Why everyone is talking about Zambia’s award-winning conservation.

Although it has a reputation for one of the world’s highest deforestation rates, Zambia is proving it’s never too late to change, as this week a community forest project in the Lower Zambezi becomes the world’s most successful REDD+ carbon project.

The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP) began as a pilot in Zambia in 2012. Now, seven years and more than 5,000 community participants later, the LZRP has just become the world’s first to achieve 6 consecutive VCS-verifications and a triple gold CCB verification.

“Verification for REDD+ forest carbon projects is difficult to achieve, requiring months of in-depth monitoring and auditing to strict international standards. That this degree of consistency and excellence has been achieved by an African company predominantly staffed by Zambians is something I am immensely proud of,” says Dr Hassan Sachedina, CEO of BCP (BioCarbon Partners).  

“Conservation of Africa’s great wildlife habitats doesn’t need to be at the cost of rural economic growth, in fact, carbon development is an untapped resource for communities with intact forest to generate income from their natural resources, without having to cut the forests. Truly incentivising natural resource protection, while also supporting community development is at the heart of the REDD+ model BCP follows.”

Central to this achievement is BCP’s valued partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia.  “This is a milestone in Zambia, and globally, which definitively proves that public-private-community partnerships can successfully curb the tide of deforestation currently washing across sub-Saharan Africa” said Mr Victor Chiiba, Lusaka Provincial Forest Officer.

REDD+ is a UN Climate Change mitigation strategy that stands for ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation’.  Forests protected under REDD generate verified carbon offsets, which are then sold on the global market to companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. The ‘+’ refers to the additional community benefits REDD models aim to deliver and, according to Sachedina, this is where BCP’s Zambian projects excel.

“Successful verification of our carbon credits is important because it is necessary to sell on the global carbon markets. However, more significant to me – and to the people participating in our projects – is LZRP’s triple-gold-level rating for positive impacts on Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB)” Sachedina said.

CCB assessments recognise carbon offset projects which deliver transformational land and community benefits alongside offset generation. LZRP is one of just a few projects globally to achieve the highest – gold-level – rating in all three categories.

The exceptional positive impacts generated by BCP’s projects are further recognised today, as BCP is awarded a global business award as one of the top five “Best For The World” businesses globally.

Today, more than 5,000 members of the LZRP community report their household having benefited from project activity, through job creation, market linkages and improved social services such as education and healthcare. 

As Mr Rainford Chanshika, Chair of the Ndubulula Co-operative which administers LZRP-generated community funds adds,

“The community here is very happy with the development brought in by BCP. Resources we saw other communities have are now ours as well. The community has benefited a lot from BCP – the borehole, hammer mill, and bee-keeping projects are all new for us and our community is benefitting greatly”

While much of the world’s discussion about forest loss centres around South America and the Amazon, sub-Saharan Africa represents a huge opportunity for the word to achieve the emissions reductions goals of the Paris Agreement.

“As implementation of the Paris Agreement begins to take shape, projects like the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project are demonstrating that they can deliver tangible sustainable development benefits while protecting forests and reducing emissions from avoided deforestation through rigorous accounting and verification” Verra’s CEO David Antonioli reports.

Before and after – the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project has assisted the Mweshang’ombe community with an upgraded teacher’s house.

Public, Private, Community Unite for Conservation in Zambia

PRESS RELEASE: Nyamaluma, Mambwe, Zambia, 27 July 2019

This week at Nyamaluma a conservation milestone was achieved as 10 chiefdoms in Lusaka and Eastern Provinces welcomed the conservation support and expertise of 32 newly graduated Community Scouts.

The event marks the end of a 14-week intensive training course for the Scouts, conducted under the supervision of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) at the Nyamaluma Training School. The graduating Community Scouts have achieved TEVETA certification and GRZ endorsement as front-line enforcers of Zambia’s wildlife and forest protection laws and regulations.

The newly-created Community Scout opportunities are the result of a Community Scout Sponsorship Scheme developed by Zambian conservation organisation BCP (BioCarbon Partners). 

As Zambia faces unprecedented levels of deforestation and wildlife loss, Community Scouts play an important function in securing Zambia’s precious biodiversity and tourism sector. BCP is one of Africa’s leading forest carbon offset developers, who implements community-level forest and wildlife protection activities in collaboration with DNPW, the Forestry Department and Chiefdom-level leadership and governing bodies.

The newly created Community Scout roles aim to strengthen natural resource protection activities in Zambia’s Game Management Areas (GMAs), which provide vital connectivity between five National Parks throughout the Luangwa-Zambezi ecosystem. The 32 new graduates have been selected from ten Chiefdoms within the ecosystem and going forward will be employed by Community Resource Boards (CRBs) through the BCP Scout Sponsorship Scheme. 

