Announcement: Conservation Partnership Secures the Future of Zambian Forests

LZRP forest landscape

An historic partnership between African conservation organisations is securing the continent’s most vital wildlife habitat areas by harnessing the income generation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) carbon offsets.

The South African-headquartered Peace Parks Foundation(PPF) is a conservation leader on the African continent, facilitating the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas that serve to protect large functional ecosystems across borders, thereby safeguarding the Southern African region’s critical resources and natural heritage.  BCP is one of the leading forest carbon project developers in Africa.  BCP’s hallmark is REDD+ projects with exceptional community benefits evidenced by Africa’s first Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard gold rated project for exceptional community benefits: the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project. BCP is also currently developing Africa’s first million hectare REDD+ project called the Luangwa Community Forests Project.

PPF and Zambian-based BCP (BioCarbon Partners), partnered in 2015 to support the conservation of large tracts of wildlife habitat bordering on the proposed Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools Transfrontier Conservation Area that incorporates conservation areas in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

BCP forest monitoring staff measuring trees in LZRP to check forest growth and health.

Zambia loses forest four times the size of New York City to deforestation every year. That is on average 300 000 ha of trees and valuable wildlife habitat disappearing annually due to charcoal production and agricultural clearing. 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+. In partnership with the country’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the Forestry Department, the USAID-funded Luangwa Community Forests Project

BCP staff undertaking community education to curb deforestation in Zambia

has enabled BCP to scale up forest conservation across more than one million hectares of wildlife strongholds in Zambia.

REDD+ is a mechanism to fund forest protection and community development through sales of carbon offsets. BCP has utilized the mechanism to fund forest protection activities and provide alternative livelihood opportunities to communities through the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project(LZRP) area. To incentivize participation in forest conservation, rural communities receive performance-based incentives that can be used to fund local infrastructure and social development projects.

Werner Myburgh, CEO of Peace Parks Foundation, shared his vision for this partnership: “Conservation efforts can only be successful if they also engage and benefit those communities who are engrained in these natural spaces. The income generated from REDD+ projects elevates the intrinsic value of conservation to a tangible return back to people and planet. With this in mind, our goal is to jointly develop more than ten million hectares of high-quality REDD+ projects in transfrontier conservation areas and other areas of global biodiversity importance, over the next decade.“

The partnership is already proving fruitful with PPF facilitating 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 will support ongoing forest conservation and social impact projects in Zambia.

The partnership with PPF enables BCP to continue vital conservation work in Zambia by providing market links for LZRP offset sales. BCP’s CEO, Dr. Hassan Sachedina, commented “This long-term forward contract by Richemont is truly a global leadership statement.  For REDD+ to deliver on its opportunity to become the most transformational conservation finance tool of our generation, it needs two pillars: firstly, projects developed with a baseline of exceptional community benefits; and secondly, sales partners willing to commit to multi-year contracts helping projects to plan community impacts.  We commend Richemont for its climate mitigation efforts and commitment to African conservation and community development.”

Richemont has been a member of PPF’s Club 21 for almost two decades, and has been promoting PPF’s achievements through the Richemont annual shareholder report for many years. Extending that long-standing commitment to PPF and its partners, including BCP, is a natural step. Richemont’s seven-year agreement to purchase the majority of its carbon credits from developer BCP can only add financial security to PPF and its ecosystem projects across the region. 

Congratulations Monde!

Congratulations Monde Luhana, BCP’s Carey Eaton Mission Award recipient for 2018.

Our newest Carey Eaton Mission Award recipient is Monde Luhana, Director Finance and Administration!

The Carey Eaton Mission Award recognises an outstanding BCP employee up to twice a year, for demonstrating the BCP values. The award remembers Carey Eaton, one of BCP’s founding leaders, who tragically passed away in 2014. Monde received the Award in recognition of her outstanding team leadership, diligence and dedication to the BCP values.

Monde is a figure of calm stability in the Lusaka Office and wider BCP team. Setting new standards for professionalism and commitment to her work, Monde is a kind and approachable colleague and fair and respected leader. She is unquestionably committed to the growth and support of her team and challenges them to approach difficulties as opportunities. Monde inspires us all with her thirst for learning and keenness to adapt and improve in her work every day.

