Forest Carbon Project First in Africa to Comply with Updated Plan Vivo Standard

March 22, 2010

The Rainforest Alliance has validated the first carbon project in Africa against the 2008 version of the Plan Vivo Standard for community-led land-use carbon projects.

Located in the rural Bushenyi, Hoima and Masindi Districts of Uganda, "Trees for Global Benefits" was established by ECOTRUST, a Ugandan nonprofit that specializes in financing conservation projects that link landholders to the voluntary carbon market. This new initiative has engaged over 500 farmers in sustainable carbon sequestration activities and is expected to help them increase their livelihoods as well as provide significant benefits to local wildlife and ecosystems.

"In order for a project to be credible to buyers, it's crucial that it is evaluated by an independent third-party," said Jeff Hayward, climate initiative manager for the Rainforest Alliance. "Validation examines the project design against a set of standards to determine whether or not it should provide all of its anticipated benefits."

Man Measures a Tree's Diameter

The Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit conservation organization and leader in carbon offset project validation and verification services, provided independent third-party assurance that the "The Trees for Global Benefits" project meets the Plan Vivo Standard. After a comprehensive evaluation of the pilot project site, the Rainforest Alliance validated that the activities in that Bushenyi area will in fact sequester over 50,000 tonnes (55,115 tons) of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

The Bushenyi district is a patchwork of subsistence farms planted with bananas, corn, coffee, sugar cane, sweet potatoes and other crops. In addition to the benefits of carbon sequestration, "Trees for Global Benefits" will help the region recover some of its native highland tropical vegetation. The 138 farm plots included in the original audit cover 258 hectares (637 acres) planted with native and naturalized trees, ranging from one to five years of age. Since the audit, further activities have been carried out with the view to generate over 110,000 further Plan Vivo Certificates.

The project's focus on agroforestry systems and small-scale woodlots will lead to improved and diversified incomes and increased access to fuel wood and basic building materials, which will reduce the deforestation pressures on nearby natural forests.

The afforestation, reforestation and agroforestry activities included in the project will be a great boost for biodiversity and surrounding ecosystems. The use of native tree species will expand habitat islands and biological corridors for elephants and chimpanzees. Reforested lands will improve soil stabilization and growing conditions on steep hillsides of the Bushenyi District, an important benefit for the areas' farmers.

"This validation is a confirmation that Trees for Global Benefits is indeed a crucial financial mechanism supporting small scale landholder farmers to integrate tree planting as part of their livelihood strategies," noted Pauline Nantongo, executive director of ECOTRUST. "We are hopeful that this third-party validation will enable the project to access a wider market for the credits."

Banana Farm

On a number of occasions, the participating farmers have testified on how the project has changed their lives. Christopher Gumisiriza, a farmer from Bushenyi, said, "Before the program was introduced, I was a very dormant person with very limited ideas on what I could do to improve my livelihood. With the improved understanding of agroforestry principles from the program, I have been able invest in my land."

This project is the 11th carbon project that Rainforest Alliance has validated or verified and the second it has validated to the Plan Vivo Standard.

Headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Plan Vivo Foundation provides a system for developing community-based payments for ecosystem services projects and programs, with an emphasis on building capacity, long-term carbon benefits, diversifying livelihoods and protecting biodiversity.

"The Trees for Global Benefits Program in Uganda is a prime example of how carbon finance can work for the poor and those most vulnerable to potential climate change impacts," said Alexa Morrison of the Plan Vivo Foundation. "It is also a great example of the power of aggregation: starting in 2003 with a group of 30 smallholders, over 500 rural farmers are now involved, and the project continues to grow each year. It demonstrates the huge potential for climate benefits from community-level activities."