REDD+ in agricultural landscapes: evidence from Ghana’s REDD+ process

Authors: Kwame Agyei, Victor K. Agyeman, Winston A. Asante, Daniel T. Benefoh, Juergen Blaser, Lawrence Damnyag, Angela Deppeler, Mélanie Feurer, Ernest G. Foli, Luca Heeb, Winnie Kofie, Maria  Klossner, Boateng Kyereh, Yaw Kwakye and Kwame A. Oduro

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013), global vegetation stores about the same amount of carbon dioxide as contained in the atmosphere, and tropical forests hold about half of that amount (Pan et al. 2011). Despite partially successful measures in some countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, tropical forest loss continued at an estimated 92000 km2 per year between 2000 and 2012 (Hansen et al. 2013), equivalent to about 24 football fields per minute. The resultant net loss of biomass is responsible for about 10% of global annual carbon dioxide emissions (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2013); tropical forest loss, therefore, is an important driver of climate change. The international community is aware of the climate-regulating role of forests and trees and has created a mechanism aimed at reducing tropical deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing the conservation and sustainable management of forests and forest carbon stocks, a mechanism usually known as REDD+. Under REDD+, tropical countries will be financially compensated for accomplished objectives in reducing deforestation and forest degradation, sustainably managing forests, conserving forest carbon stocks and enhancing forest carbon stocks. Around 65 countries have engaged in REDD+ preparations and are at different stages between policy development and national programme development under various multilateral frameworks (FCPF 2014). While the world is still “on the road to REDD+” (UN-REDD 2013), substantial progress was made in global climate talks in Warsaw in 2013 in developing the REDD+ concept as a globalscale measure to mitigate climate change. Moreover, REDD projects represent the majority of carbon-offset deals concluded in voluntary carbon markets in 2013 (Forest Trends 2014).

However, while the protection of forests is regarded as one of the most promising measures for combating climate change, the expected carbon-offset payments are only a part of the advantages that forest and tree conservation can bring in developing countries. Forests and trees can enhance biodiversity, protect watersheds, and improve local livelihoods and forest governance-functions often called co-benefits under REDD+.

The multiple advantages that increased tree density can provide is clearly recognized in Ghana’s national strategy for REDD+, which goes beyond forest boundaries to include trees and woodlots outside forests in agricultural landscapes. From a REDD+ perspective, this zone is called “off-reserve” (officially classified forests in Ghana are called “forest reserves”). This approach of seeking REDD+ opportunities outside official forest boundaries makes sense in a country where agricultural zones traditionally include a relatively high density of tree cover and where agricultural and forest zones are understood as parts of a continuum. The opportunity to increase tree density in agricultural and agroforestry systems means that the forest and agricultural sectors need to collaborate and work together at a landscape scale. It also means that increasing tree stocks on farms must be endorsed by the women and men of farming communities and by both the agricultural and forest services.

Therefore, the preparation of further off-reserve REDD+ activities in Ghana needs to provide realistic solutions for people who rely heavily on the land for their livelihoods. The case studies compiled in this report aim to contribute to the development of approaches that generate short-term revenues in combination with longer-term gains from tree resources. The report describes
the outcomes of empirical and literature studies exploring the potential of offreserve REDD+ in Ghana. The studies underlying the report were carried out in the framework of REDDES, a programme of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) that aims to strengthen capacities in selected countries to maintain and enhance the environmental services provided by tropical forests.