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patel et al 2013
With the current complexity of issues facing forest and land management, the implementation of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative comes with significant risks, including conflict.
While the exact nature and shape of conflict in REDD+ implementation is difficult to pinpoint, RECOFTC-The Center for People and Forests’ recent study aims to build a preliminary predictive framework to identify possible sources of impairment that may result in conflict over management of forests and natural resources, including REDD+. The framework was developed from an extensive literature review and was tested in three REDD+ pilot project sites in Nepal.
The results indicate that most of the sources of impairment are present in all study sites, particularly issues relating to benefit sharing, which have been main drivers of conflict prior to REDD+. While we found that the application of the framework has been useful in the Nepalese context, there are some limitations in its scope and precision.
Nonetheless, this study points to important implications with regards to REDD+ implementation and conflict management that can be useful for policy makers and practitioners involved in REDD+ strategy designs, as well as other areas of forest management involving outsiders and communities.
Patel, T.; Dhiaulhaq, A.; Gritten, D.; Yasmi, Y.; De Bruyn, T.; Paudel, N.S.; Luintel, H.; Khatri, D.B.; Silori, C.; Suzuki, R. Predicting Future Conflict under REDD+ Implementation. Forests 20134, 343-363.
Full text can be downloaded from here


This was my article published in the Broker,  You can read the original article here

Whenever the media discuss the consequences of deforestation, they often focus on the environmental impacts, like the loss of forest cover and biodiversity, habitat fragmentation, soil erosion, and the loss of carbon contributing to climate change. However, a large amount of research has highlighted that deforestation, including conversion of forests to other land uses like plantations, agriculture or mining, can also have social consequences. One of the most frequent is conflicts between local communities and external actors like logging, plantation and mining companies and government agencies. These are known as community-outsider conflicts.
The link between deforestation and conflict can clearly be seen when overlaying the location of deforestation around the world, as presented in the findings of the recent publication in the journal Science, with where forest conflict hotspots are found. This shows that, for example, Southeast Asia is one such hotspot (Mola-Yudego and Gritten 2010). The nature and scale of forest conversion basically make conflict inevitable because of competing interests and claims, thereby often undermining the needs and interests of the local communities that inhabit the land.
Deforestation-related conflict reflects the power relations between forest users. It is an area in which the legitimate power and interests of different forest stakeholders, like the government, investors, concession holders, local communities, and NGOs interplay. The way in which one of these parties uses its power can be a cause of conflict when it impedes and is unacceptable to other parties. Southeast Asia’s forest policy and governance has a long history of ‘state knows best’ mentality, which is reflected in top-down decision making and in the authority to the government given by laws and regulations, and a history of strong influence of corporations and other businesses in forest management. In order to boost economic development, the governments of Cambodia and Indonesia, for example, conceded significant tracts of land to private companies for investment in large-scale plantations and agriculture expansion through a concession system, which often not only leads to forest degradation but also undermines the rights of local communities.
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A Global concern has risen in the concept of sustainability, particularly in forest sector. The Convention of Biological Diversity has planned to implement more than a hundred programs related to forest biodiversity which aimed at reducing deforestation and forest degradation while creating and maintaining sustainable livelihoods. One of the elements of the convention is titled ‘Conservation, sustainable use and benefit-sharing’ which includes reforestation, wildlife conservation, sustainable wood extraction, recognition of indigenous and local rights, and profit sharing (SCBD 2009).

Indigenous knowledge and system has been increasingly recognized has important role in promoting sustainable forest management, conservation efforts as well as a basis in managing the natural resources in many developing countries (Crevello 2004, p.69; Mulyoutami et al. 2009, p.2054). Furthermore, Crevello (2004, p.70) explained that many indigenous communities in tropics areas continuously use land use system which in line with the concept of sustainability to ensure the availability of natural resources for their future generations. There are many examples that indigenous communities, through customary laws, tried to limit the extraction of natural resources and develop reserves area to protect their land and forests.

Dayak are indigenous communities living in innermost Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) who has their own traditions and practices related to sustainable forest management. The Dayak communities have been studied by many researchers for their sustainable tradition and practices (Crevello 2004; Mulyoutami et al. 2009, p.2055). Although their livelihood are depend on forest resources, the Dayak communities are aware that they need to conserve the natural resources to make sure there is no degradation of resources that will cause negative implication to them and their future generation (Crevello 2003, p.10; Mulyoutami et al. 2009, p.2055).  At this point, I believe that Dayak people have many potentialities in supporting sustainable forest management in Kalimantan Indonesia. It can be achieved if Dayak community are engaged and taken into consideration in forest management and policy making process.

This article seeks to explore the potentialities of Dayak people in promoting sustainable forest management in Kalimantan, Indonesia by identifying their traditions that in line with the criteria of sustainable forest management. The first part of this paper defines and describes the criteria of sustainable forest management and how it can be measured. The second part explains about how Dayak people exemplify those criteria by giving some examples of their traditions and practices that promote sustainable forest management. The third and fourth parts will examine the opportunity and constraint of Dayak’s forest management in relation with broader government policy in Indonesia and present some recommendations for improvement.

Background on Sustainable Forest Management

Sustainable forest management aims to ensure the balance between social, economic and environmental services of forest. Ideally, sustainable forest management should emphasize the balance of quantifiable and unquantifiable aspects of forest such as biodiversity, social value and forest ecosystem health (Lanly 1995 in Kuusipalo 1997 p.96).
In the past, definition of sustainable forest management only focused on sustaining the yield of timber product which steadily declined. Recently, this definition has been critiqued and undergone some changes such as wider recognition of the significance of other forest products and services and social concern. For example, nowadays, any actions related to forest management that causes eviction and marginalization of local communities can be regarded as unsustainable. Moreover, the concept of sustainable forest now also covers the protection of water sources, soils and cultural sites (Higman et al. 2005, p.4).
There are many definitions of sustainable forest management but essentially they are not much different. One definition comes from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) which defines sustainable forest management as the effort to preserve and utilize forest resources while keeping their biodiversity, productivity and ability to regenerate and meet the needs of the present and future generation, and also combining environmental, social and economic function at global, national and local levels (FAO n.d.). In Indonesia, sustainable forest management has been regarded as an approach used in forest production activities which is concerned not only to extract forest product, but also to ensure the continuity of forest productivity and balance between environmental and social functions (Kusuma 2005, p.19).
Sustainable Forest Management can be measured using a set of Criteria and Indicators (C&I). The C&I are developed to provide a tool for assessing, monitoring and reporting the forest condition and management. There are many institutions and organizations that have developed indicator systems for sustainable forest management which cover a wide range of level from the international, national, regional level. However, none of those criteria can be applied for assessing sustainable forest management in every level and situation. To measure a unit or particular forest will need more site-specific indicators (Gough et al. 2008, p.429).
One set of indicators for sustainable forest management in country level is developed by The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). According to the ITTO (2005 p.10-13), sustainable forest management can be measured using seven criteria as key elements of sustainable forest management. Criterion 1, ‘Enabling conditions for sustainable forest management’, emphasizes on the extent of a country’s commitment in achieving sustainable forest management with attention to the availability of policy, regulation and institutional requirement that are needed to promote the achievement of sustainable forest management. Criterion 2 and 3 are ‘Extent and condition of forest’ and ‘Forest ecosystem health’ respectively, consider the permanence and security of a country’s forest area by considering the extent of forest and the health of biological function of forest ecosystems.
Criterion 4, ‘Forest production’, concerns with the sustainability of forest production including timber and non-timber product. The remaining three criteria (5, 6, 7) are ‘Biological diversity’, ‘Soil and water protection’ and ‘Economic, social and cultural aspects’. The latter three criteria emphasize the importance of the conservation and maintenance of biodiversity, soil, and water as well as consider the socio-cultural aspects of forests including the fulfillment of the basic needs of forest dweller and forest dependent people. These criteria will be used to measure how the Dayak people can exemplify some criteria of sustainable forest management

