The Nhambita Community Carbon project in central region of Mozambique is an innovative ‘trade not aid’ solution to poverty and unsustainable use of natural resources. Over one thousand subsistence farmers who practiced ‘slash and burn’ agriculture are working to transform their farming techniques using agroforestry and by management of the surviving forests. They use money from carbon offsetting to subsidise opportunity costs while they make the change to sustainable food production and to rebuild infrastructure such as schools and health posts in their community.
The community's activities in producing offsets for sale are not a ‘licence to pollute’ for wealthy individuals or companies but rather a way of bringing investment into poor communities in a way that does not foster dependence. African subsistence farmers have little or not way of accessing global markets market their agricultural produce – through this programme they are able to trade a commodity that brings long term benefit to them.
The project received a grant from the EU to develop a working methodology so that it could be replicated in other communities in former conflict areas in Africa. The experience gained is being used in two other regions of Mozambique at present with plans underway to take it to the DRC, Angola and Sudan.
The project has never received any money from Brad Pitt. While it is true that Creative Artists Agency offset their carbon footprint by supporting such as activities as managing bush fires and rehabilitating degraded forest in the buffer zone of the Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique, this is not linked in any way to Brad Pit. Money from CAA has paid for fire fighting equipment and towards other infrastructure in the community including schools. The company has also donated 200 XA laptops to the local schools in the community.
The claims made about the project were not made by the European Union as claimed by the Sunday Times, but by a third party in a ‘desk review’ undertaken without the benefit of direct access to the project and its developers or a site visit. It is factually incorrect to attribute the opinions expressed to the EU.
The technical support work carried out by the University of Edinburgh and the activities of the project developers has been praised by a series of independent reviewers who have actually visited the project and investigated its claims of success. These reviews are publicly available.
All of the transactions and carbon offset sales are monitored and certified by an independent body that maintains a publicly database of all transactions to ensure that offsetting is genuine and that credits are retired to prevent double selling. It is incorrect for the Sunday Times to claim that information regarding sales is not available – it is in the public domain. Attempting to create the impression that the project has something to hide in this regard is disingenuous.
Equally ridiculous is the claim that the project has produced limited scientific evidence to support the work done on the ground. The project has produced a significant body of academic research that has been shared in an international conference held in 2008 on the work done and is all available for public access on a website (www.miombo.org.uk). This research is already being used to replicate the project in other areas.
The project plants back thousands of indigenous trees selecting species that live for hundreds of years as well as fruit trees that provide valuable extra food and nitrogen fixing trees intercropped with cereal crops to boost soil fertility. All of this is aimed at reducing dependency on aid and food handouts by building transforming subsistence agriculture into sustainable livelihoods. Claims about the permanence of the trees planted are a ‘red herring’ that ignores the contribution the project is making to food security.
By the very nature of the tree species selected there is a reasonable expectation that the majority will survive, the project uses very conservative sequestration calculations that contain buffers with anticipated mortality and a degree of failure built into them for estimating the impact of the tree planting.
One of the people involved in the creation of the project and its delivery in Mozambique is Philip Powell, a South African who as a member of the Inkatha Freedom Party and former member of the security services, was involved in the conflict and civil war that led up to democratic elections in South Africa. He was involved in the training of self-protection units for rural African communities who were victims of this violence. He served as an opposition member of parliament in the post-Apartheid democratic parliament and was the co-founder of the company that has played a central role in delivering this project. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission raised issues about the human rights implications of his involvement as a participant in the conflict he has never been convicted of any crime in South Africa and denies being part of a hit-squad or giving instructions for anyone to be killed.
Perhaps the most inappropriate criticism of the project contained in the article concerns the movement of new people into the community participating in the project and a suggestion that this has triggered an increase in deforestation. One of the key objectives of the project is to take pressure off natural resources inside the neighbouring Gorongosa National Park to conserve its precious flora and fauna. It is a measure of the projects success that returning refugees have settled in the community rather than invade land in the national park historically owned by the community as has happened in other parts of the GNP were communities have not had the benefit of access to the this kind of assistance.
Todate Envirotrade’s flagship Nhambita project’s land use change sequestration and carbon conservation activities (calculated ex-ante over a period of 99 years for agroforestry and ex-post over a period of ten years for forest conservation systems) amount to a sum of 293,320.91 tCO2 of which 116,807.55 tCO2 have been certified by Plan Vivo and sold and 176,513.36 tCO 2 have yet to be certified and sold. These are currently being marketed and we expect that they will be certified in January 2009. The project activities planned in conjunction with the community are projected to sequester 2,132,715 tCO2 over its calculation period of 99 years.
