Due to deforestation and land degradation, Zambia ranks among the world’s top 20 greenhouse gas emitters. The use of charcoal, rampant logging, the expansion of small-scale farming, unsustainable agricultural practices and open-fire cooking all contribute to the problem. In 2018, the Peace Parks Foundation asked Commonland to develop a carbon credits program that would inspire people to move from open-fire cooking to energy-efficient cookstoves. The pilot program amongst the Simahala community proved to be a success. With a scale-up in the works, the goal is to expand the carbon project across the Simahala community.
Peace Parks Foundation chose to run a pilot project with the Simahala Community Conservancy (SCC). The SCC is a trust formed by the Barotse Royal Establishment and the Chundu Royal Establishment and created to link game reserves with social-economic opportunities for local populations in the region. The SCC already offers numerous positive impact initiatives, such as eco-tourism, sustainable agriculture and forestry, fisheries and livestock and the use of natural resources, as well as programs focused on renewing awareness and indigenous knowledge around wildlife, plants and ecosystems. The ‘Trees to the People’ program was designed to monetise and accelerate many of these existing ideas and initiatives already in place.
The first ‘Trees for the People’ initiative focused on halting deforestation by providing local households with more efficient cookstoves – stoves that reduce wood consumption by 65%, greenhouse gasses by 80% and boost health significantly due to less smoke inhalation. At the same time, the stoves reduce the time needed to gather wood so that (young) Simahala women have more time for education and growing food.
Under the ‘Trees for the People’ program, the cookstoves also produce immediate carbon credits for the community. The credits flow into the SCC Trust and finance reforestation projects and other relevant community projects. Each stove produces four carbon credits per year.
Moving forward, the scale-up aims to distribute 10,000 stoves amongst Simahala households. The program also aims to create 100 jobs for stove distribution and data collection, which is important in a region with high unemployment.
Over the next 20 years, the ‘Trees for the people’ program will lead to significant reforestation in the Simahala area. While logs are no longer needed, twigs are. Complementing the program then is the widescale planting of fast-growing trees purely for fuel purposes. These trees are grown next to the paddocks and also provide shade for crops and provide organic soil regeneration.