Mangrove Rehabilitation in Nigeria

One mangrove, a thousand hopes is a sentiment common to many Nigerians living near the river in Cross River State.

“Mangroves provide the best firewood, as people who roast fish know,”

says Idem Williamson,
a villager living in Eseriebom community in Cross River State.

“But by cutting the wood, the mangroves disappeared. And without the mangroves, water would flood our houses.”

The need to restore mangroves inspired Williamson to get involved in a Community Based REDD+ (CBR+) project that saw the whole community come together to plant more than 10,000 seedlings. “The positive effect is that it controls the level of water coming in from the rivers and allows us to use the creeks for fishing. And we can pick the unwanted branches of the mangroves in specific areas for firewood.”

Idem Williamson

Moses Ama

The Pressures Facing Nigeria’s Mangrove Ecosystem

Nigeria has the largest mangrove ecosystem in Africa, and the Cross River mangrove is one of the most important in the country. However, indigenous fishing communities on the coast harvest mangrove wood for household domestic use, in particular for cooking and smoking fish. This has put severe pressure on mangrove forests, leading to steady deforestation. Wood from mangrove forests is also used for housing material, scaffolding, fishing stakes and more. The increasing demand for mangrove wood and the steady encroachment and spread of the Nypa palm, an invasive mangrove plant, has exposed the country’s mangrove forests to severe degradation.

Restoration and Replanting in Cross River State

Since 2010, the UN-REDD Programme has provided valuable support for Nigeria’s ambitious efforts at forest conservation, climate change mitigation and community development. Cross River State, which has more than 50 percent of Nigeria’s remaining tropical forests, is host to a community-based REDD+ Programme (CBR+) that promotes activities to reduce poverty, improve crop varieties and yields, gender empowerment, biodiversity, conversation and climate change mitigation. A total of 18 community projects have been supported, including an estimated 540 households comprising more than 2,000 direct beneficiaries.

“The goals of the CBR+ are to sustainably manage forests and encourage forest communities to move away from business as usual and to improve the well-being of the people and the environment,” says Moses Ama, the national REDD+ coordinator. “The only challenge is the slow pace of getting the funds and investments needed to deal with the poverty within forest communities.”

A partnership between the UN-REDD Programme and the Small Grants Program of the Global Environment Fund (GEF) has provided USD $800,000 to different community initiatives in Cross River State. Villagers have been trained to improve cassava, afang and cocoyam farming, set up cassava processing mills and harvest Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) like bush mango to reduce forest loss through improved agricultural practices. Over 15 different nurseries have been established and more than 10,000 seedlings raised and planted to regenerate degraded forests.

Villagers have also been trained in protecting mangroves, as is the case in Esieribom.

“REDD+ activities have been very successful in raising consciousness about the effects of mangrove loss,” says Tony Atah, the UN- REDD Programme stakeholder engagement specialist in the area. “The Eseriebom community in Cross River State has many households catching fish and using mangroves as their main source of energy. The fishermen were losing income because less mangroves means less fish. It was sad to see some people selling six kilos of mangrove wood for just 75 cents while doing significant damage to the ecosystem.”

A local shop selling periwinkles and leaves found in the mangroves that are local delicacies.

Comfort Akabum

Through the UN-REDD Programme, villagers like Comfort Akabum have learned to cut the invasive Nypa palm in order to plant new mangrove seedlings. She is one of the villagers who works daily to cut the Nya and replant mangrove seedlings. “I make sure the mangrove grows well,” says Akabum. “We have been replanting mangroves for the past five years and the volume of water flooding the river has diminished.”

As part of the CBR+ mangrove restoration project, the community has planted over 10,000 mangrove seedlings and developed a community mangrove management plan. “This allows the cutting of mangrove wood only in controlled areas, raising seedlings and replanting. Mangroves are so important because the mangrove ecosystem absorbs more carbon than a tropical rainforest,” says Atah.

Tony Atah

“We hope that Cross River State will become a model of excellence with its mangrove restoration and other CBR+ mangrove projects, and that it will be replicated elsewhere. Currently, five other states are about to begin similar projects,”

Moses Ama,
the national REDD+ coordinator.

Villagers that are part of the CBR+ project.

Women carrying firewood from the mangroves.

Story by: Griet Ingrid Dierckxsens, Africa regional Communications and Knowledge Management specialist for the UN-REDD Programme in Nairobi, Kenya.
Videos by: Media HQ/UN-REDD
Photographs by: UN-REDD

Kenya: Managing Forests through Community Participation

Communities need to be involved in order to have a successful project.

Kibarisho Leintoi

“It’s always better to involve us,”

says Kibarisho Leintoi,
a 36-year-old Masai mother of eight children.

“Even though I cannot read or write, I know what I need for my family to live. We need healthcare and water.”

Kibarisho needs water for the irrigation of her tomato farm and for her five goats and five cows. Without water, her income shrinks. She used to have the means to send two of her children to school. But after a crop failure due to drought, one of those two children had to drop out when she couldn’t afford the fees.

In the past, a little water well would have sufficed for the community. But due to increasing population and livestock pressure, this is no longer sufficient. The people of the Maji Moto community, who live near Narok County in Kenya, soon realized that a dam would be necessary to help them collect enough water for irrigation and livestock.

The community selected a committee of seven people, among them Kibarisho Leintoi. The committee met with Indigenous Livelihood Enhancement Partners (ILEPA), an indigenous people’s organization that has been working to help established communities identify and prioritize their needs. When the Maji Moto community told ILEPA that they needed a dam, ILEPA trained the community in proposal writing and helped them find a sponsor. The funds were then overseen by the community after receiving training from ILEPA on how to monitor and handle the funds.

ILEPA showcased that Indigenous Peoples (IPs) have the capacity to implement projects and take ownership, with the right training and capacity building.
After working with communities for many years, ILEPA won the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s tender to develop stakeholder engagement and Free Prior and Informed Consent guidelines and toolkits, which will help donors and governments to involve communities when setting up projects that affect their livelihoods.

The dam provides the community with much needed water.

James Twala discussing with Massai village elder.

“It is important to know who to talk to in the community because in the Masai community, for example, you have a cultural leadership, as well as an administrative leadership,”

says James Twala,
Program Officer on Climate Change for ILEPA.

“The constitution spells out that in projects affecting their livelihoods, citizens should be involved.”

Indeed, in 2010, Kenya adopted a constitution that has had profound consequences on how natural resources, including forests, are managed. Governance over natural resources is shared between the national and county level governments. The constitution requires public participation in the management, protection and conservation of the forests. Consequently, various legislation, such as the Forest Management and Conservation Act 2016 and the Climate Change Act 2016, targets the implementation of climate change processes and engagement of local communities and minorities in environmental protection and monitoring, as well as benefit-sharing.

“We are not making new laws, but making sure that Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) is respected,” says Twala. “Because when projects are community-driven, people feel ownership and the project has a better chance for longevity since the community feels personally and collectively responsible for taking good care of it and maintaining it long after the donor has left.”

The guidelines developed by ILEPA include consultative meetings where people express their needs and the community is informed of the details of the project, including costs. Then the community decides if they give their consent or not, and if they do, community leaders have the option of giving consent verbally, or signing the agreement. This consent articulates what exactly will happen, the timeline and the outcome. Lastly, the community and the implementing entity is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the project.

Since 2017, UNDP has been the delivery partner for Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and, together with the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Forestry, applied these guidelines in the development of the project document. During this process, stakeholders recommended a review of forest policy and legislation in Kenya to include the application of these guidelines as part of the REDD+ readiness process. This forest policy review has been initiated and is still ongoing to ensure that FPIC is part of Kenya’s forest policies.

The area is very arid.

Tecla Chumba

“Local communities have to be involved in decisions about forests that affect their livelihoods,”

says Tecla Chumba,
a Kenyan woman from the Lembus tribe and a mother of four.

She set up a Community Forest Association (CFA) and asked the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to give each member half an acre of land and tree seedlings to plant alongside their own crops. Members would then return these plots after the trees grew for three years.

