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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.
    Figure 1

    Area of Influence of the REDD project involving Rural Communities of Smallholder Producers along the BR 230 (Transamazonica Highway), Pará State, Brazil.

    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…


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Incentives to sustain forest ecosystem services: A review and lessons for REDD, Ivan Bond, Maryanne Grieg-Gran, Sheila Wertz-Kanounnikoff, Peter Hazlewood, Sven Wunder, Arild Angelsen. IIED (2009), 62 pages, isbn: 9781843697428

iied incentivesAn assessment of the utility of payments for ecosystem services as a tool for REDD was commissioned by the Norwegian Minister for the Environment and International Development to inform Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (N-CFI). The N-CFI specifically recognises that REDD efforts should contribute to securing indigenous peoples’ rights, improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, and to conserving forest biodiversity. This report represents a summary of ten papers which made up the assessment.

The report looks into how compensation for ecosystem services could contribute to REDD, and reviews 13 Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) projects in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. PES are designed to provide financial incentives to the land owner to preserve the forest and are thought to be an effective instrument for implementing REDD. Under PES, payments for environmental services are conditional and are only made if the service, such as conserving forest areas, is delivered.Important preconditions for success include supporting improved forest governance, land tenure and rights for forest dependent communities, as well as scaling up current small-scale experience with PES.

One of the recurring concerns with payments for ecosystem services, particularly in the context of the much larger-scale payment schemes that would be required for REDD, is that indigenous and forest-dependent communities will not benefit or, worse, will suffer harm. Prospective areas of concern that payments for REDD might impact include:

  • Weakening of land and resource rights of indigenous and forest dependent communities.
  • Equity in opportunities to participate as sellers of carbon.
  • Equity in payment levels and terms – vulnerable communities may be subjected to exploitative contracts.
  • Local economy impacts, which through effects on food prices and employment can affect both participants and non-participants in PES.

However, this review of PES schemes finds little evidence of long-term adverse effects on equity for the four issues above. If anything, PES schemes have proved to generally yield positive impacts on poor people in the areas where they were implemented.

“The hypothesis that PES tools could lead to inequity and exacerbate poverty is not borne out by the literature review or the four regional case studies. The evidence is that some programmes have made small and modest impacts on livelihoods. Recent work on payments for watershed services also concludes that these mechanisms have not yet directly impacted on poverty reduction to any great extent, although their indirect impacts have significant potential for poverty reduction.” – Extract from Incentives to sustain forest ecosystem services.

Some of the specific findings include:

  • PES schemes have not led to weakening of land tenure and in some cases have strengthened it.
  • In Southeast Asia, where PES mechanisms are just emerging, the approach of strengthening land rights (Sumberjaya) or enforcing traditional rights (Ulu Masen) do have potential livelihood impacts where local people’s rights too often have been ignored.
  • PES mechanisms have a longer history and are being more widely applied in Latin America than elsewhere. Initial assessments showed that the first generation Costa Rica national PES scheme was failing to reach poorer farmers and land users who held no formal land titles and could not afford the associated transaction costs. Subsequent iterations of the programme have developed mechanisms to specifically ensure that they are targeted to poor people and that the barriers to entry are either lowered or removed.
  • Small-scale farmers with informal land tenure have been able to participate in some PES schemes, notably the national payment for watershed services scheme in Mexico. One of the measures used in Mexico (and more recently in Costa Rica) to facilitate participation of small-scale farmers and communitiesis ‘collective contracting’, where several small-scale farmers conduct the contracting process together and in this way reduce individual transaction costs.
  • In spite of seemingly low levels of payment, PES is popular with farmers. There is an eagerness to enter PES schemes (both Costa Rica’s and Mexico’s schemes are over-subscribed) and sometimes a willingness to negotiate permanent payments after a pilot, as in Pimampiro. This enthusiasm is an indication that PES schemes are perceived as advantageous by those involved.
  • There is little evidence of local economy impacts on prices and employment.

