Carbon trading: What's in for local communities

Forestry PS Ephantus Kimotho, Samburu Deputy governor Gabriel Lenengwesi, FAO Representative in Kenya Carla Mucavi during Kirisia CFA signing Participatory Forest Management Plan and Forest Management Agreement in Samburu.

The Government is in the process of reviewing the Climate Change Act 2016 to capture new realities in the climate change fight.

Principal Secretary for the State Department of Forestry Ephantus Kimotho said the current Act does not capture new realities like carbon markets and carbon credit opportunities that are now being discussed as part of the climate action.

"When the Act was being put in place, there were concepts that were not a reality then. Issues like carbon trading, carbon capture, cost and benefits and safeguards are now central in the climate debate and therefore we need a framework so that everything is guided by law and communities benefit from their efforts to fight climate change. We have issued a notice for public participation and we hope that issues on carbon trading will be captured," Kimotho said.

According to Investopedia, carbon credits, also known as carbon offsets, are permits that allow an investor to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. One credit permits the emission of one tonne of carbon dioxide or the equivalent of other greenhouse gases.

Kirisia Forest success story

By protecting forests, communities can accumulate carbon credits which they can then sell to greenhouse gas emitters like gas producers.

While making his opening remarks during last year's launch of the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative at COP 27 in Egypt, President William Ruto described carbon credits as Kenya's "next significant export".

Kenya is already a leader in the generation of carbon credits in Africa, accounting for over 20 per cent of the continent's volume over the past five years. To guide the carbon trading market and ensure that communities actively engaged in climate change fight yield solid income and development opportunities, President Ruto noted that there is an urgent need for a robust legal framework.

Already, there are a few carbon projects in Kenya supplying credits for the voluntary markets. The carbon credit projects are Mikoko Pamoja which is the first project globally to engage local communities in the conservation and restoration of mangrove forests through the sale of mangrove carbon credits and the Northern Rangelands Trust project.

Kimotho spoke on the carbon credits on Monday during the signing of the Kirisia/Leroghi Participatory Forest Management Plan (PFMP) and Forest Management Agreement (FMA) in Kisiria Forest in Samburu county. Forest Act 2016 which guides the conservation and management of public, community and private forests allows for public participation in forest management.

The signing exercise was presided over by the PS, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in Kenya Carla Mucavi and senior officials from the Kenya Forest Service. Communities Forest Associations like Kirisia that help in managing forests are touted as some of the beneficiaries of carbon markets. The big debate is how the benefits will be shared equitably among communities. These sentiments were raised by Samburu Deputy governor Gabriel Lenengwesi.

"Many of us are naive when it comes to this debate on carbon credits. How will the carbon be measured? How will the benefits be shared equitably among the community?" Lenengwesi posed.

On her part, Mrs Mucavi lauded the Kisiria community for taking a central role in restoring and conserving crucial forest resources.

"Kirisia Community Forest Association has proved that communities can take a lead role in conserving and protecting the forest and help to mitigate and adapt to effects of climate change," she said.

Kirisia Forest sits on 92,000 hectares and is among the four gazetted forests in Samburu county. Others are Mathew ranges, Ndoto and Nyiro. The forests make up 23 per cent of the total forest cover in Kenya. Kisiria forest project has been cited as a model of forest restoration after locals voluntarily left in 2019 after years of encroachment that led to massive deforestation and degradation of land. Instead of illegal activities like logging and charcoal burning, the locals with the support of partners like FAO, are now engaged in progressive activities like beekeeping, seedling production, ecotourism and nurturing medicinal plants, activities that will now be guided by the Participatory Forest Management Plan and Forest Management Agreement.

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