Zanzibar's preparations for carbon trade helping poor
KITOGANI, Tanzania (AlertNet) – Are Zanzibar’s preparations to participate in carbon trading reaping benefits for the poor? Just ask Zanzibar’s Fatuma Mchezo.
The mother of four, who lives on the island of Unguja, now uses wood-conserving stoves to prepare her family’s meals and to fry fish, which she sells to supplement her income as a part-time tailor.
“I used to consume a bundle of fuel wood in three to four days but after shifting to efficient cooking stoves the (wood) can now survive for a week and a half,” Mchezo said in an interview.
Zanzibar is preparing to take part in the United Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program, which will pay poor tropical countries to protect their forest as a way of reducing carbon emissions and curbing climate change.
The effort should help protect Zanzibar’s fast-vanishing 27,650 hectares of community forests – deemed one of the world’s “biodiversity hotspots” - and make life easier for the island’s poor, in part by cutting the amount of fuel wood they must collect or buy.
In these woods, part of the East Africa coastal forests eco system, the rate of deforestation is one percent a year, “despite their global significance and importance,” Paul Barker, director of the Care Tanzania Zanzibar office, said in a report on the project.
That could change as Tanzania begins participating REDD – and bring global benefits. Deforestation and forest degradation are seen as responsible for about a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
The benefiting forestry area in Zanzibar and elsewhere in Tanzania contains mangrove trees and upland natural-forest trees.
The Norwegian government, which is financing the REDD project, says Tanzania will be eligible to benefit from carbon trade with other countries “providing that reduced rates of deforestation or forest degradation can be demonstrated”.
To make that happen, the Zanzibar government is intensively conducting negotiations with villagers and is drawing up Community Forest Management Agreements (COFMAs) which stipulate sustainable usage levels in target forests and impose fines for deforestation or degradation.
FOCUS ON THE POOR
Sheha Idrissa Hamdan, director of the Department of Forestry and Non-Renewable Resources under Zanzibar’s Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, told AlertNet in that the planned carbon trade could benefit 16,600 rural households.
There will be “a particular focus on ensuring that the poor are not further disadvantaged, but are able to benefit from COFMAs,” Hamdan said.
His department, Care and rural umbrella groups Jozani Environmental Conservation Association (JECA), the Ngezi-Vumawimbi Natural Resources Conservation Organization and the South Environmental and Development Conservation Association are working with villagers to develop 12 agreements that will cover 10,650 hectares of targeted forest, and to review existing agreements on a further 17,0000 hectares.
Ali Mohamed Hilal , a forestry officer with Care, said in an interview that the efforts to spruce up existing agreements will tackle such thorny issues as land tenure laws, which are currently too weak to foster long- term investments in forests.
The groups organizing the REDD effort also hope to increase awareness of the agreements and clarify among the local population that the project’s main goal is conservation.
In the same vein, Hamdan’s department, Care and the three umbrella groups are jointly operating a four-year conservation project sponsored by Norway that is key to the forests’ eligibility for carbon financing.
Known locally as Hifadhi ya Misitu ya Asili (Conservation of Natural Forests) the project aims to cut 375,250 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and was launched in 2010, boosted by a $5.5 million grant from Norway.
The agreements have prompted villagers to find ways to reduce their dependence on forests that have been earmarked for carbon trade.
Awesu Shaaban Ramadhani, JECA’s assistant secretary, told AlertNet that nine villages under his jurisdiction - including Kitogani, Charawe and Kongoroni - have so far committed themselves to protecting the target woods.
He said households have shifted from using charcoal stoves to efficient stoves that consume less wood.
Villagers also are planting trees, nurturing tree seedlings in newly developed nurseries, keeping bees, and growing vegetables and are being given access to affordable micro-financing schemes to help them find capital to start new businesses as alternatives to earning cash from the forest.
Village elders, students and their teachers, among others, are looking generally at ways to reduce carbon emissions, Ramadhani said.
He said new credit and saving schemes brought about by Tanzania’s participation in REDD have helped some villagers trade their mud huts for new-built brick houses, and prompted villagers to form conservation committees for the forests around them.
In Kitogani, which borders Jozani forest reserve, Fatuma Mchezo is not alone in seeing the benefits of forest conservation.
Musa Sleiman Khamis now operates a tree nursery called “Adui Mpende” – “Love thy enemy” – which has 50,000 fruit and timber tree seedlings ready for planting.
He and his colleagues have also started keeping bees and selling honey.
“We sell a litre for 12,000 shillings ($7.50),” he said in an interview.
Mohamed Issa is a freelance writer based in Dar es Salaam.