Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)

Andrea Savage at an FPIC workshop with Chol community members.

In March 2013, EcoLogic’s Bryan Foster and Andrea Savage traveled to Chiapas to conduct Free, Prior and Informed Consent workshops in collaboration with local partner Na Bolom. They were joined by our community coordinator, Abelino Flores, to work with each of the three Mayan communities at our project site in Chiapas, Mexico.

EcoLogic currently supports these three Mayan communities—the Choles, Lacandones, and Tzeltales—in developing a community-led REDD+ project to promote the long-term conservation of a 35,000 hectare communal reserve in the Lacandón Rainforest. REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus) is a mechanism under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and provides scientific structure and verification mechanisms for third party certification of carbon projects, allowing for carbon credits to be sold on the world market. The “plus” adds steps to enhance the “non-carbon benefits” of REDD forest protection including biodiversity and ecosystem conservation.

Some REDD+ projects have faced criticism because not all take into account the interests and livelihood needs of the local communities who depend on the forests. This runs very much counter to EcoLogic’s vision of supporting local and indigenous peoples as the primary actors managing and benefiting from the conservation of their local ecosystems.

EcoLogic believes it vital that local people understand the implications of any project and have their rights respected when they enter into contractual agreements. FPIC is one tool we use to promote a fair and transparent process. Originating from the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, FPIC is founded on the principle that local people have the right to give or refuse consent to projects that will impact them and their lands. EcoLogic considers FPIC an essential process to promote fair and collaborative participation and build community project ownership.

At EcoLogic’s invitation, Dr. Tuyeni Mwampamba, Ph.D., a community engagement expert for REDD+ projects, joined the first workshop to provide insights and strategies on how to ensure the communities understand how REDD+ could impact their lives.

Abelino Flores (standing left), community coordinator for EcoLogic's REDD+ project in Chiapas, Mexico, at FPIC workshop.

Abelino Flores (standing left), community coordinator for EcoLogic’s REDD+ project in Chiapas, Mexico, at FPIC workshop.

More than 340 people attended the two-day workshops. The workshops included smaller working group discussions on specific local factors that contribute to the destruction of the forest, and identifying potential activities that would need to happen in order to successfully develop the REDD+ project and sell carbon credits. Feedback provided at the end of the sessions indicated that the communities felt good progress was made, and appreciated the inclusiveness of the process.

At the end of April, the Choles, Lacandones, and Tzeltales will convene in a general assembly to decide on whether or not to take the next steps for REDD+. This would include a workshop for the communities on how to use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to clarify community boundaries within the project site—an ongoing source of contention—and the identification of baseline indicators for human quality of life and biodiversity measurements.

We created CarbonPlus to implement projects that promote the health of forests and their ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere to reduce climate change effects. The program provides community-based partners with the technical expertise needed to successfully implement carbon projects, and by collaborating with communities we help them grow to independently manage these projects for the long term. By helping these communities access the carbon credit market, our CarbonPlus program also makes conserving forests more financially viable for the rural poor.