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Community Monitoring for REDD+: International Promises and Field Realities

Publication date:
F. Danielsen
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This study, published in Ecology and Society, sets out to examine the question of whether community involvement in monitoring carbon stocks can assist in delivering a just and equitable REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). Whilst the importance of indigenous peoples participation is explicitly stated in REDD+ guidance documents, there are concerns about the degree to which these principles are being realised in countries where pilot projects are testing modalities for implementing REDD+. Little has been published in this regard to date, though prior work does indicate that community involvement increases feelings of ownership, and improves governance and local capacity.
The methodology of the study is discussed, including information on the study sites and data collectors, and the methods for measuring forest carbon. The study assessed, using simple field protocols, communities ability to effectively estimate carbon stocks in some of the world’s most carbon rich forests. Current REDD+ pilot projects are reviewed to examine the degree to which community involvement exists, with projects ranked from one (no community involvement) to five (community participation in design and implementation, and undertaking all monitoring and analysis). The authors then assess and discuss the application of community monitoring in REDD+ schemes and its implementation in the field. The results and subsequent analysis show that out of fifty projects reviewed, 52 per cent plan to involve communities in monitoring in some way; although increasing, this figure remains too small to truly reflect REDD+ guidelines.
The findings corroborate evidence that shows local stakeholders with limited education can monitor forest biomass, often to the IPCC’s highest standard. Similar results were found when comparing the measurements by undertaken by communities and professional foresters, and modest investment in training can address any concerns about accuracy. Further, these results are for the first year for inexperienced monitors; with time accuracy should increase. Handheld computers are deemed not necessary for in-the-field measuring, though data would need to be input using Excel at a later time. Despite communities requiring training in this regard, the authors view this as the simplest method. There is a need for standardised methods that can be used at scale, requiring national mainstreaming and the establishment of locally suitable standards for each country. Additionally, periodic third-party verification will be required to monitor potential biases.