Mozambique’s Ministry of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries (MIMAIP) launched on Tuesday what could be Africa’s largest mangrove reforestation project, in partnership with a company based in Abu Dhabi which plans to use carbon credits to pay for the project.
Blue Forest expects to plant between 50 million and 100 million trees as part of the 30-year partnership, across 185,000 hectares of mangrove forests in the provinces of Sofala and Zambézia. These trees could ultimately “offset around 200,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year… the equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the road,” according to a joint statement released by MIMAIP and Blue Forest today.
The exact scale of the project will be assessed over a two-year feasibility period — but Blue Forest’s founder and CEO, Vahid Fotuhi, told Zitamar News he expects “investment in the range of around $75m in both reforestation and social impact activities.”
Blue Forest, which is financed by private investors, will provide the working capital to launch the project and plans to recover its investments by selling carbon credits over the life of the project.
Carbon credit revenues will also be shared between local and national stakeholders in accordance with guidelines established by the National Fund for Sustainable Development (FNDS), Blue Forest said.
Credits will be issued both for reforestation — which could take around ten years as trees need to reach maturity — and through “avoided deforestation”, which could start generating credits within two years, following an audit by carbon standard setter, Verra.
The plan to use Mozambique’s mangrove forests to generate carbon credits has attracted criticism from environmentalists in the country, however.
“If anyone wants to plant native trees, mangroves or others, we fully support that, as we so much need it, but not under a carbon credit programme, as they give companies the opportunity to carry on business as usual, to continue burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases, while trying to balance their emissions by planting trees,” Anabela Lemos, a director at environmental group JA! told Zitamar News.
“Science and many UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports are clear: to tackle the climate crisis we need to decrease emissions, phase out fossil fuels and stop any new fossil fuel exploration,” she said. “In reality, carbon credits are just an illusion, a false solution and a distraction for many, as there are huge amounts of funds under REDD [the UN’s flagship reforestation programme using carbon credits], NGOs, companies and private entities, can easily get those funds to plant trees, and doing that is worsening the climate crisis. We need to protect our native forest and ecosystems, without needing to access carbon markets.”
Turning the tide on deforestation
Mozambique has more than 300,000ha of mangroves along its coast, one of the largest mangrove areas in Africa. Protecting these forests has multiple benefits; as well as being hotspots for biodiversity and highly effective carbon sinks, they are helpful in protecting society and the coastline from further consequences of climate change, such as the effects of storms and rising sea levels.
“The project area we’re focusing on has already lost 3,000ha of bio-diverse mangrove forests in just the past 10 years,” Fotuhi said. “The government wants to turn the tide on this high rate of deforestation. We are here to support them.”
He said Blue Forest will take an offensive and defensive approach to the project. “As part of the offensive approach, we recognise that in Mozambique people cut trees to make charcoal to sell or use, or for construction material — so we will provide them with sustainable cooking stoves distributed at a subsidised price that use 50% less charcoal than other devices.”
The defensive approach will see Blue Forest install so-called weaving dams which prevent further coastline erosion.
Blue Forest is a new company without a long track record in mangrove plantation projects. However, last year it partnered with the United Arab Emirates government to plant 100,000 mangroves in Africa and the UAE, as part of a campaign called “Tree for 50.” The company planted 50,000 mangroves in Tudor Creek in Kenya, just south of Kilifi, in partnership with Kenya Forest Service, and is on track to finish planting 50,000 mangroves in the UAE this year, said Fotuhi.
“We have extensive project development experience, and the ability to bring together experts, hire scientists, and environmental planners, and work with local research institutes,” he told Zitamar. “We bring the key elements that will make a project successful, including technical, commercial, legal and financial expertise, through our consortium.”
The reforestation works will be carried out in collaboration with various stakeholders at a local level, and could create anywhere between 100 to 300 local jobs in Mozambique, said Fotuhi.
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