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Measuring Our Impact: The Latest Research

Recently Completed

The Rainforest Alliance currently directs and/or participates in the following research studies to evaluate the effectiveness of our work. To view all of our completed research, please visit the Publications page or click on a specific study title, below.

Title Description Location
Stream Friendly Coffee: Collaborating with the Rainforest Alliance to advance stream conservation in tropical agroforestry systems In this PhD dissertation, Rebeca de Jesus Crespo of the University of Georgia evaluates the impact of coffee agroforestry on high elevation streams in Costa Rica, assesses the effects of shade tree cover requirements on water quality, and makes recommendations for maximizing the effectiveness of NGO-academia partnerships. Costa Rica
Integrated landscape initiatives in practice: assessing experiences from 191 landscapes in Africa and Latin America We used a systematic survey and assessment process to characterize the context, motivations, investments, outcomes and participants of 191 initiatives using landscape approaches in Africa and Latin America. Africa and Latin America
Operationalizing climate-smart agricultural landscapes: the case of a tea-producing landscape in Kericho, Kenya In this paper, the authors develop an assessment tool to evaluate climate-smart landscape needs and opportunities in six key activity domains, then apply this tool in the agricultural landscape around Kericho, Kenya, an important tea-growing region where agriculture and ecosystem services are expected to be strongly affected by climate change. Kenya
An agenda for assessing and improving conservation impacts of sustainability standards in tropical agriculture This article, published in Conservation Biology, highlights the importance of rigorous monitoring and impact assessment of standards and certification. It puts forth a “road map” for how the standards community can collaborate more effectively amongst itself and with researchers to deliver robust evidence on the effectiveness of standards and certification. Global
Improving Practices, Changing Lives: An analysis of tea certification audit reports from Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania We examined the audit reports of 19 Rainforest Alliance Certified tea producers in East Africa and tracked each producer’s initial set of non-conformities through all subsequent audits to determine whether improvements were made and non-conformities addressed. Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania
Reducing Tourism’s Threats to Biodiversity: Effects of a voluntary sustainability standard system on 106 Latin American tourism enterprises We examined the performance of 106 hotels in six Latin American countries against the 29 criteria of the sustainable tourism standard that are most directly related to biodiversity conservation, before and after training and verification by the Rainforest Alliance. Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua
Sustainable Coffee Farming: Improving Income and Social Conditions, Protecting Water, Soil and Forests An overview of scientific research examining the results of Rainforest Alliance coffee certification and training on ecosystems, livelihoods and communities. Global
Sustainable Agriculture Network/Rainforest Alliance Monitoring & Evaluation System Public Report The 2015 fiscal year SAN/RA monitoring and evaluation report has been compiled and submitted to ISEAL. This report assesses compliance to the ISEAL Impacts Code, which requires the SAN/RA system to develop and implement a monitoring and evaluation plan that includes all the steps required to systematically assess their contributions to social and environmental impact. The report outlines our progress to date in detail. Global
Conserving Biodiversity through Certification of Tropical Agroforestry Crops at Local and Landscape Scales This article in the journal Conservation Letters (co-authored with two Rainforest Alliance staff members) reviews experience to date with certification of tropical agroforestry crops (coffee and cocoa), examines biodiversity conservation impacts, and explores how agroforestry crop certification could contribute to greater conservation impacts in the future. Global
Charting Transitions to Conservation-Friendly Agriculture: The Rainforest Alliance’s approach to monitoring and assessing results for biodiversity, ecosystems and the environment This report describes the array of tools that the Rainforest Alliance has developed to monitor environmental performance and track results over time. Written with conservation professionals and certification system Monitoring and Evaluation professionals in mind, this document provides a primer on “Performance Measurement 101” and describes each of the following six environmental assessment methods: context mapping, natural ecosystem assessment, water quality monitoring, farm performance monitoring, carbon and greenhouse gases analysis, and community-based species monitoring. Global
Impact of Cocoa Intensification Best Management Practices on Household Livelihood Systems This study will evaluate the impact of cocoa best management practices on household livelihoods using the Household Economy Approach (HEA) livelihoods-based methodology. Indonesia
Working Toward Cooperative Non-timber Forest Product (NTFP) Management: Integrating Economic, Institutional and Ecological Analysis to Balance Community Livelihoods and Forest Conservation in Western Amazonia This analysis of more than 15 years of retrospective socioeconomic data and frequent visits to three different community types in the Amazon examines whether putting resource management decision-making in the hands of indigenous and community groups improves livelihoods and biodiversity outcomes. Among the paper’s primary conclusions: communities that manage their forests collectively are more effective in preventing deforestation on their land and improving economic returns of forest products than private landowners. Brazil
Report on Governmental Incentives for Sustainable Practices in the Agriculture, Forestry and Tourism Sectors in Latin America This report examines existing governmental incentives that promote sustainable production in the agriculture, forestry and tourism sectors in eight Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru. These laws and policies demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship in Latin America and provide a model for governmental incentives for sustainable production world-wide. Latin America
Farmer Bankability and Sustainable Finance: Farm-Level Metrics that Matter Researchers commissioned by the Rainforest Alliance compared financial recordkeeping variables between Rainforest Alliance Certified farms and noncertified farms; they also surveyed social lenders and local, in-country financial institutions. The study established a common minimum set of metrics for producers to record/report in order to apply for credit; showed that certified producers are better at tracking financial metrics; demonstrated that certified producers have better access to credit; and confirmed that although lenders prefer to lend to small and medium-sized enterprises, they also value farm-level metrics. Colombia, Peru
Rainforest Alliance Technical Assistance: Strengthening Community Forestry Operations in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras In conjunction with local partners, the Rainforest Alliance's TREES' staff measured a variety of socio-economic variables before and after community forestry enterprises received technical assistance. They observed increases in income, efficiency, jobs and other variables. Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras
Are Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee Plantations Bird-Friendly? Researchers from our Salvadoran partner group SalvaNATURA examined bird density and use in Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farms, technified (sun) coffee farms, open farmland and small and large forest fragments. Among other things, they found that migrant bird species showed a significant preference for certified farms and small and large forest areas. El Salvador
The Contribution of Rainforest Alliance/Forest Stewardship Council Certification to the Conservation of World Heritage Sites To answer the question of whether Rainforest Alliance Certified forests enhance the viability of surrounding areas, we examined the Corrective Action Requests (CARs) given to Rainforest Alliance Certified forests that are located adjacent to or within 20 km of World Heritage sites. These forestry enterprises were often required to make improvements that directly helped to mitigate threats to adjacent World Heritage sites. Global
An Evaluation of Forest Cover on Rainforest Alliance Certified and Noncertified Coffee Farms in Aratoca Municipality, Santander, Colombia Researchers from the University of the Andes in Colombia used spot satellite imagery to map forest cover within the coffee production landscape. They compared Rainforest Alliance Certified and noncertified coffee farms, and analyzed forest-cover fragmentation. Since most farms in the region grow coffee under shade, forest cover was found to play an important role in the degree of connectivity in the landscape. Colombia
Testing a BMP‐Based Approach for Assessing Gaps in Certification Impacts Research The Rainforest Alliance partnered with researchers from Wright State University to develop and test a methodology to extract certification-relevant information about Best Management Practices from the large body of academic literature that examines these practices outside of the certification context.(See Appendix H.) Global
Côte D’Ivoire Cocoa: COSA Survey of Rainforest Alliance Certified Farms In 2009 and 2011, COSA scientists collected data from Rainforest Alliance Certified and noncertified cocoa farms. They report that certified farms experienced higher productivity than the control group, higher net income and fewer signs of stream erosion, among other findings. Côte D'Ivoire
Kleinhans Fellowship Special Feature in FAO Non-Wood News As part of the Rainforest Alliance's 25th anniversary (and in tribute to Elysabeth Kleinhans), we asked all past Kleinhans Fellows to write essays reflecting on the current field of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and the changes they have observed since carrying out their Kleinhans-supported research. Global
Monitoring & Evaluation of the Impact of Training Modalities for Sustainable Tea Production: Rainforest Alliance Training and Certification and Farmer Field School Training Researchers from Wageningen University found that tea farmers who received Rainforest Alliance training applied environmental best practices significantly more often than an untrained control group and experienced better leaf quality. Kenya
Impacts of SAN Certification on Water Quality, Soil Invertebrates, Farmer Livelihoods and Arboreal Mammals on Coffee Farms in Colombia The report summarizes the results of four studies conducted by Cenicafe, a Colombian coffee research institute. Streams were found to be healthier on certified farms, and certified farmers implemented a variety of Best Management Practices at a higher rate than their noncertified neighbors. Colombia

