I know that all of our experts at South Pole Group work very hard, every day, to bring our products to our clients to help them attain their sustainability goals. And sometimes, the business feels like what it is - a business - focused on earning money to keep the business running.
But it’s actually much more: our business has a purpose - and generates strong positive impacts. Flying out of our Kariba REDD+ project site in Northern Zimbabwe after a string of meetings with our project partners not so long ago, I sent my colleagues a long email to thank them for helping to turn our project ideas into real, measurable action on the ground. But I realise that my colleagues and I are just one part of the bigger picture. So I wanted to share my message and thank everyone from our partners and clients to our supporters who are helping to make these projects happen!
This is why:
To give you some background context, Zimbabwe has just undergone a severe drought. This meant that the majority of the 200’000 people living in the area of our Kariba REDD+ site had (and still have) a very hard time putting food on the table for their families: the maize harvest was historically low - and the maize that actually managed to grow in the arid conditions was bone dry and fell off the plant. Some people were even looking to poach bushmeat as alternative source of protein!
This was the reality and these were the conditions at our Kariba REDD+ site. Yet, our project lived up to its claim of improving local livelihoods and proved that it made - and keeps making - a significant difference in northern Zimbabwe:
- Only those farmers engaging in conservation farming - taught as part of the Kariba REDD+ project activities - reaped at least a mediocre harvest and were be able to pull in the 20 kg of maize per week - the amount needed for a family of five to survive.
"The Kariba REDD has brought a lot of relief and benefits to the local communities." - Charles Ndondo, Director, Carbon Green Africa
- Having lost their field’s harvest, the farmers intensified working in community gardening, which was also kicked off by the project. Recent harvests at Tashinga and Budirio gardens included vegetables such as covo, tomatoes, onions, sugar beans and the first couple of Moringa leaves - produce that the farmers can now sell to purchase the maize flour they need.
The community members in Hurungwe take pride in their work around their Nutritional Garden (Tashinga), and participate in regular trainings that revolve around crop and pest management and the importance of looking after the environment
- The boreholes rehabilitated by our project - 12 of them in April alone in one single area - have proved to be a lifeline for the project, allowing an average 350 people per water pump to have water to drink, cook and irrigate gardens.
- The heightened fire risk caused by the drought was reduced by >500 km of road maintenance (keeping grass off the side and median of the road) and hundreds of hours of firefighting training. The forest’s recovery in the last 4 years has been clearly visible and measurable.
- The production of honey worked well for most areas (except for those that were so badly hit by the drought that the plants did not even flower), generating the much needed cash revenue for families of sometimes more than 400 USD per beekeeper.
A beekeeper in Hurungwe district bottling honey. The establishment of beekeeping in the project area has helped increase local family incomes through honey sales
- Finally, commercial poaching was significantly reduced. Recently, a local poacher was arrested in the project area, thanks to the cooperation of the project’s Anti Poaching guards, the police and local community. The poacher had brought down numerous elephants and shipped the precious tusks to the black market. He was sentenced to 9 years in prison. Now, for the first time in years, a herd of more than 100 elephants has been sighted close to the Manyuli camp. A great story on how teamwork helped save a baby elephant has also taken place in the project area! Apart from that, Kariba now boasts 3-4 herds of buffalo instead of the one that used to roam alone during the previous years, and the lion population is also said to be slowly getting stronger.
After six hours of digging, pulling, sweating and levering the Conservancy Managers and Carbon Scouts team finally manage to assist the baby elephant, who would have otherwise sunk into this natural mud trap. Image credits: Carbon Green Africa
I could go on forever. But my main point is that all these activities were only possible due to the funding we were able to generate through selling carbon credits, as our Kariba REDD+ project does not have any other revenue streams at the moment. Going forward, the work that our South Pole Group’s consultants do to direct committed organisations to take action on reducing deforestation - for example in tobacco, palm oil and cocoa supply chains - has the potential to further generate positive impacts on the local communities.
So the reason why I get out of bed every morning is to work on delivering such projects to help making the world a better place, through climate finance (private and public) and via other means. This is possible thanks to the hard work of our entire South Pole Group team and all our corporate partners & clients who endorse, financially support, and reward these projects and the hard work that goes into them by, for example, purchasing carbon offsets and financing climate change mitigation in their supply chain.
I believe the private sector really has the ability to trigger such positive change around the world. We are honoured to work with committed companies and to catalyse such benefits on the ground, thereby helping society, local economy and above all, the environment!