Landscape in Madagascar

Natural resources and territories

Biodiversity protection and agriculture or forestry are not mutually exclusive. We help producers, processors and local authorities adopt more sustainable management methods, taking account of the environmental policy and regulatory issues specific to each country. We roll out tools and methods that boost productivity and support truly "green" projects, while limiting the impact on natural ecosystem management.

The future of economic activities depends on the capacity of all the stakeholders involved to adapt to our planet's needs, and we can help you with this. In terms of natural resources and territories, Cirad’Innov can provide support in three main areas: forests, soils, and water management.

Sustainable tropical forest management

Cirad’Innov can help forestry concession holders and loggers, timber processors and local authorities with sustainable management methods. The aim is to future-proof investments and reduce the pressure on forests, to satisfy market demand long term.

Managing forests to ensure long-term returns

By assessing logging operations, CIRAD experts can pinpoint management and development practices that allow forests to regenerate. Moreover, reducing the pressure on forests as a result of human activity guarantees a better return for operators and more efficient resource use.
Our forestry experts and soil specialists have in-depth knowledge of local and global markets, and can help players in the timber and fuelwood sectors foster the reconstitution of carbon and wood stocks and optimize other ecosystem services.

Regulation and certification

The regulatory framework is often the lever that concerns the entire range of socioeconomic players and steers them towards better practice. Governments and local authorities, in association with certification bodies and NGOs, are the spearhead for helping the various stakeholders adopt sustainable, efficient resource management methods. We have more than 70 years' experience of assessing the impact of human activity on forests, and can:

  • advise and guide local authorities and certification bodies, notably as regards control measures and traceability
  • define sustainability indicators based on three aspects: economic, social and environmental
  • conduct feasibility studies and pinpoint the optimum conditions, with a view to logging natural forest areas.

Optimizing plantations

We help farmers and foresters – potentially in association with the processing industry – with various issues:

  • optimizing wood yields and quality, and those of other tree resources (leaves, resin, etc.) by identifying good practice in relation to the species concerned (trimming, upkeep and felling)
  • pest and disease control.

We promote sustainable management and use of timber resources and of the ecosystem services provided by tropical forests:

  • assessing the timber resource using inventory data
  • simulating tree growth to assess extraction rates and rotation periods
  • determining and monitoring tree biomass
  • setting up experiments to monitor forest dynamics.

Wood and biomass energy technology

Our experts are working on various ways of fostering innovation and sustainable practices:

  • helping users to select woods in line with specifications, while keeping an eye on the environmental and social impact of the various options
  • assessing and preserving processed wood, particularly timber, which is increasingly being used in the "sustainable construction" sector
  • studying the development of fungi, some of which are a sign of disease while others serve to produce specific scented woods such as agar wood (oud)
  • optimizing the potential of trees that produce scented wood or molecules of use in herbal medicine: studies of the properties of the leaves, flowers, resin or related fungi
  • helping fuelwood chains produce charcoal, heat or electricity from local biomass.

Healthy soils for sustainable farms

Many initially fertile soils have now lost their agricultural potential, prompting economic players to look for other sites or resort to practices that contribute to deforestation. Would it not be better to exploit a given area sustainably and capitalize on what it can produce, rather than looking for new land that will not generate a return for some time? By assessing soil quality, our experts help economic players make decisions on management practices or potentially degraded areas.

Assessing soil life, a crucial operation

Soils provide a range of ecosystem services that are vital for economic activity. Cirad’Innov offers Biofunctool, a simple, effective analytical approach that pools the skills of experts from both CIRAD and IRD. It entails measuring three main soil functions – carbon dynamics, nutrient availability and soil structure maintenance – by means of nine indicators. This diagnosis is particularly useful for soil restoration-preservation projects and for monitoring the introduction of agroecological practices. Biofunctool has proved itself on the ground with NGOs, agricultural federations and large plant product processing groups.

Restoring degraded soils using microbial biofertilizers

The solutions proposed by Cirad’Innov also serve to develop ecological engineering tools centring on managing and mastering the use of microbial biofertilizers to boost plant growth in degraded environments and reduce chemical fertilizer or pesticide use, as part of a move to manage tropical and Mediterranean soils sustainably. Such approaches would be particularly suitable for mining sites, to bring them into line with increasingly strict regulations imposed by the authorities in response to sustainability concerns.

Strategies to reduce carbon intensity and capture carbon

Thanks to the associated plants and other living organisms, soils are the largest terrestrial carbon sink. Soil carbon sequestration depends on many factors, including the local climate, soil type, land use, soil management practices, etc. Apart from the environmental issue of mitigating climate change, there is an economic issue for governments and local authorities, with consequences for local economic activity. In effect, there are various financial mechanisms to encourage investment in sustainability: payments for environmental services (PES), carbon credits, the REDD and REDD+ schemes, and tax exemptions.

CIRAD's experts can also offer local authorities solutions for tailoring strategies to a range of issues, thanks to:

  • analytical levers to assess soil carbon stocks and calculate the GHG emission factors of the main farming systems
  • technological levers, combining imaging (for instance drones) and mapping of soil carbon stocks and GHG footprints depending on farming practices and land use planning
  • socioeconomic levers, by means of collective territorial management methods that serve to understand how soils and territories are used and evolve.

The aim is to strike a balance between the needs of local communities, including economic players, and natural ecosystem requirements, notably forests and soil carbon sequestration. This is a global issue and is inseparable from economic activity: agricultural and industrial operators must be backed by a collective dynamic, both up- and downstream. Large structures must use indisputable indicators to identify "positive" actions, while smaller structures must be helped to reconcile profitability and sustainability.

How can we determine to what extent commercial agriculture or forestry contributes (or fails to contribute) to a carbon footprint that helps to mitigate climate change? We have product life cycle assessment specialists working on environmental impact indicators that serve to assess the services rendered by exploited soils and their diversity. Our teams include:

  • chemical engineers studying the bacteria and fungi responsible for more than 90% of organic mater decomposition
  • experts in biological regulation (predators that regulate microorganism population dynamics)
  • ecosystem engineers (erathworms, ants, termites, etc., which regulate resource availability for other soil organisms).

Managing competition for water resources

Access to water, a natural resource that is central to how natural and cultivated ecosystems function, places various types of stakeholders in competition:

  • industrialists in charge of building infrastructures: hydraulic infrastructures, industrial sites, etc.
  • crop and livestock farmers, who need water to irrigate crops and water animals
  • local people, in their daily lives.

The success or failure of projects hinges on whether socioeconomic players are capable of assessing the issues and finding the best possible solutions for all the stakeholders concerned.

The solutions on offer from Cirad’Innov include:

  • appraisals with a view to preventing erosion on soils that would otherwise be largely, if not totally unprotected against tropical rainfall: building sites, non-planted slopes, tracks, bare soils in agricultural zones, unsuitable crops on steep slopes, deforestation, etc.
  • water management methods and tools for use on various scales (catchment area, irrigation scheme, farm, plot, etc.)
  • collective consultation approaches centring on less risk-sensitive irrigated cropping systems that limit environmental risks and make better use of water while allowing for land use and water management policy, in a context of multiple uses and players.

The solutions offered must be socially and economically acceptable to both farmers and industry, and, more generally, satisfy the need to make territories more resilient.