If you’ve ever stood in a forest you understand how truly amazing they are – there is just something majestic about a forest that is particularly moving and inspiring. They are our globally shared habitat, and they are a source of creativity and awe.

Stand for Trees projects conserve over 18,000 square miles (imagine 6 New York Citys) of the most spectacular forest land on the planet. They conserve tropical and grassland forests around the globe that regulate our climate, protect hundreds of thousands of species of wildlife from elephants and rhinos to leaf-cutting ants and microscopic organisms, and they are home to tens of thousands of indigenous and local communities.  


It can be challenging to imagine the magnitude and beauty of what our projects do so I’ve initiated a narrative series to tell the stories of our projects from their perspective.  What better way to communicate the significance of supporting the Stand For Trees campaign than to have first-hand testimony from the incredible people on the ground taking action to save the world’s forests?

I decided to interview our project proponents so together we can learn more about what motivates and inspires the people who develop and run these incredible projects and how they are making the world a better and more sustainable place. This week I’ll be highlighting the work of the South Pole Group and their project, Kariba REDD+ in Northern Zimbabwe. I had the pleasure of interviewing Christian Dannecker, the Director of Sustainable Supply Chains and Land Use Practice at the South Pole Group. Here is what we discussed:

Natalie: “What about the  Kariba REDD+ project are you most proud of?”

Christian: “Zimbabwe is a Sub-Saharan country with grossly insufficient levels of development aid and ailing private sector engagement. Despite these challenges, the Kariba REDD+ project has managed to become an example on how communities and the private sector can work together, creating real impacts on a large scale within the poorest of African communities. As opposed to 3-year donation cycles that might not always lead to durable change, the “business mindset“ approach adopted by the project has truly focused on long-term impacts.”

Natalie: “Can you describe the community your project works with and how forest conservation has benefitted that community?”

Christian: “We work with more than 300,000 strong rural community people who are amongst the poorest of the world’s population. They are at the very bottom of satisfying their basic needs. Hence only the creation of food security and some excess cash to send their children to school and get basic healthcare will motivate the community to look after their trees as a long-term goal, considering such severe short term challenges.

We now have numerous farmers within this community who have been trained to become champion conservation farmers, raising their productivity by 20 to 50%. This helped them get out of the vicious cycle which consists of renting out their own work to third parties – and missing out on the right moments to prepare their own field.”


Natalie: “What are the top three things you want the world to know about your project?”

Christian: “Our Kariba Project, one of the largest REDD+ forest conservation projects, is aimed at providing sustainable livelihood opportunities for poor communities in Northern Zimbabwe, a region now suffering heavily from deforestation, poverty, and drought.

As the three key take-aways of this project I would highlight the following:

  1. I am convinced that there are few other alternatives out there creating more co-benefits and local impacts beyond carbon than this project.
  1. We should use this project and similar, extensive landscape based REDD+ initiatives as pilots. We should learn from them and scale them up however possible. Such projects offer a way to develop a proactive approach in preparing for an effective and equitable strategy to reduce emissions, driven by local stakeholders.
  1. This project proves that there are viable alternatives to hunting out there – let’s support them!”

Natalie: “What were the key drivers of deforestation and how have you been able to overcome this?”

Christian: “Some of the issues driving deforestation would be smallholder subsistence farming focused on growing enough food to feed and maintain the immediate families. In addition, there is a small level of commercial farming, namely tobacco, which would also contribute to deforestation.

The key to reduce deforestation boiled down to showing these communities that they can:

  1. Produce more food on less land, by applying improved farming practices such as conservation farming. This means preparing the field on time to take advantage of the first rain. It also entails applying organic fertilizer and using materials available on and around the farm.
  1. Produce different foodstuff, honey and tree products (moringa leaf powder, mangos, citrics, etc). This diversification of food produce was enhanced with nutrition gardens, some of them drip-irrigated year round, for food such as onions and cucumbers.”


Natalie: “How did you get into this field and what motivates you to do this work?”

Christian: “Getting to scale in addressing environmental challenges was always a key interest to me, considering the importance yet limitations to interventions based only on spending taxpayers’ money.

The carbon market is the first and for now single, truly global means of being able to scale payments for environmental services [such as how forests provide the ‘service’ of removing carbon dioxide from the air]. These payments can be used to make transformational changes in places where one day, with luck, such payments won’t be needed any longer. I say this because hopefully we will be able to attain sustainable emission levels and find sustainable ways of land use at a landscape level. But we are far from there at the moment.

In the decades to pass before this happens, community-based REDD+ projects offer an approach that have the capacity to produce the most transformational change and the most impactful co-benefits possible within the carbon markets.”

Natalie: “Is there anything else you would like to share that you believe is important to know about your project?”

Christian: “Our own experience with the Kariba REDD+ project has proven that sustainable livelihood opportunities in poorer Sub-Saharan communities can become a reality. Since the Kariba REDD+ launch in 2012, the people of Hurungwe, Nyaminyami, Binga and Mbire have seen more productive alternatives to, for example, hunting. They have had the possibility to convert their time to education in recently renovated school buildings. Our thoughts on finding better financial alternatives for such local communities have also been featured in prominent third party platforms.

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Code REDD and Stand For Trees are proud to support this project. If you want to learn more about the project and are inspired to protect this forest, click here now!

More about the project:

The Kariba African Wildlife Corridor Project serves as a corridor between three existing national parks in Zimbabwe, namely Mana Pools, Matusadona and Chizarira as well as eight further wildlife reserves. By providing a corridor for wildlife, the project has a positive impact on biodiversity both within the project area and in the surrounding region. The project impacts include improved habitat for threatened species like the Black Rhinoceros, of which few individuals are left in the area. Zimbabwe’s socio-economic crisis has taken a great toll on the country’s agricultural sector, its people and its wildlife. Before the project, unsustainable forest clearing & wildlife poaching ran rampant in the region. Your support of this exemplary REDD+ project through Stand For Trees is critical to reducing pressure on the country’s forests and providing sustainable means of livelihood.

Key Facts

  • Generated more than 60 local jobs to date.
  • Through the purchase of Stand For Trees Certificates, basic amenities will be supplemented for targeted schools.
  • Improves habitat for threatened species like the Black Rhinoceros, of which few individuals are left in the area.
  • Projected to prevent nearly 52 million tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere over a 30-year period.

Support this project!

Natalie Prolman