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Re: Payments for environmental services (PES) in theory and practice: Lessons learned and way forward

15.03.2013
Bhubaneswor

Dear moderators and FSN forum members,

I would to share my understanding on the problems to utilize benefiting opportunity of PES in developing countries. I am citing some cases in Nepal but the problems can be more serious in other countries such as Africa where the cases are poorly understood, reported or shared.

Misuses of PES and making environmental systems worse

Increase capabilities of human, animals and plant species for adaptation to climate change require forest management interventions. If communities manage their forests for getting payment for carbon, the resources and institutions (rules or contracts) of REDD create barriers to make necessary changes in forest through management interventions for increasing adaptive capacity. Production of non-timber forest products and other resources essential for sustaining forestry environmental systems are heavily degraded due to introduction of wrong forestry policies in Nepal. The need of forest management operations is being urgent in most of community forests and national parks irrespective of climate change adaptation issue. Ignoring the facts some of the international agencies have introduced the REDD project in the forest areas and are creating problems to make those changes.  For example, WWF allied with the USAID fund introduced REDD programme (Hariyo Ban Project) for biodiversity conservation in community forestry areas. One of the main problems of biodiversity conservation in the project command area is excessive suppression of understory species with biodiversity and its habitat importance by overstocked trees. The agencies completely ignored the problem and introduced the REDD project in the area for biodiversity conservation. The project agencies are doing other ways for the sake of showing they are contributing in biodiversity conservation. Similarly a REDD project (under Multi-stakeholder Forestry Project) has been introduced for increasing capacity of human community and forest adaptation to climate change under joint venture partnership of SDC (Swiss aid agency), FINIDA (Finish aid agency)and DEFID (UK aid agency). The growing problem of overstocking of trees in the forest and its negative effect in communities are well acknowledge in the project document but the agencies introduced REDD project by ignoring the REDD policy barriers to address the community problem. Nepal Foresters’ Association advocated for forestry management activity in the forestry programme but the funding agencies completely ignored the voice. The agencies rather bypassed the government system and implementing the project by a NGO formed by their ex-staffs.  In Nepal’s condition the objective of human community and forest capacity of adaptation to climate change by REDD policy can be achieved together only at low extent. Otherwise they get tradeoffs. The research findings also proved that it exists tradeoffs between climate change adaptation and mitigation outcomes of forest management (Amato et al. 2011; and Thompson et al. 2009). Despite the scientific facts and ground realities the international agencies influential in resource management are doing other way. In fact the aid agencies are using their material and symbolic powers to make Nepali community foolish and capture the resource of poor communities to offset carbon emission produced by affulient societies.
1.      Amato, A.,  Bradford,J., Fraver, S. & Palik, B. 2011. Forest management for mitigation and adaptation to climate change: Insights from long-term silviculture experiments. Forest Ecology and Management 262 803-816.
2.      Thompson, I., Mackey, B., McNulty, S., & Mosseler, A. 2009. Forest Resilience, Biodiversity, and Climate Change. A synthesis of the biodiversity/resilience/stability relationship in forest ecosystems. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal. Technical Series no. 43.
 
Why are not watchdogs effective in developing countries?

It requires strong institutional capacity and uninfluenced environment to work watchdog properly in society. The institutions of watchdogs are very weak in developing countries. Moreover, the watchdogs are manipulated and made dysfunction. The Federation of Community Forestry User Group Nepal (FECOFUN), for instance, is a watchdog in forestry. The body is assumed to represent the interests and act to safeguard the interests and wills of community forest users. The WWF (implement the REDD project funded by the USAID) and ICIMOD (implement the REDD project funded by NORAD) have formed business partnership with the FECOFUN to implement their REDD projects. The key leaders of the FECOFUN body are benefitted (got direct and indirect opportunities and facilities) by the project partnership so they have given little attention on the critical issues created by the REDD project. They are silent on the REDD project activities even though  the project has criminalized collection and uses of green non-timber forest products, the daily need goods for living for poor people. The ICIMOD and WWF were aware of potential social problems of REDD programme. The intention of the ICIMOD and WWF to involve the FECOFUN in project implementation is to neutralize potential confrontational position of forest user groups and escape from the blame of any wrong doing. Given the nature of the REDD projects and institutional condition of the FECOFUN it is an absolutely abuse on civil society.
 
Reality of bad governance

International agencies argue that failure of international development support on environmental management in developing countries is due to bad governance of government. From my understanding the problem of government in developing countries is weak institution but the bad governance is the problem of international agencies which are advising wrong policies and practices for hidden interests. The government agecnies of host countries could not reject the bad policy advices or stop the inappropriate interventions of the international agencies.
 
Suggestion for FAO

If FAO management is really/honestly dedicated to make benefit socially disadvantaged people in developing countries and improve environmental condition it should research to find a solution to overcome the bad governance of the international agencies. There is hardly any study in this issue. This research would make more benefit in society than the research on PES that FAO presented to discuss in this forum.
Thank you for your time to read my opnions.
Bhubaneswor Dhakal, Nepal