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  • Payment for Ecosystem Services and REDD+ in Vietnam – A two-pronged approach to forest conservation

Payment for Ecosystem Services and REDD+ in Vietnam – A two-pronged approach to forest conservation

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Photo: CIFOR
The complex landscapes of Vietnam will require careful solutions.

By Adinda Hasan, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Vietnam is no stranger to forest conservation payment schemes. Its national Payments for Forest Environmental Services (PFES) program offers incentives to communities who sustainably manage and protect their forests, by compensating them for their efforts.

REDD+ is another performance-based scheme that aims to reward and compensate communities and governments for protecting forests and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Now Vietnamese officials are considering how the two approaches can be combined, linking REDD+ to the existing PFES system.

But while REDD+ and PFES are similar in their goals of protecting forests and supporting local livelihoods, experts caution that they should not be viewed as one and the same.

Everyone’s looking at how to make REDD+ a reality, especially in terms of distribution of payments and benefits. In Asia, Vietnam’s PFES is a leading example of a nation-wide benefit-sharing mechanism in practice. Vietnam is examining how lessons from PFES can be applied to REDD+ projects, but these can also benefit other countries.

The main lesson? REDD+ activities need to be context-specific.

Scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) say that while Vietnam can learn from its PFES experience, the country needs to stay flexible in designing a REDD+ program and payments system – one that is effective, efficient and equitable.

The PFES system in Vietnam is well underway. Official reports state that to date, PFES has earned VND 5,000 billion in revenue, protected 3.5 million ha of forest and is creating jobs and supporting rural livelihoods for some 355,000 households participating in the scheme.

Building on the PFES model to develop REDD+ could save transaction costs, say scientists – though adopting this strategy also has its drawbacks.

“It’s easier to start with what you know, but then you also risk being limited to that system and exacerbating some of the existing shortfalls of that system,” said CIFOR senior scientist Grace Wong, at aPFES workshop held in Hanoi last November and convened by the Vietnam Forest Protection and Development Fund (VNFF), which manages PFES.

Studies by CIFOR have shown that bundling social and environmental programs can raise the incentives to leverage environmental or sustainable development outcomes. But rigorous monitoring and evaluation is needed to truly understand the programs’ impacts.

Adapting PFES for REDD+

The government of Vietnam is currently trying to adapt its PFES system for REDD+ programs.

Baku Takahashi, a REDD+ Technical Advisor for the Japan International Cooperation Agency Sustainable Natural Resource Management Project based in Hanoi, says that combining the PFES and REDD+ approaches to compensation may have value, though each system may be implemented differently.

“Vietnam has a long history of implementing PFES, and the REDD+ fund would be under VNFF,” explained Takahashi. “Current REDD+ discussions are focused on how the government can deliver payments to local communities, in the same way that PFES does. In that sense, lessons learned from PFES are very important.”

But the responsibility for achieving REDD+ outcomes lies beyond the local level, otherwise too much pressure is placed on households to achieve reduced emissions outcomes. Changes in governance and policies are needed at various levels to meet the global (or bilateral) commitments for REDD+ financing.

At the Hanoi workshop, Takahashi recommended that initial funds should first be strategically invested at the national level to strengthen the REDD+ policy and technical infrastructure. After that, the government can identify how to distribute those payments at the local level.

REDD+ payment system crucial

As for other countries trying to implement REDD+, the reliability of payments will be an important factor in determining the program’s success in Vietnam. Greater assurance about finance could bolster policy commitments and turn REDD+ rhetoric into action.

Yet because there is uncertainty over REDD+ financing, the program has not yet been fully operationalized in Vietnam, neither through national policies or at the subnational levels.

But progress is visible. Vietnam is currently preparing guidelines for REDD+ implementation at the provincial level. These need to be flexible to accommodate local needs across the country and to take into account the perspectives of multi-stakeholder groups.

“We can see how different provinces have different PFES arrangements,” said Takahashi. “People tend to ask which model is the best, but it would be counter-productive to choose one payment arrangement for the whole country. This applies for REDD+ as well as PFES.”

Guiding REDD+: It’s all in the process

Before guidelines are issued, it’s more important to focus on assessing the local context, believes Takahashi.

“If you can properly assess the local situation, the nature of forest ownership, management and use in that province or district,” he notes, “then you can look at the different payment options that provide the best result for that place.”

