Capacity of governing institutions: Skills and capacity in REDD+ readiness

Forest management plans and MRV

Forest management planning is a process that helps identify the resources and opportunities available in a given piece of forest. Forest management plans normally include long-term goals and objectives, a detailed forest inventory, a list of management recommendations and an activity schedule. Results-based mechanisms, such as REDD+, require reliable monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems to measure performance. This involves measuring changes in forest carbon stocks and/or flows, reporting those changes in a transparent and timely manner, and verifying estimates through an independent third party. To achieve carbon-related objectives through REDD+, a proper management plan and MRV system are prerequisite. If stakeholders lack the capacity to implement the plan, additional support will be needed to equip them with the proper training and skills.

In Vietnam, the country’s two separate databases on land classification and administration were compared, and discrepancies in forestry data were found. The first database, maintained by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, contains information on land management, including land area and land-use planning. The second database, managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, defines categories of forest and forest land and contains data on the extent of forest coverage (Pham et al. 2012[1]). The existence of two land-use classification systems complicates national forestry monitoring and reporting efforts, as assessments are based on changes in forest cover over time, while REDD+ benefit sharing depends on land use registration data (Loft et al. 2017). Further resources may be needed to coordinate national data systems to improve overall accountability. Consolidating Vietnam’s two databases into one would help ensure that the national forest inventory is accurate and improve the nation’s forest management planning.

In the Bosques Amazonicas project, technicians from the Federation of Brazil nut producers offer assistance with various forest management plans required to legally harvest or sell Brazil nuts.



Bosques Amazonicos (BAM) is a private company that has partnered with the Federation of Brazil nut producers of Madre de Dios (FEPROCAMD) to improve the lives of Brazil nut producers and provide incentives to maintain their forests which are currently under threat from migrant agriculture and illegal logging. Brazil nuts are only produced by trees that grow in native forests with an intact forest canopy so by protecting Brazil nut production, you must protect the forest. In addition to measuring, reporting, certifying and selling carbon, BAM has promised local communities that a Brazil nut processing plant, legal and technical assistance as well as a rapid response system to address illegal land invasions will eventually be implemented implemented throughout the Brazil nut concession area. The initiative provides an innovative example of approaches to REDD+ involving the private sector and forest producers in a threatened, biodiverse region. Read more about this project:

Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) partner institutions with funding from the Word Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility organized four workshops and a webinar series with the aim of building capacity in countries to use Earth Observation Remove Sensing data to monitor changes in forest cover and measure emissions reductions for REDD+ results-based payments. The four regional workshops – held in parts of Asia, South America and Africa and in three languages – trained 59 participants from 43 countries. The webinars and workshops covered a variety of relevant tools and methods. Researchers found both webinars and workshops to be clear and relevant, with the latter being the preferred choice of participants.The researchers suggest that the best results might be achieved by implementing traditional and e-learning systems together. A hybrid approach should continue to be considered for future initiatives, as the effectiveness of both in-person and online capacity building can guide the development of future initiatives – especially when financial resources are limited – and help to continue fostering relationships between stakeholders developed during in-person meetings, and promote greater information sharing that can inform forest management plans globally (Carter et al. 2021[2]).

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the lead agency for REDD+ in Vietnam, had its own gender strategy for 2011–2015 that included measures to ensure gender equality, and clearly defined the roles of leaders of its units and departments. Vietnam’s National Forest Strategy (2006–2020) provided a promising platform for mainstreaming gender, as it acknowledged the need to develop the capacity of forestry officials to address gender issues, establish a full-time gender focal unit to institutionalize gender mainstreaming, and promote gender-sensitive research and monitoring. However, a lack of institutional capacity, including human and financial resources, as well as contradictory institutional procedures and practices, have impeded these efforts. For instance, training is provided to only a few members of the Committee for Advancement of Women and has not been mainstreamed throughout MARD (Pham et al. 2016[3]). These issues increase the risk of gender equity being deprioritized within REDD+ projects. Recommendations for future forest plans include detailed guidance on how gender mainstreaming should be carried out at the provincial, district and community levels; clear monitoring of government commitments to the increased participation of women in decision-making positions; increasing the target number for women’s representation in leadership roles and on management boards; policies, measures and incentives structures inside the institutions to encourage true participation of women; and at the village and commune levels, REDD+ and PES programmes that increase their access to information and resources (Pham and Brockhaus 2016[4]).

In Indonesia, the MRV system for REDD+ projects has been designed as a top-down system (Ochieng et al. 2016[5]). While there are efforts to build up local or provincial governments’ capacities to engage in forest MRV for REDD+ projects, the technical capacity across jurisdictions varies (Ochieng et al. 2018[6]). For example, the East Kalimantan project under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Carbon Fund scheme has been quite advanced, as the jurisdiction has been equipped with training and capacity building, with intermediaries such as elected NGOs, government institutions, banking institutions, non-bank financial institutions and other legal institutions used to support communities that lack the technical capacity to develop reports (Benefit Sharing Plan, East Kalimantan Jurisdictional Emissions Reduction, 2020, 27[7]). Yet this is not the norm, with overall provincial MRV across the country being underdeveloped (Bhomia et al. 2021[8]). This suggests there are ample opportunities to develop the capacity of local people to engage in MRV activities within forest management plans.

