A how-to guide for putting REDD+ into practice

Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 16 Jan 2013 17:06 GMT
Author: Caity Peterson
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By Caity Peterson

Ever wish there was some kind of “REDD+ for underachievers” guide? Something that was not so densely theoretical but told us how this concept actually works in practice? Or whether it actually works in practice?

Fear not, such a guide exists - although you won’t find it in paperback. The Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership (IAFCP) has given us a life-size demonstration of how a REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) carbon scheme might work. The Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP), funded by Australia, is an attempt to design, build, and trial a functioning carbon programme that is sensitive not only to emissions reductions but to local livelihoods as well.

According to the IAFCP, the Kalimantan partnership is a first at such a scale for REDD+ demonstration activities in Indonesia. This comes as no surprise, as its task is a substantial one. The aim is to demonstrate the practical dos and don’ts of a REDD+ carbon project in a high-priority locale by testing out techniques and options for emissions reduction, emissions measurement, benefit-sharing, payment schemes, and local institution training and support.

The IAFCP, which presented the Kalimantan partnership at the Agriculture Day Ideas Marketplace on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference in December, hopes that the lessons it is generating can help build a much larger national REDD framework in Indonesia, and fuel the REDD+ discussion on the international stage.

How NOT to manage a peat swamp forest

Central Kalimantan has a dark history of land use and abuse. In the mid-1990s, the so-called Mega Rice Project (Projek Lahan Gambat) cleared and drained upwards of 1.4 million hectares of peat swamp forests in the area.

The Mega Rice Project was an instant failure, but not before it inflicted heavy collateral damage on the livelihoods and natural environment of the indigenous Dayak people living there. The illegal logging boom that followed severely impacted timber and non-timber forest products, game and fish. Households had to seek other livelihood options, most of which were unsustainable and led to further degradation.

For example, fire on these peatlands is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. Peatland ecosystems contain very high stocks of carbon, but mostly in below-ground biomass. When peat is exposed by lowered water tables it dries rapidly, oxidises and becomes extremely flammable - and when peat burns, its carbon stocks are released. Halting peatland drainage and slowing further degradation is thus a potent recipe for emissions reduction.

The right way to do REDD+

If REDD+ were solely concerned with emissions reduction, the KFCP could stop at blocking canals and re-establishing tree cover in Kalimantan’s degraded areas. The key to longevity, however, is the introduction of livelihood strategies that incentivise farmers and communities to adopt more sustainable techniques.

Improving the quality and productivity of smallholder rubber is one way the KFCP has attempted to bolster community livelihoods. Climate change and carbon offsets are distant concepts to smallholder farmers, compared with the daily challenge of providing for their families. But a high-performance rubber value chain, Farmer Field Schools that freely distribute technical expertise, enhanced land tenure security, and the expectation of remuneration for good practices give farmers very good reasons to take up a more sustainable livelihood away from fragile, deep-peat areas.

Local governments and institutions are heavily involved in all steps of this process. Villages undergo an extensive consultation process and REDD+ activities are later incorporated into village and district development plans to ensure that the emphasis on livelihoods and emissions reduction will be maintained into the future.

A REDD+ testimonial

A KFCP programme pilot in 2010 provided evidence that Kalimantan farmers could considerably improve their yields of good quality rubber, and that factories would pay a higher price for the product. Farmers were quick to note the success of the farmer field school established in the pilot village. “With these new skills I have the confidence to sell rubber directly to factories. I am making 18,000 rupiahs per kilo now, instead of 5,000 rupiahs like I did before,” said one farmer.

Since 2010, similar schools have been established in all the villages in the KFCP working area. They are providing the means for families to expand their livelihoods through hybrid rubber varieties, artisanal fish ponds, mixed agroforestry and microfinance opportunities. Six villages have, with the KFCP’s support, even developed plans for “village forests”, enabling them to gain legal recognition as managers of their own, community-based forestry programme.

The take-home message? That carbon programmes can work if they take careful steps to ensure the livelihood security of their participants. The hope? That other priority REDD+ programmes can learn from the KFCP example, and that the lessons from the partnership will serve as a “how-to” guide for forest carbon efforts around the world.

Caity Peterson is a visiting researcher and science writer based at the Center for International Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia.

More information can be found at IAFCP website: http://www.iafcp.or.id