New method for avoiding forest degradation through fire management

“This new methodology will reduce the frequency and intensity of fire, which is good for the forest... In the long run it will also help communities claim for their carbon offsets, which could be another income source for them.”
– Makala Jasper, Chief Executive Officer, Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative

Fire is one of the most significant drivers of forest degradation in many dryland forest ecosystems, and contributes to global warming. This is particularly a challenge in the miombo woodlands where we work in south-eastern Tanzania. Regular and uncontrolled bushfires are common in these areas, and fire control has therefore long been seen as an integral element of effective forest management. Despite this, there has previously been no way for communities to benefit from international carbon markets by using fire management as a strategy to reduce unwanted carbon emissions. We have changed this.

As part of our pilot REDD project – one of nine projects funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania – we developed a method to quantify the carbon savings achieved by implementing effective fire controls. We designed this method in collaboration with our partners, Value for Nature and the University of Edinburgh, to meet the best known and toughest international carbon market requirements, as defined by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

We submitted our new methodology called ‘Avoiding Degradation through Fire Management’ to VCS in February 2014, and it was accepted in May 2015. This was a highly technical and demanding undertaking, made especially difficult as our method is the first of its kind, so we had nowhere to learn from; before this, there was no other methodology for avoiding forest degradation through fire management.

There were however benefits to pioneering our own methodology: we were able to ensure that the method is catered to our project. This is not insignificant, as some project proponents have encountered real difficulties with ‘apparently’ appropriate methodologies which turn out to have some small criterion which, although not self-obvious at the start, turns out to be insurmountable. Moreover, we designed our method so that it can be used as widely as possible. It is applicable not only in our project area in Kilwa District, but across all dry miombo woodland ecosystems which stretch across 2.8 million square kilometres of southern and eastern Africa.

Next Steps

As with all of our work, our REDD project seeks to generate sustainable income for rural communities, thus providing incentives for local people to manage their forests sustainably. Now that we has an approved VCS method, we need to develop a Project Design Document to support our REDD project. Once this document is in place, the project will need to be validated by one of the VCS verification bodies. We will also seek project validation with a second certification body: the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance. These two leading standards are commonly used in concert to verify combined carbon offsets and social and environmental co-benefits; they are the most robust standards, and will therefore bring the greatest credibility to the project.

MCDI’s VCS Method: Timeline to Approval

27 February 2014 – Methodology submitted to VCS

April 2014 – Presented at a webinar and opened for public comment

March 2014 – First External Review by Scientific Certification Systems

November 2014 – Second External Review by Det Norske Veritas

May 2015 – Final approval of the methodology by VCS

Download the method here