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REDD+ needs to invest in alternative livelihoods before making carbon payments

Uncertainty behind REDD+ financing means developers need a new approach.

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REDD+ is helping forest communities develop alternative sources of income, such as fisheries pictured here. Photo by Ramadian Bachtiar/CIFOR

DURBAN, South Africa (1 December, 2011)_REDD+ projects need to be ready to make upfront investments to help local communities to develop alternative sources of income before implementing other aspects of the scheme such as conditional payments for protecting forests, a scientist says.

REDD+ developers are shifting their strategies towards support for alternative livelihoods partly because they have concluded that it is most effective for easing pressure on forests, said Erin Sills, senior associate at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“Unless you offer a viable sustainable alternative livelihood to the actors, then any other intervention is really going to just displace or postpone deforestation,” she said at the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Durban yesterday (see her presentation here).

Half of the REDD+ projects taking part in CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study, from which Sills derived her data, said that they would offer support for alternative ways to source income by the end of this year and only 15 percent expected to have some kind of payment for environmental services system in place by then. In comparison, when project developers were first interviewed in early 2010, 90 percent were planning to use a combination of “traditional” approaches, which include support for alternative livelihoods and restrictions on forest use, and direct conditional payments.

The original concept of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, or REDD, was to make cash or in-kind payments for protecting forests and keeping the stored carbon from being emitted to the atmosphere. The hundreds of REDD+ pilot projects that have emerged around the world offer lessons about how best implement the global scheme, which is expected to be included in the next international climate framework.

Great uncertainty on REDD+ financing in the international system has also encouraged project developers to shift towards promoting alternative livelihoods, said Sills. Developers tap into various sources of project funding to finance these investments, which may have to be paid before any carbon funds can be used.

The Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP), a cooperation between Indonesia and Australia, helps forest dwellers to practice good rubber plantation and develop freshwater fish ponds as part of its REDD+ demonstration activity. The kinds of alternative income sources may vary between villages within KFCP’s working area in Central Kalimantan in Indonesia, depending on the communities’ need.

Negotiators in COP17 in Durban are focusing on efforts to agree on what will happen after Kyoto Protocol, the current climate treaty that is set to expire next year. This will influence long-term REDD+ financing, beyond the US 5.5 billion committed by countries including Norway and Australia for the so-called readiness phase.

CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study is looking at 24 REDD+ pilot projects in six countries to see the impacts of the programs on livelihood and carbon emissions on the ground. As part of the study, CIFOR has launched a preliminary map that features REDD+ and other forest carbon projects around the world, and is seeking input from anyone who would like to contribute information on projects.

For other reports from the event, visit the blogs of these organizations:
The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC)

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