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CIFOR Highlights

History and Mission


CIFOR 1998 Highlights

CIFOR celebrated the fifth anniversary of its founding in May 1993. Today, the centre is well established in its headquarters complex in Bogor, which was donated by the Indonesian government and houses about 40 internationally recruited scientists and more than 70 national staff.  


A provocative new book, Economic Models of Tropical Deforestation: A Review, attracted widespread interest for its conclusions that call into question many of the results and methodologies of more than 150 economic models of deforestation. The authors caution that the findings should be viewed with scepticism because of poor data quality and methodological weaknesses, and they urge new approaches in future research of this kind.

CIFOR helped set the global agenda for forestry research at an international consultative meeting in Austria, where a panel of experts proposed initiatives to improve coordination of forestry science and information. The meeting, known as ICRIS, was an intersessional event of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) and was co-sponsored by the governments Austria and Indonesia. CIFOR underwent its first external programme and management review, as mandated by the CGIAR. The eight-member review panel commended CIFOR for strong progress in all aspects of its work, and noted that the centre has already achieved an enviable reputation as an authoritative source of scientific information.

Indonesia’s new Minister of Forestry and Estate Crops, Dr. Muslimin Nasution, joined CIFOR’s Board of Trustees as the government’s representative. He visited CIFOR for a briefing on key research issues in tropical forestry, and also addressed an international meeting at CIFOR on "Forests and People," which emphasised the importance of local participation in forest management.



A CIFOR–supported study on the dynamics of China’s bamboo sector was considered for the CGIAR Chairman’s Award for Collaborative Research. The study, a collaboration with major research institutions in China, contradicts the conventional view of bamboo as a poor man’s timber, revealing instead its promise as a tool for rural development, income generation and rehabilitation of degraded lands.


CIFOR published A Review of Dipterocarps: Taxonomy, Ecology and Silviculture, a definitive book on one of the best known and commercially important groups of tropical trees. The book, which contains contributions by 13 internationally recognised specialists, spans research results produced over the past 150 years.



Building in part on a research project in Madagascar, CIFOR formulated the concept for
a new programme initiative to be known as Adaptive Co-Management. It was endorsed by the Board of Trustees at the year’s end and will combine existing CIFOR projects to develop criteria and indicators and to improve the livelihoods of forest-dwelling people. The work in Madagascar, which is related to broader research efforts to strengthen community-based control of forests, offers a framework for developing more flexible plans for managing natural resources by incorporating innovative tools such as participatory mapping.


The groundwork was laid for a wide range of research activities at Bulungan Research Forest in East Kalimantan, which the government of Indonesia has designated as a site at which to test practices that support sustainable forest management. A new director arrived to head the project, and by the year’s end as many as 30 scientists and research assistants were working in Bulungan at one time. CIFOR and several research partners issued guidelines for reduced-impact logging experiments that were set to get underway
at the site.

A monograph published by CIFOR, Incomes from the Forest, offers important lessons for conservationists, NGOs, development experts and others who view non-timber forest products as a major instrument for improving the livelihood of rural people. Citing case studies, the contributors describe relative strengths and weaknesses of various methods that have been employed to promote NTFP development. The book shows that, despite common assumptions, NTFP development does not necessarily guarantee conservation and economic benefits.

A public forum on "Forests for the Next Generation" was held in April at the United Nations University in Tokyo in conjunction with a meeting of CIFOR’s Board of Trustees. More than 200 people attended the forum, organized to convey to key audiences in Japan the global value of Japan’s overseas development assistance to agricultural research. The Government of Japan is CIFOR’s largest donor.

In collaboration with researchers in East, Central and Southern Africa, CIFOR began a four-year project, sponsored by the European Commission, aimed at helping to preserve vast miombo woodlands in the southern region of the continent. Nearly 40 million people rely on them for food, fuel wood and other daily needs, and concerted efforts are underway to develop a sustainable management plan for the woodlands.

CIFOR achieved considerable media attention as a source of independent scientific information when staff scientists were featured in dozens of press, radio and television interviews around the world in relation to the economic crisis in Indonesia and the forest fires in Southeast Asia that occurred in 1997 and 1998. CIFOR continues to post regularly updated material about these situations on its Web site.

New findings from CIFOR research in several Latin America countries are forcing a revision of basic ideas about secondary forests, which regenerate on native forests that have been cleared. Studies showed that secondary forests can provide many of the products that small-farmer households have traditionally acquired from primary forests, while also providing environmental benefits. This suggests the need for incentives to increase the value of secondary forests to farmers, thereby helping to counter the loss of primary forest for agriculture and other uses.

Forestry and biodiversity experts from 20 countries met in North Sumatra, Indonesia, in December at the invitation of CIFOR and UNESCO to discuss ways of expanding the World Heritage Convention as an instrument for conserving the biodiversity of tropical forests. The group issued detailed recommendations and a proposed list of additional sites to be considered for World Heritage designation.

As part of its strategy to become a "centre without walls," CIFOR established regional offices in Belém, Brazil, and Harare, Zimbabwe. These and major CIFOR field operations in Costa Rica, Cameroon, Gabon and other places strengthen CIFOR’s collaboration with institutional partners around the world.

CIFOR’s pioneering project to develop "criteria and indicators" (C&I) for guiding sustainable management of forests ended its first four-year phase. A major achievement was completion of a series of social science-based resource tools– including a generic template, a CD-ROM and step-by-step manuals —that others can use to develop customised C&I appropriate for various forest settings.

As part of an international response to the devastating forest fires that occur periodically in Southeast Asia, CIFOR launched a project with the U.S. State Department and the European Space Agency to acquire the kind of information needed to better understand the causes of the fires and devise effective remedies. CIFOR scientists also contributed their expertise to numerous discussions about the fires and to the development of initiatives to address the problem.

All publications produced by CIFOR since its inception were compiled for the first time in complete text form on CD-ROM, which is available free of charge. This important new resource includes a reference list of papers and articles by CIFOR staff and their collaborators published in external journals and books.

CIFOR collaborated with the International Academy of the Environment in Geneva in a policy dialogue to address some of the difficult issues associated with applying the "Kyoto Principles" to forests. In related matters, CIFOR presented a paper at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change later in the year, and CIFOR staff worked to develop a new research initiative that will look at trade in carbon sequestration services and how it might work to benefit sustainable forestry.