Durban, August 2013

I suspect that at the present rate, we will all be old (or dead) long before any meaningful solutions are found for the challenges facing REDD+ as it is presently conceptualised. However, it is my belief that the problems that are blocking the development of a workable policy to prevent forest loss and deterioration are already well known, but have been deliberately ignored.

First, I believe that REDD+ fails to address the need for polluting industrialised nations to compensate developing countries for ecological damage caused by historical and ongoing overexploitation and consumption of fossil fuels. Instead countries such as Norway and Germany have used their economic advantage to support the establishment of schemes like the CDM, and of course REDD+, that have distracted attention from finding more effective ways to actually reduce global emissions.

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REDD intiatives have been decried as a form of neo-colonialism

African participants at the World Social Forum in Tunisia have taken a historic decision to launch a No REDD in Africa Network and join the global movement against REDD.

Participants from Nigeria, South Africa, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Mozambique, Tunisia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Tanzania participated in the launch of the network recently.

REDD, an acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation; as well as REDD+ are carbon offset mechanisms whereby industrialized Northern countries use forests, agriculture, soils and even water as sponges for their pollution instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at source.

The initiatives have continued to elicit severe criticisms for its ‘rampant’ land grabs and neocolonialism in Africa.

“REDD is no longer just a false solution but a new form of colonialism,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Alternative Nobel Prize Laureate and former Executive Director of ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

“In Africa, REDD+ is emerging as a new form of colonialism, economic subjugation and a driver of land grabs so massive that they may constitute a continent grab,” Mr. Bassey said.

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Maputo, 18 June 2012 (Via Campesina Africa News) – Food production and people's sovereignty in Africa could be seriously compromised by carbon capture projects and the so-called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) mechanism. They can exacerbate food insecurity on the continent and could result in the loss of control over land and forest resources for African farmers.

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Farmers "taking care" of the forest in Nhambita

This scenario could become a reality in the near future in Mozambique, as the country has offered its land to serve as a “model” for carbon capture projects and REDD+.

As evening falls, Albertina Francisco*, a farmer from the Nhambita community in Sofala province, Mozambique, returns home. She is tired after another day of work at her machamba (a term used in Mozambique to refer to a patch of farmland). In addition to looking after the maize, mapira (a type of sorghum) and cassava which she grows, another task has been added to Albertina’s workload: looking after the trees she planted a few years ago to ensure she is not penalized by Envirotrade at the end of the year, the company with which she has a carbon supply contract. Albertina is required to ensure the survival and good growth of the plants and to ensure that at least 85% of the plants received survive.

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The claims made on behalf of burying charcoal, otherwise known as “biochar”, are extraordinary. According to the International Biochar Initiative, it will “fight global warming”, it will “boost food security”, and it will “discourage deforestation”. Meanwhile, it is “inexpensive, widely applicable, and quickly scalable”.

One of the most obvious problems with biochar is that vast monocultures of fast-growing tree plantations would be needed to provide the raw material if biochar were to be implemented on a large scale. Peter Reed, an energy lecturer in New Zealand, coined the word biochar in 2005. He reckons that an area of 1.4 billion hectares should be enough. That’s a little more than the total area of arable land in the world.

But there are other problems with biochar, even when it is applied on a small scale. In this guest post, Almuth Ersting of the UK-based NGO Biofuelwatch describes a two-year biochar pilot project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is supposed to “replace slash-and-burn farming with a system that uses bio-char”. The post is based in part on research recently carried out by researcher Benoit Anthony Ndameu and Biofuelwatch into a biochar project in Cameroon: “Biochar Fund Trials in Cameroon: Hype and Unfulfilled Promises”.

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