Forest protection plans failing to address food needs

June 08, 2011

REDD+ "readiness proposals" failing to address agricultural drivers of deforestation, says new study.

Soy and forest in the Amazon
Soy and forest in the Amazon.

Strategy plans for implementing programs to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) are failing to provide details on how they will address forest conversion for agriculture, which in most countries is a major driver of deforestation, argues a new report from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Lexeme Consulting.

The analysis is based on examination of 20 REDD+ "readiness proposals" submitted to the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), which is providing $345 million to tropical countries to prepare them for an eventual system of carbon-payments for deforestation avoidance. Such a system will require institutional reform, capacity-building and capabilities to monitor, report, and verify (MRV) emissions reductions.

The analysis found that although agriculture was listed among the top three drivers of deforestation and forest degradation for all 20 countries (it was the top driver for 16), in most cases nations hadn't harmonized forest protection goals with food security objectives. Countries need to develop strategies for expanding food production in a manner that is consistent with conservation.

“There is simply no way governments can have credible REDD+ strategies unless their top priority is to address agriculture and food security – these are the main drivers of forest destruction,” said Bruce Campbell of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). “The need to make these connections is urgent because the commercial demands, food security issues, and government mandates driving agriculture’s expansion into forested areas will only increase.”

“While some countries admit that the agricultural sector must be addressed in their REDD+ readiness plans, all countries are hard-pressed to define how conflicting government mandates and powerful economic interests, particularly with regard to large-scale industrial agriculture such as oil palm or soybean production, will be reconciled with their well-intentioned REDD+ goals,” said Gabrielle Kissinger, the author of the CCAFS-supported study.

The study found that 15 out of the 20 countries are planning to expand agriculture production for urban and export markets. Much of the expansion is commercial, but subsistence farming remains a significant driver of forest loss in some countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa.

The report says the Brazil could offer a model for countries working to simultanouesly meet forest protection and agricultural production goals. The South American giant has managed to become an agricultural superpower while substantially reducing its rate of deforestation since 2004.

"It has accomplished this mainly through strong cross-sectoral commitments, better monitoring and financial incentives, as well as a coordinated development effort that emphasizes such things as improved soil health and high-yield crop varieties," stated a press release from CGIAR. "The important nesting of federal and state commitments is exemplified by Brazil’s Acre State’s REDD+ plans, which encompasses all lands and use types, including the full-range of agricultural uses that impact Acre’s forests, and could provide a model for how to integrate REDD+ strategies with agriculture production goals."

The report also highlights the need for land tenure reform and policies that encourage increasing agricultural productivity and greater use of degraded lands.

Linking forests and food production in the REDD+ context

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Forest protection plans failing to address food needs.