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Taking tree-based ecosystem approaches to scale


Land management approaches that use trees have led to an increase in yields and income, an increase in climate resilience, and more carbon sequestration than conventional approaches (thus yielding a ‚Äėtriple win‚Äô). These tree-based systems (TBS) can assist in improving food security and resilience because they contribute to soil productivity, water availability and genetic variability. They also ensure the overall robustness and resilience of an agricultural system to external shocks. With appropriate policy conditions, these tree-based systems can also assist in diversifying the income portfolio, especially when trees on farms can be sold for timber or firewood. Examples include the planting of the nitrogen-fixing tree Faidherbia albida, which has been shown to double maize yields in Malawi. The same species is being grown on millions of hectares of cropland throughout Niger at densities of up to 200 trees per hectare, which has tripled the yields of the crops growing beneath them. Few of these ‚Äėtriple win‚Äô systems, however, have been replicated at scale.


This activity aimed to strengthen the application of TBEA policies in African countries. This involved: (i) examining how existing TBS contribute to enhancing food security and mitigating climate change; (ii) identifying appropriate policy and institutional measures to scale up such approaches; and (iii) improving our knowledge of how agents’ preferences, biophysical characteristics, resource endowments, market incentives, and risk and uncertainty influence the adoption of TBS.


The key outputs from the project are:

  1. A state-of-knowledge report done in partnership with Ecoagriculture, IFPRI, WRI, CATIE, and ICRAF. The report reviewed over 100 examples of TBS and found that only a small subset of the case studies had quantitative evidence on how these systems generate a triple win (i.e., increased carbon sequestration, improved food security, and income for resilience to weather events). Moreover, while several studies examined the motivations for adoption and offered evidence of how adoption at scale could be achieved, few had looked at adoption that was already occurring at scale and traced the reasons behind these trends. Findings from the review informed an expert meeting on the conditions for scaling up TBS. The report was also disseminated at the Landscapes Forum in Warsaw (a side event at the 2013 UNFCCC COP) and presented at the World Agroforestry Conference in New Delhi in February 2014.
  2. Country studies for Malawi and Rwanda that include analysis of primary household data, done in partnership with ICRAF and WRI.

    The Rwanda study found that the country’s environment is suffering from land degradation, soil erosion, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and pollution, mainly due to agricultural expansion, livestock farming and unsustainable fuel wood extraction. TBS mainly include agroforestry systems managed by smallholders. The study found that sustained adoption of TBS at scale is only guaranteed if communities collectively recognize tangible benefits such as provisions of fuel and bean stakes, and compatibility with the sustainable intensification of existing farming system, supported by favorable tenure, market, and institutional conditions.

    The Malawi study focused on farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR) approaches because of their low-cost nature and few constraints. The spontaneous scale-up of FMNR in Malawi has been driven by many factors, including declining soil fertility and agricultural production. The study estimated that Malawi could save $71 million per year as part of its Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) if participating farmer intercropped maize with Gliricidia trees.

  3. A brief on the Malawi country report;
  4. A synthesis report on the framework for scaling up, which drew heavily on the World Resources Institute’s diagnostic for forest restoration and the work conducted by Linn and Hannmann on scaling up; and
  5. A PowerPoint presentation (with voice-over).

    In order to raise awareness about the extent of trees on agricultural landscapes, this project sought to engage and reach development partners and the government counterparts throughout the implementation process. Workshops were successfully conducted, and countries are applying the results. In Malawi, these results will inform the national landscape restoration assessment and strategy/action plan. They will also inform discussions on how a watershed-based comprehensive approach to scaling-up TBS might be pursued through upcoming World Bank support to Malawi, in connection to the FISP in particular.

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Author : Diji Chandrasekharan Behr (PROFOR), Ecoagriculture Partners, WRI, ICRAF
Last Updated : 05-02-2018







Jesse C. Ribot, World Resources Institute

Building Local Democracy Through Natural Resources Interventions

Building Local Democracy Through Natural Resource Interventions -- An Environmentalist's Responsibility


Through 17 institutional choice case studies funded by PROFOR, the World Resources Institute (WRI) explored the democratizing effects of ‘decentralization’ reforms and projects in forestry in Benin, Botswana, Brazil, China, India, Nicaragua, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, and Zambia.


