Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Study questions efficacy of REDD+ forest protection

Study questions efficacy of REDD+ forest protection

Illegal loggers prepare to move a piece of rosewood at Dangrek Mountain on the Thai-Cambodian border in 2014.
Illegal loggers prepare to move a piece of rosewood at Dangrek Mountain on the Thai-Cambodian border in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Study questions efficacy of REDD+ forest protection

A soon-to-be published study of the much-lauded REDD+-protected Keo Seima forest has found there’s little that can be done to convince the majority of locals to stop clearing protected areas, findings that observers say raise important questions about the forest’s viability.

Keo Seima – often pointed to as a role model for conservation projects across Cambodia – was granted much sought-after REDD+ status by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015 in response to conservation strategies put in place by the government in collaboration with NGOs.

However, the recent study, to be published in scientific journal Biological Conservation, found that despite the protections, locals were likely to continue their forest clearing unabated. Researchers conducted interviews with heads of households across the protected area, presenting them with a selection of scenarios and asking them to say whether each would prompt a reduction in their forest clearance activities.

In all but two scenarios, almost all of the respondents answered that their forest clearance activities would either continue as before or increase.

In one of the more promising scenarios – one in which the whole community would hypothetically receive payment for reducing forest clearing – more than half of respondents said they would reduce their clearing. In the other, slightly less than half said they would do so if village development funds were offered in return for reduced clearances.

Despite the seeming lack of effective options, the study’s authors insisted that their findings should give Keo Seima’s administrators reason to be hopeful that the number of households clearing forests can be “dramatically” reduced.

However, the study clashes with research by geographer Tim Frewer, whose work focuses on Cambodia. In interviews he conducted across five villages in the REDD+ area, Frewer found that not only were most respondents – including a commune chief – unaware of the REDD+ program, he also found that logging was rampant among residents.

In an email yesterday, Frewer disagreed with the other researchers’ rosy outlook, accusing the authors of having “employed sophisticated modelling” to obscure “some of the more fundamental problems with REDD+”.

“The problem is that REDD+ has proved itself unable to deliver any substantial livelihood gains,” Frewer wrote.

Marcus Hardtke – who has worked on conservation issues in Cambodia, including in Keo Seima, for over a decade – said the residents’ answers did not come as a surprise to him, adding that “there are no economic answers” to conservation problems without meaningful enforcement of the laws on the books.

MOST VIEWED

  • CNRP supporters rally in the streets of Tokyo

    Supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Monday rallied on the streets of Tokyo, demanding Prime Minister Hun Sen’s resignation and urging the Japanese government to “save democracy in the Kingdom”. Some 400 protesters in the rally, which was organised by

  • GMAC makes EU plea to consider job losses

    In a statement set to be published on Monday, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) said the EU’s possible withdrawal of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) access would harm 750,000 workers and three million families. The GMAC statement, seen by The Post on

  • Four dead in Preah Sihanouk, Ratanakkiri flooding

    At least four people have died and thousands of families affected by flooding in Preah Sihanouk and Ratanakkiri provinces following recent heavy thunderstorms. Preah Sihanouk provincial spokesperson Kheang Phearum said on Sunday that a Cambodian husband and wife were killed on Thursday when a concrete

  • Nat’l Police snubs Rainsy’s claims

    The National Police on Saturday maintained that its chief, Neth Savoeun, and his family had no intention to flee the country after acting president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy accused Savoeun of corruption. On Friday, Rainsy – who fled to