The sale of carbon offsets from the project since its inception has raised USD 936,307.00. All of these transactions have been under Plan Vivo standards, inspections and audits; finances relating to the EU involvement have been independently audited by the University of Edinburgh ‘s auditors. Under the Envirotrade project model, which is a further development of the Plan Vivo system, a minimum of two-thirds of carbon credit sales revenues are to be returned to the local community in the form of contracted payments to farmers and community activities and payment for in-country services. For Nhambita, due to the developmental nature of the pilot project, all carbon credit sales revenues have been returned to the local community, along with additional funding provided by the EU and one of Envirotrade’s founders. No party, other than the local farmers and other members of the Nhambita community, has received any financial return at all from the Nhambita Community Carbon Project since its inception.
The Nhambita Community Carbon Project has recently undergone two on-site due diligence reviews and an audit by credible third parties who have concluded that the project is not only highly effective in achieving its goals, but also praiseworthy in its approach. The two reviewers were John 0’Niles, an independent carbon expert and Taco Kooistra of Consultants for Development Programmes. We believe that the research conducted by the University of Edinburgh, the technical support rendered by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, the independent reviews conducted by independent academics and the ongoing certification of the transactions by the Plan Vivo Foundation (BR&D) are all of a high standard and underpin an excellent project that is contributing to the transformation of people’s livelihoods in a community that was ravaged by war and experiences significant poverty. The only financial beneficiaries of the sales to-date have been the over 1000 farmers and the community association for whom the money is providing a transformation and our clients are aware of that.
Envirotrade has been transparent in its dealings with its clients and encourages them to both familiarise themselves with all the aspects of the project and its development by reading the substantial body of published material on the project and to visit the project to review and audit its activities. We have a contractual obligation to our clients to provide independent certification annually against the Plan Vivo standard for every ton of carbon sold and in the event of this certification not being forthcoming we would be obliged to refund payment. Certification is based on a reporting process and inspections of the project against and recognised third-party standard.
The Project team led by the University of Edinburgh have submitted a final report to the EU that will contain substantial rebuttals of some of the elements of the ODI desk review commissioned by the EU cited in press articles that were based on incomplete or premature information. We believe that it is incorrect to portray the issues raised as serious deficiencies before the EU are in possession of all of the reports and materials relating to the project and certainly as anything more than well intention shortcomings in relation to a new, pilot project in a challenging part of the world. The EU have indicated that they are comfortable with this, and are now in receipt of the final report.
We have every confidence in the University to provide full answers to any of the issues raised in the ODI desk review. By its very nature, a project like the Nhambita Community Carbon Project that is developing innovative responses to the intricate problems of unsustainable land use practices, livelihoods of marginalised communities and climate change mitigation is characterised by a degree of uncertainty and the possibility of failure. For this reason, all of the assumptions made in the calculations and other projections are of a conservative nature and reflect the inherent risks involved. We believe our clients are all aware of these inherent characteristics. In the event of failure and a refusal to certify, Envirotrade would be legally obliged to refund clients.
The Mozambique Carbon Livelihoods Trust that administers the revenues earned from carbon trading that is destined for payment on site is a new structure that is constantly evolving and developing as new human capital and resources become available. Its composition and capacity are evolving as capacity and expertise in a new and innovative sphere of activity for Mozambique become available. It is a structure that will in time become fully operational, and fulfils an invaluable role in safeguarding the interests of the producers. Envirotrade is represented on the Trust as a stakeholder and investor in the project and will continue to be so along with the other stakeholders and independent people. The Trust is not contracted to monitor the carbon sequestered on individual plots and fulfils no certification or validation role in the process whatsoever. Monitoring is done in terms of protocols by the employees of Envirotrade Mozambique Limitada in Mozambique (a non-profit entity) with the supervision of the University and ECCM, and is subject to review and oversight by the Plan Vivo Foundation. The MCLT operates an escrow account that holds in trust the percentage of money earned by the community and individual farmers for future payments as well as money for the operations of Envirotrade Mozambique Limitada to support the activities necessary for the activities of the project and ensures that these funds are secure for the future. The Trust is administered by a private firm of accountants in Mozambique.
The income from the sale of carbon offsets is helping the Nhambita community to develop much needed infrastructure. In January 2007 the first ‘conventional’ school build jointly with Germany Embassy and community was inaugurated. The community contributed with about 3 000 USD and furniture from their community fund (revenue from the proceeds of carbon sales) and added labour from the community.
