An incentive programme for ecosystem services is most effective when specific groups are targeted based on the programme’s objectives.
REDD+ programmes can involve targeting of benefit sharing mechanisms to ensure that the bulk of the benefits are experienced by a specific group. How the target group is characterized depends on the project and its priorities, but groups that are typically prioritized are communities that involve disadvantaged, vulnerable or marginalized members.
Rationales that are used to justify the distribution and targeting of benefits include the following:
- Benefits should go to actors with legal rights (“legal rights” rationale);
- Benefits should go to those actors achieving emission reductions (“emission reductions” rationale);
- Benefits should go to low-emitting forest stewards (“stewardship” rationale);
- Those actors incurring costs should be compensated (“cost compensation” rationale);
- Benefits should go to effective facilitators of REDD+ implementation (“facilitation” rationale);
- Benefits should go to the poorest (“pro-poor” rationale).
It is important to legitimize the process of designing mechanisms as there can be various objectives and interest groups in a project. Having clearly defined principles and objectives can protect against small and unrepresentative interest groups exerting disproportionately strong influence over the design of REDD+ benefit sharing (Luttrell et al. 2013).
Different targeting approaches and eligibility criteria will involve trade-offs in costs and additionality, with more sophisticated and restrictive eligibility criteria being effective in achieving impacts and additionality, but also higher costs to implement. There is also a possibility of conflicts in certain societies when a few, but not all members of a community receive benefits. How the target group is characterized (e.g., how are the poor and vulnerable defined?) and the availability of data, funds and institutional capacity to implement such criteria would have to be considered.
Vietnam’s Forest Land Allocation (FLA) programme provides tenure security for forest land users and is aimed at devolving forest rights to local communities to encourage local forest protection and development. This is a pro-poor focused programme as poor communities and individuals based in rural forested regions are prioritized, and it grants forest owners the qualification they need to be able to receive Payments for Forest Environmental Services (PFES) (Pham et al. 2021) and eligibility for REDD+ (Wong et al. 2017), with the targeting approach aimed at reaching the poorest and most vulnerable groups in rural communities.
In the Cat Thien region of Vietnam, staff running the Payment for Forestry Environmental Services (PFES) programme selected participating communities using criteria such as villages being close to borders with other provinces, areas having high risks of illegal logging, villages showing good forest protection performance in the past, and communities not being involved in other state forest protection programmes. Although the programme did show some good practices in its targeting criteria for benefit sharing, there was room for improvement. For example, the household selection process should not have involved consultation with village heads, but this was not the case. Programme staff sought the opinions of village heads, and this may have biased the selection of households targeted for the programme, with some being more likely to be selected and others excluded. To ensure equity in the future, programme staff said they would try to rotate PFES recipient villages every few years, and villages not performing their PFES duties effectively would be removed from the programme and replaced with others. Efforts to increase equity should be considered carefully in all efforts to target REDD+ projects (Pham et al. 2021).
 Luttrell, C., Loft, L., Fernanda Gebara, M., Kweka, D., Brockhaus, M., Angelsen, A., Sunderlin, W.D., 2013. Who Should Benefit from REDD+? Rationales and Realities. E&S 18, art52.
 Pham, Thu Thuy, Le, T.T.T., Tuyet, H.N.K., Pham, V.T., Tran, P.H.N.K., Tran, T.D., Tran, N.M.H., Nguyen, T.T.A., Nguyen, T.V.A., 2021a. Impacts of Payment for Forest Ecosystem Services in Protecting Forests in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam. Forests 12, 1383.
 Wong, G.Y., Loft, L., Brockhaus, M., Yang, A.L., Pham, T.T., Assembe-Mvondo, S., Luttrell, C., 2017. An Assessment Framework for Benefit Sharing Mechanisms to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation within a Forest Policy Mix: Assessment Framework for REDD+ BSM. Env. Pol. Gov. 27, 436–452.
 Pham, T.T., Nguyen, T.D., Dao, C.T.L., Hoang, L.T., Pham, L.H., Nguyen, L.T., Tran, B.K., 2021. Impacts of Payment for Forest Environmental Services in Cat Tien National Park. Forests 12, 921.