Fungai Lupande Mashonaland Central Bureau
People often say “money doesn’t grow on trees” but, people in Mbire District, Mashonaland Central Province, will tell you the opposite.
To them, money indeed does grow on trees! Having managed to protect and maintain 267 000 hectares of forest, people in Mbire are reaping monetary benefits and earned US$255 000 in five years.
The forests are clearing carbon dioxide from the air, creating carbon credits which are sold on the international market, generating income for the Mbire community.
This is a unique type of business where one cannot see the footprints and nothing is taken out of the environment.
They are making money out of the air. As they generate revenue from their trees, people in Mbire are contributing towards mitigating climate change. All they have to do is to avoid cutting down trees.
The project dubbed “Kariba REDD+ Project” was started by Carbon Green Africa (Pvt) Ltd (CGA) in 2011. Mbire was chosen ahead of Binga, Nyaminyami and Hurungwe because it is marginalised and does not have much mineral wealth. Mbire used to have a lot of wildlife whose population drastically declined due to poaching and loss of habitat as the human population expanded.
In an interview, CGA managing director Mr Charles Ndondo said the project has a 30-year lifespan, a period he believes everyone will be aware of the need to preserve forests without the Environment Management Agency (EMA), Forestry Commission or Government chasing them.
“This project is aimed at generating carbon credits by avoiding further deforestation,” he said. “We are engaged in various community projects to prevent people from further clearing the forest. Once the forests are maintained, they produce carbon credits.”
Mr Ndondo said international auditors visit Mbire to measure how much carbon credits each tree produces. In five years, forests in Mbire produced about 850 000 carbon credits. It is a scientific measurement and according to voluntary carbon standards, each carbon credit costs US$1,50. One credit is equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide.
Afterwards, they look for buyers at the international market and revenue is realised after a period of five years, which is the monitoring period.
“In that period, Mbire realised about US$255 000,” said Mr Ndondo.
The funds realised are ploughed back into the community through various projects.
These include bee-keeping which encourages the community to protect their forests while conservation farming also prevents the community from clearing more land for agricultural purposes.
Nutritional gardens are another way through which the company is discouraging people from stream-bank cultivation. All these projects help remove the community from the forests and once the forests start generating income, CGA works closely with chiefs and Mbire Rural District Council to come up with project proposals.
“They decide what they want the money to be used for. We have our area manager who is resident in Mbire who works closely with the community,” said Mr Ndondo.
Local people get employed for all the projects and materials are bought in Mbire so that the money is retained in the district.
The company is involved in the construction of a four-bedroomed teacher’s house at Masoka Secondary School.
They have done a number of other projects in the district, including setting up a biogas digester at Chitsungo Hospital.
Mbire RDC chief executive Mr Claudius Majaya said income from carbon credits contributed to the development in Mbire.
“The projects help in reducing deforestation and land degradation at the same time earning the community money for development,” said Mr Majaya.
“We don’t give people money, but it goes towards massive projects that benefit the whole community.
“Forests are usually found in marginalised areas, but the same forests have helped in infrastructure development.”