On August 29th, representatives from Musika handed over the keys to a 3.5-ton “canter” truck to the BCP Trust. The truck will be used to support BCP Trust community projects taking place in the project zone for the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project. Although Musika is one of BCP’s key partner organizations, the Executive Director of the BCP Trust, Molly Crystal, made clear that she was accepting the truck “on behalf of the local communities we work with.”
From January 2014, BCP will be advertising the availability of the canter truck to local community associations, who will able to access transportation “at cost” through BCP. Access to affordable transportation options has consistently been identified as one of the key obstacles to entrepreneurship and small-scale commercial agriculture practices in the rural communities that BCP works with, and lack of access to alternative sources of income has been identified as one of the major reasons for the high rate of rural dependency on charcoal production. Nearly 70% of households living within the Project Zone for the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project reported earning income from charcoal production last year. Charcoal-carrying trucks are a common sight in the Project Zone, but during BCP’s 2012 “Baseline Survey” conducted among rural project stakeholders, many small-scale farmers reported that they found it difficult to find affordable transportation for their agricultural inputs and/or outputs, or to develop markets (or even to access inputs) for other products that could potentially be produced. When transportation is available (mostly on charcoal trucks), transporters often charge rural households exploitative rates, knowing that they have few (if any) other options.
As such, as part of our mission to meaningfully reduce deforestation, BCP is working closely with local stakeholders and partner organizations–such as Musika– to facilitate the development of forest-compatible “alternative income-generating activities,” which are designed to provide rural stakeholders with other lucrative and sustainable opportunities, beyond charcoal production. Throughout the past year, BCP has advocated strongly for the introduction of affordable transportation options for rural producers, as a means of improving local livelihoods (by allowing producers to access markets more directly and to profit more from the sale of their goods), and promoting the development of alternative livelihoods (such as conservation agriculture or forest-compatible harvesting practices). By providing access to affordable transportation, BCP will help to remove one of the most significant barriers to entering new markets and investing in new products.
In particular, Musika’s handing over of a canter truck to the BCP Trust is intended to support the development and growth of BCP’s Sustainable Eco-Charcoal Project, which is designed to improve local livelihoods and reduce deforestation in communities living adjacent to Zambia’s first—and currently only—verifiable REDD+ project. The Sustainable Eco-Charcoal Project, which is currently being piloted on 93 hectares of protected community forest located in Ndubulula Zone, is an innovative project that combines forest protection activities, sustainable harvesting practices and improved kiln technology, with the aim of creating incentives for rural charcoal producers to transition away from unsustainable charcoal production methods, and to adopt sustainable and higher-efficiency charcoal production methods. One of the key interventions of the Sustainable Eco-Charcoal Project is the provision of transportation at cost for producers of the sustainable product, allowing rural producers to keep a greater percentage of their profits, and allowing for greater returns—from the sale of the product—into a community trust managed by the local Eco-Charcoal Association.
BCP Trust is extremely grateful to our partner organization, Musika, for making this important intervention possible. We are very much looking forward to making this truck available to local community producer associations within our project zone, in order to stimulate development and access to new markets, and to allow producers to directly access markets, thereby increasing their profits and improving their livelihoods.
Keep your eyes open for the new BCP Community Truck—bringing affordable goods, produced by local communities and linked to forest protection efforts, to a market near you!