REDD, CBFM and our forest sustainability
Siwi Nugraheni, Bandung Sat, 05/01/2010 The Jakarta Post
Forests are an important resource for Indonesia. Although the Global Forest Watch estimates that Indonesia’s forest coverage is declining by 2 million hectares every year, the country is still the third-largest forest nation in the world, after Brazil and Congo.
The 13th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2007 in Bali introduced the scheme of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).
Under the mechanism, countries with rainforests are eligible for financial compensation from industrial countries in return for preventing forest degradation at home, thus reducing potential greenhouse gas emissions.
In several parts of Indonesia, forests are managed by local communities. Scholars advocating this Community-based Forest Management (CBFM) arrangement maintain that the regime is better than government or private ownership in terms of promoting forest sustainability and alleviating local people from poverty.
Under CBFM, local communities have the right to manage and benefit from nearby forests. It is assumed that local people depend on forests for their livelihoods.
Therefore, the economy of the people would be better off if they were able to benefit from local forests. In addition, in order to secure their livelihoods in the long term, the people are more likely to manage the forests in a sustainable way.
There is evidence of local communities succeeding in maintaining their forests.
However, this approach should not be generalized. My research in Sumatra in 2003 revealed that several groups of people who were recognized as practicing CBFM were also known to be (illegal) loggers.
They did not cut down their local forests, of course, but they encroached on national park boundaries located in their neighborhood to harvest timber.
This type of CBFM is built by a group of people to serve their short-term interests — in particular harvesting funds from the donor.
Although the people might take care of their local forests, it is not assured that the they would extend the same respect to neighboring forests.
Regulations related to REDD are still under construction. However, communities managing local forests under CBFM are in the spotlight for having the chance to benefit from the scheme.
The problem lies in differentiating the “true” CBFMs from the “placebo” CBFMs. Any group claiming to practice CBFM should be scrutinized for their eligibility to receive compensation under the REDD scheme.
Livelihood is one of the indicators that could be used to examine a group of people practicing CBFM. The main assumption for a successful CBFM to achieve forest sustainability is that: Local people depend on their forest for their livelihoods. However, the assumption should be made more specific.
A mutual relationship between forests and people living adjacent to one another is relevant when the community’s livelihood depends on non-timber forest products (NTFPs). Therefore, maintaining trees in the forests is the main interest of the community.
In most cases however, financial returns from NTFPs are less than those from timber. As a result, most people consider timber their main forest product. Such a dependence would result in disappearing forests.
The community might be forest-friendly as far as their local forests are concerned, but they may not extend this principle to other communities’ forests.
Financial compensation from REDD is one income source for local communities. Indeed, the compensation could be used to reduce the community’s dependency on timber.
However, changing livelihoods is not easy. The Integrated Conservation and Development Program, which was implemented in several countries in the 1990s is aimed to reduce communities’ dependency on timber.
However, many problems hindered the program from achieving its goal.
In conclusion, under the REDD scheme a group of people engaging in CBFM have the potential to receive compensation for their efforts to maintain local forests.
However, the eligibility of CBFMs to claim compensation from the REDD scheme should be scrutinized.
So-called placebo CBFMs, whose participants are recognized as local forest conservationists but at the same time are also forest destroyers, should not be qualified for REDD.
The writer is an economics lecturer at the Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung.