Community perceptions of REDD+: a case study from Papua New Guinea

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Sydney]On: 11 March 2013, At: 15:12Publisher: Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Community perceptions of REDD+: a casestudy from Papua New GuineaMatthew Leggett a & Heather Lovell aa School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP, UKVersion of record first published: 04 Aug 2011.

    To cite this article: Matthew Leggett & Heather Lovell (2012): Community perceptions of REDD+: a case studyfrom Papua New Guinea, Climate Policy, 12:1, 115-134

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2011.579317

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  • Community perceptions of REDD+: a case studyfrom Papua New GuineaMATTHEW LEGGETT*, HEATHER LOVELL

    School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, UK

    REDD projects have received considerable attention for their potential to mitigate the effects of climatic change. However, theexisting literature has been slow to assess the impacts of proposed REDD projects on the livelihoods of forest communities inthe developing world, or the implications of these local realities for the success of REDD+ initiatives in general. This studypresents ethnographic research conducted with communities within the April-Salomei pilot REDD+ Project in Papua NewGuinea (PNG). Several cases of institutional biases and uneven power relationships have been exploited by local elites to preventlandowners from making free and informed choices about their involvement in the project, although landowners and localcommunities are well positioned to capture forthcoming project benefits. By underestimating the scale and impact of traditionalshifting cultivation practices, the credibility of the REDD+ project design and the value of any future carbon credits arecritically undermined. Based on the actual practices found in PNG, the authors radical proposal is to call for a halt on REDDdevelopment in PNG while institutional enabling conditions are improved, comprehensive landowner consultations conducted,and detailed mapping and genealogical surveys of landowners completed. Without these developments, future REDD+projects in PNG are unlikely to benefit either the global climate or local development.

    Keywords: avoided deforestation; community participation; forest communities; land tenure; Papua New Guinea; REDD+; usagerights

    Les projets REDD ont recu beaucoup dattention pour leur potentiel a` mitiger les effets du changement climatique. Cependant, lalitterature courante a ete lente dans lestimation des impacts des projets REDD proposes sur la subsistance des communautesforestie`res dans les pays en developpement, ou la portee des realites locales sur le succe`s des initiatives REDD+ en general.Cette etude fait lexpose dune recherche ethnographique menee avec des communautes au sein du projet pilote REDD+ April-Solomei en Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinee. (PNG). Plusieurs circonstances de partis pris institutionnels et de relations depouvoir irregulie`res ont ete exploitees par les elites locales pour faire obstacle aux proprietaires fonciers dans leur information etliberte de choix en ce qui concerne leur relation au projet, bien que les proprietaires et communautes locales soient bien placespour recevoir les benefices futurs du projet. En sous-estimant lampleur et limpact des pratiques traditionnelles de cultureitinerante, la credibilite de la structure des projets REDD+ et la valeur des credits carbone futurs sont gravement compromis. Surla base des pratiques actuelles en PNG, la proposition radicale des auteurs est dappeler a` la halte au developpement de REDDen PNG, en attendant que les circonstances institutionnelles soient ameliorees, quune meilleure consultation des proprietairessoit menee, et quune enquete geographique et genealogique detaillee du regime foncier soit conclue. Sans cesdeveloppements, les futurs projets REDD+ en PNG seront peu susceptibles de faire beneficier soit le climat mondial soit ledeveloppement local.

    Mots cles : Communautes forestie`res; deforestation evitee; droits dusufruit; Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinee; participation des

    communautes; REDD+; regime foncier

    n case study

    n *Corresponding author. E-mail: leggett.matt@yahoo.co.uk

    CLIMATE POLICY 12 (2012) 115134

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2011.579317 # 2012 Taylor & Francis ISSN: 1469-3062 (print), 1752-7457 (online) www.tandfonline.com/tcpo

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  • 1. Introduction

    International policies towards tropical forest conservation are changing rapidly. Tropical forests play a

    vital role in supporting the livelihoods ofmillions of the poorest communities in the developing world

    aswell as a unique biological diversity (Huberman, 2007, p. 3; IUCN, 2009). However, it is onlywith the

    growth of international concern regarding rapid climate change that concerted efforts have beenmade

    to place an economic value on the ecosystem services provided by the vast carbon storeswithin tropical

    forests and to develop a mechanism that provides financial rewards for reducing forest destruction

    (Asquith et al., 2002; Corbera, 2005; Oestreicher et al., 2009).

    The first steps towards the creation of such amechanismwere takenwith the implementation of the

    Kyoto Protocol in 1997 (UNFCCC, 1998), under the United Nations Framework Convention on

    Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, although the original agreement committed industrialized

    nations to significant reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), by excluding the emis-

    sions reductions achieved by the avoidance of deforestation from the Protocols carbon accounting and

    trading scheme (Wainwright and Wehrmayer, 1998), it controversially failed to provide a financial

    incentive for developing nations to curtail deforestation. As a result, a further proposal to compensate

    countries with revenue generated from carbon finance was introduced by the nations of Papua New

    Guinea (PNG) and Costa Rica at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 11) in

    2005, on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) (Wainwright and Wehrmayer, 1998;

    Howes, 2009; Oestreicher et al., 2009). The proposal, entitled Reducing Emissions from Deforestation

    in Developing Countries; Approaches to Stimulate Action, called for the development of an initiative

    to reward countries that promoted a reduction in emissions from the deforestation anddegradation of

    forests with payments generated from international markets selling carbon credits. This initiative,

    REDD as it has become known, was widely supported. By COP 13 in 2007, the initiative had

    become REDD+ and further encompassed conservation, sustainable forest management and theenhancement of forest carbon stock. The process of developing and piloting a flexible mechanism to

    capture thefinancial incentives from the cessationof deforestationwas thereby instigated (Wainwright

    and Wehrmayer, 1998).

    The development of a functioning REDD+mechanism fromaproposal onpaper into a set of policiesand actions that can be effectively implemented at a project level is now of paramount importance.

    Research has shown that the destruction and degradation of the worlds forest accounts for between

    12% and 18% of annual GHG emissions, and remains one of the principal anthropogenic drivers of

    climate change, with only the energy and industry sectors responsible for more annual global emis-

    sions (IPCC, 2007). Statistics further demonstrate that, despite global efforts to reduce GHG emissions

    from all sectors since Kyoto, current global trends indicate a rapid and inexorable increase, with emis-

    sions from tropical deforestation remaining a key catalyst in this rise (Angelsen, 2008). Critically, it has

    also been argued that the impacts of climatic change also threaten to undo decades of development

    (UN-REDD, 2009).

