Carbon Offsets and Agricultural Livelihoods: Lessons Learned From a Carbon Credit Project in The Transition Zone Of Ghana

Working Paper

As REDD-type becomes an integral part of the international response to climate change, it is important to learn from existing forest carbon offset projects to ensure that REDD+ does not undermine property rights, resource access and agricultural livelihoods at the grassroots.

Carbon Offsets and Agricultural Livelihoods: Lessons Learned From a Carbon Credit Project in The Transition Zone of Ghana by Ishmael Hashmiu therefore focuses on one project in Ghana, and is aimed at understanding how the Vision 2050 Forestry Carbon Credit Project (CCP) interacts with property rights, resource access and livelihoods of smallholders in the Forest- Savanna Transition zone of Ghana. While in many ways not typical, this project case study nevertheless exposes some of the core dilemmas and challenges of REDD-type projects in agricultural areas, highlighting in particularly the social, institutional and political dimensions.

In the following sections, the paper explores the land use history of the study area and how past land-use interventions are shaping farmers’ perception of the carbon offset intervention. It draws out the narratives (the storylines which define problems and solutions) of the key actors about carbon and climate change and how these narratives converge and conflict. Differential interests and power relations of various actors and how they influence resource access and control in the CCP are also discussed in this paper. The paper assesses how carbon rights get appropriated and examines the local understanding of carbon as a commodity. It finally analyses the implications of the CCP on land-use change and livelihoods in the study sites and the transition zone. The paper brings into the limelight alternative narratives from the grassroots that had been obscured by the dominant narratives of the more powerful actors.

The conclusions underscore the need to make REDD+ interventions contribute to the wellbeing of smallholders. Such counter narratives from the grassroots potentially provide policy spaces for making carbon offset interventions more equitable, while enhancing the inclusion of marginalized local actors. The design of the CCP itself, the challenges faced by farmers and the project developer, as well as factors which ultimately contributed to the collapse of the project, all provide useful lessons for ongoing and future REDD+ projects worldwide, especially with regard to making them grassroots-centered and compatible with smallholder agriculture..