Charcoal production is one of the largest drivers for deforestation in the project zone for BCP’s Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project, located in Chongwe District. Lusaka’s annual charcoal demand is estimated at 45,000 tons. BCP’s physical counts of charcoal trucks in Chongwe suggests that 24,000 tons per year (53% of Lusaka’s supply) largely comes from Chongwe and Rufunsa Districts. This could help to explain why the deforestation rate in Chongwe and Rufunsa is 11 times higher than the national average deforestation rate! Approximately 70% of households in the BCP project zone depend on charcoal for their livelihoods. Since charcoal is a very important commodity for rural livelihoods, the BCP Trust recognizes that it must engage with it, to introduce more sustainable practices that benefit communities.
In late November, community representatives attended the first training session for the BCP Trust’s Sustainable Eco-Charcoal Pilot Project, which is partnering with two villages in Ndubulula Community Zone. The two-month long training program introduced prospective community eco-charcoal association members to efficient and safe kiln operations, and sustainable forest management—innovations that lie at the heart of BCP’s sustainable Eco-Charcoal Project.
Two months later, fifteen eco-charcoal association members officially “graduated” from the training program, including 10 women. Mr. Deuteronomy Kasaro, the National REDD Coordinator for Zambia, presented the graduates with their certificates. Mr. Kasaro reminded community members to take ownership of the projects they participate in, saying: “…The knowledge you’ve gained is yours.” Mr. Kasaro also encouraged project participants to play leading roles as teachers for the rest of their community, underlining his view that involvement in alternative activities and development of local capacity would be key elements in any successful REDD strategy.
The Sustainable Eco-Charcoal Project is designed to provide participants with training and access to improved kiln technology that will allow them to produce higher volumes of higher quality (higher density) charcoal. Access to this technology is contingent upon community protection of an “eco-charcoal forest,” in which participants use improved forest management and harvesting techniques that allow for forest regeneration—this ensures the sustainability of the project and makes this community-based eco-charcoal scheme the first of its kind in Zambia.