Nhem, Sareth, & Young-jin Lee (2020, January). Exploring perspectives in assessing the quality of governance of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) pilot project in Cambodia: Use of Q methodology. Journal of Mountain Science, 17(1), 95-116. (doi: 10.1007/s11629-018-5301-y) (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11629-018-5301-y)

Abstract: Public and policy makers alike are concerned about national and global deforestation and forest degradation. These issues pose a significant threat to social, economic and environmental welfare. Attempts to prevent forest loss and increased attention to pilot REDD+ projects in community forestry sites would both deliver rural livelihood benefits and help to reduce adverse climate impacts. However, there has been no significant exploration of the viewpoints of local experts to determine the monitoring and action needed to support community-based forestry and improve the governance of REDD+ pilot projects in Cambodia. Therefore, this study aimed to assess the perceptions of local stakeholders towards the quality of governance of the first community forest REDD+ pilot project in Cambodia, employing Q-methodology. We adapted 11 indicators of the hierarchical framework of assessment of governance quality to design 40 Q-statements related to REDD+ governance or achievements. The 52 P-set ranked these Q-statements with respect to the community-based REDD+ pilot project. Our study revealed that local stakeholders held four distinct, and partially opposite, views, that: (1) the REDD+ project is successful because it is inclusiveness and capable of causing behavioral change; (2) REDD+ pilot projects should be led by government, not external or locally; and needs more resources; (3) the REDD+ pilot project has raised unrealistic expectations, would likely be a source of corruption and will probably not be successful for local people or halting deforestation; and (4) the REDD+ pilot project is inclusive but not very transparent and probably ineffective at protecting forest. Through these four varied perspectives from local people involved in the project, we can see that there remain serious challenges to the future of pilot community forestry REDD+ projects, including the complex interaction between the multinational actors and the local socio-ecological systems. To move forwards, this study suggested Cambodia should make a pro-poor REDD+ program, implementing more community-based REDD+ projects which explicitly build the assets and capacity of the poorest households. This study also shows that Q-methodology can highlight the diverse viewpoints of local stakeholders concerning the quality of community forest REDD+ governance, helping policy makers, implementers and local stakeholders to better identify the challenges to be addressed.

Sareth Nhem <nhemsareth@gmail.com> is in the Graduate School, National University of Management and the Techo Sen School of Government & International Relations, University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Young-jin Lee <leeyj@kongju.ac.kr> is in the Department of Forest Resources, College of Industrial Science, Graduate School of Natural Sciences, Konju National University, Yesan-gun, South Korea.