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Facilitating Transition from Degraded Commons to Reforested Land and Better Livelihoods Using Voluntary Carbon Schemes: Lessons from Timor-Leste

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Ramos, Jorge; Millar, Joanne
Conference: In Defense of the Commons: Challenges, Innovation and Action, the Seventeenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Lima, Peru
Conf. Date: July 1-5
Date: 2019
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/10606
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Region: Pacific and Australia
Subject(s): reforestation
collective action
rural affairs
Abstract: "This paper explores the potential role of global voluntary carbon markets in facilitating transition from degraded commons to community led reforestation in Timor-Leste. We examine the societal, environmental and institutional conditions that enable and challenge collective action by farmers, community organisations and project developers in meeting carbon certification standards. In Timor-Leste, natural resources are traditionally governed under local customary laws and institutions (Batterbury et al. 2015). During the Indonesian occupation (1975-1999), villagers were displaced and forest destroyed causing land-degradation (McWilliam et al. 2011). Since independence in 2000, some farmers have reclaimed their land under customary ownership. Conflicts continue over land ownership and livestock invasion but are usually resolved by customary laws (Batterbury et al. 2015). Farmers practice shifting cultivation to grow crops but the intense wet season combined with increased deforestation leads to soil erosion. Reforestation initiatives to address land degradation have shown initial success with planting. However, the effectiveness of these projects often declines from lack of financial support beyond planting campaigns (Lasco and Cardinoza, 2007). A longer-term option is to link smallholder reforestation with voluntary carbon markets via carbon certification (Neef and Thomas 2009). A project was established in 2011 with Australian non-government support to facilitate tree planting in Timor-Leste for the carbon market. The UK Darwin Initiative Fund is also supporting the project. A key factor facilitating farmers to plant trees for carbon certification has been adoption of an adequate carbon standard methodology suited to the characteristics of the project and credibility of the Project Manager who has ancestral roots, enabling strong community support. Customary laws and traditions are built into agreements between the project developer and farmers, stakeholder consultations and community governance mechanisms."

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