The Chicare Community Association is currently constructing the second ‘carbon school’, Munhanganha School at Boa-Maria this is a new school using money earning from carbon sales and funds they received from the Gorongosa National Park in tourism revenues. (The funds from Gorongosa National Park are their part of 20% tax revenue they earn.) The community received from the Gorongosa National Park 3695 USD and also used 4950 USD from the Chicare Community fund for the construction of the school. A contractor was identified based on the community experience with his work and is supported by 6 workers from the community. These workers are paid with the money from the ‘School fund’. The school fund is the result of contributions from the project employees. Each employee contributes MTn 3,00 ( R1.5) per day. The other members of the community that are not employed also contribute by doing other activities on a voluntary basis. These activities include: collecting stones and river sand for the concrete.
The Munhanganha School will benefit 166 students of that community. During the construction the planning and responsibility are entirely under the control of the Community Association. The building of the second is already at roof height and the carpenter is now busy with the roof construction. It is anticipated that the 2nd school will be ready for the new school year which commences later this month. The carpenters from the Nhambita Carpentry Micro-Business will manufacture all of the school desks/benches. The Community Association are already busy with the first stage of planning of the 3rd school and hopefully they could start with the building process of the school during 2009.
Creative Artists Agency delivered 200 XO2 OLPC’s – the so-called 100$ laptop – to Nhambita schools. The revolutionary laptops are set to transform these rural schools that have only recently been built and come along with solar power and a satlink to the internet. CAA has assisted in an orientation programme and has trained teachers in basic ‘One Laptop Per Child’ (OLPC) skills. (laptop.org)
“In the past three years CAA has partnered with Envirotrade to offset our carbon footprint. Every six months employees from Creative Artists Agency travel to Mozambique and work in a village in Nhambita. This year we have a very exciting programme, we have brought the "One Laptop per Child" programme to Nhambita. These are really durable computers that are meant to withstand the harsh conditions of life in Mozambique . They are meant to be used in villages without regular electricity or running water. So its an exciting programme that we hope will bring technology to the young people of this incredibly inspired community. We are more than thrilled to be working with Envirotrade and look forward to many, many years of this successful partnership.”
Michelle Kydd Lee – Director of the Creative Artists Foundation
Band Maroon 5 has partnered with Global Cool and Envirotrade to offset emissions for their latest tour. The Carbon Livelihoods Programme gives the band a unique opportunity to partner with a community in Mozambique to address climate change, poverty and conservation. Maroon 5 announced plans last night at Hollywood’s House of Blues to team up with Global Cool and make their upcoming tour as eco-friendly as possible.
The Grammy winning five-piece is set to launch their worldwide outing in Detroit on 29th September. “We cant wait to get out on the road and perform in arenas,” said frontman Adam Levine . We are also proud to be working with Global Cool to make the tour environmentally friendly. Our world is in a serious predicament right now, and we all need to play a role in reversing the catastrophic affects of global warming. In addition to Global Cool’s work on the tour, the band will also be “donating $1 from every ticket purchased on the US leg of their tour to cover the cost of offsetting any remaining unavoidable CO2 emissions.”
The Mozambique Carbon Livelihoods Trust (MCLT) was launched in 2007 to ensure that the community and individual farmer proceeds of carbon offset sales from Envirotrade Carbon Livelihoods projects in Mozambique were safeguarded. The Fund will also be known in Mozambique as the “Fundacao Carbono Para Vida”.
Approximately one third of the proceeds of any carbon sale go directly to this fund and are paid out to individual farmers over seven years, to the community trust funds annually and in other payments for forest management and conservation.
The MCLT board is made up of stakeholders – a representative of each elected community association participating in a project, Envirotrade Lda and WWF Mozambique – and is responsible for ensuring that the funds are properly managed and payments made. At the outset this will mean a representative of the Nhambita Community Association and later representatives of other community associations who sign MOU’s with the Carbon Livelihoods programme in Mozambique . A Beira based auditing company, Contabil, are responsible for the day to day administration of the fund.
The Trust will publish an annual report and its transactions will be monitored by BioClimate Research and Development (BR&D), an Edinburgh based organisation responsible for the Plan Vivo certification as part of its ongoing monitoring of standards and requirements for compliance. The MCLT is an important component of the Plan Vivo system and ensures that Payments for Environmental Services (PES) take place in an environment in which future payments to participants are protected and guaranteed.
The Carbon Livelihoods Trust will work closely with associated community associations to ensure that the sustainable livelihoods are built and that far reaching land-use change takes place in target communities in and around protected areas. Trust Fund Account is functional and 92,613.00 USD has been paid into the account by the 16 th of July 2007. The fund account will be managed by Contabil in close association with the board of the MCLT.
