Day 5 - May 22
The day began with a welcoming of new friends and a report back from several meetings, including: the Indigenous Peoples Forum, the GEF-SGP Forum (complaints were voiced that projects are not being carried out and about onerous reporting requirements for projects - red tape), and the Community Commons (Vandana Shiva emphasized the need to protect the commons from privatization, namely through sustainable communities).
The theme for the day was Biodiversity and Climate Change. The first presenter of a three-member panel was Leo Peskett from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) with a background on the international negotiations around climate change and reduced emissions for deforestation and degradation (REDD). Dr. Peskett walked the Dorf through a concise chronology of the anthropogenic causes of climate change (GHGs, burning fossil fuels), the effects (floods and droughts), the two responses (mitigation and adaptation), carbon markets, and the international debate (from its both in Rio in 1992, through negotiation of Kyoto, and into the future). Dr. Peskett suggested that deforestation and degradation contribute up to 20 percent of global carbon emissions and, because there is no market to pay developing countries or their communities to protect their forest, that REDD is necessary. He acknowledged the legitimacy of local concerns that local and indigenous communities are not being consulted on the regime, that it is unclear how funding mechanisms will work, and less clear how communities might protect their interests and see benefits. Questions and comments from Dorf participants included: the issue of retroactive benefits (e.g. local groups have been protecting forests for thousands of years - will they be compensated for their historical contributions?), how to inform local people about climate change and REDD, how to break into the REDD market with small-scale projects when these systems tend to favour large businesses, and the need for demonstrable incentives for local groups not to degrade their forests. Project "bundling" was highlighted as way of making small-scale community projects more attractive to investors in the REDD market. Finally, it was agreed that, as with the formation of any new market mechanism, communities need to be attentive to the codification of fair and equal payments.
The second speaker was Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, who provided the following insights: indigenous people have the lowest contribution to the climate change crisis, but are burdened with many of the solutions; local and indigenous groups are the first to experience the impacts of climate change, but are not given funds to adapt; market change (biofuels, hydro dams) is driving land use change and threatening indigenous tenure; and REDD provides opportunities as a platform to push governments to protect forests and challenges to community resources. Tauli-Corpuz suggested that indigenous and local groups document their historical and ongoing contributions to climate action and biodiversity conservation to support the case for expanded community consultation, control, and management. Small-scale, community-controlled renewable energy projects will be key. Her closing comment was that there needs to be greater integration between the CBD and UNFCCC: as it now stands, the former is a convention for the poor countries, the latter a convention for the rich.
The third speaker was David Houberman of IUCN who gave a presentation entitled Reducing Emission and Conserving Biodiversity by Avoiding Deforestation. While he covered many of the same issues as the other panelists, Houberman provided some useful visuals on the source of GHG emissions, made some interesting connections between land tenure security and reduced deforestation and climate action, and gave a background on instructive lessons learned from previous carbon markets (payment for ecosystem services, etc) that might help shape REDD.
Three community presentations followed. The first, from India, involved a series of nineteen villages in Western Ghats where the gas (hydrogen sulfide) created from rubber sheet production has been isolated and is being used as a renewable fuel source for cooking - thereby reducing dependence on fire wood and related environmental damage. The second, from Brazil, was an association providing biodiversity conservation through ecotourism (botanical gardens) improved incomes (sale of medicinal plants), and health provision (revitalization of local health). The third, from Costa Rica, was a community conserved area receiving payments for ecosystem services and generating income from marketing of local products.
Dr. Charles McNeill of the UNDP thanked the panelists and the community presenters for their valuable contributions and suggested the discussion in the Dorf was just the beginning of conversations to come within the international community on a climate change response that includes communities.
Before breaking for lunch, Suhel Al-Janabi of GTZ gave a brief presentation on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Poster-a format allowing communities to convey how their activities work towards achieving the MDGs. Borne out of a concern that MDG achievements are largely reviewed on the national level, the posters enable communities to convey their work to a wide audience with a focus on brevity and clarity. Mr Al-Janabi emphasized that one does not need an extensive document to influence policy, while Hariramamurthy Govindaswamy of the Community Knowledge Service (CKS) noted the posters give credibility and visibility to participants' projects as well as serving as testaments to the bottom-up approach in influencing policy.
The Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity session came to follow with presentations by Abdul Rezwan of Shidulai Swanirvar Sangstha (Bangladesh) and Kasturi Chandrasekhar and Utkarsh Ghate of Aharam Traditional Crops Producers' Company (India). Educating farmers on new agricultural practices and building their capacities to produce value-added goods were common themes of the two organizations. Mr Rezwan spoke extensively of introducing technologies (i.e. solar panels, bicycle pumps) to villages without basic infrastructure as a means to alleviate poverty. Climate change was noted as a major challenge to Bangladeshi farmers as large tracts of land are expected to be underwater as seas rise. Ms Chandrasekhar noted the importance of accessing credit to her organization's work as well as selling products within the community (as opposed to selling through middlemen) to ensure greater profits reaching producer families themselves.
Sara Scherr of EcoAgriculture Partners-organizer of the session-extended a warm welcome to all in attendance and noted the timeliness of the session; 22 May was International Biodiversity Day and specifically themed around agricultural biodiversity. It was noted that, for the first time, the positive relationship between agriculture and biodiversity was being celebrated, and because farmers and the natural environment both share the same space, a dialogue needs to happen between the two sides. Ms Scherr continued by raising awareness around eco-certification markets, and continued by emphasizing the importance of building knowledge products as well as exchanging information between communities so as to better facilitate improvement of agricultural systems and ecoagriculture landscapes.
Immediately following, participants broke into regional groups to share their experiences in relation to sustainable agricultural practices and biodiversity. After identifying which farming systems participants found to be good for biodiversity, participants expressed what types of information is needed to support sustainable farming systems as well as what strategies are used to protect farmers' rights and agrobiodiversity. Points which were repeatedly mentioned include: a need for information on markets, new crop varieties, certification systems, and weather patterns; an exchange of knowledge of successful innovative agricultural practices between farmers, across regions and borders; pilot projects testing new crop varieties; and, a need for seed banks and promotion of traditional systems of passing seed varieties. In terms of how the CKS can facilitate information exchange, participants identified regional workshops, the radio, newsletters written in local languages, and on-sight visits as being conducive.
Community Identified Themes
22 May 2008
REDD, Climate Change, and Local Communities
The presentation on REDD was very helpful for understanding how the international regime is developing and potential gaps where communities can shape the conversation.
Indigenous people and local communities should have input into the formation of the international REDD regime. Venues for consultation need to be explored.
Is there really a commitment from parties to the Kyoto Protocol and what does this mean for communities?
The issue of "retroactive" benefits needs to be addressed - communities and indigenous groups have been protecting forests long before the discussion of REDD compensation. How will this be dealt with?
Because communities and indigenous groups are the ones that work on the frontlines of biodiversity conservation, ecoagriculture, sustainable development etc, we are the ones that feel the greatest adverse impacts of climate change. The burden of reversing the trend of climate change is also being placed on indigenous and local groups. Where will the benefits come from?
How will the process of carbon trading, payment for ecosystems services, and REDD benefit communities and indigenous people?
Can a market mechanism provide the needed incentives to cover the interests of communities and biodiversity conservation?
Some climate action solutions (e.g. biofuels, ocean fertilization, hydroelectric dams) are in fact compounding the problem.
The most viable alternatives for communities and indigenous groups - and the wider success of sustainable global climate action - are small-scale alternative energy projects, carbon storage projects, etc. Community direction and involvement are critical.
The emergence of the REDD regime provides funding opportunities and challenges for communities. We must proceed with our eyes wide open.
The fact that posters take no more than five minutes to read through allows communities to convey their message in a very clear way. You don't need a 50-page document to showcase your successful work; even a poster can influence policy.
Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity
The fact that it was International Biodiversity Day, focused on agricultural biodiversity shows that agriculture and the natural ecosystems can coexist harmoniously; one doesn't necessarily have to be against another.
Education is a very big component of helping communities adapt to climate change, understand markets, innovating agricultural practices which all help farmers work themselves out of poverty.
Sara Scherr had mentioned eco-certification and how creating a brand could help farmers get their goods into markets and ask for more returns.
Different strategies but similar modalities
Traditional/Indigenous knowledge should be the guiding principle of ecoagriculture
Knowledge of markets and what the market demands is important
Capacity-building, training workshops, regional exchanges of knowledge are important to helping farmers.
It is important to first pilot projects to test new species or practices before implementing on wide scale.
Similar agricultural practices can be seen in many different regions, and so knowledge exchange between these farmers and local communities will help each other when figuring out ways to adapt to climate change.