Dayak People and Sustainable Forest Management

Dayak People (Photography by Alain Compost, from

Dayak is indigenous tribes living in innermost Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia. Dayak community can also be found in Malaysian Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak). There are some major groups in Dayak community, such as Kenyah, Punan, Benuaq, and Bentian (Abberger et al. 2002, p.55). Even though there are diverse groups and languages among the Dayak, there are common characteristics that link them together such as tradition, worldviews, symbolisms, burial ceremony, rituals, and social institution (King 1993 in Crevello 2003 p.56).
The term Dayak usually used to distinguish them from Malay people who usually live near the coasts (Crevello 2003, p.56). Based on their research, Joshi et al. (2004, p.ii) explained that the Dayak are traditionally forest inhabitants. The environment has influenced their cultures and beliefs, and vice versa, their culture and beliefs also influence the environment. Their customary law shapes the landscape and regulates the extraction of forest resources from community owned and individual property to ensure that those activities would not compromise the conservation and sustainability. Moreover, the Dayak people are rich in understanding about value and knowledge of biodiversity.
This section focuses on some examples of Dayak traditions and practices which through community management and implemented customary laws can maintain a balance between fulfilling their needs and preserving the environment. Based on the criteria of sustainable forest management developed by the ITTO, Dayak community has traditions and practices that in line with a range of criteria of sustainable forest management.

Tana Ulen
Dayak communities secure the extent and condition of forests which support the criterion 2 of sustainable forest management by conserving the biological diversity through Dayak’s tana ulen system. Tana ulen can simply be defined as protected sites or reserved area. This term is derived from Dayak language: tana/h means land and m/ulen means restricted. Tana ulen is a forested land, usually represented by natural primary forest that protected and regulated by custom (adat).
In Dayak custom, any activities, access and extraction of natural resources from tana ulen is prohibited except the permission from the community leader is issued (Eghenter 2000, p.335; Wahyuni 2003). Exploitation of resources in this area is usually limited to attain food for certain event such as traditional ritual and celebrations held by the community or private affairs. Penalty for the violation of this rule can be pay a fine, acquisition of rice or give other possessions (Simon Devung and Rudy 1998 in Eghenter 2000, p.337).
Tana ulen is divided into some categories, comprising forest groves (ba’i pulong) which include primary forest (pulong mpa’), funeral sites (pulong liyang) and dangerous area (pulong jaka) which are places where accidents or death often occur. Sometimes tana ulen can also in the form of rice fields (uma) and fallow land used for agricultural purposes (jekkau) (Eghenter 2000, p.337).
Generally, the area of tana ulen is located in the upper stream or along the river which is strategically located near the village to make its management and control easier. This area is rich of forest product which is regarded as valuable asset for local communities, such as rattan, hardwood for building house and boats and fish (Eghenter 2000, p.337)
The fact that Dayak conserve as well as sustain the forest is recognized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in its publication titled Beyond Belief. WWF mentioned a location which regarded can promote the conservation effort and regarded as sacred site by The Dayak Tribe, namely The Tembawang Garden in West Kalimantan. This is a forest which functions as cemetery area and also has been planted as fruit garden by Dayak people with approximately 400 different plants and animals (Dudley 2005, p.19).

Sustainable Harvesting
Dayak communities support the sustainable forest production which in line with the Criterion 4 through their sustainable harvesting rules. For example, in their custom, cutting trees that are too small is forbidden and regarded as outlaw. A tree is considered small if less than seven hand-spans (kilan) and may not be cut in protected forest. This measurement corresponds approximately to the 50 cm dbh (diameter at breast height) limit of Indonesian selective logging and planting system (Bennett 2002, p.73). This restriction is may ensure the continuity and availability of forest resources in the future.

Simpukng (Forest garden)
Dayak communities support biological diversity (criterion 5) through simpukng system. In simple term, simpukng is a mixed fruit forest garden which usually located in and formed secondary forest. In their forest garden, Dayak communities plant a variety of trees, crops and herbs which has economic value, such as fruit trees, honey trees, rattan, medicinal plants and other useful vegetation. This practice aims not only to provide an important income source for their livelihood and household but also to provide food, firewood, medicinal plants for daily use as well as for cultural and religious activities. In addition, this practice can also unwittingly promote biodiversity of the forest because it can enrich variety of plants in secondary forest. The simpukng system is also an example how Dayak people through a stage of agriculture intensification, domesticate their forest. However, until now, their traditional knowledge about valuable medicinal plants has not been studied in depth (Mulyoutami et al. 2009, p.2055).

Water Protection
Dayak communities also support the soil and water protection in forest area (criterion 6). Dayak customary law prohibits tree logging around the rivers. Their custom commonly states that people may not cut the trees at the headwaters of rivers. In addition, they also prohibit cutting and damaging the trees around the spring, which is usually used for hunting grounds by Dayak People. This regulation related with the tana ulen system that commonly located at the upper stream or along the river in the Dayak Village. According to this customary law, it can be seen that Dayak communities has a strategy to protect the water catchment area and to safeguard the availability of water for the community. It can also highlight their awareness about the importance of saving the habitat from harm to make sure the balance between ecological and economic functions (Eghenter 2006, p.167).

Socio-cultural aspects
Dayak people can also promote Social and cultural aspects of the forest (Criterion 7). In Dayak communities, the forest is used as a media and place to teach their knowledge and tradition. For example, in the forest, parents teach their children about eatable plants, medicines, poisonous plants, how to hunt, how to avoid wild animals, catch a fish, and others to maintain their sustainable lives. This inherited knowledge and culture will become a valuable asset not only for Dayak communities but also for wider communities if it is studied and developed further. However, until now their traditional medicine is have not been developed and widely utilized for the benefit of wider humankind (Uluk et al. 2001, p.57).

Forest Policy and Management in Indonesia

The legal, policy and institutional aspects are important requirements in the implementation of sustainable forest management because the first criterion of sustainable forest management is ‘Enabling conditions for sustainable forest management’ which draws attention to the needs of policy to support the implementation of sustainable forest management (ITTO 2005, p.10).
In the past, Indonesian forest is managed by the central government or the state under the umbrella of Ministry of Forestry. The Basic Forestry Law No. 5/1967 Article 5 Item 1 states that all forests in the territory of the Republic of Indonesia including their natural resources are regulated by the State (Indonesian Government 1967). This gave the state the authority to manage all the forest throughout the country. In other words, management of forest is centralized in state level.  Indonesia has undergone many changes in its forest policy. This occurs along the reformation in the Indonesian government in 1998. The past and recent policies give opportunities and constraints for Dayak people in managing their forest.