    PNG is a country emblematic of the challenges facing developing rainforest nations in the Global

    South. Despite its rich natural resources (recent surveys indicate that between 50 and 70% of the

    countrys 46.4 million hectares remain covered with largely undisturbed lowland rainforest) and a

    relatively stable political climate, the country remains extremely poor, with an estimated 40% of

    the population living on less than US$1 a day (UNDP, 2009; AusAID, 2009; Shearman et al.,

    2009). A heavy reliance on extractive mining and forestry projects has historically contributed

    most to the nations GDP, but has simultaneously threatened the future livelihoods of the 87% of

    the population who depend on natural resources for their subsistence needs (WHO, 2007; Shearman

    et al., 2009). Recent papers have argued, not uncontroversially, that current rates of forest

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  • degradation and deforestation remain comparable to those found in the Amazon basin, with recent

    projections indicating that, by 2021, 83% of commercially accessible forest in PNG will have been

    cleared or degraded (Shearman et al., 2009; Filer et al., 2009). In the context of carbon emissions,

    the scale of the deforestation and degradation of PNGs forest becomes clear: approximately 98%

    of the countrys carbon emissions are generated from land-use change and forestry (Shearman

    et al., 2008, p. 4, 2009; WRI, 2009).

    The significant challenges faced by PNG are further magnified when examined in light of the over-

    whelming complexity of the nations cultural and political landscape, where governmental and non-

    governmental institutions struggle tomeet the diverse needs of over 800 language and ethnic groups in

    a nation where most communities remain accessible only by foot (WHO, 2007). The REDD+mechan-ism is therefore of crucial interest to PNG for both its potential climate mitigation benefits and its

    capacity to generate additional gains for both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development,

    including contributing to poverty reduction and strengthening indigenous rights (Corbera, 2005,

    p. 43; Howes, 2009).

    TheGovernment of PNG therefore remains conspicuous at the forefront of global REDDdiscussions,

    and efforts to develop functioning REDD+ projects, both in the Voluntary Carbon Offsets (VCO)market and at a national level, are ongoing. After the establishment of the PNG Office for Climate

    Change and Environmental Sustainability (OCCES) in 2008, the April-Salomei Forest Management

    Area (FMA), located in the Hunstein Range, a remote region of East Sepik Province, was initially ident-

    ified as the first of four pilot REDD+ project sites in PNG.An investigation of the April-Salomei project forms the empirical basis for this article, drawing on

    ethnographic research conducted with rural communities situated within the proposed April-Salomei

    project area in the period May to July 2009. The research sought first to assess the development and

    structure of the proposed April-Salomei REDD+ project, then to evaluate local community awareness,understanding and willingness to participate in it, and, finally, to analyse the implications of the

    project for community livelihoods. The article is structured as follows. In Section 2, relevant literature

    on carbon markets, forests and development is reviewed. The existing literature has largely failed to

    examine the impacts of existing or proposed REDD+ projects on the lives and livelihoods of forestdwelling communities in the developing world, or the implications of these local realities for the

    overall success of REDD+ initiatives (due at least in part to a lack of functioning projects on theground). Thus, the focus in this article is on the few existing community-based studies of REDD+(Asquith et al., 2002; Cotula and Mayers, 2009) as well as other community-based research that has

    sought to identify and describe unequal power relations and their implications for the management

    of natural resources (Bass et al., 2000; Brown et al., 2000; Huberman, 2007; Bumpus and Liverman,

    2008). In Section 3, the background to the April-Salomei Sustainable Forestry project in PNG is dis-

    cussed, with an outline of events and decisions that led to its establishment in 2008. As relatively

    little detailed community-based research on REDD+ within communities has been conducted (Huber-man, 2007), the research methodology is briefly outlined in Section 4, and some of its limitations are

    considered in this context.

    In Section 5, the three main findings are presented and analysed: (i) that communities in the study

    region were neither fully aware of the existence of the April-Salomei project nor understood the

    concept of REDD+, despite it being in the advanced stages of project design; (ii) that communityand government elites had exploited institutional biases and uneven power relationships to actively

    prevent indigenous landowners from making free and informed choices about their involvement

    with the REDD+ project; and (iii) that the existing project design had seriously underestimated theextent of traditional shifting cultivation practices on the forest area and failed to account for this

    impact within the REDD+ project design.

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  • In Section 6, it is argued that the findings of the study emphasize the critical value of an anthropo-

    logical and community-based perspective of institutional power disparities when designing and devel-

    oping REDD+ projects and that the impact of the subsistence strategies of rainforest dwellingcommunities in determining project success or failure must be recognized.

    2. A review: carbon markets, forests and development

    To date, existing academic research on the architecture and application of REDD initiatives has focused

    principally on the macrolevel mechanisms that determine and regulate carbon markets. Industry

    research and debate has primarily focused on the technical aspects ofmeasurement, reporting and ver-

    ificationmethodologies, and the concepts of carbon valuation, additionality, leakage and permanence

    (Hall, 2008; Bond et al., 2009). Although this research has been vital in exploring and delineating the

    technical boundaries of carbon forestry projects, researchers have largely neglected to directly analyse

    how the new emerging carbon economy and its associated institutions are affecting the lives and liveli-

    hoods of communities living within or around proposed or existing REDD project areas (Bass et al.,

    2000; Huberman, 2007). Specifically with the exception of recent work carried out post mortem on

    failed or failing REDD projects (Lawlor and Huberman, 2009, p. 273; Melick, 2010) there has been

    little work to examine how the impacts and influences of locally situated institutions, relationships

    and cultural contexts have obfuscated the translation of high-level REDD policy statements to grass-

    roots reality. It is therefore an objective of this article to help rectify this imbalance in existing REDD

    research by providing a detailed community-based case study of the impact of a proposed REDD+scheme, and to examine the feasibility of REDD+ delivering gains for both the climate and forest-dependent communities in PNG.

    2.1. Carbon versus developmentA fixation on the economic technicalities of emissions reductions and on the commodification of

    carbon has resulted in a comparative lack of attention to the practical implications of carbon forestry

    for the livelihoods of the rural poor (Bass et al., 2000; Huberman, 2007; Cotula and Mayers, 2009).

    Several authors have highlighted the value of ensuring that lessons from other development fields

    are fully incorporated into REDD project development, and that Integrated Conservation and Devel-

    opment Projects (ICDPs) in particular have valuable lessons learned to offer REDD developers

    (Salafsky and Margoluis, 1999; Asquith et al., 2002; West, 2006; Huberman, 2007; Staddon, 2009;

    Blom et al., 2010). ICDPs and REDD projects face similar hurdles; both attempt to balance a global

    imperative (for long-term conservation gains or emissions reductions) with negative local impacts

    (such as forgoing opportunities for exploitation or curtailing subsistence activities), by offering

    other avenues for livelihoods improvements and development (Blom et al., 2010).

