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FTA project update: Understanding REDD+ across the globe

Indonesia is one of the research countries. Maybe these children will benefit from REDD+ in the future. Photo: Anne Crawford for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
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Photo: Bernard II Recirdo for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
Trees help mitigate climate change. Photo: Bernard II Recirdo for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition

The global framework to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation known as REDD+ is ambitious and groundbreaking.

After years of national, sub-national and project-level experimentation, focused, innovative research is required to understand REDD+ successes and failures amid diverse local conditions.

Looking at REDD+ across the globe, a continuing Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) project – now in its third phase – is striving to ensure those impacted by and working to prevent deforestation have the best information and tools available to them. The Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS REDD+) project is supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). It counts on further funding from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), USAID and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (CRP-FTA), with financial support from the donors contributing to the CGIAR Fund.

Scientists and researchers at CIFOR and its many partner institutions have been working since 2009 to understand how enabling governance and on-the-ground conditions affect the efficiency and effectiveness of REDD+ policies, how REDD+ policies should be best designed and to find ways to monitor deforestation and forest degradation across different landscapes. This includes the equitable performance of REDD+ with regard to the so-called “non-carbon” benefits —  which include equity and poverty reduction, protection of ecosystem services and local livelihoods, rights and tenure.

Mangroves are known as natural carbon sinks. Photo: I Putu Agung Wiaskara Ita Negara for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
Mangroves are known as natural carbon sinks. Photo: I Putu Agung Wiaskara Ita Negara for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition

The CIFOR partnership with Norad has been a successful one, generating over 350 publications on REDD+ and sizeable impact. Key achievements of the project, as determined in ODI’s assessment, include the incorporation of CIFOR’s recommendations on REDD+ policy at the national and international levels. For example, the recommendation of a stepwise approach to setting forest reference levels and reference emission levels, when building their capacity to monitor REDD+ effects (the so-called MRV), has been taken up in the Warsaw Framework and has informed national policies in Guyana and Ethiopia.

UN-REDD made tenure part of its strategy framework based on information that CIFOR generated. CIFOR research contributed to the Cameroon Readiness Preparation Proposal and Peru’s national REDD+ Strategy. In Indonesia, CIFOR supported the Research and Development Agency, Ministry of Environment and Forestry (FORDA) and national REDD+ strategy development.


Also read: Exploring the agency of Africa in climate change negotiations: the case of REDD+


The REDD+ framework has now been finalized in the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Warsaw 2013, and REDD+ has been endorsed by the Paris climate agreement. Thus, the road is paved for REDD+ implementation.

CIFOR scientist and project coordinator Christopher Martius said, “In their efforts to move ahead, REDD+ policymakers and practitioner communities can greatly benefit from information, analysis and tools based on scientific evidence, such as what we produce at CIFOR. By engaging with our partners, we are working hard to make this evidence as useful as possible for them.”

GCS REDD+ phase three will extend from 2016 to 2020 with funding from Norad, continuing crucial work to understand the complexity of local situations to inform policy that supports REDD+ and its goals.

Indonesia is one of the research countries. Maybe these children will benefit from REDD+ in the future. Photo: Anne Crawford for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition
Indonesia is one of the research countries. Maybe these children will benefit from REDD+ in the future. Photo: Anne Crawford for 2016 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition

The project is now focusing more closely – but not exclusively – on eight countries deemed key by Norad’s Norway International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) program – Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guyana, Indonesia, Myanmar, Peru and Vietnam. It will also continue to provide policy advice in the global arena, expanding the its reach to include stronger work on private sector initiatives and their zero-deforestation pledges.

“We will assess REDD+ policies and activities in the seven NICFI countries where we have worked before, and expand the study to include a new country, Myanmar, which is very receptive to REDD+ and where deforestation rates are particularly high. In-depth studies of REDD+ demonstration projects will be undertaken in Brazil, Indonesia and Peru,” Martius said.

In emerging economies, the combination of development and sustainability concerns can complicate the implementation of REDD+. The CIFOR project recognizes that balance must be struck, having looked at livelihood outcomes in detail at 23 sites in six countries.

Martius said, “In villages in or near forests the development objectives are much more important than saving carbon or saving trees. If you go to a village in Kalimantan where one of the only income sources is cutting trees, then it quickly becomes very clear that you cannot ignore these concerns.”

Thanks to this collaboration with Norad, we will be able to continue supporting effective emissions reduction and actually step up support to countries in the post-Paris context of climate change mitigation in the land sector of developing countries.”

The work is a component of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which integrates the comparative REDD+ study in the broader context of using forests for the development needed to provide a decent living to forest-dependent people.

Now, with the start of phase three, GCS-REDD+ looks to deepen its impact even further to support both people and forests across the globe.

