Envirotrade’s Sofala Community Carbon Project is located in the buffer zones around Gorongosa and Marromeu National Parks in the central Sofala province of Mozambique. Mozambique, in sub-Saharan East Africa, is amongst the poorest countries in the world, ranked 184th of 187 countries in the UNDP’s 2011 Human Development Index. Its 16-year civil war, which ended in 1992, left it one of the poorest countries in the world, cost the lives of an estimated 1 million of its citizens, and resulted in significant environmental degradation. To address these difficult challenges, the Sofala project was started as a pilot in 2002 by Envirotrade, the University of Edinburgh, and the European Union with 53 farmers in the wards of N’hambita and Munhanganha.
Community and Economic Impacts
Overall, almost 70% of the Sofala project’s fiscal 2011 expenditures were earnings generated by local farmers and locally-employed Mozambicans working for Envirotrade. Distributions to Sofala project farmers for the fiscal year ending in September 2011 totaled $247,780. On a per-household basis, annual payments have averaged $116 in regions where average annual incomes absent the project are $50, far below the nation’s per-capita income. Further, the Sofala project paid $329,509 in salaries during the same period to over 30 local staff throughout the project area.
Transparency and Accountability
The donation rate for the Sofala project is USD $12.10 per tonne, and the chart at right reflects the estimated distribution of funds based on the project’s fiscal 2011 distribution of expenses. Each farmer is paid at $4.46 per tonne of carbon dioxide which their plantings will absorb and store over time. Farmers are paid over 7 seven years, with payments weighted as follows: 30% in the first year, 12% in years 2-6, and 10% in the final year. The last contracts were signed for the 2009-2010 season, meaning that carbon revenue distributions to farmers will continue into 2016. The “Community” portion of the chart represents the amount of overall disbursements, which entails a very detailed mix of payments to all farmers. The annual payment to any one farmer depends not only on their current year plantings, but also on prior year plantings and the successful growth, survival, and maintenance of those prior plantings.
Carbon, Cash Crops, and Cashews
It is important to note the importance of the cash crops which most farmers incorporate into their plantings, thereby improving food security for themselves and potential for additional income later on. A popular Sofala cash crop option is cashew trees, which tolerate poor soils, produce edible fruit, and at maturity can annually yield 50 pounds of cashews per tree. For reference, and using current, local cashew prices, this translates into future annual income potential of $25 per tree. After production decreases around year 50, cashew trees’ hard wood is suitable for both furniture and building construction. All of the above social benefits are in addition to planting wages and cashew trees’ carbon sequestration potential, which is up to approximately 137 tonnes of CO2 per planted hectare, assuming a 100-year project cycle with 60-year rotations.
“Wal-Mart’s” In Rural Mozambique
In relative terms, it’s a fair comparison. Project organizers recognized that simply distributing carbon funds on payday would be insufficient because participating communities are located far away from markets where they could spend their earnings. Accordingly, Envirotrade established a program to make a wide variety of physical goods available for purchase on payday. A short survey was carried out to discover what people in the Gorongosa Sub-project had used their 2010 payments for. The community bought 740 tin roofs, which are much better able to resist the rains during the wet season and give families some stability in their houses. Seven people bought motorbikes, four people bought cement, thirteen bought telephones, two bought generators, seventeen bought bicycles, one bought a radio, eleven bought car batteries, and one person even bought a television.
Positive Local Environmental Benefits
The Sofala project holds the unique distinction of being the first in the world to be validated under the Second Edition of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) standard at the Gold level in all three evaluation areas of Climate, Community and Biodiversity.
As detailed in the downloadable Project Design Document (PDD) at right, vegetation within the Sofala project boundary comprises miombo, savannah, and riverine woodlands as well as dry forest. By generating crops that enrich rather than exhaust the fragile forest soils and managing fire in within the portions of these woodlands inhabited by rural communities, the project is giving a new lease of life to endangered plant and animal species. Tree planting within fields or “machambas” using intercropping systems is expected to increase connectivity between conservation areas and increase the viability and biodiversity of both flora and fauna.
Planned reforestation has been shown to be critical for biodiversity around protected areas, thus, introduction of indigenous trees using boundary planting and woodlots is expected to have a positive impact on biodiversity. As land use changes to more sustainable agricultural methods, this will reduce pressure on important wildlife and biodiversity corridors for large and iconic mammal species such as buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, hippos and elephants (and predators like lions and crocodiles) found in and around the project’s neighboring Gorongosa and Marromeu national parks.
About our partner Envirotrade / AECL
Envirotrade was founded in 2002 by British entrepreneur Robin Birley. Envirotrade was deliberately established as a for-profit to in order to forge a unique, “trade-not-aid” approach to poverty alleviation through accountable, market-based payments for ecosystem services (PES) rather than fostering dependence through handouts.
The Associação Envirotrade Carbon Livelihoods Trust (AECL) was set up by Envirotrade to administer carbon revenues earned by participating communities. It not only distributes payments to individual farmers, but also invests in important community infrastructure and assets such as schools and health clinics. In collaboration with Envirotrade, the community has also invested in areas which diversify the local economy and make it more resilient, such as carpentry shops and bee keeping equipment. The AECL includes membership from both Envirotrade and the stakeholder community associations, and its structure ensures transparency and safeguards the interests of the participants.