Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples in Tropical Forests and REDD: how to share the benefits and avoid risks?
Special guest article from Erika Pinto, Paula Franco Moreira*, Ricardo Rettmann, Paulo Moutinho, Flavia Gabriela Oyo França and Osvaldo Stella Martins, Instituto de Pesquisa Amiental da Amazônia (IPAM). For further information, please contact Paula Moreira (paulamoreira[at]@ipam.org.br)
The proposal of the REDD mechanism under the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) must be based on strategies focused on the maintenance of native forest areas in order to conserve natural resources and ensure the integrity of their ecological functions and the provision of multiple environmental services. One of the aspects related to the conservation of ecosystems, which should be recognized as crucial if we want to promote a significant impact in reducing pressure on forests, is the guarantee of participation of the indigenous and traditional people in the REDD mechanism. Moreover, these are also the people most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
In fact, in the case of the Brazilian Amazon, any effort made to combat its high rates of deforestation requires the effective participation of indigenous peoples, traditional communities and rural communities of smallholder producers. Thus, REDD resources that can be accessed through projects under regional REDD Programs should reach these key stakeholders in order to strengthen their role in guaranteeing the conservation of the Amazon rainforest in large-scale. This position has been advocated by groups like the Brazilian Amazon Forest People Alliance (Aliança dos Povos da Floresta), which brings together indigenous peoples (Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon – COIAB), extractive and rubber tappers traditional population (National Council of Rubber Tappers – CNS) and a network of smallholders in the Brazilian Amazon (Amazon Working Group – GTA).
According to a study conducted by IPAM on the costs and benefits for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in the Brazilian Amazon (2008) (note 1), a national REDD program in Brazil should designate between 55% to 74% funds specifically to these population, which in turn can benefit 150 thousand families of the forest people in the Brazilian Amazon in terms of improvement of their livelihood, enhancing their territories protection and restoring degraded areas.
In the context of smallholder producers (note 2), which represents 84.4% of Brazilian farms (Agricultural Census/2006), incentives from REDD resources could support actions to improve agriculture practices, reforestation with native species, promote sustainable forest management and reduce the pressure on new areas of standing forest. Such incentives could result in the consolidation of a new rural development model that reconciles conservation and improvement in quality of life of these smallholders. In this respect, the first REDD project involving Rural Communities of Smallholder Producers in State of Pará, Brazil, have the goal to promote effective change in the rural development model of smallholders into a more sustainable basis and recognize REDD as an important opportunity to make this economic transition possible. The bases of this project are shown below.
- The Transamazônica Highway Case: First REDD Project of Rural Communities of Smallholder Producers Recognizing the importance of the contribution of forest people in mitigating the effects of climate change, IPAM, in partnership with the local organization, the Fundação Viver, Produzir e Preservar (Foundation for life, Environmental Protection and Food Production – FVPP), provided technical assistance to develop the first pilot project of REDD for smallholders living in areas of expansion of agricultural frontier in the Amazon.
The project, submitted to the Amazon Fund (note 3), aims to stop deforestation in the productive areas of 350 families of smallholders through allowing the implementation of Familiar Production Units Using Plans, designed with the goal of replacing conventional land use practices (such as slash-and-burn activities and extensive pasture) by sustainable ones (agroforestry systems, adoption of techniques to increase the productivity in opened areas, fire management, etc). In 10 years, the project should reduce the emission of approximately 3.1 million tons of CO2. This projected reduction is equivalent to the emissions of about 1.2 billion liters of diesel, enough fuel to allow almost three thousand trips around the Earth by car. Also, reduction foreseen by the project is equivalent to 15% of total annual emissions of Costa Rica (note 4).
The project is grounded on the investments of REDD resources in improvements in production and generation of economic alternatives, especially in best agricultural practices, and not only on the payment of environmental services directly to families. Therefore, it is expected that, at the end of a 10 years period, a new economic logic and a new model of rural development that does not require more clearing of forested areas will be consolidated in the region.
- Valuing the role of forest people on reducing the deforestation in their areas through a REDD mechanismIn the same way that communities of smallholder producers are organizing themselves to be recognized as providers of environmental services, many indigenous groups from the Amazon region are also involved in this debate about REDD mechanisms and the sharing of the benefits. They seek for recognition for their historic effort in conserving standing forests and, therefore, the maintaining carbon stocks. Only in the Brazilian Amazon, 23,4% (equivalent to 13 billion tons of carbon or 27% of the total stock) of the remaining forests are located in indigenous territories (note 5).
- Recommendation to REDD Negotiators for the climate conference at COP 15, Copenhagen The 15th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC have the potential to set the guidelines for a new climate agreement in which, for the first time, the maintenance of forests and the reduction of deforestation will be encouraged through an official international mechanism. REDD must be a mechanism capable of generating resources to promote the maintenance of the standing forest, improvement of socioeconomic and environmental conditions of stakeholders, with emphasis on traditional communities, family farmers and indigenous peoples. Its implementation in tropical countries should be conducted with full participation of stakeholders to avoid perverse incentives and possible violations of their rights.For this purpose, it should be a condition for participation in any REDD policy or program that the Party implementing this mechanism recognizes and enforces the territorial rights of indigenous peoples, traditional and local communities, and to the evidence that their land tenure situation is legalized or in process of legalization. Therefore, we recommend that there is an UN body responsible for (i) verifying the fulfillment of these conditions in the country that intends to access the REDD resources; (ii) report if the REDD resources are reaching the communities at the local level.
If this participation and access of REDD resources by the local communities are not ensured, effect results in achieving reduction of deforestation will hardly take place in the necessary scale and maintained in the long term, considering that indigenous peoples, traditional and local communities, are responsible for maintaining nearly one third of the whole standing forest of the Brazilian Amazon.
(1) Costs and Benefits of Reducing Carbon Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in the Brazilian Amazon.
(2) Specifically those groups recognized by developing activities based on familiar agriculture, which is characterized by: properties smaller than 100 ha, labor work exclusively from their family and household income generated by productive activities mainly related to the related property (Definition summarized as per Article 3 of Law No. 11,326 of July 24th, 2006)
(3) The Amazon Fund aims to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in actions to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation and to promote the conservation and sustainable use of forests in the Amazon.
(4) Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) Version 6.0. (Washington, DC: World Resources Institute, 2009).
(5) Reduction of Carbon Emissions Associated with Deforestation in Brazil: The Role of the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA).
*Paula Franco Moreira is a lawyer with a Masters degree of International Socio-Environmental Law from the London School of Economics. She coordinates the area of inclusion and empowerment of indigenous peoples and traditional communities in the process of defining public policies on global climate change at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and is a representative of the Latin American and Caribbean civil society at the UN-REDD Programme’s Policy Board. Read more…