In Progress

Title Description Location
Pilot Testing a Streamlined Methodology for Monitoring Water Quality on Cocoa and Coffee Farms The Rainforest Alliance is working with a researcher at the University of Georgia to develop and test a streamlined, low-cost water quality monitoring protocol that can be used during certification audits or technical assistance visits. Testing is being conducted on cocoa farms in Ghana, and on coffee farms in Costa Rica and Rwanda. Ghana, Costa Rica, Rwanda
The Role of Shade Trees in Watershed Conservation in Coffee Agro-forestry Landscapes A University of Georgia researcher is identifying the optimal shade-tree density around coffee farms for aquatic ecosystem protection and creating guidelines to improve certification program standards and Payment for Environmental Services (PES) systems. Costa Rica
Natural Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) Pilot in Ghana and Indonesia The NEA is a new metric being piloted to evaluate the impact of the Rainforest Alliance's interventions by assessing the change in the extent and quality of natural and semi-natural habitats during the life of a project. It involves pre- and post-intervention mapping of natural habitats and the collection of field plot data. Ghana, Indonesia
An Analysis of Deforestation in Rainforest Alliance Certified and Noncertified Community Managed Forest Concessions in Northern Honduras Satellite imagery from different years is being used to analyze deforestation in and around community-managed forest concessions in and near the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve in northern Honduras. Honduras
Developing an Adaptive Management System for Evaluating Cocoa Productivity Best Practices The Rainforest Alliance is implementing a performance monitoring system to evaluate the effectiveness of training approaches and productivity best practices on cocoa productivity and quality. Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, Peru
Evaluating the Impact of Forest Management Interventions on Biodiversity, Deforestation & Degradation This research is a collaboration with Resources for the Future to evaluate the impact of forest management practices on maintaining or enhancing biodiversity and other ecosystem benefits in the context of REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation while promoting forest conservation). Mexico
The Rainforest Alliance Synthesis Series Stakeholders across the spectrum regularly express a keen interest in the latest scientific evidence examining whether Rainforest Alliance certification and training are achieving the expected impacts and outcomes. In response, E&R has created a new series of reports that each reviews and synthesizes the scientific results—positive and negative—related to Rainforest Alliance activities for a single crop or thematic area. Synthesis reports for cocoa and water are currently in progress. Global
Understanding the Farm-level Economics of Rainforest Alliance Certification Together with Rainforest Alliance, researchers from the Conservation Strategy Fund are creating a framework that can be used to determine the benefits and costs of various Rainforest Alliance interventions, in this case focused on the initial certification step and subsequent renewals. Global

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