REDD rag to indigenous forest dwellers

By Emilio Godoy

, by IPS

The implementation of a forestry programme against climate change in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas poses a threat to indigenous people in the state, non-governmental organisations warn.

The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme "will alter indigenous culture, will commodify it, giving commercial value to common assets like oxygen, water and biodiversity," Miguel García, general coordinator of Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, an NGO founded in 1991 that supports indigenous people and rural communities and defends the environment, told IPS.

"Under an ecological pretext, the social fabric is being broken down and resentment of and confrontation with the Zapatista grassroots supporters are being accentuated," he added, referring to the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), a Chiapas-based left-wing guerrilla group that defends indigenous rights.

The programme, initially launched in 2008 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the U.N. Development and Environment Programmes (UNDP and UNEP, respectively), is aimed at conservation of biodiversity and boosting carbon storage in forests by supporting developing countries financially and technically, to either prevent deforestation or regenerate forests through afforestation.

The government of Chiapas is keen on REDD as a means of mitigating the consequences of climate change in the state, one of Mexico’s poorest.

At the end of the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in early December in the southeastern Mexican resort of Cancún, the international community reached an agreement on the new version of the programme, REDD+.

Gustavo Sánchez, head of the Mexican Campesino Forest Producers’ Network (Red MOCAF) told IPS, "There are regions of Chiapas where land ownership is a problem, which makes implementation of REDD+ difficult. What is needed first and foremost is an effort to spread information," so that local people can give or withhold free, prior and informed consent.

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