2020 in review: Risks and opportunities for forests

By Christophe Van Orshoven

COVID-19 has brought some of the most pressing global challenges in recent history, including for the world’s forests and the people depending on them. In EU REDD Facility partner countries, the pandemic has had severe social, economic and environmental consequences.

Forest-risk commodity exports have decreased dramatically, jeopardising financial security in agricultural sectors. At the same time, environmental standards have become less of a priority for operators and producers, as sustainability goals give way to tactics for economic survival.

Yet despite these difficult times, our partners remain committed to the sustainability agenda and are working to integrate sustainability as part of economic recovery.

Latin America and West Africa: growing interest in supply chain transparency approaches

Supply-chain transparency is key for constructive dialogue on delinking deforestation from the production and trade of commodities such as palm oil and soy. Building on our partnership with the Trase Initiative and the progress we’ve made in tracking jurisdictional sustainability in Indonesia, we worked this year with public and private sector stakeholders to assess the feasibility of transparency approaches for the cocoa sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

We also worked with supply chain actors and other stakeholders to pragmatically address deforestation risks in the soy sector, which is where the EU has greatest opportunities for reducing its commodity trade-driven deforestation. Our work also helps inform targeted interventions in soy-related deforestation hotspots in producing countries such as Brazil.

Palm oil plantations. East Kalimantan, Indonesia by European Space Agency


Colombia and Ecuador recently started building domestic information systems to monitor forest-risk commodity trade, in response to evolving market requirements for agricultural commodities around the globe. With the Colombian Ministry of Environment and its technical institute IDEAM, we kick-started reflections on how to enhance transparency in the cocoa sector. The study will inform Colombia’s National Roundtable in charge of monitoring zero-deforestation commitments

Côte d’Ivoire: designing and testing incentives for zero-deforestation cocoa production

We launched a stock-take of payment for environmental services (PES) experiences in Côte d’Ivoire, in cooperation with Ivorian Forest and Environment ministries. Our findings confirmed the importance of financial incentives to cover initial investment costs. Nevertheless, we concluded that PES should be viewed as a means to an end, not an end in itself. In some cases, the same results can be achieved or greatly facilitated by other types of direct incentives or measures, like securing market access for agroforestry products or protecting tree ownership. Ultimately, establishing a national PES programme is a political decision. It requires sustainable financing, conducive legal, governance and institutional frameworks, and land tenure security.

Africa, Asia and Latin America: benefitting from our Land-use Planner

We saw interest this year in our Land-use Planner from Colombia, the Republic of the Congo and Vietnam. The Planner is an interactive tool, designed to help develop land-use scenarios, compare social, economic and environmental impacts, and estimate the costs and benefits of policy decisions.

Workshop on collaborative land use planning in Papua by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Colombia’s technical institute under the Ministry of Agriculture used the Land-use Planner to evaluate the best scenario for stabilising the agricultural frontier and reducing deforestation. In Lac Duong District, Vietnam, where local forest ecosystems are under threat from further expansion of coffee production and other agribusiness, authorities used the tool for planning processes across the entire district. In the Republic of the Congo the tool helped stakeholders in the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI) building scenarios for sustainable palm oil development. 

Cameroon continued to use the tool to inform participatory land-use planning decision-making at local level.

Colombia and Indonesia: community forestry as a bridge between livelihoods and sustainability

There are many ways that communities protect, manage, and use their forests. Some rely on logging and the timber trade to support their livelihoods. In Colombia, promoting community forestry is a key priority under the National REDD+ Strategy. Working with the Ministry of Environment and FAO, we developed a support package with technical and financial analysis on ways to ensure community forestry contributes to national REDD+ related objectives and commitments. 

Cutting of Capitancillo (Pentaclethra macroloba) boards in a traditional forest exploitation in the Vigía del Fuerte Municipality, Urabá, Antioquia, Colombia by ONF Andina

In Indonesia, we are working with our partners to understand how legal timber production from customary forests would advance equity by opening livelihood opportunities for customary groups, while also reducing illegality, deforestation, and forest degradation.

Towards 2021

Looking to 2021, we remain hopeful though expect enduring COVID-19 impacts. We look forward to increasing collaboration with local partners, and experts who can take work forward independently, but with strong and continued backing by the EU REDD Facility. We will expand the reach and impact of our work on transparency in deforestation-free commodity production and supply chains, and ways to attract investments supporting inclusive and sustainable land-use planning.


Christophe Van Orshoven

Team leader

EU REDD Facility



The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the EU REDD Facility, or other contributors to this site.