Deforestation and forest degradation are complex and dynamic processes that vary from place to place. They are driven by multiple causes. Local communities are, to some extent, driving and also affected by some of these processes. Can their knowledge aid and add to place-specific assessment and monitoring of Deforestation and forest Degradation (DD) drivers? Our research was conducted in seven villages across three provinces of Indonesia (Papua, West Kalimantan and Central Java). Household surveys and focus group discussions were used to investigate how local community knowledge of DD drivers contributes to place-specific assessment and monitoring of DD drivers. We analyzed the link between drivers and local livelihoods to see how attempts to address deforestation and forest degradation might affect local communities and how this link might influence their participation in climate change mitigation measures such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and Measuring, Reporting and Verifying (MRV) activities. We found that local knowledge is fundamental to capturing the variety of drivers particularly in countries like Indonesia where forest and socio-economic conditions are diverse. Better understanding of drivers and their importance for local livelihoods will not only contribute to a more locally appropriate design of REDD+ and monitoring systems but will also foster local participation.