Forests in a
time of crises

Robert Nasi

Director General, CIFOR

Reflecting on 2019 – a year in which climate change and biodiversity became existential crises and ‘social distancing’ was still just an oxymoron – it’s clear that we must turn normal thinking on its head.

We need forests and trees more than ever. Once viewed mainly as a source of timber, forests are increasingly being recognized as a vital green infrastructure, storing carbon, protecting watersheds, biodiversity and wild foods, and providing livelihoods to billions of people.

Last year, CIFOR advanced critical knowledge on social forestry in Southeast Asia; timber legality in Zambia and the DRC; peatland restoration, biofuel, oil palm and mangroves in Indonesia – as well as ongoing global research on REDD+, tenure security, forest landscape restoration and gender. The Global Landscapes Forum found new and more innovative ways (like GLFx) to connect people together, in addition to five major events.

We understand the problems, and we have both solutions and resources to respond to them. There are reasons to be optimistic in spite of the immense challenges we are facing.

M. Claire O’Connor

Chair, Common Board
Chair, Executive Committee

The past year has seen some of the greatest challenges yet – from the climate crisis to landscape degradation to the wildfires that raged in countries from east to west. Yet it also saw the emergence of new developments, such as the announcement of the UN’s Decade of Ecological Restoration 2021–2030 and discussions of nature- based solutions.

In 2019, another exciting development set the stage for more evidence and solutions that will improve people’s lives, help to conserve and restore the ecosystems that support people and nature, and respond to the global climate crisis. The merger of CIFOR and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) has extended the reach of both organizations.

CIFOR-ICRAF is uniquely equipped to deliver transformative science, with a common board of trustees, an integrated leadership team and a jointly constituted research division. Our shared ‘whole-landscape’ mandate and our long-term partnerships allow us to contribute to a radical transformation in food production and land-use systems.

The CIFOR-ICRAF approach

People everywhere recognize that forests and trees help combat climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation. Many also understand their importance to rural livelihoods. Getting trees in the ground, keeping them there, and ensuring that the potential benefits materialize are not easy.

In 2019, two of the world’s leading organizations focused on forestry and agroforestry, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) embarked on a bold merger venture in order to provide the evidence and innovative solutions needed to scale up investment in sustainable development and address the global challenges of our time.

Uniquely equipped to deliver transformative science thanks to the diverse skills of our more than 700 staff and long-established partnerships, CIFOR-ICRAF is better placed than ever before to address local challenges and opportunities while solving global problems.

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CIFOR is one of 15 CGIAR Research Centers and works closely with the CGIAR Research Programs on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), and Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).

CIFOR leads the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), the world largest research for development program to enhance the crucial role of forests, agroforestry and tree resources across the landscape and along value chains, towards the overarching objectives of sustainable development, food security and nutrition, and to address climate change. FTA brings together more than 200 scientists within an overall research portfolio of approximately USD 80 million/year. FTA develops, provides and promotes evidence-based technical, policy and institutional solutions and innovations for farmers, foresters, practitioners, value chain actors and policy makers. foreststreesagroforestry.org.

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Research to impact

CIFOR is committed to research for change – not simply for knowledge. Through an integrated planning, monitoring and learning strategy, our Research to Impact (RTI) team aims to ensure all research, engagement and capacity-strengthening efforts lead to tangible development impacts, particularly in relation to the CGIAR’s Strategic Results Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2019, the RTI team continued to help research teams ground their projects on strong theories of change and use monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems to test underlying hypotheses and generate data that support project management. The RTI team has designed and implemented M&E components of large projects such as FORETS, Governing Multifunctional Landscapes, and Sustainable Wildlife Management, to undertake a series of impact monitoring activities, generate learning and demonstrate results.

