Protecting Zimbabwe’s Prime Forests through REDD+ Initiatives
By Andrew Mambondiyani
HURUNGWE, Zimbabwe ‒Most rural communities in Zimbabwe still depend entirely on wood as a source of energy, resulting in massive destruction of the country’s prime forests.
Tobacco farmers use wood to cure their crop while most of the cooking in rural households is done by firewood. The country’s Forestry Commission, an arm of government in Zimbabwe, revealed that tobacco curing alone was responsible for more than 20 percent annual loss of indigenous forests annually of the country’s more than 350,000 hectare.
Hurungwe district in Mashonaland West province has also suffered from massive deforestation from tobacco farming. However, various projects running under the Kariba REDD+, an initiative by Carbon Green Africa, a private company based in Zimbabwe, is restoring some of the deforested areas in the province since 2011.
REDD which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, work in line with the United Nations SDGs, to create financial value for the carbon stored in forests while offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low carbon paths to sustainable development.
The Kariba REDD+ project hinges on incentives to communities for preserving forests coupled with stringent wildlife conservation measures. This initiative has gained traction among the villagers in the four districts where the project is running.
“We are now leading in tree planting with vast tree nurseries at schools in the area,” Chief Chundu, a traditional leader in Hurungwe district, said. According to Chief Chundu, the tree planting initiatives were supported by Carbon Green Africa under the Kariba REDD+ project.
Carbon Green Africa developed the Kariba REDD+ in four districts in Mashonaland West province, namely Binga, Nyaminyami, Hurungwe and Mbire.
Carbon Green Africa, Chief Executive Officer, Charles Ndondo, says, since it began, the Kariba REDD+ has helped to reduce deforestation in the project area and a wide range of activities, which have had direct positive impacts on communities.
Ndondo said every year 1,200 farmers were trained in conservation agriculture where necessary material inputs were provided and over 15 nutritional community gardens have been established.
These community gardens are mainly managed by women. Besides, over 700 Kenyan top bar beehives have been distributed to community members after trainings. Over 200 boreholes have also been resuscitated to provide clean water with schools and clinics having been supplied with infrastructure development.
Similarly, Chief Chundu said as a traditional leader in the area, he had also introduced stringent measures to curb wanton cutting down of trees.
“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.
Besides, Chief Chundu said he is 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,” Chief Chundu 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.
In some parts of the Mashonaland West province, local villagers are also introducing bamboos, which are also fast growing.
At Chitindiva Primary School under Chief Chundu’s area, the school has planted over 900 trees in the past two months alone.
Chamunorwa Govero, a senior teacher at the school said the school also, “gave every one of our over 300 children two trees each to plant at their homes.”
According to Govero said, the school had more than 3,200 gum trees in its nursery they would soon distribute to the tobacco farmers which they will ultimately use for curing tobacco.
Similarly, at Nyamakate, another school in the area, more than 5,000 trees were given to school to plant at their homes.
“I never thought this project was going to be a success,” Jealous Matesanwa, a councillor for Ward 7 in Hurungwe said.
“I was surprised when Nyamakate School turned a once barren school ground into a flourishing tree nursery and the whole community is benefiting”.
But with these developments, efforts to preserve Zimbabwe’s forests might be hindered by the slow carbon credits uptake at the voluntary market.
Ndondo said the Kariba REDD+ project which covers 785,000 hectares of vital forest ecosystem in Zimbabwe, received private funding investment until the successful issuance of carbon credits which were now on the voluntary market.
According to investopedia.com, a carbon trade is an exchange of credits between nations designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and allows countries that have higher carbon emissions to purchase the right to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from countries that have lower carbon emissions.
“We are now expected to run the projects from proceeds of the credit sales,” Ndondo said. “The major challenge is on the slow uptake of the credits on the voluntary market.”
He said the community projects were operating below level due to limited sales of the carbon credits and more projects are on cards awaiting sales.
“On the other hand, the rural communities have seen benefits through the projects and are asking for more yet the financial resources cannot meet the demand,” he said.
He was quick to invite the international community, embassies, organisations, companies and individuals to support the project through buying carbon credits.
“If you buy our carbon credits, you have not only offset your carbon foot print, but the money goes towards supporting more than 200,000 lives in some of Zimbabwe’s most disadvantaged communities,” Ndondo said.
This story was written under the aegis of the CSE Media Fellowship Programme.