Lack of Recognition and Engagement

During Soeharto Administration Era (1967-1998), The centralization of forest management was obvious and literatures has shown that centralized forest management has caused less participation of local communities, marginalization of local institutions, dissatisfaction and lack of local control toward illegal logging, deforestation and forest degradation. The data shows that the extent of forest in Indonesia decreased from 150 million hectares in 1960 to only 90 million hectares in 2000 (Yonariza & Shivakoti 2007, p.128).
Furthermore, Indonesian government tends to undervalue the traditional forest management undertaken by indigenous people. The government regards it as primitive, inefficient and destructive. Consequently, forest management by indigenous communities tends to be ignored, even seen as a threat in policymaking and management of forest resources (Gunawan et al. 1998 in Siburian 2004, p.129). For example, the Dayak has certain forest management systems that differentiate how to maintain different types of forest. These forest management systems are usually unrecognized and not understood by the government and forest managers (Peluso 2005, p.277)

Conflicts Due to the Policy

In implementing their sustainable tradition and practice, the Dayak communities often conflict with the government policy, particularly related to the Dayak’s customary land (tanah adat) and territory (Kusuma 2005, p.15; Deddy 2006 p.89). For example, Indonesian government has released a policy in forest sector, namely Forest Concession Rights (Hak Pengusahaan Hutan) which granted extraction rights to industrial logging companies.  The problem emerges when the logging concession area is often overlap with indigenous people’s customary land which is owned by indigenous people under the customary law and inherited from their ancestors for a long period of time (Deddy 2006, p.89).

A conflict occurs in Dayak Benuaq village in the Lake Jempang area. It is because PT Lonsum Company, a forest concessionaire company, implements plantation project and land clearing in the area owned by Dayak Communities in the Lake Jempang area. Moreover, the company often acts repressively toward local people. This raises criticism from civil society and NGOs who concern and advocate the Dayak community. (Yonariza & Shivakoti 2007 p. 72)

Despite that, Sirait et al. who conducted mapping research of customary land in Long Uli Village in East Kalimantan, shows the overlaps between the forestry department’s land-use map and the customary land’s map owned by local community. Approximately 30% (5393 ha) of customary land in this village overlaps with the nature reserve and 20% overlaps with a concession project area. This customary land includes the cultivated land, the unrestricted forest and the protected forest. Moreover, most of the village’s cultivated land is either in the nature reserve or the forest concession area. Sirait et al. explained that this problem occur because when tenure maps are prepared by the Director General of Agriculture, local people are not involved in consultation and local customary land are thus ignored. (Sirait et al. 2004, p.411-416).
The overlap of the map and territory has disadvantaged the Dayak people. The explanation section of The Basic Forestry Law states that every activity in the area of nature reserve, conversion forest, production forest and protected forest, without permission from the government, would be considered as violation of the government regulation. As a result, the indigenous people cannot access their land and loss their source of income from forest. These examples show that Dayak communities are harmed economically, culturally and spiritually (Siburian 2004, p.130).
The position of the Dayak communities is weak because their customary law (hukum adat) is inferior to national forestry law. The Basic forestry law No. 5/1967 article 17 states that customary law should not obstruct the implementation of national forest law and policy. It means that if conflict occurs between national and customary law, the government will use the national law as reference and ignore the customary law.

Opportunity in New Policies
After the Soeharto regime fall in 1998, the new government made some changes in forest policy. Law No. 41/1999 contains the recognition of the customary forest (hutan adat) which is usually managed by local indigenous people. Article 4 and 5 says that the state recognizes the customary forest (hutan adat) and  accommodates the adat community rights to extract forest resources for their daily needs and to practice their customary law in managing the forest as long as it does not conflict with national law (Indonesian Government 1999).
Nevertheless, the recognition of customary forest just includes the recognition of customary (adat) community in managing the forest and still does not give indigenous communities the legal property rights of their land (Wollenberg & Kartodihardjo 2002 p.83; Eghenter 2006). This may not satisfy the indigenous people, but at least this new policy provides new hope for indigenous people because their customary forest territories are recognized by national forestry law. Rosenberger (2009, p.24) argues that recognition and empowerment of traditional customary law and opportunity of forest dwelling indigenous people to legally manage their forest is important to promote the success of community-based forestry in Kalimantan.
Indonesian current government also has undergone rapid decentralization. The administration and authority of forest management has been transferred from the state government to the local government. This provides new opportunity for Dayak people as local communities to access and participate in policy making process. Moreover, the new forest law also urges the holder of forest concession to work in cooperation with local people in their projects and encourages local community participation in the forest rehabilitation efforts. This shows that recently, community participation has become an important theme in national forest policy dialogue (Rosenbarger 2009 p.24).


Based on the exploration in the previous section, three actions are therefore suggested to increase the role of Dayak people and other indigenous communities in promoting sustainable forest management in Indonesia.
First, there is urgency to increase the local community engagement in decision making process. Although customary communities are more recognized in the new forest law, however, they are still less engaged in its implementation.  Rosenbarger (2009 p.56) said that participation hopefully can increase people willingness to cooperate in government forest policy and management. Moreover, their participation in decision making process may ensure that the policy product will be more concern to the Dayak people’s rights and needs. Moreover, it also can increase the sense of ownership over resource policy which may improve people willingness to obey the rules and encourage their participation in monitoring of policy implementation at the local level. For example, to prevent illegal logging and timber trafficking.
Second, a stronger commitment is needed to assure the rights of customary communities toward their land and their position in the forest policy and management. The Dayak’s has experienced marginalization in the past. It is because they have no legal tenure of their land and forest. It is suggested that besides the recognition of the customary forest in the forest law No. 41/1999, the government should also produce regulations that secure the indigenous people rights toward their land and property (Wollenberg & Kartodiharjo 2002, p.94).
Third, there should be an effort to improve the capacity of Dayak people to be more professional in forest management. Wollenberg & Kartodiharjo (2002, p.93) said that capacity building is needed to improve awareness, skill and accountability of customary communities and local peoples to improve their ability in decision making process and cooperative action in the implementation of sustainable forest management.


This paper has presented a number of examples of how Dayak communities, although get limited recognition and sometimes conflicts with the government policy and management, have practiced the concept of sustainable forest management in their land and forest. I also argued that sustainable forest management in Indonesia will be better achieved if the Dayak communities involved in forestry management and policy making process.
Some traditions and practices of Dayak people which can support sustainable forest management include the tana ulen system which can conserve and secure the extent of forested land in Indonesia.  In addition, the harvesting rule in Dayak communities and simpukng (forest garden) system can support biological diversity as well as sustainable extraction of forest resources. Dayak communities also support the soil and water protection by regulating tree logging around the rivers and springs as a strategy to safeguard the water catchment area.
However, the forest policy of Indonesian government is not always in line with the Dayak tradition in managing the forest. Although Dayak people have many potential in promoting the sustainability of forest, they are less involved by the government in managing the forest because of centralized forest management and lack of recognition of customary law. The conflicts between Dayak people and timber concession holder often occur because of the overlap between government map and customary map. The effort to solve this problem is needed to refine the condition.
A new hope for indigenous communities emerges in the new forest policy in Indonesia. Recently, Indonesia has recognized the existence of customary forest (hutan adat) in the Forest Law No. 41 in 1999. However, although customary forest is now acknowledged by the new forest law, clarification of the indigenous land rights and their authority toward forest management is still needed. Indonesian government should not end up with the current progress in decentralization and forest law reform. The capacity building of forest local communities is also needed to increase their ability to participate and cooperate with the government policy in the sustainable forest management.


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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their report has confidently confirmed that climate change is happening (IPCC 2007). If there is no effort to limit CO2 emissions, Melillo et al. (1990) predicts that CO2 concentration will reach 500 ppmv by the year 2040 and 800 ppmv by the year 2100. Continuous addition of the greenhouse gases such as CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere may exacerbate the climate change in the future. A simulation using General Circulation Models (GCM) for doubled levels of atmospheric CO2 predict a mean annual global temperature increase in a range of between 1.5 and 4.5oC (Mitchell et al. 1990; McGuire & Joice 2005). The increase in global temperature is predicted to influence global hydrological cycle and leads to the possibility of more intense droughts in some places and conversely more floods in other places (Kattenberg et al. 1996).

