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Posts Tagged ‘carbon credit’

Photo: Roshni Lodhia/Carbon Tanzania.
Hadza scout Ezekiel Phillipo overlooking Tanzania’s Yaeda Valley.

With a “carbon offset,” polluters pay to reduce or remove emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in one place in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. Even individuals may pursue offsets: for example, because their airplane travel increases global warming. My friend sends money to tree-planting organizations when she flies. Corporations do this on a larger scale. But offsets are an imperfect tool.

Fred Pearce writes at YaleEnvironment360, “Carbon offsets have been criticized for failing to provide carbon savings and ignoring the needs of local communities. But in Tanzania, hunter-gatherer tribes are earning a good return for their carbon credits and protecting their forests from poachers and encroaching agriculture.

“Deep in the Rift Valley of East Africa,” he continues, “close to some of the most ancient human remains ever unearthed, one of the continent’s last hunter-gatherer tribes is embracing 21st -century environmentalism. The Hadza people, often called ‘the last archers of Africa,’ are selling carbon credits generated from conserving their forests and using the revenues to employ their youths as scouts to keep forest destroyers away.

“Starting this March, some 1,300 Hadza and members of the cattle-herding tribes with whom they share the Yaeda Valley of northern Tanzania, began receiving the first payments of what will be nearly half a million dollars annually from a local social enterprise, Carbon Tanzania, for protecting woodland hunting and grazing grounds across an area larger than New York City.

“The project will radically extend an existing decade-old carbon-offsetting initiative on Hadza land north to the edge of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, one of Africa’s most iconic wildlife havens. But, unlike the Ngorongoro reserve, which was in part created by expelling local people, this project will embrace the skills of the hunting Hadza as custodians of the forests. …

“The locals are enthusiastic. They say the existing project helps them push back against outsiders keen to grab land for farming.

‘We are seeing a steady increase of some animal species like elephants passing through and in forest growth compared to the beginning,’ says Christopher Shija, a scout recruited from Jobaj village.

“Moshi Isa, another scout who is from Mongo wa Mono village, notes, ‘The carbon project has strengthened our rights. And increased forest density is sustaining our hunting and gathering life.’

“Foreign experts familiar with the checkered history of carbon offsetting agree. Carbon offset projects based on forest conservation are often criticized for failing to provide real carbon savings and simply shifting deforestation elsewhere; for riding roughshod over local forest communities; and for allowing Western companies to put off cutting their emissions.

“In Tanzania, most such projects have been ‘largely unconcerned’ with the wellbeing of the local communities whose lands host them, according to Sebastién Jodoin, an environmental and land-rights lawyer from McGill University in Montreal. But of those he analyzed, the Yaeda Valley project was ‘the sole and important exception … designed and implemented in a manner that recognized the traditional rights and knowledge held by Indigenous Peoples.’

“Without the projects, ‘the Hadza would really be on the brink. With it, they are in a more secure position than they have been for decades,’ says Fred Nelson, CEO of Maliasili, an organization that supports community conservation projects across Africa. It is ‘probably the best such project in Africa.’

“The Hadza have lived in northern Tanzania for at least 40,000 years. Their ancient ways of living off the land have become a magnet for researchers ranging from anthropologists to those studying healthy eating. Linguists are intrigued by their ‘click’ language, which is spoken nowhere else.

“Their land is a patchwork of wet grasslands and craggy hills covered in acacia and water-holding baobab trees. It harbors leopards, lions, gazelles, giraffes, antelopes, wild dogs, and Cape buffalo. The Hadza harvest wild fruits, tubers, honey, natural medicines, and bush meat, says Mosh. …

“But these territories have long been under threat. The Hadza have lost more than three-quarters of their traditional lands in the past half-century. Pastoralists bring their livestock onto the grasslands, especially in the dry season, and farmers clear forests to plow.

