Zimbabwe: Kariba REDD+

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The Challenge

The lack of labour opportunities in the struggling economy of Zimbabwe, as well as population growth, has led to an increase of unsustainable small-scale agriculture in infertile areas. This has caused forest degradation and impacted strongly on native ecosystems. Furthermore, Zimbabwe has one of the world’s lowest Human Development Index scores and has suffered from war and civil unrest. 

With communities clearing ever more land for farming and fuel wood, more than 3% of Northern Zimbabwe’s forest cover has been lost per year. In fact, Zimbabwe has lost more than two thirds of its native forests. In order to address deforestation, hunger and poverty alleviation must also be tackled by creating economically viable, healthy, sustainable and empowered communities. 

Project Aims

The overall aim of the Kariba REDD+ project is to create opportunities and income for local communities by assigning more financial value to forests and wildlife when healthy and thriving, rather than illegally logged or cut down, thereby protecting around 785,000 hectares of forest and wildlife on the southern shores of Lake Kariba.

NB: REDD stands for ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation’. The + signifies ‘Conservation & Sustainable Development’.

Specific objectives are as follows:

  • Develop sustainable livelihoods without ecosystem degradation
  • Conservation of local biodiversity
  • Improve water, education and health provision

How it Works

This community-based Kariba REDD+ project is administered by the local communities of four Rural Districts: Binga, Nyaminyami, Hurungwe and Mbire.

A range of sustainable activities proposed by local communities have been implemented in order to conserve the critical biodiversity hotspots of Miombo & Mopane forests, while ensuring substantial contributions to climate change mitigation and adaptation. These include:

  • Conservation farming using techniques such as mulching and organic manure which increase the agricultural output and reduce the need for rotational agriculture, thereby reducing deforestation and increasing food security. 
  • Community gardens established close to nearby boreholes to increase agricultural production and provide nutrition and food security during dry months. Equally, reducing pressure on forests from the expansion of subsistence farming. The project currently has 11 community gardens with a total of 280 members.
  • Beekeeping which adds value to standing forests and enables locals to generate an income from a source that does not cause deforestation. 
  • Tree planting creating further sources for fuel wood, wood for tobacco curing and general household purposes which reduces the pressure on the forest. Moringa oleifera is planted as a cash-crop. To date, more than 3,300 Moringa trees have been planted.
  • Fire management through firefighting training workshops, awareness meetings and road maintenance resulting in habitat preservation and biomass increase due to a decreased cases of forest fires. 
  • Borehole resuscitation and maintenance which is of valuable benefit to the communities as safe drinking water can be considered as the very essence of life. Each borehole impacts more than 250 people and, to date, more than 65 boreholes have been resuscitated. 
  • Anti-poaching patrols ensuring security for the wildlife in the area and has resulted in dozens of poachers being arrested and thousands of illegal wire snare traps removed per year.

Further revenue generated thanks to a carbon-offsetting programme which has prevented over 18.1 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere through reduced deforestation alone. By purchasing carbon credits through the Kariba project, companies can offset their emissions with the knowledge that they are not only helping the environment but also changing lives for the better.

A share of the project’s carbon income is channelled through the project’s Community and Project Sustainability Fund to benefit whole communities through improved health and education in the project area. 

Place & People

This project in based on the southern shores of Lake Kariba, a man-made dam in Northern Zimbabwe. The project connects four National Parks and eight wildlife reserves to form a giant biodiversity corridor in Northern Zimbabwe that is protecting expansive rainforest and numerous vulnerable and endangered species. 

Located in the Rural District Council (RDCs) in Northern Zimbabwe, the Kariba REDD+ project site stretches over more than 1,000,000 hectares, including 786,000 hectares of forest land and 250,000 hectares of community agricultural land. 

Thanks to its outstanding biodiversity and climate change adaptation benefits, the project has been registered and verified by the Verified Carbon Standards (VCS) and the CCB Standards at Gold Level, the highest level of accreditation.

The project area is home to 200,000 people most of whom belong to either the Tonga or Shona ethnic group. Traditionally, the Tonga tribe cultivate gardens in the fertile banks of the river, and many lost their land along the shores of the Zambezi River when Lake Kariba flooded. The Shona traditionally farm pastures and engage in agricultural activities.  

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The Zurich-based South Pole began as a project-driven company focused on developing and selling high-quality carbon credits. South Pole help public and private sector organisations develop climate proven policies and strategies. The company operates across four key business lines of carbon credit solutions, renewable energy, sustainability advisory and green finance. Areas of expertise cover forests & land use, water, sustainable cities & buildings, as well as renewable energy and climate impact assessment for investments.