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Giving Communities a Say in Rainforest Protection

December 4, 2014


A group of Indigenous Peoples in Mexico engages in a dialogue with CONAFOR. 


  • Forests mean food and livelihoods for indigenous and forest-dependent peoples
  • Involving local communities in the design, decision making and management of forest programs makes them more successful
  • Through REDD+, the World Bank is strengthening social inclusion in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua to preserve forests, and support forest communities

Local communities are among a forest’s most important stewards, and giving them a voice is one of the most powerful ways to protect forests. For indigenous and forest-dependent peoples, forests mean food, livelihoods and can be a path out of poverty. This is why the World Bank is strengthening efforts on social inclusion to preserve natural forests, and support the communities that depend on them. For many years, the World Bank has been supporting governments and communities to protect and conserve natural forests. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation or REDD+, which provides incentives for developing countries to protect their standing forests, is one example of how the World Bank is engaging with countries.

Engaging communities in forest decision making

Indigenous and forest dependent peoples have protected their environment for thousands of years with little or no outside financial incentive and limited government recognition. Despite some integration into the market economy, many retain a close relationship with the forests not only for their livelihoods and subsistence but for their cultural and spiritual wellbeing. In particular, the Amazon rainforest is an important source of materials for construction and tools, fibers for weaving clothing as well as medicines and food and the Amazon forest and floodplain provide ecosystem services such as water for irrigation and erosion control that are critical for subsistence based agriculture and food security.

In Mexico, a majority of forests are collectively owned and managed by indigenous and non-indigenous communities. The country’s longstanding community forest management system is a model for other countries. The Bank is working with the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) to increase coverage, especially to indigenous ejidos in the REDD Early Action Areas. 

"REDD+ will allow us to test these innovative approaches at local scale, allowing these to be really accessible to communities and ejidos," says Miguel Angel Abaid Sanbria, Head of the International Affairs and Financing Unit, CONAFOR.

REDD+ engagement is fostering inclusive approaches in other countries. Consultations with Indigenous Peoples and other stakeholders to help influence the way decisions are made regarding forests and forestry policy and help increase benefits and incentives for those who depend on forests.


A Mexican artisan at work. 


" REDD+ will allow us to test these innovative approaches at local scale, allowing these to be really accessible to communities and ejidos. "

Miguel Angel Abaid Sanbria

Head of the International Affairs and Financing Unit, CONAFOR

Local communities in Peru are helping make decisions that impact the country's forests—including the Amazon, which covers over half of the country, but is being cleared for subsistence farming and industrial agriculture, as well as due to illegal logging. With support from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the Forest Investment Program (FIP), Peru's Ministry of Environment, along with agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture, is preparing a program to keep the natural forest standing and to reduce carbon emissions. Local communities are also being engaged in Peru’s REDD+ readiness programs. To date, over one thousand people have been reached through workshops, roundtables, and direct coordination on REDD+.

Going even further than meaningful participation is the joint preparation of the Saweto Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Peru. The Bank is supporting Indigenous leaders to design the Saweto DGM that will be governed by them and will be implemented at the community level. The Saweto DGM will finance land titling and community forestry--both high priorities for Indigenous Peoples. 

Implementing forest strategies, from the bottom up

Likewise, Nicaragua has developed a participatory platform on the country’s forestry strategy operating at the political, technical and local implementation level. The RACCN (Northern-Caribbean Autonomous Region of Nicaragua) and the RACCS (Southern-Caribbean Autonomous Region of Nicaragua) have actively contributed to the technical and political dialogue through this platform. As such, this three-layered structure channels the national forestry strategy proposals from the bottom up prioritizing inputs from the community-level.

New partnerships for forests

Action on REDD+ is strengthening partnerships between Indigenous Peoples, forest dependent communities and the programs that are intended to preserve their natural forest and reduce emissions.

In Mexico, REDD+ is developing in the context of a strong land tenure system and community-based forest activity. Peru and Nicaragua illustrate how REDD+ can shape the spirit of dialogue with indigenous communities, and enable social inclusion in forestry. Involving local communities in the design, decision making and management of forest programs makes them more successful—and this is promising for forests, and forest communities.