    Blom et al. (2010) highlight familiar lessons from ICDPs that have relevance to REDD+ projectdevelopment: recognizing tradeoffs between conservation and development; designing adaptable

    and flexible projects; ensuring community involvement at all stages; and ensuring national policies

    support project activities. Emerging evidence from existing REDD projects (this article included)

    suggests that these key lessons appear to have been largely discarded in the rush to develop carbon for-

    estry projects, rather than being used as the starting point for REDD+ project design and implemen-tation (Asquith et al., 2002; Huberman, 2007, p. 8).

    The imbalance of the academic literature dealing with the carbon versus the community perspec-

    tives perhaps also indicates an underlying presupposition: that the importance of people (and of devel-

    opment) in carbon markets is secondary to the over-riding aim of the emissions-driven mitigation of

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  • climate change (Cotula and Mayers, 2009). Bumpus and Liverman (2008) suggest that this disparity

    in the literature reflects a conflicting hierarchy of agendas behind carbon markets, which they label

    as economic and ethical. Bumpus and Liverman (2008) argue that, under an economic agenda, it

    is accepted that carbon markets can generate faster, cheaper and larger reductions in emissions

    from halting deforestation and degradation in the developing world than are readily achievable

    in the global north, and that the domination of this approach subsumes the potential sustainable

    development and side benefits aspects of projects in poorer communities (the ethical agenda)

    (Bumpus and Liverman, 2008, p. 148). Although the existence of a hierarchy of agendas is contested

    (Mansfield and Boyd, 2007), others have highlighted that much of the research into REDD+ that isfunded by major multilateral donor agencies remains economically driven and carbon fixated, and

    it is these multilateral institutions that remain the driving force behind much of the research and

    practical development of carbon forestry (Lohmann, 2006; Hall, 2008). Indeed, these developments

    have been at the expense of the ethical agenda, which emphasizes the potential pro-poor benefits

    of carbon offsets, with sustainable development as a primary concern (Asquith et al., 2002; Liver-

    man, 2004; Bumpus and Liverman, 2008; Hall, 2008; Combes Motel et al., 2009; Oestreicher

    et al., 2009).

    However, this imbalance now appears to be changing. An increasing number of scholars have begun

    to explore the value of alternative and bottom-up perspectives of the carbon offsets debate (Corbera,

    2005; Huberman, 2007; Ebeling andYasue, 2008;Hall, 2008). These contributions range froman exam-

    ination of the place of ethics in carbonmarkets tomore specific concerns over the equitable implemen-

    tation of REDD+ projects. Writers such as Bass et al. (2000) argue that carbon forestry mechanismsshould be driven by an ethical, not economic, imperative. They contend that the global north has

    an ethical responsibility to address the sustainable development needs of the forest-dependent poor

    in the global south, as it is the latter who have contributed least to anthropogenic climate change,

    but who are most likely to suffer from the effects of climatic variation due to their reliance on

    natural resources (Bass et al., 2000). Cotula and Mayers (2009) support this assertion, but move

    beyond ethical justifications for pro-poor carbon forestry to highlight the practical benefits in inte-

    grated project design. They contend that any solutions that focus on emissions reductions alone will

    by definition fail to recognize the socio-ecological complexity of forestry in the developing world,

    which is itself integral to the delivery and sustainability of those solutions (Cotula and Mayers,

    2009, p. 6).

    The links between findings from community-based REDD+ studies and those from the extensivedevelopment studies literature are clear: the integration of forests into carbon markets has much to

    learn from a long history of development research, particularly on issues of natural resource manage-

    ment in the global south (Huberman, 2007). In the remainder of this brief review of the literature, two

    development issues that are of central importance to REDD+ are discussed: land tenure/carbon tenureand forest usage rights.

    2.2. Land tenure and carbon tenureFor emissions reductions to be commodified as carbonoffsets, it is necessary to clarify the rights of own-

    ership over the carbon resource (Bumpus and Liverman, 2008; Lovell, 2008; Cotula andMayers, 2009).

    Defining land tenure, and more specifically carbon tenure, is therefore a vital issue for forest-

    dependent peoples. The distinction between land tenure and carbon tenure is important, as even in

    countries where the legal rights to land and/or forest are recognized under customary law, the legal

    ownership of the carbon resource often either is claimed by the state or remains unclear. In short,

    forest rights do not necessarily equate to carbon rights (Staddon, 2009). Without formalized and

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  • legal tenure of both land and carbon, there is grave concern that forest-dependent peoples will be

    unable to access any of the benefits that are derived from involvement in REDD+ schemes (Hall,2008; Cotula and Mayers, 2009). This issue is particularly relevant as it is estimated that around 77%

    of the worlds forest is owned by governments, and state ownership of the land predominates in the

    majority of rainforest nations (White and Martin, 2002). Although recent studies have argued that

    community forest ownership offers the best possible solution to both sequestering carbon and alleviat-

    ing poverty (Chatterjee, 2009), this view can be criticized for its simplicity. Cotula and Mayers (2009)

    argue that the stated level of government control of and access to forest resources often bears little

    resemblance to reality, and that in fact local control of forests is increasing. Furthermore, forest-

    dependent communities are not powerless actors in the management and development of their

    resources: their actions can dictate the long-term success or failure of carbon forestry projects

    (Cotula and Mayers, 2009; Oestreicher et al., 2009). REDD+ projects will require widespread commu-nity support throughout the timescale of the project to ensure that emissions reductions are derived

    from reduced deforestation or degradation (Cotula and Mayers, 2009, p. 8; Howes, 2009; Oestreicher

    et al., 2009).

    However, perhaps more critically, forest ownership does not guarantee that benefits from carbon

    offsets will reach communities. Even in countries where the vast majority of the lands and forests

    are customarily owned (such as PNG), the government is still able to claim ownership of the carbon

    resource (Howes, 2009; Melick, 2009, 2010; Shearman et al., 2009). Staddon (2009) predicts that com-

    munity forestry projects in Nepal face a similar future. Although the Nepalese government currently

    allows community forestry projects to keep the revenues from non-timber forest products, they are

    likely to claim some degree of ownership over the carbon resource with the development of REDD+projects (Staddon, 2009). Similarly, forest-dependent people in Cameroon only have legal ownership

    of the trees on their land that they themselves have planted, which allows the government to exploit

    the REDD+ benefits from the majority of the forest estate (Cotula and Mayers, 2009). Although thesesituations remain open to negotiation, the rural poor have historically had little influence at national

    or even provincial levels, and their lack of political awareness and lower levels of literacy have often

    been exploited to their detriment (Brown and Corbera, 2003; Huberman, 2007; Cotula and Mayers,

    2009).

