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.

Announcement: Conservation Partnership Secures the Future of Zambian Forests

LZRP forest landscape

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

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

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

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

Zambia loses forest four times the size of New York City to deforestation every year. That is on average 300 000 ha of trees and valuable wildlife habitat disappearing annually due to charcoal production and agricultural clearing. This not only contributes to global climate change, but also exacerbates the loss of already threatened wildlife species that call these forests their home, such as the African wild dog, elephant, lion as well as locally threatened species such as sable, roan and ground hornbill.

Since 2012, BCP has worked with the Zambian Government and local communities to create new value from wildlife habitat protection through REDD+. In partnership with the country’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the Forestry Department, the USAID-funded Luangwa Community Forests Project

BCP staff undertaking community education to curb deforestation in Zambia

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

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

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

The partnership is already proving fruitful with PPF facilitating a historic seven-year offset purchase agreement for BCP’s forest carbon work with luxury goods company, Richemont. Richemont’s commitment to reduce their company emissions through BCP offset purchases will support ongoing forest conservation and social impact projects in Zambia.

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

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

Congratulations Monde!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking the lead in a man’s world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just don’t ask her to carry your luggage.

Iness with her fellow scouts in Rufunsa

Iness on patrol in the Rufunsa Conservancy

The family business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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