LUCSUS Seminar: Environmental subject formation through REDD+ in cocoa-forest communities in Ghana
Using internationally conceived mechanisms like REDD+ as part of the suite of solutions to address climate change requires the use of forests, which are local sites of habitation, sources of livelihoods, and offer significant support services to socio-ecological systems. Various arguments support local forest communities and indigenous people (wherever this applies), who live in or near these REDD+ forests, to participate in forest protection and management that achieves reduced emissions. With new environmental technologies such as REDD+ comes new knowledge that creates new forms of power, and leads to certain practices and thinking patterns. There is a dearth in knowledge about what the powers, practices and thinking patterns developed under REDD+ are. To help fill this gap, this study explores the cocoa-forest communities of Kamaso and Attobrakrom in Ghana, to understand what REDD+ signifies for small landholder farmers and how they come to care (or not) for their environment through REDD+ implementation. We pose the questions: 1. How is REDD+ understood among cocoa-forest communities? 2. What changes in behaviours have manifested since REDD+ was introduced? 3. Why do cocoa-forest communities care (or not) about REDD+? Using interviews, focus group discussions and transect walks, the findings indicate that the overly technical narrative of REDD+ is watered down to a simplified understanding of “tree-planting” (ndua dua) at the local level, reflective of a wider politics of low carbon development. Despite this, REDD+ promotes new understandings and identities around forests, making some people care, act and benefit from livelihoods and reduced climate impacts, such as by monitoring and reporting illegalities. Not all members of the communities have become subjects of REDD+, for a number of socio-political reasons. We conclude by suggesting that adding elements of emotion and connection, i.e. relationality, to the concept of subjectivity provides valuable insight into what motivates individuals to adopt (or not) new environmental practices for sustainability, by also recognising the value of placing the relational above dominant ideologies of the self.