Wong agrees, “The process is as important as the outcome. Having proper consultations and sharing full information with local communities and stakeholders can help to create buy-in.”

So what comes next for REDD+ in Vietnam?

Wong stresses that an effective, efficient and equitable REDD+ will require systematic learning from both PFES and REDD+ pilot sites to inform policy. Understanding the implications of land-use decisions at multiple levels, and integrating local perceptions, preferences, capabilities and sociocultural diversity into REDD+ policy design will improve equity and sustainability outcomes.

One thing is certain: Vietnam’s commitment to PFES and its efforts to guide REDD+ into implementation is an important part of the country’s journey to improve forest governance and enhance the well-being of forest communities.

This research was supported by European Commission and forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
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  • Building trust to smartly invest in trees in the Philippines: A visit to the Tala-andig tribe

Building trust to smartly invest in trees in the Philippines: A visit to the Tala-andig tribe

Explaining Smart Tree-Invest somewhere else in Lantapan. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre
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By Amy Cruz, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World Blog

Datu Migketay of the Tala-andig was critical of some aspects of development and research projects. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Amy Cruz
Datu Migketay of the Tala-andig was critical of some aspects of development and research projects. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Amy Cruz

Research and development aim to benefit local communities but how should researchers and indigenous people work together in projects? Four researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) met with members of the Tala-andig tribe in Indonesia to discuss solutions. Amy Cruz watched and learned.

The Smart Tree-Invest project under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry has been generally well-received in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Yet, team members in the Philippines wanted to know what local communities think of the project. They met representatives from the Tala-andig tribe in Songco, Lantapan in Bukidnon Province in the southern Philippines.

ICRAF’s work in Lantapan is part of the Climate-smart, Tree-based, Co-investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia (Smart Tree-Invest) project, which aims to help communities create local solutions to cope with climate-change risks.

ICRAF had identified the Tala-andig as important custodians of a critical watershed that was increasingly threatened by the impact of climate change. Smart Tree-Invest is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development. IFAD stresses the importance of participation of marginalized groups, including women, youth and indigenous peoples; and the empowerment of smallholding farmers.

For the Tala-andig, the possibility of a ‘co-investment scheme’—in which all people interested in a watershed work together to ensure its benefits are sustainable—would not only mean an additional source of financial support but is also seen as way of strengthening their culture and introducing it to others.

Map of Lantapan in Bukidnon province, Philippines. Source: Wikipedia
Map of Lantapan in Bukidnon province, Philippines. Source: Wikipedia

According to Victorino Saway, known to the Tala-andig as Datu Migketay, ‘The project could be seen as co-investment in the culture of our tribe because it is part of our culture to preserve the environment’.

If a co-investment scheme can preserve the tribe’s culture then the people can in turn contribute to improving environmental conservation.

Yet, the elders remained cautious. Datu Migketay talked about the importance of first building trust between the project team and the tribe. He emphasized how respecting their culture was important for the sustainability of any project.

Different understanding of development

There was often a disjunction, he explained, between some developers and his people because, for example, the tribe’s definition of development differed from the definition used by some of the organizations implementing projects in their area.

He gave the example of cementing roads in their village, which could be considered as a welcome development providing faster access all year round but these same roads also contributed to the fragmentation of their tribe by allowing individuals and families to disperse far from the central group.

Datu Migketay says of such development: “To be honest, I am tired. Tired of projects that only benefit those implementing them: projects that do not have any positive impacts for our people.”

Explaining Smart Tree-Invest somewhere else in Lantapan. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre
Explaining the benefits Smart Tree-Invest somewhere else in Lantapan. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

This was not meant to altogether discourage development projects or to say that research in development would not achieve anything. However, if institutions involved in development and research in development, such as ICRAF, wanted to truly improve people’s lives then an open, respectful approach was needed.

Researchers, in particular, should be ready to challenge standardized ways of thinking—even their own—and change inappropriate practices. Putting this to the test, researchers took the first step in growing mutual respect with the Tala-andig by obeying the directive to undergo the ritual.

Building trust

As a result, the elders allowed researchers to return and conduct a participatory cultural impact assessment with the whole tribe to ensure that everyone, including women and young people, can identify their roles in the project. All members of the tribe shall also further discuss potential benefits and disadvantages of Smart Tree-Invest and decide as a group if they want to continue or not.

