One of the main causes of climate change is the loss of natural forest habitat. Healthy forests can store carbon dioxide in vast reserves and prevent it from being released into the atmosphere. Scientists estimate that as much as 20 percent of annual global carbon dioxide emissions—roughly equivalent to the volume of greenhouse gases the U.S. generates each year—are caused by the fragmentation and clearing of forests, especially in tropical areas. Protecting an intact forest keeps its store of carbon from heating the planet. In addition to its environmental value, the sequestration of carbon has an economic value,which allows us to create an even greater incentive for conservation.
One of the methods proposed to reduce global warming is through the United Nations collaborative initiative to Reduce greenhouse gas Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries. REDD+, launched in 2008, is a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme, which provides monetary and non-monetary benefits to rural communities in return for conservation of their forests and for forest planting. If farmers can demonstrate they have kept forest from being cleared they will be able to obtain some funding in recompense for this conservation from countries that are contributing more to greenhouse gas emissions.
WCS’s interventions with REDD
WCS has been developing a REDD+ project in the Murchison-Semliki Landscape to create incentives for small-holder farmers to conserve forest on their land through conservation farming. The project is estimated to prevent an emission of 41.2 million tonnes of CO2e entering the atmosphere from privately owned forests and an additional 20.8 million tonnes of CO2e from public forests over a project lifetime of 30 years.
Northern Albertine Rift Conservation Group
In order to develop the REDD+ project WCS has been working with several NGO partners to form a Northern Albertine Rift Conservation Group (NARCG) which includes Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Ecotrust, Jane Goodall Institute, Nature Harness Initiatives, and WWF to combine our efforts and work in different parts of the Murchison_semliki Landscape with private forest owner associations to conserve the privately owned forests in corridors linking larger forest reserves.
REDD+ goes beyond reducing GHG emissions. It is also focused on saving forests and the wildlife in these forests. The project will ensure the survival of more than 1,000 animal species and 1,600 plants species, including 14 threatened mammal species such as the endangered chimpanzee. Our aim is to conserve and restore 96,732 ha of forest habitat linking the central forest reserves and acting as corridors, and to protect 82,354 ha of public forest from encroachment and re-plant 40,000 ha of forest habitat.
REDD+ also aids rural development and ensures that the monetary and non-monetary benefits from participating in the scheme reach local communities. WCS’ project will prevent 3,000+ households from falling into poverty within the next 10-15 years by maintaining and restoring the ecosystem services that they depend on for subsistence farming and cash. We will achieve this by reforming and clarifying their property rights, providing them with a stable income from carbon credits based on the size of the trees in their existing forest, improving their farming skills to reduce food scarcity, enhancing their living conditions and helping them to adapt to climate change.
FPIC (Free Prior and Informed Consent)
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) together with other Northern Albertine Rift Conservation Group (NARCG) partners including Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST), Nature Harness Initiatives (NAHI), Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT), Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in collaboration with the district authorities and the Government of Uganda, is leading the development of the Murchison-Semliki REDD+ Project (MSREDD+) a pilot in the Murchison-Semliki landscape.
Free, Prior and Informed consent (FPIC) in REDD+ is a principle vital in upholding the local and indigenous peoples human rights and the right to their lands, natural resources and territories based on customary and historical connections to them. Through the Village and Private Forest Owners FPIC processes of the project, WCS and partners have so far reached and consulted the Hoima district leadership (both the political and technical), stakeholders at the sub counties of Bugambe, Kitoba, Kiziranfumbi, Kyabigambire, Kabwoya and Kigorobya all in Hoima district. They have also done the same with the private forest owners organised in Private Forest Owner Associations (PFOAs) in the Hoima wildlife corridor, all of whom have made interesting contributions and ideas to improve on the design of the proposed project and mitigate the supposed negative impacts. Preliminary consent to the project by 11 PFOAs out of 13 so far reached has also been given through a secret ballot.
Between October and November 2014, different local stakeholder groups including the marginalized and vulnerable groups at the village level will be reached by media awareness campaigns and interlocutors selected from 163 target villages for their input into the project.The results after the village level FPIC process will be presented to key stakeholders at the district level for further input, analysis and ownership.