Principles of a REDD+ project.
The intention is to reduce emissions caused by deforestation and land degradation which in itself is as a result of multiple factors. It is a difficult position having to manage and calculate how much impact the project has in meeting all the expected outcomes over a certain time period, with limited income designed only to cover the direct drivers of deforestation, and not sufficient requirement to support an entire landscape.
We are working in an area of similar size to Puerto Rico, where the Government is providing basic services, yet the socio-economic needs are endless. Most rural communities rely on cultural farming practises, but the soils are not fertile hence unable to produce adequate household food requirements. In 2011 the demand and prices for carbon credits were good, however by the time Kariba REDD+ issued the first verified carbon credits from the project, the price was less than 1/10th, but we soldiered on with the little resources available. Fortunately, CGI and South Pole kept the project alive, making high risk investment decisions, until the end of 2019 when credit sales were improving, and the project was now able to run according to budget.
With limited funding it has been an uphill task to run the project mandatory activities as required by the PDD let alone other related requirements not directly linked to reducing deforestation but yet equally important. Activities for the socio-economic development such as infrastructure development, schools, honey production, water and healthcare remained as the main focus of the project. Funding via grant or donor contribution has always been difficult as we are a for profit company which creates the assumption that there is sufficient amounts of funds available. It is unfortunate that these sources overlook the main concept or idea of the project, which is to mitigate climate negative activities and unsustainable practices. Carbon Green Africa has always been committed to successfully implement the project, but we do acknowledge and have learnt that there are additional requirements to continue ensuring the results are achieved. For example, there is an immediate need to explore markets for honey/moringa exportation, as well as the sale of excess farming produce. Bead work and various other new income generating business models which are being established by the communities too require expertise.
Over the first 8 years whilst the project struggled with sales, no single reporter wrote about the Kariba project and its difficulties. Now that the project is self-financing, the media is awash with their perceptions, ignoring the road travelled, as well as the actual facts of how and why. Nearly all negative media is delivered by foreign journalists who have never been to the project area, most of these have never even been to Africa and all would not have experienced the last 10 years of doing business in Zimbabwe. Their opinions and intentions to discredit the project has caused prejudice to some of the most vulnerable communities in Africa. Throughout the lifetime of this project, we have had the support of the Government to implement this project to the best of our ability. All beneficiaries are appreciative of what could be provided over the lifetime so far, yet we have always received requests for additional funds for the activities. From 2019 regular amounts of funds were received by the project, which has enabled the project to focus on more tangible activities which have been requested by the communities. Some of the activities include but are not limited to the below;
FIELD OFFICERS PROVIDED WITH BICYCLES FOR MOBILITY
SMALL GRAINS HARVESTS FOOD SUFFICIENCY
SOLARISED WATER PROVISION
The question over integrity keeps arising, why, I am uncertain. The sales process is straight forward, the revenue distribution model is clear, and the timelines justify implementation and expenditure as what is agreed among stakeholders. The information made on the revenues of the project has substantiated the contractual benefits received by the stakeholders, as shown by the trust earned over the 10-year period by these same stakeholders.
However, we are now faced with the reality of a hugely reduced carbon market due to the negative media and regulatory changes that are pending. This then calls for a phased approach of expenditure for project activities to ensure longevity and sustainability. Expectations need to be carefully managed especially when third parties think that a REDD+ project should solve community problems over night. “Rome was never built in day”. The project should be viewed on where it has come from, what it has achieved and where it is going. The successes achieved to date are the foundation for the improvements to be made.
PROJECT ACTIVITY STATS 2022
Community project activities are for the benefit of the community and not individuals, hence there are no direct cash payments. However, the members of the community do receive cash from results of their activities for example: a member who participates in beekeeping will realise income from the honey sales; a member who participates in community gardening will get cash benefit from the sale of vegetables grown; a community member gathering moringa leaves earns more per kg than a small-scale tobacco farmer earns per kg. The project earnings contribute toward community infrastructure which benefits everyone for example: a classroom block; a clinic and housing construction; more accessible potable water through the drilling of new boreholes and the ongoing repair of existing boreholes and the establishment of alternative energy sources at health care facilities. However individual members who provide their services for construction of such improvements receive cash.
