African woodlands and savannahs: opportunities from and potential of REDD+. Vol 2 (15).

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Climate change adversely affects the environment and human livelihoods. This is through alteration of rainfall patterns as well as water availability, sea level and ecosystem productivity, e.g. forest ecosystem. Forest ecosystems are believed to perform a vital role in helping people in developing countries to adapt to negative impacts of climate change since they capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) apart from provision of other goods and services, typically manifested during extreme events (such as droughts and floods). Forested areas are, therefore, key resources for mitigating and reducing vulnerability to climate change. The global storage of carbon in forest ecosystems is estimated to be more than 650 billion tons of carbon, of which 44% is stored in biomass, 11% in dead wood and litter, and 45% stored in soil. Despite this capacity, about 17.4% of global greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions originate from the forest sector through deforestation and forest degradation.

The United Nations (UN) initiated a program dedicated to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (UN-REDD) as an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests growing in developing countries. Mitigation and adaptation of UN-REDD fulfilled the aims of several international climate change conventions, including international commitment under the UNFCCC 2009 Copenhagen Accord and the Cancun Agreement of 2010. There was an evolution of REDD to “REDD+” which went further than just deforestation and forest degradation, but included the role of conservation, sustainable forest management, enhancement of forest carbon stocks while upholding the improvement for rural livelihoods in developing countries. In this way, developing countries are encouraged to reduce emissions from forest lands while benefiting from sustainable forest management. This emerged after the realisation that forests are estimated to reduce emissions to values between 13 and 50 billion tons (Gt) of carbon dioxide by 2100 (African Wildlife Foundation, 2011) and can, therefore, become a cornerstone of the post - 2012 global climate change agenda. The establishment and sustainability of REDD+ in African societies requires significant initial investment in the strengthening of local institutions, good governance, capacity building and alternative livelihood opportunities. There is need for continuous support to countries in areas of communication, knowledge sharing and stakeholder engagement to safeguard the accuracy and extensive dissemination of information about REDD+.

Forest ecosystems can be divided by physiognomic types forming eco-regions and these are classified into: Forests (montane and lowland), woodlands and savannahs (East African, Sudanian and Zambezian) and the Sahel.

This report is based on REDD+ activities in African woodlands and savannahs. The African woodland and savannah ecosystems are distributed across 31 countries, i.e. 9 in Southern Africa, 13 in West Africa and 9 in East and Central Africa covering an area greater than 3.8 million km2. The savannah woodlands are divided into moist dystrophic and arid eutrophic depending on species composition and soil nutrient status. The miombo woodland is the dominant woodland type in Southern Africa while the Acacia and open woodland dominate the other parts of Africa.

Only four of the countries have received direct support for national REDD programmes, namely Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zambia whilst eleven, (Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe) do not receive direct support but engage with the UN-REDD processes.

Most of the countries implementing REDD+ projects have some small-scale private sector funding for sub-national level projects based on the existing voluntary forest carbon markets. In countries, such as Zimbabwe, private sector investment in project development is the only form of REDD+ activity. Donor or public funding currently flowing into some countries, such as Kenya and Tanzania, have projects that provided valuable models and lessons from the sub-national and project level REDD+ processes. The initial level of investment for REDD+ activities varies significantly depending on community histories, experiences of development projects and forest management activities at both national and sub-national levels. National REDD+ readiness planning activities, in some countries, include activities funded by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), forest investment programme (FIP) and private investment programmes. In countries, such as Cameroon and Ghana, there is lack of effective actions to ensure the participation of local people while in other countries they tend to have missed substantial data on the drivers of deforestation. The issue of land tenure has received exaggerated criticism, and some countries have not put in place clear policies/guidelines on carbon rights and benefit sharing mechanisms. In some countries, e.g. Cameroon, studies have shown that current projects lack transparency, meaningful participation or Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and disregard issues of land tenure, customary rights and benefit sharing.

