REDD and Poverty

Village road, southern Bolivia


REDD could mean new opportunities for poor people, mainly through mitigating climate change and providing new sources of income. But there are also great risks with the process, such as REDD not reaching its ambitions to halt deforestation or the poor seeing their land use opportunities being limited. Nedan följer en sammanfattning av våra slutsatser.

Our reading of the literature stresses the extent to which the situations of poor people in relation to deforestation and forest degradation vary. In some cases these are processes which poor people greatly influence, in other cases they are relatively powerless bystanders. Nor is deforestation always a catastrophe for poor people: standing forests are one aspect of their livelihoods, but the infrastructure development that may accompany deforestation, the opportunities provided by subsequent land-use and the possibility of a local boom economy during the deforestation process all impact on their political and economic relation to deforestation and avoided deforestation. The role of tenure regimes is also more complex than is sometimes indicated by the REDD literature. While the lack of clear property rights presents a threat to the interests of the poor (who might lose their rights to forest if REDD provides incentives to other actors to displace them), it is not clear that poor, forest-based communities who are endowed with clear property rights are likely to maintain their tenure in the face of broader asymmetries of information and power.

Earlier experiences with Payment for Environmental Services (PES) and comparable initiatives and REDD demonstration activities provide the two obvious sources of evidence-based policy making for REDD and poverty. REDD demonstration activities are at too early a stage to have yielded results yet.

Earlier experiences with PES and with Protected Areas underline the extent to which the situations of the poor vary. Where externally sponsored policy initiatives have had success it has often been dependent on at least one of the following three favourable elements being in place: 1. Genuine political will at national level; 2. Poor communities having political leverage; 3. Poor communities being the main actor in relation to the forest resource. These successes, however, may not be easily translated to the resource-cursed landscapes where deforestation is most rampant and poor people are subject to competition with predatory business interests networked into political and military establishments.

The main gap in current knowledge and experience seems to be in how to roll out the REDD agenda on a large scale in such ‘resource-cursed’ landscapes. Demonstration activities at present appear to be starting too slowly, and to be at too small a scale to yield such lessons in a timely manner.

Our very tentative policy recommendations to Swedish actors at this early stage are therefore:

  • Support the recommendations of the Meridian report for safeguarding the interests of the poor in global climate negotiations.
  • Encourage and/or directly fund large-scale, rapid REDD pilots in resource-cursed contexts, and ensure poverty monitoring is prioritised within these.
  • Support and encourage coordination of global research efforts in relation to REDD including the incorporation of high quality poverty monitoring.

Subscribe to our newsletter