Types of benefits

Direct cash based on performance

Direct monetary benefits have been rare in REDD+. Until a global or national carbon price is reliably established, REDD+ and other low emissions development initiatives are unlikely to promise direct monetary benefits to communities.

A study evaluating the PFES programme in Dak Lak province in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam found that even after eight years of implementation, reducing forest loss is difficult when local people do not find Payment for Forest Environmental Services (PFES) schemes financially attractive, despite the programme providing a stable income source and higher payments than from state forest protection programmes.

Local stakeholders identified several issues currently limiting the programme. First, service provides are paid to conduct patrols and take other measures to protect the forest, but community-led patrolling is challenging. People deem the payments they receive to be too low for the time and effort they have to expend traversing harsh, craggy mountain terrain. Other issues include different payment rates being applied to different watersheds, which creates a sense of inequity, and households not following patrolling schedules. Most villagers said PFES incomes cannot compete with earnings from other land uses, such as coffee production, which can bring in 10–30 times the amount they receive annually from PFES. Villagers also see late payments as a major drawback, with more than 90% of villagers interviewed saying late PFES receipt creates frustration and mistrust in government accountability. The government also distributes PFES payments through bank transfers, but most villagers find opening bank accounts a challenge due to language barriers and their lack of knowledge of and access to banking services and facilities.

Local people’s motivation to participate in PFES is not driven solely by payment amounts, but also by how payments are structured. Each province, district, commune and village has its own social, political and economic context, and a payment distribution and benefit sharing mechanism that might work in one place may not necessarily be appropriate in another. Designing and selecting direct payment distribution mechanisms must be done in a participatory manner with stakeholder consultation in order to be appealing to programme participants (Pham et al. 2021[1]).

Bosques Amazonicos (BAM) is a private company partnered with the Federation of Brazil nut producers of Madre de Dios (FEPROCAMD) in Peru. To improve the lives of producers it provides incentives for them to maintain their forests under threat from migrant agriculture and illegal logging. Brazil nuts are produced only by trees that grow in native forests with an intact forest canopy, so protecting Brazil nut production protects the surrounding forest. In addition to measuring, reporting, certifying and selling carbon, BAM has promised local communities a Brazil nut processing plant and legal and technical assistance, as well as a rapid response system to address illegal land encroachment. In time, these will be implemented throughout the Brazil nut concession area. The initiative provides an example of innovative approaches to REDD+ involving the private sector and forest producers in a threatened, biodiverse region. By the end of 2014, 405 Brazil nut concessionaires had joined the BAM project with combined concession areas totalling around 308,738 hectares of forest. BAM initially expected to distribute 30% of net revenues from the sale of carbon credits to participating concessionaires, but more recently this has been amended so the proceeds of carbon trade from 2021 onwards will be distributed equally between members once the project is able to sell carbon credits (Solis et al. 2021[2]).

Not based on performance

It is not uncommon for projects to pay seed funding or start-up costs, enabling landholders to cover the large up-front labour and opportunity costs of land-use change.

A REDD+ pilot introduced a performance-based village-level PED system in the Tanzanian districts of Kilosa and Lindi. Villagers were required to reduce or eliminate conversion of REDD+ forest areas for other land uses, and to incur the set-up costs of a REDD+ PES scheme before a verified reduction in forest loss had been achieved, and before a truly conditional REDD+ payment could be made. Recognizing these up-front costs, and in common with other documented PES-type initiatives, the first REDD+ payments were made to the villages before any measured reduction in forest loss. Organizing the initial payment was challenging because no performance had been achieved, but it was necessary to create incentives for future management. The first round of payments was based on villages’ historical baseline and the percentages of forest they decided to put into village forest reserves. This project involved balancing conditionality with the need to make some up-front payments to defer the initial costs imposed on households.

These pre-payments may be criticized as negating the conditionality in true PES, but without them, such approaches to resource management could fail in the early years, or not be accepted at the proposal stage. This is especially the case in lower income countries, where people rely heavily on forests for their livelihoods. As REDD+ implementation will differ from PES in a country with well-functioning property institutions, it is worth considering the possibility of paying up-front costs, and the impact that doing so will have in helping facilitate the success of a project (Robinson et al. 2016).

For the Maï-Ndombe REDD+ project in the DRC, a minimum of USD 5.3 million is planned to be provided in advance of ERPA payments (independently of the project’s performance), to assist with meeting start-up costs. In addition to this up-front payment, up to USD 1.9 million will be added in case of performance of the emissions reduction (ER) programme. The pay-outs are aimed at contributing to ER programme management, development and governance, and activities to engage with stakeholders. For countries such as the DRC which might not otherwise be able to participate in REDD+ schemes without outside support, start-up funding from donors can help get a REDD+ programme established, ensuring that cost is not a prohibitive barrier for countries that express an interest in participating in REDD+ (Advanced Draft Benefit Sharing Plan for Maï-Ndombe, 2018[3]).

