For over two weeks in December 2019, the Yaeda Valley was feverishly swept up in excitement around the first ever installment of the “Carbon Cup”. The Carbon Cup was a community initiated and community undertaken event aimed at increasing environmental awareness and engagement in natural resource management matters that took the form of a football tournament.
All project villages fielded teams, as did the surrounding villages, as well as a team of government workers, all signed up to compete for an array of prizes and, of course, Valley-wide pride and bragging rights. The tournament, which was overseen by project manager Isaack Bryson, was as much a celebration of the success of the carbon project and the community at large and served to increase awareness of the direct benefits that regular carbon revenues have brought to the Valley, such as medical clinics, educational support and community capacity training.
Pre-game speeches also focused on environmental conservation and how all the various communities, from hunter-gatherers to farmers to pastoralists, directly rely on a functioning environment for their livelihoods. These same sentiments were relayed to the community by the district leaders who came as honored guests to the Final, where Yaeda Chini took home the inaugural Carbon Cup trophy in front of a raucous crowd of nearly 1000. In what came as a surprise to no-one, Hadazbe community members took the top 3 prizes in the archery competition that was run in parallel to the football, later jokingly asking the winning Yaeda team how they planned to feed their families by kicking a ball. The teams, spectators, and district all shared a meal to close the festivities and end the two-week period where carbon was the talk of the valley and beyond.
Community members from surrounding villages were amazed to learn that all the fun events and activities were being payed for by the forests that surrounded them, and eagerly asked how they could bring forest protection and carbon finance to their villages for the benefit of their communities. This “positive leakage” demonstrates powerfully how community led outputs such as the Carbon Cup effectively spread grassroots awareness of the benefits of collective action around natural resource management.
As the Yaeda Valley project continues to mature and the community continue to master the core project activity of forest protection, more and more opportunities for alternative and community led programming will arise, and the Carbon Tanzania team is excited about this development and evolution of the project, especially in terms of community ownership. Issac Bryson said that after the community had been asking for the tournament for many months, he found the event to be a complete success and received congratulatory messages from community members, as well as local and district leaders, who hoped to see the tournament return again as soon as possible. Issac added that what may just look like a few football games to some continued to make the carbon project and environmental conservation part and parcel of people’s lives in the Yaeda valley, as education, health, governance and now even recreational sports competitions are all rooted in sound forest protection and natural resource management.
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