Countries face a steep learning curve when they choose to participate in the United Nations’ innovative program: Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), which provides financial compensation to countries that reduce their carbon emissions. Many developing countries would like to take advantage of REDD compensation, but to do so they face a steep learning curve. To help African countries learn more about community forestry and the REDD program, the World Bank facilitated a knowledge exchange for six Congo Basin countries to visit Brazil, a global leader in forest programs linked to REDD.
The exchange brought together government and civil society representatives from the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar and the Republic of Congo to exchange experiences with federal and state government officials and representatives from the private sector, civil society, and indigenous people’s organizations in Brazil.
This exchange helped the participating countries understand how programs linked to REDD can help local communities fund health facilities, schools, and other initiatives. The participants gained the knowledge and skills to prepare for REDD implementation, and they were highly motivated to share their new knowledge with their colleagues at home and to continue preparing national sustainable forest management (SFM) and REDD strategies.
The United Nations Conference on Climate Change has agreed upon a system that provides financial compensation for countries that reduce carbon emissions: the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). Countries face a steep learning curve when they choose to participate in REDD and must develop national strategies that reduce deforestation and preserve biodiversity while contributing to poverty reduction. They must also develop legal and institutional frameworks, such as national and local benefit-sharing schemes and REDD fund management capabilities.
Brazil has several innovative programs that make the country an ideal source of knowledge on REDD: Brazil’s Amazon Fund, managed by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES, is the world’s largest national REDD initiative); and Brazil’s Sustainable Amazon Foundation has created the Bolsa Floresta program, a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme that rewards forest-dependent communities for sustainable management of forests.
To learn from Brazil’s experience in community forestry and its experiences with REDD, the World Bank facilitated a knowledge exchange for government and civil society representatives from six African countries—Central African Republic, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, and the Republic of Congo—to visit federal and state governments, and representatives from the private sector, civil society, and indigenous people’s organizations in Brazil.
Instruments used in this exchange:
To promote and foster community forestry and the United Nations’ REDD initiative, the World Bank organized a ten-day study tour financed by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) for a group of government and civil society representatives from six African countries to visit Rio de Janeiro and communities in Brazil’s Amazon interior.
The idea for this exchange between Brazil and six African Congo Basin countries was born when a World Bank specialist in Carbon Finance, a native Brazilian stationed in Africa, saw an opportunity to help African countries learn from Brazil’s experience. Prior to the study tour, he arranged a videoconference to introduce participants to one another and to forge a consensus on the topics and agenda for their meetings in Brazil. Participants discussed the state of community forestry and REDD in their countries, which prepared them to make a similar presentation during the study tour itself.
For the face-to-face exchange in Brazil, more than 30 speakers involved in REDD in Brazil presided over workshops, field trips, and group discussions on managing forestry projects, how the REDD program and funds are managed in a decentralized government, how communities are organized on the ground, and how benefits reach these communities.
Participants spent the first seven days of the tour in Rio de Janeiro and then three days on the Amazon River visiting local communities where the Bolsa Floresta “Payment for Eco Services” initiative was being implemented. Each night, two country representatives—one from the government and one from civil society—gave presentations to the participants. Since government and civil society have very different and sometimes conflicting opinions, participants learned about the complexity of the topic and different viewpoints on the issues.
The World Bank planned to publish a Guidebook on Community Forestry and REDD to further disseminate the knowledge generated during this exchange to others who had a stake in environmental sustainability in the participating countries, and to other countries.
Federal and state government officials and representatives from the private sector, civil society, and indigenous people’s organizations in Brazil.
Government and civil society representatives from the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar and the Republic of Congo.
Intermediate Capacity outcomes for this exchange:
Enhanced Knowledge and Skills
This exchange helped the participating countries gain the knowledge and skills to prepare for REDD implementation. Participants learned from Brazil’s achievements, and were particularly impressed by the transparent and independent structure of REDD fund management developed by the Amazon Fund.
They were also impressed by the programs that reward local forest-dependent communities for their REDD efforts. Delegates witnessed how communities are benefiting from revenue generated through REDD, which is helping fund new health facilities and schools and innovations such as the use of satellites for distance learning.
Participants left Brazil highly motivated to share their new knowledge with their colleagues at home and continue their preparation of national sustainable forest management (SFM) and REDD strategies. They also created channels of communication for future cooperation, not only between the African and Brazilian delegates, but also among the African delegates themselves.
Long Term Impact
Helping African countries in the Congo Basin to take part in programs to access REDD financing creates incentives for conservation and sustainable use of forest ecosystems and non-timber forest products. The exchange also encourages government land use planning to support sustainable practices.
Develop substantial knowledge of the needs, constraints, and knowledge base of the knowledge-providing and knowledge-seeking countries to understand their circumstances and identify knowledge gaps.
Keep the exchange as simple as possible when dealing with multiple countries, because arranging and coordinating visas, flights, dates, government officials, and speakers is very complicated.
Identify a highly competent partner to work with where the exchange is being held to make the exchange as inclusive and comprehensive as possible.