Commodifying forest carbon: How local power, politics and livelihood practices shape REDD+ in Lindi Region, Tanzania

  • Andreas Scheba

Student thesis: Phd


International efforts to promote REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation andforest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests andenhancement of forest-carbon stocks) have enjoyed widespread support in climatenegotiations. While proponents of this 'payments for ecosystem services' approachproclaim win-win benefits, others critique this commodification of forest carbon forcontributing to social and environmental injustices that will undermine conservation anddevelopment in the longer-term. In this dissertation I respond to these concerns bycritically examining how REDD+ initiatives emerge in the context of Lindi Region,Tanzania. I specifically investigate how REDD+ initiatives interact with locallivelihood practices, local forest governance and the drivers of land use in order tointerrogate the mechanism's contribution to local development. I conductedethnographic fieldwork in two villages, both characterised by relatively large forestareas and 'shifting cultivation', where different REDD+ projects are underway. In totalI stayed in Tanzania for 11 months and applied qualitative and quantitative methods thatresulted in 116 recorded interviews, one focus group discussion, innumerable journalentries from ethnographic interviewing and participant observation, 118 householdsurveys and data from document analysis.Drawing on debates within international development and neoliberalisation of nature Iconceptualise REDD+ initiatives as processes promoting 'inclusive' neoliberalconservation. In doing so I point at the inherent contradictions of this mechanism thataims to combine a neoliberal conservation logic with inclusive development objectives.I empirically examine local livelihood practices to question popular notions of land useand argue that REDD+ initiatives must grapple with poverty, intra-village inequalityand villagers' dependence on land for crop production to contribute to inclusiveeconomic development. I follow up on this argument by discussing the importance ofmaterial and discursive effects of REDD+ initiatives to the livelihoods of poor, middleincomeand wealthy households and to forest conservation. I then link these effects toan examination of how power and politics shape the implementation of REDD+initiatives on the ground, specifically discussing the technically complex and politicallycontested process of territorialisation and the local practices of community-based forestmanagement. I illustrate how seemingly technical REDD+ initiatives are inherentlypolitical, which gives them the potential to contribute to local empowerment. At thesame time I question naïve assumptions over community conservation and goodgovernance reforms by showing in detail how community-based forest managementinstitutions are practiced on the ground and how this affects benefit distribution withinthe villages. My last empirical chapter examines how Conservation Agriculture isintroduced in the villages as the best way to reconcile agricultural development withforest protection. I specifically discuss the role of social relations in shaping thedissemination and adoption of this new technology in rural Tanzania.Throughout this thesis I argue that local livelihood practices, power struggles andpolitics over land and people shape how REDD+ initiatives, as inherently contradictoryprocesses of 'inclusive' neoliberal conservation, emerge on the ground and I empiricallyshow what this means to different forest stakeholders.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDaniel Brockington (Supervisor) & Philip Woodhouse (Supervisor)


  • REDD+
  • payments for ecosystem services
  • Tanzania
  • Conservation Agriculture
  • carbon markets
  • 'inclusive' neoliberal conservation
  • community forest management
  • neoliberalisation of nature

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