Bale Mountains Eco-Region REDD+ project
The Bale Mountains Eco-Region REDD+ Project builds on the Bale Eco-Region Sustainable Management Programme (BERSMP) that has been running since 2007 and is implemented by the Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise (OFWE) and NGOs Farm Africa and SOS Sahel Ethiopia. The BERSMP finished in December 2012, but a no-cost extension has been offered until June 2013 by the programme donors (Government of Norway, Irish Aid and Government of the Netherlands) to develop a Project Design Document (PDD) for a REDD+ project using the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard. The original programme (BERSMP) focused on building the capacity of local communities to sustainably manage land and forest resources in the Bale Eco-Region, by introducing Participatory Forest Management, land rehabilitation and developing Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) business enterprises. In order to ensure the sustainability of these activities it was realised that a financing mechanism was needed. For this purpose Farm Africa and SOS Sahel tried to establish Payments for Environmental Services (PES), focusing on carbon and watershed management. REDD+ emerged as a prospect to finance PES as its potentials were found to be much higher than the other options. Further during the development of the R-PP the Bale Eco-region was identified as a potential REDD+ pilot site. The Norwegian Government agreed to fund the piloting of a REDD+ project for three years after the BERSMP came to an end (EUR 2 million), which would also include the establishment of sustainable small scale enterprises that to provide an alternative income source and buffer against price volatility in the carbon market.
The Bale Eco-Region project is the first large scale REDD+ pilot project in Ethiopia. It is implemented by the same project proponents as under the BERSMP but with funding from the Norwegian government only. The PDD preparation for the Bale Eco-region REDD+ project is under way with technical assistance from a consortium of consultants drawn from the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC - Ghana), the Institute for Conservation and Sustainable Development of Amazonas (IDESAM - Brazil) and Oxford University (UK). The PDD is expected to be completed in July 2013.
The Bale Eco-Region REDD+ project area covers 500,000 ha and surrounds the Bale National Park (200,000 ha) which is one of the 34 Global Biodiversity Hotspots. It is expected to run for 20 years and according to the project feasibility study an estimated 18 million tonnes of CO2e emission reductions is likely to be achieved over the project lifetime. In April 2013 there were 58 cooperatives engaged in Participatory Forest Management (PFM) expected to be included in the project. The plan is to establish a Forest Union that can organise these different cooperatives under one coordinating body that can also engage in advocacy and lobbying on behalf its members. The cooperatives jointly manage forest concession areas with OFWE through legally binding Forest Management Agreements. These stipulate the benefit sharing arrangements between the government (OFWE) and the participating communities and this model (PFM) will also be used for the piloting of REDD+.
Stakeholder engagement and participation
Communities are primarily involved in the implementation of PFM. Individuals can join forest cooperatives at any stage from inception and the election of management representatives is through a democratic process. The members of the cooperative conduct a participatory forest resource assessment for the purpose of developing a Forest Management Plan (FMP). Once a FMP have been established cooperative members will be involved in the management and policing of the reserve, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of the PFM area.
Land tenure arrangements and carbon rights
All land in Ethiopia is under public ownership where usufruct rights can be granted to individuals, groups and private entities. The Bale Eco-Region REDD+ project area is under regional government administration and the right to use and manage forestland is granted through the establishment of a FMA with the regional authority- OFWE. This grants the participating communities the right to benefit from the extraction of NTFPs and sustainable forest management.
A preliminary baseline rate of deforestation has been established using historical data based on Landsat TM images from 1986, 2002 and 2006. This data only covers about 400,000 ha of the total project area and indicate that deforestation rates averaged 3.4% for 2001-2006, which is a significant increase to 1.3% for previous years 1986-2001. The main drivers of deforestation were identified as agricultural expansion, population growth and settlement, and forest fires. A socio-economic and environmental study for the establishment of baselines for measuring co-benefits is planned for phase 2 of the project.
The project will be developed using the Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard and Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
The REDD+ project is currently carrying out carbon stock assessment in the project site. At the same time further work is being done on modelling to establish a reference level and set the project start date. Inputs from these works as well as detailed project activities will be used to develop the MRV for the project.