Course:FRST370/Projects/The effects of the implementation of REDD+ for community forestry in Nepal

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The location of the country Nepal

This case study examines the implementation of a REDD+ pilot project in the three watershed districts Charnawati, Kayarkhola and Ludikhola in Nepal and the effects of the implementation on Community Forestry (CF). Even though the forests in CF are still owned by the government, the communities have secured use rights and they carry out the forest management[1]. However, this arrangement is subject to change under the preface of the implementation of REDD+, a project that aims to reduce the emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. The pilot project was conducted from 2009 until 2013 to establish a REDD+ implementation system, that can be used as a model for the nationwide implementation[2]. Due to limited financial funding, REDD+ is being embedded in CF, as it is the already existing forest management structure in many parts of Nepal[3]. This case study examines various papers to estimate the effects of the implementation of REDD+ on the affected Stakeholders. It became evident that the advantages and disadvantages are unevenly distributed among the different social groups and that the effects are more profound and widespread than previously thought.

Description

Nepal is a small country in southern Asia with a total area of 14.8 million ha and 39 % forest cover[3]. The three watershed districts, Charnawati in Dolakha, Kayarkhola in Chitwan and Ludikhola in Gorkha, cover over 10’000 ha and a variety of different geographical regions, namely the mountains, the hills and the plains. 112 community forests are located in these watersheds with 18’000 households and 90’000 people [4].

History of Nepal's Forest Management

Nepal has a very successful history of Community Forestry (CF)[3]. However, it wasn’t always like this. From the mid 1800’s to the mid 19000s, Nepal’s forests were under the control of aristocratic rulers, called Rana, which gave the local communities limited user rights[1] to meet their needs for subsistence fuel, food and timber. This changed substantially when the government adopted a policy of state governed forests with the Private Forest Nationalization Act of 1957. This Act nationalized all forests with the pretext of preventing further destruction of the forests and ensuring the welfare of the people. However, this led to the conversion of forest land to agricultural land by the landowners as they wanted to prevent their land being taken away from them[3]. The government realized that this led to increased forest degradation and form the early 1980s it adapted a decentralization policy[1]. The Forest Act of 1993 officially handed over forest management and user rights to local forest users which led to the creation of 18’000 Forestry User Groups (CFUGs) since then[3].

The REDD+ Project

Deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for 20 % of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions[5]. The project “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” (REDD+) had been introduced in 2008 by the United Nations including goals for co-benefits (indicated by the plus) like biodiversity, enhancement of forest carbon stocks and forest livelihoods[3]. Developed countries can compensate their GHG emissions through payments to developing countries that in return reduce their GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation[5]. As there is limited international funding for REDD+, the government of Nepal uses existing forest management schemes like CF to implement REDD+[3]. A pilot project had been implemented in the three watersheds districts from 2009 until 2013 to develop a nationwide applicable REDD+ implementation system[4].

Tenure arrangements

In Nepal, there are three different types of tenure, namely community-based regimes, government-managed forests and private forests. Private forests are legally owned, managed and used by private people[1].

Community-Based Regimes

These regimes include a variety of different forest management types like community forestry, leasehold forestry, collaborative forest management and buffer-zone community-forests. The government remains the owner of the forests. However, the communities are given certain rights to use and manage the forest resources. The extent of these rights, the autonomy of the community and the benefits that they get from the forests, varies among the different communities[1]. As Community Forestry is the main forest management system in the three watershed districts, it has been used for embedding of the REDD+ pilot project[3]. While the communities have secured rights to the aboveground carbon (trees), the rights for the belowground carbons (soil) are unclear[1]. This might lead to future claims from the governmental side on payments for the soil carbon[6].

