Do African Dryland Forests Remove Carbon?

By: Dr. Hassan Sachedina (BCP), Dr. Marius van der Vyver (BCP) & Dr. Tim Tear (Biodiversity Research Institute)

Each new week brings a new net-zero pledge by a different country or company. It is encouraging to see the global commitment towards climate change mitigation growing. It is, however, worrying to see a rift appearing in the market between projects that are seen to remove carbon like tree planting or engineered carbon capture pitted against protecting indigenous forests through REDD+ projects. The aim of this blog is to encourage an ‘and/and’ approach to scaling up all climate mitigation solutions, and to try to dispel the myth of the ‘either/or’ at this critical juncture. The science shows that we are behind track, and that we need every tool in the toolkit to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. We are concerned that the perception that protecting old forests is irrelevant to climate change is misleading, and risks reducing funding for conserving important wildlife landscapes, and this could negatively impact communities. With deforestation increasing 12% in 2020 to 12 million hectares globally, and atmospheric carbon surpassing 420 ppm in 2021, there is neither the time nor logic to exclude REDD+ projects from carbon markets.

What is needed globally are large scale efforts that reduce carbon concentrations in the air. REDD+ projects avoid deforestation: they keep carbon sequestered that would have been added to the atmosphere. Tropical forests protected by REDD+ also remove additional carbon from the atmosphere. The next paragraph is a practical and pragmatic example of how this approach has played out in Zambia, to the benefit of real people, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Zambia is one of Africa’s most forested countries (60%), but also has one of the highest amounts of deforestation by landcover per year of any African country (~300,000 ha per annum). Zambia is also listed by the World Bank as a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC). In the last 12 months, BCP has made direct transformational payments of $4.3 million to 12 communities partnering in the Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP). Had the pandemic not happened, this benefit flow would still have exceeded tourism revenues to communities. With the tourism collapse and reduction in philanthropy due to COVID, REDD+ payments have become the single largest source of community revenues in history.

Adjacent to the LCFP is BCP’s pilot 40,000 ha Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP) which is 90 kms as the crow flies from the capital city of Lusaka. The evidence of deforestation along this route is stark; barren due to charcoal production and agricultural clearing in this peri-urban area. The difference between the REDD+ forest is so marked that we nicknamed the forest type “cathedral miombo” for how the canopy interlocks high overhead. Historically though, while the forest remained intact in this area, wildlife was depleted due to poaching. When the project started, the forest was a proverbial ‘emerald desert’.

Following its formation in 2012, The LZRP went on to become Africa’s first CCB triple gold validated REDD+ project, and has since passed 7 VCS verifications. Developing the project was an uphill task and took a team of dedicated individuals, together with community and Government partners to achieve. Our first task was the hard and slow process of building alliances with community neighbors. The second was forest management and restoration. After our first few VCS audits, it became clear that the trees were growing. We did not expect this: this was meant to be a stable old forest. The two key management interventions we put in place were the reduction of fire and the promotion of wildlife. To monitor if our protection impacted wildlife species, we partnered with Lion Landscapes to monitor population trends of key wildlife species. The findings have been significant, such as the increase in roan antelope, plus most other grazers and browsers.

Our forest inventory data shows an increase in average stem diameter per year and an increase of trees per hectare, which on average removes 1.1 kg of CO2e per annum per tree. If we take the mean density of trees in LZRP to be 498 per hectare, the CO2e accumulation over the project accounting area is 18,561 tCO2e annually. When we expand this across the 1 million ha of both projects that BCP implements (LCFP and LZRP), the forests in the two projects are removing an additional 285,358 tons of CO2e per annum, which is 19% of the annual net emissions reductions of both projects.

Growing forests accumulate and store carbon. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as cellulose, lignin, and other compounds. The rate of accumulation is equal to growth minus removals minus decomposition. In well-managed forests, growth should exceed removals and decomposition, so the amount of carbon stored increases overall. Research has shown that between 2001 and 2019, the world’s forests sequestered about twice as much carbon dioxide as they emitted absorbing a net 7.6 billion metric tons of CO2 per year (1.5 times more carbon than the Unites States emits annually).

