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TI-Z promotes beneficial ownership of REDD+ project in Mbire

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TI-Z promotes beneficial ownership of REDD+ project in Mbire

By Byron Mutingwende

The idea of bringing a business-like approach to forest conservation, using Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) schemes is progressive if values of transparency and accountability are enshrined within this framework.

This was revealed during a community awareness outreach exercise on climate governance that was conducted by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TI-Z) in wards 1, 2 and 3 of Mbire District earmarked under the Kariba REDD project.

TIZ, through its REDD+ Integrity (REDD+ In) Project  funded by the European Union, is contributing to anti-corruption policy and practice in REDD+ finance and governance through development of techniques which prevent corruption in REDD+ in Zimbabwe.

The project focuses on Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) projects such as the Kariba REDD Project along the Zambezi Valley and the newly launched public sector Ngamo-Sikuni REDD+ project in the Hwange-Sanyati Biodiversity Corridor. In the last 2 years, TI-Z has provided training and awareness on REDD+ Governance to forest dependent communities in Mbire District living within areas allocated for REDD+.

Frank Mpahlo, TIZ’s Climate Finance Governance project coordinator said that while it was important to talk about the importance of forests to animals and humans, there was the needs to put in place systems that ensure that REDD+ meets its intended purpose, which is, to transparently incentivize communities that are preserving forests.

The Executive Environmental Officer of Mbire Rural District Council, Cassius Mahuni urged the members of the local community to guard against deforestation and poaching.

“Trees act as carbon sinks. Working with Carbon Green Africa, we have marked some mopani trees in the forests that must be spared at all times. We discourage veld fires and encourage the use of axes in fetching firewood.

To allay fears of possible misuse of the revenue from REDD+ projects, Mahuni said that there was a clear allocation structure of the money to be shared among the implementing communities, local council and the investor.

“Our REDD+ investor has the obligation to provide the communities with 30% of their total earnings from the sale of carbon credits. Most of the projects that we encourage them to do is to sink new and repair existing boreholes and embark on non-carbon benefit activities like bee-keeping and conservation agriculture,” Mahuni said.

The REDD+ project came after industrialised countries admitted to emitting destructive substances to the ozone layer from their factories and the realisation that some developing countries were also emitting through some veld fires and deforestation. Those looking after huge forests would then be rewarded with carbon credits for keeping trees that act as carbon sinks.

The investor that we want: Community

After learning about safeguards which are measures or policies that guard against undue harm from investment or development activities community members were capacitated to air their expectations from Carbon Green Africa.

“Safeguards related to REDD+ within UNFCCC COP decisions aim to prevent REDD+ activities from causing harm to diversity and people, and also help REDD+ realise multiple benefits, beyond simply emission reduction. Therefore, as signatory of the UNFCCC, Zimbabwe should prioritise the protection of individual rights of those potentially affected by a REDD+ initiative,” said Danai Mabuto, a TIZ official.

Mabuto said that safeguards that require respecting land tenure rights of local communities will not only improve the success of REDD+ implementation, but could also deliver significant economic benefits.

“Tenure security will help to engage and include communities in the design, implementation and monitoring of REDD+ projects, minimising the risk of future land disputes and reducing the risk to investors engaging in REDD+ initiatives. Adequate safeguards will ensure that the implementation of REDD+ can contribute to other national priorities such as poverty reduction and sustainable development.

“There is also the need to consider how the local community relates to the forest as well as an understanding of their social cohesion. This should include assessing their conflict resolution and management frameworks.”

Dereck Hamunakwadi, a researcher at TIZ said that existing land tenure systems should be assessed to guard against fuelling conflicts.

He added that there was the need to consider safeguards around gender if there is a likelihood that the project will have adverse impacts on gender equality or women’s ability to access and use resources. The rights of the minority and indigenous groups should also be protected.

In certain instances people have a relationship with the forests for medicine and so forth.  Another environmental consideration for safeguards is on protecting rivers and dams against alien or endangered species.

It also emerged that consideration should be given to existing economic enterprises like curios business and coal mining. The projects should not increase illegal activities like poaching and logging.

As recommendation, TIZ said that REDD+ projects should be focused on how to address poverty, marginalisation, vulnerability, and on how to increase food security and ensure biodiversity conservation in a transparent manner.