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Carbon trading spurs Tanzania's hunters and gatherers to conservation

Hadzabe communities are implementing a sustainable land use plan (© Gian Schachenmann)
Hadzabe communities are implementing a sustainable land use plan
© Gian Schachenmann

Hadzabe hunter and gatherer communities in Northern Tanzania are implementing a sustainable land use plan to counter deforestation and land degradation caused by slash and burn agriculture. Through the plan they have designated land for agriculture, pastoralism, and hunting and gathering; the remaining areas, characterised by Acacia-Commiphora woodland, generate additional income from carbon markets.

Covering over 20,000 hectares of the Yaeda valley, 150km west of Arusha, this 20 year carbon offsetting project was started in 2010 by Carbon Tanzania to help protect Hadzabe land from the shifting agriculture practised by Sukuma agro-pastoralists. Mongo wa Mono and Domanga villages in Mbulu district are home to roughly 1,000 Hadzabe hunters and gatherers. Some practise limited crop farming, but the natural resources of this savanna woodland are their principal source of food and shelter.

However, as a minority community, their habitat and even existence have come under threat from larger communities like the Sukuma who, over the last century, have appropriated areas of forested land and cleared it for farming and livestock grazing. When the land has becomes unproductive they have moved to new areas, annually encroaching around 150 hectares of land, according to Carbon Tanzania. This has led to displacement of the Hadzabe to harsher territories, and made them destitute, as well as threatening the neighbouring forested area of the Kidero hills. This reflects a wider pattern of deforestation in Tanzania, which the FAO recently estimated is losing almost one per cent of its forest each year.

Payments for protecting trees

Over the last century areas of forested land have been cleared for farming and livestock grazing (© Marc Baker)
Over the last century areas of forested land have been cleared for farming and livestock grazing
© Marc Baker

To halt degradation and the threat to Hadzabe livelihoods, Carbon Tanzania introduced a Payment for Ecosystem Service scheme. With assistance from the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), a land use plan was drawn up, including 20,790 hectares of protected woodland. Over the last two years Carbon Tanzania has made agreements with 11 Tanzanian safari companies interested in offsetting their fossil fuel usage by buying carbon credits from the Hadzabe. These are sold based on the amount of carbon stored in the community-managed woodlands, calculated at 122.5 tonnes per hectare. Each contract is negotiated separately by Carbon Tanzania, with specialist mountain operator Summits Africa the first to sign up.

UCRT has been a key player in establishing the scheme. Representing five marginalised communities in Tanzania, the organisation works to protect their land rights and certify their land occupancy, carrying out boundary mapping, training on governance, facilitation and peacemaking. In Mongo wa Mono and Domanga, UCRT facilitated agreements between CT and the community and supported a collective drafting of by-laws to ensure no community violated the land use plans. Cash fines of up to US$30 for violation were set by the village governments in the region, with grazing in protected land carrying the highest penalty. According to Dismas Meitaya, a Programme Officer with UCRT, this has been largely successful, with only isolated cases of violation of the by-laws during droughts.

Funding community development

Through Carbon Tanzania, the Hadzabe woodlands have become eligible for the voluntary carbon trade, certified by the Plan Vivo Foundation, which monitors organizations working with communities to ensure that the carbon targets set are sequestered as promised. "Since 2010 we have sold around 3,700 tonnes of carbon," says Marc Baker, director of Carbon Tanzania, with each tonne selling at between US$5-$10, depending on international market rates. The company hopes to sell up to 15,000 tonnes of carbon per year, potentially reaching more than 300,000 tonnes over the 20 year lifespan of the project.

Hadzabe woodlands have become eligible for the voluntary carbon trade (© Jo Anderson)
Hadzabe woodlands have become eligible for the voluntary carbon trade
© Jo Anderson

Earnings from this carbon trading have also created employment for the Hadzabe: 30 guards are employed monthly on a rotational basis to patrol their land and ensure land use plans and by-laws are not violated. Communal payouts, made twice a year, also fund training; 15 community members have now been trained on biomass surveying and carbon monitoring, with others trained in guarding. According to Meitaya, carbon trading has also provided the Hadzabe community with long term revenue for development, financing new classrooms, teachers' salaries and health care.

Baker is keen to point out that carbon trading schemes will not be applicable to all ecosystems, with many factors coming into play. However, the carbon trading payments have spurred neighbouring communities to take interest in having similar projects. "It's a positive leakage," says Baker, emphasising how communities are viewing protection of trees as a way of earning money and others enquire how they can join. Consequently, Carbon Tanzania plans to expand the project to a community of 3,000 Tatoga pastoralists.

This article is supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

Written by: James Karuga

Date published: June 2012

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