We hypothesize that in our projects that the reduction of annual hot fires and increased wildlife is restoring a degraded forest where trees now thrive. Increased wildlife trample and eat fuel that would have burned, and convert it to fertilizer deposited on the forest floor. When trees, even fire evolved ones, experience less fire stress and receive nutrient cycling from manure and decomposition of unburned vegetation, they grow larger.

But what if our efforts in Zambia are a small outlier, with little relevance to global climate change mitigation? Or are we just beginning to understand the extent of active ecological restoration in terms of its importance to mitigating climate change?

After the Amazon and Congo basin forests, Miombo woodlands are the 3rd largest forest type on earth. The Miombo woodland biome is also Africa’s most valuable habitat for ecosystem services – providing more direct benefits to Africa’s rural communities than any other habitat type. Fire and herbivory are fundamental disturbance factors in shaping the evolution of the Miombo biome. Miombo woodlands have evolved with fire and thus recover quickly after a fire occurrence, unlike most other forest types. The extent of the recovery depends on the fire intensity, frequency, and season. Fires in Miombo woodlands are a fact of life, but they need to be managed. When you look at a fire map of Africa, vast areas of Miombo dominated countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, and Angola burn annually. While the image of fires in California, Australia, and Nepal in the media dominate, the truth is that 75% of emissions from savanna fires actually originate in Africa (Lipsett-Moore et al. 2018).

Relatively simple changes in fire management can make a huge difference – like shifting to cooler early-season burns and reducing the frequency of fires in areas that burn regularly. Repeated hot fires over time can result in a decline in forest quality reducing other vital ecosystem benefits that local communities depend upon. With over 40% of the planet’s land degraded and emitting carbon, restoring African ecosystems by these two, relatively simple habitat management actions of reducing fire and increasing wildlife are key tools to remove carbon from the air and store it in the soil and trees. Methodologies exist to generate soil carbon credits from changes to livestock management. Wildlife is more mobile, harder to herd, and occurs at lower densities than livestock. But because wildlife performs a similar herbivory function they may help ecosystems to accrue carbon more quickly in biomass and soils. It is a shift in thinking for African conservationists to see wildlife as a tool to remove carbon from the air. Even if the carbon removed by wildlife restoration is incremental, the incentives to landowners and communities to conserve biodiversity are potentially meaningful. These findings have not been scientifically validated yet, but together with partners, BCP is working to scale up our fire and wildlife conservation efforts and to explore carbon methodology applications to monetize these efforts without double counting credits we generate from REDD+.

A recent study (Plumptre et al. 2021) estimates only 2.9% of the global land area to be intact in terms of fauna biodiversity, which can be expanded up to 20% if the faunal composition was restored with the introduction of 1-5 species. Our project areas fall within this potential zone where most of the habitat is still in good condition to restore these mammal species assemblages and thus restore the landscape and its required ecosystem patterns and processes. If we can also successfully manage fire at scale in the same wildlife habitats, this could also benefit local communities and reduce emissions. As a conservation social enterprise, whose mission is to make conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people, BCP is excited at the prospect that there is another possible incentive towards conserving wildlife.

The metrics are alarming. Since 1974, elephants have declined 71% from roughly 1.4 million to 400,000, and lions have declined 90% from an estimated 200,000 in 1975 to only 20,000 today. Africa’s population is projected to double by 2050 to 2.5 billion people, meaning more than a quarter of the world’s people will live in Africa. By 2100, Africa’s population is projected to grow another 80% to 4.5 billion people. That is a 291% population increase in the next 79 years! In 2018, Africa’s economy was under 3% of total global economic output. The consequence of rapid population growth combined with poverty will likely result in massive habitat loss and the continued decline of elephant, lion, and other species to remnant populations. Africa’s remaining forests are under pressure today and a further reason why there is no time to sideline forest carbon markets. Markets for carbon offsets and access to capital are needed to close the massive funding gap to protect remaining “giga-forests”. We term ‘giga-forests’ as habitats with the ability to store up to a billion tons of carbon while fostering viable populations of the world’s remaining biodiversity. The Luangwa Community Forests Project is one such ‘giga-forest’ but the world needs thousands of these giga-forests to be protected and financially sustainable. Carbon markets offer the best tool in a generation to restore and protect these giga-forests. An increase in offset pricing is needed to offset the opportunity costs that are likely to exponentially increase alongside population growth.

