Local communities yet to benefit from REDD+ despite global efforts – Experts say
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23 March 2018
Author :   Arison Tamfu
Inside Kakamega Forest : >> Image Credits by:Isaiah Esipisu

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PAMACC News) - There is a significant disconnect between global policy optimism on the benefits of REDD+ and local realities, experts said Thursday at the start of a two-day talkson “Market policy versus market mechanisms in the implementation of the Paris Agreement”.

“REDD+ is alive but not well” Dr. Adeniyi Kashwan of the University of Connecticut told a cross-section of climate change experts in Addis Ababa.

As climate change continues to threaten mankind, the world depends in part on forests to diminish its devastating effects.

“Forests cover 30% of the world’s land surface and are also one of the world’s best methods of storing carbon, absorbing 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year and storing billions more” said Dr. Wallace Anacho, an environmentalist.

According to scientists, deforestation rates have increased significantly in Africa in the last decades jeopardizing the efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change. One initiative to stop deforestation is Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and (forest) Degradation commonly referred to as REDD+. About 29 African countries are involved in the REDD+ project.

“The basic idea of REDD+ is that, you pay countries and indigenous populations to plant and protect forests” said Dr. Yetibitu Moges of the Ethiopian Ministry of environment, forest and climate change.

The payment usually comes in form of credits referred to as carbon credits and it is expected to provide an alternative way of life to indigenous populations that hitherto relied on forest products to survive.

That is what is supposed to happen but experts are now worried that since the initiation of REDD+ by the United Nations, rights of some local communities have been abused.

“The future is not as bright as expected. In many countries we are seeing rights abuses. Here, we are talking about right to land, right to forests, right to take things out of the forest not just timber but vegetable food, non-timber forest products that people rely on for survival” said Dr. Adeniyi adding that  bans on forest exploitation have in many cases proved detrimental to local communities.

“In enforcing these bans we see the use of military force, police and rangers often going into the forest with sophisticated ammunition to harass and terrorize communities. We have seen these in many African countries sometimes resulting in the loss of lives”.

The theory that you exclude indigenous communities from using the forest and then give them alternative means to survive has in many cases not materialized on the field, Dr. Adeniyi said.

“The carbon credit is often shared between consultants, sometimes foreign consultants and governments and a little bit offered to communities. So what is given to communities, if at all anything is given to them from REDD+ benefits is nothing compared to what they are losing. These benefits cannot sustain livelihoods that indigenous people have developed over time”

In spite of the shortcomings, there is a common agreement that REDD+ remains one of the most effective ways of protecting forests. At the Addis Ababa talks, experts were unanimous that there needs to be checks and balances from journalists, researchers and civil society actors on the field to follow up and report malpractices.

“We also have to recognize that REDD+ is not going anywhere if we do not address issues of social justice alongside issues of environmental conservation. The two have to go hand in hand. So you can’t keep the forests at the expense of peoples’ livelihoods and right to survival” Dr. Adeniyi added.

Essentially, fresh procedures should be introduced to get local communities of their own volition, realize that they own the forests and must protect them by themselves if they must survive, the experts suggested.

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