A meeting is to be held of trustees at which an election of office bearers will take place and legal formalisation of the committee will follow. A website, www.carbon-livelihoods.org has been launched and will be translated into Portuguese.
Envirotrade is pleased to announce that the Live Earth concert in Johannesburg is recycling a portion of its carbon emmissions through the Carbon Livelihoods programme in Nhambita. The concert organisers have offset 3000 tCO2e by supporting land use change activities that sequester carbon in the buffer zone of the Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique. Envirotrade and the community of Nhambita are happy to be associated with this intitiative to raise awareness of climate change.
Live Earth was founded by Kevin Wall, CEO of Control Room, the company producing the concerts globally. Live Earth will bring together more than 100 of the world’s top music acts to inspire an audience of over two billion people to trigger a mass movement to combat global warming. Live Earth seeks to inspire its global audience to make meaningful and lasting changes in their lives and spur action by corporations and governments to turn the tide on global warming. Live Earth South Africa, which will be staged at the Coca-Cola Doma, just outside of Johannesburg.
Live Earth marks the beginning of a multi-year campaign led by the Alliance for Climate Protection and other international non-governmental organizations to move individuals, corporations and governments to take action to solve global warming. Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore is the Chair of the Alliance for Climate Protection and a Partner of Live Earth.
Envirotrade has launched two new projects in Mozambique as part of its Carbon Livelihoods Programme. The new projects are in the Marromeu Complex, in the communities surrounding the Nhampakué and Inhamitanga Forest Reserves and in the newly formed Quirimbas National Park in the Cabo Delgado province.
Envirotrade’s Carbon Livelihoods Programme addresses poverty alleviation, sustainable development and biodiversity conservation while also tackling global warming in conservation areas recovering from protracted conflict. It is a new way of doing business which offers a new way of life for individuals, forest communities, and the natural environment. The business model has been developed from the world wide trade in carbon offsets pioneered by the Kyoto treaty on Climate Change. Local farmers and forest communities manage the planting and growth of trees in return for proceeds from the sale of CO2 offsets to customers in the developed world.The Carbon Livelihoods Programme in Mozambique enables individuals and companies to effectively invest in new forests and agroforestry that will absorb the carbon dioxide generated by their business activities. Envirotrade works with forest farmers to change the way their land is used, and help them to boost their crop yields by the cultivation of nitrogen-fixing trees and plants, which enrich the soil and slow down deforestation.
Fifteen volunteers from Creative Artists Agency of Los Angeles have spent ten days working in the Nhambita community as volunteers. The Foundation offsets the carbon emmissions of the company by buying carbon offsets from the Carbon Livelihoods Programme in Mozambique. The funding has paid for fire-fighting equipment, wells and other vital expenditure in the Nhambita Community. It has also enables the project to bring hundreds of new farmers into the programme and much needed development revenue to the community.
Volunteers planted indigenous Miombo trees back into degraded areas and built a hand pump for a community well. They also were able to get a first hand idea of what the project was doing in the community and held discussions with community leaders about future co-operation and assistance.
Sir Nicholas Stern, Head of the UK government Economics Service and adviser to the government on the economics of climate change and development released his long awaited report on the "Economics of Climate Change" (Stern Review) today. In the final section of the report, entitled "International Collective Action", the Nhambita Community Carbon Project is cited as an example of the beneficial relationship between emissions reduction activities from land use change and poverty reduction. On page 546 of the report, in box 25.4 "Sustainable agriculture and forestry project in Nhambita, Mozambique" the report gives an overview of project outputs and the positive impact on both poverty and climate change.
Sustainable agriculture and forestry project in Nhambita, Mozambique
The Nhambita Community project in Mozambique provides an example of the potential for a beneficial relationship between emissions reductions and poverty reduction. The natural habitat of the Gorongosa National Park was deforested and degraded during the country’s 16 year civil war. The aim of the Nhambita project is to regenerate the environment, reduce CO2 emissions and reduce poverty by incentivising local people to adopt sustainable agricultural and forestry practices. The following activities help to achieve these aims:-
• Agro-forestry is the practice of planting special types of trees and crops, such as the pigeon pea nitrogen fixing crop, to improve the fertility of the soil. This increases crop yields, reduces the need to use synthetic fertilisers that produce GHGs, and enhances the natural carbon absorption of the soil. It also saves emissions because by improving the soil fertility, the land can be farmed for longer and there will be no need to deforest other land to convert it to agriculture.
