In early September the Tetra Tech ARD SESA consultancy team submitted a draft scoping report for review by Liberia’s REDD+ Implementation Unit and the SESA Working Group.
The report combines information from spatial analysis and mapping, six case studies and desk-based analysis of international and national environmental and social safeguards applicable to possible REDD+ interventions. Spatial analysis was able to incorporate preliminary results from the new REDD+ forest cover analysis. As expected, overlaps were evident between various designated land use concessions (commercial forestry, mining and agricultural plantations) and with potentially important areas for biodiversity conservation. In addition customary land tenure claims, which overlap with other allocations, under consideration by the National Land Commission will need resolution as tenure and land use aspects are critical elements of REDD+.
The six case studies, involving literature review and field consultations, were selected to reflect key drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and forest conservation (protected areas, commercial forestry, oil palm plantation, mining concessions, community forestry charcoal production and shifting cultivation). Among findings, to be verified and elaborated in the SESA prioritization phase, are that: many communities are dependent on forests for their livelihoods with few viable alternatives; land and land use disputes are common; community members are dissatisfied with benefits from concession arrangements; women are often marginalized in forest governance and management; and concessions are seen as having negative environmental impacts, notably on water quality and quantity.
Analysis of safeguards included those of the relevant World Bank operational policies (required under Forest Carbon Partnership Facility funding), national policies, laws and regulations, and international conventions and requirements ratified by Liberia as well as the REDD+ specific Social and Environmental Standards to which Liberia subscribes. While application of this set of requirements would meet foreseeable environmental and social concerns, they are complex and challenging to apply in practice. A large and continuing capacity-building effort is essential to sustain these safeguards over the decades needed for an effective REDD+ program.
During October the SESA team expects to begin consultations to verify findings during the scoping phase and to establish environmental and social priorities relevant to anticipated implementation strategies, pending drafting of the latter by the REDD+ Strategy Team.