This is called the “shamba system” or Plantations Establishment for Livelihood Improvement Scheme (PELIS). It is a way to afforest land where exotic trees have been cut for timber. The community benefits from being able to plant crops such as potatoes, tomatoes, beans, peas, maize and even grass for cow fodder, in exchange for planting tree seedlings and taking care of them for at least three years. This agroforestry approach has set the expectation for local farmers to use traditional indigenous methods to kill insects. Instead of insecticides, they use cow dung and ashes. In return, KFS gets a piece of land that has been reforested.

Purity Chelmo plants maize and trees in the same field

Working jointly with KFS, the CFA has set up a management plan with 17 user rights for the members of the CFA. Members also have access to the forest for firewood, beekeeping, collecting herbs, medicines, wild mushrooms and other vegetables and forest fruits, water, fodder for their cattle and humus for nurturing their seedlings at home. This successful “shamba system” has been in place since 2010.

Sharon Rotich has the user right to gather fire wood from the forest.

But when the KFS advertised that they were leasing the land to a company interested in planting and harvesting trees, denying the CFA the right to do PELIS, Chumba, together with the National Alliance of Community Forests Associations Kenya (NACOFA), took the KFS to court. Because the CFAs had a signed management agreement with the KFS, NACOFA won the case. “The Kenyan Forest Management and Conservation Act 2016 says that KFS has to respect public participation,” says Chumba.

While public participation has been laid out in various legislations in Kenya, in the beginning, the rules on stakeholder participation, including indigenous peoples, were not very clear about how to participate in decision-making in the forestry sector.

“Stakeholder engagement guidelines and FPIC rules were developed with support from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry as part of UN-REDD Programme’s targeted support to Kenya through UNDP,” says Judy Ndichu, Technical Coordinator for the FCPF. “It gives an opportunity for communities to participate in the decision-making processes on projects regarding the forests that their livelihoods depend on.”

After they won the case in 2013, Chumba continued the “shamba system” with great success. It exists all over Kenya now, but some areas have trouble when cattle invade their shambas, though this is getting better. “When cows invade your plot, you can now call the forest guard who will arrest the cows,” she says. “Then the owner will show up to get them back and will pay a fine for the damage that his cattle caused.”

She appreciates that CFAs are part of the REDD+ movement, as she believes it is the right way forward. “Indigenous trees are important. They bring the water back; they attract bees; and, they fight against siltation in the water catchment areas. So we are happy to plant them and look after them, especially if we can get carbon credits in return.”

“The UN-REDD Programme has been a pioneer of innovative policies that value and protect forests and their social and ecosystem services. Commitments to human rights-based approaches, social inclusion and stakeholder engagement are vital to its mandate and work,” says Dr. Musonda Mumba, Chief of Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit (TEU) and Chair of the core team preparing the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration at UN Environment.

Story by: Griet Ingrid Dierckxsens, Africa regional Communications and Knowledge Management specialist for the UN-REDD Programme in Nairobi, Kenya.
Videos and photos by: James Ekwam/UN-REDD

Zambia: How to Survive When Rain and Forests Dwindle

To fight climate change, local communities need to develop alternative livelihoods

that don’t depend too much on forests or rain.

Creating Alternative Livelihoods

“This year, we’ve seen the worst drought ever,”

says Julliette Machona,
a villager living in Choma, Zambia.

“Usually, the rivers run dry here in this southern part of Zambia by July, but this year, they were empty already by May. The little water we have left is just enough for us- the people and the cattle. We have no water to raise any crops.”

Juliette is 35 years old, with four kids. When she finished secondary school in Zambia, her parents couldn’t afford to send her to university, which cost USD $2,000 per year, given that the country’s minimum wage is about $USD 100 a month. When she realized the economic hardships of making a living by growing tomatoes and maize in a region that receives less than average rainfall, she got a group of women together and created “Tubeleke”, which means, “let’s work together.”

Juliette Machona

The group started weaving baskets and brooms. The business was not doing very well until 2015 when the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stepped in to support the Forestry Department of Zambia through the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), a partnership between FAO, IIED, IUCN and AgriCord. FFF is an initiative for climate-resilient landscapes and improved livelihoods with a primary focus on strengthening forest and farm producer organizations.

“We assisted the group with various trainings to build their capacity in areas such as business development, good governance, resource management and improved skills in basket making,”

says Vincent Ziba,
a FFF national facilitator.

“The partnership’s support is complementary to the REDD+ implementation. In the case of the basket-weaving group, the link with REDD+ is the landscape management approach through the sustainable harvesting of basket materials and involving the producers in resource management. This has led to improved sustainable and diversified income.”

“Look at my brick house,” says Juliette. “That’s how things have changed for me. Also, our association now has 27 households benefitting from the basket making activities, and as a group, we have diversified our incomes through other activities as well.” Juliette and her group started rearing rabbits, pigs and sheep, an idea that came from FFF/FAO-supported exposure trips to Tanzania and Benin where Juliette learned how to raise animals. She is now facilitating the production of pig feed by growing sunflowers and soybeans, especially sunflowers that do not need a lot of water to grow.

A basket takes two days to be created: one day to collect the bamboo and one day to make it. They can then sell it on the local market for $USD 3. They are now also trying to plant bamboo themselves in order to harvest the basket materials in a more sustainable way.

Juliette feeding the piglets.

“To fight climate change, we need to get into activities that don’t depend too much on forests or rain, so that’s what we’re working on every day,”

says Juliette Machona.

Tree Nursery Producers

The Zambian Forestry Department set up the Tree Nursery Producers Group. “We brought together various people with backyard seedling nurseries and organized an association that provided them with a plot of land as a pilot project. This allowed them to work together on one big tree nursery while getting training and marketing advice,” says Christopher Chisange, a forestry officer in the Zambian Forestry Department. The idea of organizing tree nursery producers in one place was a lesson from the exchange visit to Kenya by the Forestry Department staff organized by FFF.

The Forestry Department’s regular training sessions taught participants how to make seedbeds and collect seeds, and exchange visits were facilitated both within and outside country for peer-to-peer learning. They also managed to find someone, by the name of Zebron Mwalle, who provides them with good quality seeds.

Zebron Mwalle provides good quality seeds.

The tree nursery started in 2017 and has seedlings for various purposes: agriculture, ornamental, fruit trees, woodlots and fodder trees for livestock. The chairperson, Veronica Nweemba, says: “Our group has 34 members of which one third are very motivated women. We are producing seedlings such as moringa, lemons, bamboo, eucalyptus, mahogany, cashew nuts and guavas. The first year, we started with 30,000 seedlings and it went so well that members could afford to pay their children’s school fees, buy a bicycle, fertilizer, among other things. This year, we had great hopes and planted 100,000 seedlings, but the rain didn’t come and most of the seedlings have withered away.”

“Although this year’s harvest is a failure, we pray for rain next year so that our work will be rewarded and we can live and breathe easily,” says Veronica. The solution would be to have a borehole next to the nursery, and FAO Zambia is now looking into this, after a visit from George Okech of FAO Zambia.

Charcoal: A Burning Issue

Studies have identified charcoal production as one of the main drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Zambia. The traditional methods of making charcoal lead to high carbon emissions and are a waste of wood resources.

“Of course, I would prefer not making charcoal. It’s bad for my health, but it’s also harmful to the women who are using it to cook and it destroys the forest,” says one of the members of the Choma Charcoal Association in Zambia. “But what can we do? The reality is that we still depend on it, especially now that there is a severe drought. One of the dams is empty and electricity is becoming scarce, so more people than ever are relying on charcoal. I myself cannot grow crops due to the lack of water, so I need to survive and therefore, have returned to making charcoal.”

Under the lead of Mercy Mupeta Kandula, the Provincial Forestry Officer for Choma, together with the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in Zambia and the FFF, charcoal producers have been educated on the illegality of charcoal burning and trained in improved methods.

“We involved the charcoal producers in woodlot establishment and regeneration programs, and also set up a participatory guarantee system to certify sustainable charcoal production. The link with REDD+ is clear; we help reduce one of the drivers of deforestation by improving sustainable production methods , reducing the need to cut trees and reducing carbon emissions,”

says Mercy.

