How a rich-country carbon credit scheme failed Uganda’s rural communities

An open-data investigation shows how an international carbon credit tree-planting scheme dashes the hopes of local communities in southern Uganda

Photo: Dreamstime
Forest reserve in Uganda, Africa (source/illustration: TJ/BH)
CMD assists industrialised countries to meet emission reduction commitments. Under CDM, projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to sustainable development can generate Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), a tradable commodity in international carbon markets.
Cash flow calculation for the WorldBank-funded project in Bugamba and Rwoho, planned all the way forward to 2048 (but discontinued in 2020)

Carbon credit fund

Jeconious Musingwire, a manager at the Western Region National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) explains what drove locals in Rwoho forest to the point of frustration when they cut down the trees that were meant to store carbon
UG-Nile Basin Reforestation project received the second-lowest funding amount in the category of land and water management projects. Source: World Bank; European Commission Econservation records (data/graphic: BH)
Allan Bomuhangi at the Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation project in Uganda says that in Rwoho forest, there could have been issues with verification of credits which either delayed or caused failed payment consequently leading to communities cutting down the trees

Who’s to blame?

“Only a tiny portion of the natural forest managed by RECPA remains after being destroyed by private planters”, Baguma Anaclate

Bwindi’s impenetrable rainforest in southwestern Uganda (photos: Fredrick Mugira)

Satellite images show where tree lots got wiped out

Development of the Rwoho forest reserve since 2016 shows forest lost in the north of the area, some were due to fires.
Forest loss in the north of the area that was part of the carbon credit scheme
The area in the north where the forest got cut (an area of the size of around 176 soccer fields) — left in 2016, right in 2020
Monitoring report by the UNFCCC and contains information on the project outline.

What does the failure of the Rwoho carbon credit scheme mean in a wider context?

Parties that withdrew from the project

Reporting:

Investigative journalist with a technical edge, interested in open source investigations, satellite imgs, R, python, AI, data journalism and injustice