Exploring how forest restoration affects forests and livelihoods
CIFOR scientists have blazed the trail for research on community forestry, forest restoration and forests as common property resources.
Wil de Jong, a former Senior Scientist at CIFOR, explains that there is now a major boom in forest restoration commitments. Yet a topic that continues to demand attention is what forest restoration actually does to forests. Wil stresses that it is imperative that future studies on forest landscape restoration incorporate critical political ecology assessments of the whole forest restoration boom – or hype.
Wil de Jong
Originally from the Netherlands, he studied tropical forestry at Wageningen Agricultural University. Previously he had completed undergraduate studies and PhD research in Peru, where he had moved in 1982. In 1988 he began a four-year stay in New York as an International Fellow at the Botanical Garden’s Institute of Economic Botany.
After having lived and worked in Indonesia for 12 years, Wil de Jong then moved to Japan in 2004, first to the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka and since 2006 to the Imperial City of Kyoto. He is now a full tenured professor at Kyoto University's Center for Southeast Asian and Integrated Area Studies.
His research has focused on Bolivia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Peru and Vietnam but he has also been part of several multi-country comparative studies. In recent years, his work has focused on forest policies and governance, illegal logging, smallholder and community forestry, forest transition and forest restoration. For five years now he has also been teaching undergraduate and graduate courses at various universities in Asia.
Discover more about Wil’s research at ResearchGate and Google Scholar.
In conversation with Wil de Jong
What was the main focus of your work when you were at CIFOR?At CIFOR I worked on projects that took place in both Latin America and either Asia or Africa. Two countries where I spent much time traveling to were Bolivia and Zimbabwe. During the first few years my work focused on forest livelihoods, and later this shifted to forest policies and forest restoration.
How have your research and activities paved the way for future forestry-related developments and research?We were trail blazers, the early generation of CIFOR scientists. Many of us were early career scientists and of similar ages. The work that we did on community forestry, forest restoration and forests as common property resources was well-noted.
If you could choose one piece of work (output) that would be the highlight of the research you did at CIFOR, what would it be? Why is it a highlight?The first special issue of an academic journal that I co-edited in 2000, ‘Sustaining Incomes from Non-timber Forest Products’ in Forests, Trees and Livelihoods (formerly International Tree Crop Journal). The special issue represents the major output of the very first project that I did at CIFOR on forests and livelihoods. It was also my first academic journal special issue.
Since being at CIFOR, how have you seen research in your field evolve?I have kept working on community forestry and forest restoration. I have also added several new other directions in my research. Since leaving CIFOR, I began working in China and India, I returned to Peru, and there are a few minor research products from Japan. I have also explored forest legality topics, collaborated with a group of European academics on a special issue on forest policy theory, and have worked quite extensively on forest and climate change issues.
What future challenges related to your research area do you foresee? How does your research address these challenges?Quite a few. There is now a major boom in forest restoration commitments. One of the topics I would like to explore in writing but also with on-the-ground research is what forest restoration actually does to forests. It is necessary to undertake a critical political ecology assessment of the whole forest restoration boom – or hype.
Why do you think that the work CIFOR does on forestry is key for the future of our planet and the people living on it?CIFOR is a unique organization that is in an excellent position to undertake critical and cutting-edge research. It has produced good research in the past and should be able to do so in the future.