“Chimuti chanya ndalama lelo,” which translated from the local language of Nyanja means, “a tree has produced money today.” Such was the sentiment that Chief Nyalugwe expressed during the Conservation Fees launch that took place in Nyalugwe Chiefdom, on March 30th. For the more than the 250 people who attended this event, it was a day of joy and celebration in Nyimba, Zambia.
With high rates of deforestation in Zambia, Conservation Fees play an important role in addressing drivers of deforestation, by funding critical community development impacts, improving local livelihoods, and creating incentives for community-based forest management. These Fees are performance-based payments given to communities that have identified areas of forest for protection, and are committed to protecting it.
The launch in Nyalugwe is a historical milestone, marking the first release of Conservation Fees under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Community Forests Program implemented by BioCarbon Partners (BCP) in Zambia.
So how does this work? Conservation Fees are based on the number of hectares that communities identify for protection under the Community Forests Program implemented by BCP; and in the subsequent year, the Fees will be based on the number of hectares of forest that communities have effectively protected prior to REDD+ project verification and revenue sharing.
Nyalugwe Chiefdom has agreed to protect 61,088 hectares of community forest; and in exchange, they have received a Conservation Fees check for 122,176 Zambian Kwacha. In return, the community will use these Fees to fund projects and activities that will benefit them and their wider surroundings as a whole.
During the launch event, Chief Nyalugwe spoke about the hurdles the Community Forests Program faced due to the lack of understanding, from, both himself and other chiefs in the Nyimba district. Back in 2014, they initially refused to participate in the program when it was introduced to them. However, since then, the BCP team has worked assiduously to engage and sensitize the local community; addressing their concerns and providing them enough information to make an informed decision. Ultimately, the project was accepted.
Chief Nyalugwe expressed his happiness to see the Community Forests Program implemented by BCP now fulfilling its mission to get communities to understand and see the benefits from protecting their forests.
Joseph Yuru, the Chairman for the Community Resources Board, expressed great excitement that his community was seeing an impact. “We, the Nyalugwe Community Resources Board on behalf of the Nyalugwe Community, are very happy today to see that our efforts to protect the Forest has brought money to the community for the first time ever!” His sentiments were further echoed by the Guest of Honour, the Nyimba District Commissioner, who stressed in his speech the important role that the Community Forests Program is playing to help make an impact towards addressing the negative effects of climate change in Zambia..
The Conservation Fees launch in Nyalugwe Chiefdom is just the beginning for communities to see the benefits from protecting their forests. Over the next month, a total of nearly $150,000 is committed to 10 Chiefdoms as Conservation Fees, related to communities’ agreements to protect nearly 750,000 hectares of community forest in 2017. In Nyalugwe, proposals are already being submitted related to community projects and activities to be funded through Conservation Fees. It will be exciting to see what happens in Nyalugwe Chiefdom, and the rest of the new REDD+ Sites, next!
This blog is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of BCP and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.