Wildlife Works was founded in 1997 with a simple yet powerful idea. If you want to protect endangered wildlife, you need to balance the needs of wildlife with the need for work for those rural communities who share the same environment. Our mission is to bring market-based solutions to conservation of biodiversity by providing sustainable economic benefits to rural communities so they can aspire to a better life or simply feed their children and put them through school without damaging the environment in which they live.
We believe that the UN-backed Reduced Emissions From Deforestation and Degradation, or REDD program, is a significant tool to provide real value to those rural communities who have made the commitment to protect their environment for future generations.
Wildlife Works has pioneered practical REDD+ solutions that are acceptable to both the rural communities and to the marketplace. It’s allowed us to rapidly expand the amount of endangered species habitat we’re protecting.
Our Kenya based Kasigau Corridor REDD project is the first ever to be issued Voluntary Emission Reductions (VERs) for REDD under both the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), and the Climate Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCB) the two most comprehensive carbon accounting standards among projects issuing credits in the voluntary market. The project received significant start up funding from BNP Paribas in the form of an option pledge to buy VERs over a 5 year period. The project generates over 1 million VERs per year, making it also the first mega project under the VCS, and will avoid the emission of over 30,000,000 tonnes of CO2e over the life of the project.
The Kasigau Corridor REDD project is protecting 200,000 hectares(500,000 acres) of dryland forest in southeastern Kenya that forms a corridor between two National Parks, Tsavo East and Tsavo West. This dryland forest is under intense threat from slash and burn agriculture, as the local population expands , but as a result of climate change, agricultural productivity in this already marginal area has decreased significantly involves nearly 150,000 rural Kenyans, who are benefitting from the distribution of revenues from the sale of the project’s carbon offsets.
The Project Area is home to a fantastic diversity of mammals (over 50 species of large mammal, more than 20 species of bats), birds (over 300 species) and important populations of IUCN Red List species such as Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Lion (Panthera leo) as well as over 500 African elephants (Loxidonta africana) seasonally.
The majority of the Project Area (86%) is comprised of Acacia-Commiphora Dryland Forest, where the dominant species are drought specialists, possessing a number of strategies to find and preserve moisture in a semi-arid environment, including dropping or folding all foliage in dry periods to reduce moisture loss from transpiration, when they photosynthesize through their bark to survive.
There are six key elements to the Wildlife Works brand of REDD+ that make it a successful model.
- The foundation of it all is job creation, to provide forest and wildlife friendly economic alternatives to the forest community
- Jobs making eco-friendly products
- Jobs protecting wildlife [rangers and eco tourism]
- Jobs managing the carbon project
- Jobs helping farmers [jojoba and chili project]
- Jobs supporting education [children's education, conservation education, community outreach about our projects]
- Jobs growing trees [nursery program, green charcoal project]
- Agricultural intensification – how can we help the local farmers be more productive on less land to reduce the pressure on the remaining forest
- Physical protection and monitoring – Wildlife Works trained over 120 young people, men and women, from the local communities to be Wildlife Rangers, and they perform daily foot patrols of the forest to ensure that it remains intact. The rangers are unarmed, but have the power of arrest granted by the local community.
- Fuel wood substitution – Wildlife Works has an innovative program to replace “bush charcoal” with sustainably produced charcoal, to support the local fuel needs without damaging the forest.
- Agroforestry – we have established community nurseries to grow trees both for nutrition and health, and for construction materials as an alternative to use of the natural forest. We have grown and out planted tens of thousands of trees since the project start date.
- Social benefits – schools building, health clinics, social infrastructure and equity, support for youth and women’s groups, access to clean water, are all key to a community’s ability to develop sustainably and Wildlife Works has a variety of programs funded through a community trust to address these needs.
The project is already demonstrating substantial results in supporting community, forest and wildlife.
Our market-based conservation solution is sustainable because of job creation, which is paid for by consumer demand for our products, whether it’s our carbon offset credits or organic fashion apparel. In total, Wildlife Works today provides over 400 jobs to the local community and brings the benefits of direct carbon financing to nearly 150,000 people in the surrounding communities.
We have built many new classrooms for school children, who had previously had no books, no desks and often dilapidated classrooms, if any at all. We are working on extending access to fresh water to over 10,000 local citizens this year alone, who previously had to send their children up to 15 miles to retrieve water several times a day. We implemented a clean water supply for the schools using an innovative rainwater catchment system and manual rower pump to allow the children to retrieve the water for themselves from underground storage tanks.
As many as 2000 elephants now call the corridor home, as do populations of other endangered species such as cheetah and grevy’s zebra. For this, The Kasigau Corridor REDD project was awarded the additional distinction of Gold level status by the CCB for exceptional biodiversity and climate benefits.