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The implications of ignoring smallholder
agriculture in climate-financed forestry projects:
empirical evidence from two REDD+ pilot projects
A. E. C. Duker, T. M. Tadesse, T. Soentoro, C. de Fraiture & J. S. Kemerink-
To cite this article: A. E. C. Duker, T. M. Tadesse, T. Soentoro, C. de Fraiture & J. S. Kemerink-
Seyoum (2018): The implications of ignoring smallholder agriculture in climate-financed
forestry projects: empirical evidence from two REDD+ pilot projects, Climate Policy, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2018.1532389
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The implications of ignoring smallholder agriculture in climate-ﬁnanced
forestry projects: empirical evidence from two REDD+ pilot projects
A. E. C. Duker
, T. M. Tadesse
, T. Soentoro
, C. de Fraiture
and J. S. Kemerink-Seyoum
Department of Water Science and Engineering, IHE Delft, Delft, Netherlands;
Hawassa University, Awasa, Ethiopia;
Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen,
Department of Integrated Water Systems and Governance, IHE Delft, Delft, Netherlands;
Governance and Inclusive
Development Group, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Changes in agricultural practices can play a pivotal role in climate change mitigation by
reducing the need for land use change as one of the biggest sources of GHG emissions,
and by enabling carbon sequestration in farmers’ﬁelds. Expansion of smallholder and
commercial agriculture is often one of the main driving forces behind deforestation and
forest degradation. However, mitigation programmes such as REDD+ are geared
towards conservation eﬀorts in the forestry sector without prominently taking into
account smallholder agricultural interests in project design and implementation.
REDD+ projects often build on existing re- and aﬀorestation projects without major
changes in their principles, interests and assumptions. Informed by case study
research and interviews with national and international experts, we illustrate with
examples from Ethiopia and Indonesia how REDD+ projects are implemented, how
they fail to adequately incorporate the demands of smallholder farmers and how this
leads to a loss of livelihoods and diminishing interest in participating in REDD+ by
local farming communities. The study shows how the conservation-based beneﬁts
and insecure funding base in REDD+ projects do not compensate for the contraction
in livelihoods from agriculture. Combined with exclusive beneﬁt-sharing
mechanisms, this results in an increased pressure on forest resources, diverging from
the principal objective of REDD+. We note a gap between the REDD+ narratives at
international level (i.e. coupling development with a climate agenda) and the
livelihood interests of farming communities on the ground. We argue that without
incorporating agricultural interests and a review of ﬁnancial incentives in the design
of future climate ﬁnance mechanisms, objectives of both livelihood improvements
and GHG emission reductions will be missed.
Key policy insights
.REDD+ is positioned as a promising tool to meet climate, conservation and
development targets. However, these expectations are not being met in practice
as the interests of smallholder farmers are poorly addressed.
.REDD+ policy developers and implementers need more focus on understanding the
interests and dynamics of smallholder agriculturalists to enable inclusive, realistic
and long-lasting projects.
.For REDD+ to succeed, funders need to consider how to better ensure long-term
livelihood security for farming communities.
Received 29 March 2018
Accepted 28 September 2018
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
CONTACT A.E.C. Duker email@example.com Department of Water Science and Engineering, IHE Delft, PO Box 3015, Delft 2601 DA,
as part of broader REDD+ national programmes, represent a promising instrument to substan-
tially contribute to climate change mitigation. In fact, REDD+ is one of the mechanisms supported by the Green
Climate Fund (GCF). The GCF is meant to provide the main funding opportunities for climate change mitigation
and adaptation in the Global South for the coming years, with an aspirational budget of 100 billion US$ in 2020
(UNFCCC, 2018). However, the development and implementation of REDD+ pilot projects have been heavily
challenged and criticized by scholars for various reasons, including poor governance and insecure tenure
systems (Davis, Daviet, Nakhooda, & Thuault, 2010; Gupta, 2012; Kanowski, McDermott, & Cashore, 2010;
Phelps, Guerreo, Dalabajan, Young, & Webb, 2010), too little inclusion of rights, interests and beneﬁts for com-
munities (Anderson, 2011; Lyster, 2011; Shankland & Hasenclever, 2011; Visseren-Hamakers, McDermott, Vijge, &
Cashore, 2012), constrained participation of the private sector in absence of a properly functioning carbon
market (Corbera & Schroeder, 2011), and limited cost-eﬀectiveness due to high transaction and opportunity
costs (Huettner, 2012; Visseren-Hamakers et al., 2012).