Download the Incentives to sustain forest ecosystem services: A review and lessons for REDD report [pdf]…

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Leading to an equitable REDD mechanism: Recognizing the rights and role of indigenous peoples and local communities in the Brazilian Amazon Forest

Special guest article from Paula Moreira, Instituto de Pesquisa Amiental da Amazônia (IPAM). For further information, please contact Paula Moreira (paulamoreira[at]@ipam.org.br), Flávia Gabriela Oyo França (flaviagabriela[at]ipam.org.br) or Paulo Moutinho, (moutinho[at]ipam.org.br)


The majority of indigenous peoples and traditional communities (IPLC) living in Amazon forests are the primary stakeholders responsible for the protection, and consequently the conservation and preservation of forested areas. In the Brazilian Amazon, protected areas inhabited by forest peoples total 109.8 million hectares, corresponding to 60% of the protected areas and preserving a forest carbon stock of about 15 billion tons of carbon (32% of total carbon stocked in the Amazon forest) (Figure 1) (note 1).

Figure 1. The following map, as of 2008, shows the deforestation (in yellow) and the preserved indigenous territories (dark blue) and traditional communities reserves (orange) avoiding the advance of deforestation in those areas. Source: IPAM, unpublished data.

Figure 1. The following map, as of 2008, shows the deforestation (in yellow) and the preserved indigenous territories (dark blue) and traditional communities reserves (orange) avoiding the advance of deforestation in those areas. Source: IPAM, unpublished data.

These large protected areas act as major obstacles to the advance of deforestation, as they have regional inhibiting effect, which means that they contribute to the reduction of deforestation outside its boundaries, especially when considering distances up to 10 km. As a result, they avoid the significant potential emissions associated with greenhouse gases. Through simulations aimed at predicting the future deforestation, it was possible to calculate the potential emissions of indigenous lands and extractive reserves from 2008 to 2050. If these areas were not protected, 5 billion tons of carbon would be emitted into the atmosphere by the year 2050 (note 2). This volume represents approximately 2.5 times the effort to reduce emissions of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, considering its effective implementation.

Despite the high rate of deforestation (> 1 million ha/year) in the Brazilian Amazon, the deforestation inside the Brazilian Amazon protected areas (that includes indigenous territories and local communities (IPLC) reserves) as a whole is very small (< 3% of its total area).

Therefore, it is essential that any discussion focused on the benefits and compensations that should be attributed to the efforts in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), as well as the protection of forests, recognize the important role that IPLC have been playing, and respond to their demands in order to promote the improvement of livelihoods conditions in their territories. Such improvements or benefits could be promoted, for example, in form of subsidies for the production of non-timber products and provision of basic needs to these populations. Regarding the right of demarcation of IPLC’s territories, REDD policies should be established in a manner that requires that the Party implementing this mechanism must demonstrate that it recognizes and enforces the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities.

As established by the Bali Road Map in COP 13, the needs of indigenous peoples and local communities should be met, when adopting measures for REDD in developing countries. Then, later in COP 14, following the advice by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and other movements, the Parties recognized “the need to promote the full and effective participation of indigenous people and local communities (IPLC) (note 3), taking into account national circumstances and noting relevant international agreements,” in relation to REDD.

Despite the fact that UNFCCC Parties have recognized the need to promote the full and effective participation of IPLC, recognition and enforcement of fundamental rights in regarding to REDD framing is extremely important, in accordance with Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on Biological Diversity, and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We describe below the four fundamental rights that become more important regarding REDD, which must be observed when constructing and implementing a REDD policy at the international, national and/or local level:

  1. The right to land, territory, and in particular natural resources (note 4) and the right to fully use its resources in particular the forest resources;
  2. Right of Autonomy and Self-determination (note 5). This means that the IPLC´s have autonomy on managing their territories, legal capacity to deal and negotiate, if desired, patrimonial rights independently and consequently making decision in the processes of development such as the REDD policy or projects.In addition, article 23 of UNDRIP clearly rules: “Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programs affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programs through their own institutions.”
  3. The right of culture and identity, including the right to development with identity;
  4. The right to free prior informed consent (FPIC) (note 6).

