Online tool seeks to tailor climate plans for forest communities

Barry Aliman, 24 years old, rides her bicycle with her baby to collect water for her family, Sorobouly village near Boromo, Burkina Faso.   Photo by Ollivier Girard for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Barry Aliman, 24, rides her bicycle with her baby to collect water for her family near Boromo, Burkina Faso. A new online tool aims to paint a clear picture of how forests contribute to rural people’s cliamte-adaptation strategies. Ollivier Girard/CIFOR photo

Editor’s note: The CRiSTAL-Forest toolkit — complete with user’s manual, case studies and information for how to share experiences with the toolkit — can be found here

BOGOR, Indonesia — Much has been written about the diverse ways that rural communities interact with forests to adapt to climate change.

Designing development projects to support further climate adaptation in these places requires accounting for a diversity of local cultures — and the unique climate-change risks that various communities face.

A newly released toolkit seeks to do just that.

The project-planning tool, CRiSTAL-Forest (Community-based Risk Screening Tool — Adaptation, Livelihoods and Forest), was developed and tested by scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in collaboration through the UNITAR C3D+ (the Climate Change Capacity Development) network.

The toolkit aims to paint a clear picture of how forests contribute to people’s adaptation strategies, but it also enables analysis of how communities with forest resources are reacting to changes.

Policymakers often face difficulty planning and designing strategic adaptation projects that tap into local knowledge to help farmers, said Houria Djoudi, a scientist with CIFOR. The CRiSTAL tool can benefit them by putting the phenomenon in context with other environmental factors.

“Due to a general lack of practical tools to study climate-change vulnerability and adaptation in the context of multiple stressors, the tool promises to be useful for understanding different adapting and coping strategies within such contexts,” Djoudi said.

CRiSTAL-Forest was initially deemed by researchers to be more readily applicable for use by stakeholders at national and regional levels. However, subsequent field workshops were implemented to test the tool, and scientists found that it was also valuable for local communities.

“We found it could serve as a tool for policy interventions to allow for adaptive governance and to help to take more local strategies, needs and knowledge in adaptation planning,” Djoudi said.

“Although climate change isn’t always among the most significant stresses affecting a specific community, it should be taken under consideration when designing and implementing a development project, particularly in areas that foster natural resource-dependent livelihoods,” she said.

Practical use of the tool requires users to identify resources important to livelihoods; summarize information on observed and projected climate change; describe current and potential future climate hazards; analyze climate risk; and assess existing response strategies.

Forests provide a range of crucial goods and services people use to respond to crises, but this contribution is often overlooked when it comes to national adaptation plans and policies. However, forests themselves are affected by both climate change and growing human pressures such as agriculture. This intertwined double impact can compromise both a forest’s ability to provide goods and services as well as people’s adaptive capacity, Djoudi said.

“Policymakers in many African countries expressed the need for practical tools to help them integrate forests into national adaptation plans, so CIFOR and partners have tried to address this shortcoming,” she said.

The CRiSTAL-Forest tool doesn’t treat climate risks strictly as an environmental problem, but links them to development prospects through an evidence-based approach to livelihoods.

Djoudi said she hopes that other organizations use the tool and share their experiences and knowledge of it on CIFOR’s CRiSTAL-Forest webpage.

For further information on the topics discussed in this article, please contact Houria Djoudi at h.djoudi@cgiar.org