Why reducing deforestation is not like the usual kind of Russian dolls

Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from land uses requires coordinated actions locally, nationally and globally. The ‘nesting’ of institutions needed to do this are assumed to be something like a series of identical but ever-smaller Russian dolls. There are other ways of thinking about it, says Meine van Noordwijk



In an earlier story in these pages, we discussed the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation from Alternative Land Uses in the Rainforests of the Tropics (REDD-ALERT), which found that avoiding deforestation and restoring forests is definitely not a ‘quick fix’.

It will require a complex and contextually adjusted mixture of regulatory approaches, emerging market-based instruments, persuasion and hybrid management measures at all levels of governance, from village through to global scales, which some have likened to a series of Russian dolls or matroeschka.

Identical dolls within identical dolls...

Identical dolls within identical dolls… Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Examining that idea a little closer, we might think that if at one scale it is a matroeschka then it must be a matroeschka at any other scale as well. It might be smaller (and younger?) but it mostly looks like a mirror copy.

What this implies in the discussions about mechanisms for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) or payments-for-ecosystem-services schemes is that if these are an exchange of carbon for money at one scale then they must be an exchange of carbon for money at any other scale as well.

However, this line of thought, as popular as it seems to be, is unnecessarily constraining. It is very well possible to think of a system of nesting in which essential characteristics change between the scales while leading to coordination of actions, an idea that can be personified in the series of nested ‘Winnie the Pooh’ dolls depicted.

Different dolls within different dolls... Photo and dolls: http://www.repeatcrafterme.com/2013/09/winnie-pooh-nesting-dolls.html

Different dolls within different dolls… Photo and dolls: http://www.repeatcrafterme.com/2013/09/winnie-pooh-nesting-dolls.html

Yes, Winnie the Pooh is connected to Tigger and Eeyore (and couldn’t exist without them as sidekicks in the stories). They all are different. But they fit together.

Translated to the REDD+ and payments-for-ecosystem-services discussions, this means that we can think of mechanisms that involve carbon-for-money exchanges at national scale (commoditization), which are linked with sub-national compensation schemes that support local co-investment, combining the three basic paradigms.

For example, in Indonesia, which has been doing a lot of work on building institutions at all levels, we might think of the United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (UNORCID) as Winnie the Pooh (it would be perhaps more apt to think of the Government of Indonesia’s REDD+ Agency in this role but at the time of writing it isn’t fully operative).

According to its website, ‘UNORCID provides the Indonesian REDD+ agency, its counterparts from UN agencies, funds and programmes and all stakeholders with coordination and information regarding the latest REDD+ developments in Indonesia. On the global level, UNORCID encourages and promotes a coordinated international response to challenges and opportunities for climate-change mitigation and adaptation in Indonesia’.

Quite clearly, this organization straddles both international and national levels and takes a unique form to do so.

Meanwhile, we might see the Papua Low Carbon Development Task Force as Tigger, nestled inside of Pooh.

‘Papua’s REDD program is part of the province’s overall Low Carbon Development Strategy which originated with Governor Suebu’s “Green Vision” and commitment to reduce deforestation starting at the COP 13 in Bali’, says the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force Knowledge Database.

Its scope is quite properly provincial: 1) Maintain at least 50% of Papua’s forests intact; 2) Stop using primary forest and other areas that have high cultural, carbon and/or conservation value for the cultivation of oil palm or large-scale agriculture; 3) Ensure large-scale agriculture is developed based on industry-standard best practices; 4) Ensure oil-palm plantations follow industry-standard best practices; and 5) Support economic diversification, including clean energy development and small-to-medium enterprises in the field of community forestry and forestry industry.

While we are in Papua, we can also meet a little Eeyore: working groups in the three districts of Jayapura, Jayawijaya and Merauke that bring together key stakeholders, including local communities, to plan and develop participatory monitoring and evaluation of land-use planning for low-emissions development.

The groups have two functions: 1) the planning groups are responsible for producing a set of strategic land-use plans for low-emission development; and 2) the monitoring and evaluation groups ensure that the planning and implementation processes are on the right track.

The World Agroforestry Centre in collaboration with the Papua Low Carbon Development Task Force, Brawijaya University, Papua Conservation and People Empowerment Foundation, and Papua Environmental Foundation established and help train the working groups to bridge scientific knowledge and local wisdom through a project funded by the European Union called Participatory Monitoring by Civil Society of Land-Use Planning for Low-Emissions Development Strategies.

Here, we see local groups at district level collaborating with provincial, national and international institutions, in another unique formation, to achieve the ultimate goal of reduced emissions and a ‘green’ economy.

Clearly, from these examples we can conclude that there is definitely more to a matroeschka than what we might think at first.



CRP 6 logo - small web


This work links to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s component on Landscape Management of Forested Areas for Environmental Services, Biodiversity Conservation and Livelihoods






Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

You may also like...