It is misleading to say that planting trees is more effective at carbon removal than protecting remaining intact forests. Old forests capture more carbon than tree planting because they have had centuries to establish roots and structures to store carbon in biomass and soils. As a global community, we do not have the time to focus our carbon strategy on planting trees alone, or technologically engineered solutions, which are not scalable yet. Both of these activities should be scaled up for sure. We have a cost-effective and ready tool in front of us by protecting old tropical forests. We cannot afford to squander this opportunity. The myriad of benefits of forest protection for communities, biodiversity, water, and the climate should on their own make the risk of scaling up REDD+ worthwhile—even for the staunchest of forest carbon skeptics.

What can we do?

We need access to carbon markets for REDD+ projects, alongside technological solutions and tree-planting. We also need policies that incentivize landowners to promote wildlife, and a methodology that enables wildlife increases and fire reductions to be able to monetize carbon offsets. It is important that access to capital to develop REDD+ projects continues to grow, and it is vital that the pricing of offsets increases to reflect the true value of the services these REDD+ projects provide.

It is well-known that habitat restoration at scale costs money – and carbon offsetting offers perhaps the greatest tool of our generation to close the conservation funding gap and lift millions of people out of poverty. This is the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, and we can only hope that the important role that African dryland forest REDD+ projects serve in emissions reduction and biodiversity protection services is properly valued. Of course, we don’t believe that offsetting should replace deep decarbonization at source. Decarbonizing at source is imperative, but so is protecting and valuing remaining forests through verified high-quality REDD+ projects while there is still time to do so.

References:

  1. Lipsett-Moore, G.J., Wolff, N.H., & Game, E.T. (2018) Emissions mitigation opportunities for savanna countries from early dry season fire management Nat Commun 9, 2247.
  2. Plumptre AJ, Baisero D, Belote RT, Vázquez-Domínguez E, Faurby S, Jȩdrzejewski W, Kiara H, Kühl H, Benítez-López A, Luna-Aranguré C, Voigt M, Wich S, Wint W, Gallego-Zamorano J and Boyd C (2021) Where Might We Find Ecologically Intact Communities? Front. For. Glob. Change 4:626635. doi: 10.3389/ffgc.2021.626635.
  3. Photos by Edward Selfe.

BCP IS PROUD TO BE PART OF A GLOBAL COMMUNITY OF LEADERS BALANCING SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS AND PURPOSE FOR THE GOOD OF OUR PLANET


Over 3,900 companies across 150 industries in 74 countries, all with 1 unifying goal= To redefine success in business.

BCP is part of a global community of Certified B Corporations (B Corps) that are uniting for-profit companies to use the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. B Corps meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. With certification processes that use credible, comprehensive, transparent, and independent standards to ensure verification, verified B Corporations are companies that you can trust. As part of the B Corps community, BCP works towards reduced inequality, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose. As a registered B Corp, BCP is contractually required to consider the impact of our decisions on our employees, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment by participating in audits every two years that assess and ensure that our policies and practices are held to the highest standards.

We are proud to share that as a result of our continued dedication to our employees, and to upholding our environmental and sustainable responsibilities to better our planet, that BCP ranked in the top 0.5% of B Corps Globally, following our recertification in April 2021. BCP scored the second-highest rating in Africa and ranked 17th in the world out of a total of over 3,900 companies, earning us the title of “Best for the World Honoree” for our rating of 150+.

“Working at BCP is about building something much bigger and far greater than ourselves, it’s about building a sustainable future for our planet. To do so, we understand that we have to adhere to a set of environmental and sustainable standards. But not only that, we have to look after our ‘BCPeople’, who are the backbone of our company, without whom our mission would not succeed. It is so important for us to be part of the B Corps community because it provides reassurance to our valued stakeholders, partners, and carbon offset buyers that we have gone the extra mile and joined a community that holds us accountable on how we look after our employees, as well as our environmental and social impact”.
BCP CEO, Dr. Hassan Sachedina.

Beyond our B Corp certification, our high-quality, Verified Carbon Offsets are verified and audited against the highest international standards by two of the most widely recognized and respected independent authorities – VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) and CCBA (The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance). These standards verify that our carbon offsets are real, rigorously, and scientifically measured, and benefit local communities, forests, and biodiversity. Going one step further, the LZRP is CCB Triple Gold Verified for exceptional community impacts, while the LCFP is CCB Triple Gold Validated. Additionally, as an organization, we meet 16 out of 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with our goal to meet all 17 by 2030.