REDD+ projects can be market-based, whereby funding is sourced from carbon markets, while others derive
their funds from more conventional aid and nature conservation funds. Often, a combination of ﬁnancial incen-
tives and resources from public and private investors is found. This paper reviews two projects in the Global
South that serve as trial sites for implementing REDD+ programmes at the national level. These perform-
ance-based pilot projects still rely on the voluntary carbon market in anticipation of rolling out fully-ﬂedged
national REDD+ programmes, which eventually are expected to source funding from the compliance oﬀset
markets for greenhouse gases.
It is estimated that 80% of global deforestation is caused by agriculture, including logging. Although it is
often assumed that subsistence farming is the dominant contributor to deforestation, commercial farming is
more signiﬁcantly impacting forests in both Indonesia and Ethiopia, the focus countries of this paper (Kis-
singer, Herold, & de Sy, 2012). Furthermore, diverging interests between farmers, pastoralists and forest dwell-
ers are often assumed to be at the root of conﬂicts over natural resources and accelerated degradation,
despite contradictory evidence (Geist & Lambin, 2002). Hence, based on these two assumptions, it would
be logical for subsistence farmers to play a central role in the design and implementation of REDD+ pro-
grammes. However, as this paper will illuminate, this is not the case, and the smallholder sector is insuﬃciently
considered in the design and implementation of REDD+ projects. Although previous research has shown that
overall REDD+ strategies as proposed on paper generally fail to address agricultural drivers of deforestation,
limited empirical evidence is at hand to assess the mechanisms relating to this omission (Kissinger, 2013). This
paper therefore seeks to identify factors and processes that play a role in this apparent challenge of including
the smallholder agricultural sector in REDD+ programmes. We will thereby demonstrate the discrepancy
between international and national policy rhetoric on the one hand, and the complex political realities on
the ground on the other.
The paper starts with a description of the selected case studies and the chosen methodology (Section 2). This
is followed by outlining the main research ﬁndings related to the challenges of incorporating smallholder
farmers’interests in REDD+ projects (Section 3). The paper ends with a discussion of these ﬁndings, drawing
speciﬁc lessons based on this research to enhance policies on climate ﬁnancing mechanisms (Section 4).
2. Case studies and methodology
The scope of this study concerns the role of smallholder agriculture in climate ﬁnanced forestry eﬀorts, in par-
ticular REDD+ projects. The projects selected are the Meru Betiri National Park in Indonesia and the Bale Moun-
tain Eco-region REDD+ Project in Ethiopia. We selected these two case studies because smallholder agriculture
and use of forest products by villagers were regarded as the main causes of deforestation and therefore chan-
ging this behaviour was the primary target of the projects. In addition, both projects serve as test cases in prep-
aration for the implementation of fully-ﬂedged REDD+ programmes at the national level, in line with the REDD+
strategies and action plans developed by the respective government. In these national plans, both the Indone-
sian and Ethiopian governments have committed to safeguarding the interests of local communities; in the
2A. E. C. DUKER ET AL.
implementation documents of the selected projects, reference is made to improving the livelihoods of rural
households and the sharing of beneﬁts with local communities. It is important to evaluate and draw lessons
from the progress made so far in each of these pilot projects in the hope of steering the direction to be
taken by the broader REDD+ programmes, as well as other climate ﬁnanced forestry programmes.
2.1. Meru Betiri National Park
The Meru Betiri National Park (MBNP), located on East Java, Indonesia, comprises 58,000ha of mangrove swamp
forest and lowland rain forest. In 1999, an agroforestry programme to tackle deforestation was initiated by an
Indonesian NGO, in which communities planted trees and at the same time were allowed to grow food crops
inside the national park. Five villages were involved in these agroforestry activities, and in 2009, about half of the
village population participated in this programme (Harada, Prabowo, Aliadi, Ichihara, & Ma, 2015). In 2010, this
programme was transformed into a demonstration REDD+ project by the International Tropical Timber Organ-
isation as the main funder together with a private sector company. The REDD+ consortium also includes two
Indonesian NGOs, which were previously involved in the agroforestry programme, and the Forest Research
and Development Agency, which focuses on carbon monitoring. The initiation of the REDD+ programme
oﬀered an opportunity for the implementing agencies to secure funding to continue their reforestation
eﬀorts, with the aim of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by enhancing carbon stocks in more
and bigger trees. However, avoiding emissions by reducing deforestation, allegedly caused by illegal logging
and encroachment of the forest by smallholder farmers, was also used as a rationale to acquire the project.
