Forest and Agriculture Landscapes

Asia’s forests support globally important biodiversity and provide critically important ecosystem services to millions of people across the region. However, the status of forests in the different sub-regions of Asia – and the challenges and threats they face – varies widely.

farmersPhoto: © IUCN

South-east Asia is continuing to experience alarming rates of deforestation. For example, between 2000 and 2017, it is estimated that some 120,000 kmof forest were destroyed in the five countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (Foley 2020). Equally concerning is that the rate of forest destruction increased over this timeframe, rising from 5,000 kmper year in 2000 to 8,000 kmper year in 2010, and reaching 13,000 km2 per year by 2017 (Foley 2020). The principal drivers of this forest loss are conversion of forest to industrial agriculture and agricultural encroachment by smallholders. Other causes of habitat loss include hydropower development, linear infrastructure, and mines and quarries.

In contrast, forest cover in North-east Asia and South Asia is actually increasing: between 1990 and 2015, forest cover in these two sub-regions increased by 22.9 per cent and 5.8 per cent respectively. Here, the issue is primarily one of ensuring forest quality, as many areas have been re-planted using only a small number of species (often exotic).

There is enormous potential for – and growing interest in - Forest Landscape Restoration. Pakistan, for example, has launched the “Ten Billion Tree Tsunami”, whilst India has pledged to bring 21 million hectares of deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2030. Bangladesh and Mongolia have also made pledges to the Bonn Challenge.

Over the last ten years, the Forest Sub-Programme has focused primarily on promoting Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR), the Bonn Challenge, and the use of the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM). Key achievements have included:

  • The organisation of two regional Bonn Challenge events. The first event was a high-level roundtable held in Sumatra, Indonesia in 2017; it resulted in several new pledges and the historic achievement of the Bonn Challenge target to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2020. The second event was held in Thailand in 2019 and was designed primarily as a knowledge sharing platform for senior forest officers from across the region;
  • The implementation of ROAM assessments at different scales in six countries (Cambodia,  India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Vietnam);   
  • The development of The Restoration Initiative (TRI)-Myanmar, funded by GEF.

At the national level, IUCN country and programme offices have been engaged in a variety of forest- related activities, including: provision of assistance to the Bangladesh Forest Department with the establishment of community nurseries; watershed management and the development of a TRI child project in China; the promotion of FLR in India; monitoring of the biodiversity outcomes of the Billion Tree Tsunami in Pakistan as well as provision of technical assistance to TRI-Pakistan; watershed restoration in Sri Lanka; and implementation of the Forest and Farm Facility in Nepal and Vietnam. Many countries have also been engaged in mangrove restoration efforts, both as part of the regional Mangroves for the Future programme and through separate, national initiatives; mangroves are covered under the Coastal and Marine Programme Area.

Strategic Objectives and Priority Intervention Areas, 2021-2024 

The following strategic objectives are based on the Impact Targets contained in the global IUCN Programme, Nature 2030 – One Nature, One Future. Under each objective, the priority interventions that will be the focus of the PCA Programme are described:

Objective 1. Equitable and effective governance of natural resources at all levels to benefit people and nature

  • IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas: The Green List Standard distills over 70 years of IUCN’s area-based conservation area experience into a powerful tool for promoting the fair and effective management of protected and conserved areas. One of the Programme’s highest priorities will be to promote the IUCN Green List Standard as a key strategy for enhancing management effectiveness and the quality of protected areas across the region. A Regional Green List Development Strategy for Asia is currently being finalised.

Objective 2. Terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems are retained and restored, species are conserved and recovered, and key biodiversity areas are safeguarded

  • Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs): In many countries in Asia, the appetite for expanding the formal protected area system is waning; land-use pressures are too high and government resources are too stretched. If countries are to meet the ambitious new targets contained in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), new approaches to area-based conservation will need to be found. OECMs are a particularly promising option, in which there is growing interest across the region. The PCA Programme will accord priority to promoting understanding of the OECM approach, building capacity in its application, and piloting the identification, recognition and reporting of OECMs in a number of selected countries. 

Objective 3. Nature and people thrive in cities while delivering solutions for urban challenges and a sustainable ecological footprint

  • Urban Protected Areas: Asia is one of the most rapidly urbanising regions of the world. There is enormous potential to create urban protected areas, and in doing so, to conserve biodiversity, promote the health and wellbeing of urban residents and address issues such as flooding and urban heat effects. The PCA Programme will implement an integrated package of activities to promote urban protected areas, including awareness raising, the translation of the IUCN WCPA Best Practice Guidelines into Asian languages, the organisation of training and capacity building programmes, and the piloting of urban protected areas in selected countries. The PCA Programme will also provide technical support to URBAN (Urban Resilience Building and Nature), an IKI-funded project being implemented by the Thailand Country Programme.

Objective 4. Countries use Nature-based Solutions to scale up effective adaptation to the impacts of climate change and to reach climate mitigation targets

  • Protected and Conserved Areas as Nature-based Solutions to Climate Change: Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change. However, the potential role of protected and conserved areas to contribute to both adaptation and mitigation remains poorly recognised. The PCA programme will work to raise awareness of the way in which protected and conserved areas can serve as Nature-based solutions to climate change. This will include seeking funding for the production of new WCPA Best Practice Guidelines on creating/managing protected areas to maximise their climate mitigation benefits.

As an overarching priority intervention area, the PCA Programme will continue to support the Asia Protected Areas Partnership (APAP): Since its formal establishment in 2014, APAP has grown rapidly and now has a membership of 23 organisations from 17 countries. It has become an increasingly successful regional platform for sharing information among government protected area agencies, promoting best practices and building capacity. In the 2021-2024 period, priority will be accorded to building on these foundations and to strengthening APAP, e.g., by expanding its membership, making greater use of its potential to foster regional collaboration and transboundary conservation, and exploring new initiatives such as a staff exchange/secondment programme.