A Conservation Farming Success Story

In partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, BCP’s support to a conservation agriculture initiative is enhancing food security in some of Zambia’s most vulnerable communities. Our Government partners and BCP have been partnering with local farmers to train them in sustainable agricultural practices that restore soil quality, increase yields, and reduce overall food insecurity in their communities. Higher yields and richer soils also mean there is less of a need to clear forest land for additional food production. A win for both people and the planet!
Mr. Ernest Mwale is one of the “Lead Farmers” supported through this partnership with Government in Jumbe Chiefdom in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. Since Mr. Mwale adopted conservation farming techniques, there has been a significant increase in his crop yield. With traditional conventional farming methods, he used to harvest 13 bags of maize in a season. After he shifted to conservation farming techniques catalyzed through the Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP), Mr. Mwale more than doubled his yield to over 30 bags of maize. The increase in production that he has achieved is life-changing.
“This is amazing. Since I started Conservation Farming I have been food secure with my family throughout the year. I have also been practicing crop rotation with groundnuts, distributing the risk failure of one crop. I will still be able to have a good harvest from the other crop while maintaining soil fertility at the same time. I no longer need to shift my fields. – Mr. Mwale

Mr. Mwale’s leadership has been exemplary. Lead Farmers are typically responsible for mentoring 15 “Follower Farmers;” however, Mr. Mwale supports more than 30 Follower Farmers. He provides his Follower Farmers with training in climate smart agriculture that will help them to increase their household incomes as well as their family’s food security.
Household nutrition security is elusive in rural Zambia, especially as rainy seasons become more erratic. Poverty rates in the Eastern Province are some of the highest in Zambia, which in turn is one of the highest in Africa. Achieving nutrition security is fundamental if forests are to be protected in a rural economy which depends on agriculture.  Climate finance conservation agriculture is funded by the sale of community forest offsets. BCP’s partnerships with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Forestry Department are central to REDD+ financed climate smart agriculture activities.

In the face of the effects of climate change, promoting Climate Smart Agricultural technologies is the way to go because community members who adopt these technologies see immediate benefits with improved yields recorded, which in turn creates food and nutrition security at a household level.  In turn, they don’t need to shift to new fields which often means clearing intact forest.” – Shadreck Ngoma, BCP’s Agricultural Development Co-Coordinator

Community livelihood initiatives such as such as Conservation Agriculture, EcoCharcoal, and Bee-keeping have been pillars of BCP’s livelihood approach since our founding in 2012.  Although both projects have been VCS verified and are triple gold CCB, it is clear to BCP we need to do much more.  This is clearer in a COVID-19 year where the economy is contracting and there is more of a need for agriculture to produce.  Our efforts to create impacts environmentally, but socially as well, through the generation of community forest offsets are creating social safety nets and hope in rural Zambian communities.

BCP Zambia’s First ‘Climate Positive’ Company

During this challenging time, we want to take a moment to share a bit of hope and inspiration in honor of Earth Day.  

BCP is proud to be one of the first companies to offset more carbon than we have emitted since our founding. It’s a move that’s aligned with global projections – that in order to limit the overall global temperature increase to 2°C by 2050 we must not only achieve zero emissions, we must achieve negative emissions – and we must do so urgently. As a carbon offset company it’s no surprise we’re interested in lowering our emissions, but going beyond carbon neutral today – and striving for carbon neutral since our founding – required new thinking and efforts.

We found inspiration from other companies. We applauded Microsoft’s announcement to offset all of the company’s emissions since its founding in 1975.  Similarly, we were inspired by Max Burgers, a Swedish company which offsets 10% more carbon than the company emits, making it ‘climate positive.’.

“We made it company policy not to buy beef due to its climate change impacts. But even then, I realized we needed to do much more. Our internal emissions are under a microscope and we look monthly for ways to reduce emissions and waste.” – Ms. Joke Hoffman, BCP COO

As of the end of December 2019, BCP has offset more carbon than we have emitted since our founding in 2012. Our current figures show we are 200% climate positive, meaning we have offset 200% more carbon than we have created since our company’s formation. Carbon offsets have played a major role in this achievement, but like banning the buying of beef, we’ve taken other steps to be more sustainable: using renewable energy in our offices, using smaller cars and motorcycles for our operations, instituting a ‘hypermiling’ driving policy, recycling, as well as other small changes to reduce waste and energy consumption.