In addition, CIFOR has gained extensive knowledge on factors that influence and contribute to decision- making through a series of outcome evaluations across thematic programs and individual projects. This work has demonstrated that a combination of co-producing research, extensive engagement of knowledge users across the research cycle, and targeted communications with key decision makers is effective in achieving ownership and use of information in decision making. Similar evaluations are ongoing, using different approaches, to help understand further how research influences policies and practices – and why – in different contexts.

presence in 2019

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A passion for peatlands

Participatory action research is a way to work together with people to foster change on the ground, and at the same time to produce robust science for social and economic transformation.

Herry Purnomo

CIFOR Scientist/IPB University Professor

Tenure, gender and a star scientist

Remembering Esther Mwangi

14 December 1965 – 5 October 2019

Securing community rights to forests and land, for women and men, is essential for livelihoods and justice and to address climate change.

Anne Larson

Team Leader, Equal opportunities, gender justice and tenure

Tension and transformation in the patriarchy

Forests, people and the SDGs

Strategies for the climate crisis

Transforming REDD+

Lessons and new directions

Now available in Spanish!

There is a very clear opportunity to integrate REDD+ with complementary global initiatives to protect and restore forests at jurisdictional scales.

Amy Duchelle

Team Leader, Climate change, energy and low-carbon development

Regrowth and new growth

These guidelines will increase credibility, transparency and stakeholder trust in restoration activities. Donors, public agencies and investors will find guidance to increase cost effectiveness and reduce risk.

Manuel Guariguata

CIFOR Principal Scientist

Legal wood is good wood

Multi-stakeholder processes to strengthen policies for small and medium-scale forestry enterprises in Indonesia

Essentially, a theory of change forces you to be explicit about how you think you’ll get where you want to go in the long term. This can be challenging for today’s policy makers, but when it’s co-developed and understood, it can speed up pathways to expected impacts.

Paolo Cerutti

CIFOR Senior Scientist

Furniture Value Chains

Governing multifunctional landscapes in Sub-Saharan Africa

From food security to social forestry

The body of work on wild foods from forests shows that forests are not an obstacle to food security, but are actually an important element of it.

Amy Ickowitz

Team Leader, Sustainable landscapes and livelihoods

Global Landscapes Forum


GLF breaks new digital ground

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) continues on its path to spark a movement of one billion people around prosperous, equitable and resilient landscapes. The GLF has reached more than 700 million people from 185 countries, making it the world’s largest knowledge forum on integrated and sustainable land use. It continues to break new ground with digital conferences and GLFx – a global network of local chapters connecting online in dedicated communities of practice to take direct action at a local level.

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Communication, outreach and engagement


Expenses, 2019

(USD, thousands)

Revenue & expenses, 2015-2019

(USD, thousands)

Board of Trustees


Forests in a
time of crises


In 2019, the world witnessed some of our greatest challenges shift gears from urgent to emergency – from climate crisis to landscape degradation to the wildfires that devastated ecosystems across several continents. But it also saw momentum build with the announcement of the UN Decade of Ecological Restoration, a focus on nature-based solutions, and the recognition of local forest communities and Indigenous Peoples are the best land managers for forest conservation.

Another exciting development – the merger of CIFOR and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) – set the stage for more evidence and solutions that will improve people’s lives, help to conserve and restore the ecosystems that support people and nature, and respond to the global climate crisis.

Our scientists advanced critical knowledge on forest landscape restoration, wild foods and timber legality in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and peatland fires, biofuel, oil palm and wetland ‘blue carbon’ in Indonesia – with clear policy impacts in Southeast Asia from 10 years of social forestry research and engagement. Our ongoing Global Comparative Studies – GCS REDD+ and GCS Tenure – continued to bring science to policy makers across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Gender researchers looked deep into a myriad of topics, and we mourned the loss of principal scientist and Nairobi hub leader Esther Mwangi, whose legacy of achievements in gender and land rights won’t be soon forgotten. Finally the Global Landscapes Forum brought even more people together, both at events from Accra to Luxembourg as well as through exciting new digital innovations.