Improved kiln
Kelvin Phiri

“We introduced an improved kiln that has a chimney made of drums,” says trainer Kelvin Phiri. “The traditional way to produce charcoal is to cut big hardwood logs, put sand on them and set them on fire. Then, they burn without oxygen for a couple of days and create charcoal. In the improved system, we just prune trees, take only small branches, put them into the improved kiln, seal it with sand and let it burn. The big difference is with the old method, the carbon is retained in the charcoal, whereas with the chimney kiln, the carbon stays in the drums so they are less harmful for the producer and the user. When cleaning out the drums, we pour the carbon back into the soil,” says Kelvin.

“FFF support is unique for Zambia,”

says George Okech,
the FAO Representative in Zambia.

“The partnership’s support is complementary to the REDD+ implementation. In the case of the basket-weaving group, the link with REDD+ is the landscape management approach through the sustainable harvesting of basket materials and involving the producers in resource management. This has led to improved sustainable and diversified income.”

Arid areas in Choma, Zambia

Story by: Griet Ingrid Dierckxsens, Africa regional Communications and Knowledge Management specialist for the UN-REDD Programme in Nairobi, Kenya.
Videos and photos by: James Ekwam/UN-REDD

Working Together to Save Myanmar’s Forests

In 2010, Myanmar had the third-highest annual rate of deforestation after Brazil and Indonesia, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Between 1990 and 2015, the country lost nearly 15 million hectares of forests.

Confronted by this environmental challenge, the Government of Myanmar is committed to Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). It became a UN-REDD partner country in 2011, and launched its National REDD+ Programme in 2016.

Forests near Taung-Oo, Myanmar.
A plot of cleared land near Myanmar's capital of Nay Pyi Taw.

“REDD+ is very important for us because Myanmar is very sensitive to climate change,” says H.E. U Ohn Win, Myanmar’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation. “We need to protect our forests in order to protect our future.”

“Forests are central to Myanmar’s contribution to the global effort to address climate change under the 2015 Paris Agreement because currently deforestation and forest degradation account for about 80 percent of Myanmar’s greenhouse gas emissions,” says Dawn Del Rio, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP – one of the three UN agencies facilitating the UN flagship programme on climate change known as UN-REDD (alongside FAO and UNEP).

Validating the National REDD+ Strategy

In 2019, Myanmar marked a milestone in its REDD+ journey in regards to its National REDD+ Strategy (NRS). The latest draft version was presented for validation to 200 stakeholders at a two-day “National Validation Workshop” held this past September.

Participants at the “National Validation Workshop”  in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
Nearly 200 participants attended the workshop in September 2019 in Nay Pyi Taw.

The workshop was the culmination of a long and arduous process lasting more than two years, during which 50 consultations were conducted across the country, spanning diverse sectors including state and regional government departments, line ministries, expert review committees, ethnic groups, Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), civil society and indigenous peoples organizations. In addition, a public consultation period was available online from April–May 2018, allowing anyone in Myanmar the opportunity to raise his or her concerns.

In his opening remarks at the workshop, Dr. Ye Myint Swe, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environmental Conservation in Myanmar, acknowledged the history of distrust related to forest management. “If we are to collectively conserve and sustainably manage our forests, then we must overcome this history and establish an era of trust,” he said.

“I hope it is clear that the intensive consultation process associated with the Strategy is an indicator that the Union [national] Government wants to build trust among stakeholders.”

“Today is a great opportunity to review and comment on the draft NRS,”  he continued.

“The NRS is not just a government strategy, but it is something that all stakeholders can take ownership of.

During this workshop, we will need to identify which parts need to be amended. Then, the reviewed NRS will be submitted to the Government and approved before being implemented. 

It is an exciting time as we move towards a new era of forest management in Myanmar.”

Dr. Ye Myint Swe, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Natural Resources and
Environmental Conservation, Myanmar.

Participants reviewing and revising the selected policies and measures (PAMs) of Myanmar’s National REDD+ Strategy.

The workshop, held in the capital of Nay Pyi Taw, provided a unique opportunity for different stakeholders to sit down together, grouped by their respective sectors – central government, sub-national governments, international organizations, EAOs, civil society groups – in order to give recommendations, comments and feedback on the NRS. In addition, participants were grouped by their geographic regions: Southeast (Tanintharyi, Mon, Kayin, Kayah), West Coast (Yangon, Ayeyarwady, Rakhine), Dry Zone (Mandalay, Magwe, Bago, Nay Pyi Taw), Shan and North (Kachin, Sagaing, Chin) to discuss specific regional priorities and challenges.

“REDD+ is about changing policies to protect and sustainably manage the forest,” says Timothy Boyle, Chief Technical Advisor of the UN-REDD Programme in Myanmar. “The decision has been made that REDD+ will be implemented at national scale, meaning policy change throughout Myanmar.”

Timothy Boyle, Chief Technical Advisor of
the UN-REDD Programme in Myanmar

An indigenous woman weaves a traditional bag with cotton sourced at a plantation next to the natural forest near Taung-Oo, Myanmar.

Safeguarding Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

Myanmar’s National REDD+ Programme has created an invaluable forum for the Government to engage in dialogue with those that they would not ordinarily interact with, such as the Indigenous Peoples Organization POINT (Promotion of Indigenous and Nature Together).

“POINT ensures the rights of indigenous peoples are protected during the REDD+ process. We serve as the bridge between communities and the Government,”

says Naw Ei Ei Min,
Director of POINT.

“This is the first time that such a process has happened in Myanmar. The Forestry Department is the first government agency to discuss indigenous peoples’ rights. By engaging in REDD+, we are engaging in our country’s peace process.”

Naw Ei Ei Min, Director of POINT
(Promotion of Indigenous and Nature Together)

POINT is a member of the UN-REDD Programme Executive Board. “Our role is to follow the REDD+ process and report back to the indigenous communities,” says Naw Ei Ei Min. “If there is a problem, we communicate their concerns to the Executive Board.”

Among the concerns voiced by POINT include the Vacant, Fellow and Virgin (VFV) Lands Management Law, which requires anyone living on land categorized as “vacant, fallow, and virgin” to apply for a permit to continue using it for the next 30 years. This affects about 30 percent of Myanmar’s land area, three-quarters of which are home to the country’s ethnic minorities. Land rights activists fear it unfairly criminalizes farmers who do not have permits and paves the way for unwarranted land seizures. In 2018, Myanmar’s parliament passed an amendment that imposed a two-year prison sentence on anyone found living on VFV lands without a permit after the date of March 11, 2019. This meant that millions of farmers, many of them illiterate, only had six months to complete the long process to legally claim their land.

“The VFV law is an issue of great concern to many stakeholders,” says San Sai Win from the Restoration Council of Shan State. “It says that land under customary management is not covered by the law. We need to have a better definition of customary management.”

Mr. Nyien Thein, 66, depends on the nearby forest for his livelihood.

Another controversial topic is “shifting cultivation”. Currently, 70 percent of Myanmar’s population lives in rural areas, relying on forests resources and subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods. “Shifting cultivation” is a practice in which ground is cleared of vegetation and cultivated for a few years and then abandoned for a new area until its fertility has been naturally restored. The practice allows for farming in areas with dense vegetation, low soil nutrients content and uncontrollable pests. However, in the process, trees in the forest are cut.

Ms. Khin Thet Win, 18, with her son Ban Thet Oo

“We are trying to find a way to legalize shifting cultivation,” says Mai Yaw Han, Representative of Indigenous Peoples in the Bago region. “Sustainable shifting cultivation should be supported and we should find alternatives for people who want to move away from it instead of forcing them to stop it.”

Ethnic Armed Organizations

Further complicating the REDD+ process in Myanmar is the country’s ongoing internal conflict. More than 20 Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) have been fighting the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) – some of them for over 70 years – demanding self-determination. These EAOs are important stakeholders in the REDD+ process, as significant areas of forest are under their control.

