Nesting REDD+ into Integrated Conservation and Development Projects: what empirical lessons can be drawn?

Produced as part of the Evaluating the performance of climate policies CCCEP research programme theme

There are diverse lessons that subnational projects designed to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) should learn from previous or existing integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs). An empirical understanding of how ICDP lessons on community engagement could inform REDD+ implementation is necessary especially if REDD+ policies/projects are to achieve effective forest resource governance in the context of climate change. This paper develops and applies a lesson learning framework to identify and describe lessons that the Kasigau REDD+ project adopts from a governmental national park and a nongovernmental World vision in Taita Taveta County, Kenya. Data was collected through triangulating projects’ designs with field interviews and discussions. Twenty four (24) ICDP lessons, both positive and negative, were identified. The REDD+ project adopted some of the positive lessons such as community networking and local institutional choices to improve community representation in implementing activities. However, for excluding community input into its globally-linked design, the project appeared to maintain the top-down intervening approach as the ICDPs. The process of adopting ICDP lessons was however complicated by lack of collaborative engagement between the REDD+ and ICDP projects. This allowed the local community to convey lessons between the projects, inevitably giving room for certain community expectations that overshadow emission reduction objectives, create conflicts between UNFCCC and community expectations and most importantly, result in poor connectedness between the project and state institutions that the community perceive negatively. Poor linkage with the state institution is a critical threat to the project’s sustainability because state-led reforms on land may not recognize the project’s agenda. We conclude that ICDP lessons can only be useful if the process of adopting such lessons is clear and cognisant of relevant stakeholders such as the state. This is vital if subnational REDD+ projects are to be sustainable and informative to national and global policies.