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March 24, 2021 (BANGKOK) – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Green Invest Asia project will co-host with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Service a webinar on March 31, 2021 to discuss business and investment implications of a recently released USAID study on cropland replacing natural forests in Southeast Asia.

Featured speakers include New Forests, a Sydney-headquartered  investment management firm whose assets concentrate on sustainable timber plantations and conservation investments. It manages the first dedicated institutional timberland fund in Southeast Asia and, globally, has $3.9 billion in assets under management. Also featured are Nestlé and a smart-agriculture initiative, known as KenEco, of the Philippine agribusiness company, Kennemer, that focuses on smallholder farmers.

In addition to scientists who will present their research and recommendations, we have curated a panel to share investment implications for commercial agriculture and forestry. The challenge of such investments is how to profit indefinitely from finite resources? Climate-finance is not just a trend, but rather a harbinger of desperately needed change,” said Christy Owen, head of USAID Green Invest Asia.

Of the almost 16 million hectares of forest loss during from 2000-2015 in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam,  some 9.4 million hectares now support crops, according to the study conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, Spatial Informatics Group, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and SERVIR-Mekong. Most of the new cropland grows herbaceous commodities like cassava and cereal grains, or was converted to palm oil production.

The rate of growth in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in the seven countries the report analyzed was 60 percent more than the global growth rate of emissions over the same period.

Natural forests store far more carbon than land that grows only one crop; land that grows a variety of crops and large trees can store more carbon than land with only one crop, though not as much as natural forests. Forest loss means carbon loss – a lot of it, or 1.4 billion tons of carbon emissions as was the case in the countries studied. This amount is equal to emissions from 280 million passenger vehicles over a year.  And carbon loss can mean investment losses.

“More and more shareholders realize that climate risk means investment risk, especially with  land-based investments, ” said Brad Arsenault, lead for ecosystems management for USAID in Asia. “Greenhouse gas emissions contribute to extreme weather and supply disruption, which threatens lives, livelihoods and long-term returns.”

The webinar takes place on March 31, 2021 from 9:00am-10:30am ICT. For more information about the upcoming event, or to request attendance, please contact [email protected] or register here

The full report and summary of “Commodity-driven deforestation in Southeast Asia” are available for download here.


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