A study examining the environmental, social and economic impacts of Payment for Forest Environmental Services (PFES) in Son La province in Vietnam – the longest standing implementation of a PFES scheme in the country – found that data collection is politicized to serve central, provincial and district government interests. As PFES relates to forest status, violation cases, PFES payments and payment distribution, three different government agencies have been collecting national and provincial data on PFES since the programme’s commencement in 2009, but not on socioeconomic indicators. Consequently, a lack of available data on forest cover and household incomes before and after PFES makes it difficult to fully confirm PFES additionality, and the absence of available baseline data on PFES undermines the accuracy and rigour of PFES impact assessments. The three government agencies also collect data using different approaches and reporting timelines. For example, the Son La Forest Protection and Development Fund needs to report on forests in December, the Son La Forest Protection Department in February, and the Son La Statistics Department in June. Different reporting timelines result in different conclusions about PFES impacts. Even when data is available, politics can influence data collection approaches, processes and outcomes. This highlights the need to have transparent, inclusive and independent mechanisms, such as independent monitoring and evaluation systems, to enhance data accountability and transparency (Pham et al. 2020[9]).


The participation of local communities in the measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of changes in forest cover has been promoted as a strategy that lowers the cost of MRV efforts and increases community members’ engagement with REDD+ (Hawthorne et al. 2016[10]).

Involving local communities in mapping and other carbon estimation activities is a new approach that could lead to more effective, long-term community participation in REDD+ MRV. Currently, community-based management is not a big focal point of the DRC national REDD+ strategy. However, a study has found that there could be full and active community participation if local community-based monitoring systems were to become nested within the national forest monitoring system (Schmitt and Mukungu 2019[11]). Similarly, in West Kalimantan and Central Java, Indonesia, a study piloting participatory mapping found that community members were able to provide complementary information for remotely sensed maps and identify drivers of land use and land cover change. Participatory MRV could allow community members to develop a more robust understanding of REDD+ by serving as a forum for discussion (Beaudoin et al. 2016[12]).

Despite the potential benefits of participatory MRV, research is limited. Claims that PMRV supports REDD+ social outcomes that affect local communities directly, such as increased environmental awareness and equity in benefit sharing, have been supported with less empirical evidence than REDD+ technical outcomes. Future studies should include assessment of past PMRV experiences, formalization of PMRV, and full-scale testing on the ground by integrating future PMRV studies into local REDD+ implementations (Boissière et al. 2017[13]).

[1]Pham,T.T., Moelino, M., Nguyen, T.H., Nguyen, H.T., Vu, T.H., 2012. The context of REDD+ in Vietnam: Drivers, agents and institutions. CIFOR.

[2]Carter, S., Herold, M., Jonckheere, I.G.C., Espejo, A.B., Green, C., Wilson, S., 2021. Capacity Development for Use of Remote Sensing for REDD+ MRV Using Online and Offline Activities: Impacts and Lessons Learned. Remote Sensing 13, 2172.

[3]Pham, T.T., Mai, Y.H., Moeliono, M., Brockhaus, M., 2016. Women’s participation in REDD+ national decision-making in Vietnam. Int. Forest. Rev. 18, 334–344.

[4]Pham, T.T., Brockhaus, M., 2015. Gender mainstreaming in REDD+ and PES: Lessons learned from Vietnam. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

[5]Ochieng, R.M., Visseren-Hamakers, I.J., Arts, B., Brockhaus, M., Herold, M., 2016. Institutional effectiveness of REDD+ MRV: Countries progress in implementing technical guidelines and good governance requirements. Environmental Science & Policy 61, 42–52.

[6]Ochieng, R.M., Arts, B., Brockhaus, M., Visseren-Hamakers, I.J., 2018. Institutionalization of REDD+ MRV in Indonesia, Peru, and Tanzania: progress and implications. E&S 23, art8.

[7]Benefit Sharing Plan: East Kalimantan Jurisdictional Emissions Reduction, INDONESIA

[8]Bhomia, R.K., Nofyanza, S., Thürer, T., O’Connell, E., Murdiyarso, D., 2021. Global Comparative Study on REDD+ story of change: CIFOR’s science on wetlands for Indonesian measurement, reporting and verification and forest reference emission level development. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

[9]Pham, T.T., Ngo, H.C., Dao, T.L.C., Hoang, T.L., Micah, R.F., 2020. The politics of numbers and additionality governing the national Payment for Forest Environmental Services scheme in Vietnam: A case study from Son La province. FS 379–404.

[10]Hawthorne, S., Boissière, M., Felker, M.E., Atmadja, S., 2016. Assessing the Claims of Participatory Measurement, Reporting and Verification (PMRV) in Achieving REDD+ Outcomes: A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE 11, e0157826.

[11]Schmitt, C.B. and Mukungu J., 2019. How to Achieve Effective Participation of Communities in the Monitoring of REDD+ Projects: A Case Study in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Forests 10, 794.

[12]Beaudoin, G., Rafanoharana, S., Boissière, M., Wijaya, A., Wardhana, W., 2016. Completing the Picture: Importance of Considering Participatory Mapping for REDD+ Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV). PLoS ONE 11, e0166592.

[13]Boissière, M., Herold, M., Atmadja, S., Sheil, D., 2017. The feasibility of local participation in Measuring, Reporting and Verification (PMRV) for REDD+. PLoS ONE 12, e0176897.