BCP’s Response to COVID-19: A Message of Hope

I live in a small tourist town that is the gateway to South Luangwa National Park, one of Zambia’s most prized and visited tourism destinations. Today it’s a ghost town. The world is facing an unprecedented crisis, and Zambia feels it deeply. As of 30 March there are 35 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Zambia, and there are calls for the President to announce a state of emergency. The copper price (which sustains our economy) has dropped 30% since January, tourism has collapsed, most businesses are in a state of panic, inflation has spiked, and unemployment is rising. I’m scared to even think what could happen if the infection rate becomes exponential in a country with such under developed public health capacity. 

At BCP, our bottom line is threatened, yet our role and our vision remain more important than ever.

Climate finance, which BCP channels into communities, is critical. With the collapse of photographic and hunting revenue streams, combined with the Luangwa River flooding farms and a reduced tax base for government, the climate finance channelled by the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP) and the Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP) are central to peoples’ livelihoods in our partner communities.  In 2020, the benefits we commit to communities will be over $3 million. These funds will primarily go to agriculture support, health, water, and educational infrastructure. 

Despite the crisis, our work and our support continues, and there are some additional measures we are taking:

  • Our board has approved a USD $50,000 grant to support tourism related community jobs. This is to help businesses in the chiefdoms where we have partnered to provide subsistence packages to community employees. Our contribution is part of a wider private sector coalition effort to support government.
  • Where we can, we also fund micro-support packages, for instance we donated soap to every single household (1,200 in total) in the LZRP to help with sanitization.  Our policy of buying Zambian products where possible takes on more meaning as we do our best to support local businesses stay afloat. 
  • For our co-workers, fondly dubbed BCPeople, we have assured them that our goal is to keep everyone employed throughout the year. We have also invested in soap, wet wipes, sanitizer and face masks for all six of our offices, and for each vehicle in our fleet.  Staff who are mobile are equipped with sanitizer and masks.  Staff using public transport are collected directly from home.  Our offices now run strict sanitization every two hours of hands and door handles. 

We have also increased pay for the lowest paid members of BCP staff to 18% higher than the statutory minimum.  We are introducing a health subsidy to help buy healthy food for all staff in our six offices.  We have offered staff remote work options, and empowered staff to take all their annual leave even if not accrued.  In March, a bonus pool from 2019 was paid out.  We have introduced a USD 2,800 Emergency Loan Fund to help staff who face emergencies.  In January, BCP staff, most of whom live in remote areas with limited employment possibilities, received an average increment of 10% across the board.  All staff and their families have access to a company medical fund.  To take the sting out of cooking fuel costs, a subsidy has also been provided to BCP staff to buy Eco-Charcoal at reduced costs.

While we hear of people at risk of losing employment, we are creating up to 80 additional jobs.  In 2020, we hope to have 202 people employed, which indirectly benefits 1,212 people who depend on our salaried staff.

We have formed an Emergency Response Team and put the company on ‘red alert’ where we monitor the situation by the hour, not by the day.  We are ready to shut down any office within 30 minutes to self-isolate if an outbreak is reported in a nearby neighbourhood. 

While this crisis is unprecedented in our lifetimes, our work is so important at community level that we need to keep climate funds flowing in order for rural communities to access basic staples and services during these difficult times.  We are fortunate to have such strong and supportive partners who, in spite of their own economic challenges, are staying true to their carbon reduction commitments.  We plan to  keep investing and growing and sharing our message of hope and optimism. I am reminded of navigating a small aircraft through a storm front between Mfuwe to Lusaka.  When the turbulence, rain and lightning got rough, I reverted to my training and focused on 2 instruments to keep the wings level wings level and to stay out of the center of the storm. Eventually we landed trouble free. I am optimistic COVID will be the same. And imagine, weathering the storm based on a model that supports climate change mitigation and conservation efforts – that message keeps me optimistic.

We will continue to review the situation and to act in the best interest of our people. 

Here’s how YOU can help! Click on the link below to purchase offsets from our Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP) to help support our communities. Click the “Buy Offsets” tab in the top right hand corner of the page. For every 10 tons of carbon offsets purchased, we retire an additional 1 ton, making your purchase ‘climate positive’!

https://www.biocarbonpartners.com/

1,200 pieces of soap delivered to a partner Chiefdom

Written by BCP’s CEO, Dr. Hassan Sachedina

BCP Celebrates Staff Appreciation Day

“It was so memorable in that other than sending thank you messages. It felt like BCP as a company was bringing everyone together to ‘hug’ them all at once and saying ‘thank you’. You know that special feeling when someone says ‘thank you’ to your face” Darlington Chipita
 
Darlington Chipita, fondly known as “001” was BCP’s first employee, signed on in 2012. Darlington, along with all of the BCP staff, shared a memorable day together in Mfuwe on November 2019, dubbed “Zikomo Kwambiri Day” (thank you in ChiNyanja), in an effort to show staff appreciation and give thanks for their commitment, hard work and dedication to our mission.  ZK Day was a fun day of team-building activities, sharing BCP’s history with new staff, annual awards, eating together, and more than a few beers.
 
BCP’s Mission is to “Make Conservation of Wildlife Habitat Valuable to People” and more important than profit to BCP, are our Co-workers, fondly dubbed ‘BCPeople’.  ZK Day was an example of our commitment to our team. BCP invested heavily in transporting all staff from all 5 offices across 6 districts and 2 Provinces to connect, bond, award long-servers as well as give recognition to staff who consistently go above and beyond to support our mission.  Over 90 staff were hosted in Mfuwe, gateway to South Luangwa National Park.

BCP is the 5th highest scoring Certified B Corporation in the World of about 3,300 companies (https://bcorporation.net/about-b-corps).  B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, staff care, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.  We care deeply about our Co-workers and it reflects in our B Corp score.
 

In light of the recent ‘Women’s Day, celebrated on 9 March 2020, we give thanks to our leading ladies that drive our business forward! Although women account for only 14% of our payroll, each one makes a powerful contribution to our mission. In 4 out of our 5 offices, we have women in important roles.
BCP’s CEO, Dr. Hassan Sachedina adds: “My hope and goal is for the percent of women in our workforce to increase to 50% in the future and for women to be working in 100% of BCP’s soon to be 7 offices.”
 
A company is only as strong as the team driving its operations forward.  BCP’s focus has shifted from fundraising, and bootstrapping VCS and CCB certification.  It has shifted to a focus on our people, our values (what we call our ‘Roots’), our culture, and a focus on making our two projects the best implemented REDD+ projects in the world within 2 years.  BCP believes that the best asset we could possibly invest in is our team of performers. It is possible that BCP’s 2 projects benefit the most number of people, more than any REDD+ project on earth.  We are immensely proud that this has been achieved by a team that is 98% African-born.  A team whose values are clearly underlined and a team whose passion and energy for wildlife conservation and community impact exceed the boundaries of their prescribed duties. We are eternally humbled and grateful to our extraordinary team for their extraordinary drive, energy, passion, commitment and hard work. “ZIKOMO KWAMBIRI”.

Protecting 1 million hectares of Zambian forests – Eni, Peace Parks and BCP Partner to sustainably protect indigenous woodlands

Following an announcement by Biocarbon Partners (BCP) that the Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP) was successfully validated and verified by the Verified Carbon Standard and validated to Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA)  triple gold standards for exceptional social impact, we are proud to announce a partnership between BCP, Eni and Peace Parks Foundation that will greatly contribute to the project’s long-term sustainability.

The LCFP is a partnership between Government, 12 Chiefdoms with a population of 173,000 people and BCP to enhance protection of a biodiversity corridor between the Lower Zambezi and Luangwa National Parks in Zambia.
 
Zambia’s deforestation amount by landcover of indigenous forests and valuable wildlife habitat annually is ranked the highest in Africa approaching 300,000 hectares a year. This not only contributes to global climate change, but also exacerbates the loss of already threatened wildlife species that call these forests their home, such as the African wild dog, elephant, lion as well as locally threatened species such as sable, roan and ground hornbill. Since 2012, BCP has worked with the Zambian Government and local communities to create new value from wildlife habitat protection through REDD+.
 
REDD+ is a mechanism to fund forest protection and community development through sales of carbon offsets. To incentivise participation in these forest conservation initiatives, rural communities receive performance-based incentives from the return on the carbon sales, that can be used to fund local infrastructure and social development projects. The LCFP is Africa’s largest REDD+ project by hectarage at 944,000 hectares.
 
