Experiences and lessons learned from GLF Bonn 2020 virtual conference

On 3-5 June 2020, Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn 2020 took place online. Two of our MSc Sustainable Tropical Forestry students, Mariela Yapu Alcázar (from Bolivia) and Npoagne Issahaku Tawanbu (from Ghana), participated in the conference. Here they shared their experiences and key takeaways.

Session “Contribution of Forests, Trees and Agroforestry to sustainable Food Security and Nutrition in a time of crisis” at GLF Bonn on Wednesday, 3 June 2020 (©Alcázar)

Which sessions did you participate?

Mariela: Within the dynamics of classes 100% online during the semester, why not “attend” the GLF conference online. It was the first time that I had the opportunity to listen to the different sessions held throughout the 3 days, but I would like to recap a highlight. One was the Contribution of Forests, Trees and Agroforestry to sustainable Food Security and Nutrition in a time of crisis” The personal interest in this session was due to the topic, and the speakers (there are scarce occasions when I could find people from ICRAF, FAO, CIFOR, CATIE at the same time).  

Issahaku: I attended three sessions

  1. The first session was titled “Forest frontiers: accelerating forest-positive solutions for sustainable food and livelihoods”. This session was hosted by BirdLife International with BirdLife Partners from Indonesia, Paraguay, and Cambodia, as well as Yerba Mate Initiative Paraguay. The speakers explored ways to secure forests that also impact positively on local communities.
  2. The second was “Our land, our future: securing young farmers’ access to land”. This session centered on the issue of lack of access to land by young people which is often fueled by economic and cultural reasons, increased land fragmentation, and discriminatory practices. Measures to increase access to land for young people are key for integrated landscape management.
  3. The third was “Incentives for green economy-new means to promote sustainable production methods”. The session brought together representatives from the NGO, private, and public sectors to discuss how to promote sustainable production patterns as well as effective tools and the incentives for green economy investments.

What were your key takeaways from the sessions you attended?

Mariela: Eduardo Sommariba, from the Tropical Agronomic Center for Research and Teaching (CATIE) shared his experience and perspective of the potential of trees in agriculture. Throughout the years he worked in Central America he noticed how on-farm trees can be considered invisible within the legislation. Therefore, the value of trees has not been fully exploited, so it is important to consider the trees as part of crops. Also, Fergus Sinclair from ICRAF refers to the importance of trees as a component that provides functional diversity for agriculture, and through agriculture reducing poverty while protecting the environment. He finally stated a key message on agroecology for livelihoods: “the need for better and more inclusive metrics” of the performance of agricultural systems.

Under this line searching of instruments and the need for better metrics, a day later, I joined the session and workshop with experts in the assessment framework called “LandScale”. Through an online zoom session with the experts, I recall the usefulness of this tool, which is precisely the standardized approach for assessing sustainability. Besides the role of experts with extensive experiences, I also highlight the role of young people within the GLF through the “Youth in Landscapes Initiative.” Their participation was very dynamic, approaching the problem from their perspectives, showing the potential, capacity, and how committed young people are. In this sense, the opportunities to contribute are immense and I think it is reflected in the range of young professionals present at the conference and that we are (myself included) determined to contribute. Without any doubt, GLF 2020 was a very particular experience with few experience on forestry sector as me.


  1. BirdLife International through its partners has been building the capacity of farmers to practice forest-positive farming and rewarding forest positive solutions. This includes attracting private financing investment in sustainable landscape management. This has improved local community livelihoods and biodiversity. However, major challenges the organization contend with were issues associated with land grabbing and lack of local structures to absorb the influx of landscape investments.
  2. This session discussed key challenges, such as: land grabbing, lack of financial resources, land tenure, legal regimes and customary systems. Approaches that can help address the challenges as suggested by the experts were documentations or land registrations, capacity building and awareness creation. My most important take-home message from the second session was the idea that technology attracts youth participation e.g. the use of tablets, mapping tools, GPS, and so on. Polices and laws regarding land must reflect the position of youth. This means they need to be represented on the decision-making table. Youth also need to form coalitions and advocate for land rights.
  3. This session has brought me up to speed on recent approaches used to attract investment into sustainable supply chains. All the speakers were on the same page making a case for “blending financing“, where both public and private funds are mobilized and invested to promote the goals of a green economy. However, since the private sector needs risk guarantees and security, public funding can fill this gap. It is also critical to consider only just finance but also politics as governments need to improve on the livelihoods of especially rural communities and diversify their livelihood portfolios to reduce dependency on nature.

In summary, I was able to attend three sessions since I had to blend coursework with the conference. That notwithstanding, the experiences were enriching and eye-opening. I was brought up to speed by experts in the field of landscape finance on innovative approaches to attract funding for landscape projects and this is important for my professional journey, as I aspire to become an expert in landscape finance.  Furthermore, being the first digital conference, I had the opportunity to expand my network base digitally using the Whova App, which hosted the conference.

By Mariela Yapu Alcázar and Npoagne Issahaku Tawanbu, SUTROFOR students

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