Guest of Honour, Mambwe District Commissioner, Caroline Mwanza, addressed the new graduates and event attendees during proceedings.

“This is a Public-Private-Community model, increasing the capacity of our communities and CRBs in the protection and management of our natural heritage resources… While this is a clear demonstration of the community’s commitment to the protection of the resources in this area, it requires all of us to work together not just to enjoy the benefits, but to take responsibility to control illegal activities which damage our environment” Mwanza said.

BCP representative, Alastair Anton, spoke during proceedings of the need for collaboration to achieve Zambia’s conservation goals. 

“Forest and wildlife habitat protection in Game Management Areas can only be effective by engaging local communities and traditional leaders, and by forming a strong partnership with Government. Community Scouts and Community Honorary Forest Officers are key to the success of our conservation partnerships” Anton said.

“This is a difficult task which requires professionally-trained and -equipped teams with the mandate to enforce both local, customary and statutory laws and regulations.” Anton said.

The strength of collaborative commitment to conservation in Zambia was demonstrated by the many dignitaries in attendance at the event, representing communities, branches of government and NGO partners who have collaborated to reach this conservation milestone. The graduating scouts were honoured by the representative of His Royal Highness Senior Chief Nsefu and by the presence of His Royal Highness Chief Malama.

The 32 successful graduates are the highest-achieving of 517 candidates who applied for the opportunities. To be selected, the Scouts have undergone intense training and testing to prepare for their harsh and often dangerous job ahead. 

The exceptional level of training delivered to the Community Scouts by DNPW Trainers is further enhanced by international support from the Lion Recovery Fund, the Elephant Crisis Fund and the Mills Foundation, whose funding has ensured these 32 Scouts are among the best equipped in the country.

Now certified, the Community Scouts will be deployed across 10 Chiefdoms to conduct long mobile patrols that deter and prevent threats to forest and wildlife. They will also provide a much-needed rapid reaction capability, quickly responding to wildlife crime and encroachment breaches identified by aerial and mobile patrols as well as local informants.

It is hoped that the combined efforts of BCP, government and community partners will immediately have a positive impact on the reduction of wildlife crime and deforestation with the Luangwa-Zambezi ecosystem. BCP is already in discussions to further increase Community Scout resources within the ecosystem and hopes to be part of a brighter greener future for Zambia.

Congratulations Mbita! 2019 recipient of BCP’s Carey Eaton Award

BCP CEO Dr Hassan Sachedina presents the Carey Eaton Mission Award trophy to 2019 winner Mbita Nakazwe from our Lusaka finance team

Our newest Carey Eaton Mission Award recipient is Mbita Nakazwe from the BCP Lusaka finance team!

The Carey Eaton Mission Award annually recognises an outstanding BCP employee who demonstrates the BCP ‘Root’ values – Trustworthy, Adaptable, Good Communicators, Detail-focused, Purpose Driven and Courageous. The award remembers Carey Eaton, one of BCP’s founding leaders, who tragically passed away in 2014.

Mbita receives this Carey Eaton Mission Award in recognition of her exceptional work ethic and achievements. She is setting new standards for commitment and delivery at BCP. She has become known company-wide for her quiet diligence and dedication, to both her work and to supporting her colleagues. Mbita is a kind and helpful colleague who approaches her work with cheerfulness. She holds herself to high standards and in achieving them, her attention to detail and commitment to outcomes sets an example for us all. 

Mbita’s desk is as her work – neat and tidy with everything in place. She is outcome-focussed and puts in the effort to meet deadlines and scrupulously high standards, regardless of the challenges. Mbita is dedicated and resilient, and her exceptional achievements and innovations in her work are testament to this. Mbita has swiftly become a leader within the BCP team, as her colleagues recognise her leadership abilities and appreciate her contributions to the team and to our mission.

Congratulations Mbita! We are so grateful for your calm efficiency and team spirit. Your contributions to our work and to our team culture are noticed and very much appreciated.

9 Special Species You Can Save By Offsetting

When you purchase BCP Offsets you not only help reduce emissions, you also protect numerous endangered species seeking refuge in Zambia.

The Luangwa-Zambezi ecosystem is one of the last remaining wildlife strongholds in Africa. An inter-connected valley of National Parks, Customary Areas and Game Management Areas (GMAs), it is home to an abundance of wildlife including many significant and threatened species. BCP carbon offsets directly fund habitat and wildlife protection within one of the continent’s largest wildlife migration corridors, protecting many endangered and geographically-isolated species.

Learn more about 9 amazing species your offset purchases are helping to save:

Announcement! Local communities secure Zambia’s first carbon rights.

Yesterday, Zambia’s Labour Day celebrations coincided with celebrations of our own, as communities participating in BCP’s REDD+ activities became the first in Zambia’s history to receive carbon rights.

