By Martha Cuba, originally posted on CIFOR’s Forests Blog

Preliminary research shows somewhat limited village-level participation in early-stage efforts at curbing emissions through avoided tropical deforestation, according to scientists presenting at a recent conference.

The findings from Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) initiatives in six countries relate to REDD+ safeguards, which were created to mitigate social and environmental risks and promote non-carbon benefits. Among these is ensuring the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, including local people.

“We found low levels of knowledge about and participation in the early stages of REDD+ initiatives at the village level,” said Amy Duchelle, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) who is involved in CIFOR´s Global Comparative Study (GCS) on REDD+. “But some of this could be due to the early stage at which the interviews were conducted, since many proponents—that is, REDD+ implementing organizations—were still in the early stages of their outreach efforts with local people.”

The GCS project aims to support policy makers and practitioners with information, analysis and tools, and to promote effectiveness, cost efficiency, equity and co-benefits, both in social and environmental terms.

At the Global Landscapes Forum: Countries are required to comply with seven REDD+ safeguards, which require information systems to enable results-based payments. How could these systems enable access to REDD+ financing opportunities? This will be the topic of a discussion session at the upcoming Global Landscapes Forum, 6-7 December in Lima.

Duchelle and colleagues are evaluating the early impacts of REDD+ projects and programs using a “before-and-after” approach, comparing data collected in surveys of villages, households and women in 2010-12 with data from 2013-14.

Communities involved in REDD+ interventions will be compared to those that were not, before and after implementation, in 23 REDD+ sites in six countries—Brazil, Cameroon, Indonesia, Peru, Tanzania and Vietnam—encompassing 190 villages and more than 4,500 households.

“Subnational initiatives provide evidence on how people could benefit or lose from REDD, particularly in relation to respect for local rights, participation and promotion of social co-benefits,” Duchelle said in a presentation given at the recent World Congress of the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO).

At sampled REDD+ sites, the number of villagers aware of REDD+ initiatives was particularly low: less than one-quarter of households had heard about REDD+ in general. Among those who had expressed an understanding of REDD+ initiatives, actual local involvement was low: 27 percent of respondents had been involved in early design or implementation, though this participation included merely attending a meeting, and was mostly passive in nature.


The CIFOR researchers also asked about local people’s primary hopes and worries for the local REDD+ initiatives. The most common hope focused on income and welfare improvement, which is reflected in the livelihood enhancement activities that have become a centerpiece intervention of many of these initiatives. The main worry was also related to income, with local people expressing that their livelihoods could be harmed by REDD+ interventions or that they would not see any income benefits.

An array of REDD+ and other forest-based interventions are being applied at these sites; these could be thought of as enabling conditions (readiness activities such as securing tenure, environmental education, preparing communities), incentives (payment for environmental services, certification, subsidies), and disincentives (regulatory mechanisms, environmental compliance, taxes).

Among all villages, more than 450 forest-based interventions have been or are being applied, with more incentives than disincentives.

“This might look really good—you are punishing people less than you are trying to support them—but it does not show the weight of any one intervention,” Duchelle said. “A disincentive like prohibiting people from engaging in shifting cultivation practices could affect people quite badly and be tough to compensate, even through many incentives.”

Indeed, most of the income at the sample sites came from crops and livestock, pointing to the fact that anything done to change agricultural practices in communities will have an impact on their income portfolios.

“This highlights the importance of complementing incentives with disincentives, making sure that people are being compensated more than they are being punished to avoid doing harm and promoting social co-benefits when possible,” Duchelle said.

For more information on the topics discussed in this blog, please contact Amy Duchelle at or Daju Resosudarmo at

This research was carried out as part of the Global Comparative Study on REDD+ and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and was supported in part by NORAD, AusAID, DFID, the European Commission, the Department for International Development Cooperation of Finland, and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.

Safeguards research gauges local participation, views of early-stage REDD+ initiatives

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