Plants have adapted to climatic conditions such as temperature, CO2 concentration and precipitation over long periods of time to become better suited to its ecosystem (Streck et al. 2008). Changes in those climatic factors therefore have the potential effect to the plant, including plants productivity (McGuire and Joice 2005; Hawkins et al. 2008). Plant productivity and the carbon cycle are likely to be altered by these climatic changes. Furthermore, although there are uncertainties, various studies on the possible effect of climate change on plant productivity reveals that too high temperature and severe drought may decrease plant productivity while elevated CO2 may increase plant productivity if there is no limiting factor.

In this paper, I attempt to explain about how climate change will influence plant productivity and the carbon cycle. The first part of this paper describes correlation between climate, plant productivity and the carbon cycle. The second part explains the effect of climate change to plant productivity which is divided into the effect of temperature changes, elevated CO2 and changes in rainfall pattern. The last part discusses uncertainties and limitations in predicting the future impact of climate change to the plant productivity.

Linkage between Climate, Plant Productivity and the Carbon Cycle

Climate is long-term weather pattern at a particular place resulted from the interaction of the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, the biosphere and the earth surface, which are the elements that influence the earth’s climate system dynamics (Birdsley et al. 1995; Pittock 2009; World Meteorological Organization, no date). The status of the climate system is often changes from year to year, or decade to decade. Changes in the weather pattern over long time period, such as one century to another, are usually referred to as ‘climate change’(Pittock, 2009).

Climate, plant and the carbon cycle are interrelated in a number of ways. First, plants are sensitive to climatic change. Plants have adapted to climatic, atmospheric and soil conditions such as temperature and precipitation over long periods of time as an adaptation to its ecosystem. It means that dramatic change of these variables may affect many aspects of the plants including its productivity, development, distribution and increase its vulnerability to pests and fires (Streck et al. 2008).

Second, plant productivity is interrelated with the carbon cycle. As part of the carbon cycle, plants take part in the transfer of carbon through converting carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and water (H2O) into Carbohydrate (C6H12O6) using solar energy. This is part of the process called photosynthesis. Conversely, plants release carbon to the atmosphere when they respire (Ajtay et al. 1979; Garnaut 2008). Photosynthesis by terrestrial vegetation accounts for about half of the carbon that annually cycles between Earth and the atmosphere (Hawkins et al 2008). The ability of plants to photosynthesize is one of the explanations that terrestrial plants have been influencing the carbon cycle and become increasingly greater carbon sinks over the past 50 years (Houghton 2007).

The exchange of carbon between plant and the atmosphere may be explained by four related terms, namely Gross Primary Productivity (GPP), Net Primary Productivity (NPP), Net Ecosystem Productivity (NEP) and Net Biome Productivity (NBP). The definitions among those terms are sometimes different in the literatures. Grace and Zhang (2006) define GPP as the rate at which the vegetation capture and store the carbon from atmosphere in the process of photosynthesis. NPP is a result of GPP minus autotrophic respiration (Ra). NEP or sometimes called as Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE) is the the result of GPP minus autotrophic and heterotrophic respiration (Rh). NBP is the term used to measure the flux at a broader spatial and time scale (1 km2 upwards and 1 year upwards), which also take the disturbances into account.

These terms are interconnected as follows (Grace and Zhang 2006):


NPP = P Ra

NEP = P Ra – Rh

NBP = P Ra – Rh – D

The Effect of Climate Change on Plant Productivity and the Carbon Cycle

The main variables of climate change are elevated carbon dioxide (CO2), changes in precipitation and changes in temperature (Hawkins 2008). In this part, I will explain the effect of climate change on plant productivity which mainly focuses on these main variables and divided into three parts: the effect of the increase in temperature, elevated CO2 and changes in rainfall pattern.


The Effect of Increases in Temperature

The existing studies shows that direct effect of temperature changes are expected to be more significant than any other climatic variables (Kehlenbeck & Schrader 2007). The increase of temperature may affect four major aspects related to plant growth, namely photosynthesis, respiration, soil nutrients and development (Lewis 2005).

Although each plant has different characteristic response to temperature, generally, the increase of temperature will have positive impact on plant growth and development especially in low temperature regions when limitations from other factors are absent (e.g. water). Warmer temperature will help plants in very cold regions to grow because most biological activities of plants are hard to occur when temperature is below 0-5oC (Melillo 1990; Bisgrove & Hadley 2002). Furthermore, higher temperature will make growth season longer which increases plant growth in polar region (Kehlenbeck & Schrader 2007).

However, although the response of photosynthesis is initially positive, it will slow or even decline after reaching the optimum range which varies from plant to plant. This decline occurs because too high temperature may increase the rate of respiration which may exceeds the optimum level and may caused death of the plant and plants becoming a CO2 source (Mellilo 1990; Bisgrove & Hadley 2002; Hawkins et al 2008).

Furthermore, Melillo (1990) stated that the optimum temperature range for photosynthesis is between 20-35oC. Figure 1 shows that the rate of respiration may increase when temperature continuously increases. When the rate of respiration exceeds the rate of photosynthesis, it may cause net carbon assimilation become negative. These differences between photosynthesis and respiration are used as the argument that the rising temperature may caused the decrease of net carbon uptake by plants.

Figure 1: the illustration of plant responses to temperature. (a) general responses of plant growth, (b) general responses of photosynthesis and respiration (Mellilo 1990).

In addition, Grace and Zhang (2006) find that the increase of temperature has more significant impact on respiration than its impact on GPP. This is because the increase of respiration is sharper than the increases of GPP. As a result, the NEP continuously declines. Furthermore, when annual temperature reaches 10-14oC, NEP will be negative, under both normal and doubled CO2 concentration. (Figure 2). This finding is based on data from the boreal forest which is analyzed using soil–plant–atmosphere (SPA) model. Grace and Zhang also claimed that the same result will be found if this modeling is applied with other biomes, as long as there is an assumption that the temperature can increase heterotrophic respiration.

Figure 2. Prediction of the effect of temperature on plant productivity in boreal forest; (a) is under normal CO2 and (b) doubled CO2 concentration (Grace & Zhang 2006).

The Effect of Elevated CO2

Lloyd & Farquhar (1996) suggest that there are axioms in various literatures related to plant responses to elevated CO2: first, correlation between plant growth and CO2 can be explained by the concept of photosynthesis dependence to CO2. Second, plant response to CO2 is limited by the availability of nutrients. This is because photosynthesis needs nutrients besides CO2. In other words, plant will respond less to rising CO2 if it grows in poor nutrient condition.

Experiments find that elevated CO2 may increase rates of photosynthesis, increase productivity and increase biomass in most C3 Plants (Houghton 2007). One of the explanations for this increase is because elevated CO2 may increase carboxylation rates and decrease oxygenation rates of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) in C3 Plants, which leads to a higher net rate of photosynthesis and increased synthesis of carbohydrate (Stitt & Krapp 1999). Furthermore, Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM) also predicts that doubled CO2 without temperature change will increase 16.3% of global NPP (Melillo et al. 1993).

However, TEM also predicts that different vegetation types express different responses to elevated CO2. For example, it is predicted that in tropical ecosystem, the NPP will increase 22.2% of the global increase while in many northern and temperate ecosystems, elevated CO2 may not much affect plant productivity. This is because in northern and temperate ecosystem type, NPP is limited by Nitrogen availability in the soil. Under low nutrient conditions, TEM predicts that this ecosystem will have difficulties to transform elevated CO2 into production (Melillo et al. 1993). Moreover, CO2 is just one of many organic substrates that are needed by plants, so the long-term response of photosynthesis and growth to elevated CO2 will depend on the availability of mineral nutrients (Stitt & Krapp 1999).