During her time with BCP to date, Monde has grown enormously in capacity and confidence. She has willingly taken on additional staff and portfolios, and has consistently risen to meet high expectations. She is a respected site lead for the Lusaka Office and admirable leader for the whole company.

Congratulations Monde!  Thank you for inspiring us all to do more, learn more, and rise to meet the highest expectations. Your calm  demeanour and supportive approach creates a productive and enjoyable work environment and has earned respect as a kind colleague and valued leader.

Taking the lead in a man’s world.

“We are scouts. It is said that conservation is a man’s world. But in antipoaching patrols it’s teamwork. There’s no man or woman.”

Iness Njobvu is slight, proud, and quick as a whip. At just 26 years, she has shaken off the gender norms of her traditional community and has made BCP history as our first ever female Patrol Lead.

Iness emerged as a natural leader since her recruitment to the BCP scout team in 2015. After three years as a Community Scout in the Rufunsa District, in July she was promoted to a team-lead role along with another of her colleagues, Doreen Lungu.

“I am small in stature so at first it was difficult for teammates to get commands from me. Also, commanding scouts that have been working in this field for longer than me was a huge barrier I had to overcome,” Iness admits.

“This is a male dominated field and in Zambia men tend to look down on women as weaker vessels. Traditional gender roles here mean that sometimes men will expect me to carry luggage for them, cook, and do the chores.  But this is a challenge to overcome because there are no special allowances for women while on patrol. Every day on patrol is a busy day for us all, and there’s no room for gender expectations.”

Despite the challenges, Iness is thrilled with her new leadership role and feels comfortable and confident in the support of her colleagues regardless of gender.

“Being a woman conducting scouts duties has one advantage. It is that over time you develop a strong mind and the knowledge that you can do everything men can do. In this way my role has been to inspire my team.

“I feel that I’m learning new things and getting better at my job every day. On patrol you learn to understand people’s behaviours under different conditions. You learn about the environment, and wildlife characteristics and behaviours.

“It’s a great honour to be part of the team that is protecting natural resources. Pressure is huge but I’m up to the challenge. It’s like any other job, with lows and highs, but nothing is impossible. You just have to be prepared and motivated.”

“You do not work in isolation, it’s all about team work. You look out for each other. You do everything together, like a family” Iness attests.

Just don’t ask her to carry your luggage.

Iness with her fellow scouts in Rufunsa

Iness on patrol in the Rufunsa Conservancy

The family business.

Swift Choonga is a busy mother of eight in the Zambian village of Mweeshang’ombe in Rufunsa District. Since last year she has also been a BCP ‘Charpreneur’, supporting her family with income generated through the Eco-Charcoal project.

“My family first found out about the Eco-Charcoal project when BCP community staff came to our home as part of their sensitization activities” Swift says.

“At the time I was engaged in unsustainable charcoal production in order to help support my family. My husband and I also farm maize, ground nuts and sweet potato for our family and to sell, but the income is not enough on its own.”

Swift’s husband was actually one of the first community members to get involved with the BCP Eco-Charcoal project when it first began in 2015. He attended the first information and training session after discussing with the family, and subsequently discovered the income opportunity it represented.

“After the training, my husband gave it a go and from the first charcoal burn we realised the new BCP method requires less labour and the production yield is higher and therefor nets more income. Fewer trees being cut is not only better for the forest, but also for those of us undertaking the physical labour” she explains.

When opportunity to involve new charpreneurs came up last year, Swift was one of the first to apply.

“I saw the good that was coming out of the new method, and I wanted to be part of it and reap the benefits myself. The benefits I saw is primarily the greater income opportunity – a smaller cut of wood produces a higher yield of charcoal. With the market connection BCP also provides it is a more viable income for my family” she says.

“My husband and I now work together on producing the Eco-Charcoal – I help with his cutting and production and he helps with mine, but our yields are our own, and the money I make from this enterprise is my own. As a household we share money as needed.

