Scaling smallholder tree cover restoration across the tropics
Restoring tree cover in tropical countries has the potential to benefit millions of smallholders through improvements in income and environmental services. However, despite their dominant landholding shares in many countries, smallholders’ role in restoration has not been addressed in prior global or pan-tropical restoration studies. We fill this lacuna by using global spatial data on trees and people, national indicators of enabling conditions, and micro-level expert information. We find that by 2050, low-cost restoration is feasible within 280, 200, and 60 million hectares of tropical croplands, pasturelands, and degraded forestlands, respectively. Such restoration could affect 210 million people in croplands, 59 million people in pasturelands and 22 million people in degraded forestlands. This predominance of low-cost restoration opportunity in populated agricultural lands has not been revealed by prior analyses of tree cover restoration potential. In countries with low-cost tropical restoration potential, smallholdings comprise a significant proportion of agricultural lands in Asia (∼76 %) and Africa (∼60 %) but not the Americas (∼3%). Thus, while the Americas account for approximately half of 21st century tropical deforestation, smallholder-based reforestation may play a larger role in efforts to reverse recent forest loss in Asia and Africa than in the Americas. Furthermore, our analyses show that countries with low-cost restoration potential largely lack policy commitments or smallholder supportive institutional and market conditions. Discussions among practitioners and researchers suggest that four principles – partnering with farmers and prioritizing their preferences, reducing uncertainty, strengthening markets, and mobilizing innovative financing – can help scale smallholder-driven restoration in the face of these challenges.
Shyamsundar, P; Cohen, F; Boucher, TM; Kroeger, T; Erbaugh, JT; Waterfield, G; Clarke, C; Cook-Patton, SC; Garcia, E; Juma, K; Kaur, S; Leisher, C; Miller, DC; Oester, K; Saigal, S; Siikamaki, J; Sills, EO; Thaung, T; Trihadmojo, B; Veiga, F; Vincent, JR; Yi, Y; Zhang, XX
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