Today I attended another interesting side event on Southern Civil Society, local community and indigenous people’s perspectives on REDD+, organized by The Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change (a coalition of civil society groups from Brazil, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Thailand, and Vietnam) that follows different intergovernmental negotiations on forests.
The event highlighted the issues and challenges of REDD+ implementation with NGO experiences from Tanzania, Indonesia, Ecuador and from UNREDD in Paraguay. The Global Forest Coalition (GFC) believes that for REDD+ to work, we need to “get to the root causes of forest conversion” that include demand for wood, spiraling demand for land for plantations and other forms of agriculture, infrastructure development (mining, urbanization and industrialization), lack of alternative opportunities, and the neoliberal economic policies and trade liberalization.
Form Tanzania, readiness for REDD+ was presented as having pilot projects, while the country is both part of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UNREDD Programme. The ingredients for Tanzania’s progress have been its promotion of Participatory Forest Management and the donor willingness to support its initiatives. REDD+ is seen as a long-term incentive for land rights and proper land-use, source of generating income to communities, and one effective way to limit slash and burn agriculture.
Nevertheless, according to Charles Meshack (Tanzania Natural Resource Forum), there are challenges and lingering questions of:
- Whether is might lead to land grabbing in the process?
- Raises questions of how to secure food security for a growing population as there will be less land for agriculture
- Fear - whether REDD+ funds will ever reach the intended communities?
- Corruption that might deny communities their rightful share of the benefits from REDD+ and how to overcome this so that the process does not ‘backfire’?
- Whether the laws will be enforced to contain logging and charcoal production given the high demand (conflicting with the forest conservation objective)?
- How to overcome problem animals like baboons and elephants that will surface in areas next to forest conservation areas that will destroy crops and might cause loss of lives
The discussions from the side event touched the issue and actually left an unanswered question of whether to conserve forests for long-term benefits or with the ‘reality’ - immediate returns that communities get in continued cutting down of forests for charcoal and wood (for domestic and monetary purposes) given the high level of poverty prevalent in these areas coupled with lack of alternative forms of livelihood.
For the ongoing negotiations on REDD+, the side event noted the need to appreciate that adequate funding for forest conservation is essential, Monitoring Reporting and Verification should involve communities, serious consideration of safeguards, and the exclusion of plantations in the definition of forests.
At the end of the side event I came to a conclusion that there are cross – cutting issues across these countries (Tanzania, Indonesia, Cameroon, Paraguay) - lack of funding for forest conservation, land tenure and rights, threat of corruption, lack of recognition of indigenous community rights and the absence of transparent mechanisms for consultations on issues of REDD+ and broader forest management.
At the end of this interesting side event, I was convinced that the only way forward for Southern countries is to take advantage of the growing number of pilot REDD+ projects to try out possible solutions so as to generate models that can mitigate against the above challenges.