Government-Managed Forests

The legal owner of his tenure includes protected areas. As in community-based regimes, the government is the owner. However, use rights of people around these forests are highly restricted.[1]

Administrative arrangements

Community Forestry

CF had been the answer to increasing deforestation and forest degradation with the goal of restoring the degraded forests while providing the communities with resources (fuel, fodder and timber) from the forest.[2] Therefore, Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) have been formed. Even though the government remains the owner, the CFUGs are responsible for all the management decisions. They provide equal rights and access to the forests and equal distribution of the forest’s benefits to every member in the CFUGs. Another characteristic is the exclusion of non-members from the forest resources. The CFUGs can also ask for technical assistance from the government provided that they responsibly manage the forests.[3]

CF has provably led to improved forest conditions and to decreased use of forest resources. However, as the forest resource use had been restricted, it has had a bigger impact on poor people as they depend more on forest resources.[2]

REDD+

The pilot project in the three watershed districts was founded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) with a US $ 95’000 seed grant. The goal of this pilot project was to establish a carbon monitoring mechanism and a payment system. The payments to the individual CFUGs were made based on the following formula:

REDD+ payment = f[forest carbon pool (24%) + change in forest carbon (16%) + number of households of indigenous people (10%) + number of Dalit households (15%) + population of women (15%) + population of poor people (20%)]

Only 40% of the payment was based on the carbon enhancement and 60 % on social factors.[2] Although the REDD+ pilot project wasn’t primarily a poverty reduction program, it did entail objectives to improve their livelihood.[7] This payment system wanted to ensure that the poor and marginalized social groups were actually receiving money.[2]

The CFUGs were required to spend at least 40 % of the money into certain forest management actions, like the construction of fire lines[5], tree planting and the protection of forests from grazing[2]. They also had to spend money on activities that improved the livelihoods of the poor and the marginalized social groups on income-generating activities, like seed money on forest dependent enterprises and goat, pig or cow farming.[5] In order to reduce the pressure on forest resources as an energy source, improved cook stoves and biogas as a renewable energy source were introduced in some of the poor and middle-income households. Furthermore, the CFUGs were responsible for the carbon stock measurement, as this proofed to be cheaper and as accurate as external people measuring it. Therefore, a selected group from the CFUGs received training in carrying out carbon inventory.[4]

Affected Stakeholders

The members of the CFUGs are affected stakeholders, as they depend on the forests and its resources. Their main goals concerning the community forests are that they are healthy and that they have guaranteed access to gather forest resources for their livelihood. However, the extent of the dependence and their relative power varies among the different social groups.

The members of the CFUGs are very diverse in gender, education level, household characteristics, and possession of agricultural land. As a result, the degree of participation among the members varies a lot as well. Especially, the participation of women is either low or is being disregarded. Furthermore, people that are more educated, come from larger households or live closer to the community forests (and therefore are more dependent on the forests), are more likely to participate in the CFUGs.[8]

The marginalized groups (women, Dalit, Janajati) and the poor people have little power. On the one hand, they cannot afford the time investment to participate in the committees, but their participation is also disregarded.

The better-off families can afford to invest time to participate in the CFUGs and they are socially more valued than the marginalized groups. Therefore, they have more power in the forest management process. However, in comparison with the government, their power is rather low.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Government

The government owns the community forest land and has therefore an interest in the way it is being managed. The main objective is an effective management with low financial costs. As these forests are less economic profitable, the government has no intention of managing them himself. The government holds much power, as it was the most dominant actor in the policy-making process and therefore decided which measures were part of the pilot project.

Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD)

The NORAD didn’t directly participate in the policy-making process but provided the funding for the pilot project. It holds much power, as it can set conditions regarding the funding. Its goal is to support developing countries and it expects its seed grant to be used efficiently.

Developed Countries

Developed countries with a high environmental impact (e.g. USA or Germany) are interested in the outcomes of the pilot project. In the future, REDD+ could be a possibility for them to offset their environmental impact by providing financial support for developing countries without having to reduce their GHG emissions. However, at the current state they have rather low power as they are not part of the shaping of the pilot project.