“It is an extremely complex political situation,” says Boyle. “The Union Government controls only a portion of the forests, while EAOs control a large portion. The REDD+ consultation process has been entirely run by the UN-REDD Programme; it’s been difficult to make people understand we do this on behalf of the Forestry Department.”

Kaung Thein Htay, a member of the Arakan Liberation Party, addresses the audience at the National Validation Workshop for Myanmar’s REDD+ Strategy.

Despite the challenges, progress has been made. REDD+ has been integrating the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).  FPIC is a right enjoyed by indigenous people and local communities to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories and enables them to negotiate the conditions under which the project will be designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated.

Dr. Thaung Naing Oo, National Programme Director of UN-REDD
in Myanmar and Director of the Forest Research Institute

“The forestry sector is the first sector where we started practicing FPIC,”

says Dr. Thaung Naing Oo,
the National Programme Director of UN-REDD in Myanmar and Director of the Forest Research Institute.

“FPIC has never been done on a nation-wide scale in Myanmar before. UNDP is currently piloting an approach to FPIC in Mon State,” adds Boyle. “We are taking the concerns of indigenous and non-indigenous local communities seriously.”

“A few months ago, the UN-REDD team approached the Restoration Council of the Shan State and since then, I have been involved in REDD+,”

says Major. Nang Moe Moe Saw,
Public Relations Officer of the Restoration Council of the Shan State/ Shan State Army in Kyaukme.

“Before this, I was not aware of the NRS, or even about REDD+.”

Major. Nang Moe Moe Saw, Public Relations Officer of
the Restoration Council of the Shan State/ Shan State Army

The implementation of the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) includes two committees – one tasked with monitoring and the other with fostering political dialogue across five different sectors. Sonny Mahinder, General Secretary of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front from Loikaw, Kayah State, is responsible for overseeing the land and environment sector.

Sonny Mahinder, General Secretary of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front

“Before 2013, I was in the jungle fighting against the military,”

he says.

“Since then, I’ve become involved in the ongoing peace process. Our country is facing problems with deforestation. Everybody needs to work on fighting climate change- not only as a country, but also as individuals. REDD+ allows us to work together.”

Currently, EAOS invited to REDD+ consultations are required (by Myanmar law) to be signatories of the NCA. Mahinder believes that there should be more leeway: “I want the non-signatory EAOs to also be involved. I know that the UN is prohibited from engaging with non-NCA groups, but our Government should consider being more flexible. Their involvement is also important.

Forest rangers monitoring Kha Baung Protected Public Forest, Taung-Oo, Myanmar.

Looking Ahead

If REDD+ is to be successfully implemented in Myanmar, it is essential that all stakeholders’ voices be heard. Implementing the 44 proposed “policies and measures” (PAMs) in the latest draft NRS to address the drivers of deforestation and degradation requires cooperation among all stakeholders, as each group needs to feel that it fully understands and endorses each PAM.

Given this, Dr. Thaung Naing Oo highlights that the NRS is a “living document” that can be modified at any time in accordance with the existing practices. Since the close of the National Validation Workshop, participants were given additional time to edit, drop or propose new PAMs before the final draft was submitted for government approval through the National REDD+ Taskforce and National Environmental Conservation and Climate Change Central Committee. The Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) now needs to submit it to the Cabinet for official approval and endorsement.

Daw Khin Hnin Myint, Myanmar’s National REDD+ Programme Coordinator.

“Once the NRS has been finalized, implementation of all activities will be covered by investment funds,”

says Daw Khin Hnin Myint,
Myanmar’s National REDD+ Programme Coordinator.

“The Government of Myanmar will provide core funding, from existing and new budget allocations and public programmes. Funding from bilateral and multilateral donors, development banks and other international organizations will also be mobilized.”

The vastness of the scope and degree of difficulty in drafting Myanmar’s NRS with so many diverse – and at times competing – voices amid the country’s on-going internal conflict should not be minimized. “I want to thank all the stakeholders who have actively participated in the development of the REDD+ Strategy,” says U Kyaw Kyaw Lwin, Deputy Director General of Myanmar’s Forest Department. “Without their involvement, suggestions and recommendations, this Strategy would not be complete or able to be implemented.”

Participants working together to validate Myanmar’s National REDD+ Strategy.

Myanmar’s REDD+ Progress

The Warsaw Framework, an outcome of the COP 19 in 2013, states that in order for a developing country to qualify for Results-Based Payments, four requirements must be met:

  • A Forest Reference Level (measure of baseline greenhouse gas emissions)
  • A National Forest Monitoring System
  • A Safeguard Information System
  • A National REDD+ Strategy (and/or Action Plan)

Myanmar is well on its way towards achieving these goals. A nationally endorsed Forest Reference Level was submitted to UNFCCC for technical assessment in 2018.

Meanwhile, a National Forestry Inventory (NFI) design and sampling approaches have been developed in line with the existing forest inventory grid system at the Forest Management Unit level and harmonized with land attributes for activity data and emission-factor reporting.

The “Cancun safeguards”- a set of seven social and environmental safeguards- are intended to enhance the positive impacts of REDD+ and to prevent or mitigate any potential adverse impacts. Myanmar’s national approach to REDD+ safeguards has been drafted, the Safeguard Information System (SIS) has been designed, the SIS operationalization plan is being developed and the draft of the first Summary of Information (SoI) on safeguards for REDD+ is being finalized.

Since late 2016, Myanmar has been preparing its National REDD+ Strategy (NRS) with the technical support of the UN-REDD Programme. The process included over 50 consultations with diverse stakeholders to come up with an analysis of the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and a list of proposed national and sub-national “policies and measures” (PAMs) intended to address the fundamental factors underlying these drivers.

The NRS is important because Myanmar is currently revising its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), with the intention to submit to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by March 2020.  The land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) component of the NDC will be fully-aligned with Myanmar’s NRS.

Story by: Leona Liu, Asia-Pacific Regional Communications & Knowledge Management Specialist for the UN-REDD Programme
Additional reporting by: Alexis Corblin, UNEP Asia-Pacific Regional Technical Advisor
Photos and photo slideshow by: Cory Wright/UN-REDD Programme

Safeguarding Papua New Guinea’s Biodiversity

Under the black velvet cover of night, Samuel switches on his headlamp and fumbles in the dark to dress. His colleagues are still snoring soundly in their tents. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he trudges up the dirt path where a pickup truck awaits him. The car’s headlights cut through the thick morning mist as they drive down a bumpy road cradling the forest’s edge.

Samuel descending from a truck to start his early morning work shift.
Samuel recording bird calls in the early morning hours near Kupiano, Papua New Guinea.

When they’ve reached their destination – a clearing across from a majestic ridge- Samuel steps out, binoculars in hand. “I’m here to count the birds,” he says. “I record birdcalls for 15 minutes on this device, which can pick up sounds in a 50-meter radius, and then write down as many species as I can identify.” Yesterday, he recorded 98 unique birdcalls, ranging from the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo to the famous Bird of Paradise.

Knowledge is Power

The Island of New Guinea contains the world’s third largest rainforest after the Amazon and Congo Basin. Papua New Guinea (PNG) comprises the island’s eastern portion and West Papua, which is part of Indonesia, comprises its western portion. PNG is incredibly resource-rich with five percent of the world’s biodiversity in one percent of its surface area. Its forests are ecological goldmines housing more than 20,000 species of vascular plants, 191 species of mammal (of which 80 percent are endemic), 750 bird species (of which 50 percent are endemic), 300 species of reptile and 198 species of amphibian. Yet despite the treasures they store, PNG forests are poorly known scientifically.

Aerial views over mountains and forests in Papua New Guinea.
A tree kangaroo in Papua New Guinea.

To address this challenge, the UN-REDD Programme together with the European Union, has been supporting the country’s first-ever Multi-Purpose National Forestry Inventory (NFI) since 2014. Funding for the NFI project, which will conclude at the end of 2019, has enabled local scientists to gather important data on PNG’s flora, fauna and carbon stock, in order to accurately estimate greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

“There is no clear definition of a NFI. Each country is allowed to design its own NFI as it sees fit,”

says Dr. Abe Hitofumi,
FAO’s Chief Technical Advisor for the NFI Project in PNG.