Thus, it is clear that indigenous peoples have a guaranteed right to participate effectively in the formulation, development and determination of any REDD policy based within their lands and territories. Moreover, any REDD policy must respect their traditional lifestyles, their right to occupy their traditional territories, and their chosen methods of developing economic, social and cultural sustenance and well-being.

In conclusion, it should be a condition for participation in any REDD policy or program that the Party implementing this mechanism recognizes and enforces the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities, herein mentioned. As a consequence, recognizing these rights and the role of IPLC in conserving the forest and avoiding deforestation, the benefits of REDD resources should be channeled in a way to help to fulfill the basics needs and rights such as right to access to health, food, to proper education in their own language and culture and improve their livelihoods. This outcome will obviously depend on the capacity of IPLC to evaluate the benefits and risks of REDD, build consensus and design their own proposals on how to channel/use these coming resources.

(1) IPAM, 2009; “Perguntas e Respostas sobre Aquecimento Global“. Unpublished data. Numbers were generated through Dinamica (EGO software) platform for SimAmazonia-2.
(2) According to http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2007/cop13/spa/06a01s.pdf#page=10
(3) Decision number FCCC/SBSTA/2008/L.23, Annex, 1(c) in COP 14, Poznan
(4) Article 26, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP): “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
(5) Article 3, ibid: “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
(6) Articles 10, 19, 28, 29, and 32, ibid.

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With the approval of the readiness plans for Guyana and Panama, the World Bank moves its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility forward despite civil society protests World Bank Information Center, 29 June 2009

bicThe third meeting of the Participants Committee (PC) of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) was held in Montreaux, Switzerland, from 15-18 June 2009. On the agenda for this meeting were readiness plans (R-Plans) from three countries: Guyana, Panama and Indonesia. While there was significant debate within the PC around weaknesses in all three R-plans, the political pressure to move the process forward won the day, with approval of the Guyana and Panama plans, and approval pending for Indonesia.

The TAP reports for Guyana, Panama and Indonesia all noted significant weaknesses in the R-Plans, one of the main complaints being that their analysis of the drivers of deforestation was incomplete and poorly aligned with their proposed strategies. Another big issue is the weak governance of forests in the majority of REDD countries, Guyana and Panama being among those with relatively strong institutional frameworks. Because many of the last remaining areas of forest in the world are home to indigenous peoples who are, in many cases, responsible for their preservation, states must finally recognize the land and natural resource rights of their indigenous peoples. Such recognition must be accompanied by demarcation, land titling and effective protections against encroachment by miners, loggers and settlers. This requires political will at the top level of government, and entails some degree of confrontation with powerful economic interests who are currently profiting from deforestation.

The approval of the R-Plans also places the spotlight on the governments of Guyana, Panama and Indonesia, who, as the first countries to formally begin REDD readiness under the auspices of the World Bank, will be carefully scrutinized. The experiences of these pilot countries will be used to assess whether the FCPF process is capable of facilitating sustained and effective engagement with civil society and indigenous peoples, and of producing high quality plans for reducing deforestation that are credible both nationally and internationally.

Read the World Bank article [html]…

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‘If You Saw It with My Eyes’: Collaborative Research and Assistance with Central American Forest Steward Communities Peter Leigh Taylor, Peter Cronkleton, Deborah Barry, Samantha Stone-Jovicich, Marianne Schmink – CIFOR, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, University of Florida, Gainsville, Florida, October 2008

If you saw it reportCommunities are making unprecedented gains worldwide in forest resource access and management rights. A new conservation actor, the forest steward community, is emerging in Central America as an effective collaborator in forest conservation. How best to support and strengthen this community-based conservation actor while minimizing external dependency? This paper discusses an experience with innovative participatory research in Guatemala and Nicaragua that aimed to strengthen community capabilities in natural resource management.

