Story | 20 Sep, 2016

Deploying livelihoods-enhancing options for REDD+: Improved management, exploitation and valorisation of natural resources

Secured livelihoods are a critical dimension of the rights-based approach and pro-poor oriented frameworks for REDD+. In this first part of a two-part blog series, George Akwah Neba, IUCN’s REDD+ Programme Officer, shares his thoughts on these initiatives.


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Photo: George Akwah/IUCN

IUCN is working with partners and government institutions to pilot and upscale livelihood enhancing options for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). Pilot initiatives undertaken in 14 landscapes across 7 countries – CameroonGhanaGuatemalaIndonesiaMexicoPeru and Uganda – are providing the framework for learning from, and policy inputs for, the design of livelihoods-oriented national REDD+ strategies. Traditional conservation policies and strategies often oppose livelihoods – which are viewed as a threat to conservation and sustainable forest management.

IUCN’s work is focused on enabling conditions for rights and pro-poor oriented policies and strategies to emerge and be implemented within national forest and climate change mitigation responses as well as low-carbon and poverty alleviation efforts. The approach is rooted in the understanding of rights-based approaches and founded on the notion that access to a decent livelihood is a fundamental human right as defined and guaranteed by various UN human rights conventions, standards, norms and instruments. Interventions are geared towards delivering tangible social and economic benefits through actions that significantly contribute to sustainable management of natural resources and reduction of deforestation and forest degradation.

IUCN and partners have identified and are assessing or demonstrating a number of livelihoods options, and lessons and experiences are being integrated into the designs of national REDD+ strategies.

Options for improved management, exploitation and valorisation of natural resources

Developing beekeeping: This option has emerged in Cameroon, Ghana, Guatemala and Uganda as a way to drive the sustainable management of honey production areas and trees within communities and protected areas, through collaborative management arrangements between communities and government, or natural resources sharing agreements between communities and commercial concessions such as logging companies or safari hunting companies.

Honey has an important livelihood, economic, medicinal and cultural function for the indigenous Baka Pygmy communities in Cameroon and the indigenous forest communities of Guatemala. However, beekeeping is not a well-developed industry and honey is often harvested directly from nature through rudimentary technology. The lack of organisational structures and improved technologies makes honey harvesting unsustainable, and does not enable communities to take advantage of the economic and revenue potential of this activity. This also results in frequent land use conflicts with protected areas and commercial concessions.

IUCN and partners are working with communities to integrate beekeeping as a sustainable business and livelihood activity within broader land-use planning and management. For example, in the Mole National Park area in northern Ghana, beekeeping is already being piloted as an incentive mechanism to preserve bee habit through reducing, controlling and managing bushfires. Bees provide important environmental services to nature and people, and this activity is key for livelihood and conservation objectives.

In Guatemala, IUCN is working with landscape partners in the Lachua Ecoregion to transform the already existing beekeeping operation into an environmentally sound and economically viable nature-based business for communities. The local partner, FUNDALACHUA, is receiving technical and financial support to improve and up-scale the already well-established honey production operations. In Mt. Elgon, Uganda, beekeeping pilot initiatives within the national park as part of co-management efforts are already taking place. These experiences have the potential to become improved and sustainable business models within an overall land use and forest management framework.

Sustainable charcoal/wood energy production solutions: This option has emerged in Ghana, Papua (Indonesia) and Uganda. The energy crisis in these countries is fuelling the demand for wood energy in neighbouring and distant cities. A high demand has created a steady market for fuel wood, which is being predominantly supplied by uncontrolled and illegal logging for charcoal production, depleting the remaining forests and woodlots. Community and non-community actors are involved in this business as it generates good and reliable income. However, the lack of established organisational structure and governance of this activity has had heavy environmental consequences.

IUCN and partners have identified sustainable charcoal production as a mechanism to achieve sustainable management of woodlots and recovery of forest cover. If well planned and organised within overall land use and livelihood planning, sustainable charcoal production has the potential to incentivise communities to better manage their woodlots while also gaining better control of resources and contributing to combatting illegal and unsustainable wood extraction and charcoal production.

Commercial timber management and production within community forest/concessions: This option emerged in Guatemala and Papua as an economic and business option to engage and incentivise communities to sustainably manage forests. The rationale is that increased economic and commercial value of forests for communities would incentivise better control, protection and sustainable production within community managed and controlled forests. In Papua, for example, illegal logging supplies the huge timber demand in big cities and in other Southeast Asian countries, including China. Unemployed youth see chainsaw logging as an immediate and reliable source of income. IUCN is working with and supporting the efforts of the Samdhana Institute to explore and demonstrate how sustainable commercial management of timber can lead to sustainable community-based forest enterprises that would enable better management and control while providing for livelihoods and decent incomes to communities.

Sustainable production of non-timber forest products (NTFPs): NTFPs are a dominant economic and livelihood activity for both men and women within indigenous communities. Just like beekeeping, NTFPs production suffers from a lack of organisational structures as well as poor, rudimentary and unsustainable harvesting and production technology. High competition with outsiders increases the pressure on resource pools and encourages the attitude of ‘harvest and run’. Poor processing and difficult access to markets still remain impediments. The lack of organisational structures also results in frequent land use conflicts with protected areas and commercial concessions.

Some very sound NTFPs enterprises are already being demonstrated in project landscapes, such as shea nut production in the Mole National Park area in Ghana. Principally a women’s business, IUCN and a landscape partner joined with other initiatives to structure and develop community-private sector partnerships, and integrate the production system within a sustainable land-use management vision of the communities. Management of shea nut trees has become an entry point to the sustainable management of the ecosystems where they are found.