ADDIS ABABA, October 9, 2012—In Humbo village, in southwestern Ethiopia, rural communities are benefiting from an innovative carbon reduction project that has successfully restored 2,728 hectares of biodiversity-rich land, bringing cash into their hands in some of the remotest parts of the continent.
The project won global recognition last week when it was awarded Africa’s first temporary Certified Emission Reductions, commonly called carbon credits, for reforestation. On October 5, 73,000 credits were issued under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows developing countries to sell carbon credits to industrialized nations to help them fulfill their obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.
The credits were purchased by the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund, creating an important revenue stream for Humbo residents and setting an example for similar projects to be scaled up across the continent.
“To fight climate change effectively, we need to reach out to the poorest communities in Africa and take the benefits of climate finance to them,” said Jamal Saghir, Director for Sustainable Development, Africa Region, World Bank. “The experience in Humbo shows how mitigation and adaptation activities can go hand-in-hand, empowering communities to save their local environments and restore degraded lands.”
After seeing their lush mountain turn barren from cattle grazing and fuel wood collection, and feeling the effects of deforestation through mud slides and the disappearance of flora and fauna, Humbo residents decided to take action and mobilize nature and natural processes to bring back vegetation cover to degraded lands.
To fuel economic growth and fight poverty, the full amount of the carbon revenue awarded is being reinvested in productive, community-driven activities, paying for micro businesses such as beekeeping, livestock husbandry and the construction of a flour mill and grain storage facility. These activities are replacing traditional ones such as fuel collection, earlier the main source of income for many Humbo residents.
The project, the Humbo Assisted Natural Regeneration project, is managed by World Vision Ethiopia in collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia and World Vision Australia. Assefa Tofu, Climate Change & Carbon Market Specialist at World Vision in Ethiopia, has been involved from the beginning.
“Early in the process, during consultations we held with farmers in 2006, they would ask me ‘How can air be sold?’ Now they understand the process and are comfortable talking about carbon credits,” he said. “Our persistence in working as a partner with local communities and international institutions to solve real problems on the ground really paid off.”
The Humbo project is the first of its kind in Ethiopia using farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) techniques to generate carbon credits. This allows rural communities to assist in re-sprouting of native species. In addition to limiting cattle grazing on forest land, which allows the Humbo mountain forest cover to regenerate, famers are planting some supplemental tree species where needed.
By restoring vegetation on the mountain, the fragile water catchment area is being protected, and the project is preventing water and soil erosion and flooding. In particular, sediment runoff currently threatening the fragile ecosystem of Lake Abaya - located 30 km downstream from the project site – is being reduced. This is helping maintain the supply of springs and subterranean streams that support the region’s water supply and wildlife is also slowly coming back. It is a concrete example of how restoring biodiversity can make a difference on a local level as world leaders meet this week in Hyderabad, India at the 11th Convention on Biological Diversity to discuss how to implement strategic, national plans for biodiversity.
“The Clean Development Mechanism is part of our green economic strategy and a necessity for our country,” said Ato Dessalegne Mesfin, Deputy Director General of the Ethiopian Federal Environmental Protection Agency. “Projects of this kind have great potential for scaling up across Ethiopia and deliver benefits to rural communities.”
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, World Vision and the World Bank are already discussing how to take the methods used in Humbo to other parts of the country.
Afforestation/Reforestation (A/R) CDM projects can only issue credits once per commitment period, and many are therefore waiting for the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period to maximize the number of credits issued. While this is the first forestry project in Africa, and only the second world-wide to issue such credits, many others are currently undergoing verification.