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Mozambique : Carbon Trading and REDD+: farmers ‘grow’ carbon for the benefit of polluters

posted Jun 26, 2012, 7:42 PM by Dianne James
Via Campesina Africa News – Food production and people's sovereignty in Africa could be seriously compromised by carbon capture projects and the so-called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) mechanism. They can exacerbate food insecurity on the continent and could result in the loss of control over land and forest resources for African farmers.

This scenario could become a reality in the near future in Mozambique, as the country has offered its land to serve as a “model” for carbon capture projects and REDD+.

As evening falls, Albertina Francisco*, a farmer from the Nhambita community in Sofala province, Mozambique, returns home. She is tired after another day of work at her machamba (a term used in Mozambique to refer to a patch of farmland). In addition to looking after the maize, mapira (a type of sorghum) and cassava which she grows, another task has been added to Albertina’s workload: looking after the trees she planted a few years ago to ensure she is not penalized by Envirotrade at the end of the year, the company with which she has a carbon supply contract. Albertina is required to ensure the survival and good growth of the plants and to ensure that at least 85% of the plants received survive.

“In addition to the maize and mapira I also have to look after the trees now, to make sure they don’t die. I planted a lot of trees and it’s not easy checking on them all”, said Albertina, who visits her land twice a day.

Just like Albertina, another 1400 farmers in Nhambita and other villages in the Púngue administrative region in Sofala have been contracted to plant and care for trees on their land.

“When they came they said that the project is good because by planting trees we’d receive money to fight poverty and we’d be in charge (of the trees) even after the conclusion of the project”, one Nhambita farmer tells us.

The project is called the “Nhambita Community Carbon Project”1. The aim of the company that runs it, Envirotrade, is to capture carbon through agro-forestry, and sell carbon credits on the voluntary markets, which at this stage comprise Europe and the United States. By buying carbon credits, companies in industrialised countries can “sell” a positive image to their clients, clean their conscience and allow pollution of the planet. With the implementation of REDD+ and the purchase of carbon credits, it is expected that rich countries will continue to emit greenhouse gases, as they will be financing carbon capture projects in other locations, generally in countries in the South.

Envirotrade also claims to be alleviating poverty through this project.

In addition to using their land to plant trees (gliricidia, faidherbia, cashew trees, mango trees, and timber-yielding varieties), communities are also expected to protect and patrol a defined area of just over 10 000 hectares, from which Envirotrade also sells carbon credits through the REDD+ mechanism.

Planting, preserving and protecting the forests are all services regulated by a contract between Envirotrade and the farmers. The contract is for a fixed term of only seven years. Yet, as stipulated by the clauses in the contract, the producer (farmer) is under the obligation to plant and care for trees, and will receive an annual payment, which varies according to the system chosen and the size of the area of land used. After seven years payments cease, but farmers still have a duty of care.

“It is the farmer’s obligation to continue to care for the plants which they own, even after the seven year period covered by this contract”♦, one of the articles in the clause on obligations of producers stipulates.

According to Envirotrade trees capture carbon for a period of 50 to 100 years. The farmers’ duty to care for the plants and forests thus automatically spans several generations.

“If a farmer passes away during the contract period, the contract, all the rights contained therein but also all the obligations, are transferred to their legitimate/legal heirs (children)”, António Serra, National Director for Envirotrade clarifies.

It should be noted that the contracts regulating these activities do not include a section on farmers’ rights.