A Forest of Complexity: An Ethnographic Assessment of REDD+ Implementation in Indonesia
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Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) is a global initiative aimed at curbing carbon emissions from forest cover change. Indonesia, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet with the third largest extent of tropical forest, has been extensively involved in REDD+. Despite commitments from the government of Indonesia and the international community, the deforestation rate has not stabilized or decreased in the years since REDD+'s introduction in 2007. As of 2012, it was arguably the highest in the world. While there is an extensive body of literature on REDD+, the need for grounded observations from the field could clarify existing challenges and inform future pursuits. This dissertation presents the results of over two years of ethnographic research in Indonesia on REDD+. Qualitative data collection techniques such as participant observation, site visits and interviews provide a rich tapestry of data that was analyzed in combination with scholarly literature and policy. The research finds that despite a number of changes to laws and regulations resulting from REDD+ implementation in Indonesia, weak institutional capacity and corruption have negated gains. The results of a case study of three REDD+ project sites identify important criteria at the root of success or failure: finance, community, boundary enforcement, monitoring, and outcomes of attempted carbon sequestration and biodiversity preservation. Challenges identified for each criteria include a lack of sufficient funding opportunities; inability to enforce boundaries due to corruption; and lack of a solid plan for involving communities. Carbon sequestration and biodiversity preservation results were mixed due to lack of monitoring and problems with encroachment. Finally the results of the qualitative data collection with stakeholders indicates a crisis of confidence among REDD+ stakeholders; cultural barriers to communication; a disconnect between international rhetoric and local reality; corruption and governance issues resulting in a lack of pathways for project implementation. I argue that changes must be made to Indonesian policy, monitoring technologies must be utilized, and stakeholders need to address some of the problems discussed here in order to save REDD+ from crisis.