Afforestation and planting other crops reduces GHG emissions as the biomass grows and sequesters carbon. Local people are paid to plant trees and crops appropriate to the local habitat and maintain the land. The Nhambita Community project has planted 150,000 trees over the last three years. The sustainable harvest of crops and trees provides a supply of fuel wood and other forest products.
• Forest fire fighting limits damage to crops and forest land. The Nhambita community has purchased mechanised fire fighting equipments and earns money for responding to forest fires.
To date there has been limited success in accrediting small-scale sustainable agriculture and forestry initiatives as CDM projects because the transaction costs are too great. The Nhambita community undertakes the sustainable practices described above under contract with Envirotrade, an organisation that brokers the carbon. The carbon credits from this project are independently verified, then purchased by organisations such as the Carbon Neutral Company on behalf of people who want to offset their emissions on a voluntary basis. The sustainable practices adopted by people in Nhambita are estimated to save 90 t CO2 per hectare.
Source: Girling (2005) and Envirotrade31.
Greg Barker MP visited the Nhambita Project on a fact finding visit. Envirotrade’s team in Mozambique were able to show Greg the work we are doing to link poverty alleviation, climate change and conservation. Greg visited the new community school, the trial bio-fuel sites, the community enterprise sites and met leaders of the local community, government officials and farmers who have joined the project. He also visited areas were illegal charcoal production is resulting in considerable deforestation. He plans to draw attention to the plight of community forests in Southern Africa and the threat of deforestation.
In this issue of the London Sunday Times Magazine, Page 46, Richard Girling celebrates one village’s future in Mozambique. Here is an example of how Africa could turn itself around and start to shape a new future.
Envirotrade’s community carbon project in the small community of Nhambita, in the buffer zone of the Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, is breaking the mould. The project targets forest communities and their unsustainable use of forest resources and has introduced new land-use strategies that address poverty and degradation. The 150 000 trees planted and the land on which they grow, are owned by the individuals and the community participating in the project; as is 100% of the additional income from fruit, honey, livestock and cereal crops sold in the local market. Poverty alleviation through the creation of micro-industries is a key component of the project.
A significant percentage of revenue generated through carbon sequestration and CO 2 Trading is invested directly into the community fund and to individual farmers embracing the project and its objectives. A democratically elected local community council decides how the community’s co-operative tree planting and subsequent carbon revenues are spent. In its first year, the community fund is using revenue it earned in 2005 to build a schoolhouse and providing seed capital for micro-enterprises in the community. An innovative mix of private and community participation avoids the pitfalls of the tragedy of the commons.
The project has bought together European Union grant funding, revenue from the sale of CO 2 offsets and private investment successfully to address poverty and environmental degradation. The project is ably supported with scientific research by the University of Edinburgh , carbon management systems designed by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, specialised support from the German GTZ agency and Food For the Hungry. Exhaustive monitoring regimes are in place to monitor progress in poverty alleviation and environmental rehabilitation.
Envirotrade is a business model where the means of production and profit earned remain in the hands of the people who work the land. While Nhambita’s community leaders seek the goodwill and support of National and local Government officials, this is an autonomous community-driven venture. The project is based on the principles of democracy and good governance at a local and micro-level, where personal industry and self-empowerment bring tangible rewards to those who toil.
Please log on to our website, www.envirotrade.co.uk to understand more about the project and the work that is taking place. There is a facility to purchase C02 credits to offset personal CO 2 emissions should you care to do so. If you would like to talk to someone and discuss the project and how you could become more involved, please mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robin Birley – Director
Mozambique is still suffering from the devastation of its civil war. But in one village, the people are paving their way to a healthy future by planting trees
A red rag hangs from a stick. In the dust beneath it lie two unexploded mortars. Nearby, in the roofless shell of what used to be a schoolroom, two men squat by a fire. They’ll be here for three long months, working off the fine they couldn’t pay for poaching warthog. The gate is open but they won’t escape. Three months of forced labour is three months of food and shelter.
Their "prison" is Chitengo camp, headquarters of Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique. It might once have been one of the glories of Africa, but 16 years of civil war murdered it and 600,000 people. Fighting ended in 1992, but the echoes linger. There was never a golden goose to kill, but villagers knew the ancient ways. By hunting and gathering only what they needed, they were masters of "sustainability" long before the rest of us knew what the word meant. War changed all that. Slash-and-burn made firewood for refugees and small fortunes for illegal logging gangs. Shooting the animals provided meat for the rebel and government armies. Elephants in Gorongosa declined from 4,500 to 200, hippos from 4,000 to 62, lions from 300 to 25.