Discussion

The enhancement of the livelihood of the local forest-dependent groups had been identified as a co-benefit of the implementation of the REDD+ pilot project. There are clearly benefits, like the expenditure on income generating activities.[4] However, there are many foregone benefits as the quantity of fodder, fuel and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and the number of animals grazing in the forests had to be decreased.[5] This had an especially big impact on small households as they don’t own private forest land where they could gather these forest resources.[2] The frequency of the committee meetings and the proportion of the marginalized groups participating in CFUGs meetings and the general assembly increased. This allowed them to have a voice in the decision-making processes. However, this increase in participation and the increase in forest management actions meant also an increase in time investment, which hadn’t been financially compensated.[5] The money that had been invested in income-generating activities for the marginalized groups like the Dalit and Janajati had also another effect. It created a new gap and bad feelings among the poor, as the non-Dalit and non-Janajati but equally poor people didn’t receive money.[7]

There have been general changes in the communities, that have been enforced by the project implementation. Forest management priorities were already shifting towards more commercial interests, which showed in the selection of tree and NTFP species that were planted. Subsistence farming is being replaced by off-farm activities and semi-commercial farming in the rural areas. Suddenly, abstract artefacts like the amount of stored carbon and forest ecosystem services had a monetary value as a possible income source. The pilot project also didn’t acknowledge the different non-monetary values that the forests represent to the communities.[2] In the past the communities were managing the forests for their own subsistence, while under the REDD+ pilot project, they partially act as carbon managers for foreigners.[6]

The project didn’t recognize the historical social structures in the communities. Even though they tried to promote the participation of the marginalized groups, this didn’t succeed in the long term as the underlying social structures remained unchanged. There are major differences in the marginalized groups. The Janajati (indigenous people) are not included in decision making processes. But the Dalits, that are from a low caste, are seen as untouchable and therefore, aren’t permitted to do farming.[2] The increased participation of these social groups can cause big social tensions in the communities, when these inequalities aren’t addressed at the same time.

Finally, the REDD+ pilot project might substantially differ from the actual future REDD+ implementation. The communities might have got used to this system and built up expectations that will not be fulfilled.[6]

Assessment

Although the people in the communities were still responsible for carrying out the management measures in the community forest, the actual measures had been formerly decided in the REDD+ readiness documents. However, the policy-making process hadn’t properly included the affected stakeholders, even though the government claimed their inclusion. It had been mainly dominated by three stakeholders, namely the government, consultant and the donor organizations. Even though there had been some civil society groups present, their presence mainly served as a legitimation for the government to claim that the policy-making process had been a multi-stakeholder process. These civil society groups didn’t have the same authority as the dominant stakeholders and they only represented the interests of some social groups. The document upon which all the following REDD+ management measures were based, mainly represented the interests of the government and thus reinforced the already existing unequal power relations.[1] The process of decentralization (the base of Community Forestry) is being threatened and is being replaced by a process of recentralization.[6]

REDD+ brings the interests and influences from external stakeholder into local communities, which could be abused by the government as an excuse to take over more power in the forest management while the communities still have to do the actual management. The CFUGs have been created with the intent of managing the forests for the self-sufficiency of the forest-dependent households. Suddenly, they have to meet international objectives as well as managing the forests for the interests of their communities.

Recommendations

Alternatives to REDD+

The objectives of REDD+ and Community Forestry show substantial overlap even though for different purposes. Both want to improve the conditions of the forests. REDD+ wants to conserve the carbon storage and CF wants to provide the communities resources so they can make a living. However, REDD+ requires increased investment from external actors and higher expenditures on bureaucratic matters, while CF is self-sustaining and doesn’t require external input. CF has proofed to have a positive impact on the forest conditions, as well as the carbon storage.[9] Therefore, an alternative to increased external inputs and expenditures while still enhancing the forest conditions, would be the maintenance and strengthening of CF. The forest-dependent communities actually care about the forests and their livelihood depends on them, therefore they have an inherent motivation to conserve them.  Giving over the ownership of the forests to the communities could be a possibility. At least the tenure has to be clarified, especially with respect to the rights concerning the forest carbon, which remains unclear.