THE PROOF IS IN THE IMPACTS! HERE ARE A FEW MORE REASONS TO PARTNER WITH US TODAY

Invest in a Company you can trust and do a TON OF GOOD today.

A Ton of Good: Lion Landscapes and BCP partner to create Lion Carbon

Lion cubs playing, Ed Selfe Photography

Lion Landscapes, a grassroots organization working in Africa, has become the first conservation organization to become ‘100% climate positive’, using the ground-breaking Lion Carbon.

Lion Carbon is an innovative premium carbon offset that simultaneously addresses climate change, landscape-level biodiversity conservation, and local empowerment. Lion Carbon is developed by BCP, one of Africa’s leading forest carbon offset developers, in partnership with Lion Landscapes, a conservation organization working in Zambia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

How does Lion Carbon work?

Under BCP’s REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Model, the mechanism generates sustainable income for local communities, which is linked to the conservation of their forests and wildlife:

“Lion Carbon is a tool to close the funding gap in protecting Africa’s greatest wildlife legacy landscapes. The Lower Zambezi to Luangwa Valley is described by National Geographic as one of the last 10 lion strongholds on the planet.  Lion Carbon aims to help restore the Luangwa Valley’s wildlife and forests through improved community livelihoods.  We need to be creative in ways to help protect ‘gigaforests’; forests that have the potential to store up to a billion tons of carbon”

Dr Hassan Sachedina, BCP CEO.

Biodiversity loss is closely tied to poverty in many parts of Zambia, where local communities depend on the use of natural resources to meet their basic needs. Limited financial models exist to incentivize local people to protect biodiversity, with tourism being a key player. Even in normal years, tourism often fails to generate sufficient revenue for conservation, while the recent crash in global tourism due to Covid-19 has decimated income for many wildlife areas.

“As conservationists, we spend our lives trying to facilitate coexistence between people and wildlife where wildlife generally represents more of a cost than a benefit to local people. We don’t believe that just minimising those costs is enough. We are thrilled that our partnership with BCP has allowed us to help develop a solution that significantly improves the wellbeing of people as a direct result of habitat and wildlife conservation.”

Dr Alayne Cotterill, joint CEO of Lion Landscapes.

A REDD+ Model you can Trust

BCP works in partnership with Government and local communities to conserve forests under 30-year forest management agreements, using the highest Verified Carbon Standards (VCS). In addition to this, BCP’s projects were the first in Africa to achieve gold-level validation against all three categories of the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards, while the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project has also attained CCB Triple Gold Verification. Income from BCP’s carbon offsets protects over 530,000,000 trees across almost 1 million hectares of community forest. That is an average reduction of deforestation-related emissions of 1.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent to removing 290,000 cars from the roads annually. It is not just climate and forests that are benefitting. In 2020-2021, the Luangwa Community Forests Project generated over US$4 million in direct payments to 12 chiefdoms for the protection of wildlife habitat and community development. Across both projects the REDD+ model benefits 225,000 people, making BCP’s REDD+ projects the biggest in the world in terms of community beneficiaries.

Email info@biocarbonpartners.com today to find out how you can be part of the change and offset Lion Carbon today.

Bringing Us Closer To Over 20,000 Community Beneficiaries in Mwanya and Chitungulu: BCP’s Lundazi Office Is Officially Open

Access to clean water is a basic human right that has changed the lives of so many in LCFP.
The LCFP (Luangwa Community Forests Project) – As Africa’s largest REDD+ project by hectarage, the distance from our Lusaka Head office to the northernmost Chitungulu Chiefdom by North Luangwa National Park stretches over roughly 850 kms.  In order to more reliably serve our community and government partners, we added an 8th office in Lundazi town to support Mwanya and Chitungulu Chiefdoms, and to begin engaging with a possible new Chiefdom partner, Kazembe. Together, the 3 Chiefdoms cover a total of 138,967 hectares of vital ecosystem. Lundazi is home to Lukusuzi and Luambe National Parks, and borders both North and South Luangwa National Parks, making it a conservation ‘bridge’. Between Mwanya and Chitungulu alone, LCFP’s reach is so impactful that it is benefiting a total of 20,753 beneficiaries across 3,459 households.

