Assessing the socio-economic impacts of the palm oil sector in the Republic of the Congo

The Republic of the Congo is one of the largest forested countries in Central Africa. Despite the fact that the country still has a significant amount of forest (24 million hectares (ha), or 70% of the national territory), deforestation trends and the context of climate change are making the protection of forest cover a priority for territorial planning and agricultural development. In 2018, the Congolese government adopted the National Development Plan 2018-2022 (PND 2018-2022), which promotes the diversification of agriculture in a sustainable manner.

One of the key agricultural sectors in this planning is palm oil. Congo joined the African Palm Oil Initiative (APOI) when it signed the “Marrakech Declaration” at the 2016 session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the initiative of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020. The aim of the initiative is to transform the palm oil sector in 10 West and Central African countries into a sustainable driver of development, reducing carbon emissions while delivering social benefits and protecting the rich biodiversity of these countries’ tropical forests. TFA 2020 is a partnership that brings together governments as well as key consumers, businesses, traders and producers, civil society, and groups representing local communities and indigenous peoples.

At the first national TFA APOI workshop in August 2017, stakeholders in the TFA APOI process in Congo endorsed 10 national principles on responsible and sustainable palm oil production in the Republic of the Congo. The first two principles deal with the importance of developing the palm oil industry in compliance with current legislation, which is essential to ensure the development of a responsible and sustainable industry. At the second national workshop in December 2017, stakeholders in the TFA APOI process identified concrete activities to achieve these two core principles.

At the request of stakeholders in the TFA APOI process, the European Forest Institute (EFI) supported an activity to assess the socio-economic impacts of land-use scenarios with a focus on oil palm, in order to optimise its development trajectory. The study was conducted under the supervision of the Directorate-General for Agriculture (Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries – MAEP), which chairs the APOI platform.

Three agricultural departments in the Republic of Congo (Plateaux, Pool and Cuvette-Ouest) with high potential for producing palm oil were targeted for this assessment.

The Land-use Planner, a tool developed by the European Forest Institute as part of the EU REDD Facility, was used to model and represent the impact of future land-use choices, to facilitate participatory land management.

Photo 1 : Stakeholders of the APOI Platform

To develop various scenarios for 2050 with the Land-use Planner, data were collected from administrative documentation (mainly the Agricultural Sector Development Plan (PDSA) and departmental monographs), and interviews with experts and professionals in the field: agronomists, administrative managers, agricultural sector supervisors and palm plantation operators. Several types of data were collected for each crop (yield, production costs, benefits, biodiversity and crop or rotation cycles).

Figure 1: Yield profile for oil palm cultivation by smallholders in the savannah zone. Productivity in tonnes per hectare by year (25-year cycle).

Three scenarios were developed for each department:

(1) Business as usual (BAU):

agricultural yields are stable, cultivated areas keep pace with demographic trends, and oil palm and other cash crops are not developed beyond existing levels.

(2) Uncontrolled development of oil palm:

in this scenario, cash crops, particularly palm oil, develop rapidly with the support of public development programmes and private investment. This development is sometimes to the detriment of other agricultural systems or ecosystems that are not exploited and/or protected, such as forests, without respecting the sustainability criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). By 2050, 755,000 hectares of oil palm will have been cultivated, including around 400,000 hectares from deforestation. Sugar cane and soya are also expanding in the Plateaux and Pool departments respectively, where these crops are already present.

(3) Controlled development of oil palm:

oil palm is grown in a controlled and moderate manner, primarily to meet the needs of the national market. Oil palm expansion is limited to areas meeting RSPO standards and PDSA national zoning. Other crops are being improved, and the increase in yields partly meets the needs of the growing population.

In Cuvette-Ouest, for example, the Land-use Planner’s analysis shows that:

  • The uncontrolled scenario (expansion in all PDSA expansion zones) involves potentially 17 times more oil palm acreage than the controlled scenario (expansion only in favourable zones, according to CIRAD).
  • The uncontrolled scenario involves a 100% industrial model, extending over both forest and savannah. This theoretical scenario is deliberately not aligned with the policy of the Republic of Congo.
  • The forest area decreases sharply in the uncontrolled scenario, and there is a slight decrease in the BAU and controlled scenarios.
  • CO2 emissions due to deforestation and forest degradation are therefore very high in the uncontrolled scenario.
  • Similarly, biodiversity decreases significantly in the uncontrolled scenario, which is not seen in the other scenarios.
  • The uncontrolled scenario produces more market value, but is also much more destructive to the natural environment and its ecosystems.
Figure 2: Overview of the estimated impacts of the three scenarios for the Cuvette-Ouest department on a number of economic, social and environmental indicators.