“What makes the NFI in PNG unique is that we have a comprehensive biodiversity component in addition to the usual tree enumeration and measurement.”

Dr. Abe Hitofumi, FAO’s Chief Technical Advisor for the NFI Project in PNG.

An Ecological Network of Interactions

“For the botanical component, it’s not only focused on trees. We look at what is living on the trees- what kind of insects they support, what kind of birds are feeding on the insects… we look at the whole ecological network of interactions,” says Vojtech Novotny, Director of the New Guinea Binatang Research Center, which leads on the NFI’s zoological component.

Ants near their nest in the dense forests of Papua New Guinea.
A researcher collecting ant specimens in the forest for the NFI project.

“We decided to study insects, which is the largest group of animals in the forest. From there, we selected ants, which are predators. Fruit flies are another group we study. They feed on fruits, which captures an aspect of the plant-insect interaction. Another group are geometridae moths whose larvae feed on leaves. So we have both insect herbivores and insect predators. Finally we have birds, which represent vertebrates, and feed on both insects and fruits.”

The selection of these three insect groups (ants, fruit flies, geometrid moths) and birds for the NFI was influenced by several factors including their significant roles in the forest ecosystem; their availability for rapid sampling; and because they are well, or at least moderately-known taxonomically.

Working Around the Clock

Samuel was among the researchers who worked around the clock in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea throughout 2019 to gather field data for the NFI. His camp was divided into three teams – plants, zoology, and soils.

“There really is a 24-hour cycle in the life of animals,” says Novotny. “Given this, we also need to be active the entire time. The ornithologists are the first ones to wake up, because they have to take advantage of the early morning when birds are most active.” So when Samuel gets off his shift at 7 a.m. and returns to base camp, his comrades are just getting ready for their shift – sipping on instant coffee and munching on navy biscuits for breakfast.

NFI staff prepare the camp following their arrival near Kupiano, Papua New Guinea.
Nalish Sam, Team Leader of the Soils Team for the NFI.

They pull on their gumboots, greet Samuel, and hop into the truck for their turn out in the field. Pulling back dangling tree vines to descend into the depths of the forest, the foresters get out their monitoring equipment, and team up with the botanists for a hard day’s work.

“In my team, we measure trees in circular plots ranging from three, 10, 15, and 25-metre radii. We take diameters and heights and record everything electronically on tablets,”

says forester Elizabeth Kaidong.

“We want to know the composition of the tree species, as well as its carbon stock.”

Elizabeth, a forester for PNGFA, taking measurements of trees.

Plant specimens collected by the NFI Botany Team are laid out after identification and tagging.

“My job as a botanist is to look at the plants and give the plants scientific names,” says Kipiro Damas, Senior Botanist at the NFI Camp. Most specimens (leaves, flowers, fruits) are collected for identification and storage at PNG’s National Herbarium in Lae, but some specimens are even sent abroad for cross-referencing.

There is also a dedicated soil team because soil helps regulate important ecosystem processes, such decomposition and water availability. Studies show that soil could store between 50-75 percent of forest carbon in PNG. The NFI team collects soil samples to better understand its carbon and nutrient composition in relation to different forest types and human disturbances

NFI researchers collect soil samples.

Promoting Capacity-Building

Capacity-building within the PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA) is crucial for the successful implementation of the NFI. Given this, a number of trainings have been facilitated by the UN-REDD Programme and FAO on remote-sensing and data management analysis.

In addition, 13 scholarships were awarded to post-graduate students at the University of Technology in Lae to research and analyze NFI data. Redley Opasa, who graduated in April this year, is one of them.

“I’m blessed to be a part of this project,”

he says.

“The thing I enjoy the most about being part of the NFI survey is the chance to go around my country and discover our undisturbed forests. I have learned to really appreciate PNG’s rich biodiversity.”

Redley Opasa, NFI Scholar.

Dr. Ruth Turia, Director for Forest Policy & Planning at PNGFA, discussing the NFI work with members of the UN-REDD team.

The Prime Minister of PNG, Peter O’Neill, and the Minister for Forests, Hon. Douglas Tomuriesa (both at that time), launched the NFI project in 2016. The project’s outcome will be invaluable to PNG in terms of providing the country with relevant information on the valuable assets in their forests.

“For us, the NFI project is very important,” says Dr. Ruth Turia, Director for Forest Policy & Planning at PNGFA and Project Director for the NFI. “When I started work here in 1981, we didn’t have anything close to what we have now. The information we had then regarding our forest resources was what the Australian foresters in PNG had come up with based on photographs taken during the war period. We knew where the forested areas were, but we didn’t know much else about the actual quantity and type of forests that were out there.”

Dr. Ruth Turia, Director for Forest Policy & Planning at PNGFA.

Goodwill Amos, Acting Managing Director of the PNGFA.

“I always had the passion to ensure we had a NFI,”

says Goodwill Amos,
Acting Managing Director of the PNGFA.

“We had various forest inventories for concessions, but we never had one covering the whole country. In 1990, we put in a submission to our government, but the budget was about $10 million USD and our government said it didn’t have the money. I am very grateful to the UN-REDD Programme and the EU for their support.”

“We chose to fund the NFI project to support PNGFA in the fight against climate change,” says Sandrine Giansily, Program Manager for Rural Development/WASH/ Climate Change for the EU Delegation in PNG. “By supporting this NFI project, the PNGFA has extended its expertise in forest monitoring and is now able to share this knowledge with neighboring countries across the Pacific region.”

Sandrine Giansily from the EU Delegation in PNG with members of the NFI Project.

Putting Communities First

Unlike some countries, the forests here belong to the people, not the state. The support of local communities is therefore crucial for environmental and biodiversity conservation. “In PNG, 97 percent of the land is owned by the people, so the forests are historically maintained by the landowners as custodians of natural assets. It is important to engage and incentivize them to sustainably manage their forest resources,” says Mirzohaydar Isoev, REDD+ Chief Technical Advisor for UNDP in PNG. The NFI project has been contributing to PNG’s national green economic growth by promoting education and employment opportunities, from providing hands-on trainings for foresters to engaging local communities in the NFI project.

With 78 percent tree cover, PNG’s forests are relatively well-conserved. However, they are being confronted with increasing pressure due to resource extraction, especially through logging, but also from clearing for agriculture. The hope is that this NFI project will serve as a stark and timely reminder that the forests are among the country’s greatest treasures.

Terence Barambi, Manager of the REDD+ Branch Climate Change
and Development Authority (CCDA) in PNG.

“Our country’s national policy, Vision 2050, calls for carbon neutrality by 2050. With that in mind, we also want to develop as a country,”

says Terence Barambi,
Manager of the REDD+ Branch Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) in PNG.

“REDD+ provides that pathway for us. It is a mechanism where we can achieve transformational change within the country, achieve our development aspirations, but in a sustainable way.”

Story by: Leona Liu, Asia-Pacific Regional Communications & Knowledge Management Specialist for the UN-REDD Programme
Photographs and videos by: Cory Wright/UN-REDD Programme

Greening Viet Nam’s Coffee Supply Chain

Walk down any street in Viet Nam, and it quickly becomes apparent that this country is crazy about coffee. In its capital, Hanoi, you’ll see people sipping on cups perched on low stools along the sidewalks, as well as inside its ubiquitous trendy cafes.

A local fruit vendor navigates a busy street in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Customers at the famous Cafe Giang are enjoying “cà phê trúng”, or egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty in which creamy egg white foam is served on top of dense coffee. At the counter sits Nguyen Tri Hoa whose father invented the drink in 1946. At the time, milk was extremely scarce in Viet Nam, so his father used egg yolk as a replacement instead. Necessity is the mother of invention, and today, thanks to this unique recipe, business is booming.

“We sell 400 cups of egg coffee daily. All our coffee beans come from the Central Highlands of Viet Nam,” says Nguyen Tri Hoa, who has a second cafe location in Japan. He hopes to use his growing success to promote Vietnamese coffee to the entire world.

