Scientists measuring carbon stored in mangroves. Photo: CIFOR

To include local people in REDD+ activities, four conditions required, study finds

By Bruno Vander Velde, originally posted at Forests News

This month in Lima, experts are debating how to safeguard the rights of local communities in global forest-carbon initiatives. Half a world away, a new study has drawn lessons from such initiatives on the ground in Indonesia—and are painting a more nuanced picture of the conditions for enabling local people to help carry out, and benefit from, efforts to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (known as REDD+). The literature on active participation among rural people in REDD+ projects has largely revolved around local involvement in measuring and reporting the carbon stocks held in forests—known as participatory measurement, reporting and verification (or PMRV).

But the literature has been narrowly focused on only one part of the “MRV,” experts say.

“When we are talking about PMRV, most of the research so far has been really focusing on the measurement aspect,” said Manuel Boissière, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD).

“If you look at academic literature, it’s all about cost-efficiency—how to get local communities participating in tree measurement and what is the cost of it, and are they doing a good job compared to scientists or not? And that has been really the limitation.

“In MRV there is also reporting and verification, and very few studies about participatory MRV address these two parts,” he continued.


Boissière and his team investigated three sites in Indonesia (Central Java, West Kalimantan and Papua); their study, Estimating carbon emissions for REDD+: the conditions for involving local people, lays out four crucial conditions under which to involve communities in PMRV.

The first is relevance to the local people in the community: Put simply, if something about the project is not seen as relevant to their daily lives, local people might not be willing to commit to such a project. According to Boissière, just because a rural community in Indonesia lives near a forest doesn’t mean they have strong links to that forest or have the intention to protect it.

“Even if a community lives next to a forest you want to monitor, but most of the villagers are working in the city,” he said, “they have no link anymore with and little knowledge of the forest, therefore no interest to participate to MRV.” Even when they do have a strong link with the forest, they might be not interested in participating if they perceived the monitoring activities as a threat to their forest-related livelihoods. Finding a balance between community development and forest protection is difficult; working together communities is therefore essential.

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