The trends in the other two departments are similar. The main lesson to be learned from this study is that the scenario of controlled oil palm development, while sparing the forests, enables the national demand projected for 2050 to be covered, thanks solely to the combined production of the three departments studied.

This work also shows that this coverage of national demand can be achieved by plantation models deployed in savannah areas, close to the main consumption basins and in compliance with the decree (2018) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries guiding agro-industrial investments of more than five hectares in savannah areas.

The implementation of such a “controlled” scenario in the other departments of the Congo would also make it possible to develop exports, once national needs have been covered. In particular, this would be based on RSPO certification, which would enable operators located far from the consumption basins in the south of the country to balance their economic models by increasing the value of their production for export.

In addition, thanks to the work carried out as part of this study, all spatial planning facilitators can now rely on consolidated data tailored to the national context.

For more information, contact:

Mrs Judith-Flore Youdi-Malanda

TFA/APOI Focal Point, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MAEP), Congo.

Supporting integrated forest management in the Getas-Ngandong Teaching Forest, Indonesia, through inclusive land-use planning

In 2016, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry entrusted Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), a premier research university, to manage the 10,987-hectare Getas-Ngandong forest as a ‘teaching forest’. The forest, situated at the border of the Central and East Java provinces, was previously a teak production forest managed by the state-owned company, Perum Perhutani. More recently, it was classified by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry as a Forest for Special Purpose (Image 1). At UGM, we are now considering how to manage the forest to meet the needs and vision of those associated with the university and the surrounding local community.

Image 1: The Getas-Ngandong forest straddles two administrative areas, Central Java and East Java Provinces. Source: Faculty of Forestry, UGM

Tenurial conflict and the management of the Getas-Ngandong forest

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Reformation Era in Indonesia was at its inception and law enforcement in the land sector was generally weak, a significant amount of timber was illegally harvested in the Getas-Ngandong forest and parts of the forest were converted into maize plantations. This led to a prolonged tenurial conflict between Perum Perhutani and the surrounding villagers. Even when Perum Perhutani started to develop community-based forestry management approaches, the conflict persisted.

As the new manager of the Getas-Ngandong forest, UGM, through its Faculty of Forestry, is seeking to help resolve the conflict and develop win-win approaches for forest management in Getas-Ngandong that are acceptable to the many stakeholders involved. While the Faculty plans to use the forest as a teaching, training and research centre for members of the university’s community (Figure 2), villagers who live in and around the forest still want to use the area to plant commodities, such as maize and sugarcane, to support their income. Currently, UGM is developing an agroforestry landscape, with maize and ginger intercropped with teak plantations, in collaboration with local communities.

The lecturers assist UGM students to build a ‘student forest’ in Pitu village, Getas-Ngandong forest. In 2022, they started planting cardamom under the forest stands. Source: Faculty of Forestry, UGM

At the same time, there have been concerns about the degraded state of the forest (Figure 1). We therefore plan to rehabilitate it to enhance the ecosystem services it provides. We are also working with other stakeholders, namely government institutions and private companies, on forest rehabilitation activities. In some areas, we have started to plant diverse tree species, such as avocado, mango, jackfruit and petai.

Figure 1: The forest area (green colour) has decreased over the last 25 years. Source: Faculty of Forestry, UGM.

Exploring future land-use scenarios to inform forest management

To meet these goals, meticulous participatory planning and innovative approaches are needed. We have discussed with the community members the idea of conducting social forestry or agrarian reform programmes in the area. We have also experimented with the European Forest Institute’s Land-use Planner tool to identify potential future land-use scenarios and their associated economic, environmental and social impacts.

Land-use typeArea (ha)
Maize6 487
Teak forest2 000
Teak intercropped with maize1 500
Fallow area500
Total10 987
Table: Current land-use types in the Getas-Ngandong forest

At present, land use in the Getas-Ngandong forest is dominated by maize plantation (approximately 70% of the area, see table above). The rest of the area consists of teak plantations, intercropped teak-maize and sugarcane, as well as fallow area. Using the Land-use Planner, we developed four scenarios to identify the potential impacts of land-use planning decisions within the Getas-Ngandong forest.

1. Default scenario

The default scenario is based on the current situation, where the total local population is around 47 922 people and population growth is 0.41%. Over a 30-year simulation period, as population grows, the Land-use Planner calculates that the teak forest area will decline slowly while the agricultural plantation area increases (Figure 4). One of our goals is to restore the forest area and maintain the current forest area as forests. We therefore need to consider other scenarios that better balance forest and agricultural land uses. These scenarios also have to offer a win-win solution for UGM through collaborative land management with the local community, which is highly dependent on the area.