The target area for REDD+ project in the rehabilitation zone is 400 ha where the consortium expects to
reduce emissions by around 9.8 tCO
per year for a period of 30 years (Wibowo, 2015). The demonstration
project ran from 2010 to 2013, but since then progress towards a fully-ﬂedged REDD+ project, as part of the
national REDD+ programme with carbon credits to be sold on the (voluntary) market, has been stagnant.
Under the REDD+ project, ﬁve diﬀerent zones were demarcated and permitted activities were prescribed for,
and monitored in, each zone: a core zone of 27,900 ha and an intact forest zone of 22,600 ha that are both strictly
protected; a rehabilitation zone of over 4000 ha where limited agroforestry activities take place including
nursing and planting medicinal species; and the buﬀer and utilization zones (together over 3000 ha) where
limited economic activities are allowed, such as harvesting forest products, plantations, agroforestry and eco-
tourism. The people living in the 10 bordering villages and 2 villages inside the national park primarily
depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, both as land-owning farmers and land labourers. Moreover,
several enclaves of labourers for teak and rubber plantation companies live inside the national park. Crops
grown by subsistence farmers include mainly rice, vegetables and fruits. In the outer rehabilitation, buﬀer
and utilization zones, pressure on the land is the highest through illegal logging and (unsustainable) agricultural
activities. The rehabilitation zone used to be a teak plantation but was completely logged at the end of the
1990s after the fall of President Suharto. Nevertheless, who is actually responsible for current illegal logging
in the park remains debated: the management of the park blames the villagers, while the villagers in the
park accuse outsiders of organized logging backed by the military and police forces.
2.2. Bale Mountain Ecoregion REDD+ project
The Bale Mountain Ecoregion REDD+ Project (BMERP) is located in Oromia state, Ethiopia, where 70% of the
country’s remaining forest is present (OFWE, 2014). The area of over 260,000 ha encompasses mainly moist
forest, while a small portion (<10%) is classiﬁed as dry forest. It experiences high annual deforestation rates,
ranging from 1.1 to 6.6% (OFWE, 2014). The REDD+ project is anticipated to run from 2012 to 2031 and
expects to reduce carbon emissions by almost 38 million tCO2 through avoided deforestation (OFWE, 2014).
A major aim behind choosing the REDD+ approach was to secure long-term sustainable funding that would
oﬀer alternative livelihoods to rural households, so that they would not engage in deforestation, thus reducing
anticipated carbon dioxide emissions (Tadesse, 2016). The project is still in its initial stages and depends on
donor funds, but once fully operational, it aims to receive performance-based payments from the World
Bank as the primary credit buyer in the voluntary carbon credit market.
CLIMATE POLICY 3
About 1.6 million people live in the ecoregion and their livelihoods depend mainly on crop production, live-
stock and forest-based income. These smallholder farmers are considered to form the major driver for defores-
tation, combined with natural and induced forest ﬁres. The research focuses on the Dodola and Adaba districts,
where a participatory forest management (PMF) project was introduced in 2000 in order to protect the forests
while reducing poverty. When funding sources to continue this PMF project dried up, the REDD+ programme
oﬀered an opportunity to continue eﬀorts to substitute smallholder agricultural production with income from
forest conservation activities. Since deforestation and overexploitation of the forest continued under the PMF
project, the rational for the REDD+ project was to generate extra income from carbon credits to increase
eﬀorts to conserve and protect the forest. The organizational set-up of the REDD+ project was not changed
from the previous PMF project, in which members of forest dweller associations were provided with 12 ha of
forest for which they received restricted use rights. With each association having up to 30 members, the
forest was divided into blocks of maximum 360 ha to be managed collectively. Non-members were denied
access to the forest and mainly depend on plots for agricultural production outside the national park (see
also Kemerink-Seyoum, Tadesse, Mersha, Duker, & de Fraiture, in press).
