In Tanzania and many other developing countries REDD (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) has been a new song full of jargons, which does not give a meaning to the targeted audience. Out of 80% people live in rural area, less than 5% are aware of REDD in Swahili known as MKUHUMI ( Mpango wa Kupunguza Uzalishaji wa Hewa ya Ukaa kutokana na Ukataji miti ovyo na uharibifu wa Misitu)
Despite of majority of Tanzanians being unaware of other common environmental terms such as Climate Change, CDM and Kyoto Protocol, there comes other new term REDD. The question comes, is REDD a solution to emission problem from deforestation and forest degradation or confusion to peoples mind or adding more problem to their life? Is it going to be accepted by these local communities? What are the convincing reasons for its acceptance especially to local communities?
The term REDD has been new even to the educated individuals not only uneducated local people. Today if you ask a graduate what is REDD, about 90% will say they don’t know or have no idea. This reveals that the song of REDD is heard and understood by minority who are mostly officers at higher levels in the Government, private sectors, CSOs and policy makers.
If the song is about Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and the major expected role players of it are the local communities who have been living with/close to the forests for more than 100 years, then how will it work out implementing something they are not familiar with? This means the local communities/indigenous people are the main responsible for either conserving or destroying the forests through their daily living activities. So making these indigenous people understand the concept of REDD is a big step forward toward achieving the goals of REDD.
If the initiatives for REDD will be taken in a non-participatory manner with the communities, there is a great danger of its failure or not achieving well. The participatory means should as well put clear the issue of benefit sharing to these local communities, which has been a debating issue to date. This means, convincing someone to opt for alternative means of living instead of exploiting from the forests such as doing small business that can generate some money for their daily basic needs and other compulsory expenditures.
Serious determination of communities towards REDD is an obligatory issue if it means for achieving its goals. I believe that the determination can only be through understanding well the whole process of REDD and community involvement by the local communities themselves.
A number of International and National conferences/workshops and seminars have been taking place as a preparation process for the 15th Conference Of Parties (COP 15) on December 2009 in Copenhagen sharing and discussing different matters, problems and challenges on Climate Change. The Conference is held every year under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to discuss some national and international environmental issues of concern relevant to climate change.
The question comes; do the local communities have information on what is taking place at higher level? Or does the feedback from the national and international conferences/workshops/seminars penetrate down to local communities? The truth is, only few officers at District level are at least aware of what is going on at the national and/or international level in Environmental aspect.
There comes a need for Young Environmental Trainees (YETs) who are young, energetic, experienced and determined to work with local communities. These should go to the communities directly conduct some trainings to raise awareness and updated them with current environmental issues discussed at both national and international levels that touch their lives. I believe YETs being young and energetic can work properly with communities than old officers who prefer to stay in the office rather than going to field where there is a need for their service.
YETs should be facilitated, enabled and /or capacitate enough to perform this job to link and fill the gap that exist between top and bottom people in our country. YETs are change agents.