As Government Ministers and Heads of States arrive in Durban to thrash out an agreement on climate change, there have been many meetings and events on how to move ahead with REDD+. Many of them have been focussed on reference levels, safeguards, governance and legal measures that are needed to implement REDD+, but if the needs and aspiration of the man with an axe are not given utmost importance it will be hard for REDD+ to succeed.
For REDD+ to work, we need to recognise that the most important decision maker is the man with an axe, or the saw. It is that man that needs to be incentivised to change his behaviour without compromising his ability to meet his or her daily needs. REDD+ can only succeed if it is designed through effective involvement and participation by these decision makers. Sustainable management of forests will only be achieved if there is the will and ability by micro level decision makers and policy makers to make changes, and effective incentives are given to the man with an axe to keep trees standing.
Nigerian CSOs organised a side event at the COP17 at the Africa Pavilion; on Friday, 2nd December 2011. This event was aimed at “Increasing Awareness on REDD+ Governance in Africa”. Its discussion focused on the contribution to addressing the key challenges for developing and implementing REDD+ mechanism in Africa; increasing awareness and capacity building for African stakeholders on REDD+ and promoting strategic governance frameworks on REDD+ to further enhance the UNFCCC negotiation processes at COP17. It was one of the many events that was organised to discuss issues of REDD+ and governance in Africa.
There is need for us to move from policy decisions on climate change to action on the ground i.e. from policy to reality. Policy making around REDD+ is no exception, whether at sub-national, national, regional or international levels. REDD+ can only work if the communities have real and reliable incentives to conserve or sustainably manage the forests.
There are many pressures on the man with the axe, which must be addressed for REDD+ to work. Questions must be asked – what makes him go to the forest to cut the trees? Is it to clear land for agriculture for cash crops? Is it to clear land to ensure that he can continue to produce enough food for his family? Is it for fuel wood? Is it to extract timber for sale, or for his own use? Is it because there are no alternatives for his household to obtain essential forest products?
At the moment, there are various reasons why deforestation and forest degradation is continuing, in many areas they are the main source of community livelihoods. REDD-net has explored the extra-sectoral approaches on how deforestation is linked to various key sector of the economy in East Africa which include: Agriculture, food security and REDD+ in East Africa , REDD+ and energy for rural development in East Africa ,and Water resources management and REDD+ in East Africa.
Immediate action on finance is needed to address then livelihood issues that are linked to deforestation and forest degradation. Finance needs to be delivered effectively and equitably to the man with the axe. REDD+ therefore will only be successful if it is implemented with a human face by moving from just mitigation action to ensure that it contributes to rural development.
As the negotiations here in Durban move towards advanced stages, the real decision makers continue with their business as usual scenario of deforestation and forest degradation. Therefore the policy makers must speed up the pace of policy decisions if we are to have forests remain standing. Delaying an agreement on REDD+ finance will leave the rate of deforestation unchecked. The ‘man with an axe’ will not wait for finalisation of the policy decisions to stop deforestation and forest degradation. If we want real progress on REDD+, clarity and a strong signal on long term finance needs to be provided in Durban.
Written by David Mwayafu, REDD-net Coordinator East Africa, UCSD