    2.3. Forest usage rights and REDD1In addition to land and carbon tenure, it is increasingly appreciated that traditional usage rights also

    need recognition within carbon forestry schemes (Asquith et al., 2002). For example, although the

    Noell Kempff Climate Action Project in Bolivia has been successful in generating incomes and employ-

    ment, it has prevented local people from accessing forests within the project area (Asquith et al., 2002).

    This has occurred in spite of the communitys right to small-scale exploitation and use of the natural

    resources in this zone. Traditionally, communities have depended on hunting, logging and rubber col-

    lection for sources of cash income and subsistence foods during difficult periods. Asquith et al. (2002)

    therefore argue that the project has decreased the coping strategies available to the community in

    the future, and that this may have a significant impact on future levels of poverty. Despite these

    concerns there is still cause for optimism regarding the long-term impacts of the project for conser-

    vation and livelihoods (Asquith et al., 2002; Huberman, 2007). In the case of the Noell Kempff

    project, communities surrounding the protected area have never been dependent for their subsis-

    tence on their forest activities. The introduction of the project had little impact on their agricultural

    activities as most farms were outside the park area, and they were able to exploit new job opportu-

    nities that arose from the park expansion and project development (Killeen and Schulenberg, 1998;

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  • Brown et al., 2000; Asquith et al., 2002). However, communities that are entirely dependent on

    shifting cultivation of the tropical forest for their subsistence may have fewer opportunities for

    accessing alternative coping strategies to deal with the possible loss of their forest access rights,

    or the loss of their land, as a result of REDD+ project development. This could have serious conse-quences for local livelihoods and levels of poverty (Smith and Scherr, 2002; Grieg-Gran, 2008; Smith

    and Scherr, 2003). A search of the literature reveals that few practical REDD+ project design sol-utions that address potential conflict of this type have been proposed. Instead, the approaches

    favoured by ICDPs are further analysed for the suitability of their application within the context

    of a REDD+ project.One such approach that has been used in ICDPs is to compensate landowners whose usage rights of

    their forest resources have been curtailed by forestry projects (Peters, 1998; Smith and Scherr, 2002;

    Cotula and Mayers, 2009). This raises several issues. First, an assessment is needed as to the value of

    compensation in replacing what has been lost (i.e. access to forest resources). For some forest-

    dependent communities, cash payments could be utilized to purchase resources previously accessed

    free, such as firewood or food. For others, cash payments may have little value due to distance from

    markets or the lack of adequate replacement (e.g. it may be impossible to buy firewood or culturally

    appropriate foods) (Peters, 1998; Bass et al., 2000). Second, access and usage rights to forest lands are

    important for more than practical applications. Compensation may not be suitable when the loss of

    cultural or spiritual links with the forest are at stake, or when people may be in danger of losing

    traditional knowledge due to changes in forest uses (Sillitoe, 1999).

    Alternative approaches may include encouraging local landowners to exploit different

    subsistence strategies, such as horticulture, which may be carried out outside the boundaries of

    the REDD+ project. Usage zones within project areas may allow the continuation of traditionalactivities within a limited area. Technical and capacity issues in the application of such alternative

    livelihoods strategies notwithstanding, the adaptation or abandonment of subsistence strategies,

    may not be culturally or socially acceptable (West, 2006). For some forest-dependent peoples,

    shifting cultivation is not so much what they do, as who they are (Sillitoe, 1999). Furthermore,

    the very concepts of land ownership and land boundaries are culturally relative land use and land

    rights for some forest-dependent peoples are transient and not subject to simple classification (Sillitoe,

    1999, p. 331).

    The seemingly straightforward act of drawing boundaries and setting unfamiliar temporal and

    spatial rules to demarcate a REDD+ project could therefore have wide-reaching socio-cultural ramifi-cations for landowning communities, which may not be fully understood by either the project propo-

    nents or the project recipients. Any limitations posed by REDD+ projects may therefore directlydamage social identity, as well as the economic and ecological coping strategies of forest-dependent

    peoples. However, it is important to highlight that little has been done so far to assess the practical rea-

    lities of such compromises for forest-dependent peoples at a project level.

    3. Project background

    The April-Salomei Forest Management Area (FMA) is located in the forests of the Hunstein Range, one

    of the largest undisturbed tracts of lowland rainforest in PNG. Villages in this area are extremely

    remote, and basic government services are largely absent. The subsistence economy of the region

    relies heavily on hunting and gathering, and the shifting cultivation of hand-cleared forest areas, or

    gardens. While crops such as banana, taro, and sago are abundant, the inaccessibility of markets

    has barred most individuals from involvement in the cash economy. The development of a REDD+

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  • project within the FMA therefore represented a potentially valuable income source that could catalyse

    community-level development in the region, while providing significant emissions abatement poten-

    tial by preventing logging in the region.

    In June 2008, the PNG OCCES entered a partnership with EarthSky Ltd to finance the development

    of an avoided deforestation REDD+ project within the boundaries of the April-Salomei FMA, an area,that the government had previously offered, without success, as a logging concession since 1996. The

    project claimed to have the written support of 163 Incorporated Landowning Groups (ILGs)1 from the

    region, and the Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare. The stated goals of the April-Salomei Sustainable

    Forestry Project were to ensure an annual reduction of 1million tons of CO2 emissions, to protect and

    conserve the April-Salomei forest area and its species, to develop the sustainable livelihoods of the local

    people, and to provide sustainably produced logs through native species forest plantations (South Pole,

    2009, p. 4). Emissions reductions were to be generated both by ensuring that the FMA was not

    developed as a logging concession and through some limited application of plantation forestry

    (South Pole, 2009).

    A Swiss company, South Pole Carbon Asset Management (referred to hereafter as South Pole), was

    contracted to complete the project design tomeet the criteria of the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS),

    and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance standard (CCBA) (CCBA, 2008). In September

    2008 the OCCES also officially recognized the right of the landowner company Hunstein Range Hold-

    ings to act on behalf of the Landowners to produce and sell carbon credits in the FMA inApril-Salomei

    (OCCES, 2009).

    4. Methodology

    The field-based research was conducted by the first author between May and July 2009, with time

    divided between Port Moresby and four communities on the April River in the Hunstein Range, East

    Sepik Province. The communities where the fieldwork was conducted were Niksek (also known as

    Paka), Bukapuki, Kagiru andWagu, with themajority of the time spent in the community of Bukapuki.

