John Stanturf has developed a research program in Africa in partnership with Forest Service International Programs and funded by USAID missions in several countries. He began working with Dr. Dominic Blay of the Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) with whom he shares an interest in forest restoration. We developed a concept community-based carbon monitoring of restoration plantings in Forest Reserves in Ghana and a pilot study was funded under an existing USAID-funded project called STEWARD. We began the work in August 2009 and formed a team within SRS that included Cassandra Johnson and John Schelhas, social scientists, and Joe O'Brien, another forest ecologist. The initial work in Ghana was successful and resulted in Stanturf advising the Zambia USAID Mission on a similar effort that will be integrated with a national forest monitoring project funded by the United Nations.
The premise of the pilot study is that local communities must be given incentives to protect and conserve forests. Our community-based carbon monitoring pilot study builds on a network of community-established restoration forests in degraded Forest Reserves in Ghana (more or less public land). This network was established 10 years ago by FORIG to restore degraded forests. Forest fringe communities were given short and long-term benefits to restore and conserve forests (legal access to farm for 2-3 years by intercropping, labor payments to plant trees, and a promise of 40% of timber revenues when the trees were harvested). Our work is helping to secure carbon payments for the restoration forests, in lieu of harvesting, under the REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) or voluntary carbon payments. The initial pilot study led to other work in Africa for International Programs/USAID (Liberia, Sierra Leone, C?ite d'Ivoire, and Ghana) and is under consideration to be scaled up to more communities in Ghana. The concept of participatory science and management is gaining widespread recognition and the lessons learned in our work are widely applicable in both developing and developed countries. By working on climate change mitigation and adaptation at national and community levels in several countries, I have a broader understanding of the details and intricacies of this work than I would have gotten through any of my previous work in the US.