in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam

REDD in the Mekong Region

REDD in the Mekong RegionLast month I was invited to speak at a workshop titled, “Food, Livelihoods and Climate Change in the Mekong Region”. I was asked to give an introduction to REDD and an overview of some of the REDD projects and actors in the Mekong Region.

The workshop was organised by Focus on the Global South together with the Foundation for Ecological Recovery/TERRA, World Rainforest Movement (WRM), International Rivers, Bank Information Centre and the Thai Working Group on Climate Justice. The following is based on the presentation I gave. The information is organised by country, with a brief introduction to REDD in that country, followed by a list of the projects in that country. I’m hoping in future to provide more information and analysis about some of these projects. For the time being though, this post is mainly a summary of information – use the links below to navigate to the parts that you are interested in:









A few concluding observations


Cambodia joined the UN-REDD programme in November 2009 as a partner country.

“We are here to address issues of deforestation and degradation together, as we are trying to improve the development of local communities,” said Dr Omaliss Keo, Cambodia’s focal point on REDD. “We look forward to working with the UN-REDD team to develop a REDD roadmap for Cambodia to guide all our REDD work in the future.”

Cambodia produced a Readiness Plan Idea Note (R-PIN) for the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in February 2009. Somewhat bizarrely, it is marked “confidential”.

The following authors are listed as having written and/or contributed to the R-PIN:

Ty Sokhun, Delegate of the Royal Government of Cambodia and Chief of Forestry Administration
Ung Sam Ath, Deputy Chiet of Forestry Administration
Chheng Kim Sun, Deputy Chief of Forestry Administration
Khun Vathana, Assistant Chief of Forestry Administration
Keo Omaliss, Deputy Director of Wildlife Protection Office
Samreth Vanna, Deputy Director of Forest and Wildlife Science Research Institute
Chea Nareth, Forest Management Office staff
Andrew Wardell, Clinton Climate Initiative-Forestry
Jean-Baptiste Routier, Expert, ONF international
Stéphane Brun, Technical Assistant, FA
Tom Clements, Research and Policy Advisor to WCS

There is a REDD+ Working Group in Cambodia, which is working on producing a REDD+ readiness roadmap. UNDP and FAO country offices have committed US$1 million for “REDD+ readiness activities” in Cambodia.

Shortly after the workshop in Bangkok, a draft “Cambodia REDD+ Roadmap” was released – Omaliss Keo <>, Cambodia’s focal point on REDD invites comments on the 54-page document until 6 September 2010. It is available for download in English and Khmer. A “consultation workshop” will be held on 9 or 10 of September 2010.

The FCPF’s Readiness Progress document notes that Cambodia,

“Has begun working on the R-PP. Will not submit the informal R-PP for August 23 deadline as they will just start a first consultation August 16 and another one in early Sept 2010.

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Community Forestry Carbon Offset Project, Oddar Meanchey

The project was initiated by Community Forestry International, which is running the project with Pact Cambodia. CFI’s website has this to say about the project:

“The Royal Government of Cambodia and the Forestry Administration, along with Community Forestry International and Terra Global Capital have recently developed the first Cambodian ‘avoided deforestation’ project. The project involves 12 community forestry (CF) groups, comprised of 55 villages, which protect 60,245 hectares of forest land in the Northwestern province of Oddar Meanchey.”

According to CFI, the project is funded by

“the Royal Danish Embassy (Danida) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Terra Global Capital, LLC has provided the technical work for the carbon measurement and monetization of the project’s carbon credits. The Oddar Meanchey Provincial Government, the local NGO Children’s Development Association (CDA), and the Monk’s CF Association have also contributed time and effort to develop and implement the project at the provincial level.”

A report published by Community Forestry International about the project includes the following statement in the acknowledgements:

“The project is indebted to DANIDA, DFID, NZAID, and the Technical Working Group on Forests and Environment for their support, including Dr. Andrew Wardell, the co-chairman at that time. The project was also facilitated by support to CFI from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with special thanks to David Hulse and Chris Holtz. The William J. Clinton Foundation has also provided support under the Clinton Climate Change Initiative-Forestry. We appreciate Pact’s interest in the project and in supporting any future development.”

UPDATE – 8 March 2011: Amanda Bradley of Pact in Cambodia contacted REDD-Monitor to point out the following:

“CFI is no longer involved. CFI transferred its operations in Cambodia to Pact since March 2009. Pact is now the implementing partner for this project along with the Forestry Administration.”