Twelve years on, the logging gangs are still busy, and so are the poachers. A tiled bathroom in an old safari lodge contains a frightening arsenal of confiscated weaponry machetes, knives, bows and arrows tipped with hammered barbed wire; buffalo-size snares; gin traps powered by car springs. Many of the 80 park rangers who are supposed to be working for Gorongosa’s future are also busy in the illegal "bush-meat" trade. The thinking is brutally simple: when you live this close to the margins, today is all that matters. Tomorrow is for someone else.
A little over 20 kilometres from Chitengo is the village of N’hambita. This is Africa as Stanley and Livingstone would have recognised it, the Africa of mud huts and smouldering fires, tribal chiefs, ancestor-worship and witch doctors. The villagers build nothing that cannot be held together with twisted bark, and eat little that does not come from their own clearings (mashambas), the river or the forest. Their regular meal is maize porridge, beefed up with fish, vegetables, baboon or cane rat. Sometimes it comes down even to mice or crickets.
Food deficiencies cause a quarter of the illnesses they suffer, and malaria accounts for most of the rest. Mere survival into adulthood is a triumph. Nationally, average life expectancy is 41 and under 3% of the population is over 65.
It doesn’t look like anyone’s idea of pioneering agriculture. The cultivated clearings are what you’d expect sorghum, maize and cashew sprout from a weedy undergrowth. Down by the river there are bananas and a bit of rice. And yet, if you look carefully, there are surprises. In another clearing, potted tree saplings are lined up by the hundred, as neat as a home-counties garden centre, watered by pump from the river. In another, tidy rows of young vegetables are being trickle-hosed into plumpness. In yet another, carpenters using modern hand tools are making beehives. Anyone with an eye for Africa would ask: what’s going on here?
The answer isn’t straightforward. Unremarkably in a country dependent on aid, the N’hambita community project receives funding from the European Union e1.5m over five years. But this is only part of the story. To fill in the detail, we must visit a very different kind of clearing, 4,000 miles away in central London. Berkeley Square is not everyone’s idea of a charitable hub, but it is here, nevertheless, in Mayfair’s most exclusive, blue-blood nightclub, Annabel’s, that N’hambita finds its twin. Robin Birley, son of the club’s founder, Mark, has a fascination with Africa that began with his youthful admiration for the late John Aspinall, a family friend whose addiction to risk was exceeded only by his passion for dangerous animals. The bond was sealed with Birley’s own blood at the age of 12, when one of Aspinall’s tigers seized him by the head and nearly killed him.
Inevitably the idea is controversial. Birley has set up a private company, Envirotrade, to deal in carbon credits. Put at its simplest, it works like this: under the Kyoto protocol, 39 developed countries must reduce their output of greenhouse gases, most importantly carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere by combustion and removed from it by trees which fix or, in the jargon, "sequester" it from the air. One of the several ways in which the industrial nations can meet their targets is by applying Kyoto’s so-called Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which lets them offset some of their carbon output by buying "credits" from developing countries that are planting trees. That’s the theory. It’s why the villagers of N’hambita are so energetically surrounding their mashambas with new saplings. It’s why researchers from the Institute of Atmospheric and Environmental Science at the University of Edinburgh are such regular visitors, measuring the height and girth of the trees, calculating biomass, growth rates and the absorption of carbon. Their conclusion is unequivocal. New planting at N’hambita will lock away 90 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare a contribution to the global environment for which, according to Kyoto, they are entitled to be rewarded.
But there is a snag. "The problem with CDMs," says Robin Birley, "is that they have to be approved by a board that meets once a month. Not one single forestry project, anywhere in the world, has been approved in the last two or three years. It’s just impossible to cross all the hurdles."
For now, purchasers of N’hambita’s carbon credits will gain no value from them, so buyers must be driven by philanthropy. Fortunately, there are enough of them to keep the project rolling. Future Forests has bought in. So has the Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. Shell in Holland is inviting employees to buy credits to offset the emissions from their cars, and others may follow.
No revolution is being inflicted upon the people of N’hambita. Their ancestral lifestyle remains intact. They live within, and are sustained by, the forest, without machinery, novel crops or artificial fertilisers. They own the land and everything that grows on it (Envirotrade merely brokers the carbon). Sixty per cent of the income from carbon-trading passes directly to the 64 farmers in the scheme, with 20% each going to local administration and Envirotrade. With the project operationally still less than a year old, more than 1,000 people are already benefiting from it, and it is scheduled to grow in the short term at the rate of at least 100 new farmers a year. Thanks to the European money and other charitable aid, a new school is on the way, a health centre is on the horizon and a marketable surplus of produce is no longer an impossible dream. All they need are some donkeys to take it to the road.
