NYANGA — Local conservationist and forester Gift Hare (56) from Nyatondo village — on the foothills of Mount Nyangani in the eastern Highlands — is considering giving up managing forests.
BY TONDERAYI MATONHO
He says he has been waiting for ages for promised returns by private sector players and non-governmental organisations from protecting forests and woodlands.
Another farmer, Moses Mutale from Nyaminyami in Kariba, said: “Redd+ implementers need to be transparent in the signing of contracts with communities and assist them with responsive community-driven alternative livelihood projects, and save the remaining forests and woodlands.”
While such communities continue to lament, especially those living in densely-forested zones conducive for Redd+ projects, investigations have revealed that some private companies and non-governmental organisations continue to reap millions of dollars from the “green gold” while communities are benefiting nothing.
A senior official in the Environment, Water and Climate ministry Washington Zhakata last week told delegates to the UNFCCC COP 20 report back meeting of the Lima Conference held last December, that despite the hype given to the Redd+ project, rural district councils (RDCs) could get as little as $50 000 while an investor in the project walks away with millions of dollars.
“Rural district councils can enter into agreements with private players ill-informed of the deals involved and this leaves them vulnerable to investors who can easily take advantage of their ignorance, making false promises while reaping millions and paying back the RDCs as little as $50 000, for example,” said Zhakata, adding that REDD+ funds could be accessed through bilateral donors.
Environment Africa regional director Barney Mawire said RDCs were still in the dark about Redd+ and there was need to engage them in intensive education and trainings on the Redd+ issues, otherwise they remained vulnerable to investors.
A private company official involved in Redd+ through the Kariba Redd+ Project admitted that the project so far had several challenges.
“Although we are gaining substantially, there is uncertainty on the long-term demand for Redd+ credits, lack of regulatory and policy frameworks for Redd+ in Zimbabwe,” he said.
The Nyaminyami council has highlighted important capacity gaps to understanding what Redd+ entails. Although they have signed a contract to engage in the Kariba Redd+ Project, “they feel they do not fully understand Redd+ issues and processes because there is no national mechanism to address capacity gaps”, according to a senior official at the district office.
Forestry Commission Zimbabwe deputy manager training and research and the Redd+ national point person Chemist Gumbie confirmed on the sidelines of the COP 20 meeting last week that there was no Redd+ roadmap so far, but this was expected around mid-year.
Nyanga council chief executive officer Zephenia Jaravaza professed ignorance of Redd+ in a recent interview and said if given the opportunity for any such development partnerships, the council would be ready to engage.
According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Redd+ is an international project standing for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forestry Degradation and draws on the emerging payments for ecosystems services (PES).
PES approaches are a new way of financing natural resource management and conservation by local authorities and communities.
The benefits will depend not only on the overall level of investment, but also on the nature of the projects and the extent to which they generate spill-overs such as finance and learning within local communities.
A recent Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) report alleged that “rural district councils were taking the lion’s share of the benefits from Redd+ projects through corrupt practices by benefiting from carbon credits while local communities benefit nothing”.
The TIZ report revealed that Redd+ projects involved exchange of huge amounts of money in the sale of carbon credits. Experts in the report noted that Zimbabwe had been ranked 154 out of 179 most corrupt countries and there was no way this sector could be immune from corruption.
“Communities need to develop through managing their forests and woodlands surrounding them, said Women and Resources in Eastern and Southern Africa director Abbie Mugugu-Mhene.
Community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) experts argue that the Redd+ concept and its voluntary carbon markets contain foreign practices and has much to learn from the CBNRM concept popularised by the home-grown communal areas management programme for indigenous resources (CAMPFIRE) projects two or so decades ago.
Cecil Machena, leading the CBNRM forum said flourishing rural communities across Africa would sustainably manage their land and natural resources only when Redd+ projects prioritised local interests, agency and capacity.
“Rural communities need, therefore, to derive meaningful benefits from the envisioned national Redd+ programme,” said Joseph Tasosa, executive director of the Zimbabwe National Environment Trust.
Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia are reported to be “active” in Redd+
These countries, say experts can provide valuable lessons for Zimbabwe on the process and institutional arrangements to develop
an effective national Redd+ roadmap.