Why everyone is talking about Zambia’s award-winning conservation.

Although it has a reputation for one of the world’s highest deforestation rates, Zambia is proving it’s never too late to change, as this week a community forest project in the Lower Zambezi becomes the world’s most successful REDD+ carbon project.

The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP) began as a pilot in Zambia in 2012. Now, seven years and more than 5,000 community participants later, the LZRP has just become the world’s first to achieve 6 consecutive VCS-verifications and a triple gold CCB verification.

“Verification for REDD+ forest carbon projects is difficult to achieve, requiring months of in-depth monitoring and auditing to strict international standards. That this degree of consistency and excellence has been achieved by an African company predominantly staffed by Zambians is something I am immensely proud of,” says Dr Hassan Sachedina, CEO of BCP (BioCarbon Partners).  

“Conservation of Africa’s great wildlife habitats doesn’t need to be at the cost of rural economic growth, in fact, carbon development is an untapped resource for communities with intact forest to generate income from their natural resources, without having to cut the forests. Truly incentivising natural resource protection, while also supporting community development is at the heart of the REDD+ model BCP follows.”

Central to this achievement is BCP’s valued partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia.  “This is a milestone in Zambia, and globally, which definitively proves that public-private-community partnerships can successfully curb the tide of deforestation currently washing across sub-Saharan Africa” said Mr Victor Chiiba, Lusaka Provincial Forest Officer.

REDD+ is a UN Climate Change mitigation strategy that stands for ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation’.  Forests protected under REDD generate verified carbon offsets, which are then sold on the global market to companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. The ‘+’ refers to the additional community benefits REDD models aim to deliver and, according to Sachedina, this is where BCP’s Zambian projects excel.

“Successful verification of our carbon credits is important because it is necessary to sell on the global carbon markets. However, more significant to me – and to the people participating in our projects – is LZRP’s triple-gold-level rating for positive impacts on Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB)” Sachedina said.

CCB assessments recognise carbon offset projects which deliver transformational land and community benefits alongside offset generation. LZRP is one of just a few projects globally to achieve the highest – gold-level – rating in all three categories.

The exceptional positive impacts generated by BCP’s projects are further recognised today, as BCP is awarded a global business award as one of the top five “Best For The World” businesses globally.

Today, more than 5,000 members of the LZRP community report their household having benefited from project activity, through job creation, market linkages and improved social services such as education and healthcare. 

As Mr Rainford Chanshika, Chair of the Ndubulula Co-operative which administers LZRP-generated community funds adds,

“The community here is very happy with the development brought in by BCP. Resources we saw other communities have are now ours as well. The community has benefited a lot from BCP – the borehole, hammer mill, and bee-keeping projects are all new for us and our community is benefitting greatly”

While much of the world’s discussion about forest loss centres around South America and the Amazon, sub-Saharan Africa represents a huge opportunity for the word to achieve the emissions reductions goals of the Paris Agreement.

“As implementation of the Paris Agreement begins to take shape, projects like the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project are demonstrating that they can deliver tangible sustainable development benefits while protecting forests and reducing emissions from avoided deforestation through rigorous accounting and verification” Verra’s CEO David Antonioli reports.

Before and after – the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project has assisted the Mweshang’ombe community with an upgraded teacher’s house.