Due to the remoteness of the area, the new Lundazi office is integral to streamlining operations, such as community scout deployment and community engagement; and to strengthen our partnership with our Chiefdom and government partners in the region.
Lundazi borders Malawi and is located 187 kms from Chipata.

“I share BCP’s goal of making conservation of wildlife habitat more valuable to my people. Since our partnership with BCP began 4 years ago, there have been such positive changes. I see a mindset change in our people, which is evident in the following: a reduction in cases of human-wildlife conflict, low findings of illegal fishing, and a drop in deforestation for charcoal and timber production”.
His Royal Highness, Chief Chitungulu

In 2020,  using forest carbon fees directly paid by BCP to the community, Mwanya Chiefdom installed solar lighting at Mkasanga Primary School and purchased a fiberglass boat for the Lukusuzi River crossing point; a risky site due to crocodiles in the rainy season. While, Chitungulu Chiefdom invested in boreholes, and in teachers’ housing in Kasamba, which has helped to prevent teachers from seeking employment elsewhere. These may seem like basic necessities; however, they are bringing life-changing impacts to the community members they are reaching.
Why Zambia?
Zambia’s deforestation is among the highest in the world. Zambia loses forest four times the size of New York City to deforestation every year. That’s an average of 300,000 hectares of valuable wildlife habitat, mainly driven by charcoal production and unsustainable farming techniques. We understand that in order to address deforestation, we have to develop deeper partnerships to jointly tackle the root causes of why deforestation is taking place, to begin with. The LCFP is a partnership between Government, BCP, and 12 Chiefdoms in the Luangwa to Lower Zambezi valleys, that works to address key drivers of deforestation while benefitting local communities and supporting forest and wildlife restoration.  The LCFP is enhancing the quality of life for 217,000 people in 36,000 households in one of Zambia’s most impoverished regions through a partnership-based approach. 

We’ve gone 100% carbon positive, why not take advantage of our 2-4-1 birthday carbon offsets sale and do a ton of good!

Today is our 9th anniversary.  It’s a time for celebration, a time for gratitude, a time for reflection, and a time to look beyond our organization…to reflect on our higher purpose, and the partnerships and people who have helped us to get to this milestone.

COVID has pushed us all to our limits. Yet, it has also made us acutely aware of the impacts we have on one another; of the implications that individual actions have on the collective community, and above all else – it has made clear how important it is to take care of our planet. This is a World that we share with animals and nature, without which, we would have no Earth to live in. At BCP, we address the issue of climate change, not only by protecting wildlife habitats directly but by addressing the social and economic reasons that lead to deforestation at a community level. At BCP our higher purpose is simple – “Making conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people”, and we want you to be a part of it!

We’re 100% climate positive. This means that BCP has offset twice the amount of carbon from our operations since our founding in 2012. The reason we do it? Scientists say that humanity must remove more carbon from the air than is being emitted in order to stay under the UN’s global temperature target by 2030; being carbon neutral is not enough. BCP retires CCB-triple gold, VCS verified REDD+ offsets, which we generate. 

You don’t need to go 100% climate positive; some companies offset 10% more than they emit, and that’s still 10% more good than offsetting nothing.

Won’t you join us?

For our birthday week, we are offering a 2-4-1 on verified carbon offsets. We will retire 2 tons of carbon for each one that you buy on our website (of up to 1,000 tons per buyer). This means twice the community impact, twice the environmental protection, and twice the number of trees (for half the cost)!

Climate change is a global problem, and it needs individual action. Each one of us has the power to make a difference. Here’s your chance to start off 2021 by doing a ton of good for our planet, and for each other, by offsetting all of your emissions for 2020.

A message from our CEO: ‘BCPeople’ are our first priority

Photo by Ed Selfe

We are currently at the precipice of the second wave of Covid-19 here in Zambia, and I wanted to take the time to update you, and most importantly, reassure you on how we are weathering this storm.

Up until 2021, in comparison to the rest of the world, we in Zambia did not feel the full weight of the global pandemic. However, 2021 has brought with it the second wave of the virus and we join the rest of the world with each and every one of us now knowing someone who is affected. According to Zambia’s Ministry of Health, there have been 6,146 new confirmed cases recorded between 4th-10th January alone.