The findings concluded that institutional choice shapes local democracy—hence, it could be a local democracy tool. Choices of local partners would influence the formation and consolidation of local democracy by affecting representation, citizenship, and the public domain. Natural resource, including forestry, and management interventions could be structured to build the many facets of local democracy. To support local democracy while conducting local-level environmental interventions, the research recommends the following actions:

  • Choose democracy: Choose to place public decisions with decision makers who are accountable and responsive to the local citizens. Where democratic local government does not exist, work to establish and enable local democracy.
  • Build the public domain: Work to create a set of public powers directly or indirectly under the jurisdiction of elected local authorities. These powers make elected authorities worth engaging by enabling them to be responsive to local needs and aspirations. They constitute what we call ‘the public domain’, e.g. the space of public interaction that constitutes the space of democracy.
  • Build citizenship: Support the right and provide the means for local people to influence the authorities that govern them—channels of communication and recourse. Inform citizens of the powers and obligations their representatives have and of the means available to citizens for holding their leaders accountable.
  • Promote equity: Systematically partner with local organizations representing all classes—with an emphasis on organizations of the poor. Level the playing field through policies that affirmatively favor the poor, women and marginalized groups.
  • Enable local representatives to exercise their rights as public decision makers: Create safe means for representative local authorities to sanction and demand resources from and take recourse against line ministries and other intervening agencies so they are able to exercise their role as local representatives.
  • Help local governments to engage in collective bargaining for laws that favor the populations they govern: Enable local governments to bargain collectively with central government to ensure they are granted the rights they need to manage their forest and to insure that the rights they have been granted in law are transferred to them in practice. Facilitate representation of rural needs and aspirations in national legislatures. 
  • Harness elite capture: Elite capture is pervasive if not inevitable. Enable the people to capture the elite who capture power. Assure that elites who rule are systematically held accountable to the majority and to the poor, and marginal populations through all of the above means. This is democracy.

Working Papers from Institutional Choice and Recognition project (closed in 2008):

  • WORKING PAPER #19 (French). Le quota est mort, vive le quota! Ou les vicisitudes de la réglementation de l’exploitation du charbon de bois au Senegal. El Hadji Dialigué Bâ. February 2006.
  • WORKING PAPER #20 (French). Décentralisation, pluralisme institutionnel et démocratie locale: Étude de cas de la gestion du massif forestier Missirah Kothiary. Papa Faye. February 2006.
  • WORKING PAPER #21 (French). Décentralisation sans représentation: le charbon de bois entre les collectivités locales et l’Etat. Ahmadou M. Kanté. February 2006.
  • WORKING PAPER #23. Accountability in Decentralization and the Democratic Context: Theory and Evidence from India. Ashwini Chhatre. January 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #24. Institutional Choice and Recognition: Effects on the Formation and Consolidation of Local Democracy, Minutes of a Comparative Policy Research Workshop. Rapportuers: Bradley L. Kinder, Nathaniel Gerhart, and Anjali Bhat. December 2006.
  • WORKING PAPER #25 (French). La réglementation de la filière du charbon de bois à l’épreuve de la décentralisation: entre discours, lois et pratiques. El Hadji Diaigué Bâ. February 2006.
  • WORKING PAPER #26. Enclosing the Local for the Global Commons: Community Land Rights in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. Marja Spierenburg, Conrad Steenkamp, and Harry Wels. August 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #27. Indigenous Peoples, Representation and Citizenship in Guatemalan Forestry. Anne M. Larson. August 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #28. Dilemmas of Democratic Decentralization in Mangochi District, Malawi: Interest and Mistrust in Fisheries Management. Mafaniso Hara. August 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #29. Undermining Grassland Management Through Centralized Environmental Policies in Inner Mongolia. Wang Xiaoyi. August 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #30. ‘Fragmented Belonging’ on Russia’s Western Frontier and Local Government Development in Karelia. Tomila Lankina. August 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #31. Engendering Exclusion in Senegal’s Democratic Decentralization: Subordinating Women through Participatory Natural Resource Management. Solange Bandiaky. October 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #32. Party Politics, Social Movements, and Local Democracy: Institutional Choices in the Brazilian Amazon. Fabiano Toni. October 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #33. State Building and Local Democracy in Benin: Two Cases of Decentralized Forest Management. Roch Mongbo. October 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #34. Institutional Choices in the Shadow of History: Decentralization in Indonesia. Takeshi Ito. December 2007.
  • WORKING PAPER #35. Institutional Choice and Recognition: Effects on the Formation and Consolidation of Local Democracy Program. Jesse C. Ribot, Ashwini Chhatre, Tomila V. Lankina. January 2008.
  • WORKING PAPER #36. Authority over Forests: Negotiating Democratic Decentralization in Senegal. Jesse Ribot. January 2008.
  • WORKING PAPER #36 (French) Non-décentralisation Démocratique au Sénégal : Le Non-transfert de L’autorité sur les Forêts. Jesse C. Ribot. January 2008.


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Author : Jesse C. Ribot, World Resources Institute  
Last Updated : 02-24-2017