Investing in Education through Forest Conservation: Luembe Chiefdom Schools Upgraded

The launch and hand over of the projects were graced by the District Council Chairman, His Royal Highness, Senior Chief Luembe and the District Education Secretary on 15th December 2019

The Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP) is the largest REDD+ project in Africa by hectarage.  The LCFP partnership between Government, 12 Chiefdoms and BCP enhances conservation of globally important wildlife habitat in the Lower Zambezi to Luangwa corridor of Zambia.  The success or failure of LCFP will depend upon communities realizing adequate benefits of community-based forest conservation.  A key LCFP tool to support enhanced community livelihoods is through the use of ‘conservation fees’: performance-based fees which depend upon the successful conservation of community forests.  Conservation fees are managed through Community Resource Boards (CRB) in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and BCP.

BCP is pleased to report that the Luembe Chiefdom CRB successfully rehabilitated 2 classrooms and a Teacher’s House costing $18,300.00 in conservation fees.  The infrastructure was officially launched in December 2019 by the Nyimba District Council Chairman, His Royal Highness Senior Chief Luembe and the District Education Board Secretary.

These projects are significant because Chikwasha and Mbilisao are located on the Lukusashi River, and roads linking both sides of the Chiefdom do not exist.  Chikwasha is reached via a two-day drive from the other side of the Chiefdom.  As a result, development investments in this part of the Chiefdom are limited.  As Senior Chief Luembe stated: “Mbilisao is a three-day walk from the Palace but it is important to share REDD+ benefits in all the front-line villages protecting our community forest. The upgrading of educational infrastructure is a huge boost in my communities.”

As an example of the public-private-community partnership, the Ministry of Education has since introduced a permanently based, trained teacher; This is an important development in a remote community where teacher retention is difficult without decent housing.  The two schools impact 380 households of approximately 2,300 people.

Mr. William Soko, DNPW Area Warden stated that: “The support BCP gives to the community through conservation fees from selected protected areas which the community has set aside in Luembe Chiefdom has helped the community to generate extra revenue which is being used for community projects such as construction of schools and recruitment of community scouts. The areas BCP is helping to protect is also the habitat for wild animals.”

BCP has secured a line of infrastructure investments into Luembe Chiefdom since 2014 in order to create value for communities through forest protection. Over US$ 180,000 has been invested into teachers’ houses, classrooms, boats and a hammer mill.  Of Luembe’s ten Village Action Groups, eight (or 80%) have been beneficiaries of this infrastructure.  Conservation fees over the last 3 years were an opportunity for CRBs to build capacity, managing carbon finance before larger conservation fees were secured following VCS verification of LCFP; in 2020 alone the secured conservation fee amount is 38 Million Kwacha (US$ 2.5 million) for 12 Chiefdoms.

Infrastructure investments chosen by the communities are part of an approach BCP refers to as a “quality of life” approach.  As Dr. Hassan Sachedina, BCP’s CEO describes: “Infrastructure investments are part of a broader strategy BCP implements to enhance access to clean water, health and education as well as investments into agriculture and off farm cash incomes like honey.  If I lost access today to either of clean water, nutrition security or accessible health, my quality of life would plummet.  It shows how trans-formative some of these investments can be.  It’s ambitious but BCP targets a measurable increases in household level incomes and quality of life in communities within 5 years of a project’s VCS verification”.

Mr. Mundia Akende, BCP’s Site Operations Manager for Nyimba also added: “The recent education projects have cheered up a lot of people in the communities of Mbilisao and Chikwasha since the community started receiving Conservation fees. The teachers house which has been rehabilitated, was started by the Government in 1983 but could not be finished. Now, through forest protection, the community has generated funds that will see the children of Mbilisao and Chikwasha have a better learning environment.”

Before: The Mbilisao Primary School classrooms before rehabilitation
After: The Mbilisao Primary School classrooms after rehabilitation

Africa’s Largest REDD+ Project by Hectarage Verified in Zambia

BCP is pleased to announce that the Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP) has been successfully validated and verified by the Verified Carbon Standard.  This is the culmination of over 6 years of joint implementation with The Forestry Department and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife.
The LCFP becomes Africa’s largest REDD+ project by hectarage at 944,000 hectares.  To the best of our knowledge, LCFP is the largest REDD+ project in the world by quantified social beneficiaries of approximately 175,000 beneficiaries.  LCFP was also validated to the highest standard possible of CCBA triple gold for exceptional community, climate and biodiversity impacts.  Chieftainess Msoro of Msoro Chiefdom, one of the LCFP community proponent partners stated that: “Our communities protect habitat in one of the last great wildlife strongholds left on the planet, but we also need to ensure that our communities are nutrition secure.  We applaud FD, DNPW and BCP’s social impacts in the LCFP which have helped us to see standing forests as engines of growth.”
The LCFP was developed in Zambia’s iconic Lower Zambezi to Luangwa ecosystems: a biodiversity stronghold of global importance.  The project interconnects 5 national parks to create a contiguous wildlife corridor in one of the last remaining strongholds on earth for lion, elephant, wild dog and other species.  The project teams up with 12 Chiefdoms represented by their Community Resource Boards, private wildlife reserves, Government agencies and BCP in project implementation and took 6 years to develop to verification.  LCFP’s US$ 16 million in start-up costs blended capital from BCP, USAID, Musika Development Initiatives, The Lion Recovery Fund, Elephant Crisis Fund, and the Mills Foundation.
A key risk REDD+ projects is not making the project beneficial to local communities.  LCFP aims to catalyse a new conservation economy in Eastern Zambia to create jobs, improve social conditions, attract new investment and enhance conservation co-management.
One of the largest barriers to conservation is the absence of community rights to forests.  The LCFP worked closely with the Forestry Department to support the process of communities accessing forest carbon rights from Government.  Zambia’s community forestry legislation is one of the most progressive in the world.  Dr. Hassan Sachedina, BCP CEO added: “Granting clear rights over natural resources to local community institutions are a key foundation for successful conservation approaches, and to unlock investment into those resources.  We are proud to partner with the Government and our Chiefdom partners in LCFP.  LCFP shows that scale and triple gold social impacts are not exclusive”. 
Mr. David Antonioli, the CEO of Verra which administers the VCS and CCB Standards said: “The successful registration of the Luangwa Community Forests Project with both the VCS Program and the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards, where it achieved triple gold certification, is a tremendous milestone given the project covers nearly a million hectares and will be working with thousands of stakeholders.”