2018 Highlights

Conserving Nature in Production Landscapes

Land used to produce food and other agricultural commodities—or production landscape—is often adjacent to natural areas and has an important role to play in conservation, in particular in promoting connectivity in habitat corridors designed to conserve biodiversity. Managing such areas sustainably and in harmony with nature not only helps ensure their abundance for the long term, but also protects nearby resources that are essential to humans and biodiversity.

Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot


In the wildlife sanctuaries of northern Cambodia, rice farmers and waterbirds have something in common: They need the area’s rich natural ecosystems to thrive.

Rice cultivation is a vital economic activity and source of food for local communities. However, agricultural expansion and pollution threaten grasslands and forests that provide important ecosystem services communities also need, such as soil fertility, as well as habitat for globally threatened species and other wildlife. CEPF grantee Sansom Mlup Prey (SMP) seeks to improve farmers’ livelihoods in a way that provides incentives to protect their environment.

Through SMP’s Ibis Rice project, which celebrates 10 years of activity in 2019, SMP is increasing market access for the high-quality, organic, wildlife-friendly rice produced in remote communities within the wildlife sanctuaries. As a result, participating farmers are earning more for their rice, and in exchange they agree to employ organic farming methods and controls over agricultural expansion, as well as refrain from poaching and logging. SMP monitors for compliance.

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Ibis Rice takes its name from the giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea), Cambodia’s national bird. With an estimated population of 194 individuals primarily in northern Cambodia, the giant ibis is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The Ibis Rice program now includes 700 households, from which it purchased 950 metric tons of paddy following the 2018 harvest, at a price that was 40 percent higher than the market price for conventional rice.

“Local people are starting to understand the real benefit that they can see from respecting the Ibis Rice standard,” said Socheat Keo, SMP program manager. “We can see in general that participating families did not clear new land illegally, hunt wild animals or use chemicals in their rice production.”

The growth in household participation has been facilitated by finding new international markets that require USDA and organic certification, according to Nick Spencer, SMP’s business manager. “Now all our farmers are certified to export to Canada, the EU and Singapore,” he said.

SMP has recently developed a new project aimed at farmers around Tonle Sap Lake, particularly the areas important for the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), another bird species listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. SMP is pioneering a new global sustainability standard for rice through the Sustainable Rice Platform, implementing Cambodia’s first pilot project under the standard. Their efforts have led to establishment of a national chapter for the platform in Cambodia involving cooperation with Mars Foods and a number of rice producers to change the way rice is farmed in the Tonle Sap.

In addition, SMP’s capacity has grown through changes in the organization’s vision and its partnership with CEPF and other supporters. While SMP counted just four staff members in January 2015, its local staff now totals 26, with Cambodian management, GIS officers and community staff.

Cerrado Biodiversity Hotspot


Brazil produces one-third of the world’s coffee, and much of it is cultivated in the Cerrado Biodiversity Hotspot, one of the biologically richest tropical savanna regions in the world. This industry takes a big toll on the region’s nature and its water resources.

The Cerrado Waters Consortium is pursuing a sustainable approach that conserves the region’s biodiversity and its water supplies. The Instituto de Manejo e Certificação Florestal e Agrícola (IMAFLORA), a CEPF grantee, founded the consortium with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Ecological Research Institute. They are collaborating with the Cerrado Coffee Growers Federation and Cooxupé (a coffee cooperative), as well as Nespresso, to influence the creation of a pilot payment for ecosystem services (PES) scheme in the municipality of Patrocínio in the heart of one of Brazil’s primary coffee regions. In addition to Nespresso, coffee roasters Illy, Lavazza and Nestlé have committed to finance the fixed costs associated with the consortium management team.

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“We are working to ensure future environmental services payments, as well as creating various maps of the consortium farms,” said Eduardo Trevisan Gonçalves of IMAFLORA. “The maps will support restoration of the areas that need to augment forest cover.”

According to Brazilian law, farmers need to maintain 20 percent of their properties as natural ecosystems, yet not everyone does. The project is helping coffee producers determine whether they are fully compliant with the law. Gonçalves said that increasing the number of coffee producers reaching that goal creates a corresponding increase in biodiversity conservation.

IMAFLORA is also producing technical materials, including a Cerrado restoration handbook, and best practices for agriculture. These materials have a specific focus on preserving biodiversity and environmental services such as fresh water, soil fertility and pollination.

“At the same time,” Gonçalves added, “we are working to get more partners—coffee companies, local governments—to help with the restoration and ecosystem service payments.” Today that work includes conservation efforts with the farmers around the Corrego Feio River, which provides water for Patrocínio and enables irrigation for some of the producers involved in the project. “CEPF support is creating conditions for the consortium to expand into larger regions to involve more growers and conserve more biodiversity,” Gonçalves said.

IMAFLORA ultimately plans to engage the 4,500 members of the Cerrado Coffee Federation, the area’s leading coffee consortium, on 230,000 hectares of land. It hopes that involving the private sector will enable it to maximize the number of growers who are taking steps to support biodiversity and protect water resources.

CEPF is a member of the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative, which promotes collaboration in the conservation and restoration of sustainable human-influenced natural environments (Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes: SEPLS) through broader global recognition of their value. www.satoyama-initiative.org

Photo Credits

Giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea), Cambodia. © Allan Michaud
Patrocínio coffee plantation, Brazil. © Conservation International/photo by Peggy Poncelet