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Oliver Griffith: Protecting Africa’s forests through REDD+

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Oliver Griffith, is a former US Diplomat and World Bank Group (Image: Oliver Griffith)

Deforestation and forest degradation are the second leading causes of global warming, responsible for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The recent COP-26 recognized this with a pledge to stop deforestation by 2030. But how will we get there?

Can we in the North tell developing countries not to cut down their forests because we need them as carbon sinks to slow down climate change? Not without some form of compensation. They’re desperate for economic growth and have a right to use their resources. 

European countries cut down their trees centuries ago for the same reasons. And the US now emits over 15 metric tons of CO2 per capita, almost eight times as much as the average sub-Saharan country. The same people who lecture developing countries are the ones who drive SUVs. And consume the soy-fed beef and palm oil that contribute to deforestation. We need a reality check.

Why not just buy all those rainforests and turn them into national parks to preserve them as the world’s lungs? Not a bad idea, and it’s worked in some places, but what if there are people living in the forests and contributing to their demise? Population pressure, subsistence farming, and fuel wood and charcoal making account for about half of tropical forest loss, while commercial agriculture, logging, and more recently climate disasters, account for the rest. So, the obvious solution is to lessen these activities.

Since at least half of deforestation is linked to rich world consumption patterns, an important step is to change these. There are encouraging signs, but the growing middle classes in developing countries want to live well too. And how can we tell a family just escaping poverty that they shouldn’t have modern conveniences or eat beef? Changing habits and the economic models that sustain them won’t be easy.

Tackling deforestation on the ground is an indispensable adjunct. It should involve giving indigenous inhabitants title to the lands they have sustainably used for centuries. Creating family planning programs to ease demographic pressure, and finding sustainable livelihoods for forest dwellers. And governments must cut subsidies for unsustainable forest activities and improve environmental laws and forest management.

Since the primary drivers of deforestation are economic, we must find economic solutions, making the trees more valuable standing than cutting down. Among the most effective and far reaching is the United Nations’ REDD+ program. It Reduces Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation by selling carbon credits based on verified emission reductions in forests. The proceeds are used to help the forest communities find more sustainable livelihoods and improve their standards of living. By harnessing market-based economic mechanisms for an economic problem. It may have the greatest chance of success among the many initiatives with the same goals.

A crucial component is gaining influence in the decision-making process for land use, which is challenging in the countries where most tropical forests are located. It requires international encouragement, such as through COP-26, and local policy reforms. At the same time we need quick action on the ground where deforestation is happening.

The results so far are encouraging. Studies of REDD+ projects worldwide have found that they reduce deforestation while improving the lives of forest dwellers. Moreover, REDD+ has increased the awareness and commitment of governments and the private sector on the importance of forest preservation. Pinpointed commercial agriculture as a driver of deforestation, and provided a platform to secure land rights. It’s not a magic bullet and must be combined with activism against polluting companies in the global North, but it’s a good start.

Oliver Griffith recently visited two REDD+ projects run by Wildlife Works, a private conservation company. The Kasigau Corridor Project in Kenya, which was the first REDD+ project to be verified by the two main REDD+ standards (VCS, CCBA) in 2011, and the ERA-Congo Project in Mai Ndombe province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). What impressed me was not just the slowing down of deforestation. But the positive socio-economic effects of the substantial funds flowing into these poor regions from the sale of carbon credits. 

In the Kasigau Corridor area, wherever you turn there are community projects, from schools and clinics to handicrafts cooperatives, water tanks, pumps, and farming cooperatives. In fact, Wildlife Works facilities are far more visible than those of the local or national governments.

In Mai Ndombe the impact is even more dramatic. The 180,000 residents in the isolated forest communities in the 300,000-hectare project area lack just about everything – health care, education, electricity, running water, and adequate nutrition. Once again, the community-based Wildlife Works projects are popping up everywhere, and are already reaching over 50,000 people, taking the place of underfunded state services. That this is happening in the DRC, and with relatively efficient support from the government, is even more remarkable.

