What is the Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes?

A river flows through the lush forest landscape.

The BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) is a multilateral fund, supported by donor governments and managed by the World Bank. It seeks to promote reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector, from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+), and from sustainable agriculture, as well as smarter land-use planning, policies and practices.

Information Card on BioCF Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (December 2014)

2-page flyer on BioCF Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (November 2013)

FAQ on the BioCF Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (November 2013)



The loss of forests, particularly in the tropics, remains a fundamental global challenge. Deforestation and other land-use changes account for nearly one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is estimated to be the proximate driver for around 80 percent of deforestation worldwide. Commercial agriculture is the most important driver of deforestation in Latin America (around two-thirds of total deforested area). In Africa and (sub)tropical Asia, commercial and subsistence agriculture together are responsible for two-thirds of deforestation, both of similar importance. At the same time, agricultural expansion is also key to poverty reduction and shared prosperity.


Agricultural expansion and land-use change can be managed to minimize forest loss, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. ISFL will help countries identify and promote climate-smart agricultural and low-carbon land-use practices in selected geographical areas where agriculture is a major cause of deforestation. The initiative will build a portfolio of jurisdictional programs spread across diverse geographies that have significant impact and transform rural areas by protecting forests, restoring degraded lands, enhancing agricultural productivity, and by improving livelihoods and local environments.

Operating at the scale of the jurisdictional landscape is considered one of the key design features of the ISFL. It is a prerequisite to allow national or jurisdictional governments to consider the trade-offs and synergies between different land-uses that may compete in a jurisdiction — such as agriculture, energy, and forest protection and successfully identify integrated solutions that serve multiple objectives. Adopting a landscape approach means implementing a development strategy that is climate smart, equitable, productive and profitable at scale and strives for environmental, social, and economic impact.


Another key design feature that sets ISFL apart from previous climate and forest initiatives is the recognition of the important role that the private sector plays to:  

  • spur innovation,
  • leverage cutting-edge expertise and knowledge, and
  • mobilize capital necessary to scale up successful land-use practices and accelerate the greening of supply chains.

Global and local companies in the agricultural and food sectors increasingly recognize the value of prioritizing sustainability within their operations to secure long-term supply chains and reduced investment risks — evidenced by public commitments to zero-deforestation supply chains.

The initiative is designed to work alongside a wide range of private actors, from multi-national corporations to large national actors and emerging small and medium enterprises and smallholders, incentivizing them to accelerate “forest-proof” sourcing of commodities and redirecting market forces toward more sustainable and equitable land management practices.


The Initiative will provide the following types of financing to countries:

  1. Grant funding and technical assistance (BioCFplus) to support transformational change in developing countries, leading to the implementation of their REDD+ strategies and the creation of enabling environments that change the way land-use decisions are made. Grants will be disbursed through BioCFplus based on performance milestones.
  2. Results-based payments for achieved emission reductions (BioCarbon Fund). The main metric for results-based payments will be carbon emission reductions, but other economic, environmental and social indicators may be monitored. Carbon payments (including some upfront milestone payments) will be made through the BioCarbon Fund. ISFL aims to test carbon accounting at a comprehensive landscape approach, thus including forest, agriculture and possibly energy into a comprehensive methodological approach on which payments will be based.