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.

Walking the Talk – BCP is Carbon-Neutral

Deforestation mitigation and emissions reduction is tough business – it’s our passion for conservation that drives BCP, and it’s important we lead the way and ‘walk our talk’.

BCP has been carbon neutral for the last 5 years. We hope that one day we will be able to conduct our conservation and community work without generating emissions at all. For now, we’ve achieved neutrality by switching to eco-friendly alternatives where possible, and then retiring BCP offsets to cover the unavoidable emissions.

As an organisation, in 2019, BCP will generate 400 tonnes of carbon emissions. Over the years we have achieved reduced emissions from our operations and activity by making a few easy changes that might also work for your company.

BCP has:

  • Purchased more efficient vehicles
  • Installed solar power at our HQ and regional offices
  • Switched from 4×4 vehicles to motorbikes for field work, whenever possible
  • Cut beef from the menu at BCP meetings and events (learn why)
  • Adopted technology that enables multi-office meetings without requiring travel
  • Made conscious efforts to reduce food waste in our offices
  • Begun recycling glass and plastic bottles through local projects that provide community income
  • Staff and company efforts to commute via carpooling.

Our remaining, unavoidable, emissions are generated by necessary national and international flights for staff as well as fuel for vehicles travelling throughout rural communities and conservation areas and light aircraft which is used to patrol the 1 million ha forests

It’s easier and often less expensive than you think to take your company carbon-neutral. Contact us by email to start the process and calculate your organisation’s emissions.

BCP’s VCU retirement certificate, 2019

5th Verification Milestone Sees BCP Emerge a Global Leader

The Audit team in Rufunsa

The close of 2018 saw BCP achieve a significant milestone as the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP) became the only project in the world to obtain 5 successful VCS-verifications and triple-gold CCB verification.

BCP has operated within the Rufunsa Conservancy and surrounding communities since 2012 to establish long-term self-sustaining natural resource protection and community development through the sale of Zambian carbon offsets.

The LZRP generates forest carbon offsets by protecting wildlife habitat areas at severe risk of deforestation. In order to trade on the global carbon market, REDD+ projects undergo thorough audits on an annual basis to verify the validity of generated offsets.

Verification company SCS Global Services was responsible for assessing the validity and quality of LZRP offsets in 2018.

The verification process was conducted by Mr Francis Eaton from SCS Global Services. Verification required Mr Eaton to spend over 10 days in the field with BCP employees, assessing the effectiveness of LZRP offset generation at each stage, from technical forest management practices to community involvement and government collaboration.

SCS Auditor Francis Eaton checks that BCP’s measuring tapes are accurate.

“It is important for buyers of forest carbon offsets that REDD+ project developers are assessed thoroughly to strict international standards. Verification of these projects enable companies and individuals to purchase offsets with confidence, knowing that the offsets are real and meet requirements that ensure that they are are positively impacting local environment and communities, regardless of global location” Mr Eaton said.

“This is the fifth verification BCP’s LZRP has undergone and each year the project has ensured positive outcomes for communities as well as for combating climate change. By selecting a high-quality verifier such as SCS and using the highest verification standards for REDD+ such as the VCS and CCB Standards, BCP has differentiated itself from other carbon projects.

In addition to verification under the Verified Carbon Standard, the LZRP also achieved a Triple-Gold rating under CCB assessment. CCB gold ratings recognise carbon offset projects which deliver exceptional climate, community and biodiversity alongside offset generation. LZRP has been independently assessed as contributing to an increase in average household income of 450% over the last 5 years.

BCP CEO, Dr Hassan Sachedina, stated that “the CCB award system is enormously helpful in verifying BCP’s own aims to create transformational change within communities, the environment and wildlife in this critical conservation zone.

“For us, carbon offset generation is good for the environment, but it’s also about building a self-sustaining and long-term income stream for local community empowerment. Verifying to Triple-Gold CCB validates the energy and effort our team place on empowering communities. I could not be more proud of the BCP team.”

During Mr Eaton’s visit to Zambia for LZRP verification, the first verification assessment was also conducted for the BCP-implemented, USAID-funded, Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP). The LCFP is Africa’s largest REDD+ project by hectarage and benefits the most people of any REDD+ project globally that BCP is aware of.  LCFP verification is expected to be announced within the coming months.

Community Scouts line up for Italian Special Forces Training

Community Scouts are the frontline of conservation management and are critical to the protection of forest and wildlife supported by the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP) and Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP) in Zambia.

BCP Community Scouts are recruited from project participant Chiefdoms and are trained and deployed under the guidance of Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). Community Scout patrol teams reduce wildlife poaching and habitat loss through boundary presence and wildlife crime suspect apprehension.

Reducing forest loss within each of the REDD+ Chiefdoms is key to protecting Zambia’s significant biodiversity as well as securing much needed community income through the sale of forest carbon offsets.

Generous funding from the Lion Recovery Fund and USAID enabled employment of 22 new BCP-supported Community Scouts in December, 2018. Selection and training of the scouts was led by the DNPW Training Wing and training conducted at the newly refurbished Mukamba Gate Complex.

The new Community Scouts demonstrate their skills.

In addition to DNPW patrol training, the 22 new community scouts joined 18 serving community scouts to receive training from the Arma dei Carabinieri, including the elite Gruppo di Intervento Speciale (GIS), one of Italy’s leading Special Forces Units.

The Carabinieri provided advanced tactical training, as well as training related to countering illegal logging and illegal wildlife crime. DNPW oversaw the training at the Mukamba Gate Complex. The combination of two training approaches has built valuable capacity, motivation and confidence in the community scouts, who daily face potentially dangerous law enforcement encounters in the bush.

The Carabinieri training arose from Italian Government-initiated cooperation with the Government of Zambia to build environmental management capacity. The training contribution is valued at $60,000 – a cost out of reach for many organizations – and BCP is honoured to have been selected to pilot the training cooperation between the two Governments.

This was an exciting example of multi-sectoral partnership to build community capacity and create skilled jobs.  BCP partnered with DNPW, the Shikabeta and Mpanshya Community Resources Boards (CRBs), tourism operator Makasa Safaris, and the Italian Embassy in Zambia.

Italian Ambassador to Zambia, His Excellency Mr Filippo Scammacca, was enthusiastic about the involvement of Carabinieri in Zambia’s critical wildlife protection efforts: “Care for our most vulnerable wildlife species and environments is a global responsibility. It is a source of great pride for the Carabinieri, as well as the Italian people, to contribute to the protection of Zambia’s unique forests and wildlife. That this is possible through training and empowering local people only adds further to the commitment of my office to continue supporting these activities through collaboration with BCP as well as DNPW and Forestry Department leaders in the Zambian Government” he said.

The scouts graduated on 17thDecember 2018 at a colourful passing out ceremony attended by the Minister of Tourism and Arts, Honorable Charles Banda, and the US Ambassador to Zambia, His Excellency Daniel Foote.

USAID Partnership Renovates Northern Entrance to Lower Zambezi National Park

The Minister of Tourism and US Ambassador to Zambia formally open the new Mukamba Gate complex

On 17 December 2018, a ceremony was held to formally re-open the newly renovated Mukamba Gate Complex in Zambia Lower Zambezi National Park. The colourful event was the largest in BCP’s history and was attended by the Minister of Tourism and Arts, Honorable Charles Banda, the U.S. Ambassador to Zambia, His Excellency Daniel L. Foote, members of USAID/Zambia’s Economic Development office, Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) representatives, Biocarbon Partners (BCP) employees and local community members.

Mukamba Gate is the northern entryway to Lower Zambezi National Park and borders BCP’s Rufunsa Conservancy REDD+ project. Refurbishment of the Gate complex was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Community Forests Program—the flagship activity for USAID/Zambia’s forest conservation and rural livelihood initiatives—and aims to support the critical work of DNPW in protecting the Park from wildlife crime and habitat loss by enhancing security measures.

The complex now boasts of an improved security checkpoint and office building as well as housing facilities for Wildlife Police Officers. The $80,000 infrastructure investment was selected by DNPW as a priority project to enhance security facilities at the Gate.

“Conservation of these areas of significant biodiversity is a large task that requires constant effort by DNPW and the Forestry Department. We are pleased for the opportunity to collaborate with the Zambian government to address our shared concern for Zambia’s environment and wildlife,” said BCP CEO, Dr. Hassan Sachedina. “It is critical in this time of growing pressures from population expansion and climate change that organisations and government work together to maximise positive outcomes for Zambia’s wildlife, forests and communities.”

Through habitat protection, local communities can benefit from tourism income as well as revenue shares from BCP carbon offset sales. Income generation is crucial within these rural areas to ensure adequate social service development to meet the growing population demand.

“If we lose Zambia’s forests and wildlife, we lose a critical driver of economic growth for our local communities,” said United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel L. Foote. “Activities such as wildlife tourism and beekeeping are only possible through conservation.”

The Mukamba Gate refurbishment project is just one of many collaborative projects by BCP and DNPW, enabled through USAID funding for the Community Forests Program.

Empowering Sandwe Chiefdom Through Conservation Fees

In a ceremony on 28 September 2018, Permanent Secretary, Eastern Province, Chanda Kasolo, announced the launch of the Luangwa Community Forests Project’s Conservation Fees program with a K 185,008(USD $15,550) contribution to Sandwe Chiefdom.  Generously contributed by USAID through the Community Forests Program, these funds will be co-managed by the Community to fund livelihood and conservation activities that benefit the entire community.

Conservation Fees are performance-based payments, where income from wildlife habitat protection is reinvested into local communities to improve livelihoods and social services. Communities receive the income in return for protecting the boundaries of agreed community forests and wildlife, as well as good governance of funds.

All community members have an opportunity to participate in decisions about the use of Conservation Fees.  Village Action Groups are empowered to propose a list of potential projects to invest in which is reviewed by the Community Resources Board.  BCP and DNPW support the community to implement and audit the projects.

Communities in other Chiefdoms have previously used Conservation Fees to improve school facilities, drill water boreholes, and invest in livelihood enterprises such as maize mill machines.  Sandwe Chiefdom beneficiaries will decide how to invest their funds over the coming months.

Secretary Kasolo commented at the event, “I hope this project will empower local communities in the management of their forests, as well as empower the collaborating partners at the District level, such as the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the Forestry Department, to better manage our natural resources…It is important to note that Conservation Fees belong to ALL members of the community, and as the government, we expect to see the Sandwe REDD+ Zone intact and community impacts from these funds within the next year.”

Special thanks to PS Kasolofor providing the opening address and to the many community members whose attendance made the Conservation Fees launch such a special event.