Dar`s $85m deal at crossroads as deforestation worsens
Tanzania fears that failure to agree on ways to fund a scheme to protect forests at the ongoing UN climate change meeting may risk national efforts to fight deforestation.
To implement the five-year pilot project, Tanzania needs about Sh153 billion ($85 million), according to details unveiled in Durban, early this week.
African experts and policy makers made this observation as global debate on the scheme, seeking to reward countries and communities for keeping the forests standing rather than cutting them down, noted that it was increasingly unclear on whether the meeting would come out with financial commitments to support the implementation of such projects across the developing world.
Tanzania, which is implementing a five-year pilot project, Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) aimed at conserving forests to tackle climate change. It has about 39.9 percent square kilometres of forests.
But the country had by 2010 already lost 19. 4 percent of forest cover existing in 1990.
World Bank estimates have it that by the end of 2010 over 90 percent of the 40 million plus people in Tanzania depended on charcoal and wood as their main source of affordable cooking energy.
That however comes with a heavy price producing 9 million tonnes of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere while leaving behind 109,500 hectares of deforested zones.
According to the Tanzanian Traditional Energy and Development Organisation (Tatedo), high demand for charcoal and unsustainable use of land has about 300 hectares of forest devastated each day in Tanzania, to make space for agriculture, grazing livestock and for the production of charcoal.
Statistics from the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources show that Tanzania has 33.5 million hectares covered by forests and woodlands, but only 13 million of those have been gazetted as forest reserve.
Scientists say one day’s deforestation around the world is equivalent to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying to New York from London. Reducing those catastrophic emissions can be achieved most quickly and most cheaply by halting the destruction in Brazil, Indonesia, the Congo and elsewhere.
This is why failure to implement the scheme to protect Tanzania’s forests poses severe threats in comparison to what the country has suffered so far.
Pilot projects taking place at 10 different sites across the country are worth over $ 85 million and African experts close to the negotiation process hinted that failure of the meeting to achieve clarity on how REDD will be funded would jeopardize efforts to save natural resources.
Even the Director of Forestry in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Felician Kilahama, who spoke at a Tanzania and Mozambique discussion on REDD appeared to agree with the skeptics.
He said it was thought that the scheme would help to protect trees from being destroyed and eventually save natural forests, but hope was fading as chances of financing the multibillion projects seemed unrealistic.
Tanzania had moved first to finalise the national strategy on REDD but uncertainty has crowded possible sources of funding for the implementation of the scheme, said Dr. Kilahama.
“We thought REDD would generate funds to help people conserve the environment but our hopes are fading, because as Tanzania moves to finalise the national strategy we don’t know where the funds will come from,” Dr Kilahama said.
Perhaps due to the importance of saving the country’s dying forests, a large number of Tanzania delegates attending this year’s Durban Climate Summit are members of the REDD task force.
The UN – backed programme was launched in 2008 to curb deforestation by stopping unsustainable tree cutting as well as encouraging the spirit of planting more trees to repair the damage done by human’s sin against nature.
Experts believe that vast quantities of carbon are stored in the trees and of tropical forests and when trees are burnt to clear land for agriculture they are converted into carbon dioxide. This is said to be part of the greenhouse gases accelerating climate change.
Norway that gives over 80 percent in bilateral support of the project funding agreed to support the project at that time. In 2009, Tanzania held its first stakeholders meeting at which REDD task force and framework was established.
Despite a consensus between developed countries and developing countries that REDD was an inexpensive scheme to reduce emissions, no major headway has been made since it was first introduced.
It has been postponed at two past climate change meetings, in Copenhagen and Cancun but experts feel that Durban will deliberate on the funding mechanism, suggesting that $ 100 billion a year Green Climate Fund would provide funding for the scheme.
The spokesperson for the African Group and lead negotiator for climate change mitigation, Seyni Nafo said the Green Climate Fund didn’t provide room for REDD financing.
George Wamukoya, climate change advisor at the Secretariat of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) said in an interview that it was highly expected that solutions for the global warming were likely to come out of the conference should touch on mitigation.
REDD was a good initiative because it recognised ways through which developed countries could manage forests but the biggest challenge was sources of funding to support the scheme, said Wamukoya.
“It is still uncertain whether funds for the scheme will come from climate Global Green Climate fund or elsewhere. It would be a disaster if the meeting failed to deliberate on concrete resolution on how to fund the scheme. This is why Durban is so critical,” said Wamukoya.
But Executive Director at Tanzania Forestry Conservation Group, Charles Meshack, said Tanzania could still access funding for the scheme from other sources such as the World Bank, if the meeting fails to provide concrete finances outcomes.
“Since REDD is a voluntary project, communities owning the forests could themselves set up mechanisms and access funding directly,” said Meshack.
However bearing in mind the amount of money required which is about $85 million, financing the projects locally is unfeasible.
The Director of Environment in Vice President’s Office, Dr Julius Ningu said the government didn’t have the money to implement the scheme if sources of funding were not clear at the conference, but hoped that the concept that communities will earn money for not cutting trees will generate a lot of interest at the national level.
Civil Society Organisations in Tanzania have been key stakeholders in implementing REDD pilots but as the government moves to finalise the REDD strategy CSOs fear the government might ignore their recommendations in the final draft.
Some of the recommendations the SCOs have put forward include land tenure and safeguards which would halt buyers of land in villages from converting natural forests into plantations and ensure that communities and private sectors were involved.
Another split between the government and CSOs is whether REDD finances should come from contributions from developed countries and put into a multilateral fund requiring the approval of Parliament or money for buying carbon credits should come from business entities.
Dr Ningu said the government will not involve market entities in the scheme since the move might increase incidents of land grabbing.
“In actual sense we are not objecting to the involvement of markets but we will not allow companies to approach farmers straight to buy forests without informing the government.
Communities who have low knowledge may end up signing a 33 or 99 years lease agreement and then return to the government to complain when their land is taken,” Dr Ningu said.
Tanzania valued the inputs of CSO and that is why a decision was taken to engage them, according to Dr. Ningu, but the government was irked by some of the CSOs which were helping international NGOs acquire land without the knowledge of the government. Most of the CSOs know the location of most natural forests and were persuading farmers to agree to the issue of involving markets.
However, Meshack says CSOs were advocating for the communities to retain carbon rights and also believed that the involvement of the private sector can provide markets for the carbon.
“The private sector shouldn’t wait for the government to engage them. The interest of the private sector is to maximize profit so it is difficult for them to invest monies in REDD planning process but they can find their function somewhere in the process,” said Meshack.
A representative from the Tanzania Natural Resources Forum said the National REDD strategy refers to 49 percent of Tanzania’s forests as general land.
This means that villages don’t have a legal right to use land with forests outside the forest reserves although unreserved forest areas are on village land that villagers have a legal right to use.
“This weakens tenure security for Tanzanian communities reducing their ability to receive benefits from REDD and creating space for land grabbing,” she asserted.