However, the Rural District Council’s (‘RDC’) (local government) are paid directly, which has led some community members to state, “that money is not coming to us”. It is our belief that such a benefit sharing mechanism without cash payments to certain stakeholders, is the right choice as evidenced by many other projects around the world.
All projects have their challenges, Kariba is no different. The project has one revenue stream supporting an entire landscape’s ecology, which is not sufficient. Some of the cash generating activities are limited from reaching their full potential due to slow and inconsistent implementation times, lack of access to remote areas, access to foreign markets, export regulations and inability to diversify the activities. An ongoing challenge is trying to understand the technicalities of generating carbon credits and disseminate this information, especially with amendments being drafted. We believe communication is key and strive to keep communication channels open. Progress reports a shared on a monthly basis with each RDC and the reports are publicly available to the communities. The area managers are limited by time so cannot hold meetings individually. Group meetings also are restricted by logistics, costs and regulations. It is a challenge to keep every community member informed about each activity in the project, or the success of the activities in other areas. This is an area we continue to improve on possibly by hosting community meetings between the districts, and giving the attendees the opportunity to interact and discuss the benefits which the members of other areas have received. Kariba REDD+ is one project, not 4 individual projects and this is often overlooked and assumed that all revenue is due to each district, rather than divided amongst them based on area size.
Our project area is located in a zone where fire is part of the natural cycle. The best approach to fire management is to undertake early dry season, controlled burning (“cold fires”) instead of waiting for “hot fires” to rage in a more uncontrolled manner later in the dry season. This leads to only the grass being burnt instead of the grass and trees, given that most species in the area are able to resist “cold fires”. We’ve been asked why the results, easily visible on NASA imagery show vast areas of fire each year in the project area – the reason is that NASA picks up the area burnt and the existence of a fire, but not the amount of damage caused, or amount of emissions caused or avoided.
It is proven and recommend throughout the region to prioritise early burning and awareness training, as extinguishing “hot” fires once they have spread is very difficult without piped water being the first issue, before we even address the other more complex requirements and strategies. We also recommend that in training, it is highlighted that the area burnt is an indicator of success of fire management – the more areas burnt in early dry season, the better for overall carbon stocks and protection of the lives of the entire ecology. Carbon Green Africa is required to work with the Environmental Management Agency in each district. On their advice and knowledge, we supply equipment, logistics and cover costs of training and manpower for firefighting season.
Without proper context it is easy to condemn “hunting” in general. Yet, there are many cases from the whole southern African region where hunting has shown to be the only driver of conservation and local employment, as it was in some of Kariba’s areas. An example is the previously US AID funded campfire project (which is barely operating any more), a community-led scheme to undertake sustainable harvesting in a regulated manner, with a clear benefit sharing mechanism for the communities, and Kariba REDD was built upon some principles and outcomes of campfire, such as direct community benefit and inclusive stakeholder management.
The project areas are now far more populated and agriculture is steadily on the rise. Safaris no longer contribute in a substantial way to livelihoods in the their areas. This reduces the value of the game and therefore poaching increases. It is important to highlight that safari operators used to look after the area, implementing early burning and anti-poaching, and the lack of these activities poses a threat to the project area management. Through independent agreements, hunting quotas have been influenced in some areas to reduce the offtake annually. The results are there for everyone to see as there has been a steady increase of game populations. One area to mention is Nyaminymai, the increase in buffalo population in 8 years is 5 times what it was. Of particular interest is the Omay resident elephant “MAPIPE” who was given his name for being notorious at breaking water pipes around the camp for many years. He was probably 1 of 2 elephants with tusks that weigh over 70 pounds each, a genetic dinosaur, roaming in the region. Due to the commitment, genuine care and desire to see Mapipe survive, pass on his genes and not meet the same fate that more than half of his species have in the region, my colleagues working in the area, the safari operator and the RDC kept his existence and location unknown. A foreign client tried to offer up to USD $100,000.00 for such a trophy but the operator declined and preferred Mapipe to remain for a few more years. My co-workers living in the area could have sold this information for good money and anonymously but this was not the case. Unfortunately Mapipe was found dead 3 weeks ago killed by another Elephant Bull not far from the camp, with his ivory intact. The ivory was collected and handed over to authorities.
November 2022 photo of Mapipe
June 2023 Mapipe died from a fight with another elephant
Poaching has been a serious problem in the project area and Southern Africa as a whole. Poaching is driven by community members for their subsistence, combined with high commercial poaching also present in the area and neighbouring national parks. Thousands of snares have been picked up over the years and 1 snare line can have 40-60 snares. This leads to several animals trapped and being strangled to death in trying to release themselves, of which these poachers do not even recover all the animals caught in the snares. Being directly on the ground would enable sceptics to understand some of these issues. We cannot only focus on the direct project activities; we try to support other activities such as anti- poaching. It might sound romantic to let individual community members poach for meat consumption. However, once you have seen a carcass of a poached animal, or the remains of an impala hung up in a wire snare and forgotten about, you might reconsider such romanticism. Poaching
ARMED POACHER 2 GUNS AND WIRE SNARES RECOVERED
One should also be made very aware, many poachers are armed with heavy calibre weapons, they shoot at rangers many unarmed, law enforcement or anyone to try and avoid arrest. Scouts could die carrying out their duties, poachers could die carrying out illegal activities. Wildlife conservation efforts in the project area, which are privately funded, establish boundaries for the protection of not only the wildlife but the communities as well. The boundaries create a deterrent and reduce the human/wildlife conflict which is an increasing reality. We have always tried to assist in reducing these conflicts when resources allow, although it is sometimes hard to justify the inevitable outcome when kilometres of fencing are stolen and utilised for snaring. Every reaction, investigation or operation carried out is required to be done with law enforcement and the legal authority in charge of the area. These situations are delicate and need to be handled carefully so not to infringe or abuse people’s rights. It is on record that since project start a total of 18 guns and ammunition have been recovered from poachers.
Food security was and is one of the major concerns of communities in the area, and this is why our project is focusing on agricultural activities. We actively promote Pfumvudza farming across the project area. We train champion farmers in each ward. We promote nutrition gardens. Through these efforts we have managed to bring substantial improvements to the food security challenge to the communities. The pfumvudza activity is done alongside the Government program to complement their efforts in providing adequate food for the communities and less fortunate. Pfumvudza
It has been a life changing job and became a passion, working and operating within this project together with the communities, stakeholders and my partners. I am fortunate that I spend half of my time in the project area as the care I have taken is beyond just ordinary work. The partners and colleagues I have, most of whom left the safari industry to join an unknown conservation model 12 years ago, have worked through the lean times without pay increases, under challenging working conditions, without any guarantee of job security. We have been able to work permanently in the project area for more than 10 years now, and the community, carbon and biodiversity impacts on the ground are proving that we are doing the right thing. It seems to be that what is getting in the way of the project now is its own success, how and why can Zimbabwe deliver such a project? The amount of unsolicited, unwarranted, and unproductive information being shared is growing. Unrelated people have been visiting the area with no coordination and trying to find sensationalistic stories. There are many new players in the carbon market trying to teach us what we should do better, while they have never done similar work or anywhere close to, otherwise they too would have a project creating turmoil worldwide. We believe carbon markets could have been a potential long-term funding mechanism for projects such as ours. Yet we are forced to move forward, diversifying into other funding mechanisms, because we have to keep practicability in mind. Year-long processes and ongoing inquiries by unrelated parties trying to capitalise on the project have already taken a toll which is in the end at the cost of communities. Carbon markets were uniquely positioned to bring development to remote places such as our Kariba project area. It is hence important to use carbon funding to bridge the transition to more sustainable land use models and an entire ecological landscape’s sustainability. The solution should provide a Fair- Share for all – and in the end every project should stand on its own feet with Kariba being the example. I know we have been successful thus far; therefore, the future is even brighter, the lessons learnt, the experiences gained and the landscape we work with, makes the future a success already.
I truly hope that you have REDD my reality and I look forward to updating the blog with the positive developments which previously were virtual reality.