Tsavo region is known for its dry spells. It is no easy place for people and cattle to survive or make a living.
One day, an American businessman who came to do a safari in Kenya fell in love with its wildlife but noticed the difficulties the communities around the wildlife sanctuaries faced. He set up Wildlife Works and in 2011 their Kasigau Corridor Project became the first Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) project in the world to be validated and verified by two standardizing bodies—the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. Together, the two standards evaluate every aspect of the project, including how you calculate your carbon emission reductions, as well as whether the benefit-sharing to communities is fair and equitable. Wildlife Works developed a methodology for the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project to measure carbon in a dryland forest as opposed to a tropical rainforest.
“It was not an easy road to start with,” says Cara Braund, Conservation Manager for Wildlife Works. “But we had the building blocks for what it takes to qualify for a REDD+ project. We could prove clear ownership with the landowners (secure land tenure), we had clear threats (the drivers of deforestation such as slash and burn agriculture, and drivers of forest degradation such as logging and charcoal production). We also had pre-existing community relationships to build on. So we work with these communities to provide alternative livelihoods.”
Alternative livelihoods to drive behaviour change
Wildlife Works established the project design document and a framework for income generating activities. They used free prior and informed consent to involve the landowners and the communities—a total of about 100,000 people that benefit. No one should be negatively affected by the project and there is a grievance process in place.
The landowners have to take care of the trees and are not allowed to let any logging, overgrazing or charcoal production happen within the project area.
The project provides various alternative livelihood trainings such as soap production, clothing manufacturing, basket making, climate smart agriculture (how to graft trees, how to propagate seedlings, drip irrigation, vertical farming and environmentally friendly pest control such as using aloe vera, chili, neem or tobacco leaves), how to set up conservancies that attract tourists, etc. They have about 350 members of staff, of which just over a hundred are rangers to conserve the forest and wildlife. Some of these are former poachers or charcoal burners who had a change of mentality.
A great source of carbon credits
The Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project currently generates up to 1,800,000 verified carbon units, otherwise known as carbon credits or tonnes, a year, the larger of the two REDD+ projects in Kenya. They sell their verified carbon units on the voluntary market where individuals or corporations such as BNP Paribas and the International Finance Corporation purchase them to offset their footprint. In 2020, they will become part of the compliance market, which should boost sales.
To share the benefits from the carbon credit sales, one third of the revenue goes to the landowners, Wildlife Works runs the project’s operating costs, and the profit is then split 50/50 between the communities and the project investors. The communities decide via community committees on how they would like to spend the income they get from the sales of carbon credits: on trainings, health projects or education (school buildings or bursaries). Each committee has at least two women and two youth on them to guarantee diversity.
“Successful REDD+ projects like the Kasigau Corridor are important to demonstrate that forest and wildlife protection can have big community benefits. Increasing tree cover and working with nature on farms is the way forward if we are to stem the climate crisis and preserve biodiversity,” says Tim Christophersen, head of the UN Environment Programme’s Freshwater, Land and Climate Branch.
The project, which has benefitted from the overall advance in knowledge on REDD+ and the broad acceptance across Kenya that the UN-REDD National Programme helped to establish, has a 30-year lifespan, and with almost ten years completed there are more than twenty years to go. The project aims to sustainably develop with the landowners and communities so that they have enough alternative livelihoods and skills to provide for themselves and have no need to turn to the forest to make money by illegal logging, charcoal production or poaching.