Setting the Context: Community-Led Regenerative Practices
At the intersection of ecological conservation and research, the vibrant voices of local communities resonate with tales of unique experiences and perspectives. Our journey, guided by our Ecosystem Development Lead, Shaila Agha, traverses diverse bio-regions, revealing the manifold challenges and aspirations indigenous communities grapple with.
In the development sector, buzzwords like “empower” and “develop” have inadvertently carved out hierarchies in conversations. Our engagements, especially with Chama DAO, have highlighted the difference between genuinely listening and merely hearing. While it’s easy to suggest solutions based on isolated successes, genuine progress emerges when we inquire, “What does success look like to you?”
(For readers seeking a direct understanding of our stance on the proposal, please refer to the final section.)
Lucky Summer Estate, Dandora, Nairobi
“Success to me is waking up every morning and going to work on my shamba (farm) with no interference from the city council. We worked really hard to clean up this quarry and this is the only green space for Kilometers, people are surrounded by the dandora landfill and polluted rivers that run black with sewage and industrial waste. This is the only place that they can get fresh clean vegetables, and some relief from the concrete jungle around them.
I want to be able to garden in peace so that the kids who use this as their playground can be inspired and see the importance of feeding the community. During the weekends or during the holidays, there’s 300-500 people in our fields, laughing, playing, relaxing, reading. Some make music, some come and make art, some are training and some are practicing acrobatics. That’s why we called it ‘Tempo arts canter’, you can’t make art in a dirty and polluted environment. You need the calm and tranquility that this nature provides to be able to sit and think well.
This place has saved so many people, including myself, that’s why we call it a temple (tempo) Sometimes people have nowhere to go, they know they can always come here, we never turn anyone away. We have avocados, bananas and so much more, and enough to share if you need. We’ve been in that position before and this place saved us, so it’s now time to save others.
The government MCA of our area wants to evict us, they say this land is not ours.. they’ve seen how we’ve made it into an oasis and now he wants to take it and build some high rise apartments. We constantly get harassed by them. They dig up the area so cars can’t pass to bring us speakers for our events. It scares me that all the work we have put in this place will be taken away from us. I know every tree in this place, I know when they have to be pruned, harvested and replanted. If I lose this place, I don’t know what future I will have.”
-Tempo Arts CBO member
Mida Creek, Watamu, Kilifi County
“Success to me looks like the entire community working together in harmony. If we do, we will all be happy. This creek, if managed well, has enough for all of us! All of us at MCCC (Mida Creek Conservation Chama) are working together for the benefit of the creek. People are so disconnected from one another nowadays. Maybe it’s because we are so mixed now with so many different people from all over. Before people used to work as one and the community ensured that everyone was falling in line. Now one person acts in their own selfish interests. Some fishermen use mosquito nets for fishing, can you imagine that?! That means they pick even fingerlings that are not yet mature. This is unacceptable and lazy. Some of us go out to fish and come back with nearly nothing and it’s only because others are acting in their own interests. Fishing takes patience and one must understand the time you have to put in it. Not to come and spoil the entire ecosystem.
Another thing is that people want to just take foreign aid money for projects that they know will not even work. They are so money hungry, they will go and form a chama, pay some women to be there and then take pictures and take the money and do the opposite of the work we are doing. Majority of Mangrove planting exercises are all useless. You cannot take a mangrove away from the mother, you are injuring the tree (by plucking the propagules from the tree instead of picking from the ground) then you are taking them to other areas that they will not even survive.
We have 7 different mangrove varieties that all have their own specifications. Yet you accept to do useless work and just smile for the camera because you’re being paid per propagule. It makes me so angry! Have a voice, tell these NGOs what they are doing is wrong. Consult with us who know these things. We will give you that information for free. You’re spoiling the environment for all of us! Mangroves are sacred in our culture, they have medicinal properties and we know they must be protected because that’s where the fish go to lay their eggs.
I want us to work together, we all depend on this creek, whether it’s the tourist hotels who buy the prawns or the fishermen who sell them. Even those big tunas and barracuda’s depend on the population of the small fish that grow in the creek! When we work together, we are stronger!”
-MCCC (Mida Creek Conservation Chama) member
Namanga Forest Group, Kenya
“For me I know I have succeeded when all the young morans (teens) are working with the land, not on boda’s (motorcycle transport) in town, but protecting this forest and everything in it. I will feel like I have succeeded as an elder when they are all making a livelihood from our forests so they can continue to protect it as our ancestors wanted. The Maasai people depend on this forest for their medicine, for their water and for their rituals and traditions.
This place is no different from Amboseli and Mara, we have pythons, leopards, lions, buffalo and elephants that roam free coming from Tanzania. In fact, ours are wild as they roam the 18,000HA with no fences stopping them. They terrorize the people in the village because their habitat is being destroyed and they have nowhere else to go. If people were making money like the conservancies, you think they would kill those leopards? They would protect them because they see their value.
There is so much money to be made on this mountain, we can do guided hikes, cultural tours, we can show people how the maasai track animals, we can teach them about traditional medicine. This mountain was used to fight the British and there’s not even any importance put on it.
Youth unemployment can be dealt with if we get these youth involved in conservation efforts. Currently we have a tree nursery, but it’s hard to maintain, no one wants to buy the trees, people don’t want to plant trees, only to cut them down!”