Notwithstanding our personal lives, our Company has also been impacted. We have temporarily shut-down our Lusaka and Nyimba sites due to the direct exposure of one our colleagues to the virus, and in line with the directive from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor, our offices were immediately closed and fumigated.

At BCP, we believe in People before Profit, it is a founding pillar of our organization and one that we have upheld throughout these trying times.

‘BCPeople’ are our first priority:
• In direct response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Zambia early last year, BCP acted to ensure the safety of its staff; Alongside Zambian Government regulations of maintaining social distance, wearing masks, and washing and sanitizing hands, BCP went a step further and allocated private company transport for employees who do not have access to private vehicles. The initiative ensures that BCP employees avoid the higher risks of infection associated with overcrowding, often found on public transport, which not only protects our employee body, but decreases the risk for staffs’ family members as well;
• As of 1 May 2020, BCP implemented the Healthy Green Allowance, a policy that offers a daily, fully subsidized, healthy meal for employees across all 8 of our offices. In a move to ensure a happy and healthy workforce, the allowance has made a significant difference to the healthy well-being of our staff;
• Also in May, BCP facilitated the introduction of a private pension scheme for staff, in addition to the national statutory pension;
• In June 2020, BCP introduced an increased funeral cover benefit that was extended to each and every staff member (with the inclusion of 8 family members to the benefit coverage);
• In January 2020, BCP staff, many of whom live in remote areas with limited employment possibilities, received an average increment of 10% across the board. In addition to that, we introduced a salary subsidy for the lowest-paid members of BCP staff of 18% higher than the statutory minimum, and in August, a verification spot bonus pool from 2020 was paid out;
• We introduced a USD 2,800 Emergency Loan Fund to help staff who face emergencies;
• All staff and their families have access to a company medical fund.
I need to extend my sincere thanks and admiration to the BCP team, who have remained resilient, strong, and adaptable during such uncertain times. This steadfastness has meant that our mission to conserve wildlife, protect forests, and continue to support over 224,000 community beneficiaries has remained at the forefront of our work. To our Government partners, our partners in conservation, and our carbon offset buyers – I thank you for your continued backing. Please know that the support from you at this time means more now than ever to our community partners.

We will weather this storm – together.

With very warm wishes,
Dr. Hassan Sachedina
CEO

Roan Population Increases for The First Time in 10 Years In Rufunsa

BCP’s Lower Zambezi REDD + Project (LZRP) has reported that 2020 is the year of ZERO ENCROACHMENT. An even greater pleasure of ours is to announce, that a result of this milestone is the return and increase of wildlife to Rufunsa Conservancy!

Covering 40,126 hectares of forest, and benefiting 7,182 recipients, the LZRP is the first REDD+ project in Zambia and the first REDD+ project in the World to achieve 7 consecutive and successful verifications under both VCS and CCB Standards. Achieving zero encroachment has been a coordinated effort, from BCP supported Community Scouts on the ground, together with our Community Engagement and Livelihood teams, to the aerial surveillance missions that BCP implements from above. The increased community support this year is a significant factor in achieving zero encroachment. Not to mention the vital support that we received from our partner organizations, and from the Forestry Department, and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).

Achieving an average of over 10,000 patrol man days per year, the 105 BCP supported Community Scouts (in partnership with DNPW) play a vital role on the ground in ensuring that the forest boundaries are maintained, and in preventing illegal activities such as poaching and deforestation:

“For us Community Scouts, it is a huge achievement to maintain zero encroachment in an area like Rufunsa Conservancy, which is surrounded by the enormous demand for land and natural resources. Personally, I am truly excited to be part of the team that is holding the line as we make conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people”.

Rabecca Nampemba, RC Community Scout.

It is a direct result from our BCP Engagement and Livelihood teams that we have built, nurtured and sustained such strong community bonds over the past 8 years. LZRP is a partnership that allows communities to take ownership and responsibility of the project:

“This has been a synchronized effort from the top down. This year we really invested in our staff, which allowed for increased training and a serious boost in morale. It created a knock-on effect on the ground as we completed numerous community projects in a timely manner, such as boreholes and hammer mill construction, as well as the distribution of agricultural inputs to each of our Lead farmers in LZRP. All of these initiatives have enhanced the lives of community members. This increased the trust between BCP and communities and strengthened our community partnerships”.

