Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP), Vanuatu
Vanuatu is a Melanesian archipelagic nation of about 83 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, with a small population estimated at 230,000. Ni-Vanuatu, or indigenous people from Vanuatu, makes up the majority of the population. Rural and traditional economies characterized by very low monetary incomes and subsistence land use are dominant in the country; around three-fourths of Ni-Vanuatu live in rural areas. Produce such as root crops and seasonal fruits as well as fishing and cattle raising form the base of many livelihoods. Given its low per-capita income, Vanuatu belongs to the group of Least Developed Countries. However, Vanuatu has repeatedly expressed its desire to develop economically, through investments in infrastructure, an internationally competitive tourism industry, and agriculture and forestry, including agro-industrial production and processing. The success of REDD+ in Vanuatu is contingent on its ability to comprehensively integrate sustainable land use activities that reduce pressure on forests into the development and implementation of these development policies.
Land is deeply important to the Ni-Vanuatu. Customary law has been a significant influence on Vanuatu’s legal system and the vast majority of land in Vanuatu is owned by Ni-Vanuatu communities or individuals. The 1980 Constitution vests all land to Ni-Vanuatu in perpetuity. In order to develop land, i.e. implement any commercial activity, a conditioned lease has to be registered, including the demarcation of the land, registration of ownership, and specific conditions as to which activity can be implemented under the lease agreement. Vanuatu land law requires customary owners to be consulted and have to consent to all matters relating to the use of the land and its resources. However, the land tenure system is vulnerable to illegal practices that lead to land grabbing and to conflicts over the ownership as soon as financial gains are expected. Thus, participation and support of community representatives will be a cornerstone of REDD+ strategy building during R-PP implementation.
REDD+ Scheme is the fully functional design and implementation of REDD+ in Vanuatu. The term Scheme is used in order to distinguish REDD+ from time-bound programs or projects. REDD+ Scheme is the overarching term which encompasses REDD+ projects and programs.
For the purposes of REDD+, the forest definition is broad to include mangroves, palms and agroforestry systems that meet the minimum area, height and canopy cover requirements. Although commercial logging led to significant forest degradation in the 80s and 90s, land use trends most affecting the forests have shifted to small-scale subsistence activities. In the future, infrastructure, tourism and agro-industry development may prove to be the most important drivers, also land speculations might contribute to land use change. Due to high social and ecological diversity between the islands, the REDD+ Scheme must incorporate a variety of approaches, both in addressing different drivers as well as how it reaches out to stakeholders through the different communication structures prevalent at the village level.
Taking all of this into account, Vanuatu is planning to implement an innovative approach, its national REDD+ Scheme, in which, once functional, the government will use the carbon money to invest into sustainable land use activities in different sectors and thereby lower the rate of deforestation and forest degradation, hence the GHG emissions. The main benefit for the Ni-Vanuatu will be the enhancement of sustainable economic activities and the increase of income with the national investment program covering the up-front investments. Vanuatu will pursue demonstration activities using financing instruments currently available to support such activities.
In parallel to the investment program, the Government of Vanuatu is in the process of developing a well-articulated and widely accepted land use policy, emphasizing balance and trade-offs among different land-use options, and enabling close collaboration and coordination among the different Government authorities responsible for land, agriculture, livestock, forestry, climate change adaptation, Provincial governments, customary chiefs and communities. Integrating REDD+ objectives into land use planning at the Provincial level is seen as the most promising approach to ensuring REDD+ activities come from bottom-up demand, as opposed to being imposed from the top-down.