Besides nutrient availability, there are other limitation of the impact of CO2 to plant productivity, such as plant acclimatization and stomatal response to water availability. The increase of NPP is constrained by the acclimatization of plant to elevated CO2 because after the acclimatization, the photosynthetic response is decreased. This is because in the long term, elevated CO2 condition may cause the accumulation of carbohydrates in the plant tissues which may reduce the photosynthetic rates (Bisgrove & Hadley 2002).

The increase of CO2 may influence the response of stomata which in turn may affect the plant’s NPP. The exchange of carbon from the atmosphere to the plant is through the stomata. If the soil is poor of water, the stomata will close more often to restrict water loss. On one hand, it helps plant to save the water supply but on the other hand, this may prevent the movement of carbon into the plant which may reduce the GPP and NPP. Conversely, if water is abundant, it will increase plant productivity. So, the impact of rising CO2 to plant productivity may depend on the balance of water in the soil (McGuire & Joyce 2005).

The Effect of Changes in Rainfall Pattern

Water is a crucial element needed for photosynthesis and the main chemical component of plants (Boisvenue 2006). It is predicted that future changes in precipitation may impact water availability and substantially impact plant productivity. One of the explanations for such changes is that when water availability in the soil declines, it can reduce water uptake by plants and also restrict nutrient absorption (e.g. Nitrogen) by roots and its transportation to the plant cells (Hanson 2000).

Current research analyzing satellite and global climate data in period of 2000 to 2009 shows that NPP declines of 0.55 petagram Carbon globally. This decline is attributed to widespread and intense droughts in some location in the last decade (Zhao & Running 2010). Many drought events are identified in period of 2000-2009. For example, high temperature driven drought has caused 30% reduction in GPP over Europe in 2003 (Ciais et al. 2003). Using terrestrial biosphere simulation model, Ciais et al. find a mean reduction in NPP of 16 gCm-2 month-1 in the summer of 2003 compared to 1998–2002, corresponding to a GPP reduction of 28gCm-2month-1.If the drought events continuously increase in the future, it is estimated that it will make temperate ecosystems as carbon sources and affect the pattern of the future carbon cycle (Ciais et al., 2003). In addition, the 100-milimeter increase in water decline has caused the Amazon forest lost 5.3 megagrams of carbon per hectare of aboveground biomass. This makes the Amazon more vulnerable to water stress in the future (Philips et al. 2009).

Those current data is contradictory to the previous studies by Nemani et al. (2003) who also use climatic and satellite data and suggest that global climate change increased NPP by 3.4 petagrams of carbon over 1982-1999 period (18 years). This increase is attributed to the increase of temperature and solar radiation which reduce several climatic restrictions to plant growth (Nemani et al. 2003)


In the previous section, I have reviewed some predictions of the effect of climate change to plant productivity. Even though the prediction of the effect of climate change has been the subject of many literatures and researches in the last few years, however, we have not reach a 100% confidence to accurately predict what and how the future climate change effect will be. Some tools, such as modeling has been used by researchers for developing climate scenarios that can be used to predict the effects that climate change may have on ecosystems. However, there are still weaknesses and uncertainties in the prediction (Massman 1995).

The weaknesses of a model which caused uncertainties may come from the lack of understanding on the complex biological process involved which may lead to the ‘weak’ hypothesis, difficulties in mathematical formulations and our inability to cover all the components of the natural variations (Tian et al. 2009).  Cramer et al. (1999) said that much of the remaining uncertainty comes from the role of human activities to alter terrestrial vegetation, such as land use change and deforestation which may increase CO2 in the atmosphere.

The uncertainties may also come from a range of possible response from different or specific species. For example, whilst many plant species may adapt to the rising CO2 quickly, many others maybe not. Plants with certain photosynthetic pathways or growth strategies maybe able to take advantage of changing conditions in any given habitat while the other maybe not. Hence, there are many potential effects of the climate change at plant community level (Hawkins et al. 2008)


This paper attempts to explain about the effect of climate change to plant productivity and the carbon cycle by focusing on three climate change variables; the increase of temperature, CO2 concentration and rainfall pattern. Productivity and carbon cycle are interrelated and may influence each other. In a simple way, it can be explained by the process of photosynthesis and respiration where the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and plant occur.

The effect of temperature change is generally positive to increase the productivity by enhancing the photosynthesis as long as the temperature is in a range of optimum level. When temperature exceeds the optimum level, it will increase the rate of respiration causing the NPP continuously declined. Furthermore, Grace and Zhang (2006) find that increase of respiration is sharper than the increases of GPP. As a result, the NEP continuously declines. Furthermore, when annual temperature reaches 10-14oC, NEP will be negative under both normal and doubled CO2 concentration.

Experiments find that elevated CO2 may increase plant productivity by increase carboxylation rates of RUBISCO in C3 Plants. Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM) predicts that doubled CO2 will increase 16.3% of the global NPP (Melillo et al. 1993). However, different response is occur in many northern and temperate ecosystems where elevated CO2 may not much affect plant productivity because of lack of Nitrogen in the soil.

The effect of CO2 to plant productivity may be limited by some factors, such as Nitrogen availability, plant acclimatization and water availability. Under low Nitrogen conditions, plants will have difficulties to transform elevated CO2 into production. Moreover, in the long term, elevated CO2 condition may cause the accumulation of carbohydrates in the plant tissues which may reduce the photosynthetic rates or decrease photosynthetic response to elevated CO2.

In addition, current study on the effect of drought on productivity shows that drought in the period of 2000-2009 has reduced NPP by 0.55 petagram Carbon globally. This is contradictory to the previous studies by Nemani et al. (2003) who suggest that global climate change increased NPP by 3.4 petagrams of carbon over 1982-1999 period.

Finally, this paper also identifies some limitations in predicting the effect of climate change to plant productivity, especially in the use of simulation model in the prediction. Regardless of their advancement and sophistication, many researchers (Massman 1995; Cramer et al. 1999; Tian et al. 2009) argue that climate model, as it is only simplified version of the complex climate system, has many weaknesses due to the lack of understanding on the complex biological process and our inability to cover all the components of the natural variations. Furthermore, there are also suggestions to cover the role of human activities in altering terrestrial vegetation, such as deforestation into climate modeling, because this activity may increase the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. It seems that climate modeling will continue to improve as understandings of the complexity of the earth system improve.



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1. Introduction

United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the Copenhagen Accord reasserted the importance of reducing emission from deforestation through REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus) in developing countries and urged developed countries to provide financial support for this climate change mitigation effort. UNFCCC also decided to establish Copenhagen Green Climate Fund as an operating manager of the financial mechanism to support projects, policies and activities related to climate change mitigation in developing countries, including REDD-Plus (UNFCCC 2009).

Forest sector has been regarded as one of big contributors of greenhouse gases that caused global warming. IPCC in its synthesis report states that forestry has contributed about 17% of total anthropogenic GHGs emissions, more than emission from transportation sector which only 13.1% (IPCC 2007, p.5). Accordingly, reducing emission from deforestation becomes important component in the global mitigation effort because this measurement has the potential to reduce emission significantly, quickly and cheaply (Bond et al. 2009, p.vii). Moreover, Nicholas Stern in his review on the economics of climate change stated that preventing deforestation is a cheap measurement to cut the emission from non-energy sector, compared to other option of climate change mitigation (Stern 2006, p.13).

