KAMPALA, Uganda, October 6, 2009 (ENS) — Pines and a mix of native African trees will soon cover what is now grassland within Uganda’s Rwoho Central Forest Reserve, an upper watershed of Lake Victoria.

The growing trees will absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, from the atmosphere, and with these plantings, Uganda becomes the first country in Africa to undertake a reforestation project that will count towards emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol.

Called the Nile Basin Reforestation Project, the tree planting is being implemented by Uganda’s National Forestry Authority in association with local community organizations, using funds provided by the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund.

“This is a milestone for Uganda, especially considering the difficulty associated with bringing reforestation projects to this stage of final approval. I am happy that apart from providing physical financial resources, the project will also generate up to 700 jobs for the local population,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, World Bank country manager for Uganda.

The project will generate about 500 jobs during planting and 200 jobs during ongoing management of the forest.

The project area will be covered with 75 percent with non-native Pinus caribaea, a quick-growing Caribbean pine that has been introduced and tested in the area. In addition, treeplanters will put in 20 percent Maesopsis eminii, a large African forest tree; and five percent Prunus africana, an evergreen with bark that is prized for its medicinal properties.

The Ugandan project is one of only eight reforestation projects worldwide that have been approved to date to count towards emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, and only the third land use change project to be registered in the BioCarbon Fund.

“The Uganda project is the first of several projects that are in the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism pipeline for registration, and which can lead to strong co-benefits, including higher incomes for local communities and greater climate resilience,” says Ellysar Baroudy, fund manager for the BioCarbon Fund.

The BioCarbon Fund purchases emission reductions from afforestation and reforestation projects under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol.

Launched in 2002 with US$100 million, the BioCarbon Fund, a public/private partnership, provides finance for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers and rural communities can find new value in their agricultural lands and forests as they earn income from capturing and storing carbon dioxide.

The World Bank’s entire Carbon Finance Unit, including the BioCarbon Fund, uses money contributed by governments and companies in OECD industrialized countries to purchase project-based greenhouse gas emission reductions in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

The Nile Basin project is expected to sequester around 0.11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, CO2e, by the year 2012 and around 0.29 million tonnes of CO2e by 2017.

The project area once was covered with trees, but deforestation and erosion have taken their toll. Annual fires set by hunters for honey and wild animals, by livestock grazers, and for slash and burn agriculture have deforested the area. In addition, illegal logging for timber and tree cutting by charcoal producers have destroyed more of the original forest.

The National Forestry Authority says expansion of wood resources in Uganda is crucial for the country to meet its growing demand for wood and reduce the pressure on the remaining native forests.

The Nile Basin plantation will be established in 64 blocks of 25 hectares each, grouped in five small-scale Clean Development Mechanism projects. This cluster design allows for potential involvement of private and community based investors, since the project area can be split into a portfolio of small-scale projects or different investor shares. The total size of the plantation is expected to reach 2,137 hectares.

Environmental benefits include the reduction of the erosion, the increase of dry season flows in area rivers, and the mitigation of the ongoing land degradation.

The NFA will provide seedlings and technical advice to the community association, which will be in charge of protecting the plantations from fire and the remaining patches of natural forest.

“This pilot project has equipped the National Forestry Authority with the skills and contacts required to develop more carbon forestry projects in Uganda,” says Damian Akankwasa, executive director of the National Forestry Authority.

“The project demonstrates that small-scale farmers can benefit from the international carbon market,” he said.

As a continent, Africa has not had a large number of Clean Development Mechanism projects. To date, only eight forestry projects have been registered under the mechanism, which allows industrialized countries with emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol to purchase emissions reductions in developing countries to meet part of their targets.

Inger Andersen, director of sustainable development in the Africa Region for the World Bank, says, “Forestry and agriculture in Africa are areas where we see great potential for carbon projects and a win-win opportunity for the climate change agenda.”

“Through climate-smart land management and forest conservation, Africa can play a vital role in carbon sequestration and climate regulation,” Andersen said. “Scaling up these practices is a priority, as they also have great potential for providing sustainable livelihoods for rural Africans.”

The announcement of this first Clean Development Mechanism forestry project in Africa coincides with an important meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bangkok. It leads to the annual UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December where governments hope to agree on an ambitious and effective international climate change deal.

Forest issues are a key part of these climate talks.

Until now, only reforestation and afforestation have been part of the Clean Development Mechanism. But in Bangkok, negotiators are discussing not only the streamlining of CDM rules, which have been difficult to implement, but also whether the mechanism should include more land use activities such as the restoration of wetlands, agriculture and reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

If this is achieved, poor rural communities, especially in Africa, will be able to implement more land use and forestry projects and benefit from carbon revenues from sustainable development.

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