Competing actors and land uses in Latin America challenges “effective and equitable REDD+ design”

LIMA, Peru (18 October, 2011)_The rapid growth of agribusiness, cattle ranching, small-scale agriculture, logging and resource-based economies in Latin America leading to competing demands for land means that if REDD+ schemes are going to relieve pressure on tropical forests, they must be tailored according to how the land is currently used in particular areas, says a recent study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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Children in Bolivia. Photo by Amy Duchelle/CIFOR

LIMA, Peru (18 October, 2011)_The rapid growth of agribusiness, cattle ranching, small-scale agriculture, logging and resource-based economies in Latin America leading to competing demands for land means that if REDD+ schemes are going to relieve pressure on tropical forests, they must be tailored according to how the land is currently used in particular areas, says a recent study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Reconciling economic development with forest conservation and social development is a challenging task, but it becomes even more complex when the multiple landscape configurations such as in tropical Latin America are taken into account.

“Indigenous people, traditional subsistence smallholders, small-scale farmers, large-scale farmers and ranchers, and loggers and timber companies use resources with different objectives, creating a different landscape. All of them are competing both for land and for forest resources. What happens to land and forests depends greatly on who owns those resources,” said Pablo Pacheco, scientist with CIFOR’s Forests and Governance Programme and co-author of Actors and landscape changes in tropical Latin America, Challenges for REDD+ design and implementation.

In rural Latin America, home to about 109 million people, agribusiness is growing fast. Cattle ranchers are not just expanding into the forest margins but also modernizing, small-scale agriculture (such as soyabean cultivation) continues to grow steadily, logging persists in production frontiers, and traditional agro-extractive economies are resurging. These competing demands for the land, are leading to changes in the tropical landscape of Latin American forests.

Shaping this economic growth is growing global market demand for forest products and greater integration of forest landscapes with developed markets. A persistent tension between policies, with some giving priority to the market demand and infrastructure development, is increasing the pressure between user groups over forestlands.

The development of these disparate landscapes creates different social, economic and ecological outcomes. For example, agribusiness leads to higher deforestation rates but leads to economic growth, cattle ranching demands land but creates few jobs, indigenous territories protect local livelihoods but generate few economic benefits.

There are also different perspectives about what development pathways should be promoted and which actors should be privileged. Some support intensive and large scale agriculture as a way towards greater economic growth which could also help to reduce extensive deforestation and lead to more efficient land usage.

Others suggest that supporting local livelihoods and securing tenure rights or more diversified production systems may contribute to more inclusive social development while at the same time helping to preserve the forests.

With this diversity of actors and land uses challenging the design of effective and equitable REDD+ schemes, the study concludes that no “one-size-fits-all” approach could deliver “both cost effectiveness and social equity”.

“National REDD+ strategies will have to rely heavily on incentive- and disincentive-based policy instruments, such as conditional compensation transfers and improved enforcement of forest use and access regulations” says the paper, and affirms that these strategies “will have to be tailored, according to the landscape type”.

With concern growing worldwide over the delicate balance between reducing deforestation and using forests to promote social and economic development, it is crucial that national REDD+ strategies in Latin America target both deforestation and ensure that there is equity in the distribution of economic incentives among the diverse stakeholder groups in the region.

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