REDD Project Concept

Carbon sequestration is just one of many valuable services performed by forests. Until the launch of its REDD project MCDI had focused on sustainable timber production as the primary revenue earner for rural communities in southern Tanzania. However, revenue growth from timber sales has been slower than expected, putting at risk MCDI's aim for its FSC group certificate scheme to become financially self-sufficient.

Effective forest management should utilise all the valuable assets found within the forest. Economies of scale are also important: back in 2010 when MCDI started its REDD project, our FSC certificate scheme was too small to survive without external donor support. Carbon offsets generated through a REDD-type scheme potentially hold the key to MCDI achieving financial viability, and, if the price is right, also help MCDI to expand the number of villages supported and area of sustainably managed forest.

After assessing the different drivers of deforestation and forest degradation affecting forests in Kilwa, we decided to focus on reducing late season bush fires which damage the forest and therefore keep biomass (and hence carbon stocks) lower than it would otherwise be. The solution we adopted is to protect the forest by burning parts of it early in the dry season when fires are much less damaging. The forest cannot generally burn twice in a year, so areas that have been burned early in the dry season will not burn again. Moreover such burned areas act as firebreaks to other, later fires, protecting forest surrounded by such pre-burnt areas.

For this approach to be allowable under carbon market rules we have to demonstrate that the higher carbon storage that results is truly additional (it would not have happened otherwise) and permanent. We believe this is the case because:

  • When they join MCDI's FSC group certificate communities make a commitment to keep the forest standing for the foreseeable future.
  • The revenue from timber sales alone is insufficient to provide the ongoing support communities need to implement proper forest management.
  • Without explicit payments, as will be generated by this REDD project, the resources that would have been devoted to fire abatement would have been insufficient to provide fire protection that is needed to prevent further degradation and support replenishment of carbon stocks.

Hitherto, mainly because of restrictions over additionality, REDD experts had tended to view REDD as an alternative tool to support sustainable forest management, only appropriate where other mechanisms would not succeed. However, in MCDI, we think the two can be complementary. Out project therefore aims to create a scheme that successfully combines both FSC certification for timber production and rigorous third party verification of carbon sequestration.