REDD project challenges and lessons learned

MCDI staff have recently written and contributed to two important new papers on the practical experiences of REDD+ project development and implementation.

First on the challenges: The challenge of establishing REDD+ on the ground – Insights from 23 subnational initiatives in six countries (produced by CIFOR) assesses how well REDD+ projects around the world are faring. The foremost challenge shared by all projects surveyed was the slow progress in international climate change negotiations and the consequent near-collapse of carbon markets. This is leading some projects to renounce conditional incentives (at the heart of the REDD+ concept) and to resemble instead Integrated Conservation & Development Projects, an approach to tropical forest protection that precedes REDD+ and is commonly viewed to have failed.

The major domestic challenge that is shared by many REDD+ projects concerns land tenure, which is often not as secure as might be wished. (The situation with MCDI’s REDD+ project in Kilwa is better than others, yet boundary disputes between neighbouring villages remain a significant constraint on action in some areas.) This illustrates how the novelty of REDD+ does not exempt it from many of difficulties that have hindered tropical forest conservation in the past. REDD+ projects often face entrenched and powerful vested interests. Were the economic, i.e. carbon market, issues to be overcome, REDD+ proponents would have a strong new argument to deploy in solidifying communities' land claims, but equally it might also provide additional incentives for land-grabbing by existing elites.

Despite these challenges, many REDD+ project proponents remain optimistic. They may therefore be interested in the second paper: Making REDD+ work for communities and forests (published by IIED), which presents three significant lessons we in MCDI have learned in developing our own community-based REDD+ project. We provide three core recommendations for REDD+ project managers:

  • Identify and (roughly) quantify the key drivers of deforestation as early as possible
  • Investigate the market requirements as encapsulated in the criteria of your selected third party validation scheme(s) and work backwards from them in your project design
  • Do not rush into contractual arrangements with communities until you are clear how the project will work and what benefits communities can expect. 

Following these recommendations, we think, will not guarantee the success of your REDD+ project, but it should make that success much more likely.