Katharina Cavano l Palladium - Sep 07 2022
Is Blockchain Technology the Key to Saving Africa’s Elephants?

For the past 20 years, Palladium has committed 1.5% of its profit to funding humanitarian relief efforts, supporting community projects nominated by employees, and running an annual Challenge Fund to tackle a global problem, managed in partnership with Kyeema Foundation.

In 2021, Palladium launched its annual Challenge Fund with the theme ‘Valuing Nature.’ The theme was focused on supporting projects that monetise the services provided by nature to fight climate change.

One of the three chosen winners, Rebalance Earth, has just completed work on a blockchain-based platform that will allow buyers to securely transfer funds directly to local communities and wildlife justice initiatives. This functioning prototype platform is the first step in establishing an ethical ecosystem services credit that provides both an opportunity for investors to contribute directly to the conservation of an important, endangered species, receive carbon and biodiversity credits, and provide positive livelihood opportunities for local communities where the species live.

Ecosystem services are the wide range of goods and services, from carbon sequestration to clean air, food, and timber production that natural ecosystems provide for humans. These services can be purchased by people or organisations looking to offset their emissions as part of a net zero strategy.

With a focus on forest elephants in the pilot project, Rebalance Earth’s goal is to make keystone species worth more alive than they are dead, incentivising both species and habitat protection, and ecosystem regeneration activities.
But, why the focus on the forest elephant?

“Everyone loves elephants, but does that stop their decline?” Rebalance Earth Chief Executive Walid Al Saqqaf asked in an interview with the BBC. "We do not make the right choices based on good intentions, we make decisions around our wallet. How can we use that financial initiative to do the right thing?"

The forest elephant is a keystone species in Africa due to the role they play in landscaping their environment for other animals, allowing plants to prosper, and for forests to capture upwards of 7% more carbon. As forest elephants travel through the forest, they tear down and eat shrubs and small trees, creating light canopies in otherwise overgrown areas, which then provides direct sunlight and nutrients for smaller plants and trees to grow.

They spread seeds across vast distances (which has a propagating effect), their dung is high in nutrients for other plants and animals to consume, and they use their tusks to dig for water, which in turn provides water for other animals. Suffice to say, these elephants are deserving of everyone’s love and protection.

The pilot, which will be launching in Liberia, is home to two of the three remaining large blocks of the Upper Guinea forest. Over the decades, Liberia’s forest elephant population has fallen to 1,000-1,500 elephants due to poaching, human wildlife conflict, and habitat loss and degradation.

Al Saqqaf stressed that the pilot project will not only protect the remaining forest elephant population, it will also support park rangers and the local communities where the team is working. "Our funding will make sure that there are enough rangers to protect the elephants and invest in local communities." Additionally, the team is collaborating closely with the government and local communities to plan how funds will be managed and distributed into the community to support and reinforce conservation activities.

This is an exciting first step in a long journey. The hope is that once the platform has proved its effectiveness, it can be scaled to include expansions of science and valuation methodology to other keystone species in different parts of the world.

For more information, contact palladium@kyeemafoundation.com.