Community Participation and Benefits in REDD+: A Review of Initial Outcomes and Lessons
Abstract: The advent of initiatives to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+) in developing countries has raised much concern regarding impacts on local communities. To inform this debate, we analyze the initial outcomes of those REDD+ projects that systematically report on their socio-economic dimensions. To categorize and compare projects, we develop a participation and benefits framework that considers REDD+’s effects on local populations’ opportunities (jobs, income), security (of tenure and ecosystem services), and empowerment (participation in land use and development decisions). We find material benefits, in terms of jobs and income, to be, thus far, modest. On the other hand, we find that many projects are helping populations gain tenure rights. A majority of projects are obtaining local populations’ free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). However, for those projects interacting with multiple populations, extent of participation and effects on forest access are often uneven. Our participation and benefits framework can be a useful tool for identifying the multi-faceted socio-economic impacts of REDD+, which are realized under different timescales. The framework and initial trends reported here can be used to build hypotheses for future REDD+ impact evaluations and contribute to evolving theories of incentive-based environmental policy.