Forests and People

December 17, 2009

Climate change discussions on forests issues have centred on emissions and finance. Deforestation accounts for up to 20 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions and forest-rich countries such as Brazil demand compensation if they are to stop cutting down trees to grow crops or build new roads and power plants. The money being discussed is to the tune of US$ 15-25 billion.

Somewhere in the preoccupation with forest gases and cash; the actual forest dwellers, far removed from international climate politics, have escaped attention.

A book released by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Realizing REDD+, at COP-15 last week says involving local communities, rather than alienating them, can go a long way in improving the efficiency of REDD projects. For example, giving subsidies on fuel-efficient stoves for local communities could help them turn away from cutting forests for fire wood.

Stop carbon imperialism, say Bolivia's indigenous people at COP-15

Some of the more successful REDD projects indicate that involving local communities in setting up systems for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) helps produce “accurate data at lower cost while improving transparency on carbon inventories”.

While advanced remote sensing techniques provide valuable data on forest cover, it needs to be supplemented with observations on ground, and who better than the local communities to aid you in that?

In Bolivia, for example, a federation of indigenous groups is undertaking a REDD demonstration project covering more than six million hectares.

All this also means the forest communities are paid for the services they provide, which in turn ensures strong incentives for forest users and those responsible for cutting emissions are compensated directly, points out CIFOR scientist Arild Angelsen.

How much protection indigenous forest communities will receive in any final outcome of Copenhagen will be known in just one day.

Laura Garcia Oviedo, Latin America contributor

REDD: mostly green but not black and white

December 9, 2009

For the past two years, excitement has been building over the potential of REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation) – or simply put, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by not cutting down forests. With deforestation accounting for over 17 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, REDD seems a magic bullet to cut emissions in the short term.

Will REDD meet forest communities' needs? (Flickr/World Bank)

But for local forest communities, the magic bullet misses the target by a wide margin.

A report released at the COP-15 meeting yesterday (8 December), which looks at ground realities of REDD for communities from nine countries in Africa, Latin America and South Asia, highlights their alienation from international negotiations.

Kamese Geoffrey, of Uganda’s National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), says some big timber companies misuse unclear definitions in REDD to claim their heavy logging of trees is sustainable.

Geoffrey says Ugandan forest communities are also worried that REDD will force them to leave their territories because the present mechanism does not consider the rights of indigenous people.

In Nepal, locals are fighting to be consulted on forest issues, says Bhola Bhattarai, general secretary of the Federation of Community Forestry Users.

Bhattarai cites Nepal’s success with community forestry, without intervention of REDD, which saw degraded mountains turn green.  Clarifying people’s rights supported by progressive policies to restore forests helps, he says.

To address these gaps, Nepal and Ecuador are launching a global initiative on social and environmental standards for REDD to ensure protection of indigenous rights, poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation.

Mohammed Yahia, Middle East and North Africa coordinator, SciDev.Net

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