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[KATHMANDU] A UN scheme to financially reward countries for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by adding forest cover and protecting existing forests holds out no significant benefit for local forest communities, an analysis undertaken in Nepal shows.

Reduction of Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), which is still being negotiated at the UN climate talks, provides cash to developing countries for reducing deforestation. It also allows developed countries to offset part of their GHG emissions by paying other countries that take part in the scheme.

A team of researchers from Australia, Japan and Nepal who reviewed REDD+ pilot projects in this Himalayan country observed that there was very little net gain for community forest user groups (CFUGs).  

Some of the positives that emerged include better control over forest fires, decrease in extraction of grass, fodder and fuel wood and timber. Similarly, there has been an enhanced participation of community members — particularly women and poor people — in meetings.

But more meetings mean an extra toll on the participants' working hours, which are not compensated for, says the study that appeared in the Journal of Environmental Management in February.

Also, the local groups had to make sacrifices to maximise carbon credits — for example, by cutting down on quantity of fuel wood or fodder grass they normally use.

Payment-based incentives will help CFUGs only if the costs involved in time and labour spent as well as in foregoing benefits do not exceed payments, says Tek Narayan Maraseni, lead author and deputy director at the Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments in Queensland, Australia.

 “REDD+ is not a poverty reduction strategy; it is for reduction of emissions. But given our context, the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation stem from livelihoods needs. We have to enhance the livelihoods of forest dependent populations to prevent it,” Bhaskar Singh Karky, resource economist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, tells SciDev.Net.

“The money for REDD+ in Nepal is for research and capacity building as of now. No one has sold carbon credits from the forestry sector in Nepal. Through this pilot project, a lot of lessons have been learnt by implementing a prototype REDD+ incentive payment system, which ended in May 2013,” Karky adds.

A 2013 report by Karky in the Journal of Forests and Livelihood said that given the current economic situation, farmers prefer using land for livelihood purposes rather than for community forest management.
> Link to the abstract of the Journal of Environmental Management paper
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.