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FEATURE STORY August 26, 2020

Reaping the Rewards of Sustainable Land Use

Woman with red head scarf handling plants at a field

Photo: Binyam Teshome / World Bank


  • Results-based land use programs reward stakeholders for their efforts in reducing emissions, managing land sustainably, and protecting ecosystems.
  • The right incentives in the right hands can ensure success and sustainability, but achieving this winning combination requires careful consideration, especially for larger-scale programs.
  • A suite of tools offers a step-by-step process for developing fair and efficient benefit sharing arrangements.

A thriving forest holds value that communities, companies, and other stakeholders around the world are realizing with every tree that is saved. In February 2020, they became the first in Niger to earn carbon credit payments—$450,000—for greenhouse gases sequestered by 7,200 hectares of Acacia Senegal trees planted and raised on once-abandoned land. The communities are using this money to maintain and expand their plantations, purchase agricultural equipment and inputs, rehabilitate water points, supply schools and health posts with materials, and lend to women and youth, among other initiatives.

The forests were planted through an afforestation agro-forestry project under the World Bank’s Community Action Program. While it has taken 14 years for the trees to mature enough to pursue carbon revenue, they have yielded many other important benefits that have sustained and motivated communities along the way.

Acacia Senegal trees were chosen for their soil restoration properties, but they also produce Arabic gum, which is used as a stabilizer in the food industry. The gum is a source of income for the communities who collect and sell it for export. The trees have also rehabilitated the soil, allowing communities to grow much-needed food crops and animal fodder, further boosting incomes and food security. Consistent training and on-the-ground support were key to supporting communities throughout and keeping the project on track.

Carbon credit payment ceremony in Koné Béri, Niger.

Carbon credit payment ceremony in Koné Béri, Niger.

Photo: Mirko Serkovic / World Bank

Upfront planning for long-term benefit sharing

Niger’s experience offers important lessons on benefit sharing: the distribution of results-based finance and non-monetary benefits to participating stakeholder groups. In addition to regular training, agricultural inputs and support received throughout the project, communities had also bought in and remained committed to the process – all of which was key to unlocking carbon credit payments. The right incentives in the right hands can boost success and sustainability of results-based programs, such as REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) or Payment for Environmental Services (PES). Achieving this winning combination requires careful consideration, especially as programs grow in complexity and scale.

More than 20 countries are developing jurisdictional-scale emission reductions and land use programs under the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (BioCF ISFL). Part of that process is designing benefit sharing arrangements that ensure all participating stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples and other vulnerable communities, are fairly rewarded for their role in program activities.  

“The entire supply chain is involved, from cocoa famers and local communities to private companies to various government agencies,” explains says Neeta Hooda, who is one of the leads for the World Bank team supporting the program.

The program’s benefit sharing plan elaborates how this will be done. It describes the various beneficiaries, their eligibility, roles, and responsibilities, and the types of benefits to be transferred, including the scale, timing, and modalities for distribution. It details the conditions to be satisfied for the payment of the benefits, as well as appropriate indicators for monitoring, measuring, and verifying compliance. The plan is the result of extensive field study, broad stakeholder consultations at the local and national levels, and multiple expert reviews involving men and women from communities, the private sector, civil society, and government. This focus on inclusion and accountability will be a key part of this program’s success.


New resources and guidance

Ghana made use of FCPF and BioCF ISFL guidance on designing benefit sharing arrangements. This guidance is now available on an online platform, Designing Benefit Sharing Arrangements: A Resource for Countries. It walks users through a step-by-step process that breaks benefit sharing down into core elements. It also includes key findings from the FCPF and BioCF ISFL report Benefit Sharing at Scale: Good Practices for Results-Based Land Use Programs, authored by Conservation International.

“The time and resources required to develop benefit sharing arrangements are often underbudgeted,” explains Katie O’Gara, a Natural Resources Management Specialist with the World Bank. “This easy-to-use platform gives countries and development partners a clear road map for creating plans that consider and align the various needs, expectations, and goals of beneficiaries and the program.”

REDD+ and sustainable land use programs demand a high degree of stakeholder participation and cooperation to make them work. So too must the programs work for stakeholders. By sharing practical experiences and guidance, these resources on benefit sharing arrangements can help ensure everyone wins—people, program, and planet.

As other countries look ahead to what’s next, the lessons learned from these kinds of results-based climate finance programs show how they can help support a better, more resilient and more sustainable future.