Planting trees for a healthier environment

The new reforestation project on the Plateau of Bateke, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be a boon to the local community as it generates vital environmental benefits and presents various social services through an innovative financing scheme.

By reforesting 4,200 hectares of degraded land, the Ibi Bateke Carbon Sink Plantation Project will trap an estimated 2.4mn tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the next 30 years, generating emission reductions, which will later be sold to finance the expansion of the project, and health, education and agro-forestry activities in the local community.
This is the first project in DRC to benefit from global trade in emission reductions under the Clean Development Mechanism—a market-based approach that allows countries,  which have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, to purchase carbon credits from each other, reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to slow global warming.
The World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund will purchase 500,000 tons of emission reductions (so-called carbon credits) to be generated by the project until 2017 from a private company called NOVACEL, founded and headed by locals from Bateke, including the Mushiete brothers, Olivier and Thierry.
“The objective of the initiative is to lead the local population and farmers to stop the destruction of natural forests and concentrate on planting managed forests,” said Olivier Mushiete, director of the Ibi Bateke Carbon Sink Project.
The degraded lands will be transformed into a managed forest of acacia, eucalyptus and indigenous species that will sequester CO2 and contribute to the supply of fuelwood for Kinshasa.

Creating a ‘Carbon Sink’
By planting new trees, the project serves as a “carbon sink”-- it captures carbon from the atmosphere and stores it in the biomass of the growing trees, thus combating climate change. “A carbon sink is not just about planting trees. It is also about the interaction with local people who work with us and giving value to their natural resources, such as the clay soil in which the trees grow and which, after treatment by our machines, can be used as bricks to build the houses we see here and which shelter the agro-foresters who we work with.” said Mushiete.
Marie Françoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for DRC, signed the Emission Reductions Purchase Agreement (ERPA) with NOVACEL at the World Bank office in Kinshasa, in August 2009. “As DRC starts preparing for a future international mechanism to compensate tropical nations that reduce deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), this project illustrates concretely how carbon finance can support both the environment and generate revenues to local communities,” Marie Françoise said.
The Bank’s BioCarbon Fund has had a pivotal role in enabling NOVACEL to obtain loans from private firms (Suez and Umicore) to finance upfront investments. Also, it has attracted the participation of another carbon buyer, Orbeo, a subsidiary of the French conglomerate Société Generale and Rhodia, which is buying a similar amount of credits.
“We are very happy to see how innovative financial instruments, such as the BioCarbon Fund, can facilitate the generation of a revenue stream for a poor community, in the form of carbon credits,” said Kathy Sierra, World Bank Vice President of Sustainable Development.
The Ibi Project is also receiving support from the Ministry of Environment of Conservation of Nature. Since DRC ratified the Kyoto Protocol in February 2005, the government has been making an effort to comply with the commitments of the Protocol by supporting projects that will generate carbon credits, especially afforestation and reforestation projects.
“The project at Ibi demonstrates the potential that the CDM has for sustainable development in DRC,” said Vincent Kasulu, Director of Sustainable Development, Ministry of Environment and Nature Conservation. “It also stresses the importance of private investors’ role in making this kind of initiative happen.”
The project is creating a buzz in Africa, according to Thierry Mushiete. “We want to share our experience with others so that there can be a true spill-over phenomenon,” he said.

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