False solutions of Rio+20

As evening falls, Albertina Francisco*, a farmer from the Nhambita community in Sofala province, Mozambique, returns home. She is tired after another day of work at her machamba (a term used in Mozambique to refer to a patch of farmland). In addition to looking after the maize, mapira (a type of sorghum) and cassava which she grows, another task has been added to Albertina’s workload: looking after the trees she planted a few years ago to ensure she is not penalized by Envirotrade at the end of the year, the company with which she has a carbon supply contract. Albertina is required to ensure the survival and good growth of the plants and to ensure that at least 85% of the plants received survive.
“In addition to the maize and mapira I also have to look after the trees now, to make sure they don’t die. I planted a lot of trees and it’s not easy checking on them all”, said Albertina, who visits her land twice a day.
Just like Albertina, another 1400 farmers in Nhambita and other villages in the Púngue administrative region in Sofala have been contracted to plant and care for trees on their land.
“When they came they said that the project is good because by planting trees we’d receive money to fight poverty and we’d be in charge (of the trees) even after the conclusion of the project”, one Nhambita farmer tells us.
The project is called the “Nhambita Community Carbon Project”1. The aim of the company that runs it, Envirotrade, is to capture carbon through agro-forestry, and sell carbon credits on the voluntary markets, which at this stage comprise Europe and the United States. By buying carbon credits, companies in industrialised countries can “sell” a positive image to their clients, clean their conscience and allow pollution of the planet. With the implementation of REDD+ and the purchase of carbon credits, it is expected that rich countries will continue to emit greenhouse gases, as they will be financing carbon capture projects in other locations, generally in countries in the South.
Envirotrade also claims to be alleviating poverty through this project.
In addition to using their land to plant trees (gliricidia, faidherbia, cashew trees, mango trees, and timber-yielding varieties), communities are also expected to protect and patrol a defined area of just over 10 000 hectares, from which Envirotrade also sells carbon credits through the REDD+ mechanism.
Planting, preserving and protecting the forests are all services regulated by a contract between Envirotrade and the farmers. The contract is for a fixed term of only seven years. Yet, as stipulated by the clauses in the contract, the producer (farmer) is under the obligation to plant and care for trees, and will receive an annual payment, which varies according to the system chosen and the size of the area of land used. After seven years payments cease, but farmers still have a duty of care.
“It is the farmer’s obligation to continue to care for the plants which they own, even after the seven year period covered by this contract”, one of the articles in the clause on obligations of producers stipulates.
According to Envirotrade trees capture carbon for a period of 50 to 100 years. The farmers’ duty to care for the plants and forests thus automatically spans several generations.
“If a farmer passes away during the contract period, the contract, all the rights contained therein but also all the obligations, are transferred to their legitimate/legal heirs (children)”, António Serra, National Director for Envirotrade clarifies.
It should be noted that the contracts regulating these activities do not include a section on farmers’ rights.
Nhambita is a community in Gorongosa district, in the administrative region of Púngue at the centre of Mozambique. It is extremely biologically diverse and boasts a wealth of vegetation and forests to be envied.
The European Commission contributed about 1.5 million Euros of financing to Envirotrade between the start of the project in 2003 and 2008, for research and testing in Nhambita. However the European Commission cut its funding, one of the reasons being irregularities observed in the proposed method for measuring carbon.
According to Envirotrade their projects aim to alleviate poverty (in communities), and contribute to sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. “It is a new way of doing business”, the company, which believes it is offering a new way of life for individuals and communities, states on its website [1].
The services set out in a farmer’s contract which we gained access to were to be provided through planting trees in an area totalling 0.22 hectares (22 by 22 metres) in the farmer’s yard; and the farmer will receive a total of 3,215 Meticais (128 USD) over the seven years of the contract period. In order to earn enough money to actually alleviate poverty, this farmer would need access to a much greater land area, diversified systems, and would have to plant many more trees – which proves virtually impossible.
The most highly paid system run by Envirotrade is termed “forest plantation” and can earn the producer about 17.500 Meticais (670 USD) over seven years.
These amounts refer to one hectare, which means the amount may be lower or higher depending on the area of land in question. Nhambita’s farmers have an average of one hectare of land per family. – pambazuka news