For both areas, an extended case study approach was chosen. This enabled the analysis of relevant interactions
and processes over a longer period of time and at diﬀerent spatial levels. Besides desk reviews, ﬁeld work with
semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions was carried out with (in)direct beneﬁciaries, project staﬀ,
and local governments, amongst other stakeholders. In addition, residents who were not involved in the pro-
jects were interviewed to obtain their views and to discuss the implications of the projects for them. In both
cases, initial ﬁeld visits were organized prior to the interviews and focus group discussions to determine the
main actors involved in the REDD+ projects. Validation workshops were held to discuss and validate research
ﬁndings in each of the case studies. In total, 57 interviews were carried out in the Ethiopian case and 32 in
the Indonesian case in several ﬁeld visits between November 2014 and September 2016 (Soentoro, 2017;
Tadesse, 2016). Table 1 shows a summary for the research methods and targeted actors in each case study.
Thematic analysis (Petty, Thomson, & Stew, 2012) was used to explore variations, similarities, and relation-
ships within the qualitative collected data to study how the various actors have been involved in designing
and implementing the projects; how they perceived the projects; how the projects aﬀected their daily activities
and livelihoods; and how the projects fostered and/or jeopardized relationships between various actors.
Although the two case studies involved completely diﬀerent institutional and climatological environments, we
found similar challenges and constraints in executing the activities for realizing the objectives in both cases. We
analysed the case studies to see how agricultural interests were addressed in the design and implementation of
REDD+ projects. In both cases we found that these were not well incorporated and the analysis brought us to
three common elements that played a major role in this omission, as discussed below.
Table 1. Data collection methods and target actors per case study.
Meru Betiri, Indonesia No. Bale Mountains, Ethiopia No.
Farmer group members 19 Forest association members 37
Community leaders 4 Non-forest association members 9
National Park staﬀ2 NGOs 3
NGOs 4 Government bodies 8
Government bodies 3
Total 32 Total 57
Farmer groups (15–20) 4 Forest association members (6) 1
Community entrepreneur groups 2
Validation workshop Community members, national park, project implementers, local
1 Project implementers, NGOs,
4A. E. C. DUKER ET AL.
3.1. Beneﬁts from REDD+ projects do not substitute for agricultural outputs
The major rationale on which the REDD+ projects are based is that the income from carbon credits will substi-
tute for income from activities causing deforestation and forest degradation. Hence, REDD+ resources may be
the most useful where the opportunity costs of deforestation are the lowest, and least likely to be eﬀective
where the opportunity costs of deforestation are higher, like with palm oil plantations in Indonesia (Gupta,
2012). In fact, Butler, Koh, and Ghazoul (2009) reveal that the proﬁtability of converting forest into palm oil plan-
tations is up to 10 times as proﬁtable as preserving it for carbon credits, which currently rely on the prices of the
voluntary carbon market.
As proﬁt margins in smallholder agriculture are much lower, REDD+ projects can theoretically be more
eﬀective, assuming that smallholder agriculture is a major driver for deforestation. However, in the two analysed
cases we ﬁnd that the material and non-material gains derived from REDD+ projects did not compensate the
losses in beneﬁts from smallholder agricultural production and forest use. Although their agricultural activities
are considered to be the root cause for deforestation, the nature of the beneﬁts from these activities for their
livelihoods are not well understood nor compensated.
This mismatch between smallholder famer’s needs and beneﬁts provided by REDD+ projects is illustrated in
the case of the BMERP project in Ethiopia. All community members were previously allowed to let their cattle
graze in the forest during the dry season, grow crops on rotation in the forest, and collect forest products such as
herbs and honey, which constitute essential parts of their diets. Under the PFM, and not redressed within the
REDD+ project, a minority of residents could become members of the forest dwellers association and were
as such appointed to manage 12 ha of forest land each. This responsibility came with limited use rights of
the forest in terms of timber, ﬁre wood collection, restricted grazing and beekeeping. However, the majority
of residents of the project area were not allowed to become a member of this association and were denied
access to the forest, without the provision of compensation or alternative source of livelihood. The only
direct beneﬁt they continued to receive from the forest was (fuel) wood that they occasionally got on
request for special family events (e.g. weddings, funerals). Inequity in the distribution of forest resources has
thus increased. As a result, for instance, non-members now buy fodder from association members or illegally
pay them to have cattle graze in the forest for several months during the dry season. The lack of substitute
for grazing cattle thus leads to a situation where the pressure on the forest is not reduced.