The elders are squatting on a patch of beaten earth. Some look hardly more than boys; only one looks genuinely elderly. They stand and clap their hands as I am introduced. I ask one owner, 52-year-old Francisco Samijo, how he cultivates his land. Through the interpreter he replies: "With a plough." When I ask to see it, he runs off and returns with a hoe. Using this, and a bladed tool like a mattock, it takes him 15 days to prepare the ground for planting. Like his neighbours, he now grows sorghum intermixed with pigeon peas a crop that is just about as close as N’hambita gets to high technology. Pigeon peas are nitrogen-fixing plants that enrich the soil, and their leaves make a natural compost to be dug into the earth or laid in planting holes. We shake hands and move on, prodded by Envirotrade’s local project manager, Piet van Zyl, a barrel-chested former South African army officer with twirly whiskers, who looks as if he has just walked out of a first-world-war army-recruitment poster.
He won’t rest until he has marched us around every pigeon pea, every papaya, mulberry, mango and row of carrots in the village. He wants to be sure we’ve understood. Better use of existing mashambas, and reafforestation of old ones, means a total end to slash-and-burn. Nothing will be wasted. The river bank will be reinforced with new planting, terraces stiffened with "vegetable grass" against erosion. Villagers will grow their own vegetables and fruit; in time they will apply for a logging licence and produce sustainable timber.
Van Zyl’s own house is a virtuoso demonstration of imagination and thrift. Built from bamboo panels supported by a growing tree and tied with twisted bark, it contains kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom, and a fully fitted schoolroom in which his wife, Ria, teaches their four children. Somehow, out of bits of tube and plastic, he has even made urinals. Yet, for all his briskness, there is a core of sensitivity, a recognition, fiercely expressed, that the pace cannot be forced; that the impetus for change must come from the people themselves; that the true measure of success will come on the day he is no longer needed.
At the next mashamba, the young farmer, Paulito Tique, looks barely out of his teens but says he is 24. His three children share a breakfast of bananas beneath mango trees planted by their great-grandfather. Paulito is easily recognisable around the village, bright as a kingfisher in a royal-blue T-shirt that bears the image of David Beckham, plus the words "Hit Man" and the number 23. To an outsider, it is the only clue to the century we are in: lives here are still made of mud and water. We spot also Elvis Presley, Luis Figo and, twinned on one young mother’s wraparound capulana, George Bush and Osama Bin Laden.
Paulito’s yard, with its sleeping hut and kitchen, is as neat as the dust makes possible. There is no rubbish; nothing without purpose; and his chickens and goats enjoy the shade of a bamboo shelter. The goats are tethered, apparently for their own safety. According to van Zyl’s deputy, Gary Goss, if they graze too early they risk swallowing poisonous slugs.
The third most senior man in the village, and probably its oldest, is Florindo Chondze, aged 80-plus, who has outlived all but two of his own children. He shows how he preserves maize by smoking it over the fire; how he pounds it in a hollowed tree trunk. All the time he flits like a bird, small-boned and wiry, his voice a soft, hypnotic chant. Birley has brought him a gift of Viagra international aid for a grandfather who has taken a new young wife. The irony is that Florindo himself is a medical man, a herbalist to whom people bring "problems with spirits". Truth dawns: he is the witch doctor.
People don’t come to him much now.
Though it is almost nonexistent locally, the value of modern medicine is becoming understood, and the project holds out the hope of a medical centre. Other characters emerge: Paolo Sozinho Viage, known as Papaya Man, is chairman of the village management committee. His sobriquet was earned through his enterprise in producing the community’s first cash crop, though his trees are now too old to yield commercially and he must plant anew. He remains a persuasive advocate of the project: "The advantages can be seen on the ground. We have fruit trees that eventually will produce to our benefit. It is helping people when they get sick. They have transport available to take them to hospital. It creates employment that generates income to each person."
His land, too, is a testament of faith. He has cut a broad firebreak to protect his five acres from the most devastating of all the jungle’s hazards; planted new hardwoods and nitrogen-fixing trees whose coppicing will fuel his fire and whose greenery will feed the soil.
A dominant, noisy and opinionated personality to whom silence is as alien as socks, he is exactly the kind of messianic proselytiser who compels others to follow his example if only to shut him up.