More than just reducing the emission from deforestation, REDD+ promises many extra benefits such as enhancing the protection of biodiversity, soil, water, poverty alleviation and improving forest management and governance (Brown 2008, p.109). However, beside its benefits, the implementation of REDD+ also poses many potential problems, particularly to the indigenous peoples and forest dependent communities whom their livelihood, tradition and culture are depend on forest resources. A range of risks related to REDD+ threaten indigenous people including land and property rights, fairness of financial distribution and possible eviction from their land.

Indigenous people ought to be considered in the REDD+ negotiation and other forestry programs because for indigenous people, forests are homes and place for them to earn a living. Based on the data, there are approximately 1.5 billion indigenous people who are directly and indirectly dependent to forest resources (World Bank 2008, p.15). Goldberg and Badua (2008, p.59) in their article titled ‘Do People Have Standing?’ depicts the dilemma faced by indigenous people whether they should support the efforts to protect the forest for reducing the emission, or strive against it. This dilemma arises because on the one hand, this effort could preserve their land and forest, but on the other hand, this effort may threaten their rights, customs and culture.

2. Forest, Indigenous People and REDD+

Indigenous Child in Brazil (Source:

The challenge in the discussion about REDD+ and indigenous people is to make clear the definition of indigenous people and to determine who are included in this group of people. There was a convention about indigenous and tribal people in 1989 conducted by International Labor Organization (ILO), but this convention did not clearly define who indigenous and tribal peoples are. However, the indigenous people can be identified by using some criteria. According to ILO (1989) and Lyons and Mayall (2003, p.72) the indigenous people are those who: first, identify their self as indigenous peoples. This self-recognition is considered as basic criteria of the indigenous peoples. Second, they hold their own culture and tradition which are different from other communities of the national population, such as language, customs and rituals.

Third, they have their own social organization and political systems in their community. And fourth, Indigenous people are who has lived in certain area for a long time with historical continuity or before new comers colonized or “invaded” their area. In this paper, the term of indigenous people is limited to the indigenous people who live in forest area and who depend on forest resources for their livelihood, tradition and culture (ILO 1989; Lyons and Mayall 2003, p.72).

Indigenous people, climate change and forest are interrelated in a number of ways. First, a great number of Indigenous people are forest dweller and dependent on forest resources. According to the World Bank, the number of indigenous people who are completely dependent on forest resources are approximately 60 million people, other 350 million people are very dependent on forest, and about 1.2 billion are dependent on agro forestry (World Bank 2008, p.15). Many forests in tropical region are dwelled by various inhabiting communities and considered as the richest diversity of inhabiting peoples. At least 1,400 different indigenous peoples are living in tropical forest area. (Commission Européenne 1994 in Macchi 2008, p.39).

Indigenous people have maintained and managed the forest for a long period of time. There are many traditional knowledge in indigenous people communities that can support the conservation and sustainable forest management which potential to support the implementation of REDD+. Their experience and traditional knowledge could play significant role to support climate change mitigation efforts (Scheliha and Christophersen 2009).

Second, forests and its inhabitants are vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Since a long time period, forest ecosystem has been adapting to its surrounding climate and temperature. If those surrounding conditions change, forest ecosystem will be dreadfully affected. Vast area of forest could be lost because of these changes, which in turn can exacerbate the climate change. Hence, there is an urgent need to take strategic action to mitigate as well as adapt to the climate change. (Streck et al. 2008, p.4)

Third, forest sector is expected to play a significant role in mitigating climate change. Forests have the potential to absorb or act as a ‘sink’ of global carbon emission and have ability to store a large amount of carbons for a long period of time (Streck 2008, p.5). These have become consideration of the governments to create a policy that include reducing emission from deforestation in the global effort to mitigate climate change in post-2012 climate regime.


Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) is a set of objectives and actions to reduce the emission from forest destruction and has been negotiated under the umbrella of The UNFCCC (Silvestrum 2009). The basic rationale of REDD+ is to reward through incentives to the countries, projects, or communities who can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from deforestation (Angelsen 2008, p.viii)

REDD+ provides opportunity for developing countries to get financial incentive as a compensation for their effort to conserve their forest. This opportunity can be seen from the commitment of some developed countries which has declared at Copenhagen to provide 3.5 billion dollars to encourage the implementation of REDD+ over the next three years (Brown 2010, p.240). Furthermore, recently in The Oslo Climate and Forest Conference 27 May 2010, some developed countries has promised to provide more than 4 billion dollars to support developing countries in protecting their forests for emission reductions (MacDougall 2010).

Formal discussion about REDD+ under auspices of UNFCCC is started at the eleventh Conference of the Parties (COP 11) and since that time, the concept of REDD has been debated and experienced some changes. The first concept of Reducing Emission from Deforestation (RED) with single D was suggested through a proposal submitted by Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea which both are members of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. In their proposal, the two nations suggested that preservation of tropical forest can be sponsored by the carbon market. Despite this, their proposal also stated that RED mechanism could support developing countries to achieve sustainable development through their effort to cut emission from forest (Wainwright 2009 cited in Evidente 2009, p.487).

Slightly different with the previous proposal, in 2006, Brazil proposed that reducing emission from deforestation should be achieved through a public fund mechanism instead of relying on carbon market. Public fund in this context means that the fund comes from donation from developed countries for developing countries. This based on the argument that RED scheme is not an effort to offset the emission from industrialized countries, but as a positive incentives for developing countries to reduce their own emission.

In the following debate, there are critiques to the proposal that only focuses on deforestation. Some countries suggest to add forest degradation in REDD scheme. Afterwards, during the climate talks in Ghana, August 2008, this discourse come to an idea to integrate the effort of reducing emission from deforestation, forest degradation, sustainable forest management and conservation in one package and then come to the term REDD-plus (Wainwright et al. 2008 cited in Evidente et al. 2009). For practical reason, in this essay, the term REDD will also include REDD-plus.

Position of Indigenous People in REDD+ Negotiation

In order to safeguard their rights, Indigenous people show a big effort in term of getting the acknowledgement and place in REDD+ negotiations. When Conference of Parties (COP) 13 held in Bali, The large number of indigenous people ask the forum to recognize and mention explicitly the indigenous people rights in the REDD decision. Their effort was not fully successful at that time but at least they succeeded to persuade the UNFCCC to put the term of indigenous people in the preamble of COP 13 decision 2/CP 13 that stated: “the needs of local and indigenous communities should be addressed when action is taken to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries” (Griffith 2009, p.7).

Although the REDD+ decision could affect them directly and indirectly, indigenous people are only observers and has only limited role in the negotiation and decision making process of UNFCCC. They advocated to improve their position to ensure that they can effectively influence the decision making process like what they had in other convention like UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and UN convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Unfortunately, the parties did not approve this demand and just give opportunity for their representatives to be observers in the UNFCCC meetings which means that they do not have voting rights in the forum (Griffith 2009, p.9). However, although their engagement is very limited, at least, the current international discussion about REDD has include a greater attention and focus to the indigenous people rights than any other policy negotiated under the UNFCCC in the past (Barnsley 2008, p.31).

3. The Implication and Possible Problem of REDD+ to the Indigenous People

Like many other options in climate change mitigation, the implementation of REDD could not free from the advantages and disadvantages or opportunities and risks, particularly to the indigenous people. Considering the differences in forest management and systems from one place to another, the negative and positive implication of REDD to the indigenous people will depend on where, who and how the particular REDD program is implemented. This section will discuss the possible risks and opportunity for indigenous people in relation with the implementation of REDD.

Possible Benefits and Opportunities for Indigenous People

The main goal of REDD+ is emission reductions to mitigate the climate change. So, if this goal is achieved, it will benefit all human beings in the world, including indigenous people who are most affected by the climate change (Barnsley 2008, p.47). More than that, REDD+ also offers various co-benefits for the indigenous people and forest dwelling communities such as providing new source of income and protecting their homes, livelihood and biodiversity.