In addition, the actual beneﬁts from forest products for the members of the forest association are less than
anticipated because of practical concerns not addressed by project implementers. As the following interviewee
In my [forest association] there are 30 members and based on the members’agreement each member is allowed to cut one
tree a year for personal beneﬁt. Accordingly, last year I cut one tree that was my share …However, since I lack the skill of
making lumber, I contracted someone owning a pitsaw. The contracted person made 20 pieces of lumber from each tree
and took 12 for himself as part of the agreement. I got only 8, which is unfair as I beneﬁtted less than envisaged. (Interview
with M7; see Tadesse, 2016)
These ﬁndings on the ground contrast with the foreseen beneﬁts as stated in the REDD+ project implemen-
Social beneﬁts of the project could include boosting productivity of small holder agriculture, the generation of new income
sources based on sustainable alternatives, the creation of direct and indirect jobs in monitoring and land management activi-
ties, health improvement, education (sic). And (sic) enhance the capacity of the forest management cooperatives in sustainably
managing the forests in their vicinity. (OFWE, 2014)
Another factor contributing to this mismatch between interests and beneﬁts results from the fact that REDD+
projects are often based on already existing nature conservation projects. Assumptions and objectives are
hardly adjusted from previous conservation eﬀorts and therefore do not position the livelihoods of subsistence
farmers at the core of the project. As a result, project activities tend to focus on forest conservation activities with
limited beneﬁts for a few, often already advantaged, smallholder farmers. Local forest dwellers in the MBNP
project in Indonesia beneﬁt from the project through wages earned from tree planting and, indirectly, by receiv-
ing training on how to protect forests and measure carbon. Agricultural activities such as planting crops, grazing
CLIMATE POLICY 5
livestock or collecting herbs are banned from most of the project area and restricted in the buﬀer zones of the
national park. These conventional nature conservation activities are cheaper and easier to implement, and show
results in the shorter term, but do not meet the livelihood needs of the residents of the targeted villages,
let alone compensate for losses. A study in two villages in MBNP by Harada et al. (2015) shows that current agri-
cultural income from the park (primarily rice, vegetables, and fruits) is 4 to 7 times higher than the maximum
ﬁnancial (indirect) beneﬁt to be derived from tree planting. Both participants and non-participants of the
project use land outside the park, but the land holdings of the residents who participate in the project are
much smaller. Giving up agricultural production within the park without realistic compensation therefore has
a signiﬁcant impact on their livelihoods.
3.2. Funding remains insecure
The concept of REDD+ was formalized during the 15th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen in
2009. Although the years in which countries were preparing for ‘REDD readiness’have gone by, the international
carbon market has only made moderate progress to becoming functional. Some current REDD+ projects rely on
voluntary carbon markets, resulting in very low prices, but a large investment share originates from donor funds,
either performance-based or not, which focus on REDD readiness (Watson, Patel, & Schalatek, 2016). These orig-
inate from governmental or non-governmental conservation or development agencies, or from companies that
are implementing their corporate social responsibility policies. Although it can be advantageous for an acceler-
ated fund dispersion process, using existing ﬁnancing channels comes with the risk of losing the opportunity to
introduce a performance-based system, a lack of coordination among REDD+ donor agencies, a fragmentation
of the incentive system due to diﬀerent donor requirements, and a missing link between results and ﬁnance
Both case studies strive for a performance-based system in which payments are based on actually achieved
reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and, to this end, both adopt a beneﬁts-sharing mechanism in which the
revenue goes to local actors. This set-up has the potential to provide a secure long-term ﬂow of funding to pay
residents to maintain the forest. However, in both cases, this promise is not being met for diﬀerent reasons. In
the case of MBNP in Indonesia, where farmers will be paid according to the density and variety of trees planted
on their agricultural land, funding from both private and non-governmental sources was ad-hoc and did not
provide any secure long-term commitment. Initial steps were taken to apply for the Plan Vivo scheme, a volun-
tary carbon certiﬁcation programme, but so far the payments are not yet directly linked to a carbon accounting
system or market, and instead depend on short-term external funding from donors. Furthermore, the addition-
ality of REDD+ in this area is questionable, because the net deforestation rate is actually negative, which might
limit the attractiveness of the project for buyers in the carbon market (Wibowo, 2015). Consequently, there is no
long-term income security for the farmers involved. As they earn a substantial portion of their total income from
agricultural products from the National Park, estimated at 25–40% (Harada et al., 2015), there needs to be a
secure mechanism in place to substitute for potential losses. However, payments from the agroforestry pro-
gramme completely stopped after the initial demonstration phase because of a lack of capital from donors. Dis-
appointment and distrust among participants have consequently arisen, since they feel they have been used to
showcase performance of the project, without long term prospects. As farmers lose interest, the project fails to
deliver its promises of avoided deforestation.
