Merlins Wood signs MoU with KP and AJK govts
In order to implement the United Nations initiative on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as UN-REDD with the goal of helping countries implement REDD+ strategies, Merlins Wood on Monday signed an MoU at a local hotel with the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to develop a REDD+ project in the province. The company also has a similar MoU in place with the Government of Azad State of Jammu and Kashmir. Terra Global Capital has partnered with Merlins Wood to carry out the carbon development work and market the pioneering projects.
REDD Managing Director Sareeba, Leslie Durschinger, founder and managing director, Terra Global Capital, officials from UN REDD+ projects and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and environment experts attended the MoU signing ceremony. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
In short, the goal of REDD projects isn’t just to reduce rates of deforestation, but rather, to reduce deforestation by creating an immediate financial incentive for the local people derived from keeping the forests intact, which should have the byproduct of reducing carbon emissions.
REDD+ projects, don’t just stop deforestation, however, but rather are designed “to support the voluntary efforts of developing country parties to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, promoting conservation and the sustainable management of forests, and enhancing forest carbon stocks.
While highlighting objectives and progress on REDD in KPK and AJK, Leslie Durschinger, founder and managing director, Terra Global Capital, said the idea behind REDD was simple that countries willing and able to reduce emissions from deforestation should be financially compensated for doing so.
“But REDD+ goes far beyond just deforestation and aims to address climate change and rural poverty, while conserving biodiversity and sustaining vital ecosystem services. REDD also promotes the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders including indigenous peoples and other forest dependent communities,” she said.
Talking about The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) project, Durschinger said this project was located over 300,000 hectares of forest and rangeland in the districts of Battagram, Swat and Mansehra. “The province is home to Pakistan’s most important remaining tract of Himalayan forest. Due to population pressures, poverty, and illegal land-use activities, these forests are disappearing at a rate of more than 3 percent per year,” she added.
The goal of the project is to reduce GHG emissions from deforestation and degradation through implementation of sustainable land use practices and livelihood improvements to local communities. A consortium of various government and non-government agencies in Pakistan including the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest and Wildlife Departments, have partnered with Merlins Wood Pakistan to initiate the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) REDD project as a means of implementing a series of actions designed to mitigate the key drivers of deforestation.
Key drivers of deforestation in the area include illegal commercial timber harvesting, fuelwood gathering, free grazing of livestock, and agriculture and settlement expansion. The project will support approximately 70 villages and a population of 200,000 in KP to develop and strengthen the capacity of Village Development Committees (VDCs) as a means of supporting the sustainable management of forest resources.
The project area is a part of Pakistan’s last remaining tract of Himalayan moist temperate forest. These forests play a critical role in climate and watershed regulation. It is thought that the recent flooding in Pakistan can be attributed to the continued loss of these critical forests. The forests in the project area are host to more than 600 plant species, 24 of which are endangered. Prominent tree species include the Chir pine, blue pine, silver fir and spruce.
There are also more than 130 plant species of particular ethno-botanic importance in the region, which contribute substantially to community livelihoods and health through medicinal purposes.
The area is also home to the Snow Leopard, one of the most endangered big cats in the world.
The project will work closely with local conservation NGOs to monitor and protect snow leopard populations. In addition to snow leopards, the project is home to a number of other endangered or vulnerable species, including the Western Trapogan, Markhor, Asian black bear, and a population of white langur monkeys.
In order to combat illegal logging, a problem that persists as a result of unsustainable land-use activities, the provincial forest department will work with local communities to patrol and protect forest areas and to develop sustainable land-use plans to manage natural resources.
Project activities, implemented in partnership with local communities, include sustainable land-use planning, forest patrolling and protection, Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR), fire prevention, introduction of fuel efficient stoves, planting of woodlots, agricultural intensification, livestock management, development and sale of forest products, and a suite of livelihood and social improvement activities. It is envisioned that the project will serve as a model for the implementation of additional community focused REDD projects in Pakistan, and will inform the implementation of a provincial and national level nested-REDD programme.
The project will work directly with approximately 70 local villages living in and around the forest areas of Battagram, Swat and Mansehra to provide alternative incomes and improve livelihoods.
Direct employment will be provided to patrol forest areas, implement ANR activities and plant woodlots. Training will be provided on sustainable agricultural practices and livestock management to both increase productivity and reduce forest pressure.
In addition, the project will implement NTFP enterprise development programmes to facilitate the collection, marketing and sale of forest products. More broadly, through the generation of revenues from the sale of carbon, the project will provide village level improvements such as clean drinking water supply, rural electrification, alternative energy development, establishment of primary schools, access to community health centers and vocation development.
Gender mainstreaming will be a core aspect of the project, implementing women directly into the process of land-use planning and resource use.
The project will utilize Village Development Committees (VCDs) and Women’s Organisations (WOs) to implement and manage a suite of livelihood and social improvement activities in the project area.