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Five reasons why REDD is bad for peasant farmers

“REDD+ is not just a false solution to the urgent and critical problem of climate change. It reinforces the corporate food and farming system that is largely responsible for climate change and undermines the food and agricultural systems of peasants and indigenous peoples that can cool the planet.”

That’s from a new report published by Grain and World Rainforest Movement looking at the impact of REDD on peasant farmers. The report is titled, “How REDD+ projects undermine peasant farming and real solutions to climate change”. Read a press release and download the report here.

In February 2015, WRM published a report titled, “REDD: A Collection of Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies”. The report looked at 24 REDD projects and found that in most cases communities had received biased or incomplete information about REDD. Project proponents promised benefits and employment, but the reality was that communities were blamed for deforestation and lost access to land.

Grain and WRM’s new report states that,

Almost all REDD+ activities limit the use of the forest for shifting cultivation, gathering and other subsistence use. Hunting, fishing, grazing or cutting some trees for construction of housing or canoes are also often restricted and the restrictions are enforced by REDD+ project owners, often with the support of armed guards. At the same time, large-scale drivers of deforestation like industrial logging, expansion of oil palm, soya or tree plantations, infrastructure mega-projects, mining, large hydro-dams – and above all, industrial agriculture expanding into the forest – continue without restriction.

The report highlights five ways that REDD presents a danger to peasant farming, illustrated by a series of case studies:

  1. REDD+ blames peasant farming practices for deforestation and emissions
  2. The majority of REDD projects seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the area of land that peasant farmers and indigenous peoples have access to, or by changing the way the land is used.

  3. REDD+: Good business for carbon companies, international conservation NGOs, consultants and industrialised countries
  4. A large number of intermediaries stand between the buyer of REDD credits and the communities hoping to receive the money. Technical reports have to be produced. The reports have to be audited. The project has to be certified and verified. Carbon traders, consultants, auditors, international conservation groups, and project developers all take their cut.

  5. REDD+ undermines food sovereignty
  6. Sometimes, families have to reduce food production to plant trees for the REDD project. REDD projects can restrict communities’ access to forests that they relied on for hunting and gathering, rotational agriculture or grazing.

    Hardly ever are the needs of forest-dependent communities the genuine starting point for designing such projects. Consequently, failure of initiatives aimed at increasing crop yield or developing new income generation opportunities is predictable for local participants. The ideas might sound good on paper but regularly fail to reflect local circumstances.

  7. REDD+ undermines community control over territories
  8. REDD credits transfer the right to make decisions over land away from communities to the contractual owners of the REDD credits. REDD logic requires that the forest is threatened without the project (otherwise there would be no reduced emissions with the project). Some villagers are hired to work as forest rangers, preventing other members of their community from cutting trees, fishing, growing food and using the forests as they have always done. Inevitably this creates divisions within the community.

  9. REDD+ facilitates the expansion of corporate agriculture
  10. Deforestation is directly linked to production of agricultural commodities: beef, soya beans, oil palm, and sugar. The corporations profiting from these commodities have teamed up with large international conservation NGOs to create voluntary certification schemes and commodity roundtables. None of these schemes addresses over-consumption or the ever larger areas of land used to produce the commodities.

    These voluntary schemes are increasingly linked with REDD through the identification of “high carbon value forests”, exploring carbon accounting methods, working towards “zero deforestation” commodities, or carbon offsetting.


IMAGE credit: FERN’s 2012 video “The Story of REDD: A real solution to deforestation?

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  1. Couldn’t agree more with the conclusions of this study. Having worked for the past 20 years for the World Bank doing required environmental and social impact assessments for major loan projects and reviewing REDD+ reports for Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Belize, Pakistan and Bhutan,I have to say I am appalled at lack of understanding of the contributions of indigenous farmers to food security and the difficulties they face in the development process give systemic corruption and the outright hostility of national governments who view them as a nuisance to be marginalized. In terms of REDD one would think that indigenous rights would be protected by World Bank safeguard policies but the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility staff seem to feel that these don’t apply.