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Analysis of land management and legal arrangements in the Ecuadorian Northeastern Amazon as preconditions for REDD+ implementation

Loaiza, T., Borja, M.O., Nehren, U., Gerold, G.
Forest policy and economics 2017 v.83 pp. 19-28
carbon, conservation areas, deforestation, ecosystem services, emissions, forests, governance, indigenous peoples, interviews, land rights, land tenure, national parks, oils, planning, stakeholders, Amazonia, Ecuador
Ecuador is currently completing the readiness phase for the implementation of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism at the national level. Many challenges regarding rights, multilayered governance and land tenure remain open in this country where Indigenous Peoples (IPs) occupy 68% of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We focused on the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve to exemplify obstacles and answers found in the last years. In a REDD+ pilot project, six communities of the most widespread ethnicities (Shuar, Kichwa and Colonists) living in the buffer zone of the Yasuní National Park (YNP), were chosen. We used literature research, analysis of international and national agendas, as well as primary data on REDD+ perception obtained through semi-structured household interviews and personal observations. First, we reconstruct the historical development of territorial configuration and present the actual land tenure arrangements. And then, we analyze persistent management conflicts within institutional, planning and normative instruments. Finally we explore legal frameworks with a focus on participation and consultation. Our results show that insecure and overlapping land rights, as well as unclear and contradictory institutional responsibilities are major problems for REDD+ implementation. Despite great advancements that have been made, establishing equitable mechanisms to engage IPs and forest owners and stakeholders across many sectors in REDD+ is required. Especially in Ecuador where oil extraction is a priority and the central government has an exclusive competence over ecosystem services including carbon rights. Implementing fair methods for participation, benefit sharing and transfer of knowledge remains a challenge.