Viet Nam’s Central Highlands

Globally, we drink over 500 billion cups of coffee each year. Yet most consumers don’t actually know where their coffee comes from.

While 67 percent of the world’s coffee is grown in Latin America, Viet Nam is, in fact, the second biggest coffee producer and exporter after Brazil. Production in Viet Nam has steadily increased from some 78,000 tons in 1990 to 1.8 million tons in 2018.

Robusta dominates Viet Nam’s coffee industry. Robusta coffee is bitterer and less aromatic than Arabica, so it is often used for instant coffee. This makes it a staple of commercial coffee giants such as Nestle (Nescafé), who have multiple factories in Viet Nam.

Coffee beans from Viet Nam

The Central Highlands region produces 95 percent of the country’s coffee. More than 80 percent of the coffee plots belong to smallholder farmers.

Cil Mup Ha Thoan and his wife Ro Ong K’Son are among the 600,000 households in Viet Nam that are directly employed by the coffee sector.

Ro Ong K’Son

“My husband and I have been growing coffee for 10 years,”

says Ro Ong K’Son,
a mother of five children.

They live in the Dung K’No commune of Lam Dong Province. Here, forests cover 80 percent of the land and the majority of the population belongs to the K’Ho ethnic minority group.

In 1985, the Government of Viet Nam started a coffee project here to boost rural development. Before then, the local people were hunting, selling timber and living off subsistence farming. With its high revenue potential, coffee soon became an attractive crop for smallholders.

Cil Mup Ha Thoanh and Ro Ong K'Son pictured with their daughter Ro Ong Massa.

Cil Mup Ha Thoan with his daughters. 

“We earn decent money by growing coffee. We can pay for our food, electricity and water bills. We can pay the tuition for our children,”

says Cil Mup Ha Thoan.

Between 1990 and 2000, coffee production increased significantly with the land area under cultivation growing ten-fold from 50,000 to 500,000 hectares.

“In 2018, we exported 1.8 million tons of coffee and obtained $3.54 billion USD in revenue, which played an important role in the socio-economic development of the region,” says Le Van Duc, Deputy Director of the Department of Crop Production at the Ministry of Rural and Agricultural Development (MARD) in Viet Nam.

A customer buys coffee beans at one of Hanoi's many coffee shops.

Environmental and Economic Concerns

Yet while this growth has bolstered the Vietnamese economy, it has not come without cost. Maintaining high levels of productivity has generated a series of environmental challenges, including deforestation and ecosystem degradation.

“The forest is the main thing we have to be concerned about. The second is soil and the third is water conservation,” says Hao Duc Bui, an agronomist expert in the Central Highlands working for the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). “Farmers increasingly need more land for cultivation, so they cut down trees. We need to prevent that.”

A degraded and deforested area near Da Lat, in Lam Dong Province, Vietnam.

Another challenge is the fact that more than 20 percent of the aging coffee farms in Viet Nam need to be replanted. This, coupled with episodes of drought, has led to yields stagnating. As a result, maintaining high yields has become a function of heavy and sometimes inefficient application of fertilizers and pesticides by the farmers. For poor farming households, it is often difficult to generate the savings necessary to purchase increasing volumes of fertilizers and other agrichemical inputs required to compensate for diminishing yields.

“When the soil becomes poor, farmers need to apply more fertilizer. But local communities don’t have enough money to invest, so they borrow money from people outside of the banks at high interest rates that they cannot pay back, impoverishing them,” says Mr. Hao.

A bird's eye view of D'Kno Commune in Lam Dong Province.
A local farmer tends to his coffee trees in Lam Dong Province.

Worse, world coffee prices have fallen by two thirds since the early 1980s, and the earnings of coffee farmers have halved in that time. As a result, farmers are switching to other crops like black pepper, avocado and passion fruit in order to generate higher incomes.

Mr. Pham Cong Tri

“Coffee is one of the main crops helping farmers to make a living. However, climate change has directly impacted the effectiveness of coffee production,”

says Pham Cong Tri,
Head of the Agriculture Forestry Department of the Western Highlands Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute (WASI) in Viet Nam.

“If we can’t come up with suitable measures, the role of coffee as a primary crop will diminish. This is why it’s not just a concern of the agriculture sector and the coffee industry. The Vietnamese Government is also paying attention now.”

Declining agricultural yields not only represent a risk to farmers’ livelihoods, but also represent an operational risk to the global coffee supply chain, including international coffee roasters that source a significant portion of their supply from the Central Highlands.

“If these issues go on for another 10 or 15 years, 20 to 30 percent of coffee plantations will disappear. The remains will be severely eroded and productivity will decline. That’s a dreadful future for the coffee industry,”

says Pham Cong Tri.

Local coffee farmers working in Lam Dong Province.

Scaling up Sustainable Practices

Through the UN-REDD Programme, UNEP has been working with partners to scale up alternative cultivation practices that can support the long-term sustainability of the coffee sector, by reducing the pressure on the environment while maintaining production volumes.

Among them is the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), an NGO that carries out a program in the Central Highlands that addresses three key issues: extreme climate events, particularly recurring droughts; deforestation; and agrochemical overuse. Joining forces with coffee companies, traders, and the Government in public-private platforms, IDH supports coffee farmers to become more climate-resilient, cost-efficient and improve their livelihoods.

Among the traders it works with is the local agribusiness ACOM, which gives regular trainings to the farmers of Lam Dong Province, including Cil and Ro.

“We realized that the farmers didn’t use pesticides according to any guidelines. They were also destroying the forests to grow coffee. We saw how it affected the environment negatively,”

says Cao Xuan Loc,
Manager of Sustainability Management Services at ACOM.

Mr. Cao Xuan Loc
Cao Xuan Loc (in white) from ACOM demonstrates pruning techniques to local farmers.

Trainings include lessons on soil regeneration, irrigation, pest control, and farming techniques like pruning. They also encourage the use of agroforestry and “intercropping” (combining multiple crops on one plot), which can diversify incomes and reduce the impact of coffee price fluctuation. Intercropping has the added benefit of providing shade for the coffee plants, which allows the coffee beans to mature more slowly, increasing their quality and as a result, price.

For smallholders, converting to climate-resilient models can provide economic benefits when compared to mono-cropping models. However, the conversion to alternative production models requires a substantial capital investment at the onset, which is followed by a period of limited revenue between replantation and first production. This makes the conversion financially challenging for poorer households, which lack access to additional financing.

To this end, UNEP is working in Viet Nam to complete a business case analysis to better understand the critical issues surrounding commodity supply chains and deforestation; building value chains in the country to connect supply chain actors and address issues of commercial viability of alternative models. It is also developing financial instruments for financial de-risking and incentivizing investments in sustainable land use.

Pine forests in the morning fog near Da Lat, Lam Dong Province.
Cil Mup Ha Thoan, his wife Ro Ong K’Son, and their five children.

Additionally, as part of a consortium of partner organizations including UNDP, CIAT, IDH and EFI, UNEP is now working to establish a zero-deforestation jurisdiction for commodity cultivation in four districts of the Central Highlands. This includes fostering partnerships with agricultural solution providers, agribusinesses, as well as public and private financial actors to develop financial systems that can channel the investment capital required for the conversion to more resilient agricultural production models. The aim is to help green Viet Nam’s coffee supply chain, one bean at a time, while increasing farmers’ livelihoods.

Story: Leona Liu, Asia-Pacific Regional Communications & Knowledge Management Specialist for the UN-REDD Programme in Bangkok, Thailand
Photographs by: Cory Wright/UN-REDD Programme
Videos by: Khuong Duy Do/UN-REDD Programme

How Access to Finance Supports
Sustainable Cattle Ranching in Costa Rica

Puriscal is a predominantly rural region, with many micro-enterprises and small
farmers who struggle to obtain credit from traditional banks. Marvin Jiménez, a member
of Coope-Puriscal is working hard to make his farm and cattle ranching more sustainable.