A key risk to the success of the LCFP is to continue to deliver impactful benefits and alternative livelihoods to local communities.  LCFP aims to catalyse a conservation economy in Eastern Zambia that will create jobs, improve social conditions and attract new investment. 
 
The new 20-year agreement signed between BCP, Peace Parks Foundation and Eni aims to address this risk and ensure that LCFP communities economically transform alongside improved conservation co-management of key wildlife habitats. Eni’s step to partner with an African conservation NGO and an African social enterprise in a multi-year, multi-project pipeline plan is a pioneering leadership step.
 
Antonio Baldassarre, Senior Vice President REDD+ and Africa Program for Eni stated that: “Eni is one of Africa’s largest energy investors and has been active in the continent since 1954.  To Eni, protecting African forests and biodiversity, creating community wealth are logical and important components on how we operate and how we can contribute to delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals, all important constituences of our decarbonization strategy.  The scale and longevity of this Partnership will help ensure LCFP can continue to be a leading conservation project recognised for its quality and positive contribution towards both the people and landscape of Zambia.”   
 
Mr. Werner Myburgh, CEO of Peace Parks Foundation added: “The biggest challenge of our time is to ensure co-existence between humans and nature, and this project is an exemplary conservation success story, because not only will this be achieved, but both will truly thrive. We laud Eni for stepping up to join a partnership that is leading the way in making an impact at a scale that is vital to help mitigate climate change and maintain biodiversity.”
 
According to Dr. Hassan Sachedina, BCP CEO: “Successful community-based conservation efforts to reduce deforestation requires sustainable incentives.  Signing a 20 year partnership agreement de-risks our community partners and resonates deeply with BCP’s mission of making conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people.  In 2020, direct payments to 12 communities will be $2.6 million (38 Million Zambian Kwacha).”

In 2018, Peace Parks facilitated a historic seven-year offset purchase agreement for BCP’s forest carbon work with luxury goods company, Richemont. Richemont’s commitment to reduce their company emissions through BCP offset purchases also support ongoing forest conservation and social impact projects in Zambia.

Eni

Eni is a global integrated energy company operating in 67 Countries. We concretely support a just energy transition, with the objective of preserving our planet and promoting an efficient and sustainable access to energy for all. Our work is based on passion and innovation, on our unique strengths and skills, on the equal dignity of each person, recognizing diversity as a key value for human development, on the responsibility, integrity and transparency of our actions. We believe in the value of long term partnerships with the countries and communities where we operate, bringing long-lasting prosperity for all. Our path to decarbonization aims to make the Company carbon neutral in the long term, developing an integrated energy transition plan, leveraging efficiency maximization and direct emission reduction, promoting an energy mix with a low carbon impact, developing circular economy and offset initiatives through forestry projects development. Finally, a key role will be played by new technologies use for the capture and use of CO2 emitted.

BCP

BCP (BioCarbon Partners) is a Zambian-based social enterprise, which develops and manages long term forest carbon projects in Zambia. We are a leading African, carbon offset development company that partners with local communities to create environmental awareness and improve the quality of life for local communities. The current focus of BCP is on implementing and extending REDD+ projects in the greater Zambezi-Luangwa ecosystem with plans to extend our projects in the Kafue ecosystem in Zambia. BCP has certified two successful REDD+ projects in Zambia; The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP) and The Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP), combining an area of almost 1 million hectares. Both projects have been validated to Community, Climate and Biodiversity (CCB) triple gold standards (validation) and Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) verification; The LCFP is the largest REDD+ Project in Africa and to the best of our knowledge, the largest REDD+ project in the World in terms of quantified social beneficiaries at approximately 173,000 beneficiaries.  www.biocarbonpartners.com

Peace Parks
 
The Peace Parks dream is to reconnect Africa’s wild spaces to create a future for man in harmony with nature. In order to achieve this vision the Foundation works to renew and preserve large, functional ecosystems that stretch across international boundaries. Peace Parks engages with governments to secure protected land, and channel investment into development of transboundary conservation areas.  The organisation plans and implements innovative strategies that revitalise habitat integrity, restore ecological functionality, and protect biodiversity. The Foundation develops nature-based tourism and enterprise opportunities to ensure the long-term sustainability of protected areas. At the same time, it focuses on communities living in and around these wild spaces –capacitating them in the sustainable use of natural resources and unlocking opportunities for them to derive equitable benefits from conservation.