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Prey Long

Prey Long is the largest intact area of lowland evergreen forest in southeast Asia. It is under threat from mining, plantations, dams, power lines and road building. Conservation International, the University of Copenhagen, the Cambodian Forestry Administration, Forest and Landscape Denmark, the Blue Moon Fund and Danida are working on setting up a REDD project in Prey Long.

Ida Theilade and Lars Schmidt from Forest & Landscape, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, produced a film about Prey Long in collaboration with Conservation International and the Blue Moon Foundation.

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Northern Plains, Preah Vihear Province

On its website, Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia states:

“To establish if a REDD project might be possible in the Northern Plains, WCS is implementing a feasibility study which will review the status of the forest and its carbon stocks. This includes studying historical and potential future deforestation rates under different project scenarios, studying drivers of deforestation and a preliminary study of the carbon stocks in the landscape.”

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Seima Protection Forest, Mondulkiri Province

Another WCS Cambodia project:

“Work on the SPF REDD project in Mondulkiri Province was launched in mid-2008 with the completion of an independent feasibility study by Winrock International, which concluded that the proposed project was highly feasible and that even under a conservative scenario would avoid millions of tons of carbon emissions. WCS is now working with the RGC’s Forestry Administration to complete the Project Design Document (PDD), which will be submitted for verification by the Voluntary Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance in 2010.”

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Laos is not a member of the UN-REDD programme.

Laos produced a R-PIN for the World Bank’s FCPF in July 2008. The R-PIN was written by the Working Group on R-PIN set up in the Department of Forestry. Contributors included the following:

Wildlife Conservation Society in Lao PDR,
IUCN in Lao PDR,
Sustainable Forestry and Rural Development Project (SUFORD; MAF/WB/ Finland),
Forestry Strategy Implementation Promotion Project(MAF/JICA/Sida),
Upland Research Capacity Development Program (MAF/Sida)

In August 2010, Laos produced a Draft Readiness Preparation Proposal.

Laos is one of five countries initially selected as pilots for the World Bank’s Forest Investment Programme (the other four are Burkina Faso, Ghana, Indonesia and Peru). They were selected, according to a June 2010 press release from the World Bank:

“because of their potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to deforestation or forest degradation (REDD), or to lead to further conservation, sustainable forest management or enhanced forest carbon stocks.”

In June 2010, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mexico were added to the list.

In March 2010, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry produced an “Annual Review of REDD+ in Lao PDR 2009” (pdf file, 338.5 KB). The following information is extracted from this report.

There are several pilot activities in Laos:

  • LIDAR pilot – remote sensing (SUFORD)
  • Monitoring techniques for carbon stock monitoring (SUFORD)
  • Study on strengthening of methodological and technological approaches for preventing deforestation and forest degradation within the REDD implementation Framework (DOF and Asia Air Survey)
  • Study on the Change of Forest Cover and Biomass in Lao PDR (DOF, NAFRI and Forest and Forest Products Research Institute of Japan)

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Lao-German Climate Protection through Avoided Deforestation (CliPAD) Program (GTZ)

CliPAD started in January 2010 and is planned to run until 2018. GTZ is providing “national policy advisory services, capacity development and institutional support in the area of forests and climate change mitigation.” REDD pilot activities include Nam Phui (Sayabouri Province) and Nam Et Phou Loey (Houphan Province) conservation areas. A seven year, €10 million Financial Cooperation Module is planned through KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau – German Development Bank).

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Participatory Land and Forest Management Project for Reducing Deforestation (PA REDD)( by NAFES, DOF and JICA)

“Building upon the results of the Forest Management and Community Support (FORCOM) project through the joint efforts of the Government of Lao and JICA, PAREDD aims to produce a system for reducing deforestation applied to Northern Laos through consolidating the Community Support Program Tool (CSPT) which was used for supporting means of livelihoods in a sustainable manner as an alternative measure to stabilizing shifting cultivation within the FORCOM project.”

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Sub-national REDD Projects in Lao PDR by the Wildlife Conservation Society

WCS is working with the Lao Government “under the international Convention on Biological Diversity” to plan for and manage two large landscapes: the Nam Et Phou Loey National Protected Area in north-eastern Laos and Bolikhamxay province in central Laos, including the Nam Kading National Protected Area. WCS is working on feasibility studies to develop two REDD voluntary carbon projects.

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Nam Et Phou Loey National Protected Area (NEPL NPA)

“Nam Et Phou Loey National Protected Area (NEPL NPA) ranks high in the Lao national protected area system for contributing the highest biological diversity of any protected area in the Northern Highlands region of the country and supports the most important tiger populations remaining in Indochina. The principle drivers of deforestation in the 6,000 km 2 NEPL landscape in the past have been mosaic deforestation from shifting cultivation and livestock grazing. Today and in the future, the type of drivers are expanding to also include road expansion and frontier deforestation, cash crops (corn, tea), primary forest logging and unsustainable production forestry.”