Figure 2: Land-use changes envisioned in the default scenario, a business-as-usual scenario in which agricultural plantation expands as a function of population increase. Source: UGM Land-use Planner project

2. Maize expansion scenario

The second scenario explores the effects of agricultural land-use expansion, a likely scenario in the absence of land-use planning. This scenario aims to simulate the occurrence of land cover changes by converting the teak forest to maize plantation and increasing sugarcane expansion. This scenario results in a massive increase in the deforestation rate (up to 300 %). It leads to the loss of the teak forest at the end of the simulation period. By looking at the results, our forest managers can see that without land-use planning and a forest management system that addresses the communities’ desire to extend crop production, the forest area is at risk.

Figure 3: Land cover change simulation based on scenario 2. Source: UGM, Land-use Planner project.

3. Teak scenario

In this scenario, we explored the replacement of sugarcane plantation with teak forest, the expansion of teak forest into maize plantation and the expansion of sugarcane plantation on the maize plantation area. In this scenario, the teak forest cover will increase significantly for the next 30 years. However, it is less plausible to occur due to the dependency of the local community on the forest area for crop cultivation. An alternative scenario may be implemented using agroforestry systems (scenario 4).

Figure 4. The land cover change simulation based on scenario 3. Source: UGM, Land-use Planner project.

4. Agroforestry scenario

We also wanted to observe the land cover dynamic if we were to convert the maize and sugarcane plantation areas into teak forests and intercrop teak with maize. This is a strategy we are currently introducing to support local livelihoods. Through this agroforestry scenario, we seek to solve the land tenurial conflict.

Figure 5. The land cover changes simulation based on scenario 4. Source: UGM, Land-use Planner project.

Finding a balanced solution by assessing land-use planning options

Figure 6. Extract of Land-use Planner’s results. Source: UGM, Land-use Planner project.

Besides the land cover change dynamics, we can consider the pros and cons of our four scenarios based on several ecological, economic and social aspects presented in the Land-use Planner’s final results (Figure 6). The results suggest that scenario 4, our agroforestry scenario where teak is intercropped with maize, provides the best balance among ecological, economic and social benefits. Under this scenario, forest cover will increase up to 36% in 30 years. It also offers the best benefit distribution, highest amount of commodity production and a positive impact on employment opportunities. Generally, scenario 4 is in line with the objectives of addressing deforestation in the Getas-Ngandong forest and improving employment and livelihood opportunities of the local community.

With complex problems, measurable planning is critical to assist the decision-making process. Using the Land-use Planner to provide details on ecological, social and economic aspects has been a useful step in understanding potential management options and their consequences for the Getas-Ngandong forest.  

For more information, contact:

Bekti Larasati

Training facilitators for participatory land-use planning

The EU REDD Facility recently completed a training on our Land-use Planner, a free, interactive tool designed to support participatory land-use planning processes. The Land-use Planner is practical, easy-to-use, and can be applied to a range of context and planning processes. Over four weeks, we trained 26 participants from seven organisations. Throughout the training, we demonstrated the European Forest Institute’s inclusive approach to land-use planning and provided step-by-step guidance on how to use the Land-use Planner with real planning cases provided by participants.

During the training, each team compiled data on key land uses, developed future land-use scenarios for their case studies, and explored the economic, environmental and social impacts of their various planning options. Here are the highlights of three projects from this training, which illustrate how the tool can be applied in diverse planning contexts.

Laos: Identifying alternatives to shifting agriculture through land-use planning

Shifting agricultural cultivation presents a significant challenge for efforts to promote sustainable land management in northern Laos. This region faces challenges related to illegal logging. In addition, the opening of paths and roads permit access to the forest, leading to degradation, fragmentation and ultimately forest loss. In the Thamla Cluster, GIZ and RECOFTC are working to support village forest management and conservation, with the goal of reducing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

During the land-use planning training, a team from GIZ and RECOFTC explored alternatives to shifting agriculture to improve land management over the next five years. Their project focused on the Thamla Cluster, which comprises three villages across 17 000 ha. Several land uses are present, including rice cultivation, tea plantations, forests and pasture for grazing.

Figure 1: Map of the Houaphan Province in Laos.
Figure 1: Map of the Houaphan Province in Laos.

Using the Land-use Planner and their knowledge of local planning issues, GIZ and RECOFTC designed two initial future scenarios to uncover the potential impacts of land-use planning decisions.

