public goods, we will produce more high-quality publications and feature in more high-impact journals. We will support the Open Access movement, which makes scientific literature more freely available. As well as publishing journal articles and books, we will continue to disseminate the results of our research in other forms, including manuals and policy briefs. We will also improve our data management processes and make it easier for our scientists, partners and other stakeholders to access our data.
CIFOR as an employer
We will attract and retain high-quality staff. We will proactively identify strong candidates for scientist positions. To maintain a healthy gender and diversity balance, we will encourage female candidates to apply for vacant posts and seek candidates from developing countries through targeted advertising and outreach. We will create a working environment with excellent communications technologies, support staff and library facilities.
Our approach to social responsibility will focus on three main areas:
- Ensuring that our research methods and partnership approaches reflect best practices, such as sharing results with communities
- Developing partnerships with neighbouring communities
- Modelling environmental stewardship by undertaking ‘greening’ activities
Our greening activities will minimize the use of energy, water, paper and pesticides, and reduce CIFOR’s carbon footprint.
CIFOR occupies a niche in the broad universe of organisations involved in forest research. To have significant impact, we must establish and maintain strategic relationships with a range of partners at the national, regional and international levels. Three relationships are of particular importance:
- Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
Being part of the CGIAR System confers many benefits: close proximity to its global networks; partnerships with other centres; access to a range of services, and many more. Furthermore, a significant portion of CIFOR’s funding comes from CGIAR sources. We are challenged to meet the fixed administrative demands of the CGIAR given our small size relative to other centres. We will reduce transaction costs through strategic partnerships with other centres and by being more selective in engaging in Systemwide initiatives.
- World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
There are significant opportunities for collaboration between CIFOR and the World Agroforestry Centre, given the latter’s strong focus on trees in agricultural landscapes. We will enhance our alliance with the World Agroforestry Centre in ways that are mutually beneficial, minimise transaction costs, increase effectiveness and efficiency, and add value to the research portfolios of both centres.
- Government of Indonesia
CIFOR’s relationship with Indonesia is defined by the fact that it is an international research organisation with a mandate to generate global public goods, while endeavouring to support the host country’s national forest policy research agenda. We will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Forestry to identify potential areas of collaboration in research and outreach.
Independent evaluations suggest that CIFOR has been highly successful with its partnership approach. As we go forward, we will select partners more strategically and manage our partnerships more consistently. While CIFOR has never had a capacity building unit, we see capacity building as a valuable contributor to our impact. In the context of our research partnerships, we will build capacity wherever appropriate and cost effective, usually through ‘learning by doing’, rather than through more formal capacity building activities.
Global mandate, local relevance
We commit to producing international public goods that influence the global forest agenda and have a positive impact on the world’s forests and people. This is a significant challenge for an organisation of CIFOR’s size. We will therefore focus our attention on a limited number of research domains, rather than regionally distinct priorities, so that research teams are clearly focused on providing international public goods. However, the themes within the research domains will always be informed by the realities on the ground. We recognise that achieving the right balance between work at the global level and work at more local levels is a significant challenge.
CIFOR’s headquarters in Indonesia is crucial to its operations. We will give priority to re-establishing a critical mass of globally recruited scientists in Bogor. This will be complemented by cultivating a culture that values networking, partnerships and internal communication.
We will concentrate our research in four regions: the Amazon Basin, the Congo Basin, Southeast Asia and dryland Africa. When determining when and where CIFOR staff will be based, we will consider the presence or absence of appropriate partnership opportunities, the efficiency and effectiveness of conducting research and the availability of resources. Where CIFOR has major research activities, our first recourse will be to conduct these through partners. Only in exceptional circumstances will we open CIFOR offices.
CIFOR has been, and will continue to be, positioned at the research end of the research–development continuum. By collaborating with civil society organisations, development agencies and other stakeholders, we will cultivate channels through which our research results can be translated into development outcomes, without necessarily engaging directly in development activities. If stakeholders ask CIFOR to engage in development activities in specific locations, we will exercise discipline in responding to those demands, and will only consider opportunities that are central to our research objectives.
Maintaining CIFOR’s independence
CIFOR will continue to provide credible, high-quality information to a range of stakeholders, especially policy- and decision-makers. To enhance the impact of its research, CIFOR’s engagement with the policy process will be more strategic and proactive. While CIFOR will continue to refrain from taking particular positions on policy issues, it will ensure that relevant research results and their implications inform policy discussions and decision-making.
Effective resource mobilisation underpins all our aspirations. Between 2000 and 2007, CIFOR’s revenue grew by approximately 45 per cent, with 45–50 per cent of the budget being unrestricted. We will maintain or increase the ratio of unrestricted to restricted funds and the diversity of our funding sources. We will allocate unrestricted funds more strategically, and be more selective in accepting restricted funds. We will focus on raising semi-restricted funds by marketing research domains rather than specific projects.
We are open to opportunities to increase strategic research partnerships with the private sector, when the research is expected to produce international public goods that advance CIFOR’s mission.
During its first 15 years, CIFOR has often been at the forefront of international forestry discussions, frequently setting the agenda and providing science-based messages to policy makers and practitioners. The essence of CIFOR’s communication strategy has been to identify the key messages and target audiences for a particular piece of research, and work out a clear dissemination plan to reach and engage those audiences. We will continue to feed our research results into traditional media, but will increasingly use web-based media and new collaborative communication technologies.