    Village members from Bitara were also interviewed. During the fieldwork a research assistant from the

    local area (a member of Bukapuki village) was also employed to assist with language translation and

    local orientation (see Figure 1).

    The Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) framework and the Participant Observation (PO) approach

    formed themethodological basis of the fieldwork (after Chambers, 1994). The centrality of landowner

    participation and the key principles of direct learning and analysis from local people offsetting

    biases, triangulating data, and sharing and practising critical self-awareness made these approaches

    particularly suited for work in rural Melanesia, where village politics are largely egalitarian, inclusive

    and participatory (Chatterton and Waliawi, 1991, p. 6; Chambers, 1994). Within this framework, a

    series of tools was used to elicit further information. These included focus groups and semi-structured

    interviews (conducted in the local language), participatory mapping, transect walks and preference

    ranking exercises (Table 1).

    By cross-referencing the information gained from these sources, the data were collected to show the

    distribution of community and natural resources, the location and size of garden areas, community

    population size and the demarcation of clan and community boundaries. The data were plotted

    onto detailedmaps created through cross-referencing GPS coordinates, satellitemaps and information

    from community informants.

    Several limitations with the selectedmethodology were encountered. In the early stages of the field-

    work, the use of interviews was abandoned in favour of less structured focus groups after it was found

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  • that respondents were unwilling to provide answers to research questions, with personal opinions and

    views being rarely, if ever, stated in public, and community consensus sought by respondents at every

    stage (see Chatterton and Waliawi, 1991; Sillitoe, 1999). While the cultural suitability of structured

    interviews was therefore questionable, the situation was exacerbated as the selected interview ques-

    tions had overestimated the existing knowledge of respondents as to the REDD+ project. It thereforebecame clear that in order to understand the community perspectives onREDD+ and carbon forestry itwas first essential to give the villagers an understanding of those terms, while ensuring that any biases

    did not preemptively influence the responses collected.

    Unfortunately, it also proved extremely difficult to access the views and opinions of women during

    the fieldwork. Fewer women spoke Tok Pisin (the lingua franca),making language translationmore of a

    barrier thanwithmen, and as awhite,male researcher, interview access towomenwas culturally tambu

    (forbidden). However, although focus groups were conducted predominantly with the male heads of

    households of the community, women were regularly present (often in an adjacent building) and

    were able to make comments and ask questions (although it was difficult to ask direct questions in

    return). Every effort was made to account for this bias wherever possible, but there remains consider-

    able value in assessing the importance of women in traditional landmanagement in relation to carbon

    forestry projects.

    FIGURE 1 The April-Salomei Sustainable Forestry Management Project, Hunstein Range, East Sepik Province. Papua NewGuinea

    Community perceptions of REDD+ 123

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  • 5. Results and analysis

    5.1. Lack of community awareness and knowledge of REDDThe research findings highlight that there was a considerable lack of awareness and understanding of

    the April-Salomei project among communities in the region. A consultation visit by the project devel-

    oper to the communities of theApril River was conducted inMay 2009, sixmonths after the projectwas

    officially ratified by the Government as a REDD+ pilot project. The consultation was conducted by alocal organization, contracted by South Pole and the OCCES, and was intended to contribute towards

    satisfying the requirements for stakeholder consultation stipulated by the VCS and the CCBA.

    The CCBA requires project proponents to inform and engage broadly with all community groups and

    other stakeholders using socially and culturally appropriate methods. Stakeholders . . . must have on

    TABLE 1 Summary of research methodology

    Method Outcomes Data collected

    Participatory

    mapping

    Four community maps constructed by community

    members of Kagiru, Wagu and Niksek, with a

    detailed map constructed of Bukabuki

    Community boundaries, land uses, garden sizes and

    location mapped and geo-referenced; data overlaid

    onto regional satellite maps; Bukabuki used as principal

    case study

    Transect

    walks

    Conducted at least twice in each of the four

    communities with different informants to gain

    a variety of perspectives on community issues

    Data on community population and distribution, land

    tenure, garden size, land conflicts and vulnerabilities

    collected; data were geo-referenced then

    cross-referenced with participatory maps and satellite

    maps

    Interviews Formal interviews conducted with: Office for Climate

    Change and Environmental Sustainability; Dept of

    Environment and Conservation; Papua New Guinea

    Forestry Authority; Provincial Government East Sepik

    Province; WWF; Greenpeace

    Interviews conducted in Port Moresby and Wewak, and

    recorded and transcribed in English

    Focus

    groups

    Two focus groups conducted in Wagu, one in Niksek

    and three in Bukabuki during period, plus several

    informal group sessions; participants from each

    household were engaged in each focus group, and

    where possible women were involved; focus groups

    were conducted largely in Tok Pisin or the local language

    Focus groups were the foundation of the participatory

    mapping exercises, and the principal forum for

    discussing research aims and objectives, and for

    framing questions; data from the mapping/transect walk

    exercises were also cross-referenced here in group

    discussions; all focus groups were recorded, translated

    (where appropriate) and transcribed

    Preference

    ranking

    exercises

    One preference ranking exercise in each of the four

    communities to clarify the positives/negatives and

    benefits/drawbacks of the project; representatives from

    each household provided comments on the pros and

    cons of involvement in the REDD project; the factors

    identified were then ranked according to community

    consensus

    Results from neighbouring villages compared

    discussion initiated over the similarities and/or

    differences with other communitys ranking of factors;

    this method gave insight into the community awareness,

    understanding and willingness to be involved with the

    REDD+ project

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  • opportunity to evaluate impacts and raise concerns about potential negative impacts, express desired

    outcomes and provide input on the project design, both before the project design is finalized and

    during implementation. (CCBA, 2008, p. 7)

    However, interviews with the communities carried out one month after the consultation exercise

    revealed that it had fallen significantly short ofmeeting the criteria for either standard. The complaints

    were numerous: the consultation time period was unfeasibly short (it lasted only four days); the team

    gave no prior warning of their visit so key landowners were not present; and project questionnaires

    were distributed in English and Tok Pisin but, due to very low levels of literacy in either language,

    few were completed. Several statements taken from landowners also indicate that there was a degree

    of borderline coercion in the behaviour of the visiting team in order to ensure that a positive view of

    the project was presented, with negative opinions or questions being ignored or dismissed, and

    video cameras switched off when villagers expressed concerns. Communities were told they would

    receive millions of Kina within the year (over US$1million), and that projects would be everlasting

    (South Pole Consultation Report, 2009, p. 20). Several landowners were also told they could

    abandon their subsistence gardens once the project had started.

