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Forests cover more than 26% of the Asia-Pacific region, and play a key role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing carbon.  The region’s extensive forests and rich biodiversity resources are therefore a key to future development and sustainability in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.  However, despite their benefits, these forests continue to be destroyed at the rate of one million hectares per year.  This widespread clearing of forests contributes dramatically to global greenhouse gas emissions and resulting climate change, with deforestation contributing more emissions than the entire global transportation sector – more emissions come from cutting down trees than from all the planes, trains and automobiles in the world.

The USAID Lowering Emissions in Asia's Forests (USAID LEAF) program addresses this challenge by engaging regional governments, forestry and climate mitigation specialists and universities to help improve forest and land management. The program's goal is to strengthen the capacity of countries to achieve meaningful and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the forestry-land use sector.  USAID LEAF is funded by the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA).

The USAID LEAF team employs a regional approach to meet this goal by collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders, partners and regional organizations in six countries (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia) and share lessons learned and best practices to scale-up innovation in and from six other countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines).

USAID LEAF's activities are designed to meet the following objectives:

  1. Replicate and scale-up innovation through regional platforms and partnerships,
  2. Assist in the development of policy and market incentives for GHG reductions,
  3. Build and institutionalize technical capacity for forest and carbon monitoring, and
  4. Demonstrate innovation in sustainable land management.

Winrock International, recognized globally for its expertise in capacity building on forest carbon and ecosystem science, is the lead implementing partner for USAID LEAF. Three other partners: SNV–Netherlands Development Organization, Climate Focus and RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests – round out the USAID LEAF team and bring unique capabilities in community forestry, rural development, climate policy development, and training and capacity building.