Obstacles to a Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Forest Management Under REDD in Central Africa
Given that the majority of the world’s tropical forests are located in developing countries which are generally poor, “REDD presents a tremendous opportunity to jointly address climate change and rural poverty, while sustaining ecosystem services and conserving biodiversity” (Huberman, 2007). In this regard, sustainable forest management (SFM) in developing countries must be emphasized as an essential element for the attainment of the goals of REDD. Of the three major tropical forests regions in the world – Amazonia, Congo Basin and South-east Asia – the Congo Basin in Central Africa is the most impoverished.
The implementation of REDD scheme in this region through SFM could create incentives for poverty alleviation while at the same time limiting deforestation and forest degradation thus making meaningful contribution to the fight against climate change. Although some countries in this region, since the conception of the scheme in 2007, have made significant progress in the preparedness process for a post-2012 REDD mechanism, it should be noted that mostly pilot projects have been carried out so far, with most of them marred by many difficult and controversial issues that need to be addressed before actual implementation
can begin. Among the issues to be addressed are: 1) the problem of leakage. That is, the ability to control emissions beyond project and country boundaries, 2) the problem of determining the base-line. That is, how much deforestation has been avoided and how much deforestation is too much deforestation, 3) the problem of potential non-permanence.
That is, how to deal with emissions resulting from natural and human causes at a later date, 4) the problem of price. That is, how the demand for carbon credits influences supply by REDD, and 5) the problem of tenure and usage rights (ownership of the land, and illegal logging control), weak economic, political and legal structures, and poor industrial practices in the forestry and agricultural sectors.
Efforts to address these problems have been largely focused on technical issues (problems 1-4), while not much attention has been given to the socio-economic and development needs (problem 5) of forest-dependent communities. With millions of people in the Congo Basin depending on the forest for their livelihoods, the importance of fully integrating the socio-economic and development needs of forest communities into REDD’s agenda in this region cannot be undermined. As David Huberman of International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) observes “the success of REDD will ultimately depend on how well it contributes to the development needs of forest-dependent communities” (Huberman, 2007).
In this regard, this chapter is aim at explaining the challenges of REDD beyond the technical problem area. It focuses on the socio-economic, political and legal challenges of implementing the REDD scheme in two countries in the Congo Basin in Central Africa – Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The chapter critically reviews different factors leading to deforestation in these countries and explore potential pathways towards SFM under REDD. We argue that an architecture based on socio-economic structure that is incentive driven (financial incentive), is more likely to achieve the goals of REDD in the Congo Basin than a technical-base architecture driven by market instruments.
The methodological approach to this chapter is narrative, descriptive, and analytic review of documents and empirical data from various sources inspired by debates and events related to REDD in the Congo Basin in general and in Cameroon and DRC in particular.