The event was organized under the theme “Improving Livelihoods and Restoring Ecosystems’ on the 25th of March,2015 at the Golf Course Hotel,Kampala. It was well attended with 170 guests both national and international.
It kicked off with an exhibition from ECOTRUST and other partners among them; Geolodges and UNDP. The new ecotrust website ecotrust.or.ug was unveiled from which guests were able to take carbon footprint measurements and at the same time, offset. With a dedicated staff team, guests were given an insight into the various projects that ECOTRUST is engaged in.
We were blessed with the presence of speakers from all over the world who gave testimonies of their application of ecosystem services back in their home countries and shared their success stories as well.
Ina Porras from Costa Rica, Chair of the Plan Vivo Foundation took us through what is happening around the world in terms of payment for ecosystem services.
Ecosystem services are benefits people get from ecosystems. Many of them are invisible and “free”.
Trust funds in Costa Rica have been created at regional level with both the public and private sector collaborating to form groups for long term financing. One such example she mentioned was a project formed in 2002 dealing with watershed services that led to the provision of clean safe water to the cities. She also talked about the opportunities that have emerged from creation of these PES funds such as food and energy security.
Chris Stephenson,from the UK, Director of the Plan Vivo Foundation gave an overview of the Foundation. Plan Vivo is the longest standing voluntary carbon standard with a view of generating climate, livelihood and ecosystem benefits. Participants are rural smallholders and communities dependent on natural resources for livelihoods.Activities are implemented on smallholder or community land.
Chris shared with us how the Plan Vivo standards have evolved through the years from 1994 to date. Plan Vivo has 44 projects operational in over 30 countries and qualification for Plan Vivo certification requires demonstration of real benefits.Almost 2 million Plan Vivo certificates have been issued to date.The coordination of these projects is done by local NGO’s with international NGO support.
Elsa Esquivel and Marco Lara from Mexico, working with Ambio took us through some of the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) projects under the Scolel’te program in Mexico. Elsa who has a lot of experience with carbon sequestration showed us the ecosystem characterization of Mexico which is composed of pine oak forests,evergreen rainforests,cloud forests,dry forests and secondary vegetation. The program activities include; tourism, reforestation, agroforestry, forest conservation and restoration.
Marco who is more involved with the carbon market activities gave a little background on the Scolel’te program. Over the years it has expanded to high mountain areas and rainforests such as the Chiapas Community. It’s the only program in mexico with international carbon certification. He highlighted some of its positive impacts such as endemic flora and fauna conservation and creation of biological corridors.Some of the challenges they’ve faced include geographically dispersed communities and bad attitudes towards reforestation.
Khalil Baker From Canada, Executive Director, Taking Root and working with one of the Plan Vivo projects in Nicaragua shared his experience in marketing carbon offsets on the international market.
Taking Root is involved in the direct Payment of Ecosystem Services to the small holder farmers in Nicaragua. The projects are presented to buyers from all over the world, have them quantity their carbon footprint and offer them a carbon offset in the same amount. However it is a challenge marketing an intangible commodity. A story needs to be told. The most effective way to communicate with stakeholders is by use of the Small Holder Carbon Information system in which data is collected from project sites, uploaded and shared with stakeholders. He remarked “This kind of trade only has value if you create trust and legitimacy”
Joseph A. Hutabarat,working with Fauna and Flora International, Indonesia
gave insight into the Payment for Ecosystem Service projects running in Indonesia.Indonesia is a new subscriber to these PES Services (only in its second year) currently operational in a few communities. Their focus is more on conservation and biodiversity assessment. Carbon and Community assessment is also done with emphasis on PES money going back into the community and to improvement of the natural forests. Joseph mentioned that it’s a good option to choose an international standard as it reduces transaction costs.
Beatrice Ahimbisibwe, leader of the Bitereko Women’s Group,based in Mitoma District,Uganda
district struck a chord by sharing her joy in having brought change and development to her community through engaging in the growing of trees for carbon under the Trees For Global Benefits Scheme. Indigenous trees like ficus, croton, avocados, fagara are grown in mixed woodlots,on individually and family owned land.
Beatrice talked about other benefits from growing trees such as; Control of soil erosion in the steep areas of Mitoma district, reduced poaching in the national parks, exposure of the district, loan accessibility to local farmers as well as linking these farmers to international markets with the help of ECOTRUST.
Jones Kamugisha ,Treasurer Board of Trustees -ECOTRUST talked about the inception of these new funds and what they mean. The funds will be a financial cushion by providing sustainability and enhancing the ability to achieve conservation goals. ” The Endowment fund arms us with the ability to engage various stakeholders both from the private and public sector”. With these funds comes a greater degree of independence, bargaining power and flexibility.
Pauline Nantongo,Executive Director ECOTRUST gave a visual future projection of a principal of 10 million dollars from these funds by the year 2020.
Isaac Kapalaga, Chairman,Board Of Trustees took us through the history of ECOTRUST, from the time it was established that is in 1999 to where it is today. ECOTRUST’s activities around the country, goals and objectives plus the partnerships we’ve made both nationally and internationally over the years.
“Part of the money that is generated through sales of carbon, is actually being put into a community carbon fund and the purpose is to ensure that activities that benefit the wider community in which carbon farmers live can be financed”.
Collins Oloya, Commissioner, Wetlands Management Department – Ministry Of Water And Environment who was also there to witness the launch of the funds in his speech mentioned that the work ECOTRUST is doing is in line with the National Development Plan which aims at promotion of sustainable use of both environmental and national resources .
” The theme of today fits in many ways with the national development plan priority which aims at promoting sustainable use of environmental and natural resources through restoration of forest and wetlands coverage of the 1990’s i.e restoring it to 24% of the land covered by forests and 12% of the land covered by wetlands”
The event was crowned off with the official launch of the ECOTRUST Endowment Fund and the two Quasi Funds (Payment For Environmental Services and Carbon Bank) by Hon Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu -Minister of Water and Environment who handed over PES cheques to Busetama subcounty, Budadili town council, Bulegeni subcounty and Lusha subcounty and officially declared the funds launched.
With the motivation from successful ecosystem service practitioners, a chance to interact with key industry leaders and the positive remarks from the invited guests, it truly was a day to remember.
We would like to once again thank you for your participation and continued support.