WCS has been working in Nam Et Phou Loey National Protected Area since 2003. WCS is currently collaborating closely with the German Development Bank (KfW), the GTZ and the German Development Service (DED).

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Bolikhamxay province in central Laos, including Nam Kading National Protected Area

A REDD-type project aimed at protecting the watershed forest for the Theun Hinboun hydropower dam. WCS has been working in the area since 2005 and is currently collaborating closely on the REDD-type project with Theun Hinboun Power Company, with support from the Blue Moon Foundation.

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Vietnam produced a Readiness Plan Idea Note (R-PIN) for the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in March 2008. The authors and contributors include the following:

Dr. Pham Manh Cuong – Department of Forestry, MARD
Ms. Pham Minh Thoa – Department of Forestry, MARD
Dr. Mark Infield – Fauna and Flora International (FFI)
Ms. Catherine Mackenzie – Fauna and Flora International (FFI)
Mr. Ben Vickers – SNV
Mr. Josh Kempinski – Fauna and Flora International (FFI)
Mr. Ross Hughes – Independent Consultant
Mr. Nathan Sage – IUCN
Mr. Tran Hieu Minh – Department of Forestry, MARD
Dr. Chu Van Chuong – International Cooperation Department, MARD

In August 2010, Vietnam produced a Draft Readiness Preparation Plan.

Vietnam is also a member of UN-REDD. A US$4.38 million UN-REDD Vietnam Programme was launched September 2009, with funding from the Government of Norway.

UN-REDD has set up a pilot project in Lam Dong province. According to Tim Boyle, REDD Regional Coordinator for the UN-REDD Programme in Asia,

“Lam Dong is a pilot province, where some elements of capacity building for REDD readiness will be implemented … of the three proposed Outcomes of the UN-REDD Programme in Viet Nam, one deals exclusively with addressing cross-border displacement of emissions.”

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Google is financing a project aimed at measuring carbon stocks in forests, which is working with the UN-REDD programme in Lam Dong province. The project is being carried out by the German aid agency, GTZ, and CartONG.

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The World Agroforestry Centre’s Alternatives to Slash and Burn Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins is running a pilot project in Dak Nong province, aimed at Reducing Emissions From All Land Uses (REALU). ASB held a workshop in Tam Dao, northern Vietnam in April 2010, “Reducing Emissions from All land Uses: an
approach toward REDD/REDD+ and National Appropriate Mitigation Action”.

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Japan’s JICA has carried out initial assessments looking at community forestry in Dak Nong, forest conservation in Binh Phuoc and reducing shifting cultivation in Nghe An.

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In a November 2009 presentation, Vu Tan Phuong of the Research Centre for Forest Ecology and Environment (RCFEE) lists three REDD-type projects in Vietnam:

  • WWF and SNV to establish REDD model in Cat Tien National park
  • ICRAF Vietnam included carbon benefits in PES in Bac Kan province
  • Volunteer carbon intiated by German companies (Quang Ninh, Kon Tum, Lam Dong)

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RCFEE is involved in a project called REDD-Alert, which is supported by the EU and the UK-based Macaulay Institute. In addition to working in Vietnam, REDD-Alert also works in Indonesia, Cameroon, and Peru. “In Viet Nam, the REDD-ALERT project is working in Bac Kan (North Vietnam) and Dac Lak and Dac Nong (Central highland).”

Other organisations involved in REDD-Alert in Vietnam include ICRAF Vietnam, the Department of Forestry (DoF), the Forest Science Institute of Vietnam (FSIV) and the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute (FIPI).

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In June 2010, the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thiên Nhân announced the Forest Protection and Development Fund which would roll out a new series of Payments for Ecosystem Services. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) will administer the fund and

“collect money from entities that benefit from healthy forests and distribute it to individual households that work to maintain those forests.”

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In addition to the projects being set up in Vietnam, there have been a series of Hanoi-based discussions about REDD, some of which are ongoing:

  • Steering Committee for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation (MARD, DOF)
  • Sub-Committee on Mitigation and REDD
  • Forest Sector Support Partnership (REDD network)
  • NGO Climate Change Working Group
  • Katoomba meeting in Hanoi, 23-24 June 2010
  • FPIC meeting in Hanoi, 16-18 June 2010

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Thailand has produced a Readiness Plan Idea Note (R-PIN) for the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, but has not yet produced a Readiness Preparation Plan.

