The annual migration of millions of Straw-coloured Fruit Bats to Kasanka National Park in Zambia. Credit: Frank Willems
In 2020, Palladium announced a move to go carbon neutral by offsetting the organisation’s emissions from 2019 onwards. Each year since, Palladium teams have calculated the annual emissions for the prior year and launched a global project to offset those emissions. To offset 2020’s emissions, Palladium is supporting a project in Zambia.
Every November, 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats migrate to Kasanka National Park and its surrounding areas in Zambia from across sub-Saharan Africa. It’s the largest mammal migration in the world but these bats are under threat from large-scale deforestation and humans that harvest them for bushmeat.
The bats play a critical role in regenerating the native forest across the region as they feed on indigenous fruits and disburse seeds. And while the areas within the park boundaries are protected, the forests and wetlands that surround it are plagued by illegal deforestation by commercial agriculture businesses, which risks encroaching on park land and increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the risk of wildfires.
Delivered by World Land Trust and their on-the-ground partner, Kasanka Trust Ltd, the project will generate carbon credits through the protection of more than 18,000 hectares of community managed subtropical forests outside of the boundaries of the National Park.
The project is a continuation and expansion of the work that Kasanka Trust has been implementing for several years and will help promote new approaches like climate smart agriculture, such as mulching, retaining tree cover for shade, and developing organic fertilisers, and reforestation. It will support not just the straw-coloured fruit bat migration pathways but major river systems and bird habitats on the edge of one of the country’s most important National Parks.
Critical to the project’s success is the collaboration and partnership with these local communities most acutely affected by the deforestation. These nearby communities use an old practice of slash and burn farming, called chitemene, for subsistence agriculture and small levels of income generation. But because chitemene isn't particularly productive, families tend to move on to another area of forest after just two or three seasons, leaving their previous farmland barren and treeless.
"Kasanka Trust always take great care to engage local communities in the conservation of forests and wetlands in the wider Kasanka landscape,” explains Mary McEvoy, World Land Trust’s Carbon Programme Manager. “In doing so they understand each village's motivations and aspirations for the future and can work together to provide equipment and training for more sustainable income generation opportunities whilst also protecting important habitats."
Miombo forest takes a long time to recover, and this degraded local environment has implications for environmental services and other non-timber forests products that communities rely on like caterpillars (for protein), mushrooms, and honey.
The contributions will also support a number of socioeconomic benefits for 10 local communities, benefiting nearly 6,000 people, explains Palladium’s David Wallis, Palladium’s Nature-Based Solutions Partnerships and Impact Manager. “This includes training in income diversification opportunities like beekeeping, which will help reduce the need to exploit forest resources.” By giving communities opportunities to develop forest-based enterprises (through carbon markets and alternative livelihoods, like beekeeping and tourism), local people will have more reliable income to feed their families and invest in alternative, more climate-smart farming systems.
Agriculture is the most common livelihood for communities on the border of the park and the most important source of income for many of these communities. Through the creation of Community Forest Management Areas, Kasanka Trust is partnering with community members to secure land tenure and to protect and manage the forests whilst accessing more sustainable livelihoods. This approach is helping to reduce the negative impacts of climate change at the local level.
“A great deal of funding has and will continue to go towards supporting rangers and community scouts tasked with patrolling and preventing illegal activities,” adds Wallis. “They collect snares set for wild animals, confiscate illegal fishing equipment, apprehend poachers and help implement the fire management regime to avoid damaging fires from occurring in the park and surrounding areas.”
As it progresses, the project will help develop a more sustainable income stream for the community while generating carbon credits through forest conservation efforts, that will in turn continue to attract financing to support the project in the long-term. And that long-term sustainability is critical as Palladium continues to seek out innovative ways to meet offsetting goals. As with any project the team is involved with globally, the goal is for it to thrive at the local level and the Kasanka project is no different.
“Palladium’s support for the ongoing work of World Land Trust and Kasanka Trust will deliver real long-term impact in a globally important area for nature,” explains Wallis. “By empowering local communities and demonstrating that protecting and restoring forests can be much more valuable than cutting them down, we hope this project can be scaled-up to conserve even more forest and improve the lives of dozens more communities in the region.”
To learn more about Scaling Community Led Conservation through Climate finance at Kasanka National Park and Surrounding Landscapes, visit the website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.