Presentations shed new light on restoration, agrarian change and nutrition at ATBC 2017

Delving into such thorny topics as the need to monitor landscape restoration, what happens to diets when forest cover changes and remote sensing and what it can and cannot tell us, CIFOR scientists and researchers offered distinct perspectives to engaged audiences at the Annual Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Meeting in Merida, Mexico.

CIFOR’s Agrarian Change Project-hosted symposium presented the work of seven scientists – and the results of years of field research – to a packed room of more than 50 people. Discussing research in part presented in the book Agrarian Change in Tropical Landscapes, which looks at seven countries, CIFOR’s Terry Sunderland introduced the research project, saying the goal was “debunking some of the myths” about diets and agricultural expansion.

With presentations spanning upland landscapes in Bangladesh to southern Ethiopia and Kalimantan in Indonesia, scientists discussed the need for practical approaches to agrarian change, the important role of forests for diets and what we can learn from asking people about their experience of deforestation and availability of grazing lands.

Ultimately, the presentations all fed into the vital question the project is posing: “Does agrarian change in tropical landscapes result in better livelihood outcomes?”

In various talks at the event, CIFOR Principal Scientist Manuel Guariguata urged for local buy-in and clear roles and responsibilities when developing participatory monitoring plans for forest restoration, and made suggestions for up-scaling processes. In a panel discussion that gathered the bulk of ATBC attendees, Guariguata and fellow Latin America specialists discussed secondary forests and how best to conserve, restore and govern these somewhat liminal spaces, standing somewhere between forest, agricultural land, degraded land and more, and thereby neglected in decision-making and policy interventions.

In addition, CIFOR hosted a launch event of a new report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), through a Project Team led by Terry Sunderland of CIFOR. Copies of the report, commissioned by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), were distributed to eager attendees.

Sunderland presented background information on the process of producing the work and those involved, as well as delving into the details of the findings. Audience members posed questions about trees on farms, food security and access, and the management of forests and population growth and what that means for forests and food in different geographies.