Redd access still a tall order for local communities

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Deforestation and forest degradation are the second leading causes of global warming

By TONDERAYI MATONHO
ACCESSING carbon market finance through Redd still appears to be a tall order for many Zimbabwean communities involved in forests and woodlands management because of the seemingly demanding conditions.

Redd is the acronym for Reducing Deforestation and Land Degradation.

On the fringes of Sedze village, in the intense heat, communities here along this dusty popular “Bhinya Road”, are just as anxious to start implementing their pilot Redd project, generate and sell their carbon credits to promote local development through natural resource management.

Local conservationist and forester, Itai Nyamaropa from Nyatondo village, is one of them. Growing indigenous tree nurseries and managing local forests on the foot-hills of the Nyangani Mountain Range, Nyamaropa just loves trees and nature.

With the one-hectare plot of exotic and indigenous fruit trees and regenerating dense forests covering this side of the Nyangani Mountain Range, through afforestation programmes supported by donor agencies, he and many of his fellow villagers, dream of the day they will be beneficiaries of this climate-change-linked ‘emerging programme’.

Experts agree that though still in the climate change debate today in terms of its modus operandi; its basic concept is simple: governments, public, private companies and communities should be rewarded equitably for protecting their forests and storing carbon instead of cutting them down.

“The carbon market, captured in Article 5 of the agreement [Paris], to conserve forests in order to reduce greenhouse gases emitted through deforestation and as a mechanism to store carbon, is gradually growing steadily in Zimbabwe”, Enos Shumba, director of WWF-Zimbabwe, said.

“WWF is spearheading local strategic initiatives of developing a roadmap for piloting Redd in Ngamo and Sikumi gazetted forests within the Hwange-Sanyati Biodiveristy Corridor in the Matabeleland North province”, he noted.

Ngamo and Sikumi protected forests were gazetted in the 1940s under the then Forestry Act and are the pilot Redd programmes under WWF. They are largely predicated from existing community-based natural resources management programmes and around the role of market-based financial incentives for land use and management.

“Redd is based on the principle of developed countries making payments to developing, forest-rich countries to conserve their forests in order to reduce GHGs emitted through deforestation and as a mechanism to store carbon”, said Kalale Fobissie, a climate change consultant based in Canada.

“Without monitorable and enforceable safeguards, strict controls and regulations, REDD could prove to be another ‘resource curse’, providing  a vast pool of unaccountable money, the same way that revenues from oil, gold, diamonds and other mineral reserves have fuelled corruption and bad governance in many African countries”, Fobisse warned.

However, the difference is that forests will remain standing, storing carbon, whereas minerals will just disappear without being renewed, but having enriched greedy political elites.

“Globally, Redd funds are even now available in billions, but countries have to get organized to access the funds through effective and functional national coalitions of government, civil society and local donor partners.

“Without such coalitions, Redd funds will appear difficult to access for communities as global partners with funds need unity of purpose and focus between national players and these might seem demanding conditions for many countries in Africa with bad governance systems,” said Fobisse, speaking on emerging opportunities for Redd.

Another expert on climate change and Redd, Chemist Gumbie, said: “For other local communities elsewhere, there is need to draw valuable lessons and experiences from existing good practices such as the Kariba Redd project, especially around the role of financial incentives for land-use and management at local level.”

According to experts, the cost of Redd has been estimated at US$55 billion per annum. In addition to the climate mitigation goals of Redd, there is growing and widespread understanding that in some countries, Redd will not be successful without addressing additional goals such as health, education and biodiversity conservation.

Deforestation and forest degradation are the second leading causes of global warming, accounting for 17,4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, experts note that with 16,7% of the world’s forest cover lying in Africa and deforestation rates on the continent being four times the global average, the region is of critical importance for forest-based mitigation efforts.

According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), over the last decade, successive climate change talks have established that the world market is attracted to the Redd project type, which has a potential for poverty alleviation and ensuring payment for ecosystems services.

As a result, Redd projects have been booming on the continent, with financial assistance coming from multiple sources.

However, CSE notes that there are some apprehensions as well — misgovernance of Redd projects might backfire, leading to alienation of communities and land grab.

In addition, there are also arguments that Redd is emerging as a new form of colonialism and economic subjugation. Vast tracts of Africa are being labelled ‘unused’, ‘degraded’ or in need of ‘conservation’, ‘afforestation’ or ‘reforestation’, to justify the advent of what is being referred by many as carbon colonialism.

Therefore, the current status of Redd initiatives in Africa, Zimbabwe included and their impact on local communities and committed conservationists like Nyamaropa, still exist to stand the test of time.

This story was produced under the WAN-IFRA Media Freedom African Media Grants initiative