The Grassroots Assistance Project trained community members to document and critically reflect upon local experience with forest management and external assistance. Together with regional context studies undertaken by professional researchers, these local ‘autosystematization’ studies made possible comprehensive documentation of the multiple dimensions of communities’ resource management, identification of their strengths and vulnerabilities and discussion of future strategies. Their endeavours also reveal an emerging alternative ‘accompaniment’ approach to technical assistance, which promotes a high level of partnership between communities and external institutions, in contrast to traditional assistance, which often creates dependency.

Important lessons learned through the project include:

  • Rather than necessarily representing driving forces behind deforestation and
    biodiversity loss, local communities can be effective stewards of the forest while simultaneously pursuing sustainable livelihood strategies. Effective partnerships are necessary between external interests and local communities promoting conservation, especially given the social, political and economic realities underlying conservation in regions like the Petén and Siuna.
  • Local communities are capable of being full partners in generating information and contributing knowledge about development and conservation, and can contribute valuable perspectives through their analysis of their own situation. They need to develop their own accounts and analyses of their experiences with forest access and resource management as a step toward becoming more effective negotiators with powerful external interests.

Download the ‘If You Saw It with My Eyes’: Collaborative Research and Assistance with Central American Forest Steward Communities report [pdf]…

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As Donors Rush to Conserve Tropical Forests to Slow Climate Change, Indigenous Leaders Predict ‘Devastation’ from Carbon Grabs in Name of Conservation
Forest Peoples Programme | 7 October 2008

IUCN World Conservation CongressAs wealthy nations prepare to ramp up climate change investments in forest-rich, low-income countries, a leading group of tropical forest leaders and conservation experts warns that the world’s billion-plus forest-dependent poor face economic and cultural devastation if efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should fail to respect their rights and address their concerns.

Brought together by the Amazon Alliance and the Forest Peoples Programme, forest leaders from 5 Amazonian nations as well as Congo DRC and Indonesia gathered in Barcelona during the IUCN World Conservation Congress to demand a greater role in deciding the terms of a climate change financing mechanism now being considered by donor nations. The leaders said that the mechanism, known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), could undermine the land rights being claimed by forest communities throughout the developing world.

“We are already under growing pressure from climate change, from conservationists who want to prevent us from using our forest lands for economic purposes, and from businesses that have government concessions to extract ore, water and biofuel from lands that have been ours for generations… Recently we have been hearing more and more about the carbon trade, but indigenous people are not being included in the discussions. We want to know: who will own the carbon? What will be the impact on us?” — Tony James of Guyana, President of the Amerindian Peoples Association

Read the press release…

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14 countries win REDD funding to protect tropical forests
MongaBay | 24 July 2008


Fourteen countries have been selected by the World Bank to receive funds for conserving their tropical forests under an innovative carbon finance scheme. The 14 developing countries include six in Africa (the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar); five in Latin America (Bolivia, Costa Rica, Guyana, Mexico, Panama); and three in Asia (Nepal, Lao PDR, and Vietnam). The countries will receive grant support as they build their capacity for REDD, including establishing emissions reference levels, adopting strategies to reduce deforestation, and designing monitoring systems.

The initiative, known as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), was unveiled last year as a way to kick start Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), a proposed mechanism that would reward countries with carbon credits for preserving their forest cover. Globally deforestation accounts for nearly one-fifth of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions — more than the transport sector.

“Deforestation and forest degradation together are the second leading man-made cause of global warming. They are responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the main source of national emissions in many developing countries. For that reason, we have been eager to initiate this partnership and assist countries while building a body of knowledge on how best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by protecting forests and helping the people who benefit from them.” — Joëlle Chassard, Manager of the World Bank’s Carbon Finance Unit

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