Despite COVID, Kulera REDD+ Program Safely Completes VCS/CCB Field Audit
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Community Associations NAWIRA and NVA were able to safely host the third-party auditor to verify Program activities on the ground that protect more than 600,000 hectares of forest while engaging more than 200,000 people. Local stakeholders were able to openly express their observations of the Program. Community members were able to communicate in Chichewa to the auditor and share the impact the Program has had on them along with their experiences, needs and any concerns.
The Kulera REDD+ Program, one of the world’s only CCB triple gold certified programs, has been successfully operating in Malawi since 2009, generating a long list of positive social impacts for communities bordering the Program’s protected areas of Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Nyika National Park, and Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve as well as protecting biodiversity. The local audit, required under the Climate Community and Biodiversity Standards, confirms through visiting Program communities and observing forest conditions that the results presented in the monitoring report took place. The audit involves conducting community interviews to receive feedback of the Program and validating biomass measurements taken in the Program’s forests. Interviews were conducted in zones around the parks, and one meeting had more than 500 people voluntarily attend. To ensure safe procedures during this pandemic, the Program provided hundreds of masks and hand sanitizer for community members to be able to safely meet with the auditor and have their voices heard.
Due COVID-19 travel restrictions the Program’s international partner Terra Global was unable to physically join the local audit. But through joint preparation with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), and the two Community Associations NAWIRA and NVA and Zoom work sessions the local partners were prepared and successfully hosted the third-party auditor, demonstrating their strong local capacity.
During this pandemic, it is critical to support nature-based solutions for climate change as poor and marginalized communities are the most susceptible to environmental and economic impacts. Once the VCS/CCB audit is completed the Program is expected to verify more than 2 million tCO2e of greenhouse gas reductions and removals. Once sold, this will deliver more than USD$ 10 million of funding to finance the on-going Program activities.
Program activities are designed to reduce degradation and deforestation and increase tree cover in and around the Program Areas and to provide improved livelihoods for the Program communities. By implementing woodlots for fuelwood, climate smart agricultural practices, and supporting communities in building alternative sources of income this builds resilience and empowers to households. Respiratory health for women is a priority in the Program which can be improved through implementing clean cookstoves and small scale household solar positively affecting community health and building resilience, an example of why nature-based solutions should be emphasized during extreme instances such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to reduced travel and many protected areas being closed. This has resulted in dramatic declines in tourism, which is an important source of revenue for local people and government conservation programs. And while countries and communities will continue their efforts to reduce and prevent poaching activities, it is critical for others around the world support them in these efforts and ensure the job security of people working in the conservation sector. The loss of this tourism revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to conservation and anti-poaching activities over the long term. Therefore, maintaining the Kulera REDD+ activities, monitoring results and impact while gathering meaningful input from community members during this time is more important than ever before.