• A business-as-usual scenario, with no changes to land-use activities during the 2022 to 2026 planning period

• An expansion scenario where tea plantations and tung oil tree areas are expanded into areas previously used for rice cultivation

Figure 2: Step 3 (scenarios) of the Land-use Planner. The scenarios allow GIZ and RECOFTC to project the potential effects of land-use planning decisions across the five-year planning period. Source: GIZ and RECOFTC, Land-use Planner project
Figure 2: Step 3 (scenarios) of the Land-use Planner. The scenarios allow GIZ and RECOFTC to project the potential effects of land-use planning decisions across the five-year planning period. Source: GIZ and RECOFTC, Land-use Planner project

Future land-use scenarios to engage stakeholders in sustainable planning

The scenario building exercise allowed the team to identity the key land-use issues in the area and the decisions likely to be at stake in future land-use planning processes. The simulation shows it would be possible to increase agricultural areas without encroaching significantly on protected and conservation forests. GIZ and RECOFTC can now use the scenarios and the results of the simulation to facilitate dialogue among farmers, government officials and other stakeholders engaging in land-use planning. These scenarios can be refined through this participatory process. In that way, the Land-use Planner can be used as part of an inclusive planning process that brings all key stakeholders to the table to discuss a shared vision for the future of the landscape. It supports understanding of the environmental, economic and social impacts of different land-use decisions.

Indonesia: Balancing lowland development and mangrove forest conservation in South Sumatra

In 2021, the Indonesian Government selected the Banyuasin District to pilot approaches for improving peatland and mangrove management in the country. The district is dominated by carbon-rich peatland and mangrove. It is also home to the Sembilang National Park and the largest mangrove forest in western Indonesia. The coastal area is also deemed strategic, as it holds several gateway ports for the Provincial coast and is a key area for water transportation. The district contains 21 sub-districts and 305 villages across 1.2 million ha, and smallholders are engaged in coconut and palm oil cultivation, including in the designated Forest Area where peatlands and mangroves are located. The various economic activities and important landscapes in Banyuasin raise various challenges for improving land management. Land-use planning is much needed to balance lowland development with mangrove forest conservation and maintaining smallholder livelihoods.

Mangrove areas being converted into other land uses, potentially oil palm plantations. Source: Satrio Wicaksono, European Forest Institute

Integrated landscape management in Banyuasin II

Figure 3: Map of the Banyuasin Regency, Indonesia. Source: WRI Indonesia

The World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia has an office in South Sumatra and has engaged with the Banyuasin district government regarding potential collaboration on sustainable palm oil production. To that end, WRI used the Land-use Planner to assess how expansion of agricultural areas for palm oil and rubber, as well as infrastructure development could develop without encroaching on protected and conservation forests in Banyuasin II sub-district in the Banuyasin District of South Sumatra Province.

Banyuasin II sub-district is a 350 000 ha coastal area dominated by peatland and mangrove, consisting of

  • Mangrove forest (the largest in western Indonesia)
  • Coconut, oil palm and rubber plantations
  • Special economic zone designated for future port development
Mangrove trees near the coast. Source: Satrio Wicaksono, European Forest Institute
Oil palm plantations. Source: Satrio Wicaksono, European Forest Institute

WRI developed two future scenarios to uncover the potential impacts of land-use planning decisions within the sub-district.

  • A business-as-usual scenario in which interventions to change land uses were not initiated during the 2022 to 2026 planning period
  • A palm oil expansion scenario where oil palm plantation areas are expanded over the next five years
Figure 4: Step 3 (scenarios) of the Land-use Planner. The scenarios allow WRI to project the potential effects of land-use planning decisions across the 2022–2026 planning period. Source: WRI Indonesia, Land-use Planner project

Building future scenarios to inform strategic development

Scenario building is a first step to facilitate dialogue among key stakeholders in the region. It can be used to determine a shared vision for the future development of the Banyuasin Regency. In collaboration with the Banyuasin district government, WRI plans to engage with stakeholders to further refine the scenarios and explore the economic, environmental and social effects of each scenario. This may, in turn, be used to help the Banyuasin district government to improve lowland management in a way that balances the needs of the local communities with forest conservation and infrastructure development. Specifically, the scenarios can help inform the development of the district action plan on sustainable palm oil and development of alternative livelihoods for local communities as part of the government’s programme to reduce conflict and improve tenure security.

Vietnam: Planning for sustainable agriculture in Central Highlands

With the adoption of the Doi Moi Policy reform (1986), Vietnam’s economy shifted from being based predominantly on subsistence farming to one driven by commercial agriculture. In the 2000s, Vietnam’s agricultural exports increased exponentially from USD 4.7 billion in 2005 to USD 17.4 billion in 2016. The main agricultural commodities produced in Vietnam are paddy rice, coffee, rubber, tea, pepper, cashew nuts, fruits, vegetables and timber.

