Understanding forest-dependency for REDD+
A new briefing paper illustrates how participatory assessment tools can inform REDD+ decision-making about important links between forests and livelihoods. REDD+ is a mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aimed at Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The Forests‐Poverty Toolkit is a participatory rural assessment tool that undertakes wealth‐ranking exercises based on locally identified indicators. Data collected make it possible to identify and differentiate forest dependence among men and women, richer and poorer people and among people living closer or further away from markets. The toolkit sheds new light on non-monetary aspects of forest dependency and collects data on forest trends that help villagers to identify the key forest problems in their area and potential solutions.
Information on the links between forests and livelihoods is important for developing countries with forests that are currently building their national REDD+ strategies. In addition to reducing tropical deforestation, REDD+ can also contribute to the protection and promotion of the important social and environmental functions that forests fulfil. REDD+ activities should strengthen the contributions that forests make to livelihoods resilience and poverty reduction but insights into the dynamics of forest dependency rarely reach high-level decision makers. There is recognition of the fact that hundreds of millions of the world’s rural poor rely on forests. Biases in data-gathering towards income from selling forest products however have led to the argument that forests fulfil no more than a safety-net function.
The application of the Forests-Poverty Toolkit contributes to a better understanding of the full extent of the direct, non-cash contribution of forests to livelihoods. It has become apparent that forest products are 3-4 times more valuable for non-cash purposes than for cash. The toolkit results also indicate how REDD+ can contribute to reductions in cash poverty. In forest areas within reach of markets REDD+ activities can contribute to better management of forest landscapes through improved rights and enhanced forest protection, management and restoration practices that generate income in addition to the distribution of REDD+ benefits. In remote areas the situation is more complex. Here, REDD+ could promote livelihood resilience by supporting improved access rights. The overall message is that REDD+ should build on local livelihoods but take their fragile nature into account and ensure at all cost that livelihood vulnerability is not increased intentionally or unintentionally through interventions insensitive to forest dependence.
A REDD+ extension of the forests-poverty toolkit is developed as part of IUCN’s pro-poor REDD+ project that encourages a focus on the engagement of forest dependent communities and the inclusion of their interests into national REDD+ strategies. The project is implemented in Guatemala, Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana and Papua Province in Indonesia with support from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).