An Interview with Robert Nasi, Director General, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
Forests are among our planet’s most important human life-supporting ecosystems, and we have many expectations with regards to the ecosystem services they provide. But: How do major global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss affect forests globally, and what can forest governance and management do? How can we deal with rising and changing demands for forest products and ecosystem services due to global population and economic growth, and urbanization?
In order to discuss these questions, the conference “Governing and managing forests for multiple ecosystem services” brought together policymakers, practitioners and academic researchers from different fields on 26-28 February in Bonn. During this event, EFI in collaboration with the documentary filmmaker Patrick Augenstein, interviewed Robert Nasi, Director General, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
One might be surprised to learn that the Congo Basin, a place of major research for CIFOR, has one of the lowest deforestation rates in the world and as a result, low restoration efforts. Robert explains this fact along with a potentially even more surprising one: the formal forestry sector in the Congo is one tenth of the size of the informal sector. Robert uses this surprising statistic to deliver his main message at the conference: regulations should be designed to include the informal sector.
“The informal sector can be a driver for degradation and deforestation or it can cause or result in sustainability, but it is generally ignored because it is not documented or easy to access, but, in many cases, it is much larger than the formal sector.”Robert Nasi
However, designing regulation to include the informal forestry sector is just one way Robert suggests we move forward in restoration. He also addresses the need to shift restoration to an economic enterprise, or we risk not having enough public funds. And even sufficient finances for restoration are not enough. Robert states that we need to address the drivers of deforestation or we risk seeing the areas we restored degraded again. He also sees the potential for future research in creating a circular bioeconomy.
Robert also tackles the question of what role indigenous people should have in forest restoration. He explains that this concept is not as simple as it seems, and in many cases, it is difficult to determine who the real indigenous people are. Therefore, Robert suggests it is more useful to work with local people currently living in the areas targeted for restoration.
In the future, he hopes we will acknowledge it is time to act asking: “One thing we need to realize is not whether climate change is going to happen. Climate change will happen… so the question is how do we continue having a working civilization in this condition?”