For more information about this initiative, please contact Christopher Martius, Coordinator of the climate change theme of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry ([email protected])

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  • Peruvian forest communities trying to benefit from REDD+ to sell certified timber

Peruvian forest communities trying to benefit from REDD+ to sell certified timber

Illegal logging is a concern for Peru's forest communities. Photo: Marco Simola/CIFOR
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Originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Illegal logging is a concern for Peru's forest communities. Photo: Marco Simola/CIFOR
Illegal logging is a concern for Peru’s forest communities. Photo: Marco Simola/CIFOR

Research on REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, plays a big role in the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). In this blog, Barbara Fraser takes a look at the struggles of indigenous communities in Peru who want to protect their forest and found that they view REDD+ positive, but are more focused on their concerns in every day life.

For Carolina Barbarán, leader of an indigenous Shipibo Konibo community near the Ucayali River, protecting local forests is a major concern – because here, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, the future of forests is the future of the people.

“A big threat comes from illegal loggers who steal our timber,” says Barbarán, as she enumerates the challenges she and her community face.

“They can sneak in because the managed forest is too far from the village for us to monitor closely.”

Such illegal activity undermines not only the local environment but also the local economy, which depends on forests and forest products.

Which is why villagers and supporting organizations are always looking for new approaches for conserving the forests and increasing their incomes – including the mechanism known as REDD+.

RESEARCHING REDD+

The villagers try to make a living from all forest products. Photo: Marco Simola/CIFOR
The villagers try to make a living from all forest products. Photo: Marco Simola/CIFOR

Since 2012, Barbarán’s community has been involved in a REDD+ project led by the non-profit Association for Research and Integral Development (Asociación para la Investigación y el Desarrollo Integral, AIDER).

The basic idea of REDD+ is to place a monetary value on the carbon emissions that are saved through avoided deforestation.

AIDER runs initiatives in seven regions in Peru, where communities create forest management plans and obtain certification for their timber, as a way of reducing deforestation and generating carbon credits in return.

Yet the effectiveness of REDD+ for conservation and livelihoods remains unclear.

To learn more about its impacts, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has been conducting research in the four sites, as well as in four nearby control sites. The research forms part of CIFOR’s six-country Global Comparative Study on REDD+, which looks at a total of 23 such initiatives around the world.

Through household questionnaires and community focus groups, villagers explained how they make a living, their access and rights to land, how they manage land and forests, the extent of deforestation, and their involvement in REDD+.

The study found that understanding and support for REDD+ varies among communities, according to CIFOR’s Dawn Rodríguez-Ward, who supervised the field research.

“Villagers do tend to see REDD+ projects as a long-term avenue for controlling deforestation in the region,” she says.

“But our research also found that villagers often feel they have more immediate concerns.”

FISH, FRUIT & CARBON CREDITS

Local people look to timber certification. Photo: Nathan Russell/CIAT
Local people look to timber certification. Photo: Nathan Russell/CIAT

The Shipibo-Konibo communities that live along the banks of the Ucayali River are some 35–120 km from the nearest markets in Pucallpa, with boats as their only form of transport. Their lives revolve around the river and its fluctuations.

CIFOR’s research found that they try various means of generating income from their forests and land.

“Diversification of their livelihood activities is vital because of the seasonal flooding that drowns crops but brings fish-spawning runs,” says CIFOR field assistant Medardo Miranda.

For a few months a year, villagers grow crops such as bananas and cassava. What the families do not eat themselves, they sell to the traders who pass by on wooden boats.

Outside of these months, they take advantage of game, fish, crops, timber and other forest products that are available at different times of the year.

But selling surplus crops is not very profitable – and so leaders seek alternatives.

Carolina Barbarán sees a future in certified timber management and REDD+ as ways to increase community income and, she hopes, curb illegal logging.

Barbarán says about 50 families in her district of Callería participate in timber management in about 3,800 hectares of forest, with a quota for each family.

Yet managing their land brings its own challenges.

“Our monitoring committee tries to protect against illegal logging and fishing, but it lacks money for equipment and gasoline, and villagers complain that the task of patrolling takes them away from farming, fishing and other livelihood activities,” Barbarán says.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of REDD+ will depend on whether AIDER is able to find buyers for carbon credits, especially among companies in Europe.

If successful, that will be the next phase of AIDER’s REDD+ project, says Pío Santiago, AIDER’s coordinator in Ucayali.

It remains to be seen whether the communities in the Ucayali River Valley will be able to sell carbon credits, but the REDD+ projects and other activities have helped them think about additional ways of producing an income.

“It’s important to reinforce the concept of forest management from an integral standpoint,” Santiago says.

“The forest offers many possibilities, from environmental services to other services that are still unknown or poorly understood.”