Marvin Jiménez, a smallholder farmer and cattle farmer in Purisca, Costa Rica

“I have been living in the region of Puriscal in Costa Rica since I was born, but now, we really notice the changes in the climate. The sun burns much harder and it is much warmer,”

says Marvin Jiménez,
a smallholder farmer and cattle rancher.

“When the cooperative organized meetings to talk about climate change, we used to have doubts about what they said. Now we are suffering the consequences.”

For four generations, Marvin Jiménez’s family has been dedicated to farming and cattle ranching in Puriscal, Costa Rica. Puriscal is a predominantly rural region, with many micro-enterprises and small farmers who struggle to obtain credit from traditional banks. In the past, Jimenez and his family relied on traditional techniques and practices that overlooked the consequences of cutting down trees. In addition, the cultivation of tobacco has been devastating for the forests. High deforestation rates have exacerbated droughts and soil erosion in his region.

Reforestation in the region of Puriscal, Costa Rica

Within the National REDD+ Strategy of Costa Rica, cattle ranching was identified as one of the major drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. With over 1.5 million hectares of pasture across the country, and some 1.5 heads of cattle, the sector occupies about 20 percent of the country’s land surface. Transforming this sector therefore holds important mitigation potential to fight climate change.

To render farming practices more sustainable while improving the livelihoods of farmers, the UN-REDD Programme has been supporting the Government of Costa Rica to assess low-carbon productive activities, including livestock, in which collaboration with the private and the financial sector is key.

The main building of the cooperative Coope-Puriscal, Puriscal, Costa Rica

One of the cooperatives that have improved its environmental performance in the livestock sector by converting to sustainable techniques is Coope-Puriscal. It counts more than 2,200 members, including Jiménez.

“Thanks to the technical support of the cooperative, we now know how to adopt silvicultural practices on our farms,” says Jiménez. “Coope-Puriscal brought us access to finance and technical knowledge, allowing us to invest in better cattle ranching practices and planting trees. This has had many advantages. Cattle ranching used to lead to deforestation, but now we practice it differently. We keep the trees and even plant more. We have learned many things like how to improve the health of our cattle while keeping our soil healthier. People used to burn, but I don’t see that anymore.”

Marvin Jiménez, a smallholder farmer and cattle farmer in Purisca, Costa Rica

As a cooperative, Coope-Puriscal was already offering financial services to its members. While they initially focused on construction, the cooperative now provides financial services to their farmers and cattle ranchers to improve their access to credit. With the support of the UN-REDD Programme, the cooperative was accredited by the Development Banking System (SDB) of Costa Rica, enabling them to gain access to capital at lower costs, resulting in more competitive rates and terms for the beneficiaries.

“Many producers do not qualify for access to the banking system,”

says Geovanni Sánchez Salazar,
the manager of Coope-Puriscal.

“For example, when a farmer wants to access credit, he will be asked for a pay slip, but smallholder farmers cannot provide this type of document. In other cases, the banks ask farmers to send a project proposal, but those are difficult to do, take too much time, and farmers give up. The added value of what we can bring to farmers as a cooperative is not so much in the low interest rates the farmers can now obtain, but in the conditions, paperwork, accompaniment and technical assistance that we can offer them.”

Geovanni Sánchez Salazar, the manager of Coope-Puriscal,
Puriscal, Costa Rica

Financing the activities of smallholder farmers in Puriscal has increased not only the environmental sustainability of their activities, but also their incomes. Slowly, youth who left for the big cities are now coming back home. “We learned that is it is not that the youth who do not want to work on the farms, but rather the lack of opportunities that makes them move to the cities,” says Geovanni. “Now, with the credits, we see how opportunities can multiply within a family.”

Youth helping out in one of the farms in the region, Puriscal, Costa Rica

“When tobacco production stopped in Puriscal, everyone moved away to look for work elsewhere,”

says Marvin Jiménez.

“Now with Coope-Puriscal, there are many ongoing projects. Some are global like the tree planting one, and others are at the family level. I improved my farm significantly, thanks to the technical and financial support I received. This impacts my whole family. My son works here with me and was trained on the genetic improvement of our cattle, and we also produce and sell our own biogas and compost. The activities have multiplied and improved our lives significantly.”

State of the Forests in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country with ambitious goals to fight climate change and a world leader in sustainability. The country drafted a zero-emissions plan, in line with the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. More than 98 percent of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources and forest cover stands at more than 53 percent after work to reverse decades of deforestation.

REDD+ Strategy and Low-Carbon Livestock Strategy

The REDD+ National Strategy of Costa Rica, elaborated with technical support from the UN-REDD Programme, consists of six policies, 16 actions and 47 measures, which are contained in the latest version published in September 2017.
The low-carbon livestock strategy of Costa Rica was developed by the Government of Costa Rica based on the input of many stakeholders in the sector, including the public and private sector as well as producers. Since the beginning, there was an agreement that the results of the strategy needed to focus on both sequestering and reducing emissions, as well as increasing productivity and return on investment. Techniques of better rotation, better genetics, better forest management, use of forage trees and forage banks allow cattle ranchers to respond to the four main objectives of the low-carbon livestock strategy: more profits, more production, more sequestration of emissions and fewer emissions. This will help establish a model of low-carbon livestock that is more sustainable and resilient towards climate change.

Story and photos by: Alice Van der Elstraeten, Regional Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist for the UN-REDD Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean
Videos by: Media HQ

Paraguay: Traditional indigenous knowledge meets new technologies

How knowledge-sharing impacts the protection of forests

“The forest was given to us. We live from the forests. It gives us food, shelter, materials to build our houses and medicinal plants to cure the members of our community. That is why we must take care of the forest,” says Cornelia Flores, the indigenous and spiritual leader of Isla Jovai Teju, one of the Mbya Guarani communities in Caagazu, Paraguay.

Cornelia Flores, Leader and spiritual leader of the Isla Jovai Teju community

“I plant trees and I make sure we maintain the medicinal plants, as well as the plants the animals need for their diet. It is an equilibrium that needs to be maintained continuously. It is also about knowledge – ancestral indigenous knowledge – that is slowly getting lost with the forests disappearing.”

Cornelia explains how she,
as a leader of her community, still cures people with traditional medicine.

However, she is afraid that this knowledge will be lost when she is no longer around. She added: “We used to travel to other remote communities to share our knowledge about the forest and the plants and learn from other spiritual leaders, but now we cannot do that anymore as the forest barely exists. There is no shelter, no shade, no water, and no fruits on our way. It is impossible to walk for days if you only come across large soya fields”.

She also feels like she is losing influence on the youth in her community. “It is hard to transmit traditional knowledge now. The youth go to regular schools and outside of school, they only seem interested in their mobile phones. They can spend hours on their phones, instead of learning about the plants and the forests. It would be beneficial for our communities if specific indigenous schools would exist, in which our traditional knowledge can be transmitted. I try to share with the youth as much as I still can by setting a good example by planting trees and taking care of the forest.”

Rumilda Fernández, a young indigenous forest technician of the same community begs to differ and says that her smartphone serves more than just entertainment purposes.

“Instead of using it only for Facebook or WhatsApp, my phone is also my tool to monitor the forest. I benefited from several trainings and I am now able to use my phone to support my community in monitoring the forest and our territory by using several applications installed on my phone, something I am really proud of.”

Rumilda Fernández, Indigenous Technician
Community Monitoring from the Isla Jovai Teju community

Rumilda Fernández demonstrating an application for the mapping of her community

Rumilda is one of the indigenous youth who benefited from a series of trainings that started in 2017 in Paraguay to strengthen local capacity for community-monitoring and the management of natural resources and governance of the territory organized in four Mbya Guaranies communities. She was trained by indigenous technicians from Panama, a team from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and other partner institutions from Paraguay on topics like Geographic Information System (GIS), mapping, natural resources management and the use of mobile applications.

Somos (de) los boques. Intercambio de conocimientos para la protección de los bosques

We are (from) the forest. Knowledge sharing for forest protection

Since 2015, Rafael Valdespino – an indigenous technician from Comarca Embera-Wounaan, Panama – has been part of the capacity-development program on the community monitoring of forests. After having attended several trainings he became an instructor. He supported his own community and other communities in Panama and now travels to other countries to share his experience regionally.

