by Jeff Conant, GJEP
When a newly formed group came together at COP17 in Durban to call for a moratorium on REDD+, it was no surprise that some of the conveners were Indigenous Peoples; while there is disagreement within and among Indigenous Peoples’ groups about if and how to reject or accept REDD proposals and the promise of money that they offer, there has been a vocal core of Indigenous Peoples Organizations against REDD for several years.
But the newly formed group, which calls itself Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life, also includes several Africans. The President of the Ogiek Council of Elders of the Mau Forest of Kenya, Joseph K. Towett, said as the Global Alliance was launched, “We support the moratorium because anything that hurts our cousins, hurts us all.”
REDD proposals are still nascent on much of the African continent, but with the World Bank and the UN FAO pushing “Climate Smart” agriculture and a “landscape approach” to soil carbon as analogues to REDD in Africa; with increasing criticism coming down on REDD+-related projects in Uganda, Cameroon, Congo, and Kenya; and with the UNREDD Program offering $4 million in REDD funding to Nigeria, concern about REDD in Africa is growing.
One of the speakers calling for a moratorium on REDD with the Global Alliance was Godwin Ojo, from Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria. Ojo began by saying “Forest are not carbon sinks, they are food baskets.”
Ojo, like the Indigenous Peoples Organizations from the Americas, Indonesia, and elsewhere, was concerned about the links between REDD and forest plantations: “A rubber plantation about 100 kilometers from where I live has deprived hundreds of farmers of their livelihood. It has violated their rights.”
“We find that most policies affecting indigenous peoples are designed without our participation. If this trend continues, it will lead to a vicious cycle of poverty, and a vicious cycle of violence. This is why we are joining this moratorium – because our forests are our life.”
“We are out with strong support for a moratorium on REDD programs because REDD is an instrument to take away our rights to livelihood. We are opposed to REDD because our forest are not commodities. We have joined this coalition to bring a stop to REDD projects and to alert the world that there will likely be an uprising from below if our voices are not taken into account.”
“At the moment,” he went on, “REDD is being used as a divisive instrument to cause confusion, to cause chaos and violence in the communities. It is taking away the rights of indigenous people to community lands, which is then leading to land scarcity, to land being put into markets. The forests and its resources are being privatized, are being marketized.”
Ojo said there are no REDD payments being made yet in Nigeria, “but they are going to kick out the communities and let in the corporations to take over the land. This is what our alliance is about, and this is what we are opposed to.”