    The level of consultationwas so poor that at the time of this study themajority of respondents on the

    April River had no understanding of REDD+, nor of their responsibilities as landowners under aREDD+ project. Indeed it was a commonly held belief that the project would generate money monibilong skai (money from the sky) or for nothing, that is, without any work.

    A: Em tok Mipela no laik harim wari, sampela askim 0 tingling nogut tru long carbon trade, mipela

    kamap long pIes long harim gutpela tingting long carbon trade tasol.

    They said, We are not here to hear your worries, your questions or negative thoughts, we want to

    hear only positive things about the project. (Villager, Wagu)

    B: Yu tok save long mipela. Dispela projek, wanem kain paip 0 narapela kain samting mas kamap long

    kisim na bungim win bilong mipela? Dispela lain South Pole, em ikamap long pIes na bildim wanpela

    haus bilong win? 0 mipela mas kisim win long plastic na go longWewak longem 0 wonem? Mipela no

    save. Mi tingting em bigpela wok . . .

    You tell us. What kind of pipes or other things do we need to collect the carbon? Will this company

    South Pole comehere and build a factory to collect the carbon?Or doweneed to collect it in plastic bags

    and go to Wewak or what? We dont understand. It sounds like hard work . . . . (Anonymous, Niksek)

    C: Longwedispelawin i kamup? I kamup long graunnabus bilongmipela. Sapos lain bilong SouthPole

    I kam na rausim bus, na buggerim risos bilong mi, na stealim win bilong mi, mi gat plenty wari. Em

    kaikai win bilong mipela, pikinini bilong mipela em go dai pinis - em brit wonem?

    Where does this wind (carbon) come from? It comes from the ground and the forest belonging to us.

    If South Pole come here and destroy our forest and our resources and steal our air Im really worried. If

    they eat up our air, our children are going to die - what will they breathe? (Anonymous, Bukapuki)

    Additionally, several key clans did not even realize that their lands fell within the stipulated project

    area, and claimed that their signatures on the original FMA document were forged. The study findings

    further indicate that the April-Salomei project area was not a discrete zone around which a line could

    be drawn. Rather, the project area comprised a complex mosaic of land with different social and legal

    statuses, the boundaries of which were open to negotiation and variation over space and time, both

    Community perceptions of REDD+ 125

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  • within and between tok ples (literally, talk place/language group) boundaries. Respondents indicated

    that the complexities in untangling land issues in the regionwould be enormous, and the impact of the

    REDD+ project on these existing tensions would be considerable. The majority of respondentsexpressed a deep concern that the project would bring an increase in inter- and intra-community

    conflict, as different groups would struggle to redefine land boundaries to maximize project benefits

    to their clan, and outsiders would flood the region claiming distant kinship ties in order to claim

    project benefits. The practice of delineating boundaries and formalizing ownership of land areas in

    PNG has certainly not met with great success in the past (see Power, 2008; for an overview, see McCal-

    lum and Sekhran, 1997).

    Little care seems to have been taken to ensure the free, prior and informed consent of landowners in

    the signing of the original FMA agreement in 1996. Despite this, the government intention was to

    transfer the legal obligations of that document, signed by poorly informed landowners expecting

    involvement in commercial logging, to the development of a REDD+ project without a renegotiationbeing considered. The Government of PNG has a strong legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that

    project participants have a good understanding of the project in question, are aware of their roles,

    responsibilities and risks in being involved, and are given the option to reject the agreement if necess-

    ary. However, despite all of these critical issues the OCCES continued to publicly describe the April-

    Salomei project as follows:

    a pilot REDD Voluntary project. . . set up with the mutual consent of and in consultation with all the

    Landowners. All Leaders of the area have been consulted. There has been complete transparency and

    accountability on this project at all stages. (Acting Executive Director, OCCES, 23 July 2009)

    5.2. Elite captureFor REDD+ to successfully contribute towards sustainable development efforts, and for the effectivesupport of REDD+ development by indigenous landowners, the benefits that derive from theproject must reach those landowners (Huberman, 2007). It is clear that the lack of understanding of

    REDD+ and carbon forestry not only acted as a key barrier to community participation in theprocess of project development, but also inhibited their capacity to position themselves to exploit

    any future potential project benefits.

    In PNG, obtaining legal recognition of clans and community rights to land management is only

    possible through the registration of Incorporated Landowner Groups and Landowner Companies.

    This costly, complex and laborious process can only be carried out in Port Moresby, and is therefore

    often undertaken by educated community members or elected representatives, who speak for the

    clan or community in absentia (the landowner company for the April-Salomei is Hunstein Range Hold-

    ings Ltd). However, the institutional arrangements of the system are such they that can be easily

    exploited by individuals seeking to profit from their position of relative power, and their access to gov-

    ernment workers and ministers, an issue that has been a critical hurdle to numerous other develop-

    ment and resource projects in PNG (McCallum and Sekhran, 1997; Power, 2008).

    Although Hunstein Range Holdings Ltd was recognized by the OCCES as the official representative

    body for the communities of the April-Salomei project area, the research findings revealed that the

    company had been strongly and repeatedly rejected by April-Salomei communities, and had never

    obtained permission to act as their representatives. Landowners were also concerned about serious cor-

    ruption allegations, and argued that key board members were not from the Hunstein Range, as was

    claimed. As a result, communities were adamant that the involvement of Hunstein Range Holdings

    Ltd would ensure they would not benefit from the REDD+ project.

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  • The benefits distribution systemdescribed by the project design can also be criticized for its failure to

    consider issues of elite capture. According to the design document, project revenue would be distribu-

    ted in the following proportions: 18% to the Government of PNG; 2% to a climate emergency response

    fund; and 80% to a new body, the April-Salomei Foundation, to which landowners would apply for

    community project funding for activities such as crocodile farming and ecotourism initiatives.

    Several key concerns with this proposed regime were identified. First, the April-Salomei Foundation

    (and by default the landowners) would receive 80% of the net credit sales only after the deduction of

    the project development costs, which, given the complexities of implementation and consultations,

    were likely to be very high. Without safeguards to protect their revenue, the indigenous landowners

    could ultimately receive very little revenue from the project. Second, Hunstein Range Holdings Ltd

    board members also controlled the April-Salomei Foundation, effectively enabling them to act as

    the gatekeepers of 80% of project revenues and also allowing them to decide where and how commu-

    nity projects would be funded. Third, the use of a formal application process for communities to source

    project funds for development work is also likely to benefit existing educated elites, which could

    further exclude the poorest and least literate landowners from accessing project funds. Fourth, the

    absence of cash payments to landowners can be considered inequitable given the potential impact

    of project restrictions on subsistence farming activities (see Section 5.3). Although development pro-

    jects that improve health or education may offer one source of security, the provision of these services

    should ultimately be provided by the state and integrated into local and provincial government strat-

    egies (which thus far have failed to provide or sustain these basic services in rural areas). There is there-

    fore a danger that REDD+ projects in rural regions provide no financial or service additionality for thecommunities involved beyond what should already exist, and that at the end of the project lifecycle,

    dependent communities find themselves in worse circumstances once this service support is with-

    drawn. Small part payments of cash to landowners throughout the project would at least reflect the

    work, and the risk, that landowners undertake through their involvement, and by allowing parallel

    developments in micro-businesses and other enterprises ameliorate the danger of total collapse once

    the project ends.