In Vietnam, of the total expected net payment of USD 48 million, 3.2% – equal  to an expected USD 1.42 million – is allocated directly towards activities aimed at strengthening enabling conditions. These activities include strengthening and implementing policies controlling conversion of natural forests; the adoption of a legal framework to reduce deforestation and forest degradation of natural forests; managing natural forest resources sustainably and developing sustainable plantations in the North Central Region; strengthening law enforcement and monitoring compliance with safeguards policies (50% of the total amount allocated to the central level); the development and dissemination of regulations and guidelines; and encouraging private sector, local community and ethnic minority engagement to effectively contribute to ER targets (50% of the total amount allocated to the central level). The remaining 96.8% of total net payments (equal to USD 46.58 million) are performance-based and will be allocated to provinces (Benefit Sharing Plan of the Programme on Emissions Reductions in North Central Region of Vietnam for the Period 2019–2024[4]).


Unless REDD+ delivers livelihoods, infrastructure, tenure security, biodiversity and any ecosystem service benefits (often labelled “co-benefits” or “non-carbon benefits”), carbon goals are unlikely to be met. Most of the benefits generated and distributed by REDD+ so far have been non-monetary.

Monitoring subcommittee members of Puerto Ocopa, Peru, are not compensated monetarily for their work, but they do receive training from the REDD+ programme on forest monitoring technologies and techniques, namely, training on Global Positioning System (GPS) use, mapping and reading coordinates, conservation topics, and how to respond to circumstances identified during monitoring (i.e., how to report issues regarding illegal logging, encroachment and other environmental crimes). Some members have used their new forest monitoring technologies and techniques to expand their livelihood opportunities or to earn additional income, such as being paid by small-scale farmers and neighbours to delimit their plots with GPS coordinates (Kowler et al. 2020[5]).

In Madagascar, a local NGO called Eden utilizes a development model that employs locals to plant trees with the aim of enhancing income, increasing adaptive capacity and stopping deforestation. Eden employs over 100 permanent workers per village to carry out mangrove planting, and over ten years this has provided job stability, which has resulted in new skills learned and career development opportunities. Community beneficiaries have been able to diversify their livelihoods thanks to their improved saving capacity. In addition, their enhanced income allows an increasing number of primary and secondary needs to be met, like improved access to education, strengthened social organization and the creation of a sense of community and trust (Favretto et al. 2020[6]).

REDD+ has the potential to deliver both carbon and non-carbon (i.e., social and environmental) benefits such as biodiversity conservation, the provision of food, fuel and fibre, and contributions to local livelihoods. However, it can be difficult to extract the type and extent of co-benefits a given REDD+ project can produce in a community, and it is possible that REDD+ projects can have negative impacts on a community. A study from Indonesia using publicly available secondary data on tenure and well-being indicators in 2,242 villages in 18 REDD+ project sites in Kalimantan found relatively positive outcomes for tenure, but potentially negative effects on welfare. The authors promote more robust data collection and monitoring systems to evaluate social impacts of REDD+ projects over time (Jagger and Rana 2017[7]).

In the state of Acre, Brazil, indigenous leaders engaging in the Indigenous Agroforestry Agents (IAA) programme to become rural extension agents also become educators and liaisons between community and government. For many IAAs, the training programme provided the necessary skills and transformative experiences outside of their communities to engage with broader society on equal terms. For many, the IAA training was their first exposure to Portuguese, and where they acquired reading and writing skills. By 2018, 59 IAAs had completed secondary or technical education, and in addition to their work in their communities, several of these graduates had other professional roles in government and civil society, including as the Secretary of Indigenous Affairs for the Acre state government. The IAA programme helped to reinforce and value Indigenous Peoples’ cultures, knowledge and agency in decision making within their communities and broader state-level processes, while simultaneously promoting forest protection (DiGiano et al. 2018[8]).


[1] 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.

[2] Solis, D., Cronkleton, P., Sills, E.O., Rodriguez-Ward, D., Duchelle, A.E., 2021. Evaluating the Impact of REDD+ Interventions on Household Forest Revenue in Peru. Front. For. Glob. Change 4, 624724.

[3] Advanced Draft Benefit Sharing Plan for Mai-Ndombe, 2018.

[4] Benefit Sharing Plan of the Program on Emissions Reductions in North Central Region of Vietnam for the Period 2019-2024, 2019.

[5] Kowler, L., Kumar Pratihast, A., Pérez Ojeda del Arco, A., Larson, A.M., Braun, C., Herold, M., 2020. Aiming for Sustainability and Scalability: Community Engagement in Forest Payment Schemes. Forests 11, 444.

[6] Favretto, N., Afionis, S., Stringer, L.C., Dougill, A.J., Quinn, C.H., Ranarijaona, H.L.T. 2020. Delivering Climate-Development CoBenefits through Multi-Stakeholder Forestry Projects in Madagascar: Opportunities and Challenges. Land 9, 157.

[7] Jagger, P. and Rana, P., 2017. Using publicly available social and spatial data to evaluate progress on REDD+ social safeguards in Indonesia. Environmental Science & Policy 76, 59–69.

[8] DiGiano, M., Mendoza, E., Ochoa, M., Ardila, J., Oliveira de Lima, F., Nepstad, D., 2018. The Twenty-Year-Old Partnership Between Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Acre, Brazil.