Our internal efforts ad up and are important, but we could not have come close to our goal without forest protection. And the same goes for global efforts to keep  the world temperature increase to 2 C. Protecting forests is essential. Today, the world is losing roughly 13 million hectares of forest a year. Zambia is 60% forested which means that it would only take 3 years and 5 months to clear Zambia’s 45 million ha of forest. If deforestation were a country it would rank third after both China and the United States as a source of emissions! 

We retired 400 Verified Carbon Units to help us offset unavoidable emissions during 2019

It is now more apparent than ever that we must act. The good news is that it’s possible. If your company would like to go climate positive, please contact us to let us know if we can help at info@biocarbonpartners.com or buy offsets here (https://www.biocarbonpartners.com/buy-offsets/).

Does Wildlife Help Forests Store More Carbon?

During these difficult times around the world, one source of hope is seeing the return of life to landscapes where conservation efforts are taking root. One of these stories of restoration is BCP’s Rufunsa Conservancy – a private 40,000 hectare game reserve that protects 60 kms of frontage of the Lower Zambezi National Park and is the main site for BCP’s Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project.

Despite its proximity to one of the most wildlife-rich parks in Zambia, this area has long been depleted of wildlife due to poaching. This is beginning to change. We are now seeing a resurgence of species like lions, sable antelope, southern ground hornbills and roan antelope.

BCP teamed up with Lion Landscapes to help us monitor some of the trends we have been seeing. Despite the best efforts of predators such as lions, hyenas and leopards, large herds of roan and sable are now often seen. When we did some (non-scientific) back of the envelope calculations, we estimated that the amount of dung dropped on the Conservancy was the equivalent of around 6 full 747 cargo jets of fertilizer. That’s a lot of fertilizer! The BCP team and our partners have been thrilled by the amounts we’re finding as it tells us that we’re not only protecting forests, but we’re also helping to conserve wildlife.

“Well-managed forests provide much more than carbon storage, a sustainable source of firewood, or building materials. Healthy forests also support a host of wildlife species” – Dr. Alayne Cotterrill, Lion Landscapes

As part of the annual carbon audit trees are remeasured.  In the last two years, on average the trees are getting bigger.  This was pointed out by Francis Eaton, lead auditor from SCS Global based in California:

“Compared to other miombo areas of East Africa where I have worked, the miombo across the reserve is healthier and trees are noticeably bigger. While assessing the impact of the community scouts I noticed that evidence of tree cutting, and human foot trails are almost non-existent, and this fact is not lost on the wildlife. Each year I return to assess the carbon project, I see more and more wildlife returning to the area, including some species I have never encountered before in my East Africa work.” – Francis Eaton, Carbon Verification Forester

The increase in flora and fauna across the Conservancy can be attributed to some of BCP’s management interventions. For the past 8 years, BCP has invested in a partnership with DNPW to build a trained community scout team to protect forests and wildlife.  In the early days, the scouts were filling up floor space with the wildlife snares collected on patrols. Nowadays, we rarely collect any snares and operational coverage has increased. 

“In 2011 on my first visit, all I saw was one bushbuck sprinting away. Sable, lion, hyena and other species are more common now. When we started the project we thought the Conservancy’s forest were mature and we did not expect growth spurts. The links may be anecdotal for now, but we are thrilled reduced fire stress and increased wildlife numbers cause trees to store more carbon.” – Dr. Hassan Sachedina, BCP

Our efforts to preserve the Rufunsa Conservancy forest to generate carbon offsets has not only helped enhance forest growth but it has also brought back wildlife to the area. We are increasing our efforts to help restore wildlife across more areas and to reduce fire impacts moving forwards as part of our mission of making wildlife habitat conservation valuable to people.  The carbon offsets may be hard to see, but the presence of lions and antelope are undeniable, and quite frankly, inspiring.