Additionally, tenure security is a highly debated concern in the MBNP area. There was supposed to be an
oﬃcial memorandum of understanding signed between the 5 villages and the park management allowing
the farmers to manage and use the lands in the rehabilitation zone for 35 years, but so far, this has not materi-
alized. Hence, a source of conﬂict remains as land use rights, which are required to secure income generation by
farmers, are not clearly deﬁned.
The BMERP project in Ethiopia illustrates that, even though a performance-based carbon-accounting system
is under development, revenues remain uncertain. Under a planned beneﬁt-sharing mechanism, members of
the forest associations were initially promised direct monetary beneﬁts in cash from the foreseen carbon
credit sales. Speciﬁcally, they negotiated that they would receive 60% of the revenue generated by any
carbon credit sales in the future. They have thus high expectations concerning the beneﬁts that they will
6A. E. C. DUKER ET AL.
receive from the REDD+ project, and are anticipating that they will be compensated for conserving the forest.
Meanwhile, however, the Ethiopian government and the World Bank, as the carbon credit buyer, favour a so-
called jurisdictional approach whereby several REDD+ projects in the south of Ethiopia will be monitored
together. In this revised set-up, members of the forest associations will only beneﬁt through climate-ﬁnanced
community projects (schools, hospitals, roads etc.), as opposed to the individual monetary payments. This is
not well received by most of them as they now need to buy their food, fodder and charcoal, as their own agri-
cultural production is severely hampered. Thus, a yet undetermined negotiation about beneﬁt-sharing at local
and national level restricts secure cash beneﬁts to smallholder farmers and the question of who owns and
decides about the carbon credits remains debated. In addition, long term prospects are uncertain, because
the price and beneﬁts of carbon will be renegotiated every ﬁve years.
Overall, evidence from these two projects suggests that engagement in REDD+ activities remains an insecure
investment, especially if people are expected to give up the lands that they use for their own production and
income. In both projects, these ﬂaws have led to farmers losing conﬁdence and trust in the project implementers
and the implementation process. This has led to delays in the projects and has allowed lingering conﬂicts to amplify
(see also Kemerink-Seyoum et al., in press). This lack of long term security in the case of rural Ethiopia is especially
staggering considering that cattle are regarded not only asa source of nutrition, but also as an asset forovercoming
diﬃcult periods, such as a drought or a family (health) emergency. It is precisely this cattle grazing that is restricted
under the REDD+ programme, without any alternative security mechanism being introduced.
3.3. Exclusions weaken incentives
Exclusiveness in the implementation of REDD+ projects portrays itself in two diﬀerent ways. Firstly, the output-
based nature of beneﬁt-sharing in REDD+, that is, beneﬁt-sharing based on the changes in carbon stocks, raises
fundamental equity concerns as individual contributions towards avoided deforestation are hard to deﬁne
(Skutsch et al., 2014). In Indonesia this issue has been addressed by assigning individual plots to farmers. Indi-
viduals are currently compensated for the successes they achieve on their plots by planting more and a higher
diversity of trees. In the case of the Bale Mountains, carbon monitoring will be carried out on the lands allocated
to the associations and hence individual contributions will be invisible. Consequently, incentives for avoiding
deforestation are undermined, which leads to distrust and illegal use of forest resources.
The second manifestation of exclusiveness relates to the criteria that are in place for selecting participants for
REDD+ projects. In the Ethiopian case, access to REDD+ beneﬁts is based on previously deﬁned arrangements in
which village residents are denied access to the forest, except for those who are members of the forest dwellers
association. As a result, the use of the forest resources, i.e. mainly cattle grazing and timber and fuel wood, is
conditionally allowed only for a minority group whereas others are not compensated for their loss in livelihood.
