Keeping track with REDDX

Over 4 billion USD – that's how much money industrialised countries have pledged through 2018 to for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that are released into the atmosphere when forests are cleared. The International Climate Initiative (IKI) is an important donor to national programmes for the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) in developing and newly industrialised countries. IKI has provided corresponding projects with around EUR 234 million in support between 2008 and 2013. These REDD+ funds have been so far mostly been used to help countries begin to build the necessary policy frameworks, capacity building and technical capacity to measure their emissions from deforestation. Once all necessary components are in place the funds may be used to compensate recipient countries for verified emission reductions achieved by protecting their forests, or planting more trees and restoring ecosystems. Many different countries, institutions and individuals are involved in this process to develop national REDD+ programmes, making it difficult to provide a comprehensive overview. Information about how these funds are being managed is often lacking, not easily accessible, contradicting or sometimes outdated. Peter Mulbah described the situation in Liberia: 'until fairly recently, the national government didn't have a comprehensive picture of all institutions and activities that were being financed.' He is the Director of Skills and Agricultural Development Services (SADS), a non-governmental organisation working to promote the country's sustainable development.

Valuable forests in Liberia need protection

Liberia is home to some 4.3 million hectares of forest, 43 per cent of which comprises the last remaining expanse of rainforest in the Guinea Highlands - a so-called hotspot of biological diversity. While particularly rich in the diversity of plant and animal species – many of which are only found there - the continued existence of these areas is threatened by illegal logging, land conversion and agriculture. Rainforests in Liberia, like other tropical forests around the world, absorb large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere. When forests are cleared, this carbon is released as carbon dioxide, a powerful greenhouse gas. Liberia, like many other countries, receives money for REDD+. The country's government needs to manage these funds in such a manner that they contribute to forest conservation over the long term. Key information, however, is often lacking, for example regarding the overall amount of funding received, which organisations are getting it, what activities are being implemented, how fast it is reaching the ground and where additional funding is needed.

The government of Liberia and Peter Mulbah want to change this. With support from the REDD+ Expenditures Tracking Initiative (REDDX), carried out by Forest Trends and national partners with IKI funding, he is advising Liberia's Forest Development Agency (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on how they can address and manage REDD+ financing flows. Mulbah and his agency partners are working together with Forest Trends to undertake annual surveys of the flow of REDD+ funds from the source to on-the-ground initiatives. While literature reviews are the starting point, the REDDX Liberia information is based on primary data collection culled from surveys and interviews with all relevant organisations – including donors, governmental bodies and the direct beneficiaries of the support. In addition, all the participants share their experiences during annual national workshops organised by the project and chaired with the national REDD+ Focal Point. Here the data is validated and general trends in financial flows are discussed. In addition to the purely financial data, information is also collected on the type of initiatives being promoted, for example policy reforms on land ownership and usage rights, or projects aimed at improving forest and land management in specific regions. These analyses also reveal problems, for example, how slow and bureaucratic processes hinder the use of financial resources, and sometimes efforts are duplicated because different actors know too little about each other's activities.

Ghana as a pioneer

A team of NCRC's wildlife officers explaining the social and environmental benefits of REDD+ in Ghana; picture: Rebecca Asare, Forest Trends.In Ghana, the data collection process is already one step further along. Since 2011, experts from the Nature Conservation Research Center (NCRC) have already been working together with the Forestry Commission (FC) of Ghana to undertake the surveys on REDD+ financial flows within the country. At the same time, NCRC is providing corresponding training for the FC staff, including Roselyn Fosuah Adjei, Assistant Manager in the Climate Change Unit. She explained what REDDX has done for her: 'The project provided clarity of what is considered REDD+ and what is not. It also allowed us to see what is happening on the ground. This made it clear to us what is already being supported so that we can identify needs and provide complementary funding.' Her colleague, Yaw Kwayke, Manager in the same unit, adds that with the project’s help, he has been able to establish contact with key players and improve the coordination. 'This has helped us to maximize our resources in a coordinated manner to make sure efforts are not duplicated, so we can then use our resources more judiciously,' said Kwayke. These efforts associated with data collection and new expertise are already making some initial specific impacts: 'Participating in the project has been helpful for us as we move toward finalisation of our National REDD+ Strategy,' according to Kwayke. This type of strategy is an important basis for securing international support. Ghana is well on track here – the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) has accepted the proposal for a REDD+ programme, which will receive result-based payments for emissions reductions from the Carbon Fund in the future. With assistance from REDDX, the country can better manage and more effectively use these funds and other REDD+ support. For example discussions at the 2013 validation workshop revealed that none of Ghana's seven national REDD+ pilot demonstration projects are currently receiving REDD+ international funding. The national government has since pledge some of its own contributions to address this urgent funding gap and better support the country’s readiness process of "learning by doing."

Joint learning is the smart way

Community leaders in Kulonso, Ghana, taking part in a discussion to understand the local benefits of REDD+; picture: Rebecca Asare, Forest Trends.Back to Liberia again. Peter Mulbah is aware of NCRC's work in Ghana and appreciates it; he's benefited from it himself at the start of the Liberia REDDX initiative. Colleagues from Ghana invited him to participate in their survey work and then travelled to Liberia to help him set up his programme. South-South exchanges are an important element of REDDX. The experts from Ghana have passed on their knowledge and collected experience to Peter Mulbah and his colleagues. Mulbah praised the cooperation with the Ghanaian partners: 'Quite frankly, I could not have done what I have without working with NCRC. There are a lot of things I learned: what questions to ask, how to lobby those with information, and how to build important relationships.'

Transparency and exchange are generally key pillars of IKI projects. Using an online database, all information is bundled and prepared in a clear manner on the REDDX website www.reddx.forest-trends.org (external). Annual country reports, drafted jointly by the government, Forest Trends and a national partner, also give an overview of the assessments from each country.

Despite the many challenges that emerged from the forest protection analyses in Liberia, Peter Mulbah is hopeful. The REDDX project has created transparency and shed light on REDD+ funding. The more information REDD+ countries have, and the more they know how the money is being spent, the better REDD+ programmes they can create. This can also build confidence in donor countries, and eventually the private sector, and leverage additional REDD+ investments to protect forests and benefit people.