To develop sustainable agricultural commodity production that supports climate change mitigation and adaptation, the Government of Vietnam has several national, provincial and district policies, aimed at increasing value added in the agricultural sector through land-use planning. The Law on crop production (2018) calls for sustainable use of natural resources and infrastructure facilities. It also requires compliance with water quality standards, connects productivity with conservation, and integrates local communities for rural development. It further calls for developing agricultural uses according to land-use planning. Similarly, the Planning Law(2018) calls for the development of national, regional and district plans for urban and rural systems every 10 years. These plans must include economic, social, environmental and climate change components. Also, the Forest Law (2017) calls for the development of a national forest plan, ensuring conservation and protection of natural forest, and forest management plans for sustainable timber extraction in production areas.

Sustainable Coffee Production

Location of Di Linh district, Lam Dong Province. Source: EFI.

The Central Highlands is the main coffee production area of Vietnam, responsible for 80% of the Robusta coffee production. The expansion of this commodity led to economic success. However, the use of fertilisers, pesticides and inefficient irrigation systems has negatively impacted the environment. The region also faces a high deforestation rate (8% between 2000 and 2010), soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and water pollution.

The Mekong Development Research Institute (MDRI) and IDH worked together during the training and used the Land-use Planner in Di Linh District, Lam Dong Province, as part of their efforts to support stakeholders and facilitators engaged in land-use planning. Stakeholders are concerned about unsustainable land use and poor smallholder conditions over the 160 000 ha mountainous area, where forests and coffee agricultural systems are the dominant land uses. With the Land-use Planner, MDRI and IDH were able to better understand the potential impacts of different land-use planning decisions, such as improving coffee production or prioritising reductions in deforestation, over a 30-year planning horizon (2022–2051).

Three scenarios were developed:

  • A business-as-usual scenario, where the coffee monoculture is the main land use
  • Scenario 2, where 1 000 ha of coffee culture is expanded into natural forests and 4 000 ha of natural forests are converted into planted forests
  • Scenario 3, where coffee monoculture is changed to intercropping with macadamia

Developing future scenarios to support the development of district and provincial land-use plans

Developing future land-use scenarios and analysing the potential costs and benefits of various planning decisions can inform the participatory planning processes to formulate sustainable land-use plans in Di Linh. Stakeholders can use the Land-use Planner and generate different scenarios to come together on a clear vision for integrating the production of deforestation-free coffee and other commodities in the future land-use trajectory of the district. A refinement of the scenarios with data from economic, social and environmental aspects can provide an opportunity to elaborate a multistakeholder district plan that can be integrated in the provincial planning process.

Figure 6: Scenarios from the Land-use Planner simulation. Source: MDRI and IDH, Land-use Planner project

Supporting participatory land-use planning with the Land-use Planner

During the training, participants learnt how to use the Land-use Planner to support inclusive, data-informed land-use planning processes in a multitude of contexts where various land-use issues are at stake. With the tool, they were able to calculate the costs and benefits of different land uses and simulate the effects of land-use planning decisions into the future. They compared alternative scenarios and identified key trade-offs, both elements that may serve as a basis for continued engagement with stakeholders to support sustainable land management.

Strengthening participation in agricultural conversion and stabilisation of the agricultural frontier

The new delimitation of the agricultural frontier

In June 2018, the Government of Colombia, through collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR), the Rural Agricultural Planning Unit (UPRA) and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS), formalised the establishment of the National Agricultural Frontier. The Frontier aims to reduce deforestation caused by the expansion of agricultural activities in the country. With this measure, the Government allocates 35% of Colombia’s land (approximately 40 million hectares) to economic activities linked to various productive sectors. The remaining percentage, located outside the agricultural frontier, is mostly intended for the conservation of natural forests and other strategic ecosystems, such as wetlands and moorland.

The new delimitation of the agricultural frontier, which is part of the Comprehensive Strategy for Deforestation Control and Forest Management, raises various challenges for the agricultural sector. For instance, farmers located outside the agricultural frontier must convert their activities. Those within the frontier face the challenge of increasing their productivity per hectare as they are unable to expand their farm. To identify the best production opportunities and guide land-use planning, UPRA, in collaboration with the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), carried out an extensive study to identify the areas of the country that are best suited for agricultural activities within the agricultural frontier.

To keep existing agricultural activities within the agricultural frontier while accelerating the transition to more suitable production systems, UPRA is developing a series of agricultural conversion master plans for different sectors. These plans will then be linked to other sectoral and territorial instruments, such as the departmental production planning strategies.

2021: a key year for agricultural conversion

One of UPRA’s main objectives for the 2020–2021 period is to produce five conversion plans for the rice sector (corresponding to five producing areas: Bajo Cauca, Llanos, Centro, Costa Norte and Santanderes). In this context, experts from UPRA’s production conversion team, in collaboration with the European Forest Institute (EFI), used the Land-use Planner to generate prospective agricultural conversion scenarios, in a collaborative process involving different actors in the rice sector.

