CIFOR taps FAO expert as new Director General


Dr Peter Holmgren selected to lead the Center for International Forestry Research

Bogor, Indonesia (8 June, 2012)—As forest conservation and sustainable development take centre stage in the lead up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (known as Rio+20), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) announced today the appointment of leading forestry, climate change and food security expert Peter Holmgren as its new director general.

The CIFOR board announced the selection after an exhaustive international search process. Holmgren will join CIFOR in September from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), where he is Director of the Climate, Energy and Tenure Division.

"Tropical forests are at a crossroads. Tremendous progress has been made raising the profile of forests in REDD+ and sustainable development discussions. At the same time, many of the world’s forests are still under threat and the potential of forests to support sustainable development are not fully realized," Holmgren said.

"Critical gaps between research and policy action must be closed to support governance related to forests, food, climate change and sustainable development. CIFOR, the CGIAR and partners in the global research community must play a key role."

Holmgren will take the helm at CIFOR from Frances Seymour, who has led the organization since 2006. The Chair of CIFOR’s board, M. Hosny El-Lakany, said Seymour has been instrumental in dramatically raising the standard and visibility of work at the organization and its impact on forest-related policy worldwide.

Holmgren, a native of forest-rich Sweden, received his doctorate in forestry at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. He joined FAO in 1998 to lead the Global Forest Resources Assessment, which documents the state of global forest resources, their management and uses. Between 2003 and 2007 he was head of forest resources development at FAO.

Since 2007, he has led the Climate, Energy and Tenure division at FAO, developing the profile and coordination of FAO’s climate change work and contributions of FAO to the UNFCCC process. He also took the lead in setting up the UN-REDD programme. Most recently, he has been coordinating FAO’s preparations for Rio+20.

Under his leadership at FAO, the concept of climate-smart agriculture emerged, ensuring that agricultural productivity, resilience and climate change mitigation are addressed together at all levels.

"Peter has a unique perspective on the host of benefits that forests provide. Forested areas are the social, economic and environmental foundation for millions of people who depend on them and the vast array of ecosystem services that forests provide," El-Lakany said.

The total forest area of the world is about 4 billion hectares, which represents nearly 30 percent of the Earth’s landmass. Over half of these forests are located in the tropics. A seven-year global landmark study by CIFOR found that income from forests contributes on average more than one-fifth of total household earnings for people living in or near forests – documenting for the first time the key role that the environment plays in economic development and poverty alleviation.

The size of ‘environmental incomes’ – from wood, game, plants and other resources harvested from the wild – has until now been poorly documented, and is not obvious to most policy makers. Because this revenue has been documented, however, the threats inherent in deforestation are all the more apparent.

Net global forest loss is estimated at 7.3 million hectares per year for the period 2000-2005, according to the FAO division Holmgren once led. While this rate has slowed considerably—approximately 16 million hectares of forest were lost every year in the 1990s—the continued loss of the world’s forests erodes efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, alleviate poverty, and provide sustainable economic development. The highest amounts of deforestation currently occur in South America, with 4.3 million hectares per year, followed by sub-Saharan Africa with about 4 million hectares per year.

"Evidence-based research is now the norm by which science and knowledge help shape policies, starting in medicine and increasingly in other sectors," Holmgren said. "Evidence from global forestry and farm research can provide vital services to decision-makers on the local, national, and global levels. But the knowledge generated by researchers needs to target and respond to well-defined policy questions."

Headquartered in Bogor, Indonesia, CIFOR’s global research program spans Asia, Africa and Latin America, covering a wide range of issues aimed at advancing human wellbeing, environmental conservation and equity by conducting research to inform policies and practices that affect forests in developing countries.


The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) advances human wellbeing, environmental conservation and equity by conducting research to inform policies and practices that affect forests in developing countries. CIFOR helps ensure that decision-making that affects forests is based on solid science and principles of good governance, and reflects the perspectives of developing countries and forest-dependent people. CIFOR is one of 15 members of the CGIAR Consortium.

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