Examining outcomes of REDD+ through community forestry in rural Nepal

Mohan Poudel

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

The policy mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation, as well as increasing carbon stock by the sustainable management of forests – more commonly known as REDD+ – seeks to pay forest managers for
verifiable emissions reductions. Despite growing consensus internationally that REDD+ could be an effective way to reduce carbon emissions from the forestry sector, and enhance native bio-diversity and local livelihoods, a range of unresolved issues remain about the impacts of REDD+ on local livelihoods. Nepal is one among several countries in the tropics actively involved in the development of REDD+, and has implemented several pilot projects via community forestry.

Aiming to analyse potential implications of REDD+ scheme in community forestry and its dependent livelihoods in rural areas, this research investigated the nature and impacts of the REDD+ pilot project implemented in communities involved in forest management in the Ludhikhola watershed in Nepal. This research was grounded in the experiences of three Community Forestry User Groups (CFUGs), two of which were part of the REDD+ pilot project, and one immediately neighbouring the watershed and not involved in the pilot project. The research explored the variables contributing to the success, or otherwise, of the delivery of REDD+ via community forestry in different settings. The three CFUGs selected for this research shared similarities in socioeconomic
and biophysical conditions. The research applied a pragmatic approach to
social science, which involved the collection of both qualitative (dominant data source) and quantitative data. The qualitative datawere obtained through 38 in-depth interviews, six focus group discussions, review of secondary data and direct observations. The quantitative demographic data were collected from 91 households (at least 30 from each CFUG) through household surveys combining both structured and semi-structured questioning.

Despite optimism that REDD+ may be effective in enhancing forest quality and local livelihoods, results from this research indicate that it did not achieve its potential. The implementation of REDD+ pilot appeared to re-centralise decision making, and tended to overlook the rights of customary users. However, this research also revealed some positive outcomes at community level, including better forest protection, additional income and capacity enhancement.

This research shows that the improved forest condition is likely to be resulting from a number of livelihood trade-offs, suggesting REDD+ may be performing well at a collective level, but not so well at the household level. The REDD+ pilot influenced households differentially, mainly due to elite domination and masking tendency in contemporary rural communities in Nepal. More restrictive access to forests and forest resources put poor and marginalised households, who lacked access to alternative resources, under greater stress than wealthier households. One likely implication is that poorer and marginalised people may be working harder, or travelling further to access resources illegally.

This research shows that REDD+ payments are unlikely to address the diverse and competing interests of forest dependent people, and compensate them adequately and equitably. Insufficient payment may not only be ineffective, it may also be counterproductive.

This research shows that contextual factors are important when designing REDD+, and suggests small scale (i.e. local level) projects are more feasible in a highly diverse and fragmented landscape like Nepal. Harmonising forest protection with local biophysical contexts, like upstream-downstream linkages, use and protection of water sources, and development of ecotourism, might contribute to optimising REDD+ outcomes. Local context in the case study sites suggests that addressing poverty is essential, but may not be enough for REDD+ to be effective. This research found that ‘medium’ wellbeing and bordering households consumed the highest amount of forest resources, when compared
to other wellbeing categories in rural Nepal. Addressing the concerns of the highest resource consumers (not necessarily the poorest) also appears important in the Nepal context, and the promotion of agro-forestry might be a way to address some of these concerns.

Ensuring good governance, including decentralisation, respect for customary rights, capacity building and equitable participation, is the key not only for enhancing positive effects, but also for minimising negative effects at community level. More needs to be done at household level, including diversifying income strategies, changing inefficient practices of resources consumption, and ensuring equity and fairness are maintained.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Thwaites, Rik, Co-Supervisor
  • Race, Digby, Co-Supervisor
  • Dahal, Ganga, Co-Supervisor
Award date10 Jun 2015
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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