-Namanga Forest Conservation Group member
Challenging Centralized Frameworks
It’s worth noting that despite their invaluable contributions, many of these community groups face barriers when trying to participate in carbon markets. When we tried to contact a leading verifier in Kenya, they mentioned a wait time of 2-3 years, and an approximate cost of around $50,000 to develop the methodology. Current methodologies and processes are prohibitive, sidelining countless indigenous populations. It’s paradoxical that while rural African communities have minimal carbon footprints, contributing 3% to global GHG emissions, they’re often painted as the culprits for conservation loss. Such misrepresentations stem from the dominance of vested interests over authentic narratives, as highlighted in the revealing article “Blood Carbon” by Survival International.
Centralized entities, while promising efficiency, often harbor systemic biases that overlook ground realities. For instance, the Special Drawing Rights reserve (SDR) predominantly allocates its $600 Billion USD to American projects, sidelining regions like Africa. Moreover, Verra’s carbon credits sales show a mere 3% achieving tangible positive impacts. These numbers highlight the limitations of centralized approaches that, by neglecting local knowledge, risk sidelining communities crucial to authentic ecological solutions.
Envisioning the Future: The Permissionless Credit Class Creation
(For readers who have not had the chance to read the original proposal, you can read it here.)
The allure of a Permissionless Credit Class Creation lies in its promise of decentralization. However, this radical approach demands more than just shifting structures; it requires mutual trust, shared objectives, and a deep appreciation for global ecological diversity. In our current landscape, its immediate implementation poses challenges, including the risk of fragmented strategies and potential exploitation.
It is aspirational to think of a registry that is not in need of any gate-keeping, an anarchist registry that works on mutual goodwill and aligned vision with a deep commitment towards mitigating climate change. However the current market and its trends do not seem to favor that. At this stage, some level of gatekeeping is required to weed out exploitative players and maintain high integrity in the credits being minted. The essence of the Regen Registry is rooted in shared vision and trust. Without these foundational pillars, maintaining such a permissionless model could be challenging.
To truly embrace such a concept, we propose an approach based on progressive decentralization. A good starting point would be to let each region have a dedicated registry team, composed of local experts, to ensure that practices resonate with specific needs. This not only promotes diversity but also guarantees that solutions are genuinely impactful and grounded in regional realities.
Here is how we think we can translate this ambitious idea into an actionable change?
Bio-regional Approach: The Cornerstone of Authentic Solutions
At the outset, it’s vital to adopt a bio-regional approach, one where each distinct region has its dedicated registry team. These teams, a vibrant mix of experts and practitioners rooted in their regions, will play a pivotal role in crafting unique methodologies that resonate with the specific needs and challenges of their area. This would not only bring a rich diversity of voices to the forefront but also ensure that the accredited practices are genuinely impactful, having evolved from the nuanced understanding of that particular bio-region.
Each bio-region, with its distinct challenges ranging from land rights issues to intricate political dynamics and policies, necessitates a tailored approach. A blanket solution, often the pitfall of centralized frameworks, would be inherently inept. Instead, a ground-up approach, anchored in the lived experiences and expertise of local communities and practitioners, can pave the way for more genuine and sustainable solutions.
Rekindling Collective Memory: Beyond Amnesia to Authentic Stewardship
Centuries of colonization, unchecked industrialization, and rampant capitalism have clouded our collective memory. We stand at a juncture where our understanding of thriving ecosystems is tainted by this collective amnesia. To move forward, we must embark on a journey of unlearning and relearning. We must sift through the layers of imposed narratives to rediscover and embrace indigenous knowledge, practices, and the essence of what true ecological harmony entails.
Addressing Carbon Credits: The Need for Diversity in Solutions
The current market view of carbon credits, though deemed a solution, is increasingly met with skepticism. While carbon credits represent one avenue, it’s essential to acknowledge that the complexities of climate change demand a plethora of experimental solutions. Local green innovation hubs, fostered and supported by networks like the Regen Network, could emerge as incubators of these diverse solutions, grounding experiments in the realities of their regions.
Ensuring Authentic Commitment in the Ecosystem
The market, in its current form, unfortunately, plays into the hands of those equipped with capital. This often translates to a scenario where land titles are procured, projects are initiated, and carbon credits are marketed with little genuine commitment to tangible climate goals. There’s a dire need to introduce checks and balances – a degree of gatekeeping that ensures authenticity. By emphasizing shared goodwill among ecosystem stakeholders and enhancing the collective understanding of regenerative landscapes, we can curate an ecosystem where trust and genuine commitment are paramount.
The Permissionless Credit Class Creation, while promising, demands a collective endeavour. By valuing regional expertise, uplifting indigenous practices, and ensuring unwavering commitment, we can pave the way for a truly inclusive and effective ecological conservation landscape.
This essay is a collaborative effort between Shaila Agha and Nena Jain.
Shaila Agha holds the position of Ecosystem Development Lead at the Regen Foundation and is the driving force behind Chama DAO. This initiative marries Kenyan micro-savings models, known as Chamas, with the innovative realm of eco-feminist climate financing through blockchain technologies.
Nena Jain, as the Commons Coordinator, has played a vital role in shaping the Community Staking DAO program at the foundation. Their insights in this piece are rooted in their engagements and interactions with various stakeholders.
We invite our readers to extend the conversation. Share your thoughts on the commonwealth forum or, for those who prefer, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Members of the CsDAO community are also welcomed to engage on the Regen Foundation’s Hylo Forum.