Ghana bridges existing local forest governance with design of REDD+ benefit sharing

Ghana’s Community Resource Management Areas are providing the ideal starting point to build equitable REDD+ governance and benefit sharing arrangements

Farmer harvesting millet in Ghana's Upper West Region

IUCN & REDD+ series: On the road to Paris and beyond

In the lead up to the Paris Climate Change Conference in December (UNFCCC COP21), IUCN’s Global Forest and Climate Change Programme is publishing a series of articles highlighting the innovative steps developing countries are taking to equitably share the benefits from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing forest carbon stocks – activities commonly known as ‘REDD+’. Beyond COP21, this article series will continue to highlight the challenges and opportunities of setting up equitable REDD+ benefit sharing arrangements in tropical countries.

Since beginning efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), developing countries have discovered that existing local strategies to engage and empower communities in forest resource management are providing a solid entry point for many aspects of REDD+ implementation, including equitable benefit sharing.

A critical area of interest, especially for civil society, has been ensuring that REDD+ activities engage forest-dependent communities and safeguard their rights and interests. Tapping into efforts that are already advancing these aspects helps REDD+ strategies align more quickly with the promotion of good forest governance practices at all levels, and ensures the sustainability of agricultural systems and local livelihoods.

In turn, REDD+ efforts are breathing new life into existing forest governance initiatives. For instance, Ghana – a country that has invested significant resources in strengthening local forest governance through its Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) – is now applying this work to build equitable REDD+ governance and benefit sharing. Linking REDD+ to these existing initiatives is opening up new streams of potential benefits for local communities and helping to ensure the long-term success of initiatives to foster natural resource democracy.

Ghana’s CREMA mechanism and REDD+

Over the past 15 years, Ghana has established more than 25 CREMAs. These geographically-defined zones are where two or more communities come together to manage their natural resources in a sustainable manner. The strength of the CREMA model lies in the devolution of significant government power and management authority to the communities involved. This allows them to become active managers rather than passive participants in their environment, and ensures communities have adequate control over the benefits derived from the resources they manage.

A core tenet of the CREMA approach is that conservation is best achieved where there are tangible economic and cultural returns to local communities. Though the CREMA concept was initially designed with a focus on wildlife protection and conservation, it has evolved to become a model that can be applied to REDD+ and other initiatives seeking to motivate smallholders to adopt sustainable agricultural and resource management practices.

IUCN’s equitable REDD+ benefit sharing project in Ghana has been able to leverage the country’s CREMA model with great success. CREMA community members have participated in project meetings, trainings and advocacy activities. Some community members (especially the CREMA executives in Wassa Amenfi district and Mole National Park) have also served as facilitators for some of the project’s socio-economic activities, including the application of the Forest Poverty Tool Kit and Household Survey.

“CREMA institutions are the low hanging fruit, already enabled to implement REDD+. CREMAs allow us to use a local institution, with conservation already in mind, to achieve equitable REDD+ benefit sharing at the local level,” says Adewale Adeleke, IUCN's REDD+ Forest Governance Coordinator in Ghana.

Engaging with Ghana’s CREMAs has increased interest and support for IUCN’s benefit sharing project. It has also helped to highlight to community members the importance of having equitable REDD+ benefit sharing arrangements that protect natural resources while improving their livelihoods. CREMAs are now seen as the best institutional delivery mechanism at the community level for IUCN’s benefit sharing project in Ghana.

Challenges in CREMAs governance

Despite the significant potential of CREMAs to provide a governance platform for community resource management and REDD+ implementation, challenges exist with the capacity of CREMA leadership and the communities to self organize. In some cases, surveys have revealed inadequate accountability by local leadership and a lack of elections to turn over and invigorate governance units.

And despite ongoing stakeholder consultations, communities still have apprehensions about land and tree tenure rights. This has been underscored as a priority issue to be addressed at the policy level, followed by on-the-ground changes before full participation in CREMAs can be achieved. If these governance and policy challenges are properly addressed, there is consensus that CREMAs have the potential to evolve into a truly democratic institution, leading the way for new initiatives such as REDD+ to build on these foundations.

More on Ghana’s CREMAs and REDD+:

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The REDD+ benefit sharing examples and lessons featured in this article series come from country experiences of two ongoing IUCN projects: the REDD+ Benefit Sharing Project funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB); and the Toward Pro-Poor REDD+ (Phase II) project, promoting rights-based approaches to strengthen the conservation, governance and sustainable management of landscapes in Cameroon, Ghana, Guatemala, Papua Province of Indonesia, and Uganda, funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

Work area: 
Climate Change
Climate Change
North America
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