Anticipating social equity impacts in REDD+ policy design: An example from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Johanne Pelletier, Ned Horning, Nadine Laporte, Raymond Achu Samndong, Scott Goetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Equity is a sensitive topic discussed under the REDD+ mechanism. This study focuses on the impact of prevailing social and ecological conditions on the potential equity outcome of REDD+ intervention at the local level. Working at a REDD+ pilot project site in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we present a quantitative framework to assess contextual equity at the village level. We conducted a full community census on household characteristics and livelihood practices to evaluate current social conditions. We used participatory mapping and remote sensing analysis of a time series of very high resolution imagery over a 10-year period within the village boundaries to examine the ecological context of land use. We identify important differences between 379 households in terms of social characteristics and livelihoods practices. Social differentiation strongly relates to customary land rights as well as gender, ethnicity and origin. Using this case study, we find REDD+ activities that can be implemented under the prevailing ecological conditions could impact community members differently, by reducing access to land for a segment of the population that is already under stress, and therefore have implications on equity in both space and time. We identify important risks for sectors of the population that do not have the contextual features necessary for benefitting from REDD+ implementation and may be impacted, directly and indirectly, by decisions linked to benefit-sharing. We argue that such quantitative assessment is valuable to inform REDD+ policy design on the way livelihood practices and social characteristics are interlinked and how they affect forest cover change. This information can be used to anticipate potential equity issues that may arise with REDD+ implementation. We suggest that contextually informed definitions of the benefits and costs are critical for achieving equity in benefit-sharing. A flexible adaptive management and equity conscious approach is recommended from the policy design to implementation, by anticipating and mitigating potential risks of REDD+ interventions in order to promote equitable outcomes at the local level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-115
Number of pages14
JournalLand Use Policy
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Benefit sharing
  • Customary system
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Equity
  • Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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