Although the research is focused on the question of reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation though the community forest management efforts of local communities, and on the need to get this activity accepted internationally as a valid climate strategy, it in fact relates to more general and wider questions as well.
Payment for eco-services
There is a growing international movement which is supporting the notion that eco-services should be valued in economic terms and the persons responsible rewarded for this. In mountain areas, populations forego the short term profits of felling forests, but conserve them, although the main benefits flow to the populations who live the in plains below. Not only is soil erosion kept in check, the whole water system is regulated, which has immediate economic consequences in terms of flood control, rate of sedimentation, production of hydroelectric power etc. Forest biodiversity is another eco-service which is regularly delivered to society as a whole, at the cost of the local populations. Up to now there has been no mechanism for a fairer sharing of the costs and benefits of eco-services. The fact that carbon now has a market value as a result of the Kyoto agreement, means that for the first time there is an instrument available to pay those who provide the eco-service. Thus valuing carbon may be the first step towards a much broader economic arrangement in which other eco-service might also be rewarded. This is important in two aspects: both as an incentive for more and increased sustainable management of forests, and as a question of intrinsic equity.
Community based forest management as an adaptation strategy
The research focuses primarily on carbon mitigation as the aim of CBFM, but there is a second climate role which CBFM plays and that is related to adaptation to inevitable climate change. The expected temperature and rainfall disruptions in the next 50 years are going to cause major problems in agriculture in most developing countries and particularly in the poorer communities who are wholly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Strengthening forest management can assist local populations in various ways, not least by providing an alternative resource base (sales of non-timber forest products, of sustainably harvested wood fuels etc). It can also help to regulate the water catchment system which is likely to be affected by increased, or decreased rainfall. By measuring the impacts of CBFM on sustainable development indicators, the research will also be providing hard data on how such activities might counteract the economic impacts of climate change on local communities.
Decentralisation of natural resource management
The research will also contribute to the growing literature on decentralisaton of the management of natural resources. It is increasingly being realized that natural resources such as forest cannot always be managed efficiently by central governments via Forestry Departments, and there is a growing movement towards 'empowering' lower levels of government and village communities, to manage the forest themselves. This must be seen in the context of the more general political move toward decentralization which is a global phenomenon. There is also opposition to this movement from stakeholders who fear that community control will be weak and may result in greater deforestation, or in a skewed distribution of the benefits. By closely examining the rate of increase of biomass and the manner of distribution of the benefits, under a variety of situations where the management and ownership rules differ, the research will provide detailed case study material which may throw light on some of these question.