A delegation of the Royal Government of Cambodia visited their counterparts of Ecuador for an intensive and productive REDD+ exchange mission that took place from 4th to 14th December. The aim of the mission was to generate a detailed understanding of how Ecuador has developed and implementing its National REDD+ Action Plan known as “Forest for Good Living”, as well as to learn from the experiences of both countries on REDD+ related topics.
Hosted by the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador, the opening event had the presence of the Minister of Environment, Dr. Tarsicio Granizo, and the mission involved the Undersecretariat of Climate Change and Undersecretariat of Natural Heritage authorities and technical personnel, as well as advisers of UNDP, FAO and the REDD+ team. The delegation of Cambodia was constituted by the Director General of the General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection, together with authorities of the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, and UNDP Cambodia advisors. The mission comprised a week of theoretical exchange on how Ecuador and Cambodia are responding to the challenge of climate change through action on its forests and a practical exchange on an Ecuadorian initiative.
During the first two days, the delegations held technical discussions on the main areas of REDD+, presenting their approach and progress on building the operational, political and technical systems needed to complete the technical requirements under by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to access results-based payments for REDD+. Some of the highlights of this first dialogue were:
- The importance of strengthening capacities of subnational institutions (i.e. at the provincial and local levels), through different capacity building mechanisms including training of trainers, working groups and thematic training, to clarify concepts and build awareness and understanding of REDD+ processes. In order to do so, it is necessary to involve people of local communities, local governments and civil society, which promotes and facilitates the implementation of REDD+ activities.
- The benefits of fostering a common understanding of REDD+ among the sectorial ministries that are involved in the implementation of REDD+ and other environmental policies, relevant to tackle the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation; thus, the inter-institutional coordination is fundamental, which involves permanent dialogues and the selection of focal points in each institution.
- The benefits of designing implementation plans involving partners at different levels to optimize resources, to ensure the generation of the greatest social and environmental impacts. Those plans are developed in a modular way, looking for the collaboration of international stakeholders and donors, who can invest in different plans or a group of activities of a certain plan or project, whiteout disrupting the execution of the plan itself.
- The positive results generated from the prioritisation of areas to implement the REDD+ Action Plan in Ecuador, which were determined based on biophysical criteria such as landscapes and ecosystems, deforestation rates, and regeneration trends; environmental criteria such as water regulation and biodiversity conservation, and social criteria such as the poverty reduction, and the presence of indigenous territories and minority groups.
- The importance of ensuring gender and safeguards are cross-cutting elements that are integrated to the national REDD+ strategy or action plan, as well as to sectorial plans at all levels and operational tools determined to support REDD+ implementation.
- To promote forest conservation, sustainable forest management and use of natural resources a integral landscape approach is needed, including complementary policies that provide both control and incentive strategic guidelines.
- The success of Ecuador’s Socio Bosque Program, that is an important Ecuadorian initiative aimed at the conservation of native forests while supporting local communities and persons through economic incentives. These stakeholders voluntarily commit with the Ministry of Environment, signing a contract or agreement to protect and preserve their native forests or other native vegetation like paramos.
- The demonstrative projects presented by Cambodia state the importance of providing public incentives for forest conservation, as well as the options to address drivers of deforestation, including introducing energy efficiency, prepare land use management plans, and introducing alternative livelihood opportunities. The projects also enhanced coordination between the local authorities and communities in forest patrolling and reducing transgressions.
Over the following days, the Cambodian delegation visited a Socio Bosque Program site: the local community Santa Rita located in Tena, Napo province. During the visit, the delegation witnessed how this community implemented different activities with the incentive received from Socio Bosque Program. These activities include agroforestry, following ancestral techniques and combining cocoa and coffee plantations and diverse forest trees; tourism and preservation and monitoring of native forest areas. The products obtained are sold to bio-commercial enterprises to do premium organic chocolate.
Finally, the delegation was hosted by the Provincial Ministry of Environment and the presidents of five communities who shared their experience about the implementation of Socio Bosque Program. The main points of this exchange were:
- Each community has its own investment plan with clear activities and goals. This is developed by the community through a local committee and approved by the whole community with the participation of women, men, young and older people. Once the investment plan is developed, following some guidelines and requirements, the community reports on its implementation and receives the technical and financial support from the Socio Bosque Program.
- The main areas of work of those communities are conservation, ecotourism, bio-agro-products and non-timber forest products (NTFP) like handicrafts made from fibers, vegetables and medicinal plants.
- Thematic trainings are focused on: forest management, administrative capacities (economy, finance planning and monitoring and evaluation (M&E), start-up projects), education and health, land management and implementation of new technologies like computer skills, GPS, GIS, etc.
- Other regional and local institutions.
- The provincial government is in charge of the monitoring and coordination of infrastructure plans like roads management and bridges, as well as environmental plans, ensuring the coordination among communities, working on the implementation of activities with the technical support team in the region.
- Several national, sub-national and local public institutions support the communities through according to regulations and competences of the government entities.
- The collaboration and coordination with NGOs and other civil society organizations is necessary to promote an efficient, transparent and participatory management of the territory.
The Cambodia delegation returned to Phnom Penh with their luggage overflowing with innovative ideas to implement the Cambodian National REDD+ Strategy. Equally, the Government of Ecuador learned from the information and advances made in Cambodia. Also, the Government of Ecuador expressed its pleasure to have received the Cambodian delegation and its willingness to continue this exchange with Cambodia in order to create a long-lasting cooperation that allows both countries to accelerate their drives towards REDD+ results to tackle the challenge of climate change.