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Tsegaye Tadesse, Farm Africa, Ethiopia

Tsegaye Tadesse has been working to establish PFM in Ethiopia (© FARM-Africa)
Tsegaye Tadesse has been working to establish PFM in Ethiopia
© FARM-Africa

REDD backing for community forestry

Tsegaye Tadesse, a senior forestry advisor for the NGO Farm Africa, explains how communities in Ethiopia's Bale Mountains are set to earn carbon offset funding through the UN's REDD programme, because of their participatory forest management.

Uptake of the UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme in Africa has been very slow. In fact, I'm only aware of one scheme on the continent - a 30,000 ha area of forest in Kenya - which is currently attracting greenhouse gas offset payments from the voluntary carbon market through REDD. There are no settlements within this forest and payments for protecting the area from deforestation are shared three-ways, between the land owners, the forest management company (Wildlife Works) and communities living nearby.

In Ethiopia, we are trying something different. Since 1996, Farm Africa/SOS Sahel have been working with the government forest service and forest communities to establish participatory forest management (PFM). This is an alternative to the conventional, top-down system of forest management that has been in place since the mid-1980s, when state forest areas were demarcated with no recognition of the fact that people were living there and depending on their resources.

REDD recognition for PFM

Now, we are almost at the point of seeing REDD funding that recognises the validity and credibility of PFM as an environmentally successful approach to forest management. For the carbon markets, the sustainability of forest management is key. If forests - as carbon sinks - are to be paid for, there has to be no risk that those forests will be cleared or burned within the agreed lifespan of the payment agreement. Indeed, under REDD rules, any action leading to deforestation is not permitted, since this would negate the benefits accrued over the funding period, but wise utilisation for household use as well as for timber is allowed as long as it is based on the management plan and conducted in a sustainable manner. By accepting to make REDD payments to a PFM project, the UN programme is accepting that participatory management can be fully accountable and reliable.

The Bale Mountains PFM/REDD programme covers 500,000 ha of forest in Ethiopia. Under the programme, the forest is managed by joint forest management groups, with each group responsible for a clearly defined area. Payments under REDD are expected to be performance based, so being able to monitor exactly how each group is meeting its targets for sustainable management is vital. This is being done in conjunction with the state forest service, which is being trained in order to be able to coordinate the PFM system.

Setting up such a system took considerable time, effort and resources. An initial pilot project, which began in 1996, focussed on an area of just 4,900 ha and took eight years to fully achieve PFM. But the lessons learned have allowed for much speedier progress. PFM implementation on 360,000 ha (72 per cent of total forest area) of the Bale site has taken just six years. As a result of previous and subsequent work, policy support action by Farm Africa/SOS Sahel and others* has been successful. Community-based forest management is recognised in three of the most forested regions in Ethiopia (Oromia, Southern Nations and Benishangul Gumuz). In these regions, previously there were only two recognised types of ownership: state forest and private forest. There is now a third: community forest. A federal level forest regulation that embraces PFM has also been drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture.

South-South support

While Ethiopia has made significant progress with PFM-based REDD, it has not been working alone. Inputs from various experts in the field have been very helpful, including those we meet at COP conferences. A group of Ethiopian foresters has also visited a similar undertaking in Amazonas, Brazil, to learn from their experiences. Currently, a consortium of consultants composed of the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC) in Ghana, Instituto de Conservação e Desenvolvimento Sustentável do Amazonas (IDESAM) from Brazil and Oxford University (UK), is developing the Bale REDD+ project design document.

A preliminary, conservative calculation estimates the funds that could be earned at around US$90 million over a 20 year period, money that will be shared between the state and the communities, with some going directly to support forest maintenance. Final details of the allocation will be published in June 2013, but with the Bale project beginning its PFM work with forest conservation community based organisations (CBOs) in 2009, it is expected that a sizeable amount of REDD credit has already been accumulated. So long as the success of the communities' management over those years can be proved - which we are confident it can - they can expect to receive the first payments into their community bank accounts by 2015.

For Farm Africa/SOS Sahel, our next steps are to support the development of larger unions from the community-based groups, in order to increase their negotiating power. We shall also be further strengthening the capacity of the government forest service staff to provide the necessary technical support to the communities in implementing PFM/REDD. Giving African forest communities the chance to access international carbon funds by implementing a participatory management system which is already working in their interests, provides an exciting example to the rest of Africa. Forest departments with an interest in seeing PFM in action, and learning about how it can facilitate REDD payments, should get in touch. We'd be delighted to share our experiences.

* Including GIZ, JICA, NTFP-PFM and SU-PFM.

Date published: May 2013


Have your say

Looks very promising. And... it takes the time it needs to t... (posted by: Camille De Stoop)

Very much interesting, Tsegaye! I hope you will be successfu... (posted by: Amsalu Bedasso)


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