This collaboration between UPRA and EFI resulted in a pilot project covering two administrative areas known as departments: Tolima and Sucre (in the Bajo Cauca and Costa Norte regions, respectively).

Location of Tolima department and the agricultural frontier
Location of Sucre department and the agricultural frontier

The project aimed to provide a comprehensive picture of the potential impacts of land-use changes over time. It also sought to facilitate dialogue between producers and industrialists in the sector, with a view to consensus regarding the future of the rice supply chain in both departments. The analysis included environmental and social criteria not generally taken into account by producers and entrepreneurs, such as greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, forest cover, job creation and food security. These considerations contributed to the development of a roadmap for rice production in the two departments, as well as technical guidelines for land management. The pilot project also allowed for evaluating the possibility of using the LUP for other conversion master plans and extending the use of the tool to UPRA’s land-use planning team.

Rice production in Tolima and Sucre

In recent years, there has been limited expansion of rice production areas in Tolima and Sucre, although with significant differences in yields between areas in both departments. The producers and entrepreneurs consulted validated the following prospective scenarios:

  • Expansion of rice cultivation in areas with few land-use conflicts, while reducing and replacing rice production in areas with increasing land-use conflicts.
  • Yield improvements in areas where manual or poorly mechanised practices currently persist, but which would benefit from public, private and mixed investment.
  • As alternatives to rice production, soya bean and maize were mainly identified in Tolima, while dual-purpose livestock was identified in Sucre.
  • In the scenario describing current land uses in both departments, the expansion of livestock farming drives deforestation, but strategies to reduce deforestation and protect wetlands (Sucre) and moorland (Tolima) are implemented later.

As the dialogues took place among actors of the same sector, their visions were sufficiently aligned not to require major concessions within the different scenarios. However, three factors generated discussion and reflections that led the group to propose alternatives or reach compromises:

  1. Climate and seasonal changes and the need to adapt to maintain (or increase) yields (investment in mechanisation, irrigation systems improvement, etc.).
  2. In Sucre, the possibility of alternating between rice production and livestock farming every five years to increase producers’ incomes, improve soil productivity and limit the expansion of both uses into wetlands. However, this model has only been implemented in other countries, not in Colombia, and more information is needed to better assess its impacts through the Land-use Planner.
  3. The need to move towards sustainable production systems in both departments, to limit the loss of key ecosystems such as wetlands and moorland.

Future perspectives

Throughout 2021, UPRA will work on formulating conversion master plans for the milk and meat sectors, which both drive deforestation and generate significant land-use conflicts. In this context, the application of the Land-use Planner would demonstrate its full potential as a participatory tool that fosters dialogue. Full adoption and use of the Land-use Planner by UPRA experts will facilitate analyses of different territories and departments, as well as results sharing and dissemination.

Grey-shanked Doucs. Credits: Ryan Deboodt

When biodiversity conservation needs inclusive land-use planning

Hiếu Commune, Kon Plong district, Vietnam

The Central Highlands of Vietnam still hold many surprises. Biodiversity surveys in this region revealed new populations of rare and endangered wildlife, including two critically endangered primates: the grey-shanked douc and the yellow-cheeked gibbon.

Grey-shanked Doucs. Credit: Ryan Deboodt

Despite the rising awareness of the uniqueness of this area, the local wildlife remains critically endangered and threatened by deforestation and habitat fragmentation, due to infrastructure development and agricultural expansion.

“With its high biodiversity level, Kon Plong deserves to be considered as one of Vietnam’s most valuable conservation forests.”

Nhân Dân news

This area is also one of the poorest regions in the country. Finding economic development opportunities consistent with the maintenance of ecosystem services is becoming a pressing issue in parts of the district. In recent years, Fauna and Flora International (FFI) Vietnam, a conservation organisation, brought attention to the threatened primates. FFI promotes an inclusive land-use planning approach to address the dual challenge of improving local income and conserving the natural habitat that sustains the unique biodiversity.

Decisive land-use choices in Hiếu Commune

Hiêu Commune in Kon Plong District is where FFI has been engaging in local discussions on future land use and investments. It is also where the Land-use Planner tool was piloted for that purpose.

In this commune of 2 984 inhabitants, 13.6% of the population lives at or below the poverty line. Their livelihood includes cropping systems based on cassava, rice, vegetables, maize, tree fruit, coffee, and medicinal plants (cultivated, not wild harvested). Stated economic development goals for Kon Plong District focus on agriculture and tourism, with a greater emphasis on agriculture for Hiếu Commune.

Map 1. Current land use in Hiếu Commune

Map 1. Current land use in Hiếu Commune

Map 2. Conservation and land ownership in Hiếu Commune

Map 2. Conservation and land ownership in Hiếu Commune

At the northern end of the Commune, some 1 742 hectares (8.5% of the total land area in Hiếu Commune) are designated as watershed protection forests. At the southern end, preliminary analysis by FFI identified an area of approximately 4 800 hectares as having particularly high value for biodiversity conservation. The Kon Plong Forest Company owns that area, together with another 10 172 hectares.