“My participation in Eco-Charcoal has increased my income from 500 kwacha (USD$50) per kiln to 2,900 kwacha (USD$290) per kiln. Since joining this project, the extra income has really changed my life. I have been able to invest in goats and chickens, increase our farm production with good quality fertiliser, and employ people to help plough my field. I have also set up a small business – a grocery store – which I pay someone to mind for me while I’m at the charcoal production site.”

Swift is one of five women to have joined the Eco-Charcoal project and, like BCP, she is hopeful that in time more women will choose to get involved.

“During charcoal production it is just the moving of felled logs to the kilns that is difficult for me as a woman. The rest of the process I am equally as able as the men, and in fact my production is at the same level as any of the men,” Swift says

“It would be great if more women got involved in this project. It is better for our communities that we raise our income, and also better for the environment. Women are very likely to invest in development of the village and of our children for their futures. The more women who are earning income, the better our collective lives will become.”

Congratulations Gillie!

Our newest Carey Eaton award recipient is Gillie Cheelo, our illustrious GIS and Remote Sensing Specialist!

The Carey Eaton Mission Award recognises an outstanding BCP employee up to twice a year, for demonstrating the BCP values. The award remembers Carey Eaton, one of BCP’s founding leaders, who tragically passed away in 2014.

Gillie is selected for the award in recognition of his extraordinary commitment to the work, outcomes and values of BCP.

Gillie is a committed and hard working member of the BCP team. His workload is diverse and heavy, and Gillie manages this with grace and enthusiasm, often working beyond standard work hours to get the job done. Despite competing priorities, he always makes himself available to assist and support his BCP team mates, and does so with openness and a genuine attitude of helpfulness.

Gillies commitment and contribution to BCP enables us to more effectively achieve conservation outcomes and REDD+ verification. His ability to work equally well in the field and at his desk improves our ability to communicate across the organisation and with stakeholders.

Gillies role as a specialist and leader at BCP extends beyond his assigned tasks. His commitment to BCP as an organisation and belief in our work inspires his colleagues and contributes to our positive team culture and reputation in the field. Gillie exemplifies our principles and values through his high achievement, collaborative nature, his passion and optimism.

Congratulations, Gillie! We are so grateful for your commitment, hard work and positive team spirit which contributes to enhanced conservation outcomes and BCP organisational culture.

From little things, big things grow

Grace Kashiya is the dynamic inaugural District Forestry Officer for Rufunsa. As just one of three Zambian government officials overseeing forestry management in a district of more than 800,000 hectares, Grace has a big job on her hands.

“The land and communities in Rufunsa are in need of specialised intervention, which is why my role was created five years ago. The area here was rife with charcoal production and agricultural activities that were clearing the previously vast forest areas.”

BCP began interventions in the Rufunsa district in 2012, successfully curbing deforestation as part of the Rufunsa Conservancy project. The forest conservation success resulted in a community income deficit from reduced charcoal production in particular, and created a need for livelihood innovation and support.

“BCP, now through the USAID-funded Community Forest Project (CFP), has greatly reduced deforestation in this area which is important for the conservation of Rufunsa. Now the communities here need help to replace the income they’ve lost from previous charcoal and farming activities. This is where our partnership has become very fruitful” Grace says.

CFP’s initial livelihood interventions established sustainable honey and eco-charcoal projects. Now, the government and CFP partners are working to scale up an innovative nursery project that provides income generation while also encouraging reforestation.

“The Rufunsa nursery project has potential to address both deforestation and livelihood issues in the district for many years to come. CFP has donated tree seeds which my team grow to viable planting size. The tree varieties are producing edible fruits such as avocado and guava, and providing sustainable wood for use in local building styles” Grace explains.

“The plants are distributed to local community members – each local household is entitled to up to 200 trees, at no charge. We help the households assess which varieties will grow well on their land, and assist with plant placement. The trees are then available for harvest and sale as an alternative income source.”

Grace is seeing many positive impacts from the project which first began two years ago. Interest from farmers is increasing and in late 2017 CFP enabled the project to expand.

“CFP provided new fencing to secure an even larger nursery area and protect the seedlings from passing livestock and wildlife. They have also established a new borehole to water the nursery. These improvements will enable us to increase our seedlings by more than 40%. I am hopeful that as CFP’s sensitization activities continue we will see an increase in farmers and households replanting their land with productive trees” she says.

