REDD+ projects are conservation partnerships that bring together stakeholders around a threatened forest, including local communities, governments and service providers, to conserve the area, sustainably manage forests and preserve forest carbon stocks. The projects are able to generate revenue through the sale of verified emissions reductions credits.
Successful REDD+ projects that protect forests and biodiversity must work through partnerships with Indigenous peoples and local communities to safeguard and enhance their rights. By providing basic needs and alternative income opportunities, these projects can improve livelihoods through forest conservation that is equitable.
To discuss these dynamics, Innovation Forum and Everland
convened a webinar on 18th October 2023, featuring case studies of REDD+ projects in Kenya, Cambodia, Colombia and Peru. Each case study illustrated examples of how, when done well, REDD+ projects can bring about significant breakthroughs for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
The webinar discussion included detail of the key ways and mechanisms through which REDD+ projects, and financing from the sale of certified emissions reduction credits, can safeguard and strengthen the human rights of local partner communities working with the projects. To watch the webinar recording, including the Q&A session, click here
. The discussion is also available as a podcast here
High quality REDD+ projects require extensive community consultation and strong engagement in governance, built on the foundations of full free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Often the projects are managed by the local communities themselves, through effective governance structures.
For instance, since the inception of Colombia’s Acapa-Bajo Mira y Frontera REDD+ project, communities have played a leading role in the project’s formulation and implementation.
Having worked on planning instruments such as a theory of change matrix at the conception of the project, the Acapa people continue to participate in governance to the present day, through a large community assembly. The project has empowered them to strengthen sustainable cocoa and coconut production on the project’s land, generating income and wider economic development, whilst simultaneously conserving the territory’s rich biodiversity.
Another governance structure for REDD+ projects are locational carbon committees, which bring together local communities to discuss all issues pertaining to the partnership between them and the project, and to agree on how project funds will be spent. Representatives from communities living and working within REDD+ project regions are democratically elected through public meetings, allowing for fair representation and accountability.
Through these structures, local communities are empowered to decide how the revenue generated from the projects will be spent and distributed, according to their specific and shifting needs.
Other projects, such as in Kenya’s Chyulu Hills, employ unique models. In this case, the governing structure has to fairly integrate nine different partners, including indigenous Maasai groups and the various NGOs who help to run the project. Through this tailored and equitable governance model, local Indigenous peoples have been able to secure access to land for pasture, as well as direct employment as rangers, teachers and trained health professionals.
Previously denied income or property ownership, Maasai women have now gained the basic right of economic freedom, through conservation-oriented projects such as beekeeping. Additionally, sustainable menstrual solution kits have been provided to girls, curbing school absenteeism.
With these basic needs being met through equitable and representative REDD+ governing structures, drivers for deforestation are reduced, and communities are incentivised and empowered to protect their local environments.
Securing indigenous land titles
With the support of the partnerships at the core of REDD+ projects, Indigenous peoples and local communities have been able to secure Indigenous community land titles, or ICTs, for the first time. With the ability to exercise legal authority over their ancestral land, the land titles give communities the power to access forest resources vital for their way of life, whilst enforcing biodiversity conservation practices within their territory.
Access to the land also enables Indigenous peoples to work with partners to set up sustainable livelihood projects, which can create jobs and shared income. A communally-led ecotourism venture could be established, for example.
For the Bunong people involved in Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary REDD+ project, gaining land title has provided more than legal rights to their ancestral land. The title stands as a fundamental sign of recognition and respect. It signals that the indigenous group’s cultural heritage is valued and protected, and it underlines the importance of their role as stewards of the forested land that, for centuries, they have inhabited and protected.
In some REDD+ projects, Indigenous peoples and local communities have the opportunity to engage in conservation agreements with government and other stakeholders associated with the protected area. Through these commitments to preserve the biodiversity of a defined area of land for a specified period of time, local communities are able to benefit through enhanced rights, resources and support in tending to the protected land. In Conservation International’s Alto Mayo REDD+ project in Peru, conservation agreements between the Peruvian national park agency and local communities who agree to stop clearing forests have allowed the latter to access agricultural training, financial skills and access to coffee markets. Local communities have also been able to generate revenue from co-cropping plants such as vanilla with sustainably farmed coffee beans, and selling the honey from local bees.
The agreements have also given rise to improved social welfare more widely. Families have been given incentives to improve home sanitation, through improved kitchens and bathrooms, and nutrition, through bio-orchards. Further to this, support has been given for local women to craft and generate revenue from the sustainable sale of natural products from the protected land.
The webinar featured panellists from Everland and Wildlife Conservation Society’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, Wildlife Work’s Kasigau Corridor, Conservation International’s Alto Mayo, Chyulu Hills and Acapa-Bajo Mira y Frontera REDD+ projects. To learn more about these projects, click here.