“I was born in the forest and I have always lived in my comarca, remotely and isolated. My grandfather and my father taught me about the forest, the plants, and how to protect and take care of them. Taking care of the forest comes naturally to me,” he says.

“Just as the forest needs me to protect it, I also need the forest to live. Combining ancestral knowledge with new technologies has made me a stronger protector of our indigenous forests.”

Rafael Valdespino, Indigenous Technician and
Trainer from the Comarca Emera-Wounaan in Panama

Training other indigenous youth is something Rafael really enjoys. He considers it an important contribution that he can make to motivate young people not to lose interest in their environment and actively engage in protecting it.

Rafael Valdespino, sharing his knowledge and experience with the San Juan community

Through South-South exchanges, peers can learn from each other, discuss their work, address hurdles together and improve the effectiveness of their work. Experiential knowledge is also shared among peers in their own words, creating a collaborative and reciprocal learning environment.

“I learned a lot from the exchanges we had with other indigenous technicians from Panama coming to Paraguay to share their knowledge with us,” says Rumilda. “It is so inspiring to see what they were able to accomplish. We not only learn from what Rafael is sharing with us, but it also gives us hope to know that he also had setbacks. To learn that it is not going to change in one day, but that it is a process, and sometimes a long one, was important for me. It motivates me and the other youth to persevere, to continue on our paths. I hope more communities in Paraguay will be able to benefit from these trainings.”

Workshop in the San Juan community

State of the Forests in Paraguay

Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia are home to the second-largest forest ecosystem in South America, and home to many indigenous communities who depend on the forests for their livelihoods. However, pressure continues on the forests, making life for these communities increasingly difficult. The region has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world with roughly 20 percent of the Gran Chaco forest being converted into farmland or grazing land since 1985. The Gran Chaco forest is also home to thousands of plant types and hundreds of species of birds, mammals and reptiles.

Paraguay’s National REDD+ Strategy

Paraguay’s National REDD+ Strategy entitled the “National Forest Strategy for Sustainable Growth” proposes a vision that underpins broader sustainable development approaches based on productive systems respecting natural capital and forest resources.

In November 2019, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved the submission by Paraguay of 26 million tons of CO2 of forest emission reductions for a total of $72.5 million USD. The approval, which was announced at the GCF’s 24th Board meeting, recognized the successful efforts of Paraguay in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation between 2015 and 2017.  The results-based payments will reduce carbon emissions through the conservation of forest cover, promotion of sustainable agriculture, participation of the private sector and the strengthening of indigenous peoples and rural communities as guardians of the forests.

The South-South Exchange described in this article is part of the UN-REDD Programme and the “Innovative Models for Public Investment in the Sustainable Management and Governance of Natural Resources of Indigenous Communities” Project, implemented by FAO Paraguay in collaboration with the Paraguayan Indigenous Institute (INDI), the National Forest Institute (INFONA), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADES), National Institute of Rural and Land Development (INDERT), Ministry of Social Development (MDS) and the municipalities.

Story by: Alice Van der Elstraeten, Regional Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean, UN-REDD Programme
Photographs by: Leti Galeano, Nelson Roman, Alice Van der Elstraeten
Videos by: José Elizeche

Protected forests, protected communities:
land titling in Peru

The Awajún are an indigenous people that live in the Amazonian rainforest in Peru. Historically, they settled primarily on the banks of the Marañón river, a tributary of the Amazon river in the north, near the border with Ecuador. Currently, they possess titled community lands in four regions: Amazonas, Cajamarca, Loreto and San Martin.

“The titling of our community lands has been an important step to better protect our territories and our forests,”

says Oswaldo Juep Danduck,
who grew up in the Awajun community of San Martin.

“I am happy I was able to support this rather difficult process in several communities.”

Oswaldo was one of 325 indigenous technicians trained in REDD+
processes and sustainable forest management by
the UN-REDD Programme.

While he had the opportunity to study environmental engineering at the National University of San Martin, the additional REDD+ training enabled him to implement an advisory and technical assistance role with the indigenous communities of San Martin.

As well, it strengthened his leadership in representing those communities at the regional level with the Coordination of Development and Defense of Indigenous peoples of the San Martin region (CODEPISAM) and at the national level with the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP).

After his training, Oswaldo worked extensively with the communities, sharing his knowledge on climate change and how it can affect livelihoods, the surrounding ecosystems and forests. As REDD+ processes are very technical, he had to be patient in transmitting this information to the community leaders. But because these leaders were already affected by these changes and had witnessed the gradual disappearance of the forests surrounding their villages, they were eager to learn about sustainable development.

The support to the communities in land titling appears to have made a big impact in working towards sustainable development. Land titling of indigenous people’s territories is one of the REDD+ pilot measures being implemented through a bilateral agreement between Peru and Norway. The trained indigenous technicians have made this work at the community level possible, as they have the technical knowledge on implementing the process and they benefit from the trust of the communities they belong too. Outsiders involved in this type of work are usually mistrus-ted as the communities do not know whose interests they represent. However, the process was not always easy.

Oswaldo knows that without proper land titling and zoning, forests in the indigenous communities would quickly disappear.

Though forests are very important, every member of the community has its own interests and economic needs that sometimes lead to logging or selling parts of the land. An agreement at the community level that delineates which parts of the forest will be conserved and where community members can engage in agroforestry will prevent the degradation of the forest for individual needs.

Forests are everything to
indigenous peoples,

explains Oswaldo.

An indigenous community without a forest would not be an indigenous community. The forest contains our ancestral indigenous knowledge. When the forest disappears, all this knowledge disappears, the traditions, the culture and even our language. With each forest that disappears, an indigenous community disappears along with it. Maybe the people will keep on living, but all the wisdom and the culture will be wiped away. Therefore, many indigenous leaders fight for the conservation of forests. Forests offer a school, a way of sharing knowledge gained over thousands of years. Our medicine, our cosmovision, our food, how we live, our crafts, how we dress, all is to be found in the forest. We do not only preserve the forest because it helps fight climate change.

Forests are everything to
indigenous peoples,

explains Oswaldo.

An indigenous community without a forest would not be an indigenous community. The forest contains our ancestral indigenous knowledge. When the forest disappears, all this knowledge disappears, the traditions, the culture and even our language. With each forest that disappears, an indigenous community disappears along with it. Maybe the people will keep on living, but all the wisdom and the culture will be wiped away. Therefore, many indigenous leaders fight for the conservation of forests. Forests offer a school, a way of sharing knowledge gained over thousands of years. Our medicine, our cosmovision, our food, how we live, our crafts, how we dress, all is to be found in the forest. We do not only preserve the forest because it helps fight climate change.

State of the forests in Peru

Peru is one of the countries in the world with the largest area of forests forming the main part of the Amazonian forest together with Brazil. In terms of the surface of tropical forests, the country is only surpassed by Brazil, Congo and Indonesia. At the national level the forests occupy more than half of the Republic’s territory with the Amazon being the region with the largest forest area followed by Andean and dry forests. Peruvian forests are home to a great diversity of species of fauna and flora and provide goods and services that are fundamental for the country’s development and the well-being of its inhabitants, especially the indigenous or native peoples who inhabit large parts of the forests.

Every year between 118,000 and 177,000 hectares of Peru’s natural forests are destroyed.

The UN-REDD Programme in Peru

In Peru, UN-REDD assisted the Government in setting up a framework for implementing Peru’s National Strategy on Forests and Climate Change (ENBCC), within the context of Peru’s multilateral agreement for REDD+, a JDI signed with Norway and Germany. In addition, UN-REDD advised on the approaches and stakeholder discussions required for a coherent and practical governance structure of the forest and climate change agenda in Peru. Finally, the UN-REDD Programme helped key national and subnational stakeholders – including the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Forest Service and regional governments – agree on the need to endorse land-use policy reforms to reduce deforestation and degradation and identify the principal first steps to be taken in this regard.

Story and photos by: Alice Van der Elstraeten, Regional Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist for the UN-REDD Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Videos by: Media HQ