HURUNGWE, Zimbabwe, March 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
One of the world's largest forest conservation projects has
managed to curb deforestation in northern Zimbabwe, but the slow
sale of carbon credits – on which the project depends –
threatens its expansion, its organisers said.
Some 785,000 hectares of prime forest in Mashonaland West
province have been preserved since the Kariba REDD+ (Reducing
Emissions from Deforestation and Forest
Degradation)project began in 2011.
Villagers make money from the sale of carbon credits they
earn by not cutting down the trees, said Charles Ndondo, whose
company Carbon Green Africa spearheaded the project.
By protecting the natural forest and planting new trees, the
project has managed to prevent emissions of more than 5.5
million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, Ndondo said.
But expanding the project is proving difficult.
"The major challenge is the slow uptake of the credits on
the voluntary market," Ndondo said.
Most of the buyers are international companies, who might
buy such credits to offset emissions from travel, for instance.
Zimbabwean companies have shown little interest and there is no
local law compelling them to buy the carbon credits, he said.
There are more than 400 REDD+ projects worldwide, which aim
to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests,
thus offering incentives for developing countries to maintain
forests and grow more.
But carbon credits have been slow to sell internationally,
because most big carbon emitters face few legal requirements to
buy them, and because voluntary buyers - who might purchase
carbon credits to compensate for travel emissions, for instance
- are not a large enough market.
Zimbabwe faces a particularly difficult time selling the
credits because of its complex political situation, experts say.
The money the Mashonaland West communities have received so
far - initially from private investment until the Kariba REDD+
carbon credits were issued on the market in 2011 – has been
spent on planting new trees, training farmers in conservation
agriculture and community projects.
"The rural communities ... are asking for more, yet the
financial resources cannot meet the demand," Ndondo said.
Since 2011, more than 50,000 trees have been planted, some
15 community food gardens established, beehives distributed, and
more than 200 boreholes have been restored, providing schools
and health clinics with clean water.
"We are calling on Carbon Green Africa to expand the
project," said Jealousy Matesanwa, a councillor in Hurungwe
district, which falls under the project.
"We want more boreholes and more community nutritional
gardens. We want more farming inputs under the conservation
farming programme," he said.
Ndondo said for the project to expand, more international
organisations and individuals have to buy carbon credits.
"If you buy our carbon credits, you have not only offset
your carbon footprint, but the money goes towards supporting
more than 200,000 lives in some of Zimbabwe's most disadvantaged
communities," Ndondo said.
The project has gained traction among traditional leaders in
the province. Chief Abel Mbasera Chundu in Hurungwe district
said he has introduced stringent measures to curb wanton cutting
"We are encouraging tobacco farmers to have their own
woodlots to cure tobacco. If a farmer does not have such a
woodlot we advise them not to grow tobacco," he said.
Tobacco curing alone is responsible for more than 20 percent
of the country's more than 350,000 hectares of lost indigenous
forest annually, according to Zimbabwe's Forestry Commission.
Chundu said he is also working with agricultural experts to
introduce new cash crops as an alternative to tobacco farming.
"We are trying to entice locals with alternative crops like
soya beans and sunflower," he said.
Villagers are now planting fast-growing trees like moringa,
which can also be used as a herbal tea, with Carbon Green Africa
providing the market.
"We are now leading in tree planting with vast tree
nurseries at schools in the area," Chundu said.
Chitindiva primary school has planted more than 900 trees in
the past two months and over 300 children have been given two
trees each to plant at home.
"More than 3,200 gum trees in (Chitindiva's) nursery will
soon be distributed to tobacco farmers ... (to) use for curing
tobacco," Chamunorwa Govero, a teacher at the school said.
"We want children to embrace the importance of preserving
our environment," Hurungwe manager for Carbon Green Africa,
Jeremiah Matiza, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Even with slow uptake of carbon credits on the voluntary
market, Ndondo said the project will not collapse.
"It's a 30-year project and it has run for only five years.
But I will see to it that it will not collapse," Ndondo said.
Carbon Green Africa developed the Kariba REDD+ in four
districts in Mashonaland West province - Binga, Nyaminyami,
Hurungwe and Mbire.
(Reporting by Andrew Mambondiyani; Editing by Alex Whiting.;
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