The REDD+ project is following the same principle and hence a majority of the villagers is thus deprived of the
beneﬁts of REDD+, having already faced a loss in livelihood due to the previous PFM approach. The feeling of
injustice felt by those excluded from the forest is illustrated by this interviewee who is not a member of the
At that time [of the introduction of project], though we were excluded from membership, they [project staﬀ] promised us that
we will also beneﬁt from the protection of forest resources. However, gradually they have started to clearly exclude us from the
beneﬁt by denying us use rights, even for grazing, which is not fair. (Interview I2; see Tadesse, 2016)
‘Enclosing’these forests, which were previously de facto considered as common pool resources, leads to per-
verse incentives to use the forest illegally. A rise in fuel wood prices was in fact further exacerbated by the
project as wood became exclusively available to a small group of people, creating an incentive for more
illegal logging by non-members, and for association members to become engaged in both legal and illegal
fuel wood businesses. Moreover, this inequitable access to forest resources led to an aggravation of existing
conﬂicts, among non-members and members, and also between members and their oﬀspring who are not auto-
matically entitled to forest use rights (Kemerink-Seyoum et al., in press).
In Indonesia, a similar process took place at diﬀerent levels. Firstly, out of the 12 villages residing inside or
adjacent to the national park, only 5 were selected to participate in the project, because they were already
CLIMATE POLICY 7
cooperating with the previous project owners. Secondly, within the participating villages, only farmers who were
a member of the forest farmers groups were selected for the initial agroforestry programme. A total of 42 forest
farmer groups joined the project, and these farmers were assigned an individual plot in the rehabilitation zone.
REDD+ activities were built on the existing agroforestry project and involved only the people who had pre-
viously received a permit to manage lands in the rehabilitation zone. However, there are many more farmers
inside the forest who are now deprived of forest resources. This exclusive character of the project has thus
created tension among those villagers who are, and those who are not, allowed to participate in the REDD+
project, and triggered conﬂicts over forest resources within the villages.
4. Discussion and conclusions
4.1. Learning from implementing REDD+
For the future success of REDD+ programmes, a thorough understanding by policy makers of REDD+ (pilot) pro-
jects based on empirical research is of crucial importance (see also Negra & Wollenberg, 2012). This study, and
speciﬁcally the examples from the ﬁeld, aims to contribute to this need by zooming in on the smallholder agricul-
tural sector. Kissinger (2013) assessed the extent to which twenty REDD+ readiness proposals as submitted to the
World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) address agriculture as the main driver for deforestation. She
concluded that these strategies and planned activities in general fail to do so. We can add to this ﬁnding that, in
the cases studied, the implementation of REDD+ (pilot) projects on the ground has similarly failed to respond to
the root causesof deforestation by ignoring the needs and interests of those who allegedly are involved in clearing
the forests, namely smallholder farmers. The three main reasons why smallholder farmers’needs and interests
were not met in our case study projects are (1) the limited beneﬁts obtained from REDD+ (pilot) initiatives to sub-
stitute for livelihood losses caused by enclosing forests that are de facto used for agricultural activities; (2) the inse-
cure ﬂows of funding within REDD+ programmes in the long term; and (3) the exclusive character of the
implemented (pilot) projects, which has marginalized the majority of smallholder farmers in the case study areas.
The case studies in Ethiopia and Indonesia demonstrate that this omission leads to a distrust and loss of inter-
est of smallholder farmers to participate in REDD+ projects and a loss in livelihoods for these farmers. Moreover,
the case studies show how the project leads to an increased pressure on forest resources and enhanced incen-
tives for (illegal) exploitation of forest products. In addition, carbon leakage, which occurs when deforestation is
halted in one area but at the same time triggered in another because the demand for forest resources is not
being reduced, is likely to occur in both cases. Because farmers have not been provided with long-term alterna-
tives to their diverse agricultural beneﬁts, such as ﬁre wood and grazing ground, they will go elsewhere to access
these, either directly or indirectly. Hence, it is unlikely that there will be a real reduction in greenhouse gas emis-
sions that can be attributed to these projects.
Realizing eﬀectiveness and equity remains challenging in applying innovative ﬁnancial incentive-schemes
that aim, at least in rhetoric, to reconcile development and conservation eﬀorts (Gross-Camp, Martin,
McGuire, Kebede, & Munyarukaza, 2012; Pascual et al., 2014). Likewise, we found that the two REDD+ pilot pro-
jects were based on existing community forest or nature conservation projects, whereby actors and institutions
continued working on previously deﬁned principles, interests and assumptions geared towards nature conser-
vation. In our cases, this nature conservation perspective has resulted in a bias that is preventing the fulﬁlment
of livelihood needs of the households that are dependent on smallholder farming. The funds disseminated in
the case studies were insecure and largely insuﬃcient to substitute for livelihood losses. Thus, the major prin-
ciple of REDD+, i.e. the concept of results-based payments whereby funds originate either through (voluntary)
carbon markets or development or conservation funds, has so far seen limited progress in the two study areas,
and is far from the success it promised to be.