One of the few to exceed Viage’s influence is the hereditary chief, or regulo, Maneca Chicale, a sad-faced, taciturn man in a biscuit-coloured jumper who receives us formally and brings out little wooden benches for us to sit on. Within the area of his chiefdom, which extends far beyond the village, live 6,800 people. Only a small proportion are directly involved in the project, but the aim is to build on the example and gradually draw in the others. The regulo’s own planting of native hardwoods, and the nitrogen-fixing plants among his crops, testify to the strength of his conviction. He leads by example.
Sixty children, aged 6 to 15, currently attend the bamboo-and-thatch village classroom. A new building, for which sand and stones have already been gathered, will be put up in the next couple of months. A new teacher, Zacarias, instructs the children in Portuguese, maths, drawing, science (which seems to mean nature study), history and physical exercise. An unmarked, thorny patch of beaten earth serves as a football pitch where they play barefoot between goals made of branches and bamboo. Theoretically, the children could move on from here to a secondary school in a provincial town, but none ever does. By 14 the boys have work to do and the girls are looking for husbands. It will take a mighty leap of faith by outside investors if the chief is to realise his ambition of seeing them all in paid employment.
Next morning the regulo emerges in different colours. He is the connective tissue between government and tribal authority, and the government has given him a ceremonial uniform appropriate to his status. Amid the crowd of jostling villagers, he stands out like a visiting head of state. It is a uniform day because we are having a party. Birley has paid for the slaughter of three goats for a feast. Beneath the thatch we squat in the dust, clink our bottles and drink.
By three in the afternoon the ground in front of the schoolroom is heaving with people. Young men play football. Musicians from another village, Mbualua, have been performing since mid-morning and will go on until dawn next day. Young women with babies on their backs dance and sing, and the village gets its goats.
Big helpings of protein are rare. The ancient practice of hunting has a new name now "poaching" and there is little room for livestock. Authority may turn a blind eye to the killing of baboon (there are thousands) but cracks down on anyone caught with a warthog or anything bigger.
Yet there is a real prospect of meat in future. Footings are going down for a dry-stone enclosure in which, for the first time, the village will communally breed animals for the pot. This is typical of the way the project works. Wild-caught cane rat is commonly eaten, so captive breeding will not alter the traditional lifestyle, only make it easier. The huge platefuls of rice and goat seem to throw the children into confusion, as if they have no idea what to do with so much food (what they actually do is hand it to their parents, who bag it up to take home).
Courtesy of Birley, crates of beer are dragged out, occasioning scuffles into which van Zyl steps like a referee. Old and young alike emerge dustily from the scrum, flourishing their trophies. One old man, dangerously drunk, capers in a tree. Another, toothless, persuades a boy to bite the crown cap off his beer. They are living for the day; eating, drinking, dancing, baby-making... one might be tempted to say "like there’s no tomorrow". But there is. As I walk away through the bush, I can see it: new trees growing, healthy crops, beehives, the cane-rat enclosure, the pottery, the carpenters’ workshop. Best of all, sitting quietly alone, head bent over his books, the schoolmaster Zacarias is planning the next day’s lesson.
The private American organisation, the Gregory C. Carr Foundation, which works on the preservation of natural resources, has pledged support of 500,000 US dollars for the Gorongosa National Park, in the central Mozambican province of Sofala, reports Thursday’s issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".To that end, Gregory Carr, the chairperson of the foundation, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Mozambican Tourism Ministry on Monday.The money is meant for the rehabilitation and operations of the park, focusing on development and natural resource conservation programmes.The idea is to improve the park’s management system, including also biodiversity and community management programmes, inventory of the existing resources, scientific research, and economic and market studies.The document, valid for the next 12 months, also predicts ecological monitoring, and the creation of a data bank.According to the document, the Tourism Ministry will see to it that resources within the park are used in a profitable and sustainable manner, to promote the participation and funding by different stakeholders in the protected areas, and also mobilise government resources for staff training.Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana, who signed the document on behalf of the government, said that implementing the projects covered by the agreement will lead to a second, longer term stage, to relaunch a wide range of activities in the Park, which suffered enormous losses during the war of destabilisation.He said that the park has been recording a growing number of visitors, both national and foreigners, and it is hoped that these numbers will increase as the projects are implemented.On the other hand, the Carr Foundation will contribute with technical assistance, restocking in various species, a biological inventory, and research and monitoring of species.The foundation also is to support in the rehabilitation of the infrastructures, access routes, water sources, and communication systems. The organization also promised to continuously provide the government with up-to-date information on the running of the various programmes and how the available funds are being used.Speaking after the signing ceremony, Carr expressed satisfaction and pride at being able to lend a hand in the restoration of what he described as one of the world’s most important conservation areas.
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