From a birds-eye view it’s clear – “we need to conserve our forests”

P1160244It’s a clear crisp morning, and 7 Community Ambassadors (CA) from Mwanya Chiefdom, swathed in green uniforms, gather at the dusty Mukasanga Airstrip around a map.  The air is humming with excitement as BCP’s Lead Community Engagement Manger, Godfrey Phiri, points out features on a map and explains what they will be seeing 2,000 feet above the earth.  When the discussion concludes, the CA’s receive a pre-flight briefing, and in groups of three to four board a small aircraft, and are flown to see what the forest, their community has agreed to protect, looks like from the air.

 

An hour later, the plane lands, and the CA’s disembark with looks of amazement and smiles from this rare opportunity.  “Flying us over our chiefdom has changed the way we view our forest,” remarks Clement Phiri, one of the CA’s and a Mwanya Chief Representative, “There is a feeling and some level of complacency among our people that our forest is not under threat, but seeing it this way you realize that it is a forest that is under serious threat from deforestation.”

 

The “Flying FPIC” process, is a unique innovation, the first of its kind in Zambia, and critical in engaging communities in protecting and conserving their forests.  BCP was inspired by conservation organizations aerial surveys of wildlife, a notable example being the recent Great Elephant Census (GEC).  BCP’s use of “Flying FPIC” is an extra step in the REDD+ project development process by confirming that community stakeholders are aware of the forest area boundaries for REDD+ projects they consent to participate in, in line with the approved principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). The principles of FPIC, first developed by the United Nations, are internationally recognized and as “best practice” for REDD+ project development.  Adherence with FPIC is expected under many international standards for REDD+ implementation.

 

P1160221The aim of Flying FPIC is to ensure that communities are fully aware of the areas of forest that they are willing to protect, to be demarcated for protection under a REDD+ project. To do this, key community representatives – “Community Ambassadors” (CAs) – are  selected by the community through a transparent process, and are given the chance to be flown over their Chiefdom’s forest areas. During this guided flight, CAs are made aware of (1) the scale, location and quality of forest areas within their Chiefdom, and (2) the proposed boundaries for REDD+ forest protection, which have been proposed / recommended by community participants in the REDD+ development process for their Chiefdom, to date. By viewing their forests from the air – in addition to reviewing maps – CAs are expected to have a more in-depth and informed understanding about the scale, location and potential impacts of a REDD+ project in their Chiefdom.  Post flying, CA’s will follow the demarcated perimeters by vehicle and foot in order to have a holistic view of the protected forest.

 

Following their participation in Flying FPIC activities, CAs are then trained and empowered to play leading roles in information dissemination about REDD+, and soliciting community stakeholder feedback to inform the design of Participatory Forest Management Plans (PFMPs) for new REDD+ projects. CAs are uniquely qualified to play leadership roles in the REDD+ development process, as a result of their experiences during Flying FPIC.

 

This was just one of many activities that took place in the last several weeks to raise community awareness about the challenges – and potential opportunities – of protecting their forests through REDD+ projects.

 

Mwanya Chiefdom is one of the locations in which BCP is looking to expand and launch new REDD+ projects under the USAID-funded Community Forests Program. However, in order for this to work, the communities must be fully engaged and supportive of the program, and BCP is committed to adhering to the principles of obtaining “Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)” – essentially, ensuring communities understand what they are saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to.”

 

“We decided to fly our community ambassadors around Mwanya Chiefdom so that they could have a deeper understanding of the state of their forests,” explained Godfrey Phiri, BCP Senior Community Engagement Manager. “They directly saw the extent of their agricultural activities, which they all admitted are located along the river banks. They also observed the extent to which their forests are being cut.”

 

P1160196Being on the plane brought out mixed feelings for Langslord Mbewe, a resident of Mwanya Chiefdom and Community Ambassador. “I am happy to be one of the few people to be flown around Mwanya Chiefdom. But I am saddened by the state of forests. We could see from the plane how human activities have continued to affect the state of forests. In some areas, trees have been cut anyhow and in other areas there were signs of fires. This is a signal that we need to conserve our forests.”

 

The Community Forests Program (CFP) offers the support – and potential benefits – that may help Mwanya communities in conserving their forests. “We have attempted before to teach people about good forest harvesting practices, but to no avail,” said Clement Phiri. “Now we feel the coming of CFP in our chiefdom will change people’s mind-sets and potentially lead to forest conservation.”

 

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.

 

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.

