Gorongosa Community Carbon sub-Project

The Gorongosa Community Carbon sub-Project was established in 2002 as the Nhambita Community Carbon Project, and is the principal operating component of Envirotrade’s Sofala Community Carbon Project.

The fighting that took place around Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique during the country’s 16 year civil war took a terrible toll on both the forests and the communities that had taken refuge in the forests. After the war ended in 1992, those communities continued to suffer. The agriculture had virtually collapsed; there was little or no access to medical help, education, employment, capital or markets. Food shortages accelerated the spread of disease and malnutrition.

Envirotrade joined up with the European Commission, the University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management to help rebuild the local economy by establishing environmentally responsible farming and food production in a pilot 35,000 hectare area in the buffer zone around the park. Land-use change in the buffer zone of the protected area takes pressure off threatened natural resources and assists the rehabilitation of the park. The project works with communities to rehabilitate the forests on their land and introduce new, sustainable farming practices, such as planting new crops alongside nitrogen-fixing trees. These new practices have had a dramatic effect on the yields of cash crops such as cashews and fruits, and now provide healthy livelihoods for well over 1,000 families. Hundreds of other farmers have become the contracted guardians of new forests using the Plan Vivo system and receive an income from the sale of carbon offsets by Envirotrade.

Carbon finance has brought food security and economic development to this area on an unprecedented scale. The reforestation of communal lands has helped to raise money for community projects such as schools and other businesses, such as honey production, poultry farming and furniture-making, have established themselves with the support of carbon sales and grant aid from the European Commission. Lives and land have been transformed. Now, having brought about the rehabilitation and management of 35,000 hectares of community forest, the Envirotrade model is being adopted by communities in three other parts of the Gorongosa buffer zone beyond the original Nhambita community.

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 Mozambique in the form of contracted payments to farmers and community activities and payment for project expenses. For the Sofala Community Carbon Project, 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 Envirotrade’s founder. No party, other than the local farmers and other members of the Sofala community, has received any financial return at all from the Sofala Community Carbon Project since its inception.

Project reviews

The Sofala Community Carbon Project has since its inception undergone a number of on-site due diligence reviews and audits 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. We believe that the scientific research conducted by the University of Edinburgh, the technical support rendered by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, the independent reviews conducted by various academics and consultants and the ongoing certification of the project by the Plan Vivo Foundation 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 carbon offset sales to-date have been the participating farmers and the community associations, for whom the money is providing a transformation.

The Sofala Community Carbon Project successfully completed all requirements for the European Commission grant which partially supported the project from 2003 to 2008. Following two end-of-grant reviews (a desk review and an onsite audit), the final grant payment was made to the University of Edinburgh (as the principal grant recipient) and Envirotrade in mid-2010.

Most recently, the Sofala Community Carbon Project was validated by the Rainforest Alliance for the second edition of the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) standard at the Gold level in all three evaluation areas of climate, community and biodiversity. The project is the first anywhere to demonstrate ‘exceptional benefits’ in all three evaluation areas, thereby achieving this ‘CCBA triple Gold’ status. To read the Rainforest Alliance CCBA validation report, click here (1MB PDF).

Obligations and responsibilities

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. Certification is based on a reporting process and inspections of the project against the recognised Plan Vivo third-party standard, which was developed with the support of the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

By its very nature, a project like the Sofala 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 project calculations and other projections are conservative and reflect the inherent risks involved. We believe the purchasers of carbon offsets generated by the project are all aware of these inherent characteristics.

You can find various reports on the Carbon Livelihoods projects in our Resources