And so whether the project will continue with the Tala-andig is in the hands of the tribe themselves. Researchers may be hopeful as, during the special ceremony, the tribal leaders had asked for guidance from their highest god, Magbabaya, and spirits. Afterwards these elders noted that it seemed that Smart Tree-Invest could benefit their people.

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  • Profits, plates and plots: the link between farmers’ diets and their farms

Profits, plates and plots: the link between farmers’ diets and their farms

Farmers examining crops in their plot in Cidanau, Indonesia. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Technical University of Cologne/Lina Tennhardt
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By Lina Tennhardt and Sacha Amaruzaman, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World Blog

Farmers examining crops in their plot in Cidanau, Indonesia. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Technical University of Cologne/Lina Tennhardt
Farmers examining crops in their plot in Cidanau, Indonesia. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Technical University of Cologne/Lina Tennhardt

Researchers have found that smallholders participating in a payments for ecosystem services (PES) scheme in Cidanau Watershed, Indonesia had more diverse diets than farmers who weren’t participating. Food security, however, is still an issue for the watershed so promoting agroforestry could not only increase households’ incomes but also improve their nutrition.

Cidanau Watershed in Banten province, Indonesia, is the main source of water for the industrial city of Cilegon. To maintain its water-provisioning function, Forum Komunikasi DAS Cidanau, a multi-stakeholder communication forum in the watershed, facilitated a PES scheme, wherein smallholders who voluntarily adopted sustainable agroforestry practices received annual cash payments from the companies that benefited from the water

Most farmers who joined the PES scheme in Cidanau now practise agroforestry and choose crop diversification over intensification to reduce risks from agricultural challenges, like fluctuating market prices, lack of farming knowledge and migration of the young people to cities. Generally, high agro-diversity, as is expected in such diversified farming systems, results in greater diversity of farmers’ diets and improved nutritional status. However, Banten province, including Cidanau, still reports low nutritional status of the local population. This holds even in the rural areas, where diets are commonly thought to be non-diverse and dependent on their farm produce.

A farmer in Cidanau Watershed, Indonesia in his mixed rice-and-tree agroforestry system. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Technical University of Cologne/Lina Tennhardt
A farmer in Cidanau Watershed, Indonesia in his mixed rice-and-tree agroforestry system. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Technical University of Cologne/Lina Tennhardt

It is in this context that researchers from ICRAF The World Agroforestry Centre and the Technical University of Cologne in Germany conducted a study on food, nutrition and profitability of farming systems in Cidanau Watershed. Supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, the study investigated the links between different farming systems, household dietary diversity, including smallholders’ household food consumption, and the profitability of tree- and crop-based farming systems.

Key research questions were: ‘Do agroforestry farmers who receive PES payments make different management decisions for their plots compared to those who don’t? If so, does it lead to higher monetary returns for their households? Also, do households that receive compensation have higher dietary diversity and improved nutritional status than those that are not part of the PES scheme?’

In April 2016, the researchers conducted a survey with smallholding households, both those participating and those not participating in the PES scheme. From seven villages in Cidanau, 45 farmers were interviewed for a farming profitability analysis, while 105 women, mostly wives of farmers, were interviewed regarding their household food consumption.

The preliminary results show that the crop-based farming systems in the area were predominantly rice-based, whereas tree-based systems largely grew clove and melinjo’ (Gnetum gnemon), usually mixed with some ‘petai’(Parkia speciosa), durian, banana and other species. Farming systems widely vary in Cidanau, as each farmer can have different tree and crop combinations in their plots. Yields and farm gate prices of commodities also have a very wide range.

On average, farmers receiving compensation have a higher tree density on their plots. However, results also indicated that food security was still an issue throughout the watershed. More than half of all households fear not having enough food, while some go to bed hungry.

Diets throughout the watershed are quite non-diverse without taking into consideration the farming systems they employ. The researchers also found self-generated produce plays only a minor role in food consumption while bought and processed foods are highly important for households’ dietary diversity. Households that joined the PES scheme had more varied dietary patterns and higher consumption of meat and carbohydrates.

A strategy to increase household incomes and purchasing power is needed to improve people’s nutritional status in Cidanau. Increasing yields and consequently, profits by improved plot management or promotion of planting crops in the agroforest understorey could be easy and inexpensive starting points for the smallholders.


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