“Creating change is an exercise in education within this community. CFP’s sensitization activities, combined with conservation fee investment in education facilities, is having a ripple effect here. Students are becoming more literate and environmentally aware, and as they share this information with their parents we are seeing increased willingness to try new innovations and alternative livelihood projects.

“By investing in the land, the communities now receive conservation income, which in turn invests in the future of their families. It’s a cycle of positive benefits.”

Grace tends the nursery in Chinyunyu.

BCP in the news: Luambe National Park now the world’s most carbon neutral

Luambe National Park in Zambia has achieved a conservation milestone this week as it became the most carbon neutral National Park in the world.

Luambe’s carbon neutral status is a result of the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP) implemented by BioCarbon Partners (BCP), in partnership with the Zambian Government. This world-first level of carbon neutrality means the emissions of all tourism and conservation management activities within with the park are offset, including all international tourist airline travel. Platinum is the highest possible carbon rating available from BCP.

The announcement comes just 18 months after the Lower Zambezi National Park – also in Zambia – became the world’s first to achieve carbon neutrality from operations. This latest announcement from Luambe secures Zambia’s recognition as a global leader in carbon offsetting.

“Luambe National Park’s carbon neutral status sets a great example for other protected areas in Zambia,” said USAID/Zambia Economic Development Office Director Jeremy Boley. “This status shows the world that Zambia takes emissions reduction seriously.”

Luambe Camp voluntarily funded the carbon neutrality from their own internal revenues, investing in renewable energy sources and purchasing Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) audited forest carbon offsets generated within Zambia. Luambe Camp began operations in June 2017, and are committed to establishing a new bar of environmental stewardship and sustainability. Mario Voss, Director of Luambe Camp, stated that “as a business that operates as a showcase and celebration of Luambe National Park’s unique beauty and biodiversity, it is crucial that we take responsibility for its conservation. We’re passionate environmentalists and it is important to the whole Luambe Camp team that we can offer our guests a truly eco-friendly experience.”

Funds raised from REDD+ offset sales are reinvested into conservation and community development in buffer zone areas to national parks within Zambia. All countries on earth have now signed up to the Paris Climate Agreement, and there are more signals towards innovative carbon conscious milestones and action. With experts agreeing that Africa is likely to be the continent most vulnerable to climate change, the leadership of Zambian tourism businesses and the Zambian Government agrees to operate with carbon neutrality and set a positive example throughout the continent. Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), Mr Paul Zyambo, stated that “We are happy to partner with another innovative carbon-conscious achievement in the conservation and tourism sector in Zambia with partners like Luambe Camp and BCP. Luambe forms a part of Zambia’s famous Luangwa Valley and we hope that this showcases how special this area is, and why it is worth a visit.”

Dr Hassan Sachedina, BCP’s CEO, added, “It is exciting that Zambia now has two of the world’s first carbon neutral parks, which are helping to conserve two of the most important biodiversity strongholds left in Africa. I am really proud to be partnering with these family-owned businesses raising the bar of what eco-tourism to include carbon offsetting.” We hope that this spurs more action globally to address climate change.”

When conservation benefits environment and community

Forest areas in Zambia are rapidly declining as communities utilise natural resources for income through logging and charcoal production. The CFP instead incentivises communities to protect Zambia’s precious forest areas by offering an alternative income source through the sale of verified carbon credits.

This month, with support from the American People, BCP staff and our 10 partner chiefdoms in the Lower Zambezi region achieved a major milestone as US$150,000 in Conservation Fee income was distributed to communities for the first time!

The Conservation Fees are financial incentives delivered through the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP), provided to participating local communities in return for the conservation and management of their local forests.

To participate in the program, communities have self-identified areas of forest for REDD+ protection and committed to agreed rules and activities for its conservation including banning all wood cutting and burning, and establishment of new habitations within the protected area.  Communities are still able to utilise non-timber products for food and livelihood purposes, such as gathering wild mushrooms, honey and other reusable natural resources.

Conservation Fee payments are performance-based, calculated on the forest land area the communities effectively protect. Revenue for the payments comes from selling verified carbon credits generated by the conserved forest area. This first round of Conservation Fee payments has been made in anticipation of future carbon credit values as BCP awaits final REDD+ project verification, which is already underway and expected in 2018.