4.2. Lessons for future policy developments
This research shows that the understanding and acknowledgment of the interests of smallholder farmers is
insuﬃcient, not least regarding monetary and non-monetary needs for enhancing food security in the short
8A. E. C. DUKER ET AL.
and longer term. These ﬁndings are not stand alone cases, as we recognize that similar challenges have been
encountered in other parts of the world, e.g. in Peru, Brazil, Cameroon, Tanzania and Vietnam (Sills et al., 2014).
They highlight problems related to tenure, ﬁnance facilities, adopting and implementing safeguards and ﬁnding
sustainable alternative livelihoods for subsistence farmers. Hence, there is substantial evidence from recent
empirical research that calls for improved recognition and action on enhancing livelihood security of farmers
involved in REDD+ programmes and projects.
The major international arena to address these concerns is the Green Climate Fund, which promotes REDD+
as a promising tool to meet carbon targets. We note that there is a gap between local practice and realities on
the ground and the rhetoric of REDD+ at this international level, where it is often portrayed as if a reduction of
carbon emissions, poverty alleviation and nature conservation could easily go hand in hand (UN REDD, 2012).
The reviewed projects were based on the contested narrative of subsistence farming being the main driver for
deforestation and related carbon emissions, and on the promise of project activities to promote socioeconomic
development and combat climate change. However, our research ﬁndings imply that smallholder agricultural
interests are not thoroughly understood nor recognized in the objectives and implementation of REDD+.
Focus is centred on conservation targets with a narrow perspective on meeting socioeconomic development
goals. This omission results not only in REDD+ missing out in realizing the overall target of reducing carbon
emissions, but also in exacerbating poverty and fuelling looming conﬂicts over resources at the local level. In
addition, funders for these projects, either market-based or from development or nature conservation
sources, need to consider how to engage in and support long-term livelihood security on an inclusive basis
for smallholder farmers in order for REDD+ to succeed.
Finally, the ﬁndings call for a debate on how the smallholder agricultural sector could beneﬁt from climate
change mitigation programmes and vice versa. In this respect, attention needs to be given not only to the
potential threats of (subsistence) agriculture to our climate as result of deforestation but also to the opportu-
nities and synergies oﬀered by reducing carbon emissions through improved farming practices and by seques-
tering carbon in agricultural lands. These can be implemented at plot, farm and landscape level, e.g. reduced use
of inputs, generation of biogas from manure, and restoration of degraded lands and wetlands through land-
scape governance (Harvey et al., 2014). We therefore recommend promoting more and stronger feedback
from (smallholder) farmers to policy makers, to ensure joint learning and improvement of climate ﬁnance pol-
icies and strategies. Or, as one of the interviewed NGO staﬀmembers in Indonesia stated:
…The government should think beyond buying and selling carbon in regard to REDD+, but recognize activities of local com-
munities in the conservation area as a contribution to forest conservation. Communities should not be considered as a threat
but as partners to work collaboratively for forest. (Soentoro, 2017)
1. REDD+: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, with the ‘+’referring to conservation of forest carbon
stocks, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (UN-REDD Programme, 2018).
2. In the voluntary carbon market, buyers can purchase carbon credits to voluntarily oﬀset their emissions, while in the compli-
ance market, a regulatory instrument, e.g. an emission cap set by a governmental body, deﬁnes the demand for carbon credits
to be purchased by buyers who need to comply with respective regulations.
We thank all the respondents in the two case study areas in Ethiopia and Indonesia for sharing their knowledge and experiences, Dr.
Almaz Tadesse and Dr. Woldemariam Tadesse and their colleagues from HoAREC&N for facilitating the research activities, and mr.
Dardiri Dardak and other team members from Aksi! and the Centre of EnvironmentalStudies of the University of Brawijaya for contribut-
ing to the ﬁeld work. We are grateful to Esteve Corbera and the anonymous reviewers who commented on an earlier version of this article.
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the authors.
CLIMATE POLICY 9
This work was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientiﬁc Research/Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk
Onderzoek (NWO) [grant number W 07.68.414].
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