Participatory planning for Hiếu Commune

Vietnam’s new planning law and its implementing decree require provincial land-use and socioeconomic development plans to be inclusive, and science and fact-based. Commune and village-level feedback is an important part of the process.

Land-use planning is both a top-down and bottom-up process. While strategy and direction comes in the form of 10-year national strategies and provincial plans that are transcribed into district-level master plans, details are to be developed from all the villages’ data and opinions. The process includes the following steps:

  • The Commune People’s Committee begins by hosting a meeting to orient residents to the land-use planning process.
  • Villages then hold meetings to outline and discuss land use and related needs, based on district-level master plan.
  • Representatives from the villages then report back to the Commune People’s Committee.
  • Data and opinions gathered from all villages are then synthesised at the commune level and submitted to the District People’s Committee.
The FFI Team meets with Commune Leaderships as part of a field visit, October 2020. Credits: Nguyen Ngoc Lan
The FFI Team meets with Commune Leaderships as part of a field visit, October 2020. Credits: Nguyen Ngoc Lan

It is in the context of this dialogue between villages, the commune, and the district, that FFI facilitated a series of initial conversations to explore how various land-use and land management choices could affect future development potential.

Assessing alternative land-use options

In the weeks leading up to the October 2020 field visit and workshop, the FFI team used the Land-use Planner tool to model various possible land-use changes. The models result in different socioeconomic outcomes in terms of food security, employment and income, and environmental protection. First, the team developed a baseline or business-as-usual scenario, in which change is driven by the continuation of recent trends in population growth. Then, it developed alternative scenarios dubbed ‘Livelihood Support’ and ‘Conservation,’ based on initial conversations with local stakeholders.

Under the Livelihood Support scenario, Hiếu Commune would see increases in cassava cultivation, the establishment and some repurposing of greenhouses to grow fruits, vegetables, and possibly medicinal plants. In this scenario, fruit orchards and processing and sale of such products as mango, longan and avocado would begin or increase.

The Conservation scenario included the establishment of new protected areas designed to enhance biodiversity conservation. These would add to the existing watershed protection forest area already managed for water quality and other ecosystem services. The additional land protection would mean less agricultural production in specific areas. The high conservation value areas occur in the southern portion of the Commune, and the reduction in farm activity would happen there as well.

Focus group and workshop discussions in Hiếu Commune revealed a clear interest from participants to be better informed about the causal relationships between land-use decisions and economic development. Representatives from the District People’s Committee expressed an interest in using this kind of resource in their planning process.

From its last trip, the FFI team reported: ‘Our experience with the Hiếu Commune process shows that the Land-use Planner has the potential to be a very engaging means of helping local citizens and decision makers think more creatively and expansively about future economic development and environmental quality enhancing scenarios. This, ultimately, can lead to functional land-use plans against which development proposals, land reallocation, and public and private investment decisions can be compared and, depending on the comparison, either encouraged or discouraged.’

For more information

Josh Kempinski

FFI Country Director, Vietnam Programme

Commune of Ngong: a discussion with the inhabitants of a village near Tchéboa, with the participation of their tribal chief. Credit: Pascal Douard

Land-use planning, a key to peace and development in the North Region of Cameroon

Cameroon’s North Region covers an area of around 65 000 km2, twice the size of Belgium. Its capital, Garoua, the third largest city in the country, has just under a million inhabitants. Garoua has an international airport, which is a reminder of a recent period (roughly between the 1970s and 2000), when foreign visitors came to visit the region’s various national parks and game reserves, referred to as hunting interest zones (in French, ZICs). Indeed, until the early 2000s, these tourist areas, which make up almost half of the region’s territory, generated revenue for the local governments and communities. However, since the mid-2010s, the worsening security situation in the neighbouring Far North Region has driven the tourists away from the North Region. In addition, people fleeing the most dangerous areas have come and settled there.

A herd grazing in a crop-growing area in the commune of Ngong. Credit: Pascal Douard

In the North Region, customary land is managed by Lamidos, the main land chiefs. For generations, the region has been given over to agropastoralism, which continues to be the primary occupation of the vast majority of adults today. Indeed, this rural region is currently the country’s grain basket, as well as its main supplier of pulses and onions. However, since the 1950s, this part of the country has been undergoing a process of agricultural transformation, mainly driven by the introduction of cotton growing.

The transhumance corridors currently used by livestock farmers, whose herds can number up to several hundred animals, partly encroach on agricultural production areas, which can give rise to land-use conflicts.

