REDD+ in West Africa: Politics of Design and Implementation in Ghana and Nigeria

Adeniyi Asiyanbi, Albert Arhin, Usman Isyaku
2017 Forests  
This paper analyses the design and implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, conserving and enhancing forest carbon stocks, and sustainably managing forests (REDD+) in the West African region, an important global biodiversity area. Drawing on in-depth interviews, analysis of policy documents and observation of everyday activities, we sought to understand how REDD+ has been designed and implemented in Nigeria and Ghana. We draw on political ecology to examine how,
more » ... gy to examine how, and why REDD+ takes the form it does in these countries. We structure our discussion around three key dimensions that emerged as strong areas of common emphasis in our case studies-capacity building, carbon visibility, and property rights. First, we show that while REDD+ design generally foregrounds an ostensible inclusionary politics, its implementation is driven through various forms of exclusion. This contradictory inclusion-exclusion politics, which is partly emblematic of the neoliberal provenance of the REDD+ policy, is also a contingent reality and a strategy for navigating complexities and pursuing certain interests. Second, we show that though the emergent foci of REDD+ implementation in our case studies align with global REDD+ expectations, they still manifest as historically and geographically contingent processes that reflect negotiated and contested relations among actors that constitute the specific national circumstance of each country. We conclude by reflecting on the importance of our findings for understanding REDD+ projects in other tropical countries. Africa is still relatively nascent [2] . Yet Arhin and Atela [3] have argued that unlike previous global climate change dispatches (e.g., the Clean Development Mechanisms) where African countries lagged other regions as project hosts, the advent of REDD+ has seen significant participation from the region, and from West Africa in particular. This represents a shift from the early REDD+ "bias against Africa and toward Latin America" [4] . For instance, all but one (Mauritania) of the continental coastal West African countries stretching from Mauritania to Nigeria are involved in REDD+. Host to a major global biodiversity hotspot [5, 6] , this region has a strong and diverse socio-cultural heritage, well-developed traditional ecological knowledge, as well as a significant rural population who rely directly on the forest for their livelihoods [2, 7, 8] . Besides, the rainforest (and to some extent, the transition zone) vegetation belt extending from the Congo Basin to Senegal (breaking at the Dahomey Gap) has a well-studied history of colonial and post-colonial forest development that reflect both regional continuities and a variety of inter-country specificities in terms of colonial legacies, political-administrative structures and geographies [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] . Since these socio-cultural, political, ecological, and historical dimensions significantly shape the prospect, nature and impact of REDD+, detailed studies are required to further our understanding of country specificities and regional patterns, thereby generating the much-needed debates on REDD+ in this region. In contributing to such studies, we draw on insights from political ecology to analyse the politics of design and implementation of REDD+ in our case study areas. Political ecology emphasises questions of interests and power as actors engage in unequal relations over the environment [10, [16] [17] [18] . We find this perspective useful to foreground the politics in REDD+ design and implementation by scrutinising the convergence of actors, the interplay of multiple interests, and the interactions of power, histories and geographies that underpin the framing and the implementation of REDD+ [19] . We have allowed our empirical findings to guide the overall structure of our discussion, choosing to only foreground political ecology's critical ethos and its attentiveness to fields of interest-laden relations. Through our case studies, we demonstrate how REDD+ design reflects and is underpinned by ostensibly inclusive visions that are malleable, optimistic and all-encompassing, promising a win-win scenario for all parties [20] [21] [22] [23] . Conversely, implementation of REDD+ has proceeded precisely through various forms of trade-off and exclusion of certain actors, interests, knowledges, practices, forest uses, and claims to resources [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] . We note that both the ostensibly inclusionary vision of REDD+ design and the failure of this vision to translate into reality must be understood partly in terms of the neoliberal provenance of this scheme [31] [32] [33] . Scholars of neoliberal environmental governance have analysed the participatory and perpetually optimistic framings of neoliberal conservation projects, and their repeated failure to realise such visions [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] . Yet, exclusion in REDD+ implementation is not merely an unintended failure or ineffectiveness of the participatory vision, as Špirić and co-authors [39] seem to suggest in the case of Mexico. Rather, we argue that it is also a deliberate strategy, a political tool for pragmatically rendering socio-ecological complexities governable and for furthering certain interests. For instance, the technicality and complexity of REDD+, which foreclose autonomous local and national actions have been linked precisely to the "approach taken by government officials, consultants, forestry, and development experts to operationalise the idea of REDD+" [24, 27, 37, 40, 41] . Both discursive inclusion at the level of policy design and exclusion at the level of implementation are also partly inherent to the REDD+ policy itself. On the one hand, REDD+ platforms such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the United Nations-Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (UN-REDD) dispatch guidelines and socio-environmental safeguards (such as the Free Prior and Informed Consent) to, among other things, foster a participatory approach, even as they carefully review REDD+ proposals to ensure adherence to a participatory ethos [42] [43] [44] . On the other hand, the various processes entailed in rendering forests visible as carbon, applying certain kinds of expertise, securing REDD+ forests, and even selecting pilot case studies always entail various forms of exclusion. For instance, the REDD+ requirement to guarantee property rights and ensure the permanence of carbon forests has seen the use of promised incentives and/or force to exclude other forest uses and resource claims-notwithstanding co-benefit
doi:10.3390/f8030078 fatcat:n4vmwudptrgg7aklkok3y2wzyi