The Royal Government of Bhutan Promotes REDD+ Awareness Programme
The Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) has always accorded high priority to sharing information and conducting public consultations prior to starting any new programmes, the REDD+ initiative is one such programme.
Bhutan provides a conducive environment for implementing REDD+, notably with its low deforestation and forest degradation rates, political commitment to environmental conservation, more than 50% of its land area under protection and its commitment to carbon neutrality. The government acknowledges the potential of REDD+ to deliver significant benefits to local people and resource managers. However, the risks associated with the implementation of REDD+ activities to local communities needs to be identified, reduced and mitigated in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders. The process requires considerable awareness raising efforts and capacity building of staff and local communities in identifying risks and benefits of REDD+ and developing appropriate risk mitigation measures. Therefore, the RGoB considers awareness raising programmes as a first step in implementing REDD+ activities.
Participants reflecting on discussions regarding REDD+
The Department of Forests and Park Services, which is the focal agency for REDD+, has been working with UNDP and FAO in preparing its Readiness Preparation Proposal, with funding support from the UN-REDD Programme. As part of this process, consultation workshops were recently held at the district level in 14 out of a total of 20 districts in the country. The participants included district officials, Gup and Mangmi (Gewog Leader), GAO (Gewog Administration Officer), Tshogpa (village leader) and Renewable Natural Resources Extension Agents (Agriculture, Forest and Livestock). There were more than 1,200 people involved in the consultation meetings, including women and youth who became familiar with new subjects and issues related to REDD+ activities. The local leaders were also entrusted to carry out similar workshops in their respective villages. The key discussion topics included:
- Climate change and its impacts on the local ecosystem
- Role of forests in climate change and its benefits
- Local communities and how REDD+ activities will enhance the rural community livelihood
- Challenges, risks and benefits from REDD+ activities
In addition to the above issues, concept on Payment for Environmental Services (PES) was also touched upon to ensure broader understanding of the services provided by the forests. REDD+ is seen as a potential PES mechanism at the global level where payments could be earned from carbon sequestration services.
During the REDD+ awareness at national and district levels, the Department of Forests and Park Services used the following methods and tools for information sharing and early dialogue:
- Consultative meetings
- Focus group discussions
- Poster presentation
- Video presentation
A summary of the stakeholders meetings and its outcome include the following:
- Initiative such as REDD+ activities were positively received by the local communities, acknowledging that these activities would improve their livelihood.
- General concerns were expressed that there may be increase of human wildlife conflict in certain areas.
- Concerns were also expressed that REDD+ activities could possibly hinder development initiatives within forested areas.
- Increased aesthetic and recreational value leading to development of more nature-based tourism sector that will enhance local communities’ livelihood.
With the introduction of REDD+ activities, the stakeholders felt that the benefit distribution mechanism would improve or complement the existing community forest mechanism of income generation by the local communities.
Article by: Jigme Tenzin, Watershed Management Division, Department of Forests and Park Services