“ ‘Shifting agriculture is the primary driver of deforestation in the region, as in much of Tanzania,’ says Jo Anderson, the co-founder and director of Carbon Tanzania. …

“In the past, invasions have often been officially encouraged, says Anderson. Both in British colonial times and since the country’s independence in 1961, the nomadic ways of the Hadza were regarded by urban elites as an embarrassing cultural leftover. In the 1970s, they were subjected to a national policy of enforced settlement known as ‘villagization.’ In 2007, the government announced plans to lease most of the Yaeda Valley to a hunting safari company from the United Arab Emirates.

“But the tide has turned. Unexpected heroes in the story have been three American brothers — Daudi, Mike, and Thad Peterson. Raised in Tanzania, they had operated an early ecotourism business, Dorobo Safaris, before, in the 1990s, setting up and funding the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), an NGO helping villagers and Indigenous groups using Tanzanian land laws to secure legal title to their territories.

“The UCRT’s Indigenous activists successfully campaigned against the planned Arab takeover of the Yaeda Valley. And in 2011 they secured title to about 50,000 acres, later expanded to 84,000 acres, of the Hadza’s ancestral lands, giving them the legal right to rebuff encroachers.

“The rights also brought responsibilities, and the UCRT then helped the Hadza, in consort with their pastoralist neighbors, to draw up land-use plans required by the Tanzanian government as a condition of title, zoning the territories for farms, housing, pastures, meeting grounds, cattle enclosures, water collection, and hunting grounds and setting aside some lands for nature. …

“Along the way, the UCRT’s work attracted a young British volunteer, Jo Anderson, who proposed helping the Hadza earn money from their newly acquired land rights by protecting the forests from invaders and selling the resulting carbon credits.” 

At YaleEnvironment360, here, read more on how the initiative evolved. No firewall.

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Small tree farms are now eligible to sell carbon credits, which can supplement or even replace logging income. But to many owners, getting into the market looks pretty daunting. In a recent article in the New York Times, Erica Goode explains how the obstacles can be overcome.

“Lately, [Eve] Lonnquist, 59 and recently retired, has been thinking about the future of her family’s land. Like many small-forest owners, they draw some income from logging and would like to keep doing so. But they would also like to see the forest, with its stands of Douglas fir, alder and cherry, protected from clear-cutting or being sold off to developers.

“ ‘For us, the property is our family’s history,’ she said.

“More than half of the 751 million acres of forestland in the United States are privately owned, most by people like Ms. Lonnquist, with holdings of 1,000 acres or less. These family forests, environmental groups argue, represent a large, untapped resource for combating the effects of climate change.

“Conserving the trees and profiting from them might seem incompatible. But Ms. Lonnquist is hoping to do both by capitalizing on the forest’s ability to clean the air, turning the carbon stored in the forest into credits that can then be sold to polluters who want or need to offset their carbon footprints.

“ ‘Trees are the No. 1 way in which carbon can be removed from the atmosphere and stored in vegetation over the long term,’ said Brian Kittler, the western regional office director for the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, which has a program in Oregon to help the owners of family forests develop potentially profitable carbon projects. …

“The carbon credits from Ms. Lonnquist’s forest could bring an estimated $235,000 over the first six years, and about $6,000 a year after that, said Kyle Holland, the managing director of Ecological Carbon Offset Partners, a California firm that helps small-forest owners enter the carbon markets. …

“Recent developments in forestry may help make the prospect more appealing by lowering the initial costs to landholders. Mr. Holland’s company, for example, has developed a digital tool — a smartphone equipped with a laser to measure distance and an inclinometer to measure height — that he believes will greatly reduce the expense of conducting a forest inventory, which typically costs $40,000 to $100,000 or more, depending about the amount of land.

“With the specialized smartphone, landholders can take an inventory themselves, photographing and measuring the diameters and heights of their trees. The photos and data are sent to the company’s office in California, where an expert forester goes through the images, identifying the species and checking for damage to the branches or crowns, among other things. Probability models are used to calculate the amount of carbon stored in the forest.”

Hmmm. I wonder if this smartphone app could also be used by towns like Arlington, where John and other volunteers are conducting a tree inventory, not for selling carbon credits but for beautification plans.

More at the New York Timeshere.

Photo: American Forest Foundation

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