Australia has shut down the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP), leaving most of the project’s targets unmet. When announced in September 2007, the US$47 million project was described as aiming to protect 70,000 hectares of peat forest, re-flood 200,000 hectares of peat land, and plant 100 million trees. But a 2012 report on the project by Erik Olbrei and Stephen Howes, two academics at the Australian National University, found that only 50,000 trees had been plantecd and none of the peat had been re-flooded.

The main results AusAID currently points on its website are monitoring and research activities, payments for participation, and the formation of a “forest management unit” that’s developing a 35 year plan (without 35 years of future funding). Beyond these shortcomings, the project also highlighted recurring issues with REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) schemes – particularly land rights.

The KFCP was part of a larger $273 million climate change aid program to demonstrate that “forest carbon offsets” were a viable way to reduce carbon emissions. Bold claims were made about its capacity to demonstrate effective ways to reduce emissions from deforestation and land degradation in Indonesia, and to incentivise sustainable livelihoods for local communities. But after five years of blundering, the main results AusAID can point to are monitoring and research activities, payments for participation, and the formation of a “forest management unit” that’s developing a 35 year plan (without 35 years of future funding). Meanwhile, Kalimantan is rapidly expanding palm oil and coal production.

A crucial failing was that the project did not establish community support or consent. In an interview with ABC’s The World Today, Patrick Anderson of Forest Peoples Programme explained that he has visited the KFCP project area several times and “there isn’t broad community support for the project”.

Yayasan Petak Danum (YPD), a Kalimantan indigenous organisation stated in 2011 that the project did not realise Free Prior and Informed Consent or meaningful community participation. They expressed no confidence in project staff. The Forest Peoples Programme have documented the issues also.

Lack of community ownership of the project has caused problems. YPD have repeatedly asked the project staff to assist recognition of customary Ngaju Dayak knowledge in producing program activities but elicited a limited response.

The program has been essentially outsourced to international organisations. Some community members have been active on social media reflecting on what went wrong. Upon hearing the news of the project’s end, Norhadie Karben from Mentangai Hulu, a village in the KFCP commented on the relationship between the KFCP failure and the history of international conservation organisations operating in the area.

“Since 2004, many international organisations are coming to the village to rehabilitate former Peat Land Development Project (PPLG 1 million hectares of agricultural land taken by New Order). The presence of the project in 2006 CKPP make people confused because since their presence they started to restrict access into the forest and land rights. In 2009 the KFCP reappeared in the local community creating conflict and confusion about the status of our land which is 120,000 hectares.”

Deddy Ratih, of WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), further noted, “AusAID and the KFCP staff have failed to support conservation programs that are environmentally effective and sensitive to the rights of indigenous people in rural Indonesia. The KFCP is a missed opportunity to empower local communities to develop their sustainable livelihood practices and address the drivers of land conversion in Kalimantan.”

Commenting on the implications for REDD/REDD+ schemes, Isaac Rojas, Forest and Biodiversity coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, said “The work around KFCP is important for FoEI because it is one of the largest REDD project in Indonesia. The experience in Kalimantan helps us understand REDD in reality, its real impacts on communities and the logic behind these false solutions to pressing global problems.” he said, “Indonesia is very important for forest issues. Approximately 80% of Indonesia’s emissions come from the conversion of peatlands (45%) and forestlands (35%). Approximately 35 REDD demonstration projects have been undertaken in Indonesia.”

The project’s failure has implications for international experimentation with carbon trading and carbon offsetting. The REDD+ reductions are a controversial form of carbon abatement, involving payments for conservation activities that reduce emissions. The research on carbon and other “payment for ecosystem services” schemes suggests that they do not guarantee global emissions reductions, nor do they tackle administrative and structural reforms necessary to halt deforestation.

Friends of the Earth groups have also taken issue with the political use of aid money to boost the carbon market agenda. Australia and Indonesia presented the KFCP program to the UNFCCC in 2008 as a model project when they expressed their preference for a market approach to REDD+.

REDD projects also cause land rights issues with alarming regularity and Kalimantan has been no exception. Deddy Ratih commented, “A key aspect of deforestation and land degradation is the lack of formal rights held by indigenous and rural people in Indonesia. The KFCP did nothing to assist local communities to assert their customary rights and develop capacity for sustainable land management. Over five years the project has produced no significant environmental outcomes. It created conflict in local communities and confusion about the status of their land.”

Rebecca Pearse, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Australia, also highlights the project’s failure to deal with land tenure issues in the project area. Rather than engaging with political, administrative and legal processes related to land tenure problems, the project went ahead arguing that community management rights can contribute to reform of tenure (p. 25).

Writing in New Matilda Pearse comments that this was another promise unmet, “The KFCP exacerbated conflicts about the status of land. Community concerns about the ways the project was implemented have been in circulation for some time.”
The KFCP is a failed trial in carbon pricing and has caused plenty of grief for local communities. It illustrates ongoing troubles in forest carbon schemes dedicated to this model.

The Australian government continues to maintain that the KFCP was created to “demonstrate a credible, equitable and effective approach to REDD+ and inform discussions and negotiations on climate change.” It appears that the KFCP project mirrors the ongoing problems with carbon and other “payment for ecosystem services” schemes, suggesting that they do not provide the win-win-win ‘solutions’ advocates claim.

There is clearly much to learn from the KFCP, and discuss publicly about what concrete lessons can be taken from this experience.

This post is based on articles written for New Matilda (Beck Pearse) and REDD-Monitor (Chris Lang).

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