In Zambia, like elsewhere, most rural communities heavily rely on forests for both their income and livelihoods. Forests provide them with food, medicine, shelter, wood and wood fuels.
Apart from using forest products to meet their own needs, rural communities continue to utilise opportunities provided by urban demand for forest products such as charcoal to generate income.
However, it is often difficult for most rural based traders to transport their produce for sale to most urban centres. Due to a lack of transport and a need to quickly sell their products, rural traders are often cowed into selling their products at a cheaper price to urban commuters, who later sell these products at a higher price in town.
BioCarbon Partners is currently implementing community based livelihood projects among rural households in Rufunsa District, as part of the Lower Zambezi REDD+ (LZRP). The aim of these projects is to sustainably address local drivers of deforestation in the short and long term, by providing meaningful alternatives to deforestation-dependent livelihoods and reducing poverty.
Since 2012, BCP has been piloting an Eco-Charcoal Project in Rufunsa District. This project is identified as having some of the most potential to directly and meaningfully address unsustainable charcoal production as a local driver of deforestation. The Eco-Charcoal project encourages the implementation of sustainable harvesting plans on community forests, adoption of improved-efficiency kilns, and market development and access for sustainably produced charcoal, which allows BCP to pay higher prices to producers of sustainably produced “eco” charcoal.
The Eco-Charcoal project is designed to benefit rural producers by providing higher “incentive” payments for sustainably produced charcoal, and is designed to benefit the wider community by promoting sustainable natural resource management in an area with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, which is largely driven by unsutainable charcoal production.
One of the key interventions of the Eco-Charcoal project is the creation of new markets for sustainable, community produced products, and assisting producers to access new markets for sustainably produced goods.
In 2013, Musika graciously donated a canter truck to BioCarbon Partners Trust, in order to facilitate community access to new markets for sustainably produced Eco-Charcoal. Since then, the canter has continued to play an important role in allowing rural producers of Eco-Charcoal to access new markets, and allowing the business model for the project to continue.
“The Musika Canter plays a huge role in the Eco-Charcoal project, allowing BioCarbon Partners Trust to buy sustainably produced charcoal from rural producers, and sell their product for a higher price in town. The higher prices gained from urban sales is shared with rural producers, creating an incentive for rural producers to produce charcoal in a sustainable way,” explains Lauren Masey, a Peace Corps volunteer placed with BCP.
Since 2013, the canter has facilitated the development of Eco-Charcoal and other community enterprises. “The canter has helped in the transportation of charcoal and beehives. Easy access to urban markets for community produce has come with increased production. Previously we could only manage to transport 18 to 25 bags of charcoal but the coming of the canter has seen our transportation increase from 40 to 100 bags,” adds Agness Kanunguna, a Musika intern placed with BCP.
To date, the Musika canter has facilitated the sales of over 240 90Kg size bags of Eco-Charcoal bringing rural producers an estimated 13,000 ZMK of income since 2014. The canter has also transported supplies for other sustainable livelihoods projects supported by BCP, for example, the canter was used to transport hives that were donated to support a Honey production project in 2014, under a VIGOR grant from USAID.
BCP is currently exploring other possible models for improving rural producers’ access to new markets, as a means of breaking down transportation as a barrier to the development of sustainable enterprise in rural communities.
BCP is very grateful to have a partner like Musika, who have given communities the opportunity to reach far away markets and improve their livelihoods. Musika has been an important partner of BCP in Rufunsa district since the beginning of the LZRP in 2012. We look forward to continuing to partner with Musika as our REDD+ activities expand into new areas under the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP) in the coming years.