Things just keep getting worse for the Oddar Meanchey REDD project in Cambodia. According to a report last week in the Cambodia Daily, logging is now so rampant that community leaders have given up on REDD.
Some of the people who spent years trying to save the forests have now given up and joined the loggers.
By mid-2012, more than 3,000 hectares, or about half, of Andong Bor’s community forest had been cleared. This year a futher 2,000 hectares has gone to make way for cassava fields. The Cambodia Daily quotes the chief of the Andong Bor community forest, Din Heng, as saying that,
“The program here for carbon trading is dead. The government was first committed to protecting these forests for carbon trading, but they are not doing anything to help us fight the illegal logging.”
Another area, the 6,016 hectare Romdoul Veasna community forest, has been almost completely cleared, as villagers from other provinces have moved in.
The clearing of forests in the Oddar Meanchey project area has been going on for several years, with the involvement of the Cambodian military. The Oddar Meanchey project design document acknowledges that,
Encroachment by the military into the forests of the project area by the military for camps and resettlement of soldiers presents another potential situation where the viability of the project would be threatened.
The document also acknowledges the problem of villagers from outside the province moving in and encroaching on community forests.
Land-use disputes in increasingly scarce forest areas may create larger social conflicts, threatening the viability of the project and leading to increased deforestation and degradation.
The NGO Pact had provided grants to community forest members to patrol the project area, with the help of local authorities. But last year Pact’s funding for the project ran out. Some of the villagers pooled their own money to continue the patrols. But now their money has also run out.
Funding for the project was supposed to come from sales of carbon credits. But in June 2013, two potential buyers of carbon credits from the project walked away, after the government failed to meet a deadline to sign off on the carbon credit deal.
The Cambodia Daily reports that the Cambodian government has still not found a single buyer of carbon credits from the project.
A US-based company called Terra Global Capital is marketing the carbon credits from the project. Earlier this year, I asked Leslie Durschinger, Managing Director at Terra Global Capital, how her company could sell carbon credits from a project where the forests are being cleared, and how the project addressed leakage – the fact that forests in Oddar Meanchey province outside the project area are being cleared.
Durschinger didn’t answer my questions. Instead, she explained that,
I find your request for information to be more your preformulated answers than questions. And we do not believe your formulation of the answers is correct.
Durschinger told the Cambodia Daily that there were no buyers for the carbon credits from the project because of an oversupply of credits in the carbon market.
She also said that Terra Global Capital formally verifies forest cover every two years and has not measured the extent of deforestation in the project area recently. Durschinger added that,
“The reports from the FA [Forestry Administration], communities and local partners would be a better source of information before the current deforestation dynamics in the project areas.”
The most recent report from the Forestry Administration was released in April 2014. According to the Agriculture Ministry’s cabinet chief, Thun Sarath, the findings were positive. The Oddar Meanchey REDD project is “going well, not any problem”, he said.
A similarly upbeat message can be found on the Code REDD website. The Oddar Meanchey REDD project,
is the first in the world to complete verification of emission reductions under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) with a triple gold Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) accreditation for emission reductions. The CCB triple gold verification combined with the use of a VCS methodology that is recognized for its integrity, sets this project apart from others as delivering the highest community, biodiversity, and adaptation impact benefits along with robust accounting for emission reductions.
Code REDD exists to “support and scale the REDD+ mechanism”. It apparently has no interest in the problems that the Oddar Meanchey REDD project is facing or in the lessons that might be learned in Cambodia and elsewhere.
PHOTO Credit: Amanda Bradley, Romdoul Veasna.