‘Training the trainers’ to strengthen indigenous participatory processes within national REDD+ strategies

This is part of a series of guest contributions focussed on sharing local experiences from around the world in developing and implementing safeguards in REDD+. The series will feature contributions from Central America, East Africa and Asia-Pacific. In the this blog, Elena Florian and Raffaele Vignola discuss the impact of a ‘training the trainers’ course in indegenous territory in Costa Rica.

Governments across the world are currently discussing the importance of designing and implementing policies that can contribute to reducing deforestation and forest degradation in order to conserve, maintain and enhance the carbon stocks present in the forests. We know forests are important because they have the ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, crucial for climate change mitigation, but they are also important because they provide goods and services important for human development and well-being. A good proportion of these forests are also found in indigenous territories: for example in Costa Rica, 10% of the forests are under indigenous control.

In 2008 Costa Rica took the opportunity to use its national REDD+ strategy to strengthen its innovative national system of payments for environmental services. During the initial stages of the Readiness Preparation Plan, Costa Rica identified primary key stakeholders and organized a Strategic Social and Environmental Assessment  workshop to discuss with them issues and risks that should be considered in the implementation of the REDD+ National Strategy. This initial workshop brought together 116 participants representing various sectors including government institutions, indigenous, agricultural and private organizations, national and International NGO’s and the academia.

As a result of this workshop, representatives of 23 territories around the country identified the need to find a way to improve the dissemination of information to these indigenous groups and generate greater opportunities to influence government REDD+ decisions. Through this process came the suggestion to create ‘training for trainers’ programmes for cultural mediators. These would be participatory, in order to actively promote greater awareness and understanding of climate change issues, and to create interest in how participation and influence at a local, territorial and national level for REDD+ could create an important platform to begin wider discussion and negotiation with government representatives for better forest governance. This training program was initially implemented in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica as the first pilot site that targeted 8 different indigenous territories.

The ‘training the trainers’ programme has three distinct characteristics:

  1. Locally and culturally relevant training: training involves  different modules on climate change issues and REDD+, including material which integrates indigenous beliefs about the universe and life in order to promote an understanding of natural resource management issues based on their own cultural and traditional knowledge. Participants are supported to develop different learning tools specific to their own territories.
  2. Scaling up and increasing outreach: Each local government nominated participants from their indigenous territories to  participate in the week long course. At the end of the course, participants went on to implement two more workshops themselves in different indigenous territories.
  3. Community liason: This pool of newly trained cultural mediators now plays an important role disseminating information to local communities as part of the consultation process of REDD+, under the principle of free, prior, informed, consent (FPIC), and most crucially they will be important liasons to bring concerns from the communities up to policy makers in local, regional and national authorities.

So, what how can we learn from this experience and what lessons are transferable across other regions?

  • The representatives from indigenous communities have shown a high level of interest, desire and effort  to participate in REDD+ processes. Forest dependant communities arond the world are likely to be open to high involvement in REDD+.
  • REDD+ is an opportunity to bring important forest and rights issues to the discussion table, particularly those not addressed in the past, and local communities will see this as a benefit.
  • Establishing open, participatory and inclusive mechanisms encourages local communities to take greater ownership over projects, greater interest in participation and builds momentum behind the process.
  • There is a need to implement policies that recognise, promote and support the role of traditional knowledge in the management of natural resources that can be reflected in adaptation and mitigation climate change actions.
  • If forest dependant communities are to be supported to effectively influence and engage with polocy makers, there is a need to continuously provide technical support that strengthens local capacities and participatory approaches.

By Elena Florian1, Raffaele Vignola1, Angela Díaz1, Levi Sucre2, Faustina Torres3

1Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE)

2 Red Indígena Bribrí-Cabécar (RIBCA)



About REDD-net

REDD-net is a network to share the information and experience among organisations working for REDD . The power of interests surrounding climate change and REDD , means that, even where governments are well-disposed, pursuing a pro-poor agenda will largely depend on the capacity of southern NGOs to assimilate the new knowledge and use it to champion the interests of the poor.
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