REDD+ challenges as enormous as its opportunities in the Congo Basin

The world's largest rainforest will be a key arena for policymakers.

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Photo courtesy of Julien Harneis/flickr.

Congo Basin - DURBAN, South Africa (29 November, 2011)_A new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) highlights the need for international negotiators to understand developing country perspectives on opportunities and challenges if REDD+ leads to a sudden injection of new funds to the Congo Basin region.

The Congo Basin is home to the world’s second-largest rainforest, creating significant opportunities for REDD+, a global mechanism that could see rich countries channel billions of dollars annually to developing ones in exchange for them safeguarding their forests.

The researchers interviewed 83 representatives from government ministries, civil society, international NGOs, national and international organisations and the private sector in Cameroon, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Not surprisingly, the study found that there was widespread hope that funds from REDD+ could be used for economic development and poverty reduction. The majority of the close to 100 million inhabitants of the Congo Basin sub-region lives in poverty.

“While there is a lot of expectation on REDD+ in the Congo Basin countries, the challenges are enormous,” said Denis Sonwa, CIFOR scientist and a co-author of Institutional perceptions of opportunities and challenges of REDD+ in the Congo Basin published in The Journal of Environment and Development.

Among those challenges is a concern about weak governance, including corruption and misuse of funds, which would be enormous hurdles to the successful implementation of REDD+.

REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, as well as the conservation and sustainable management of forests, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

The findings echo the concerns of REDD+ critics who fear the plan could be undermined by poor design, weak governance, corruption and a lack of clarity over land or resource ownership. There are concerns this could lead to land grabs or impinge on the traditional rights of forest-dependent communities.

The countries are among the 35 most perceived as corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, and in the bottom 25 percent for accountability, government effectiveness and control of corruption says World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators.

“The lack of a fair system for sharing of REDD+ benefits could lead to the failure of reduction of deforestation and degradation in the Congo Basin,” said Sonwa. There is a need to develop options for sharing of benefits together with the accountability structures to ensure its success.

Most government departments do not have staff and operating budgets to carry out normal duties, much less additional responsibilities related to REDD+, he said. Communication and travel within countries is made more difficult by poor infrastructure.

Many respondents from the three nations suggested including an educational component, with REDD+ funds from conservation and sustainable forest management set aside to support long-term technical capacity building and governance reform.

“The REDD+ transformation process requires new skills to be able to supervise, monitor and implement REDD+ initiatives,” said Sonwa.

“Implementation of REDD+ is a transformation process that entails facing certain challenges existing already in forest and related sectors. The challenges are difficult but not impossible to overcome.”

Africa’s dry forests will be the subject of a CIFOR side event alongside the UN climate change summit in Durban next week. Register here.

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2 responses to “REDD+ challenges as enormous as its opportunities in the Congo Basin”

  1. Steven Earl Salmony says:

    We can already see that we have not a long wait to come face to face with what happens where the straight superhighway we have been traveling with effortless ease becomes a narrow, curved cliffside passage; for we are the ones who are alive in a pivotal moment in human history, when economic and ecologic systems fail, a global empire (like a house of cards) collapses and self-proclaimed masters of the universe (who are primarily responsible for the colossal catastrophe looming before humanity) take off in private jets and yachts for secret hideaways in faraway places….come what may.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    Chapel Hill, NC

  2. Steven Earl Salmony says:

    It is almost 2012. Why have many academicians apparently been rendered dumbstruck during my lifetime by what is all-too-obvious? Absolute global human population numbers can be clearly seen skyrocketing since the end of World War II. Are experts playing stupid? Have they been mislead by personal arrogance, extreme foolhardiness and wanton greed or overcome by a lust for influence, privilege and power? Or all of the above? When I was born, 2.3 billion human beings lived on Earth. In a single lifetime of threescore and ten years (1945 – 2015) human population numbers are projected and fully expected to increase by 5+/- billion people. How can so many economists and demographers not see what is happening? Do their professional activities have something to do with science? I say no, definitely not.

    I find much preternatural thought and unscientific research but cannot locate adequate scientific evidence that supports the idea of “human exceptionalism” with regard to the population dynamics of the human species. Although the idea of human exceptionalism is known to be specious from a scientific point of view, because it is of vital importance to ideologues and those who primarily benefit from the way the global political economy is organized and managed, human exceptionalism has not been the subject of sufficient scrutiny by scientists and consequently allowed to stand uncontested during my lifetime. Even today scientists refuse identify the idea of human exceptionalism regarding human population dynamics as the false proposition it is. They remain electively mute when confronted with scientific research that directly contradicts the idea of human exceptionalism. Where is the scientific research to support the idea that human beings are somehow exempted from ecological “rules of the house” in our planetary home, as many so-called experts in economics and demography have regularly and adamantly proclaimed since the time of my birth.

    The family of humanity appears to have been confused and harmed for many too many years by ideologically driven sycophants and absurdly enriched minions of the rich and powerful who have dishonestly been laying claim to scientific knowledge that they have not ever possessed. Demographaphers and economists are not scientists, the imprimatur of the IUSSP and the Nobel Prize Committee notwithstanding. These disciplines never have been fields of scientific study and never will be, at least not until demographic theories and economic models conform to the biological and physical laws of the world we inhabit, laws based upon the best available science. Science is. And whatsoever is is, is it not?

    Extant scientific research of human population dynamics/overpopulation has been consciously and deliberately ignored by scientists with adequate expertise. They have failed to stand up for science and humanity by speaking truth to the greedmongering movers and shakers of the global political economy who rule the world in our time and appear dead set on ravaging the Earth and degrading its environs until the planet is an unfit place for children everywhere to inhabit. If my perspective could somehow be on the right track, then we are bearing witness not only to the greatest failure of nerve, intellectual honesty, moral courage of all time, but also to an incomprehensible loss of capacity to do the right thing, according to the lights each of us possesses.

    If the population dynamics of the human species is essentially similar (not different from or exceptional) to the population dynamics of other species, then the most attractive, widely shared and consensually validated idea of a seemingly magical, automatic, benign demographic transition to population stabilization of the human species on Earth in the middle of Century XXI is a colossal mistake with potentially profound implications for future human well being and environmental health.

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