Time will tell if such projects are sustainable in the long term. It would be better if developing governments took on these tasks themselves, and rich countries finally fulfilled their promises to drastically cut emissions. However, this is wishful thinking so, given the urgency of deforestation, we need viable alternatives such as REDD+.

 

Article By: Oliver Griffith, a former US Diplomat and World Bank Group (IFC) official with 35 years in foreign affairs. Much of it devoted to Africa and economic affairs. 

 

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NGOs - SDGs

Coca‑Cola Africa Launches JAMII, Its New Sustainability Platform

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Coca‑Cola Africa Operating Unit (“AOU”) and its bottling partners announced the launch of JAMII, the new Africa-focused sustainability platform. The platform houses the Company’s existing and new sustainability initiatives. Through this signature platform, Coca‑Cola hopes to attract like-minded partners to help accelerate the on-the-ground impact of its initiatives.

The new platform will build and expand on the past accomplishments in three areas; water stewardship, the economic empowerment of women and youth and waste management. This will be delivered together with bottling partners, system employees, and several NGO partners.

“We recognize the responsibility we have as market leaders to make a meaningful difference. To empower and protect the communities and the environment in which we operate. Whether it is giving people access to safe drinking water, creating economic opportunities for people in dire need of it. Or reducing the impact of our operations on the environment, we are committed to making that difference.” said Bruno Pietracci, Africa President at The Coca‑Cola Company.

Patricia Obozuwa, AOU Vice President for Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability added; “We chose the name JAMII, a Swahili word that means Community, Society, People. This is because it represents who we are as Africans and aligns with our values as an organization. Our resilience, our commitment, and our spirit of community. Consolidating our sustainability efforts under this umbrella will allow us to strengthen our value proposition. And make good on our promise to continue to be a trusted partner for sustainable growth in Africa.”

In the area of women and youth economic empowerment, JAMII will ​​promote and stimulate entrepreneurship opportunities. Through the provision of improved access to skills training, networks, finance and markets. To date, over 2 million women across Africa have been economically enabled as part of the 5by20 program.

Also in the area of water stewardship, we will replenish 100% of the water used in production of our products. By managing water use efficiency in our operations, supporting the conservation of natural water resources. And improving community water access and climate change adaptation. So far, combined efforts by Coca‑Cola Africa, The Coca‑Cola Foundation and its partners have resulted in sustainable access to drinking water for over 6 million people through the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN). 

For waste management, Coca‑Cola Africa is committed to driving a world without waste. Nearly all of Coca‑Cola’s packaging is already recyclable, with the goal of recycling the equivalent of 100% of its packaging waste by 2030.

Obozuwa added that “Coca‑Cola Africa is already forming new partnerships to facilitate the implementation of JAMII projects that will deliver on these goals.”

Internally, JAMII will inspire employees to make a difference in their immediate communities. Employee-nominated charities will receive grants and employee volunteering will be encouraged. Also, The Coca‑Cola Employee Disaster Relief Fund will support employees facing financial hardship as a result of a natural disaster. 

 

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Sarah Boateng, A Social Entrepreneur Investing In Girls Living In Rural Communities Across Africa

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Sarah Boateng, Founder of IGEA Enterprise (Image: Supplied)

Sarah Boateng is an award-winning social entrepreneur, passionate advocate for young girls living in rural communities in Africa. She aims to eliminate all barriers blocking girls in Africa from accessing quality education. These barriers may be physical, such as rampant illnesses, menstruation, distance from schools. As a Special Educational Needs and Psychology graduate at the age of 21, Sarah always had a desire to see education accessible to those in marginalised communities. She in 2016 in the quest to understand the issues facing young girls in the local community. 

Then she discovered that girls were still hindered by the opportunity to have a quality education. Which was the same experience her mother had growing up in rural Ghana over 50 years ago. She knew there was something that needed to be done. Having worked for the Unite Nations (UN) in Geneva and found that working for such a large organisation would be extremely difficult to make the change she would like to see. Sarah launched IGEA as way to create an organisation for the community they wish to support.