Despite all these activities, the region is still poor and food security remains an issue. Added to this challenge are environmental issues related to soil depletion, water management and climate change.

Various development programmes are active in the region, addressing wildlife management, natural resources and rural development. With some 20 initiatives underway and a growing number of actors, better coordination, consultation and planning are necessary.

Map: Conservation, security and transhumance in the North Region of Cameroon. Source: Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC), 2019.

Towards the integrated management of Cameroon’s North Region ecosystem: the vision of the EcoNorCam programme

Given the security, environmental and agropastoral difficulties encountered, as well as the large number of actors on the ground, the Cameroonian Government is encouraging the emergence of an integrated management model for the region. Supported by the European Union, the authorities have the long-term goal of reconciling the different uses in a sustainable manner: improving resilience to climate change; producing sufficient food to feed a young and rapidly growing population; and protecting the soil and biodiversity.

At the national level, the EcoNorCam programme involves the MINFOF, the MINEPAT, the Prime Minister’s Office and the governor of the North Region. It aims to foster dialogue with a view to ensuring stability and sustainable development in the region. This initiative also aims to ensure the coordination and pooling of actions among the different technical implementation partners. The specific objectives of the programme include supporting the development of a resilient territory, conserving biodiversity and improving food security.

The implementation of EcoNorCam requires the establishment of consultation forums and activities at the local and national levels. These activities must take place both in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, and on the ground, with local mayors, the managers of protected areas, village communities, livestock farmers and private businesses. They will aim to support the climate resilience of degraded areas outside of the parks, maintain the integrity of Bénoué National Park while fighting against poaching, and increase plant and animal food resources.

In order to facilitate multi-stakeholder discussions about the future of this territory at the local level, the Land-use Planner has been used within the framework of the EcoNorCam programme to obtain initial diagnoses. This tool provides a participatory evaluation of the economic, social and environmental impacts of different land-use scenarios.

Stage 2 of the Land-use Planner: evaluation of the socioeconomic and environmental data relating to the main land uses in Cameroon’s North Region, to inform land-use planning discussions.

Complementary scenarios with multiple objectives

The Land-use Planner indicates preliminary trends corresponding to different land-use scenarios. These scenarios can inform discussions between the different groups of stakeholders as they seek a balance between conservation and development.

  • Establishment of ecological corridors between three national parks in the North Region: the areas between the national parks, where there is remarkably rich fauna, are game reserves in which biodiversity corridors could be created to provide a continuum between the protected areas. Classifying certain ZICs as multi-use zones is an initial possible option.
  • Restoration of degraded areas (soil and vegetation) to enable a return to sustainable agricultural production: the starting point for identifying the areas to be rehabilitated is the capacity of some ZICs to provide the ecosystem goods and services necessary to maintain their functions, particularly those that are grazed during the transhumance of herds. Programmes to restore forest landscapes are taken into account as a rehabilitation scenario.
  • Improvement of crop yields in connection with food security: increasing the amount of agricultural land dedicated to cotton culture must not be at odds with local food production needs. Thus, areas of agricultural intensification are envisaged, based on practices that particularly mobilise women and young people in the sustainable exploitation of non-timber forest products and fuel wood.
Commune of Ngong: on the edge of a hamlet, branches cut for domestic needs. Credit: Pascal Douard

Enough space, but competition for the most fertile land

Special attention is given to territories where there are several competing land uses. Hunting, livestock farming and agricultural production are sometimes concentrated in the same areas, and in order for managers of protected areas, livestock farmers and crop farmers to coexist harmoniously, regular consultation is necessary. The ZICs are key in this consultation among the various land users: agro-sylvo-pastoral operators want to obtain the official recognition of their activities on these lands, while other stakeholders are keen to restore or ensure the continuity of hunting activities framed within the objective of a sustainable tourism offering.

Commune of Ngong: a discussion with the inhabitants of a village near Tchéboa, with the participation of their tribal chief. Credit: Pascal Douard

Realistic prospects

Changes in land use are envisaged, based on necessary compromises among political, economic and environmental actors. These collective choices must be set out in consensual plans and need to be made sustainable through long-term funding. Tools such as the Land-use Planner will help quantify the costs and potential benefits. The challenge will be to define a development scenario in a document that is understood and adopted by all the stakeholders, in the common interest.

The negotiated regional land-use scenario that results from the participatory process will then be transcribed in local land-use and sustainable development plans. This will enable the application of regional-level reflections to the communal level. This local-level articulation will be ensured through the implementation of local plans that reflect local practices and customs.

Commune of Ngong: a water point in a village near Tchéboa.

For more information

Delegation of the European Union to Cameroon in Yaoundé
Sylvaine JARDINET, Agriculture and Environment Team attaché