Report highlights opportunities for tropical jurisdictions to improve benefits sharing for indigenous peoples and traditional communities in forest conservation programs

Earth Innovation Institute and several of its partners in the Sustainable Tropics Alliance and Forest Based Livelihoods Consortium have released a report detailing the need for further inclusion of indigenous peoples and traditional communities in forest conservation programs.

The territories of indigenous peoples and traditional communities that have been formally recognized by governments include approximately 18% of the earth’s tropical forests – equaling over 350 million hectares in 30 tropical nations. For thousands of years, indigenous and traditional peoples have been stewards of these forests, using them in sustainable ways and making an important contribution to climate change solutions by keeping carbon in tropical forest trees and out of the atmosphere where it warms the planet.

However, the success of these communities in protecting their tropical forest homes has not yet been adequately recognized. Their participation in regional development dialogues is still far too uncommon; their access to health care, infrastructure, basic sanitation and educational opportunities are still largely inadequate. And in many cases, formal recognition of their territories is delayed and conflicts over land and resources are chronic.

“For forest conservation initiatives to be sustainable over time they must establish direct relationships with those protecting the forests. This can help to have greater impacts and more benefits, not just for forests but also for people. It is indigenous peoples and local communities who have fought to protect tropical forests in Mesoamerica, the Amazon and other regions of the world and therefore there must be a formal integration of our proposals into diverse forest conservation initiatives “, Cándido Mezua, Secretary of International Relations of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB).

The new report, Increasing REDD+ Benefits To Indigenous Peoples and Traditional Communities Through a Jurisdictional Approach, represents two years of research by five organizations (Earth Innovation Institute, Instituto Del Bien Común, Inobu, Prisma, and ProNatura Sur) and was underwritten by Forest Trends, NORAD, and USAID. Tropical regions highlighted in the report include Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Mesoamerica and Indonesia.

The report focuses on the potential to deliver better services and other benefits to forest dwelling communities and further incentivize their efforts to protect regional forests through a jurisdictional, or territory-wide, approach to REDD+ (programs for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation that include a pay for performance system) and low-emission rural development (LED-R). The jurisdictional approach to REDD+ and LED-R brings together all stakeholders in a region, including indigenous peoples and traditional communities, in creating sustainability plans. It also ensures that any financial benefits directed to a jurisdiction for their forest protection efforts via foreign government funding or carbon credits sales are shared amongst all actors.

“Jurisdictional REDD+ provides an opportunity to address the systemic challenges that are faced by indigenous and traditional peoples as their forest homes come under increasing threat”, states EII Executive Director, Dan Nepstad.

The report was released at a side event organized by Earth Innovation Institute, the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques, and Programa Salvadoreño de Investigación sobre Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente, and focused on indigenous peoples and traditional communities during the Annual Meeting of the Governors’ Climate and Forests Tasks Force in Jalisco, Mexico.