    5.3. The impact of subsistence livelihoodsThe April-Salomei project design document states that Fuel wood collection, agricultural and grazing

    activities have a very minor impact on land cover change (within a radius of less than 1 km from any

    settlements) (South Pole, 2009, Section 2.2, p. 16). The impact of subsistence activities on emissions

    from land-use change was therefore considered to be minimal within the project design document.

    In order to test this statement the subsistence strategies of Bukapuki village were examined in detail.

    A total of 44 gardens were surveyed for size and location. Although over 86% of the gardens surveyed

    were smaller than 1 hectare (ha), and of this number, 47.7% were within 2 km of the village, gardens

    over 1 ha in size were also found up to 16 km from the village at the boundaries of their land. The land

    area managed by Bukapuki village clans measured approximately 22,647 ha (although limited data

    plots suggest that this may be a conservative estimate), and the average land area used per capita is

    estimated at 0.5 ha (Figure 2).

    The cumulative forest area utilized by Bukapuki over the project cycle of 36 years, based on a

    moderately low population growth of 2.7% and a per capita forest usage rate of 0.5 ha, is therefore

    over 8000 ha (Figure 3). However, this requires calibration to include land unsuitable for cultivation

    (e.g. due to distance from the community, permanent/seasonal flooding or poor soil quality) and to

    account for the decreasing fertility and shortening fallow period of land close to community centres

    due to population pressure. Focus group respondents also agreed that new garden sites were preferred

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  • for clearance over areas that had been previously farmed, even though they were harder to clear. If it is

    therefore assumed that only 50%of the gardens under cultivation are re-used each year throughout the

    36-year project cycle, the cumulative total area cultivated (based on a 2.7% population growth and

    0.5 ha per capita) reaches 4462 ha, 19.7% of the estimated total land area managed by Bukapuki.

    The existing project design document assumes that there are 38 settlements within the project

    boundary. If each of these settlements utilizes an equivalent amount of land to Bukapuki over the

    project lifecycle, the total area of land that may be impacted by subsistence agriculture within the

    FIGURE 2 Garden Distribution, Bukapuki Village

    FIGURE 3 Projected land use change and population increase in the AprilRiver

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  • project boundary could equate to over 218,000 ha, over 64% of the total land area (341,110 ha) of the

    pilot REDD + site (Figure 3).Although further detailed research is clearly required tomore accurately calibrate these projections,

    this high rate of forest usage suggests that carbon stocks within the project area may be less than orig-

    inally estimated, and the potential for emissions reductions (and therefore the quantity of carbon

    credits) that can be claimed as deriving from the project subsequently lower than predicted in the

    project design document. This article does not claim that forest used for traditional cultivation will

    never recover carbon stocks after initial harvesting, nor that subsistence practices permanently

    degrade forest land (Filer et al., 2009; Fox et al., 2010). However, the rapid increase of population

    over time within the project area will undoubtedly increase the impact of subsistence agriculture on

    the forest area utilized by communities, and in some cases it seems likely that this will lead to perma-

    nent degradation, which has not been accounted for within the project design (for supporting argu-

    ments see Shearman et al., 2009 for supporting arguments). It therefore seems highly likely that the

    continuation of normal subsistence activities is incompatible with the current project design and

    that this critical element of the project, and its implications, have not been adequately addressed.

    6. Conclusions

    Carbon forestry markets hold great promise for the landowners of PNG. The nations high percentage

    of customary land ownership, and an existing framework for the recognition of land tenure, should

    place PNG in an excellent position to take advantage of the benefits that the VCOs and future compli-

    ancemarkets have to offer. However, despite PNGs opportunity to demonstrate best-practice REDD+through utilizing their strong customary land tenure laws, the rights and natural capital of the poorest

    communities are in danger of being usurped on their behalf, and without their permission, by other

    interests bent on the exploitation of social inequities for potential financial gain from carbon forestry.

    The findings of this research support the work of Brown and Corbera (2003), Corbera (2005) and

    Bumpus and Liverman (2008) in illustrating the critical nature of formal and informal institutions

    in determining the access of communities to benefits from carbon forestry. However, in PNG at

    least, these institutions reflect only the motives and interests of individual agents within them. In

    PNG, the OCCES, Hunstein Range Holdings Ltd and EarthSky Ltd have all played a critical role in

    restricting (either actively or by their failure to act) community participation in the April-Salomei

    project. Landowners have been intentionally excluded from the process by design in the scramble to

    secure the maximum financial benefits possible from a burgeoning potential carbon market.

    The failure of the Government of PNG to implement legal frameworks to guide the development of

    carbon forestry projects has resulted in wholesale confusion in the private sector, and within commu-

    nities, as to where and how REDD+ projects can be legally developed in PNG, and has also damagedPNGs international reputation in this field (Melick, 2010). Under the initial project design assessed

    in this analysis, which has not been implemented at the time of writing, few benefits generated by

    the April-Salomei project would have reached the communities in the region. Instead, landowners

    and their livelihoods would have been subject to a project that they had no hand in designing,

    would play no part in managing, and did not understand.

    Although the research findings highlight that numerous significant issues threaten the equitable

    development of REDD+ projects in PNG, they also demonstrate that the problems faced are notintractable. In tackling these problems theGovernment of PNG, and the governments of other rainfor-

    est nations,must heed the lessons frompast projects, such as ICDPs, when planning REDD+ initiatives(MaCallum and Sekhran, 1997; Blom et al., 2010). A failure to heed these lessons will again ensure that

    Community perceptions of REDD+ 129

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  • the indigenous inhabitants and rightful landowners within PNG remain at the losing side of any deal

    that purports to be their saviour.

    On the basis of the findings of this study, six recommendations for the future development of

    REDD+ projects in PNG, and in other rainforest nations, are offered. First, the issue of carbontenure is critical, and must be made explicit: community ownership of the forest must equate to com-

    munity ownership of the carbon resource so that indigenous landowners are empowered to equitably

    benefit from carbon forestry projects. The Government of PNGhas yet to clarify who actually owns the

    carbon in the forest.