Communities receive the Conservation Fees as a collective and will use the funds for self-identified development initiatives that offer long-term community-wide benefits. With BCP training in good governance and financial management, the CFP is also an opportunity to upskill and develop community leaders and engage local community members in the identification, design and delivery of their own interventions for forest protection.

The Conversation Fees were awarded to communities in a series of launch events which proved to be festive celebrations with representatives from local Royal Establishments, traditional leaders, local institutions and Government departments, as well as many members of the wider community! During the events local community members praised the program for delivering benefits directly to local communities and empowering them to make decisions about their own sustainable development and natural resources management goals.

Stay tuned in the coming year to see the ripple effect of this innovation on local communities as they are empowered to invest in their own development!

 

Below – Some of our partner communities celebrating as they receive inaugural Conservation Fee payments

Preparing communities for REDD+

It is said that you can’t teach someone to drive, unless you hand over the car keys, and this month, we’ve handed the keys over to 72 local community institutions.

The USAID Community Forests Program (CFP) aims to provide both theoretical and practical learning opportunities for community institutions to help them the effectively manage their natural and financial resources. Our upskilling program is a Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) model for REDD+ implementation and currently engages 10 Community Resources Boards (CRBs) and 62 Village Action Groups (VAGs).

Following a year of governance capacity assessment, critical needs identification, training delivery and resource provision, this month we felt confident that the communities are ready to take on responsibility and management of their CFP goals, with partner support and an ongoing mentor program.

We’re excited to see communities take ownership of their conservation goals and feel even more empowered to caretake their natural resources.

CFP’s Empowerment Officer provides documentation training to Conservation Assistants and Community Mobilizers who will be seconded to provide ongoing assistance to CRBs, under the CFP community institutional capacity building model.

 

 

 

 

 

CFP’s Empowerment Officer provides one-on-one Financial Management mentoring to a member of Msoro CRB, during the fourth quarter of FY17.

Ratifying innovation for 10 CRBs

A milestone has been achieved this month as all 10 of our partner Chiefdoms signed Conservation MOUs for their community forest monitoring and management plans!

The MOUs formalise partnerships between the USAID Community Forests Program (CFP) and participating Chiefdoms, where communities will undertake regular forest monitoring and sensitization activities in exchange for the CFP providing monthly financial aid as well as equipment, staffing, and ongoing training and mentorship

With the MOUs a total of 35 scouts will be directly supported by CFP to achieve a targeted minimum of 1,300 Conservation ‘man days’ per month, as well as sensitization of 1,000 individuals per month across the 10 Chiefdoms. These arrangements will initially run for a one year trial period, from September 2017 – September 2018.

Patrick Nyirenda, BCP Conservation Coordinator, sees first-hand the impact of innovating and progressing CFP activities within the target communities.

“The MOUs are a big deal for the CFP as a program for the local community. Local communities ought to take a leading role in ensuring that the program succeeds. When the program succeeds, the community will derive benefits they can see and partake of.

“This arrangement is also important in Zambia as a whole as it empowers local people to participate in determining the future of resources on their land, upon which their livelihoods depend. At a national level, Zambia will have mitigated against the high deforestation levels and contribute to a safer environment” he said.

Impacted community leaders share Patrick’s enthusiasm for the program. John Banda, Msoro Chiefdom Community Resource Board (CRB) Chairperson, commented that “in terms of wildlife, Msoro area is depleted and our CRB is inactive and almost irrelevant. We appreciate so much that CFP has made us realize that keeping the forest intact can bring revenue to our community. Now our CRB is active once more”.

BCP now join our community partners in celebrating, and supporting, this opportunity to pilot community-based conservation efforts for REDD+ in Zambia!

CFP’s Conservation Coordinator, Patrick Nyirenda, leads a discussion with members of Malama CRB concerning the development of a Forest Monitoring Plan for the REDD+ Zone in their Chiefdom.

Members of the Mwanya CRB undertaking forest monitoring activities, take advantage of the opportunity to sensitize local community members found near to the boundary of the protected REDD+ Zone.