The milestone is a significant step toward empowerment for communities in effectively managing and benefiting from their natural resources. By legally recognising the rights of local communities to profit from carbon offsets generated by their own forest areas, participants in Zambia’s REDD+ activities now have legal security to retain income from carbon stocks on community land.

In order to halt deforestation in Zambia, communities must be engaged and empowered to make changes that support local development and employment. By formalising community rights to carbon stores in their natural resources, communities can make long-term plans for local development supported by carbon income.

So far, seven of the twelve Chiefdoms participating in BCP’s LCFP REDD+ project have been granted their carbon rights by the Government of Zambia. Rights agreements are already in progress for the remaining Chiefdoms, and we hope to secure agreements for all participating communities within the next few months.

Education boost for Nyimba

2019 has begun with excitement among students in Nyimba district who are benefitting from improved access and quality of education in nine villages in the district.

Communities in Nyimba have historically had a difficult time meeting the education needs of their growing population. With teacher training taking place in main centers such as Lusaka, it can be challenging to attract teachers to work in rural areas that are often difficult to access and lack some comforts and facilities city-dwellers may be used to.

Housing for teachers throughout Nyimba has been a key challenge for the district and one that this year, communities are addressing thanks to conservation fees received for their REDD+ habitat protection activities.

So far this year, communities in Luembe Chiefdom have completed construction of seven teacher’s houses to support recruitment of new teachers for seven schools in the district. 

The teacher shortage in Nyimba has previously caused dire classroom over-crowding, with up to 60 pupils participating in each class. The net result is lower quality education outcomes for local students, who are not able to receive adequate teacher attention to support their learning. 

Construction of the houses cost the communities 210,000 zmk (US $17,300) – an amount that would have been out of reach for the communities were it not for the conservation fee income.

Further education investments in the area are also improving student enrollment, with a double classroom block constructed for Mkoma Primary School in Nyalugwe Chiefdom. Prior to this, students were sitting outdoors in the weather during their lessons, which had led to poor enrollment and attendance levels. Now that safe classrooms with protection from the weather are available, enrollments at the school are the highest they’ve ever been, with 82 boys and 42 girls regularly attending.Education improvement has been identified as a primary development need by community leaders and members, who all have opportunity to participate in decisions around the use of their conservation fee income. It is hoped that improved education for the next generation of community members will improve livelihood opportunities and the local economy in years to come.

Students of Mkoma Primary School attend the official launch of their new double classroom and teachers house.

Vehicles from USAID Community Forests Program benefit conservation partners.

The culmination of the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP), the flagship activity for USAID/Zambia’s forest conservation and rural livelihood initiatives, is enabling capacity building and resource sharing among Zambia’s key conservation leaders, as CFP vehicles were redistributed to project partners in February, 2019. 

Through the course of CFP’s implementation by BCP, a fleet of 18 off-road vehicles were secured to enable community scout patrols, sensitization and livelihood intervention activities across the one-million-hectare project area. A five-year USAID activity operational from February 2014 to January 2019, CFP has now redeployed these vehicles to project partners throughout Zambia to support ongoing forest management and wildlife protection activities.

Critical protection for the South Luangwa National Park will be enhanced through deployment of one CFP vehicle to the Zambian government’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). The vehicle will enhance DNPW’s wildlife crime prevention operations within this critical habitat area for numerous at-risk species including elephant, lions, leopards and African wild dog.

Some of Zambia’s most at-risk forest areas will also benefit from enhanced resources as three vehicles are deployed to the Zambian government’s Forestry Department. The vehicles will be deployed in Rufunsa, Petauke and Mambwe districts to improve forest management activities within these areas, which are also home to many of the CFP REDD+ project zones.

One additional CFP vehicle is already in use at Conservation Lower Zambezi, supporting the Detection and Tracking Dog Unit, which is reducing and deterring trafficking of illegal wildlife products in and around the Lower Zambezi National Park.USAID and BCP are thankful that the CFP vehicles will continue to support key forest and wildlife protection efforts within REDD+ project areas through the work of our key CFP partners. As the CFP project officially comes to the end of its allocated time, BCP’s forest protection and community development work is primarily funded by revenue from REDD+ carbon offset sales.

Addressing Isolation in Mkoma

Sometimes the barriers to economic growth and education access in Zambia are quite literal. This is the case for the Mkoma community in Nyimba district, where the local Lusemfwa River is all but impassable during the rainy season.