    Second, comprehensive community consultations and verification exercises conducted by indepen-

    dent and competent consultants prior to pilot site designation are required to ensure that landowners

    can give free, prior and informed consent to REDD+ project development at the earliest stages, and tocombat poor rural awareness and understanding of REDD+. This kind of consultation must acceptresponsibility for providing communities with a broad understanding of the impacts of climate

    change within the community context rather than focusing primarily on the possible income from

    carbon forestry, which has served only to raise expectations to an unrealistic level in the past.

    Additionally, the research here demonstrates that ensuring competent and fully independent pro-

    cesses of consultation and verification in countries like PNG is highly complex. This is inadequately

    recognized by standard bearers such as the VCS and CCBA. Many of the individuals with the required

    expertise and local knowledge of an area will inevitably be intertwined in local and national politics.

    While the layers of sub-contracts and sub-sub-contracts that separate organizations such as the VCS

    and CCBA from the groups tasked with on-the-ground verification can give the appearance of compe-

    tent independence, they can conceal both vested interests and poor practice.

    Third, REDD+ project designs must include comprehensive land boundary mapping to the level ofthe clan within the project area, and use detailed genealogical studies of individuals to establish true

    ownership of land prior to the completion of the project design. This will help to ameliorate the

    impacts of false land claims, elite capture, misrepresentation by landowner companies, and land-

    related conflicts. Although in PNG the inclusion of this work is already a stipulation under the existing

    LandGroups Incorporation Act, this is rarely enforced and is never externally verified. The high cost of

    conducting this work for REDD+ projects such as April-Salomei must therefore be quantified and fac-tored into project development costs at the earliest stages. Where this work is not carried out, commu-

    nities will continue to be open to exploitation by educated elites who are able to reinforce existing

    institutional biases and position themselves to secure project benefits.

    Fourth, the impact of REDD+ projects on the subsistence economies of indigenous communitieswithin project areas must be analysed and accounted for within the project design across a range of

    possible pilot site conditions in order to ensure that REDD+ fulfils its pro-poor obligations. It islikely that, under the current design, the April-Salomei REDD+ project will have a long-term deleter-ious affect on livelihoods and poverty in the region, either by limiting subsistence activities to certain

    areas (which over time may produce lower crop yields or be more susceptible to flooding, thereby

    increasing food insecurity), or by tying communities to contractual obligations (to alter their subsis-

    tence activities to reduce forest degradation) that they would be unable to sustain. At worst, this

    could result in financial penalties for contractual transgression, and at best it may ensure that the com-

    munity income from REDD+ remains negligible.Fifth, the impact of these subsistence economies on expected carbon credits and potential income

    streams from REDD+ projects must be more accurately modelled to account for population increasesand forest disturbances or degradation from shifting cultivation practices, as well as projected societal

    changes over the length of the project. Project designs must account for these locally specific site

    conditions and must be adaptable to the local context.

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  • Sixth, and specific to PNG (although perhaps a relevant step for other rainforest nations), the

    Government of PNG must demonstrate its international leadership on REDD+ by calling for a cessa-tion of carbon forestry project development while their institutional enabling conditions are

    improved, carbon-specific legal frameworks put in place, and comprehensive landowner consultations

    conducted in proposed project areas. The Government of PNG has nothing to gain from striving to

    implement projects built upon such flawed foundations, despite the growing pressure upon them to

    demonstrate progress to international donors. At best this approach will serve only as an expensive

    reminder of the lessons learnt from previous resource development and conservation projects; at

    worst it could be vastly damaging to their already sliding international reputation within this field

    and therefore undermine any future plans for REDD+ development.In addition to voluntarily halting REDD+ project development, the Government of PNG should

    commit to a complete cessation in industrial logging and a revocation of all unexploited logging

    leases before REDD developments are pursued. This difficult but feasible step would ensure PNG is

    able to generate large emissions reductions in line with their new national climate-compatible devel-

    opment strategy, andwould demonstrate a bold commitment to the core principles of REDD+ that hasbeen ostensibly lacking to date. In addition, this would attract significant support and further invest-

    ment from mechanisms such as UN-REDD for further project development at a crucial time. The

    Government of PNG, despite remaining heavily involved with international REDD negotiations, is

    currently failing to match its international rhetoric with national action, and has recently been

    widely criticized for its failure to make commitments to the inclusion of stakeholder engagement

    within ongoing REDD negotiations.

    It is clear that linking carbon forestry projects to their sustainable development goals in PNG will

    take years, not months. Since the completion of the initial study in 2009, the development of REDD

    projects in PNG remains controversial, not least because the original OCCES was disbanded in late

    2009 (under suspicions of corruption and issuance of false carbon credits) and was only recently

    re-formed (in early 2010) as the Office for Climate Change and Development (for an overview see

    Lang, 2009). In the meantime, voluntary carbon project developers have continued to operate in a

    legal vacuum that has yet to be filled with clear policy or directed by political will, largely under the

    radar of the Government of PNG. Despite a continued interest from project developers in the April-

    Salomei project to date, the issues highlighted in this study remain largely unresolved.

    Critically, the findings of this study re-emphasize that a failure to address the sustainable develop-

    ment needs of forest-dependent communities will also result in a failure of efforts to reduce emissions

    from tropical deforestation and degradation throughREDD+. The findings also question the feasibilityof the supposed social side benefits of REDD+, given the practical complexities, and associated costs, ofimplementation in the developing world.

    Acknowledgements

    This research was funded by the Natural Resources International Foundation under the 2009 Study

    Fellowship Award, and the World Wide Fund for Nature, Western Melanesia. The author would like

    to thank Dr David Melick, David Peter and Richard Yawingu at WWF Western Melanesia for their

    invaluable direction and logistical coordination of the fieldwork, the Government of Papua New

    Guinea, and Jim Robins at the National Research Institute for granting my research visa. He also

    extends his sincere thanks to the communities of the Hunstein Range region (Wagu, Kagiru, Bitara,

    Niksek and particularly Bukapuki), for their kind hospitality and their patience with his questions:

    Tenkyu tru long halivim wok bilong mi na taim bilong yupela. Without their support the fieldwork

    would have been impossible.

    Community perceptions of REDD+ 131

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  • Note

    1. Incorporated Land Groups are formed under the Government of Papua New Guineas Land Groups Incorpor-

    ation Act, 1974, which gives legal status to indigenous landowning groups so that they are able to manage

    the acquisition, use and disposal of their own customary land and regulate their internal affairs and disputes

    in accordance with custom (Power, 2008).

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