Dusty Joubert, LZRP Project Manager.

2020 saw a coordinated drive to link our project areas to direct livelihood schemes, to enhance the relationships that we have with our partner communities. One such scheme was the cash dividend pilot. In April BCP received a grant from the Mills Foundation, which allowed us to roll out a cash dividend project pilot. This innovative pilot is a way to benefit communities at a household level through direct cash payments:

“We as a community have strived towards achieving zero encroachment because through LZRP; teachers’ salaries are paid through the school support program, and the cash dividends we receive are benefiting households on a direct level that we have not seen before”.
Kephas Nsambilo, Senior Headman Mwenshang’ombe.

Watching wildlife return to Rufunsa

2020 has shown the link between protecting forests in LZRP, working with its communities, and the increase of wildlife to the area. The correlation between zero encroachment and the return of wildlife to Rufunsa is clear. This year, in partnership with Lion Landscapes and Oxford University Wild CRU, and funded by the Darwin Initiative, Lion Recovery Fund, and National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, BCP was able to strategically place camera traps in wildlife strongholds, and the results have been remarkable!

Sable Antelope

The camera traps are capturing animals that we did not even know were in the Conservancy! Although native to the Lower Zambezi National Park, the Moloney’s Monkey had not been seen in Rufunsa until we caught them on film. The traps have made it possible to view nocturnal animals such as Caracals and Servals. While placing the traps in more mountainous areas meant that species were captured, such as Kudu and Zebra in places they have not been documented before. Another monumental sighting to date is the Southern Ground African Hornbill, which has been spotted twice on film, which is a key sighting as the ‘trigger species’ for the LZRP, it grants BCP Gold Standard in Biodiversity Monitoring.


Aardvark

We have watched as herds of Sable call the Conservancy their home again. When the project started in 2012 Sable and Roan were rarely seen, and only as single animals. Now big herds of 20-50 are recorded on scout patrols:

Spotted Hyena

“Looking back as we have finished most of the analysis for the data so far, we have a statistically significant trend increase in Roan Antelope. This data takes time to build, particularly in low-density areas, where you get so few sightings in each survey to begin with, but we are finally starting to see these patterns, which are only going to get stronger. The data that we are producing means we are definitely on the right track – bringing an area from complete depletion to regenerating wildlife is a particularly difficult thing to monitor, but it is working!”

Dr. Alayne Cotterill, Founding Director of Lion Landscapes

African Civet

The camera traps have also provided evidence of predators in the area, such as Leopards and Spotted Hyenas. This in itself is an extremely positive indication, for these large predators need plenty of prey species to survive. Thus, a healthy population of carnivores equates to a healthy population of herbivores, which in turn means that they are supported by a flourishing ecosystem.

Signing off for 2020, we would like to leave you with a word of thanks from our CEO, Dr. Hassan Sachedina:

“This year has been a testing year felt round the world. Covid19 has wreaked havoc on our global community – costing resources, money, but most tragically, lives. Yet, we have continued to receive unbounded support from all of you.

To our valued partners and supporters; know that you are supporting the return of wildlife to areas where they have not been seen in years. To our Government partners; it is together that we are enhancing the lives of communities to alleviate poverty in some of the most remote areas in Zambia. And, to our carbon offset buyers; across both projects, together we are working to protect almost 1 million hectares of forest and over 500 million trees from deforestation. We could not have done this without you”.

BCP Incentivizes Conservation Through A Cash Dividend Project In Mweshang’ombe Zone

On 2nd September 2020, in partnership with the Zambian Government, and supported by The Mills Foundation, BCP launched the first-ever cash dividend pilot project; targeting 178 households from 6 villages in Mweshang’ombe zone of Bunda Bunda chiefdom.

The second cash installment of this widely popular initiative was distributed between 18-20th November in Mweshang’ombe Village. This one-year pilot scheme is an initiative that offers a direct way of incentivizing communities to co-manage and conserve forests in Rufunsa. By offering communities a direct cash incentive BCP’s goal is to unite households behind our mission of “Making conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people”.