The communities around Mkoma have previously relied on small privately-owned boats in the area to cross the river for children to access the local school, and for businesses and farmers to move their goods in and out of the village. This means that while these boats are occupied for personal use, such as fishing, many communities members are simply unable to access facilities on the other side of the river.To address this, Mkoma village this year elected to use a portion of their REDD+ conservation fee income to purchase a Banana boat for community use. Mkoma VAG purchased the boat for 21,000 zmk (US $1,730) and have made it available to community members every day, ensuring local students can get to school and farmers can transport food supplies throughout the year.

Watch as the Mkoma community receive their new banana boat.

Creating Employment Through Conservation

Spectators gather as applicants compete in a fitness test for 30 newly created Community Scout jobs

Key to community-based habitat protection for wildlife and forest carbon are Community Scouts. Community Scouts protect community assets and are pivotal to BCP’s mission of making conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people.  Countering threats to important wildlife habitats such as illegal logging, illegal charcoal, illegal mining, poaching and fire requires specialized skills.  

BCP partners closely with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to build community capacity in our Lower Zambezi and Luangwa Projects.  Community Scouts are actually hired by Community Resource Boards (CRBs) through a partnership between CRBs, DNPW and BCP.  BCP has supported a Community Scout model with DNPW and CRBs since 2013 beginning in the DNPW Lower Zambezi Area Management Unit where 30 scouts were trained and now help to protect forests and wildlife.  

Through a partnership with DNPW and Forestry Department, all 10 partner Chiefdoms in the Luangwa Valley were given an opportunity to compete for 50 training slots beginning in April, 2019. Of these 50 trainees (including a number of women who passed the selection), 30 will be selected by the DNPW Training Wing to contribute to improved protection of the Luangwa Valley. 

Becoming a Community Scout is hard: 517 people applied for 30 positions—less than a 6% acceptance rate. After a 3-month training course under the auspices of DNPW, the Community Scouts will undertake anti-poaching and wildlife habitat protection patrols year-round with DNPW in at-risk conservation areas linking South Luangwa, Luambe, Lukusuzi and part of North Luangwa National Parks.

While 60 CRB scouts funded by BCP across over 900,000 hectares is not enough; it is the start of an effort to support communities and Government with enhanced resources to help protect the iconic Luangwa ecosystem.  Recruiting locally provides much-needed employment opportunities for families in rural areas with low employment rates, while also ensuring the forest and wildlife are protected by individuals who are accountable to their own communities for protection outcomes.  This model mirrors a goal of BCP to be majority community-staffed from the Chiefdoms in which we work.  With the addition of the Luangwa Community Scouts, around 70% of BCP’s entire monthly payroll will be to project area community staff. We target this figure growing in future.

Both deforestation and poaching jeopardise community benefit streams by reducing carbon offset revenues, and value from wildlife tourism. Along with intensive livelihood improvement efforts, protection undertaken by the people who also stand to benefit from REDD+ success is an important part of BCP’s formula.

During the course of their work, Community Scouts will need to traverse difficult terrain, encounter potentially dangerous wildlife and face determined people breaking the law, as well as record wildlife species and forest data.  BCP is proud of our partnerships with DNPW, Forestry Department and Communities, and proud of the men and women putting themselves on the conservation front-line.

Applicants for the Community Scout jobs set off on an 8km run to prove their fitness for the role.

Appreciating the ‘us’ in USAID

A well-known African proverb says that if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

February is the month of valentines and, for BCP, milestones. February 2019 marks BCP’s 7th birthday (in lieu of gifts, carbon offset purchases are happily received). It is also the end of an era, as the USAID-funded Community Forests Program comes to a close.

Partners are key to success across this vast continent, and core to BCP’s work – that’s why it’s in our name. Five years ago BCP was a relatively new startup with a great method and great people operating out of a two-room cottage-come-office in Lusaka. We were full of potential and enthusiasm and were immensely proud of the conservation impact already achieved by LZRP.

USAID changed the scale and success of conservation in Zambia when, in 2014, they funded the Community Forests Program (CFP). When USAID selected BCP to implement the Program, they demonstrated a belief in our ability to grow and adapt beyond the scope of any REDD+ project on the continent.

USAID has been a partner to BCP beyond funding. They have provided leadership and capacity building and have facilitated relationships that will ensure the success of REDD+ in Zambia well into the future. Together, we have achieved the extraordinary. Close to 1 million hectares protected, more than 170,000 rural people benefitting, and conservation improving in one of the world’s largest biodiversity corridors.

A lot still needs to be done to reduce deforestation and poverty, and restore wildlife and connectivity in one of the last great wildlife strongholds on earth, but the scale of what we have achieved would have been inconceivable by now without USAID’s support.

Thank you, USAID, for sharing your conservation vision with BCP and for your legacy investment into Zambia’s people and Africa’s wildlife, as well as climate-change mitigation for the world. We look forward to continuing the critical work of CFP and to expanding its legacy throughout Zambia and beyond over the coming years.