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Local Hopes and Worries about REDD+ Projects

This article details hopes and worries about REDD+ projects held by local communities.
two men with black hair transfer a large amount of nuts from one bag to another in a jungle setting
A family collects Brazil nuts from their forest. Kristen Evans/CIFOR.

Local forest communities in the REDD+ project sites of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study understand the scheme to be fundamentally about forest protection. They hope that local REDD+ projects will improve their incomes but they also worry that they can negatively affect their livelihoods.

Brazil nut harvesters in Peru for example have many concerns for the scheme. Although almost all appreciate the value of protecting forests, harvesters still have concerns about REDD. In the face of increasingly stringent regulations, will they be able to maintain control over their long-term, government granted concessions to extract nuts, for example? Can they expect to be adequately compensated for carbon storage in their forests? Is this yet another empty promise in a region beset by short term and short sighted conservation projects, or will the project eventually become a reality?

Families in Peru have for decades carved out a living harvesting the nutrient dense, half-moon shaped Brazil nuts from 40-foot-high emergent trees in the Amazon. The nature of Brazil nut harvesting makes it a perfect candidate for a REDD project given that survival of the Brazil nut tree is dependent upon a relatively pristine forest capable of maintaining the large bodied bee species which pollinate the trees – Brazil nut trees do not fare well in disturbed forests or in plantations and thus the integrity of the REDD project is ensured through the survival of the Brazil nut trees.

In one of the many sub-national REDD pilot projects popping up all over Peru, the project propopent has promised that a Brazil nut processing plant, legal and technical assistance as well as a rapid response system to address illegal land invasions will eventually be implemented throughout the Brazil nut concession area.

But one of the biggest, shared worries from communities engaged in the project pertains to rights over the nut concessions. In the last decade, more than a thousand 40-year concessions have been granted to harvesters in approximately one million hectares of public forest. These contracts are subject to annual approval of management plans by the government, however, some holders worry that REDD+ will usher in a new set of rules and that their rights may eventually be revoked or limited.

Communities are thus desperate for more project information and more transparency, saying most of what they understand of REDD at the moment comes filtered from the project proponent and other stakeholders. Harvesters often do not know to whom they can turn to receive unbiased, reliable information on the project.

Key challenges for REDD+ projects still remain: i) to communicate to villagers how REDD+ projects work, the opportunities and risks, and the rights and responsibilities; ii) to involve villagers meaningfully in the design and implementation of the project; and iii) to balance forest protection with the welfare concerns of villagers.

The content of this article is sourced from the blog ‘Can REDD+ protect the trees that nourish nut harvesters in Peru’s Amazon rainforest?’ by Gabriela Ramirez Galindo/CIFOR

This work is part of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+, which is supported by The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and AusAid.

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