Investing in Girls Education in Africa (IGEA) is a non for profit organisation with a mission of delivering quality education to girls in rural parts of Africa. Starting operations in Ghana, the home country its founder. we aim to collaborate with like-minded people and groups in order to work all over the continent.

Sarah Boateng in class with the students

She and her team started off a pilot of 100 girls in our project through crowdfunding. In under two years, they were able to provide over 10,000 period products in the U.K. and Ghana. The IGEA team also designed a programme called ‘Menstruate and Educate’, aimed to support girls attend school whilst menstruating in rural communities in Africa. They work with the local community leaders and the education service to deliver workshops. Highlighting the importance of education and additionally targeting the taboos of menstruation in the community.

The Girls and their packs

Additionally, they run workshops for the parents and teachers aimed to enlighten them about the importance of girls education. And ways which they can support them and get them involved. Lastly, IGEA provide reusable period pads that last for up to two years. Which support girls to attend school whilst menstruating.

 

 

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Nestlé ESAR announces industry-first pilot that reduces carbon dioxide emissions and recycles wastewater

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Nestlé ESAR industry-first pilot launch (Image: Supplied)

In partnership with The Emissions Capture Company, Nestlé has successfully piloted leading machine learning-based technology in Babelegi, at industrial scale, to deliver significant Scope 1 emission reductions, and wastewater recycling.

Today, Nestlé – ESAR East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) unveiled an industrial scale pilot project that has successfully tested a global-first, Artificial Intelligence technology in Africa that reduces emissions and saves water, at its Babelegi factory in Pretoria. The industrial scale pilot project is a partnership with The Emissions Capture Company (ECCO) using its proprietary WhiteBoxTM technology, a machine-learning based system that captures Scope 1 carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and recycles wastewater.

Speaking on the partnership, Saint-Francis Tohlang, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Director at Nestlé ESAR, said: “Our global commitment to reduce our impact on the environment influences every part of our business today. This partnership with ECCO demonstrates a significant evolution of our production processes to embrace circular principles at every step. We are extremely proud to be pioneering this industry-first technology on the African continent. This success takes us to the next phase, where we will be looking to scale this operation to other factories to deliver significant reductions in Scope 1 emissions in ESAR.”

The WhiteBoxTM set-up in Babelegi has been in successful operation for over 8,000 hours.  The technology captures CO2 from flue gas emissions, recycles industrial wastewater and creates sustainable green products. The green products can be sold directly (for animal feed, human food, consumer goods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals) or used to eliminate sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions without the need for water. Data collected from the industrial scale pilot coupled with industry-first machine learning techniques, demonstrates that the WhiteBoxTM can be calibrated to capture between 25% to 70% of Scope 1 CO2 emissions and recycle available industrial wastewater per site. Much of this is done through direct air capture and energy-efficient gas processing, using low-fuel consumption methods.

“We are proud to have partnered with Nestlé in successfully demonstrating  the capabilities of our cutting-edge technology set. ECCO uses green chemistry and Artificial Intelligence to extract CO2 from emissions, using it as an ingredient in everyday products. This partnership helps pave the way for a green economy. Our approach was holistic, ensuring that pollution remediation was key, along with other considerations such as water recycling and low fuel consumption. By design, the shift from legacy technologies to low carbon emission processes also improves livelihoods through employment creation, training, and upskilling,” says Thomas F Darden, ECCO’s CEO and founding board member of William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and board member for Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

“The industrial scale pilot project directly upskilled and employed 15 people from the local community and has the potential to create more jobs when scaled.  Part of the operation has also included skills development for the rest of our staff at the facility to ensure a just transition to low emission operations, with no one left behind,” concluded Tohlang.

ECCO’s WhiteBoxTM joins several ongoing long-term projects under Nestlé’s RE sustainability initiative, that reinforces the company’s sustainability initiatives, strategies as well as its resources to help mitigate sustainability challenges such as waste reduction.

 

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