New Source of Income

In the implementation of REDD+, indigenous communities may have the opportunity to earn money as additional source of income from direct financial incentive or from other kinds indirect revenue. This opportunity may come from the emergence of international carbon market or emission trading for financing emission reduction or offset projects. For example, if a company emits the emission more than its cap, they should buy additional carbon credits from other company that have the surplus of carbon credit. Alternatively, to offset the excess emission, the company can pay through financing the emission reduction programs conducted by the government or communities. This is where indigenous people can take the opportunity through their forestry activities and land management to provide the offsets and get payment from it (Barnsley 2008, p.25, 47).

This also shows that REDD+ bring a new hope in alleviating the poverty by providing financial incentive to rural and forest communities. The incentive is given as reward for their contribution in forest conservation. Furthermore, REDD may also enhances the equity of indigenous people and forest dependent people who are often lack of attention in most developing countries. (Brown et. al 2008, p.110)

Only limited experience exists to date regarding the implementation of REDD+. In a briefing paper of The International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), Viana (2009) gives an example of success stories of REDD pilot project namely the Juma Sustainable Development Reserve Project in Amazonas, Brazil. This project is claimed as the first REDD project that qualifies the standard of Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA), and this project let the local communities and indigenous people get the entire benefits from the carbon markets through a forest conservation grant mechanism. Technically, each local community received debit card for receiving the money as a reward for conserving their forest. Moreover, the local community also gets sponsorship and donation for their organizational and social activities, such as education, health, communication and transportation.

Home, Livelihood and Biodiversity

Forests are homes as well as source of resources which directly support the livelihoods of Indigenous people. The loss of forest means they will lose their livelihood and will aggravate the poverty. Hence, any effort to protect forest such REDD+ will also support indigenous people’s livelihood (Parker 2008. P.14). Moreover, for indigenous people, forest does not only provide shelter but also provide variety of products ranging from timber to non-timber products such as fruits, nuts, coffee, rubber, and medicinal plants that can be used to meet their daily necessities or they can sell it for income generation (Scheliha and Christophersen 2009, p.19).

In addition, prevention of deforestation can also protect the biodiversity of forest. Biodiversity is important in helping indigenous people to adapt to the climate change. Scheliha and Christophersen argue that a wide-range of non-timber forest products is a key element of human adaptation to climate change, especially for indigenous people, as it reduces the risk such as hunger when some forest product or food are no longer available or become extinct because of changing climate. In addition, biodiversity also offers a wide-range of forest product for income generation for indigenous people who are usually poor and rely on forest resources for livelihood. Based on this example, it is reasonable that any effort for avoiding deforestation and forest degradation can safeguard Indigenous people’s homes and livelihood as well as alleviate their poverty. (Scheliha and Christophersen 2009, p.19).

‘Co-benefits’ debate in REDD+ negotiation

The inclusion of co-benefit to REDD+ scheme design is very debatable. For example, the opponent of this inclusion idea argue that the main focus and objective of REDD+ is to mitigate climate change, not poverty. Therefore, the step to be done is just to make sure that REDD+ would not detriment the poor people (Brown et. al 2008, p.109).

In contrast, the proponent argue that delivering co-benefits to the poor such as indigenous people is a key factor of REDD to be succeed. This argument is considering on the fact that indigenous people are the immediate forest managers, who are often poor and very dependent to forest resources. The pro-poor policy will also reduce possible risk of rejection from forest communities to REDD+ effort. Moreover, there are moral argument that REDD+ has potentiality to improve the forest people well-being, promote sustainable development in rural areas as well as to address the interest of communities that has legitimate rights to forest and who might be affected by REDD+ implementation (Brown et al. 2008, p.109).

Possible Problems and Negative Impacts to the Indigenous People

In spite of those benefits, REDD+ may poses a range of risks to the indigenous peoples, or in a worst a case scenario, may cause harm (Griffiths 2008; Bond 2009). Some potential areas of concern that the implementation of REDD+ might negatively impact indigenous people include:

Loss of Access to Forest

There are concerns among indigenous peoples that their rights on land and territory will be disturbed by the establishment of some protected areas as a response to REDD+ (Fry 2008, p.177). These concerns is reasonable because of experiences in the past that indigenous peoples often conflict with the governments and private companies for access and manage the forest. For example, when the Indonesian government establish forest concession system (HPH) which gives private companies the rights to extract timber from particular concession area, the indigenous people in some area loss their rights to access and obtain forest resources for their daily needs or to get traditional medicinal plants in the concession area where has been inhabited by indigenous people for a long time period (Siburian 2004, p.130-131). The access of indigenous people to forest should become a concern because often, indigenous people are too poor to buy alternative foods and forest products when their access to forest is prohibited (Ravels 2008 in Silvestrum 2009, p.24).

Worse than access restriction issue, REDD+ may also lead to the eviction of the indigenous people from their area. Smith (2007, p.33) in his book titled The Carbon Neutral Myth gives a example from the violent eviction of The Benet, indigenous people in Uganda, as the impact of the declaration of Mount Elgon as a national park in 1993 and FACE (Forests Absorbing Carbon-dioxide Emissions) Foundation’s tree planting project in 1994.

In cooperation with the Uganda Wildlife Authoritity (UWA), FACE decided to plant trees on 25,000 hectares in the area of Mount Elgon National Park. The projects have forced local community of Mount Elgon to leave the protected area and prohibit them to get food and traditional material from the forest. Furthermore, the park rangers have killed more than 50 people in 2004. This experience shows a clear picture that mitigation measure can grab the land and caused exclusion of the indigenous people from their territory (Smith 2007, p.33).

This is contrary to The United Nations Declaration on rights of indigenous people that has assured the right of indigenous people to their land and access to it. Article 26 of the declaration stated that “Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use” (UNDRIP 2007).

Protest against proposed programs like REDD+ Source:

Land and Carbon Rights

Another issue related to the implementation of REDD+ is that introducing carbon rights and entitlement over land will create new property and commodity associated with forest. This issue is related to the question of who should receive the incentives and who is authoritative to manage the forest. The Government of Western Australia (2005, p.1) defines the carbon right as the right to any benefit of carbon sequestration arising from a forested land that enable the holder to get money from the carbon market for greenhouse gas emission offsets.

Wollenberg and Baginski (2009, p.5) argue that market mechanism in carbon forestry tend to formalize the land rights which could disregard indigenous customary system and marginalize informal land rights holder. Ian Fry (2008, p.177) said that the problem of indigenous people is that often they do not hold formal tenure of their land and forest. Due to not having formal property rights, Indigenous people fear their rights to land will be compromised and they will get less benefit from the carbon market. Worse than that, when the carbon rights applied to the land occupied and used by indigenous people, this may enable one or a group of actor to exclude indigenous people from their land

These possible problems shows that tenure and property issue is not just a matter of relationship between person and land, but also social relation by which a person, a group of person or a company feel competent and entitled to eliminate and exclude others from opportunities to get benefit from a piece of land and the use of it (Macpherson 1983 in Saunders 2002). Inability to clarify the tenure right and allowing the market to define rights that are not acceptable to indigenous people and government may also lead to conflicts. Hence, it is necessary for policy makers and stakeholders of REDD+ to clarify these issue in the implementation of REDD+ to make it more effective, equitable as well as fulfill indigenous people rights.

