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BCP’s Lower Zambezi REDD + Project (LZRP) has reported that 2020 is the year of ZERO ENCROACHMENT. An even greater pleasure of ours is to announce, that a result of this milestone is the return and increase of wildlife to Rufunsa Conservancy!
Covering 40,126 hectares of forest, and benefiting 7,182 recipients, the LZRP is the first REDD+ project in Zambia and the first REDD+ project in the World to achieve 7 consecutive and successful verifications under both VCS and CCB Standards. Achieving zero encroachment has been a coordinated effort, from BCP supported Community Scouts on the ground, together with our Community Engagement and Livelihood teams, to the aerial surveillance missions that BCP implements from above. The increased community support this year is a significant factor in achieving zero encroachment. Not to mention the vital support that we received from our partner organizations, and from the Forestry Department, and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).
Achieving an average of over 10,000 patrol man days per year, the 105 BCP supported Community Scouts (in partnership with DNPW) play a vital role on the ground in ensuring that the forest boundaries are maintained, and in preventing illegal activities such as poaching and deforestation:
“For us Community Scouts, it is a huge achievement to maintain zero encroachment in an area like Rufunsa Conservancy, which is surrounded by the enormous demand for land and natural resources. Personally, I am truly excited to be part of the team that is holding the line as we make conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people”.
Rabecca Nampemba, RC Community Scout.
It is a direct result from our BCP Engagement and Livelihood teams that we have built, nurtured and sustained such strong community bonds over the past 8 years. LZRP is a partnership that allows communities to take ownership and responsibility of the project:
“This has been a synchronized effort from the top down. This year we really invested in our staff, which allowed for increased training and a serious boost in morale. It created a knock-on effect on the ground as we completed numerous community projects in a timely manner, such as boreholes and hammer mill construction, as well as the distribution of agricultural inputs to each of our Lead farmers in LZRP. All of these initiatives have enhanced the lives of community members. This increased the trust between BCP and communities and strengthened our community partnerships”.
Dusty Joubert, LZRP Project Manager.
2020 saw a coordinated drive to link our project areas to direct livelihood schemes, to enhance the relationships that we have with our partner communities. One such scheme was the cash dividend pilot. In April BCP received a grant from the Mills Foundation, which allowed us to roll out a cash dividend project pilot. This innovative pilot is a way to benefit communities at a household level through direct cash payments:
“We as a community have strived towards achieving zero encroachment because through LZRP; teachers’ salaries are paid through the school support program, and the cash dividends we receive are benefiting households on a direct level that we have not seen before”.
Kephas Nsambilo, Senior Headman Mwenshang’ombe.
Watching wildlife return to Rufunsa
2020 has shown the link between protecting forests in LZRP, working with its communities, and the increase of wildlife to the area. The correlation between zero encroachment and the return of wildlife to Rufunsa is clear. This year, in partnership with Lion Landscapes and Oxford University Wild CRU, and funded by the Darwin Initiative, Lion Recovery Fund, and National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, BCP was able to strategically place camera traps in wildlife strongholds, and the results have been remarkable!
The camera traps are capturing animals that we did not even know were in the Conservancy! Although native to the Lower Zambezi National Park, the Moloney’s Monkey had not been seen in Rufunsa until we caught them on film. The traps have made it possible to view nocturnal animals such as Caracals and Servals. While placing the traps in more mountainous areas meant that species were captured, such as Kudu and Zebra in places they have not been documented before. Another monumental sighting to date is the Southern Ground African Hornbill, which has been spotted twice on film, which is a key sighting as the ‘trigger species’ for the LZRP, it grants BCP Gold Standard in Biodiversity Monitoring.
We have watched as herds of Sable call the Conservancy their home again. When the project started in 2012 Sable and Roan were rarely seen, and only as single animals. Now big herds of 20-50 are recorded on scout patrols:
“Looking back as we have finished most of the analysis for the data so far, we have a statistically significant trend increase in Roan Antelope. This data takes time to build, particularly in low-density areas, where you get so few sightings in each survey to begin with, but we are finally starting to see these patterns, which are only going to get stronger. The data that we are producing means we are definitely on the right track – bringing an area from complete depletion to regenerating wildlife is a particularly difficult thing to monitor, but it is working!”
Dr. Alayne Cotterill, Founding Director of Lion Landscapes
The camera traps have also provided evidence of predators in the area, such as Leopards and Spotted Hyenas. This in itself is an extremely positive indication, for these large predators need plenty of prey species to survive. Thus, a healthy population of carnivores equates to a healthy population of herbivores, which in turn means that they are supported by a flourishing ecosystem.
Signing off for 2020, we would like to leave you with a word of thanks from our CEO, Dr. Hassan Sachedina:
“This year has been a testing year felt round the world. Covid19 has wreaked havoc on our global community – costing resources, money, but most tragically, lives. Yet, we have continued to receive unbounded support from all of you.
To our valued partners and supporters; know that you are supporting the return of wildlife to areas where they have not been seen in years. To our Government partners; it is together that we are enhancing the lives of communities to alleviate poverty in some of the most remote areas in Zambia. And, to our carbon offset buyers; across both projects, together we are working to protect almost 1 million hectares of forest and over 500 million trees from deforestation. We could not have done this without you”.