Mwanya Chief Representative Clement Phiri (r) talks to BCP's Community Engagement Manager Godfrey Phiri (L) during forest demarcation and community sensitization meetings

Mwanya Chief Representative Clement Phiri (r) talks to BCP’s Senior Community Engagement Manager Godfrey Phiri (L) during forest demarcation and community sensitization meetings

 

 

Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project emission reductions successfully marketed through Stand For Trees Website

Individuals wishing to offset their personal, family, household or small business carbon footprint can do so now via Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project’s Standfortrees website. Since February 2015, Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project verified emission reductions have been for sale in an online store on the website known as Stand for Trees, a non-profit initiative started by Code REDD and co-funded by USAID, to promote REDD+ credit sales to individuals, and raise awareness about avoided deforestation.

After six months, BCP has been able to offset about 2,500 tons of CO2 equivalent to concerned and interested individuals.  It’s a modest—but meaningful—step towards a much bigger goal of engaging more people and companies in taking responsibility for their emissions through verified REDD+ projects.

The aim of the website is to build awareness and engagement about forest conservation and climate change one person at a time.  SFT enables individuals to buy small volumes of credits i.e. 1 ton, and even send the emissions reduction purchase as a gift to someone with an attractive certificate.  It’s fun and a unique gift to offset on behalf of someone and then send a personalized note card.  It shows that the website is a fantastic and clever platform that features a number of different REDD+ projects around the world, to appeal to different buyer preferences.

Stand for Trees provides individuals a choice from about thirteen forest conservation projects worldwide ranging from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. LZRP is one of the four African projects listed on the portal in addition to similar REDD+ initiatives in Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Madagascar.

STAND FOR TREES

This type of e-commerce initiative means that everyone can help to create the market for REDD+ credits.  Purchasers receive a certificate right away with a serial number attesting to the credits being retired (i.e. removed from circulation forever).  SFT transacted a number of credits for different projects after a celebrity video by Prince Ea went viral via SFT.  The thought-provoking and stirring music video showed the power of social media to raise the profile of forest conservation, and has 80 million plus views so far.  See the video here:

If you wish to support LZRP via SFT, you can purchase offsets by clicking here. Alternatively, if you are interested in learning more about opportunities to purchase bulk offsets generated through this unique project, please do not hesitate to contact us below at:

Juraj Ujházy, CFA

Enterprise Development Coordinator—BioCarbon Partners

juraj@biocarbonpartners.com

+260 979 225 811

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.

Community consultations and “Flying FPIC” participatory forest demarcations piloted in Mwanya Chiefdom

BCP is spearheading community consultations and participatory forest demarcation activities in Mwanya Chiefdom, Lundazi District, with the aim of identifying new areas for REDD+ implementation under the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP).

To do this, BCP has developed an innovative strategy that combines multiple methods for involving community stakeholders in the identification of potentially viable areas of community forests for REDD+ implementation. Termed the “Flying FPIC” participatory forest demarcation process, the CFP team has pioneered a strategy that involves showing community stakeholders their available forest resources, and allowing them to identify the boundaries and extent of areas that they would like to protect in the long term under REDD+.

In August, BCP piloted this process in Mwanya Chiefdom, in Lundazi District, as the first site where we have combined the use of airplanes, vehicles, and foot-based “ground truthing” activities, to allow community stakeholders the opportunity to view, assess, discuss and agree on the areas of their (community) forest they would like to include under REDD+ projects under the CFP.

Aerial and on-the-ground activities were guided by high-tech digital mapping technology, including tablets equipped with live mapping programs that allowed community representatives to track their locations in relation to proposed protected forest area boundaries.

As part of this process, a series of community meetings were also held, in which REDD+ and the CFP were introduced to the wider community, and in which Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) tools were used to solicit stakeholder feedback on the proposed design and boundaries of the REDD+ projects under consideration. Over 200 community representatives participated in these meetings.

At the start of the month, a contingent of nearly twenty representatives from BCP, GRZ and Community Ambassadors (representatives) from each area of the Chiefdom spent one week camping in rural villages to kickstart this process. In the last week of August, follow-up meetings were held in central locations in the Chiefdom, with the aim of ensuring that messages about REDD+ reached the wider community, and ensuring that stakeholders who missed the first meetings had another opportunity to learn about the program and view the areas of forest that had been identified so far, by their fellow community members, through the participatory forest demarcation processes described above.

In the upcoming months, BCP will continue to consult and involve community stakeholders in decision-making about a potential REDD+ project in Mwanya Chiefdom. At the same time, we are also working to undertake similar processes in other Chiefdoms in Mambwe District, where six more Chiefs have expressed interest in the CFP, and potentially other areas in Nyimba and Rufunsa Districts.

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

Government representatives from the Forestry Department, District Agriculture Coordinator, and Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs take to the skies during CFP “Flying FPIC" forest demarcation activities in Mwanya Chiefdom

Government representatives from the Forestry Department, District Agriculture Coordinator, and Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs take to the skies during CFP “Flying FPIC” forest demarcation activities in Mwanya Chiefdom