Fairness in Profit Sharing

Another possible risk threatened the indigenous people is about fairness in the share of REDD+ fund. Brown (2008, p.133) said that the increase of value on forest land because of the implementation of REDD may tempt the government and commercial interest to monopolize the profit from carbon rights as well as actively or passively ignore the rights of indigenous people to get financial benefit from the protection of forest. Mrilalini Rai (2009) argue that many REDD+ projects are administered by governments, large non-government organizations and international agencies which may use top-down management approach. This mechanism can cause the risk of unfair distribution of the fund and Indigenous people would have less access to the money as the reward for their role in the protection of the forest and biodiversity.

Moreover, the risk of indigenous people to experience injustice in the financial distribution is worsened with the corruption issue. Large new financial flow seems to bring new opportunities for corruption especially for countries that has a bad record on forest fund management in the past. Lovera (2008, p.6) in his briefing note released by Global Forest Coalition also shows this apprehension. The rapid enhancement of financial support for the reducing emission from deforestation could emerge the risk of misappropriation of the fund committed by elite either in government or in community level.

This argument is reasonable because some research on past policy on forest proved that corruption on forest sector often occurs. For example, Barr et al. (2010) in his study about the implementation of a reforestation scheme in Indonesia, namely The Reforestation Fund (Dana Reboisasi) run by Ministry of Forestry to finance reforestation and forest rehabilitation program, shows that since 1989 the Restoration Fund has had receipts of US $5.8 billion from various sources. Ten years later, the external audit by Ernst & Young revealed that billions of dollars was lost. This is evidence that there has been mismanagement of the fund. The corruption can be done in many ways such as marking up the cost as well as overstated areas planted. Since reformation era in 1998, Indonesian governments have taken steps to improve the financial governance by withdrawing the reforestation fund authority from the Ministry of Forestry to the Ministry of Finance and strengthening the Supreme Audit Institution to monitor public financial assets Barr et al. (2010, p.4-15).

What can be learned from Indonesian experience is that to make sure that in the implementation of REDD+ it is urgent to ensure that the corruption will not occur and the benefit of REDD+ would reach the people entitled to receive it. REDD+ should have a certain mechanism that prevent the corruption by strengthening the monitoring of the financial transactions in REDD+.

Socio-Cultural Impact

Another thing that sometimes forgotten in the discussion of the impact of REDD+ to indigenous people is about its possible impact to the social and cultural life of indigenous people. As discussed earlier that indigenous people has their own culture, tradition, customs and rituals which they hold firmly. Corpuz et al. (2008, p.32) stated that the designation of their forest to become carbon storage and used for emission trading, not only can obstruct the indigenous people to access the forest, but also can possibly prevent them to practice their tradition and customary system in managing the forest. Moreover, it can also prevent them to use the forest for traditional ceremony and ritual purposes.

Corpuz et al. (2008) also argue that some of indigenous spiritual and religious ceremonies are not being practiced anymore because of their exclusion from their forest and land. In addition, as many indigenous communities are having a sacred sites in the forest, it is possible that many of the area of REDD+ activities will be overlap with these sacred sites.

These possible risks are become the arguments of indigenous people who are afraid about the impact of REDD+ implementation, like what is expressed in the statement of the International Forum of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change (IFIPCC) at the COP 13th of the UNFCCC in Bali. They stated:

“REDD+ will not benefit Indigenous Peoples, but in fact, it will result in more violations of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. It will increase the violation of our Human Rights, our rights to our lands, territories and resources, steal our land, cause forced evictions, prevent access and threaten indigenous agriculture practices, destroy biodiversity and culture diversity and cause social conflicts. Under REDD, States and Carbon Traders will take more control over our forests.” (Forest People Program 2007)

In order to avoid these risks and pessimisms, it is necessary to find strategic steps in the planning and implementation of REDD+.

4. Approaches to Reduce Possible Risks

There are several approaches that could be used to minimize possible risks to the indigenous people and in the same time achieve the objective of REDD+ including monitoring, transparency, land and property clarification, and the increase of the engagement of indigenous people in planning and implementation.

Monitoring and Transparency

In the implementation of REDD+, monitoring system will play a crucial role to make sure that the REDD+ fund is used in proper way and target. The Eliasch Review recommends a mechanism similar to Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to promote the transparency in the forest countries (Eliasch 2008, p.206).

The basic concept of the EITI is that companies announce how much money they give to the government, and the government also publishes how much money they received from the companies and how that money is used. After that, those two published report will be assessed by independent monitoring body or civil society for its accountability. This transparent publication and reporting system could be an alternative mechanism in carbon finance which may involve companies, governments and civil societies.

The implementation of similar mechanism like EITI in carbon finance will require the freedom and strength of civil society to ensure that the fund is managed properly and the benefit is distributed for the prosperity of all citizens. Consequently, the civil society should improve their understanding of the climate change, forestry and monitoring mechanism (Eliasch 2008, p.207).

Land Rights Clarification

Ian Fry suggests that if market mechanism is used in the implementation of REDD, it would need to clarify the land rights of indigenous people as well as ensure legal and institutional requirement to safeguard the rights of indigenous people and forest communities (fry 2008, p.178) Furthermore, Wollenberg & Baginski suggest that in spite of clarification of rights to land, it would also need to clarify the indigenous people rights to access forest resources such as timber and non-timber product and other ecosystem services provided by forest. This measure may avoid possible marginalization of indigenous people in the implementation of REDD (Wollenberg & Baginski 2009).

Involvement of indigenous peoples

Another key approach to reduce some possible risks to the indigenous people is to make sure their involvement in decision making process and in the implementation of REDD, in all level—International, national and local. This is because as a policy that related to forest, REDD can directly or indirectly affect communities who depend on forest resources. Their involvement in the decision making process is needed to give them opportunity to express their views and to make sure that any decision made will not harm them, rather than rely on state representatives in the UNFCCC to consider their fate. Their rights to involve in policy making are acknowledged by The UN Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous People (Article 18) that states: indigenous peoples have the rights to involve and delegate their representative to any policy making process that has possible impact to their life and rights (UNDRIP 2007).

Furthermore, Rai (2009) argue that any activities related to climate change adaptation and mitigation such REDD is doubtful to be successful if indigenous people and forest dependent people are not engaged and involved in the planning and implementation, or if their interest is not taken into account in the REDD program.

5. Conclusion

This paper attempt to show that mitigation effort is not only the issue of reducing the greenhouse gas emission but also an issue of social justice, fairness, equity and human rights. In addition, the discussion in this paper also implies that the idea of reducing emission from deforestation should not forget the fact that there are humans who live in forest area and depend on forest resources for their survival and livelihood. In fact, they have maintained and managed the forest for a long period of time.

The implementation of REDD+ promises much co-benefits beyond emission reduction. It opens opportunity for indigenous people to earn money from the carbon market by providing offsets of greenhouse gas emission through forest management and conservation. In addition, avoiding deforestation can also help them in protecting their land and biodiversity in the forest. However, the implementation of REDD+ has many potential problems to the indigenous people and forest dependent communities including possible eviction, loss of access to forest, injustice in profit sharing of REDD+ fund and obstruction of their spiritual and cultural activities.

Much more work needs to be done to make sure that the implementation of REDD+ will not harm the indigenous people. Monitoring and transparency of the finance can be a crucial step to avoid the misappropriation of REDD+ fund by elite and to make sure the indigenous people get what they deserve to get. The Eliasch review has recommended the use of a mechanism similar to the EITI to promote the transparency.

Despite that, there is also urgency to clarify the rights of indigenous people to their land and forest resources. Although their rights are guaranteed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People but in fact, they still experience marginalization in the forest management. Involvement of indigenous people in the negotiation and implementation of REDD+ is also needed to make sure that their interest is not ignored and the policy produced will not bring harm for them.


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Climate change, sustainability and environment writer from Indonesia

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