Bringing the Community to Carbon

It’s all about the institutions. That message came through strongly yesterday at an event on engaging communities in sustainable landscapes held by Rainforest Alliance and The Center for Peoples and Forests (RECOFTC). Honing in on how to advance adaptation and lower emissions, the panel set forth to address the challenges and tools for smallholders and communities to practice sustainable agriculture and forestry achieving both climate adaptation and mitigation. The event drew upon new studies linking community forestry and adaptation, and their integration in planning, capacity building and monitoring.

Institutions and governance, particularly those at the community and sub-national levels, seemed to be the common thread of discussion from all panelists. Jim Stephenson (RECOFTC) described how the diversity in forests is linked to diversity of diet, and that when communities have access to forests, it builds resilience in the long-term. He continued on to highlight how policies can support the management of these forest resources by communities. In Nepal, a Local Adaptation Programme of Action (LAPA) and a Community Adaptation Programme of Action (CAPA), in addition to strong tenure and rights regimes, contribute to successful implementation of community forestry management, keeping in mind adaptation measures.

Other examples provided lessons in terms of overcoming structural hurdles of connecting smallholders to REDD funding and meeting standards. The Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) looked at how grouping farms or bundling multiple activities can better include smallholders in carbon standards. Linda Rosengren (Fauna and Flora International) echoed this notion by presenting an example in Vietnam of how clustering a number of community forest projects has allowed for economies of scale and reduced transaction costs of dealing with only one or two smallholders at a time. Finally, Regan Suzuki (REDDNet) presented on case studies compiled by REDDNet, stressing that community forestry is a way to link adaptation and mitigation. While most examples were not agriculture-based in nature, they brought up relevant lessons – to avoid sectoral silos, incorporate local knowledge, and strengthen land tenure regimes.

The slew of information and case studies packed into the 90 minute session demonstrated how the resilience of ecosystems and communities are linked. And integrating community into management definitely shone through. Yet integrating agriculture and forestry was less pronounced. Particularly in the case of smallholders, on which the panelists focused, there is an inherent connection between communities, cropping systems, and forested ecosystems. This raises the question of how can the institutional mechanisms mentioned in the presentations better reflect this link.

What was missing from the discussions on institutions was raised in addressing tools. Jeff Hayward (Rainforest Alliance) presented a case study on a community carbon project in a Ghanaian cocoa landscape, raising the technical challenges of teasing apart agriculture and forest in complex landscapes. In order to assess carbon on these cocoa farms in a financially viable manner, the team explored a number of methodologies, from tree inventories to using satellite data. But ultimately, capitalizing on landscape level imagery, deconstructing different land uses within the landscape mosaic, and then ground-truthing was needed to address the technical infeasibilities. This struck at the heart of how, at least technically speaking agriculture and forest/tree cover are intertwined, and why a landscape approach to assessment is most feasible with our current state of technology and cost constraints.

So how can this translate to institutional mechanisms? And moreover, what are the enabling conditions to integrate agriculture and forestry to achieve climate change adaptation and mitigation for smallholder communities? Discuss!

Read more in Integrating Agendas for Forests, Agriculture, and Climate Change Mitigation.

Photo credit: Yayan Indriatmoko/CIFOR
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