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REDD+ for Red Books? Negotiating rights to land and livelihoods through carbon governance in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
12/11/20 10:27AM
Phuc To, Wolfram Dressler and Sango Mahanty. Geoforum, 2017, volume 81, pp. 163-173.
Abstract: In Vietnam, initial programs to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) have proliferated through international finance and new governance regimes for climate change mitigation. National capacity and legal frameworks have been adjusted to make the country eligible for REDD+ financing. In some local areas, activities have been implemented to ‘produce’ carbon credits intended for the international voluntary carbon market. Through a case study of a pilot REDD+ project in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, we examine how REDD+ has intersected with property rights institutions and agrarian change to influence changing property relations and commodity markets. Our findings show that REDD+ implemented through state and local institutions has articulated with the local political economy to coproduce conditions that embody local norms, needs, and desires. Specifically, local actors negotiate state-sanctioned tenurial instruments used for REDD+ governance, not for the purposes of carbon sequestration but instead in order to reassert their rights to land and forest for the cultivation of boom crops—the antithesis of REDD+ objectives. In the fine balancing act of adjusting local forestland holdings, REDD+ implementation has effectively facilitated increased opportunities for upland villagers to strategically claim land titles from local political authorities in the form of communal land certificates for forests called ‘Red Books’. In securing communal Red Books, villagers redefine or co-constitute the purpose of REDD+ to secure land for cash crop and commercial timber production. As with other forms of environmental governance, REDD+ is thus co-constituted locally in line with state and local institutions and histories and present day realities.

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