Of course, there is a need for additional measures to further enhance the forest conditions and to reduce deforestation than CF alone can achieve. However, this should be done in collaboration with the local communities to find out how they can sustainably reduce the pressure on the forest resources while maintaining their livelihood.

The forests with the highest carbon storage are the Terai’s forests, which aren’t managed by CFUGs. They are also the forests with the highest rate of deforestation because they contain the most valuable timber. This is also the reason why the government is unwilling to extend the rights of the communities in this region.[3] To efficiently reduce deforestation and increase the carbon storage in Nepal, it would be most effective to implement REDD+ in the Terai’s forest, where CF hasn’t been implemented yet.

Implementation of REDD+ in the CF context

If REDD+ is to be implemented in the context of Community Forestry, there are certain conditions that have to be fulfilled to ensure the wellbeing of the communities and to ensure the success of REDD+. The policy-making process must base on a collaboration with the local communities and not only on the inclusion of them. After all, they are the stakeholders that are most affected by the outcomes. This collaboration should make sure that the marginalized groups, like women, Dalit, Janajati, are included as well so their concerns are represented in the REDD+ documents. The marginalized groups are not trained in politics and might not be able to invest time so they are disadvantaged in these negotiations. One solution could be the involvement of impartial external actors that would act as mediators while not being dependent on the outcome of the negotiations themselves.

It must be guaranteed that the financial resources provided by REDD+, don’t mainly remain in the higher institutional levels but that they reach the local communities. The increased time investment of the locals must be financially compensated, or the local participation will cease as their time is crucial for their livelihood.

Furthermore, a replacement for the forest resources of which the use is being restricted, must be found. Else, it is mainly the poor people that feel the negative effect and they are forced to collect the resources illegally or in another forest that isn’t part of REDD+.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Khatri, Dil B. (2012). "Is REDD+ Redefining Forest Governance in Nepal?". Journal of Forest and Livelihood. 10 (1): 74–87. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Khatri, Dil B.; Marquardt, Kristina; Pain, Adam; Ojha, Hemant (2018). "Shifting Regimes of Management and Uses of Forests: What Might REDD+ Implementation Mean for Community Forestry? Evidence from Nepal". Forest Policy and Economics. 92: 1–10. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Rosenbach, Derrick W.; Whittemore, Jessica; DeBoer, Joel (2013). "Community Forestry and REDD+ in Nepal". 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Shrestha, Shanti; Karky, Bhaskar Singh; Karki, Seema (2014). "Case Study Report: REDD+ Pilot Project in Community Forests in Three Watersheds of Nepal". Forests. 5: 2425–2439. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Maraseni, T.N.; Neupane, P.R.; Lopez-Casero, F.; Cadman, T. (2014). "An Assessment of the Impacts of the REDD+ Pilot Project on Community Forests User Groups (CFUGs) and their Community Forests in Nepal". Journal of Environmental Management. 136: 37–46. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Newton, Peter; Schaap, Brian; Fournier, Michelle; Cornwall, Meghan; Rosenbach, Derrick W.; DeBoer, Joel; Whittemore, Jessica; Stock, Ryan; Yoders, Mark (2015). "Community Forest Management and REDD+". Forest Policy and Economics. 56: 27–37. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Poudel, Dili Prasad (2014). "REDD+ Comes with Money, not with Development: an Analysis of Post-Pilor Project Scenarios from the Community Forestry of Nepal Himalaya". International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology. 21 (6): 552–562. 
  8. Shrestha, Sujata; Shrestha, Uttam Babu (2017). "Beyond Money: Does REDD+ Payment Enhance Household's Participation in Forest Governance and Management in Nepal's Community Forests?". Forest Policy and Economics. 80: 63–70. 
  9. Pelletier, Johanne; Gélinas, Nancy; Skutsch, Margaret (2016). "The Place of Community Forest Management in the REDD+ Landscape". Forests. 7 (12). 
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