Many of the armed conflicts in tropical regions occur in areas with high forest cover. Meanwhile, these forested areas have been recognized as being potential sites for agricultural development and, more recently, as potential sites for forest carbon storage programs (REDD+). Yet, despite these important links, relationships between food production, forest carbon biomass, and armed conflicts remain unclear.
With this in mind, Augusto Castro, a researcher at CIAT, used household-level surveys and data at the municipal level to assess, as a first step, the potential for integration of forest carbon storage and peacebuilding efforts in Colombia. Specifically, household surveys were used to identify factors explaining farmers’ propensity to adopt forest carbon conservation practices in situations of armed conflicts. Meanwhile, data at the municipal level was used to: (1) investigate potential geographic overlaps between REDD+ and peacebuilding programs at the national and regional levels, and (2) assess how joint outcomes of the interactions between ‘carbon storage’, ‘armed conflict,’ and ‘deforestation rates’ are linked to social, institutional, and economic factors.
The REDD+ mechanism
is the latest internationally-promoted approach to incentivizing developing countries to implement national policies aimed at reducing deforestation.
“There is great opportunity to learn from Colombia how to reduce deforestation, while simultaneously contributing toward peacebuilding and sustainable food production. Colombia is assuming this challenge first of all because of government’s and various donor agencies’ interests in support the country’s REDD+ efforts, secondly because of country’s priority to sustainably increase food production, and thirdly because of the ongoing peace process.”Augusto Castro
What the experts’ analysis tell us about synergies between REDD+ and peacebuilding:
Important local-level complementarities between peacebuilding and forest carbon storage programs.
High potential for adoption of REDD+ among conflict-affected farmers.
Peacebuilding efforts, such as land tenure programs, predispose farmers toward forest conservation.
Similarly, results show potential national- and regional-level synergies between REDD+ and peacebuilding efforts. However, synergies appear to occur in specific contexts, such as in regions where high conflict indicators geographically overlap with high content of forest carbon biomass, as well as with high deforestation rates (see blog about related paper).
Additionally, results show conditions conducive to continued armed conflict, including:
competition for control of scarce resources (i.e. land);
sites of grievances (i.e. agricultural colonization frontiers with forced migration due to violence and to inequality in access to land);
availability of high-value natural resources (i.e. outputs of illegal crop production) to finance agricultural colonization and guerrilla movements; and proximity to forested areas that might serve as cover for armed groups.
Results also indicate that forest commons apparently reduce the causes of conflicts, and simultaneously provide contributions to carbon-storage and to meeting local communities’ basic needs (see related paper).
What about the opportunities that may arise for sustainable food production of such integration?
This question remains unanswered; however, the wheels of change have been set in motion, and the results of another study led by CIAT are being prepared for publication. This study aims to provide insights into the opportunities for sustainable food production that may arise if integration between land-based climate change mitigation and peacebuilding efforts is materialized. Such understanding would have practical implications for forested tropical countries, many of which, besides pursuing REDD+, have unrealized agricultural growth, and are either in a state of active armed conflict, or in a process of transition toward peace.
Our research provides evidence of potential co-benefit, based on the understanding that links between REDD+ and a country’s development objectives — peacebuilding and sustainable food production in the Colombian case – might secure the necessary level of social and political support to make forest conservation viableAugusto Castro
This blog was written based on the the PHD Thesis Forest Carbon Storage as Peacebuilding Strategy. For more information contact: