From little things, big things grow

Grace Kashiya is the dynamic inaugural District Forestry Officer for Rufunsa. As just one of three Zambian government officials overseeing forestry management in a district of more than 800,000 hectares, Grace has a big job on her hands.

“The land and communities in Rufunsa are in need of specialised intervention, which is why my role was created five years ago. The area here was rife with charcoal production and agricultural activities that were clearing the previously vast forest areas.”

BCP began interventions in the Rufunsa district in 2012, successfully curbing deforestation as part of the Rufunsa Conservancy project. The forest conservation success resulted in a community income deficit from reduced charcoal production in particular, and created a need for livelihood innovation and support.

“BCP, now through the USAID-funded Community Forest Project (CFP), has greatly reduced deforestation in this area which is important for the conservation of Rufunsa. Now the communities here need help to replace the income they’ve lost from previous charcoal and farming activities. This is where our partnership has become very fruitful” Grace says.

CFP’s initial livelihood interventions established sustainable honey and eco-charcoal projects. Now, the government and CFP partners are working to scale up an innovative nursery project that provides income generation while also encouraging reforestation.

“The Rufunsa nursery project has potential to address both deforestation and livelihood issues in the district for many years to come. CFP has donated tree seeds which my team grow to viable planting size. The tree varieties are producing edible fruits such as avocado and guava, and providing sustainable wood for use in local building styles” Grace explains.

“The plants are distributed to local community members – each local household is entitled to up to 200 trees, at no charge. We help the households assess which varieties will grow well on their land, and assist with plant placement. The trees are then available for harvest and sale as an alternative income source.”

Grace is seeing many positive impacts from the project which first began two years ago. Interest from farmers is increasing and in late 2017 CFP enabled the project to expand.

“CFP provided new fencing to secure an even larger nursery area and protect the seedlings from passing livestock and wildlife. They have also established a new borehole to water the nursery. These improvements will enable us to increase our seedlings by more than 40%. I am hopeful that as CFP’s sensitization activities continue we will see an increase in farmers and households replanting their land with productive trees” she says.

“Creating change is an exercise in education within this community. CFP’s sensitization activities, combined with conservation fee investment in education facilities, is having a ripple effect here. Students are becoming more literate and environmentally aware, and as they share this information with their parents we are seeing increased willingness to try new innovations and alternative livelihood projects.

“By investing in the land, the communities now receive conservation income, which in turn invests in the future of their families. It’s a cycle of positive benefits.”

Grace tends the nursery in Chinyunyu.

BCP in the news: Luambe National Park now the world’s most carbon neutral

Luambe National Park in Zambia has achieved a conservation milestone this week as it became the most carbon neutral National Park in the world.

Luambe’s carbon neutral status is a result of the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP) implemented by BioCarbon Partners (BCP), in partnership with the Zambian Government. This world-first level of carbon neutrality means the emissions of all tourism and conservation management activities within with the park are offset, including all international tourist airline travel. Platinum is the highest possible carbon rating available from BCP.

The announcement comes just 18 months after the Lower Zambezi National Park – also in Zambia – became the world’s first to achieve carbon neutrality from operations. This latest announcement from Luambe secures Zambia’s recognition as a global leader in carbon offsetting.

“Luambe National Park’s carbon neutral status sets a great example for other protected areas in Zambia,” said USAID/Zambia Economic Development Office Director Jeremy Boley. “This status shows the world that Zambia takes emissions reduction seriously.”

Luambe Camp voluntarily funded the carbon neutrality from their own internal revenues, investing in renewable energy sources and purchasing Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) audited forest carbon offsets generated within Zambia. Luambe Camp began operations in June 2017, and are committed to establishing a new bar of environmental stewardship and sustainability. Mario Voss, Director of Luambe Camp, stated that “as a business that operates as a showcase and celebration of Luambe National Park’s unique beauty and biodiversity, it is crucial that we take responsibility for its conservation. We’re passionate environmentalists and it is important to the whole Luambe Camp team that we can offer our guests a truly eco-friendly experience.”

Funds raised from REDD+ offset sales are reinvested into conservation and community development in buffer zone areas to national parks within Zambia. All countries on earth have now signed up to the Paris Climate Agreement, and there are more signals towards innovative carbon conscious milestones and action. With experts agreeing that Africa is likely to be the continent most vulnerable to climate change, the leadership of Zambian tourism businesses and the Zambian Government agrees to operate with carbon neutrality and set a positive example throughout the continent. Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), Mr Paul Zyambo, stated that “We are happy to partner with another innovative carbon-conscious achievement in the conservation and tourism sector in Zambia with partners like Luambe Camp and BCP. Luambe forms a part of Zambia’s famous Luangwa Valley and we hope that this showcases how special this area is, and why it is worth a visit.”

Dr Hassan Sachedina, BCP’s CEO, added, “It is exciting that Zambia now has two of the world’s first carbon neutral parks, which are helping to conserve two of the most important biodiversity strongholds left in Africa. I am really proud to be partnering with these family-owned businesses raising the bar of what eco-tourism to include carbon offsetting.” We hope that this spurs more action globally to address climate change.”

When conservation benefits environment and community

Forest areas in Zambia are rapidly declining as communities utilise natural resources for income through logging and charcoal production. The CFP instead incentivises communities to protect Zambia’s precious forest areas by offering an alternative income source through the sale of verified carbon credits.

This month, with support from the American People, BCP staff and our 10 partner chiefdoms in the Lower Zambezi region achieved a major milestone as US$150,000 in Conservation Fee income was distributed to communities for the first time!

The Conservation Fees are financial incentives delivered through the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP), provided to participating local communities in return for the conservation and management of their local forests.

To participate in the program, communities have self-identified areas of forest for REDD+ protection and committed to agreed rules and activities for its conservation including banning all wood cutting and burning, and establishment of new habitations within the protected area.  Communities are still able to utilise non-timber products for food and livelihood purposes, such as gathering wild mushrooms, honey and other reusable natural resources.

Conservation Fee payments are performance-based, calculated on the forest land area the communities effectively protect. Revenue for the payments comes from selling verified carbon credits generated by the conserved forest area. This first round of Conservation Fee payments has been made in anticipation of future carbon credit values as BCP awaits final REDD+ project verification, which is already underway and expected in 2018.

Communities receive the Conservation Fees as a collective and will use the funds for self-identified development initiatives that offer long-term community-wide benefits. With BCP training in good governance and financial management, the CFP is also an opportunity to upskill and develop community leaders and engage local community members in the identification, design and delivery of their own interventions for forest protection.

The Conversation Fees were awarded to communities in a series of launch events which proved to be festive celebrations with representatives from local Royal Establishments, traditional leaders, local institutions and Government departments, as well as many members of the wider community! During the events local community members praised the program for delivering benefits directly to local communities and empowering them to make decisions about their own sustainable development and natural resources management goals.

Stay tuned in the coming year to see the ripple effect of this innovation on local communities as they are empowered to invest in their own development!


Below – Some of our partner communities celebrating as they receive inaugural Conservation Fee payments

Preparing communities for REDD+

It is said that you can’t teach someone to drive, unless you hand over the car keys, and this month, we’ve handed the keys over to 72 local community institutions.

The USAID Community Forests Program (CFP) aims to provide both theoretical and practical learning opportunities for community institutions to help them the effectively manage their natural and financial resources. Our upskilling program is a Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) model for REDD+ implementation and currently engages 10 Community Resources Boards (CRBs) and 62 Village Action Groups (VAGs).

Following a year of governance capacity assessment, critical needs identification, training delivery and resource provision, this month we felt confident that the communities are ready to take on responsibility and management of their CFP goals, with partner support and an ongoing mentor program.

We’re excited to see communities take ownership of their conservation goals and feel even more empowered to caretake their natural resources.

CFP’s Empowerment Officer provides documentation training to Conservation Assistants and Community Mobilizers who will be seconded to provide ongoing assistance to CRBs, under the CFP community institutional capacity building model.






CFP’s Empowerment Officer provides one-on-one Financial Management mentoring to a member of Msoro CRB, during the fourth quarter of FY17.

Ratifying innovation for 10 CRBs

A milestone has been achieved this month as all 10 of our partner Chiefdoms signed Conservation MOUs for their community forest monitoring and management plans!

The MOUs formalise partnerships between the USAID Community Forests Program (CFP) and participating Chiefdoms, where communities will undertake regular forest monitoring and sensitization activities in exchange for the CFP providing monthly financial aid as well as equipment, staffing, and ongoing training and mentorship

With the MOUs a total of 35 scouts will be directly supported by CFP to achieve a targeted minimum of 1,300 Conservation ‘man days’ per month, as well as sensitization of 1,000 individuals per month across the 10 Chiefdoms. These arrangements will initially run for a one year trial period, from September 2017 – September 2018.

Patrick Nyirenda, BCP Conservation Coordinator, sees first-hand the impact of innovating and progressing CFP activities within the target communities.

“The MOUs are a big deal for the CFP as a program for the local community. Local communities ought to take a leading role in ensuring that the program succeeds. When the program succeeds, the community will derive benefits they can see and partake of.

“This arrangement is also important in Zambia as a whole as it empowers local people to participate in determining the future of resources on their land, upon which their livelihoods depend. At a national level, Zambia will have mitigated against the high deforestation levels and contribute to a safer environment” he said.

Impacted community leaders share Patrick’s enthusiasm for the program. John Banda, Msoro Chiefdom Community Resource Board (CRB) Chairperson, commented that “in terms of wildlife, Msoro area is depleted and our CRB is inactive and almost irrelevant. We appreciate so much that CFP has made us realize that keeping the forest intact can bring revenue to our community. Now our CRB is active once more”.

BCP now join our community partners in celebrating, and supporting, this opportunity to pilot community-based conservation efforts for REDD+ in Zambia!

CFP’s Conservation Coordinator, Patrick Nyirenda, leads a discussion with members of Malama CRB concerning the development of a Forest Monitoring Plan for the REDD+ Zone in their Chiefdom.

Members of the Mwanya CRB undertaking forest monitoring activities, take advantage of the opportunity to sensitize local community members found near to the boundary of the protected REDD+ Zone.

The results are in!

2017 marks five years of project implementation for our Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP) and this year we have begun to receive data that illustrates the real impacts of the Project on local communities and conservation.

During this month an independent consultant undertook social monitoring follow-up surveys with community stakeholders living within the LZRP area. We’re comparing results to findings from our 2012 baseline survey and already the data illustrates encouraging success!


Some of the key survey highlights include:

  • 95% (of respondents) reported that the LZRP benefits their community.
  • 91% reported receiving direct benefits to their household from the project.
  • 75% reported active participation in the LZRP by a member of their household.
  • 96% say BCP/CFP is welcome in their community.

While these are only preliminary results, we are excited to see such positive responses!

The USAID Community Forests Program (CFP) can also report on an encouraging LZRP forest monitoring and management statistic – during the last 12 months the CFP reported for the first time “0 new deforestation incidents” in the project area for the LZRP throughout most of the year. This is an important milestone as it illustrates the success of conservation activities including forest boundary monitoring activities such as patrols, as well as the culmination of five years of community engagement and livelihoods work. Together, these measures have helped to deter illegal forest violations and incentivise collaboration on forest protection and conservation.

CFP reporting to date is strongly indicating key successes for the project, and is serving as a powerful illustration of the potential of REDD+ projects to transform local mind-sets, livelihoods and conservation outcomes in critically threatened ecosystems.

Members of the Forest Monitoring Team in Rufunsa. Each member of the FMT has been selected and hired from the local community and has been trained to scientifically measure and monitor the forest.

A Behind the Scenes Look of the Fourth Successful Verification of the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project

We are proud to announce that the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project, supported by the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP), has received its fourth verification against the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). This marks an important milestone, and places us on the map as one of only two REDD+ organizations in Africa that have successfully achieved four consecutive verifications against the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), and one of only six REDD+ implementers to achieve this recognition, globally. Additionally, the LZRP remains one of the only Verified Carbon Standard verified REDD+ projects in Africa to have achieved gold level validation against the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard for its exceptional climate, community and biodiversity benefits.

The Verified Carbon Standard is the world’s most highly regarded and recognized independent authority on carbon projects like REDD+. They ensure our forest carbon offset projects represent emissions reductions that are real, rigorously and scientifically measured and benefit both the local community and the forest.

This year’s verification process culminated in an audit in April. While an audit may conjure up ideas of piles of paper and numbers, this was anything but that. Instead, this audit was an observation of our work. In this case, an auditor came out to visit us, to check and confirm that we are doing what we say we are doing. Francis Eaton, an auditor joined us from SCS Global and spent nearly a week observing our Forest Monitoring Team as they scientifically measured and monitored the forest. He also met with our partner communities and Government partners, to view our livelihood projects and other community activities in Rufunsa District.

As part of this audit, our team spent many days walking with the auditor through the tall grass of the miombo woodland of the Rufunsa Conservancy, which forms the northern boundary of Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park. In the forest, our team was led by Elvin Muchimba and his four-person Forest Monitoring Team, which oversees the measurement and monitoring of this forest. Our Forest Monitoring Team is comprised of members of the local neighboring community, who have been trained and equipped under this project. Consequently, they know this landscape like the back of their hands!

BCP team walking through forest during the audit

We spent a lot of time walking through the forest to reach the plots that the Forest Monitoring Team measures.


Forest Monitoring Team

Lawrence Musoni, Liason Chiakamba, Nchimunye Simendengwe and Elvin Muchimba, on the right, leads the Forest Monitoring Team. Each member in the team has been selected and hired from the local community and has been trained to scientifically measure and monitor the forest of the Rufunsa Conservancy.


Metal tag used to identify plot

Each tree in the permanent forest plots gets tagged with a unique number and measured over time. Each plot centre is marked with a metal stake that can be found with a GPS and metal detector, but the forest monitoring team generally knows the forest so well they find it without the detector.


measuring trees during the audit

The FMT team measures all the trees in a 20-meter radius around the centre point of the plot. The auditor follows and double-checks their measurements to make sure they are accurate.


team looking at the tree bible

The weathered guidebook, nicknamed the “Tree Bible,” helps the FMT and auditor determine what type of tree they are measuring.


On the last day, which was both the shortest but also the most important, our audit team met with the members of our Community Engagement Team, and travelled out to visit some of our community projects. As part of this, the auditor also stopped and talked to some farmers who are involved in the Conservation Agriculture program supported by our project.


The team also visited the Forestry Department where the auditor saw a remarkable change from the year before. This new tree nursery has doubled in size and is carpeted with tree seedlings.


But it wasn’t all work and no fun the team had a chance to stop and hike up to the “Lookout” the highest point in the Conservancy and check out the stunning view.


A special thanks goes to all of the members of our team and partners who helped to make this achievement a reality!

This blog is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content of this blog are the sole responsibility of BCP and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Celebrating Our Team on Labor Day

At 140+ employees spread out across 6 different sites in Zambia, we are lucky to have an incredible team who is on a mission to make forest conservation valuable to people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Community Forests Program implemented by BCP.  So today on Labor Day, we want to celebrate the hard work done by our team and learn why they like working for BCP.


Name: Gilli Cheelo

Office: Lusaka

What do you do at BCP? I am a GIS and Remote Sensing Technician

What do you like about working for BCP? I like being part of a company that is mitigating against adverse climate change in the world.

What is your favorite part of your job? The best part is setting up an enterprise database system for the organization using open source software


Name: Yvonne Mtumbi

Office: Lusaka

What do you do at BCP? Business Development Coordinator

What do you like about working for BCP? I like the fact that I am part of a bigger effort to address deforestation issues in Zambia

What is your favorite part of your job? I enjoy working closely with local community members


Name: Clancy Mkhandawire

Office: Mfuwe

What do you do at BCP? Finance Assistant

What do you like about working for BCP? I like the work we are doing for the communities to protect the forest. I also really like our team here. We have become close and they are like a second family to me.

What is your favorite part of your job? I really like working with the vendors meeting with with them and learning about what they do and how we can help.

Name: Bwalya Chanda Zimba

Office: Lusaka

What do you do at BCP?  I’m the Accounts Payables Officer

What do you like about working for BCP? Everyone has a place in the company. The owners and managers know it’s our company as much as theirs. They care about us and help us grow by striving to teach us new skill sets and appreciate us. We can see that every day

What is your favorite part of your job? The work I do every day makes a difference to our community. I know when I go home at the end of the day, I truly did something meaningful and important.


Name: Gilbert Chiseni

Office: Rufunsa Conservancy

What do you do at BCP? I am a Logistics Technician / driver

What do you like about working for BCP? I like the spirit of teamwork we have with government and communities towards protecting thier natural resources. Also as the oldest Logistics Technician I like that BCP is an equal opportunity employer.

What is your favorite part of your job? My favorite part of the job is assisting with anti-poaching deployments and working with Community Scouts.


Name: Michael Mwelwa

Office: Lusaka

What do you do at BCP? I am the Communications Officer

What do you like about working for BCP? It is a pleasure to work for a company that is growing in the right direction and making a difference for the local communities we work with in Zambia.

What is your favorite part of your job? My favorite part of the job is interacting with community members in remote places, as well as meeting them and learning how they live.


This blog is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of BCP and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.


A New Milestone for Community-Based Forest Protection: Launching Conservation Fees in Nyalugwe Chiefdom

“Chimuti chanya ndalama lelo,” which translated from the local language of Nyanja means, “a tree has produced money today.” Such was the sentiment that Chief Nyalugwe expressed during the Conservation Fees launch that took place in Nyalugwe Chiefdom, on March 30th. For the more than the 250 people who attended this event, it was a day of joy and celebration in Nyimba, Zambia.


With high rates of deforestation in Zambia, Conservation Fees play an important role in addressing drivers of deforestation, by funding critical community development impacts, improving local livelihoods, and creating incentives for community-based forest management. These Fees are performance-based payments given to communities that have identified areas of forest for protection, and are committed to protecting it.


The launch in Nyalugwe is a historical milestone, marking the first release of Conservation Fees under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Community Forests Program implemented by BioCarbon Partners (BCP) in Zambia.


So how does this work? Conservation Fees are based on the number of hectares that communities identify for protection under the Community Forests Program implemented by BCP; and in the subsequent year, the Fees will be based on the number of hectares of forest that communities have effectively protected prior to REDD+ project verification and revenue sharing.


Nyalugwe Chiefdom has agreed to protect 61,088 hectares of community forest; and in exchange, they have received a Conservation Fees check for 122,176 Zambian Kwacha. In return, the community will use these Fees  to fund projects and activities that will  benefit them and their wider surroundings as a whole.


During the launch event, Chief Nyalugwe spoke about the hurdles the Community Forests Program faced  due to the lack of understanding, from, both himself and other chiefs in the Nyimba district. Back in 2014, they initially refused to participate in the program when it was introduced to them. However, since then, the BCP team has worked assiduously to engage and sensitize the local community; addressing their concerns and providing them enough information to make an informed decision. Ultimately, the project was accepted.


Chief Nyalugwe expressed his happiness to see the Community Forests Program implemented by BCP now fulfilling its mission to get communities to understand and see the benefits from protecting their forests.


Joseph Yuru, the Chairman for the Community Resources Board, expressed great excitement that his community was seeing an impact. “We, the Nyalugwe Community Resources Board on behalf of the Nyalugwe Community, are very happy today to see that our efforts  to protect the Forest has brought money to the community for the first time ever!” His sentiments were further echoed by the Guest of Honour, the Nyimba District Commissioner, who stressed in his speech the important role that the Community Forests Program is playing to help make an impact towards addressing the negative effects of climate change in Zambia..


The Conservation Fees launch in Nyalugwe Chiefdom is just the beginning for communities to see the benefits from protecting their forests. Over the next month, a total of nearly $150,000 is committed to 10 Chiefdoms as Conservation Fees, related to communities’ agreements to protect nearly 750,000 hectares of community forest in 2017. In Nyalugwe, proposals are already being submitted related to community projects and activities to be funded through Conservation Fees. It will be exciting to see what happens in Nyalugwe Chiefdom, and the rest of the new REDD+ Sites, next!

This blog is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of BCP and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.


Celebrating Women on the Frontlines of Conservation – Meet Madaliso

For the month of March we celebrated the incredible women we work with through our three part series, “Women on the Frontlines of Conservation”. Last but not least is Madaliso, one of our Community Engagement Officers based at our Mfuwe site. She and her team play a key role in working with local communities to protect thier forests through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Community Forests Program implemented by BCP. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Madaliso on a field visit to the Malama Chiefdom and very excited to spot giraffes. A sign of conservation at work!

How long have you been working for the USAID funded Community Forests Program implemented by BCP?

Over 6 months

What is the best part of your role at BCP?

The best part of my job is being outside and helping spread awareness about how vital this program is to our lives so that communities can see long term benefits.

What excites you about working for BCP and being a woman working in conservation?

I get excited about interacting with people at the grassroots level. Being a woman working in conservation is valuable. We are the ones who understand what is going on the best and we are the ones who can makes changes.

I also love the conservation side. We have a lot of men on our team but few women. When I’m out in the field, I can do the same thing as the men and it builds my confidence. Field work also makes me realize how much climate change affects poverty.

Not afraid of rolling up her sleeves and getting down to business, Madaliso checks up on a Partnership Impact Project in Mwanya Chiefdom, a boat to help transport people across the river during the rainy season which improves access to healthcare and education.

What is the greatest challenge you face in your work in conservation?

The greatest challenge is people telling me they don’t believe in what we do, or in conservation. Field days are also long. It’s hard work moving around in the bush, but I get to see a lot of places, understand what is happening and learn how people are affected. Sometimes we are only guided by GPS. Yet even at the end of the day I still have a heart to conserve nature and contribute to the world. It’s challenging but the best thing at the same time.

As a woman – what challenges have you faced in pursuing your career goals? How do you overcome these challenges?

It takes a big heart and a lot of courage to do this work. My friends didn’t think I could do anything with conservation, they said I needed to make money fast. Other people were surprised when I started working for BCP because they said it was tough work and should only be done by men, but I stayed with it and was passionate about my work. I love what I do. If you’re always complaining, it’s not for you.

As a Community Engagement Officer, Madaliso, works closely with local communities, sometimes conducting meetings to discuss our work and programs ensuring that communities understand and value forest protection.

Why is it important to work with women at a community level in conservation projects?

We need to work with women because they rely on agriculture and forests. They are the ones who are left out in development work, but are the ones most affected. They need to be highly involved in this project.

What advice would you give young girls who want to get involved in conservation?

Girls should become interested in conservation, not for the money, but for the future of a healthy world. They should take a global interest and understand that each of us will be affected by climate change but that they can make a positive difference.

Thanks to Madaliso’s hard work people in the local communities around Mfuwe are valuing and protecting thier forest.

This blog is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of BCP and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Photo Credits: BCP