World Rainforest Movement has produced a booklet aimed at informing communities about the “serious problems that a REDD project can cause for the people involved”.
The booklet is based on talks with communities in REDD project areas. “All of them, without exception, have a lot to say about REDD,” WRM notes.
REDD projects are often planned in areas where communities live. “For these communities,” WRM writes, “deforestation has never been a common practice.” Communities that do destroy large areas of forest have “usually lost part of their traditional territory to big companies or landowners”.
REDD project developers may explain that their project is necessary because deforestation is a cause of climate change, which leads to more rain, more droughts or higher temperatures. REDD will provide jobs, money and social projects. Communities often accept REDD projects because of these promises. For example, a villager in the Democratic Republic of Congo explains that,
“We have agreed to the REDD project activities. If there are obstacles, they won’t be raised by us. There is carbon in the forest and we have agreed not to destroy the forest. This is going to open the door to development.”
WRM asks whether the REDD project will be “good for the community as a whole” and whether it will really “open the doors to a better life”? The ten points are outlined below and WRM’s booklet can be downloaded here (pdf file 707.4 kB). (Also available in French, Portuguese and Spanish.) REDD-Monitor looks forward to discussion about these ten points.
1. A proposal that comes from the outside, “from the top down”
REDD is “not a proposal put forward by local communities”. WRM lists other top-down proposals such as industrial monoculture eucalyptus or soy plantations, mining project or hydropower dams.
In order for communities to truly benefit from the activities proposed for their territory, these proposals must come from the community members themselves. They cannot be imposed from the outside.
2. A proposal that entails restrictions and prohibitions for communities
Similar to national parks and protected areas, REDD projects place restrictions and prohibitions on communities’ ways of life and use of the forest, affecting part or all of their territory. Prohibitions can include cutting trees, hunting, fishing, and even gathering medicinal plants and fruits. Breaches are enforced by the police or private security guards working for the REDD project.
3. REDD threatens food sovereignty
Clearing forest to plant crops is “always subject to restriction”, WRM writes. Occasionally communities are allowed to practice agriculture in an area that has already been deforested.
Prohibiting communities from producing their own food in their own way is not only a show of disregard for their customs and traditional knowledge, but is also a threat to their survival and food sovereignty.
4. REDD means communities lose control over their territories
REDD is about taking control of communities’ land, not about recognising their rights. REDD project developers need control because they have to prove to their financiers that deforestation “has been reduced and that the ‘danger’ posed by the community has been dealth with”.
Governments and companies … are buying the right to continue burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon into the atmosphere by paying someone to guarantee that the same amount of carbon will be kept stored in the trees in the forest.
5. REDD projects create divisions within communities
REDD projects often hire forest rangers or security guards from local communities, who ensure that other members of the community do not break the prohibitions on forest use imposed by the project. The most disadvantaged members of the community “are generally excluded”, WRM writes, resulting in “the creation or worsening of divisions within the community”.
6. REDD projects do not help solve the common problems faced by communities
WRM explains that, “REDD project promoters have only one main goal: to ‘sell’ carbon.” Projects do nothing to solve problems such as land rights, health care services, eduction, transportation or marketing of community products.
This is why we often hear communities say that after a REDD project has been implemented, their lives became worse, because the project imposed restrictions on people, it benefited very few of them, and it did not solve the community’s main problems.
7. REDD projects threaten the continued existence of communities
If community members do not follow the REDD project rules, they are persecuted. They may start to look for alternative livelihoods, often in the city. People begin to leave and the community breaks down.
8. REDD projects will not prevent forest destruction
REDD projects may protect the forest in the project area, but destruction continues elsewhere through hydropower dams, monoculture plantations, cattle ranching and so on. The companies buying REDD credits are often polluting companies that consume oil, coal and minerals from forest areas.
REDD projects do not provide a solution for this cycle of destruction. In fact, REDD forms part of this cycle. That means that the future of tropical forests continues to be greatly threatened, even with REDD.
9. It is not only communities who depend on the forest who suffer
Among the companies that finance REDD are companies exploiting oil reserves in Canada. These activities have serious impacts for Canadian Indigenous Peoples. REDD allows this to continue by allowing companies to “offset” the pollution in Canada by preventing deforestation in the global South.
10. The final result: huge injustice
Among the winners from REDD projects are the big NGOs, government technicians and consultants, responsible for coordinating REDD projects and technical aspects such as verifying that deforestation has been reduced. Polluting companies benefit by receiving the “right” to continue polluting.
The vast majority of the community see small, if any, benefits. Communities are accused of deforestation, while companies are not. Communities “run the risk of being evicted from the land where they have always lived”.
As a community member from Guaraqueçaba in Brazil, where The Nature Conservancy established a REDD project, says,
“Now we’ve ended up imprisoned here to send [carbon] there. That’s not right. If they used it up over there, let them deal with it there. We’re suffering here to help them over there.”
WRM’s short booklet ends with suggestions. First, stop pollution where it happens. Second, “the best way to take care of the forest is to guarantee the land rights of forest communities and other communities that depend on forests”. Instead, WRM recommends that,
[T]he real solution would be to confront and prohibit the direct causes, such as mining projects, the construction of big hydroelectric dams and highways, and the establishment of monoculture plantations on large areas of land, among other destructive activities.
It is also necessary to deal with the massive consumption of all types of products and energy by just a small minority of the world’s population, mainly in the big cities of Europe and the United States. This excessive consumption serves as an indirect cause of the destruction of forests.
Full disclosure: I’m on World Rainforest Movement’s Advisory Committee.