Community-based REDD+ pilot program in Nepal: Incentive for climate change mitigation and forest conservation measures

Understanding how new concepts such as Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), REDD+, and the evolving global carbon markets can be incorporated into conservation and poverty alleviation strategies have been ANSAB’s recent major goals. ANSAB has, in partnership with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)and the Federation of Community Forestry User’s Nepal (FECOFUN), and with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD), been implementing a community based REDD+ pilot program. The program has been set up in order to pilot a national demonstrational governance and payment system for emission reduction, through sustainable forest management. The project is being implemented in three different geographical regions of Nepal: the Khayarkhola watershed of Chitwan, Ludikhola watershed of Gorkha and Charnawati watershed of Dolakha Districts. These districts covers 10,266 ha of tropical to temperate landscapes and are managed by 104 Community Forestry User Groups (CFUGS). The specific objectives of the project are:

  • To strengthen the capacity of civil society actors in Nepal, to ensure their active participation in the planning and preparation of national REDD-strategies;
  • To establish a Forest Carbon Trust Fund (FCTF) that is sustainable and creditable in the long run; and
  • To contribute to the development of REDD strategies that can effectively and efficiently monitor forest carbon flux in community managed forests.

The project also aims to assess and establish the baseline value of watershed-level forest carbon stock, and to calculate forest carbon of individual community forests to support carbon payment. The approach of this project is to learn from piloting and demonstrating various REDD+ related activities (such as the baseline information collection, forest carbon measurement, benefit sharing mechanism, capacity building, forest carbon measurement, field testing and demonstration) as well as to contribute to the National REDD+ policy process and for demonstrating the feasibility of REDD payment mechanisms in community forests. Further the project has focused on the concerns of indigenous, marginalized people and local communities who are dependent on forests. This is done by involving them in the design and function of a national-level REDD governance and payment mechanisms that supports community forestry at the grassroots level.

Through the project’s capacity building activities, local communities have been trained to measure carbon stocks, thus developing technical skills within the community. Outreach-materials have been developed on subjects such as capacity building and institutionalizing REDD mechanism in Nepal. Many CFUGs have internalized the REDD provisions to include in their own Community Forests constituency and operational forest management plans (OFMP). The communities have initiated activities that enhance forest carbon stocks through promoting alternative energy in all three watersheds at the household level. Some of these include:

  • Using biogas and improved cooking stoves;
  • Enriching plantations through fire prevention; and
  • Controlled grazing and fodder development measures.

These activities have resulted in the 2011 carbon stock of these three community forests to increase by 27391.6 ton carbon (equivalent to 100,435.8 tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) gas while sequestrating the carbon within the range of 1.32 t ha-1 yr-1 and 5.31 t ha-1 yr-1). These community-managed forests, are major sinks, covering close to 7.5 million ha in the Himalayan region.

The project has established the Forest Carbon Trust Fund (FCTF) and a benefit sharing mechanism that will be the foundation for developing a national REDD+ strategy. On June 14, 2011, FCTF was formally established with a US $100,000 seed grant from NORAD, by a multi-stakeholder task force that comprised of members from the Government’s REDD Forestry and Climate Change Cell, the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), ANSAB, ICIMOD, FECOFUN, and the Joshi and Bhandari Company. FCTF distributed US $95,000 last June among the three watersheds, based on four basic elements established by the task force:

  1. The quantity of forest carbon saved above the baseline;
  2. The number of households of indigenous peoples and minority groups;
  3. The female population and women; and
  4. The number of poor households within the project area.

Based on these elements, the Charnawati watershed received $ 45,534.93, Kayarkhola received $21,904.94 and the Ludikhola watershed received $27,560.13. The watershed-level FCTF advisory committees determined the amount to be used for reserve funds when the funding was released (Ludikhola kept a reserve fund of NRs. 150,000 (US $2,142.86), Kayarkhola NRs. 100,000 (US $1,428.57) and Charnawati kept NRs. 100,000 (US $1,428.57)). Remaining funding has been distributed among the CFUGs in Ludikhola. The Kayarkhola FCTF advisory committee has retained half of the money and distributed only half of the funding. Retaining half of the distributable funds was done to ensure that CFUGs performed activities as per the plan. The CFUG has to spend the money on activities that reduce deforestation and forest degradation. The activities should include alternative energy promotion, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forest, biodiversity conservation, enhancement of forest carbon stocks, poverty reduction/livelihood improvement activities, forest carbon monitoring, awareness raising and capacity building on REDD and climate change, and auditing of FCTF and verification of data.