Successful climate change mitigation and adaptation must improve the welfare of rural people while integrating sustainable forest management and biodiversity protection. Several models for benefit sharing have been identified. In Tanzania, the community carbon enterprise model has been used as a tool for benefit sharing whilst in Kenya, the benefit sharing model is based on one third each for community development, the individual and the project running costs. The community funds are administered through a trust fund mechanism following some procedures that facilitate transparency. Good governance structures, land tenure systems and law enforcement, market and cultural values of forests, the rights of local communities, benefit-sharing mechanisms as well as poverty and food production policies are important considerations for the success of REDD+ initiatives. In addition, REDD+ projects can be successful when issues of transparency and accountability are precisely addressed and forest management and land use planning are integrated. The primary lessons learnt through pilot projects demonstrate some of the challenges that REDD+ presents in Africa but also provide insights for molding REDD+ policy frameworks for the benefits of communities while promoting forest conservation in Africa.

REDD+ pilot projects have demonstrated that climate change mitigation through forest carbon payments can enhance the incomes of the rural poor as well as increasing opportunities for adaptation to climate change and growth. Generally, payments for REDD+ and other ecosystem services have great potential in the light of the diversity of schemes that are likely to emerge and the diversity of services likely to be obtained, including potential positive impact on the environment. REDD+ has the ability to save public and private sector funds by promoting a diversity of benefits, improving people’s livelihoods and having potential to reduce conflict.

The need for simple, rapid monitoring methods cannot be over-emphasised. A number of scientific evidence gaps are linked to the accuracy of carbon accounting, ascribed to a lack of data, and there are uncertainties related to carbon storage and carbon flux models. Though the REDD+ processes require community participation in monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV), engagement of experts for accurate accounting should not be overruled.

In order to avoid inconsistencies, there might be a need for nested schemes, where projects are linked to sub-national projects, which, in turn, are linked to national projects. Discrete projects need to be adequately coordinated by umbrella organizations operating over larger scales in order to promote the longevity of project impacts at the local scale and allow experiences and good practices to feed into national policy development. Capacity building and resource investments across different levels are also shown to be vital.

The following are the key lessons learnt.

It is important to identify and quantify the actual drivers of deforestation and forest degradation before any project is implemented. The scope, goals and functioning of a REDD+ process should be clearly communicated to all stakeholders ensuring that a wide audience is included in raising awareness and capacity building activities. Countries may need assistance for continuous financial and technical support for learning and knowledge-sharing activities. In some countries, REDD+ activities have gone ahead without national REDD+ strategies. This has caused tension between government departments, NGOs and the private sector. It would be important to include all countries in REDD+ preparatory schemes.

There should be clear methodologies to address the identified drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. Countries may need assistance in developing tools for effective stakeholders’ engagement and capacity building for monitoring deforestation and forest degradation. Most of the REDD+ strategies are financially resource intensive and technically challenging, and need to be supported continually.

As REDD+ initiatives continue, national strategies to address drivers of deforestation and forest degradation need to be integrated with other land use systems and clearly reflected in institutional platforms for synchronisation. There is an urgent need for assistance to all countries to formulate national REDD+ strategies. In addition, there is need for the establishment of more permanent institutional infrastructure that guides and enables dialogue about REDD+ at the national level, including coordination and assessment of complementarities of multiple sources of REDD+ and climate funding to avoid duplication of efforts.

There is a need to manage expectations of communities about revenue from the REDD+ projects/initiatives, including outlining the potential amounts and timing of payments. Increased funding may be required to protect REDD+ projects from inadequately compensated communities so that they do not destroy the forest. In addition, there is need for sensitisation and training of neighbouring communities to ensure that they also reduce or avoid deforestation and forest degradation.

There are several designs to benefit sharing mechanisms, and these provide some clear lessons for other REDD+ projects. Communities are different and, hence, each project should be community specific. There is a need for continuous communication and clear information flow between the communities and other actors, especially safeguards for Social Impact assessment and FPIC at the early stages of project development.

Effective strategies have been built on existing relationships that have expanded into REDD+ projects (social capital) by developing on existing knowledge, experience and relationships that have transparent decision making and based on honesty as well as accountability and are truly participatory.

There are difficulties to secure carbon markets for some developers, and this has created tension from engaged local communities as they need the carbon benefits immediately. There is need for regular updates to engaged local communities on progress and position of carbon markets to contain their expectations.

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