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History and Mission


History and Mission of CIFOR

Established in 1993, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has a mission to bring scientific knowledge to bear on major decisions affecting the world’s tropical forests and the people who depend on them.

Today, CIFOR can point with pride to its highly respected staff of international scientists, a vast array of collaborative research projects around the world, important findings that are being reported in an impressive record of publications and a powerful voice in global discussions about how to manage and conserve the world’s tropical forests for the benefit of future as well as current generations.

CIFOR arose out of growing concern that emerged from the Rio "Earth Summit" and other international dialogues about rapid deforestation and its associated costs to society in social, economic and environmental terms. In 1993, CIFOR was established as the 16th research centre of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The CGIAR is made up of public and private-sector organisations devoted to improving agriculture and natural resource use in ways that reduce hunger and poverty among people in developing countries without causing lasting environmental damage. CIFOR’s role in this quest is important because millions of people around the world depend heavily on forest resources for their income and basic needs, and the conversion of forest land for agriculture is a primary cause of forest loss.

CIFOR’s mandate stems in part from a sea change in philosophy that has occurred in the field of forestry over the past two decades. There is now widespread agreement that forests should no longer be managed mainly for timber production, but for balanced, multiple use that reflects a broader array of social values and demands by different sectors of society.

Reconciling these competing economic, social and environmental demands is a challenge for government officials, policy makers and resource managers who must make day-to-day management decisions and long-term policies governing forest use. They have an urgent need for practical scientific knowledge and analysis that can guide their responses. To help address this need, CIFOR research is designed to emphasise strategic applications and produce findings that are generalisable to a variety of situations. Where possible, the centre also works closely with other institutions to strengthen local research capacity in developing countries, thereby providing the means for ongoing attention to regional and national forest-related problems.

The goal of CIFOR’s wide-ranging research programme is to acquire more complete knowledge about forest ecology and forest use, and to better understand the relationships between these. Current research projects are investigating underlying causes of deforestation; improvements in productivity and silvicultural practices; methods for assessing biodiversity and other forest conditions, and for measuring progress toward sustainable management; innovative approaches to local management of forests; options for environmentally benign rural development; new modelling and analytic tools for forest systems; and the valuation of various forest goods and services.

An endorsement of these and other directions came in 1998, when an independent panel completed the first external review of CIFOR’s research programme. The reviewers commended the centre for its vision and achievements in its initial five years, and for making very good progress in all aspects of its work. The final report concluded that CIFOR had achieved an enviable reputation in a short time and had already acquired status as a key participant in major international dialogues concerned about the fate of the world’s forests.

CIFOR’s research programme is grouped under several major project categories, but the multidisciplinary nature of the centre’s approach means there is considerable overlap and integration. Although the research described herein is only a selection, it is intended to convey the breadth and impact of the centre’s work overall.

With the continued support and expertise of its many institutional partners in the years to come, CIFOR will continue to make tangible contributions toward efforts to maintain the well-being of the world’s tropical forests while ensuring the livelihood of the people
who depend on them.



The centre of CIFOR’s operations is in Bogor, a noted centre of agricultural and horticultural research in Indonesia. In February 1997, CIFOR moved into a new headquarters complex donated by the Government of Indonesia and situated on 10 hectares of forest land.

Indonesia, with a significant portion of the world’s remaining rainforests, is an ideal home for CIFOR. The Indonesian Ministry of Forests and Estate Crops has been highly supportive of CIFOR’s work and collaborates in research at many sites throughout Indonesia. In 1995 the Indonesian Government allocated 300,000 hectares of primary forest in the Bulungan District of East Kalimantan to serve as a long-term research site for studying model management practices designed to promote sustainable use of tropical forests.


CIFOR’s talented team of internationally recruited scientists are based in Bogor but carry out research activities throughout the world in conjunction with a host of institutional partners — constituting a "centre without walls." CIFOR also welcomes many guest scientists to its headquarters complex, and hosts numerous conferences and workshops to disseminate important research techniques and results.


Today, CIFOR’s staff numbers about 130 people, including 60 internationally recruited scientists; reflecting the centre’s multidisciplinary approach to scientific research and forest management, they include economists, anthropologists, sociologists and geneticists as well as forest ecologists, silviculture experts and data specialists. The centre’s annual budget has grown to more than US$ 11 million, and CIFOR is now involved in major research activities in three dozen countries.