Dowa and Neno, Malawi

Project updates and farmer profiles can be seen on COTAP’s blog and the project’s most recent annual report and COTAP’s transactions with it are in our Transparency section.


Coordinated by the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI), the community-led Trees of Hope project is mitigating climate change through agroforestry and reforestation activities in the Dowa and Neno districts of Malawi.  Malawi, in sub-Saharan East Africa, is amongst the poorest countries in the world, ranked 171th of 187 countries in the UNDP’s 2011 Human Development Index and annual Malawi per-capita income is an estimated $330.  Launched in 2007, the project has grown to 200 community groups comprising 2,000 smallholder farmers and spans an area of over 488 hectares.  The Trees of Hope project is part of a wider initiative conducted by CDI, at the invitation of the government of Malawi, to facilitate market-based solutions for agriculture, health, water, and sanitation.

Community and Economic Impacts

To date, participating farmers have planted more than 2 million trees that will sequester 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.  COTAP’s donation rate for this project is USD $9.90 per tonne, of which we pass on $9 per tonne to the project.  This is expected to generate $742,500 of payments to farmers over a ten-year period. Farmers will receive 60% of this amount in years one, two, and three of their trees’ lifecycle; after that period, the trees are mature enough to farmers to profit from sale of mango, citrus, poles, and other non-timber forest products.

Transparency and Accountability

The chart at right reflects the estimated distribution of funds based on the project’s fiscal 2011 distribution of expenses.  Donations will be pooled and utilized first for retiring a commensurate number of credits from this project’s existing carbon credit inventories, which are based on plantings and tree growth to date.  Pooled donations will then be matched with credits pertaining to upcoming planting seasons.

Approximately 50% of your COTAP contribution to this project will go to Malawian farmers and 40.9% goes towards program operations and program monitoring.

Each farmer is paid according to a personal Plan Vivo contract, consisting of the farmer’s preferred mix of tree species and planting methods.  For credits which were sold during the project’s fiscal 2011 period, farmers are to be paid USD $5 per tonne of carbon dioxide which their plantings will sequester over time.  Farmers are paid upon verified plantings and tree maintenance milestones over 10 years, with payments for a particular plot weighted as follows: 20% per year for the first three years and 10% in years 4, 5, 7, and 10.

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.  Similar to other Plan Vivo projects, a buffer of 20% of projected CO2 sequestration is withheld as a buffer to address risk.

Incentivizing Sustainable Tree-based Land Use

Plantings and payments vary on a per-farmer basis as each farmer has their own unique plot of land in terms of size and suitability for different tree types.  Each farmer also creates their own unique planting plan, and performs differently in terms of planting and maintaining their trees.

In addition to payments for their plantings’ sequestered carbon, farmers’ livelihoods are improved by a sustainable tree-based land use system.  By recognizing and offering carbon revenue sharing for a specific variety of species and methods, the project design incentivizes planting mixes which will provide improved soil quality as well as access to construction materials and firewood.  Inclusion of mango and citrus species serves not only to store carbon but also to bolster farmers’ food security while establishing supplemental income from tree-based cash crops.  Further, participants have established over 574 kilometers of boundary plantings around their properties.  The additional environmental co-benefits of these tree farms include the establishment and protection of wildlife habitat, reduction of run-off and reduced soil erosion through stem and root effects on soils, improvement of groundwater recharge systems, and general improve in microclimate.

Measures to Ensure Long-Term Success

The project has undertaken vital phases of community sensitization and education necessary given the newness and complexity of the opportunities which the project can provide.  Information and training sessions enhance awareness about climate change, its potential impact on their livelihoods, mitigation and adaptation strategies, the Plan Vivo system, and the concept of carbon markets.  To ensure that farmers are a proper fit and are making voluntary and informed decisions about participating, they are screened on their level of understanding of project principles, their landholding size and type for their desired planting mix, and their general enthusiasm.

A second measure to ensure long-term success is the phase-out of centralized tree seedling nurseries. CDI has built technical, equipment, and organizational capacity within the dispersed community groups necessary for seed gathering, seedling development, and nursery construction and maintenance.  This transfer of tools and skills empowers the many scattered and remote community groups to be self-sufficient, and it promotes project ownership.  It also lowers each group’s costs over the long term, and it makes project operations more efficient because fewer seedlings get lost or damaged in transit and they are more readily available when the local community seeks to plant them.  The project now has over 100 operational communal nurseries.

A Beneficiary Case Study: Sekanakoni Banda

Sekanakoni Banda provides for a home of eight people in a rural district of Dowa, in central Malawi. His primary source of livelihood has been rain-fed subsistence farming, though he has also relied on the surrounding natural resources, particularly forests, to provide his other basic needs. Through the Trees of Hope project, Sekanakoni now owns nearly five hectares of woodlot, from which he harvests poles and firewood for his house. His wife no longer needs to walk long distances in search of firewood, and he is also able to sell wood to his neighbors to earn extra income and support his grandchildren in school. The woodlot has environmental benefits as well: it enables Sekanakoni to make use of land which would have otherwise been left idle, and the trees help reduce soil erosion and run-off in his other fields downstream, conserving soils in the process. Sekanakoni has also accumulated 800 tonnes of carbon credits, which will potentially earn his household over US $3,000 when sold on the carbon market. He plans to use this income to buy iron sheets to improve his home along with additional goats for his family.

About our Partner

The Trees of Hope project is part of the Clinton Development Initiative, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, which develops and operates agribusiness projects in Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania that empower smallholder farmers to increase their economic potential.

The Clinton Foundation convenes businesses, governments, NGOs, and individuals to improve global health and wellness, increase opportunity for girls and women, reduce childhood obesity, create economic opportunity and growth, and help communities address the effects of climate change. Because of our work, nearly 35,000 American schools are providing kids with healthy food choices in an effort to eradicate childhood obesity; more than 150,000 farmers in Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania are benefiting from climate-smart agronomic training, higher yields, and increased market access; working with partners, more than 8 million trees and tree seedlings have been planted to strengthen ecosystems and livelihoods; over 600,000 people have been impacted through market opportunities created by social enterprises and health and wellbeing programs in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa; through the independent Clinton Health Access Initiative, over 11.5 million people in more than 70 countries have access to CHAI-negotiated prices for HIV/AIDS medications; an estimated 85 million people in the U.S. will be reached through strategic health partnerships developed across industry sectors at both the local and national level; and members of the Clinton Global Initiative community have made more than 3,600 Commitments to Action, which have improved the lives of over 435 million people in more than 180 countries.

Learn more at, on Facebook at and on Twitter @ClintonFdn.

Sofala, Mozambique


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.