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REDD+ research

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  • Mapping the world’s biomass to better tackle deforestation

Mapping the world’s biomass to better tackle deforestation

85 percent of Indonesia’s emissions come from land use – including 37 percent from deforestation, here West Kutai district, East Kalimantan. Photo: Michael Padmanaba/CIFOR
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By Michael Casey, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Amazon, Brazil. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
Amazon, Brazil. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT

One of the early successes in efforts to combat global warming has been a renewed push to tackle deforestation in some of the world’s last remaining tropical rainforests.

But, the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program – a UN effort to improve forest management in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – has suffered from a lack of dependable data to assist policy makers in quantifying how much biomass is present in the forests of Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

There are several data sets available for countries looking to quantify their biomass and, in doing so, establish a baseline that would allow them to demonstrate they are making progress in reducing deforestation. However, because these maps depend heavily on satellite data, they have often been criticized as inadequate.

“The existing maps use satellite images to cover large areas, but the satellite images don’t actually see how much biomass there is,” said Valerio Avitabile, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Geo-Information at Wageningen University. Avitabile is currently working on a global comparative study on REDD+ being conducted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

“They only see if there are forests and the characteristics of the forests. Biomass is indirectly related to the satellite images, so it requires a model to relate the ground data to the satellite data,” he said. “The satellites only see what is on top of the canopy, so that is why different models exist to estimate biomass from the satellite images.”

By combining two existing large-scale biomass maps that rely heavily on satellite data with information from approximately 14,000 plots on the ground, the authors believe they have a more accurate way to calculate forest biomass, especially as previous maps only used a few thousand plots in their models.

“Climate change is driven by the increase of carbon in the atmosphere. A large part of which comes from deforestation in the tropics,” said Avitabile. “In order to know how much carbon is being emitted, we need to know the rate of deforestation and how much biomass is in the forest.”

Starting from the bottom

85 percent of Indonesia’s emissions come from land use – including 37 percent from deforestation, here West Kutai district, East Kalimantan. Photo: Michael Padmanaba/CIFOR
85 percent of Indonesia’s emissions come from land use – including 37 percent from deforestation, here West Kutai district, East Kalimantan. Photo: Michael Padmanaba/CIFOR

Martin Herold, co-author of the paper from Wageningen University, said their map offers a “bottom-up approach” to quantifying biomass.

“Forest biomass can only be measured on the ground and satellite remote sensing can help to scale these up to provide large global maps,” he said. “One data source has the accuracy while the other provides the coverage. When you combine the two in a smart way, you get the best of both.”

Avitabile said the new map found that the total amounts of biomass were very similar to the rates quantified by the existing maps. Yet they discovered that earlier maps underestimated the amount of biomass in denser tropical forest and overestimated the amount in easier-to-access dry forests.

For countries like Indonesia and Brazil where a large percentage of emissions come from deforestation, those differences could prove critical. According to the REDD Desk, a project of the Global Canopy Programme, approximately 85 percent of Indonesia’s emissions come from land use – including 37 percent from deforestation.

REDD ready

More accurate data could help the more than 50 countries that want to take part in REDD in order to develop more credible national inventories of their carbon stocks. Photo: Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR
More accurate data could help the more than 50 countries that want to take part in REDD in order to develop more credible national inventories of their carbon stocks. Photo: Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

More accurate data could help the more than 50 countries that want to take part in REDD in order to develop more credible national inventories of their carbon stocks. In exchange for protecting their forests, the idea is that these countries will be able to obtain financing from richer nations.

“Countries would ideally do a national forest carbon inventory for their carbon stock estimations,” Herold said. “In cases where this is not available, or there is only limited ground data, one could use the local and national data and then re-calibrate the available large-area map data for regional and national circumstances.”

Improved maps could also help the countries better understand the consequences of where exactly deforestation is happening so they can better monitor their scarce resources.

“Since most deforestation is occurring in dense, humid forests like the Amazon, or in Borneo, the emissions are higher than those estimated from previous maps,” Avitabile said.

“It matters because it helps to better quantify the emissions from deforestation, which are directly related to the amount of biomass in the forest,” he continued. “If dense humid areas are deforested, the emissions will be higher than in dry forest.”

Avitabile acknowledged that his approach does present challenges, partly because acquiring ground data is costlier than relying on satellite data and it can be time-consuming because tropical forest access can be difficult.

Still, he believes his map is an improvement on what is available. In addition, the project is part of a growing push for better maps in the years to come – especially as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency launch satellites aimed at quantifying forest biomass.

“There are two parts to the problem: one is to show what is happening with deforestation and the other is to show how much biomass is in the forest,” he said. “I’m working on solving the second part of the problem.”

“To move forward, we need more ground data and better integration with remote sensing data,” he said. “So work remains to be done.”


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