Monique Borgerhoff Mulder

Monique Borgerhoff Mulder

Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, is a human behavioural ecologist working on projects relating to life history, conservation, and global patterns of cultural variation. She does fieldwork in East Africa investigating issues relating to human life history variation, fertility, marriage, inheritance, divorce, sexual conflict, health and household economics, with recent focus on the extent and transmission of inequality. Monique also works on the evolutionary and applied aspects of natural resource management, particularly with respect to conflicts over land use and community conservation, and is involved in the implementation of many conservation and development interventions in Africa.

REDD Zanzibar

Case Study: In 2015 Tim Caro (WCFB) and I started a research project to determine the opportunities and challenges facing a REDD+ project in Zanzibar. REDD+ links communities to the global carbon market; more specifically polluters in developed nations pay communities proportional to their success in reducing emissions from deforestation. The Norwegian/CARE International programme issued permits to 18 “REDD-ready” communities in Pemba (Zanzibar’s northern island) that are now, under a four party agreement (CARE International, the Division of Forestry, a local NGO responsible for implementation and rewards, and the San Francisco-based carbon agent Terra Global Carbon) poised to participate in REDD+ carbon marketing.

Success and Failures: Our investigations, building off 20+ years studying economic development, demography, health, and biodiversity protection in Africa, focus on the real time challenges and opportunities of the REDD+ programme in Pemba’s fragile ecology, vibrant clove economy, and complex political isolation from not only mainland Tanzania, but the better developed southern island (known commonly as Zanzibar). The most prominent successes we identify are the links between palpable experiences of climate change (sea level rise exposing burials, salt water intrusion in rice fields, etc.), and the extraordinary strength of some communities in excluding outside interference – rejecting both investors and government agencies intent on “managing” their forests. The notable failures we observe result from unfulfilled expectations – carbon payments were mimicked by CARE’s “motivation payments” but are not as yet materializing; this is due to a fragile voluntary international carbon market, as well as inexplicable (from the communities’ viewpoint) delays with the Validation/Verification steps required by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

SDGs: REDD+ aligns directly with Goal 13 (Take Urgent Action on Climate Change). In line with Goal 10 (Reduce Inequality Within/Among Countries) it addresses North-South imbalances in the distributions of costs/benefits of carbon storage, as well as the fair allocation of benefits within forest-protecting communities. Goal 15 (Protect, Restore and Promote Sustainable Use of Terrestrial Ecosystems) is an integral outcome of a successful REDD+ programme, as are Goals 8,12 and 16 more distally.

Critical points/inputs. From my experiences, both on Pemba and in a variety of projects in mainland Tanzania, I see two things as critical to project success: communication between stake holders, and having stake holders properly represented (i.e. present) on the ground. Neither are novel insights, but the mechanisms for achieving them are challenging in the extreme, and typically failing. Furthermore as technological innovations are increasingly offered as development solutions, the challenges emerging from infrequent consultation and ever more remote decision-makers escalate. Maybe it is our experience as anthropological and conservation biology fieldworkers that makes us see the fundamental role of having committed individuals (project personnel, researchers, evaluators in real time, etc.) on the ground. Only in this way can problems be properly addressed, better averted. My additional experience as a co-founder of a monitoring and evaluation agency in Tanzania (SFTZ: Data for Development) reveals how structurally challenging this can be. How do we move forward? What is the role of research in the development process? How can real time, community-led monitoring and evaluation of development interventions by the targets of the development process itself be institutionalized?