The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP) in Zambia protects 40,126 hectares of forest in the Lower Zambezi ecosystem. The project partners with 7,182 people in Rufunsa District to conserve the forest through a set of livelihood and community development initiatives.

“People in this area are poor, and although we advise against deforestation, in some cases people are desperate and feel they have no other choice. We are so grateful to BCP for this opportunity, as village leaders, we try and encourage recipients of this pilot project to invest this money in school books and school uniforms so that the children here are able to receive an education. This way they are educated against deforestation and educated in the implications of climate change”
Headman Malilakufusa of Malilakufwa Village.

“These communities are predominantly subsistence farmers, and this is what they rely on as their income. We find that when weather conditions are perverse, more incidents of deforestation and poaching take place in this particular zone. We are hoping that through this incentive, people will not encroach on the forests because they are being provided with an alternative form of income”
Brighton Chama, Bundabunda BCP Chiefdom Lead.

Before LZRP, deforestation rates were estimated to be as much as eleven times higher than Zambia’s national rate, which is already estimated to be one of the highest in the world. This area also has a growing human population with soaring poverty rates, as high as 88%, which meant many families turned to charcoal production as a main source of income. As much as 53% of Lusaka’s charcoal supply was estimated to come through the area. Now, thanks to the REDD+ Project in The Lower Zambezi there is a reduction of emissions by 188,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

“The money we receive in this way is helping us to buy food and supplies, and prevents people from turning to deforestation”
Radona Chikambo, Mweshang’ombe Village.

Help communities in LZRP by buying offsets today.

50 New Community Scouts Join The REDD + Team!

We are thrilled to share with you that on Monday 02 November, 50 BCP funded community scouts – 16 of whom are female, successfully graduated from an intense 3 month training course through DNPW (Department of National Parks and Wildlife) from Chunga Training Camp in Kafue National Park.

The Pass-out Parade was attended by distinguished guests – Acting Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Tourism and Arts William Katonga, DNPW Director Dr. Chuma Simukonda, and Mumbwa District Commissioner, Pamela Chipongwe.

“Government is not only ensuring that wildlife is safe, but also injects capital into rural communities by creating employment and opportunities of ownership at a local level. Despite these efforts to empower and motivate local communities the illegal exploitation of wildlife and habitat destruction have continued to seriously threaten our collective effort to grow the sector”
William Katonga, Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Arts.


William Katonga, Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Arts presenting certificates to the scouts.

“The biggest challenge that we have is manpower for resource protection, so any form of training regarding resource protection personnel is very much welcome. We really appreciate what BCP has done because that is a way of addressing the biggest challenge that we have about manpower. This training came at the right time”.
Jarton Shawa, Senior Warden, Kafue NP, DNPW.

Of the graduating scouts, 34 will be employed by CRBs (Community Resource Boards) in Eastern Province, and 16 in Lusaka Province. BCP will support the CRBs to cover the costs of Community Scouts.  Community scout operations in REDD+ Zones are paramount to safeguarding the wildlife habitat that BCP strives to protect in partnership with communities and Government.

“BCP values our partnership with the Government of Zambia, and are grateful to DNPW, most especially Senior Wildlife Warden, Jarton Shawa’s Kafue training unit. The unit did an amazing job of moulding the Scouts. This training partnership increases the number of community scouts protecting Zambia’s wildlife and habitat for the future of our great nation through REDD+ financing.  We look forward to supporting further training to qualify these scouts as Honorary Forest Officers”.
Tim Parker, LCFP Project Manager

The addition of new scouts would not be possible without the valuable funding that BCP received from The Darwin InitiativeNational Geographic, and The Lion Recovery Fund. BCP now funds 105 community scouts in partnership with 13 Chiefdoms, which means BCP has almost doubled its efforts to support communities tackle poaching and encroachment in Community Forests.  Community scouts now represent over 50% of the people on BCP’s payroll of 205 people.  Community members from our Chiefdom partners make up 65% of these jobs. We are proud to be supporting local communities to provide skilled employment and safeguard habitat in this way.

“This is one important way of conserving wildlife, because if we look after our forests we can reduce the impacts of climate change. I am very happy to be working at the forefront of habitat protection in Zambia”.
Joyce Kamunga, BCP supported community scout, Petauke, Eastern Province