REDD+ Requires Tenure to be Addressed at National Level

A recent CIFOR paper finds that addressing tenure and property rights issues at the REDD+ project level may be insufficient to achieve REDD+ objectives. REDD+ proponents in several countries are devoting substantial resources to address tenure issues at a project level, but the authors suggest that these efforts may be insufficient to address tenure problems that arise from broader national conditions. These tenure challenges “…have deep roots in history, are national in scope, and have origins that often lie well beyond the boundary of the project site. The best remedies in many cases cannot be the piecemeal efforts at tenure clarification within the bounds of the project, but instead require wholesale, landscape-wide reform.”

The authors used surveys and focus groups to collect data from REDD+ project proponents (international non-governmental organizations and others involved in REDD+ planning and implementation) and community stakeholders at 19 project sites and 71 villages in five countries, including Brazil, Cameroon, Tanzania, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Household respondents were asked to comment on perceived tenure insecurity, outsider use of forest land and resources, exclusion rights, and local rule compliance.

The authors found that REDD+ proponents are devoting substantial resources to address tenure issues at the project level, but suggest that these efforts may be insufficient to address tenure problems that arise due to national circumstances. Further, all but one of the REDD+ proponents interviewed for the study intend to restrict access to some portion of local forests, with possibly negative implications for the rights and livelihoods of local stakeholders

The perceived right to exclude “outsiders” will be important for communities that take on the responsibility of forest management to achieve REDD+ emissions reductions. Villagers surveyed reported success in excluding outside claims in 58% of the villages and failure to exclude outside claimants in 18%. The authors suggest that this reported percentage of successful exclusion is insufficient if the number of outside claimants and the extent of competition from “outsiders” increases. There is also concern that poor seasonal, temporary, and nomadic resource users may lose the ability to access and use forests where community rights are strengthened, such as the Baka of Cameroon.

In order to achieve equitable and effective REDD+ objectives, the authors recommend that clarity is needed around the following tenure and property rights problems: rights over forest carbon; the undetermined structure and amount of incentives; benefit sharing among stakeholders; and the ability to exercise rights of exclusion to avert a rush on resources.

USAID has launched the Tenure and Global Climate Change Project to support efforts in REDD+ countries to integrate tenure policies and laws with local efforts to clarify and recognize land and forest rights. The project aims to clarify: forest carbon ownership, the rights of various stakeholders, and the distribution of benefits from REDD+. This focus reflects the emerging consensus that, as the authors note, “general tenure clarification…is important for attaining a broad range of development and environment goals…” and that “resolution of tenure is crucial” for implementing REDD+ measures that are effective and equitable. This reinforces a recent commentary that noted the importance of reforming tenure in order to create enabling conditions for REDD+.

The same issue of World Development also includes supporting case studies from Ecuador, Brazil, and Indonesia, all of which were presented at a USAID TransLinks-supported workshop in October, 2011.