Wednesday, June 2, 2010

PLANTATIONS ARE NOT FOREST(REDD’s impacts on Indigenous People socio-economically and Biodiversity)

Because deforestation is a major source of green house gas emissions, governments see curbing deforestation as a ‘cheap’ way of reducing green house gas emissions and stabilizing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere relatively quickly. Governments are discussing a proposal on REDD which they hope to conclude the in the near future.

The basic idea underlying REDD is the creation of a system of positive incentives that will persuade developing countries with tropical forests to reduce their deforestation rates; by rewarding them financially. This is keeping with the fact that, developing countries are not responsible for climate change. Government agreed to consider REDD further in 2005 after Compensation Reduction was formally proposed by PAPUA, NEW GUINEA and COSTA RICA on behalf of group of countries now known as the Coalition for Rain Forest Nations (CfRN).

There is a great deal of enthusiasm for REDD amongst these countries governments. This is partly because of the tens of billions of dollars that researchers have estimated REDD could generate annually; which many companies and communities hope they might benefit from. REDD is seen by some industrialized countries as a way of bringing some developing countries to the climate change table, it is also being promoted as a win-win situation co-benefiting many as well as helping climate change. REDD could also contribute to poverty alleviation, protection of biodiversity and conserving watersheds.

However whether or not REDD will really generate any of these benefits depends on several key variables; the way it is designated, how funds are sourced, managed and distributed and whether a range of a major technical difficulties can be resolved, and the degree to which countries are generally committed to protecting biodiversity & indigenous people’s rights in accordance with Multilateral Agreements such as Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). Thus, there is still a great of uncertainty about what a REDD will eventually look like and what impacts will it have.

However, in spite of this uncertainty, and even though REDD has not yet been agreed to within the UNFCC, REDD is rapidly being put in place at the national level. ‘Readiness’ plans are being approved and funded, mainly by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UN-REDD Programme. It seems that the prospect of REDD funds is even leading some countries to second guess the outcomes of UNFCCC deliberations (as seems to be the case in Indonesia, which already has REDD legislation in place incorporating Sustainable Forest Management and Funding through carbon markets).

With REDD plans and implementation developing in Tanzania though as trial version, are we really ready as country wise to cope with whatever results REDD might impact to Indigenous people socio-economically and the biodiversity? What does REDD Readiness include; Uganda’s approach is perhaps typical, and aims to include a Consultation and Outreach Plan and terms of reference on:

Development of the greenhouse gas emissions reference scenario;

Development of the National REDD strategy, including means of assessing potential impacts, and any REDD implementation framework;

Establishing the monitoring, reporting and verification system for determining changes in forest cover and changes in carbon stocks at the national level and

Estimating investment requirement for, and evaluation of, the REDD strategy.

There are a range of concerns associated with the implementation of REDD project, but the speed with which the strategy and planning processes are proceeding means that these concerns may not be fully addressed. From the point of view of indigenous peoples and minority/marginalized groups include;

* Indigenous People and minority groups may be denied access to the forests for firewood and herbs, whilst lessees are granted the rights to harvest trees.
* Carbon traders may require land titles, to the carbon in the forest or to the land, which indigenous people and minority groups may not have.
* Profits for loggers, deforesters, and polluters will open a way for lessees to profit from logging in the name of sustainable harvesting.
* REDD may mean that forests come to be viewed as mere mechanisms for carbon sequestration.
* REDD can lead to a change in priorities, with economic priorities taking precedence over cultural, social, spiritual and environmental issues.
* There could be displacement from traditional territories as a result of implementation of REDD mechanisms that do not consider the rights of indigenous peoples, minority groups and local communities
* Equity issues might not be resolved, meaning that the benefits may not reach the communities preserving forests.
* Agrofuels may be further promoted through REDD, at the expense of natural forests.

After being in Idete village found in Iringa region early days of may 2010 representing Envirocare an NGO from Tanzania and Timberwatch (a coalition of NGOs) from South Africa, assessing what could be the impact of Agrofuels and Timber plantations both to biodiversity and socio-economic issues of the indigenous people’s livelihood, I no longer doubt the possibility that there will be negative impacts to the local community and the environment.

The Agrofuels and Timber business is being conducted by two major companies which are Green Resources and Mufindi Paper Mills in Mafinga District. The business runs by buying land from local farmers at higher prices than the indigenous people could expect because of their low understanding in land value. The fact that local people can’t manage to utilize their whole land because of poor tillage tools is being put aside and the land is described as marginal the concept which is not right. Lack of and inefficiency of the existing biodiversity legislation especially on grassland and the fact that we are all campaigning on tree planting where by a tree is a tree being natural species or exotic and the distance from water sources like wetlands and watersheds not really being put in consideration might result to unforgivable mess we are just imposing to the future generation.

Some tree species of eucalyptus have a severe negative impact when too close to a water source. Turning the cropland or grassland with a very complex ecosystem into a monoculture plantation of trees per se does not conserve biodiversity. People are offered a lot of unfulfilled promises and employed by the company earning 2500 per day for everyday they attend if they don’t attend not paid according to workers union rep, this is not sustainable considering the fact that these people are living in camps, inside the company area, far from other social services and the external environment where they could do other activities alternatively in raising income.

The status of education and awareness on land rights is very low at Idete, and the Top down mechanism of management of natural resources limits the decision making of Indigenous people over resources at their surroundings. We most time talk of democracy but hardly this is being put in practice at grassroots especially the distribution of powers from central governments to local levels where community are broadly involved. Is REDD gender sensitive? Do you call a sugarcane or banana plantation a forest? = Plantations are not Forests. Do we know what we are doing jumping into REDD or we are just being dragged by other people. Can we exclude REDD and forests in general from carbon markets, what can we do to ensure policy coherence and compliance. How do we merge REDD implementation to complying to the land plans existing e.g. areas planned for community forests, grazing lands, cropping land and conserved areas such that both REDD and other investors won’t just grab big lands and push cheap labor into slavery system of dependence since they will not have options since they are vulnerable.

Please read this and post as many comments as possible

By Samwel Elisaria



  2. Thanks YETs 2010, you people are a great inspiration to Ugandan young people, God willing we shall start the same come 2011