REDD starting to take root

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Some of the nation’s poorest are benefiting for the REDD initiative [sic]
As published in Vietnam Investment Review, 14 March 2011

Like most of K'ho[i] people living in Preteng village, about 80 kilometers west of Da Lat city, K'Sau is people of the forest.

In the first 30 years of his life, he depends on the forests, largely to meet the need for fuel, water and food etc. K'Sau now knows that he will continue to make his family’s living out of forestry sources but in a different way.

K’Sau recently learnt about environmental values of the forests. Being involved in a United Nations pilot forestry development program on green house gas emission reduction, he becomes aware of the importance of the carbon stored in the forests and the benefits he will reap from preserving the forest for carbon credits.

The program is being piloted in Di Linh and Lam Ha districts of the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. Forests and forest land areas cover nearly 60 percent of the districts’ area. These forests are home to valuable varieties of wood such as Banian Kingwood, Rosewood, Makamong, Tracwood, etc. However burning trees to grow corn and rice is still a practice among people who are dependent on forests.

Efforts to protect the forests used to focus on enforcement of laws and allocation existing forests to local people for their management and tending. However, there has not been a standard benefit distribution system and people like K’Sau still have to worry about feeding their family.

With the help of the facilitators, the pilot program has exposed local people to the advantage of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and the financial incentive of preserving the forest for carbon credits. The facilitators disseminated information and explained to local people how better forests to be protected and how forest protection to be worthily paid through the implementation of REDD+.

On the benefit distribution issue, the program has conducted a study and was able to identify a total of 17 policy issues that need to be address. It has been undertaking consultations with various stakeholders to propose solutions.

This will hopefully be useful for the Government to design a benefit distribution system that embraces the principles of equity; transparency; additionally and performance-relatedness, as required under REDD+.

The program also piloted Participatory Carbon Monitoring activity in Di Linh and Lam Ha districts in Lam Dong province. The pilot brought in experts from the Central Highlands University to provide training for local people and rangers on how to practice forest carbon measurement steps.

K’Sau was among the trainees. He learnt about height and diameters of forest trees and how to measure trees, slopes and stems. He felt it was hard to understand the concepts and to operate measurement tools and equipment. K’Sau joined other participants in practicing field monitoring.

The training already resulted in improvement in people’s understanding. It is the same forest that K’Sau lives on but he now has a more practical look on estimating carbon stocks and CO2 absorption in it.  Although K’Sau and his villagers will need more practice, they are confident in their ownership of forests and look forward to earning a regular and stable income.

“Anyone engaged in this assignment must turn this work into a new career as means of livelihood for the villagers,” said Le Van Cong, a ranger in Lam Ha district. “This is crucial factor to secure forest protection”

They hope REDD+ will come soon and help ameliorate their living conditions. “I hope this program will help us to generate more incomes,” K’Sau said.

The K’ho man’s program of hope is a joint effort between three UN organizations – FAO, UNDP and UNEP. The US$4.38 million program is being mainly funded by the Government of Norway and executed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The program is expected to provide Viet Nam with institutional and technical capacity to pilot REDD+ initiatives.

The program focuses on building capacity to implement REDD+, both at the national and local level, through activities in Lam Dong province.

The program also looks at ways to promote cooperation among the countries of the lower Mekong basin to avoid cross-border leakages of emissions.

“We believe Viet Nam can become one of the success stories of REDD that will be told to the world to help convince world leaders that REDD+ is possible,” said Royal Norwegian Ambassador, H.E Stale Torstein Risa.

“The experiences gained, the capacities built and the cooperation established through the joint efforts of the Government of Viet Nam and the UN-REDD program will help catalyze a successful outcome of REDD+”.

About REDD

REDD was established during the 11th Convention of the Parties at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that was held in Montreal, Canada, in 2005. REDD aims to provide financial incentives for developing countries to stop illegal logging of forests and a mechanism for countries to offset their carbon emissions by investing in projects that promote sustainable forest management. Viet Nam is one of nine pilot countries in the world to have been chosen for the UN-REDD program and it is the first pilot country to fully start implementing activities that will help to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

About Participatory Carbon Monitoring

Why participation of local people, local officials in forest carbon credits inventory is necessary:

Approach of inventory, monitoring biomass and forest carbon stocks in national REDD programs will be divided into two main levels:

i)              Baseline level: At local level, households, community forest, households protecting forest under contract, and forest management agencies are the implementing people. Inventory at local level aims to provide original data of forest area and forest attributes to management agencies. This data will then be converted into carbon stored by the forest over time.

ii)         Management level: At the provincial, regional and national levels, the appropriate agency tasked to consolidate the data from the local level, and determine changes in forest area and forest carbon stocks for each ecological region. They will prove emission reduction from forests to negotiate with international organizations. This will help to attract back payment for people who have protected, managed the forest and inventoried forest carbon.

Participatory forest carbon is conducted at the local level, in which the role of people who manage and protect forests and forest owners play the central part. This is of the following reasons:

Through the process of inventory and monitoring of forest resources and forest carbon measurements, community and local people capacity will be improved in the management of forest resources as well as helped to better understand the environmental values of forests in global climate change context.

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[i] K’ho (or Koho) is the largest ethnic community in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong