Lower Zambezi REDD+ project
The Lower Zambezi REDD+ project is the first REDD+ project in Zambia. The project is being implemented on privately owned land known as the ‘Rufunsa Conservancy,’ located in Rufunsa District, Lusaka Province. The project area (Rufunsa Conservancy) covers 38, 781 hectares and constitutes one of the last intact areas of forest in Lusaka Province. It provides a critical 60 km buffer to the Lower Zambezi National Park, which is a strategic protected area in Zambia. The project zone for the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project covers approximately 120,000 hectares of adjacent customary lands inhabited by approximately 8,300 people living in 28 villages and four community “zones.” The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project is anticipated to prevent the emissions of 9,6 million tCO2e over a period of 30 years, which is 54% of the total CO2 stocks stored in the project area. The annual mean emission reductions are estimated at 320,522 tCO2e yr-1. The project was validated by the CCB Standards Second Edition, (Climate Adaptation, Community & Biodiversity Gold Level) in June 2013 and has been developed to also match the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
The objectives of the Lower Zambezi REDD+ project are, amongst other things: to achieve long-term conservation of the Rufunsa Conservancy and key species by means of income, generated by REDD+ activities, and, in the process, to avoid emissions from land-use change; to ensure protection of ecosystem services, such as watershed management to ensure year-round flows into nearby rivers; to create employment opportunities for stakeholders living in the project zone by developing alternative and/or more sustainable livelihood opportunities that support the overall project goal of reducing deforestation; and, to alleviate poverty in the project zone by supporting community enterprise development and providing access to markets, and by providing support towards critical social services such as education and health.
The core project area is where all activities related to forest and carbon monitoring take place and where performance-based payments will be based on achieved emission reductions. However, the project proponent, BioCarbon Partners Ltd, has community engagement activities taking place among stakeholders living within the project zone which also form an important component of the project, as these activities are central to the aim of addressing and reducing local drivers of deforestation, and play an essential role towards addressing issues of permanence for the REDD+ project. Examples of community-based deforestation mitigation activities include: effective fire management strategies, tree-planting projects, conservation farming training programmes that introduce improved agriculture techniques and increase yields, the establishment of community enterprises and the production of sustainable charcoal.
The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project has a lifespan of 30 years. The Project Proponent is BioCarbon Partners Ltd, and the affiliated BioCarbon Trust is providing critical support to the project’s aims and activities. BioCarbon Partners Ltd manages all REDD+ activities taking place in the project area, whilst the Trust is primarily responsible for all community-based deforestation mitigation activities taking place within the project zone. Additional partners include the Zambian Wildlife Authority and Zambian Forestry Department. BioCarbon Partners is also working closely with the Rufunsa and Chongwe District Councils and the Soli Shamifwi Royal Establishment (traditional leadership).
Stakeholder engagement and participation
Stakeholder engagement began in the project zone in February 2012, through a series of awareness-raising and community engagement meetings that promoted understanding about REDD+ and climate change, following the principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and based on a comprehensive Community Engagement Strategy. FPIC consultative efforts were carried out following an internally developed Standard Operating Procedure. Consultations were conducted in each village in the project zone, and meetings were held in the appropriate local languages, using written materials, workshops and visuals such as cartoons. After each meeting, a voluntary vote was taken to allow participants to express their approval or rejection of the REDD+ project. Community consultation is an on-going process, and over one year later a 95% ‘approval rate’ have been achieved among community stakeholders who have been consulted about the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project.
Land tenure arrangements and carbon rights
The project area for the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (Rufunsa Conservancy) is privately owned by Sable Transport Ltd. A Memorandum of Understanding carbon rights agreement has been signed by Sable Transport Ltd and BioCarbon Partners Ltd, providing BCP with the right to manage, implement, and benefit from a REDD+ project in the Conservancy. There are currently no specific laws in Zambia dealing with carbon rights. However, the landowner has the rights to above and below ground biomass. Land tenure within the project zone is customary lands, which is under de facto ownership and management of local communities and the Chief. However, de jure ownership over land and trees is vested in the President of the Republic of Zambia.
The Rufunsa Conservancy (project area) is private property, and as such, trespassing into the project area is punishable by law. The Conservancy is protected by locally hired scouts who are working together with the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA). In the project zone, compliance with avoiding deforestation and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation is addressed through a number of incentive-based mechanisms—for example, through the development of local sustainable enterprises that provide alternative incomes, to divert stakeholder households away from activities that lead to deforestation or poaching, both of which are activities that could threaten the sustainability of the REDD+ project. Before any new community-based project is implemented, a “Community Covenant” is signed between BCP and the participating community members outlining the terms and conditions of the contract, including the rights and responsibilities of each party. Community Covenants are discussed and signed in locally held meetings in appropriate local languages. Community Covenants provide a direct link between BCP support for community projects and community cooperation in BCP’s deforestation mitigation efforts.
A comprehensive survey was carried out to determine current land-use practices and socio-economic status of people living in the project zone. This was complemented with data from Landsat imagery to assess trends in forest cover changes between 1984 and 2010. Based on this data at least three baseline scenarios were established. In order to assess additionality, a cumulative deforestation model was developed based on data from 1984 through to 2010 using Landsat imagery. The outcome of the model was that without the project the entire area would be deforested within the 30 year project lifespan.
Community engagement activities in the project zone take place in accordance with BCP’s Community Engagement Strategy, which has been designed to allow for on-going consultation and active participation of community members in the decision-making process concerning REDD+ project implementation and related activities. All REDD+-related activities taking place in the project zone have been designed to reflect local interests and needs, in order to ensure that co-benefits of the Lower Zambezi REDD+ project are achieved for community stakeholders. At the start of project implementation, household surveys were carried out in all 4 project zones for the purpose of establishing a socio-economic baseline for measuring socio-economic impacts of projects. A similar procedure is carried out for each new community project in order to establish project-specific baselines that feed into the overall monitoring and evaluation process. Additional measures are taken to address issues of permanence and drivers of deforestation. For example, an ‘early burning ‘ plan has been set up to allow for burning practices to be carried out at the beginning and not at the end of the dry season, to enable better fire-management and to reduce the risk of forest fires. A sustainable charcoal project and a tree-planting project have been set up to reduce pressures on forest resources and the conservancy. The charcoal project is introducing more efficient burning techniques and transportation methods that allow communities to increase their profit while simultaneously promoting sustainable harvesting techniques.
The project is using the Verified Carbon Standard methodology for the quantification of carbon stocks and net emission reductions, as well as comprehensive satellite imagery analysis, led by an in-house GIS/Remote Sensing Specialist. An on-the-ground Plot Team comprised of community members have received extensive training on measuring forest carbon stocks and in carrying out Monitoring, Verification and Reporting (MRV) using hand-held technology such as smart phones. Additionally, BCP is currently piloting one of Africa's first community-based digital biomass collection systems.