Sharing the Revenue from Carbon Offsets – What Really Happens?

As part of our contractual agreement with the communities in Yaeda Valley, the Carbon Tanzania team heads to Yaeda for meetings in May and November every year. These scheduled meetings are attended by the ward government, village government, partner organizations and members of the Hadza communities, some of whom can walk for a day or two from their camps which are spread across the landscape.

The Rules

These meetings are quite structured, as many village meetings in Tanzania tend to be. A chairman is selected from the Hadza community, their job is to keep order and ensure people are allow to speak uninterrupted. The rules of the meeting are quite strict. “No one is allowed to attend if they have been drinking and anyone perceived as being ‘rowdy’ will be sent out,” the chairman Mzee Gidahonda warns. All people are encouraged to comment or use this opportunity to voice concerns and views. “This is the time to complain,” he says, “not later”. The secretary, Pascal Kajema, takes the minutes and ensures everyone in attendance is registered. This is essential when it comes to discussing revenue sharing. A signature from those who can write, fingerprints from those who can’t, record attendance.

Conflicts, Successes & Plans

The Carbon Tanzania team is usually asked to open the meeting; I begin by greeting various age groups and offering respect to village leaders. This is followed by a summary of the monitoring data collated from the previous six months, looking at where conflicts might have arisen and how the various governance structures have addressed these issues. There are always questions and clarifications needed.

We, Carbon Tanzania, then talk about any plans for the coming 6 months. Under discussion in this forum, is a recent donation from The Mitchell D. Phaiah Foundation Inc, has allowed us to buy uniforms for all of the community guards, 35 people in total, and a motorbike for the project manager Isaac, so that he can move between the village centres and Hadza camps. This has been on the list of from the community for a year and everyone breaks into applause; uniforms are very popular. “By being in uniform we are empowered,” someone shouts. We then move onto discussing any conflicts, complaints or suggestions.

Four months ago the unthinkable happened, mobile phone coverage in Yaeda! This has allowed us to think more carefully about our reporting and how we can react. GPS enabled smartphones for the community guards with access to a Hadza community WhatsApp group can now report poaching. It is a start. GPS apps allow us to track the patrols in real time to improve our monitoring for coverage…exciting stuff and somehow surreal in this context.

Feeling the impact of Climate Change

One of the most important aspects of these meetings is a forum for us to listen. This year has been dry and questions about climate change dominate. “It’s really dry this year and it’s hard to find berries,” says Samson Sinyau. Many people nod in agreement. Recently, our partners The Nature Conservancy conducted a climate vulnerability study for northern Tanzania. It has generated excellent data with accompanying maps so we talked about the results of the study. “It will get wetter,” I say, “but the rains will, on average, be shorter in length and weather conditions more dramatic”… “Shida” (problem) is muttered by many. People like the Hadza who live off the natural resource base, fully understand what a drier environment really means.

The Income Earned

The last segment of the meeting is based on revenue. This is where Jo explains how much revenue has been generated from the sale of forest carbon offsets. We use flip charts to explain how many carbon offsets we have sold and how much we have left to sell. We talk about some of the companies and why they buy our offsets to offset their carbon emissions and, of course, talk about our certification and monitoring. Results-based payments are emphasised again and again. I always finish with the same statement: “This is your land, your forest, your project, it will succeed because of you.” People nod in agreement. A murmur or two. Everyone gets it.

At this point the Carbon Tanzania team leave. Why? So that the community, village and ward governments can continue to have a frank and open discussion about revenue sharing without us present. It’s also really important that the wider community and government understand that we, Carbon Tanzania, do not influence the revenue sharing process. Free and informed consent is a reality, supported by the all important ‘muhutasari’, the minutes of the meeting that have to be sent to us and act as a record of the payment. Certain expenditures are also agreed to straight away. The education and hospital funds are decided, everyone agrees. Payments to governance structures can vary, sometimes the communities will feel the district government is not listening to them or hasn’t reacted to an issue, so their payment is reduced. But for the most part we receive the minutes within a week and payment is acted on from there; transferred directly into different bank accounts electronically.

People understand: a payment for their ecosystem service, the Hadza are doing their bit for climate change, actually they are doing all they can do. Perhaps I should finish with a question, or perhaps it was just a comment, “Baker, why don’t people just live more like us? [the Hadza, minimalist to the extreme] Then everything would just be easy.” I don’t really have an answer but it’s a good point.

Written by Carbon Tanzania Co-founder – Marc Baker


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