The list of authors and contributors to the R-PIN includes the following:

Dr. Hasan Moinuddin, Technical expert, Consultant, Asian Development Bank
Dr. Rungnapar Pattanavibool, Manager of GMS BCI Thailand Project
Mrs. Kantinan Pewsa-ad, Chief of Planning and Monitoring Section, GMS BCI Thailand Project
Mr. Anuchit Ratanasuwan, Director, Div of Geo-Informatics, Protected Area Rehabilitation and Development Office
Mr. Ronnakorn Triraganon, Capacity Building Coordinator, RECOFTC
Mrs. Somying Soonthornwong, Program Manager, Thailand Collaborative Country Support Program, RECOFTC
Dr. Suchitra Changtragoon, Director of Forest Genetics and Biotechnology Division, Forest Research Office, DNP

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Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative (GMS BCI)

This is part of the Asian Development Bank’s Greater Mekong Subregion programme and operates in the east of Thailand on the border with Burma. An organisation called International Consultancy Europe (ICE) is working with the Asian Development Bank and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment – the Department of National Parks (MNRE-DNP), aiming to establish a public-private partnership.

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A few concluding observations

Many of the actors involved in REDD in the Mekong Region have a long history of involvement in the region’s forests, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The World Bank financed the Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos (and once the World Bank had decided to do so, the Asian Development Bank jumped on board as well). An area covering 450 square kilometres was clearcut to make way for the dam’s reservoir. Having destroyed the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples living in and around the reservoir, the Bank moved them out of the way.

Another project, the Asian Development Bank’s Industrial Tree Plantation Project in Laos was a disaster, according to the Bank’s reports and a formal evaluation. It created and increased poverty and indebtedness. It replaced forests important to the livelihoods of local communities with eucalyptus plantations that then failed.

Forest Ministries, bilateral “aid” agencies, conservation NGOs (in particularly the Wildlife Conservation Society) and a series of US-based Foundations (Clinton, MacArthur, Moore and Packard) seem to be increasingly interested in REDD projects.

In addition, some new actors such as the Blue Moon Fund, Indochina Carbon, Terra Global Capital are also getting involved.

Many of the REDD-type projects are in National Parks or other “protected” areas. It is not immediately clear how such projects will claim to be additional (or how they will convince private financiers to get involved). One in particular – the Nam Kading National Protected Area in Laos, which is aimed at protecting the watershed area above the Theun Hinboun hydropower dam – seems to have extremely tenuous claims to additionality. (Incidentally, Theun Hinboun was also financed by the Asian Development Bank.) Surely, in order to prevent the river from silting up, the forests above the dam need to be protected? The idea of REDD financing going to the company responsible for damming the Theun River is also somewhat perverse.

REDD could also give governments the opportunity to revisit projects and targets that have long-since failed. At COP-15 in Copenhagen, for example, Thailand’s prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva announced that,

“In addition, to increase our carbon sink, Thailand has set the ambitious target to increase the national forest cover from 30% in 2006 up to 40% by 2020.”

The 40% figure is a well-known number in Thailand’s forestry sector. It was included in the 3rd National Economic and Social Development Plan in the 1970s and in Thailand’s 1983 National Forestry Policy. The problem is that a large number of people live on forest reserve areas in Thailand. Attempts to evict them, such as the infamous Khor Jor Kor (the Land Distribution Programme for the Poor Living in Degraded Forest Areas, which despite its harmless sounding title was carried out by the military’s Internal Security Operations Command, and aimed to evict five million villagers) have been, and remain, extremely controversial.

Of course, REDD does not have to involve evictions. It could even support local people’s livelihoods (although linking those livelihoods to the vagaries of the carbon market, is not necessarily going to secure those livelihoods, any more than it is going to reduce emissions). But the risk is real that REDD could bring in a new era of military-style conservation in some areas of the Mekong region, while failing to address the causes of deforestation in others.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this information. I am a student at Chiang Mai University, and presently preparing for my thesis in a Karen community, and the revitalization of their local knowledge to assert their rights to the forest, which is around a nature reserve up in Chiang Rai. I previously worked with an indigenous organization based in Chiang mai, and worked in collaborative efforts for protected areas, and in this time REDD is such an important issue as many of these “territorialization” of forests as protected areas have been in conflict with the local communities as so many of these are in these contested spaces, and with the REDD initiatives, its become more challenging for the local communities to access resources. REDD might not involve evictions, but wondering if it would restrict the access of resources for the communities. Like you said, it does seem that it might lead to a era of military-style conservation.