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95 | "Co" Benefits Vs "Core Benefits:" Geoff Mwangi And His Theory Of Change

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Remembering the Surui Forest Carbon Project, which was the first indigenous-led REDD project, plus:

A conversation with Geoffry Mwangi Wambungu, Chief Research Scientist at the Kasigau REDD Project in Kenya.

He explains what social scientists mean by “theory of change,” and tells us why he believes the term “co-benefits” is a misnomer in natural climate solutions.

Further reading on the Surui Carbon Project here: https://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com/articles/story-surui-forest-carbon-project/

Full Transcript (non-scripted portions translated by AI)

CO-BENEFITS VS CORE BENEFITS, WITH GEOFFREY MWANGI

Bionic Planet, Season 9, Episode 95

OPENING HOOK

STEVE ZWICK

Almir Surui was ten years old when the first logging truck came to his tiny village deep in the Amazon Forest.

It came to chop a single stand of centuries-old mahoganies, and it came with the grudging approval of the chiefs.

After all, they reasoned, it was just one truck, one stand, one time, and for a good cause.

The chiefs weren’t the grizzled old men you probably imagine. Most were barely into their 30s, because more than 90 percent of everyone had died in the five years before Almir was born in 1974.

Ninety Percent.

Gone.

They lost their mothers, their brothers, their sisters, and their lovers.

They lost almost everyone who knew anything about governance.

The surviving chiefs, shamans, and elders lost faith in their own abilities to serve their people, because their time-tested traditions had failed.

Prior to 1969, Brazilian authorities categorized Almir’s people as an “UNCONTACTED” tribe of the Amazon, but in reality, they HAD contact — SOMETIMES peaceful but MOSTLY violent contact — with neighboring tribes, rubber tappers, and even Brazilian explorers going back decades.

One of those neighboring tribes called Almir’s people the “Surui,” but Almir’s people called themselves the Paiter.

In the regional Tupi dialect, Surui means “enemy,” while Paiter means “real people.”

Due to a miscommunication, the Paiter were entered into the lexicon of indigenous people as “Surui” in the leadup to First Contact, which took place on October 7 1969.

Today, their name is hyphenated: Paiter-Surui.

The Paiter-Surui had lived in harmony with the forest for centuries, but they didn’t live in harmony with those who invaded their territory.

And invasions increased dramatically in the years prior to First Contact, as Brazilian authorities encouraged westward migration into the forest.

It was a bloody period, and the Paiter-Surui held their own in combat, but they couldn’t hold their own against European diseases — such as smallpox, measles, and the flu.

That’s what got them in the end.

The elders died, and kids became chiefs. One of those kids was a 17-year-old named Itabira, who learned to navigate the OUTside world of Brazilian society as the world IN-which he’d grown up disintegrated

(Aside)

By the way, if you can’t find any of this online, it’s because it’s all original reporting, and my book hasn’t been published yet.

Anyway, Itabira realized early on that to save his people, he had to push the Paiter-Surui and their struggle into Brazilian awareness. To do that, he and other chiefs stopped fighting illegal loggers and started colluding with them to finance trips to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

Soon, they were chopping trees to feed their families and pay for medicine, and by the mid-1990s, they were known as the “logging Indians” — despised by environmentalists who saw them as traitors to the cause and riven internally by fights over how to manage their resources.

The Paiter-Surui broadly split into three factions:

one that embraced the destruction of the forest for commercial gain,

one that opposed that destruction,

and one — the largest of them all — that WANTED to save the forest but NEEDED to feed their families.

Almir was born in 1974 — five years after First Contact — and by the time I met him in the late aughts, he was leading the tribe’s anti-logging faction.

To save the forest INside his territory, he had to first persuade the OUTside world — meaning most of us — that his people — and ALL indigenous people — needed help, not condemnation, if they were to end deforestation.

That’s because far less than half of tropical deforestation comes from corporate clear-cutting and most comes from poor people acting out of desperation, not greed — as we’ve seen in this series focused on Kenya.

Illegal logging is something of a hybrid, because commercial entities are buying that illegally-harvested timber, and corrupt officials often turn a blind eye to it.

Plus, standing up to loggers is dangerous.

I can’t count the number of indigenous people who have been killed doing so, and loggers even put a price on Almir’s head shortly after I met him.

Almir put his life on the line to save his forest, and he eventually slashed deforestation by developing the first indigenous-led REDD project.

REDD, with two Ds, stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, and it usually works by helping forest people develop sustainable ways of making a living — such as beekeeping, agroforestry, and non-timber forest products.

The overwhelming majority of community members voted in favor of Almir’s REDD strategy, but it wasn’t universal. The logging faction opposed it, and the loggers ironically found powerful allies among the wackier elements of the environmental and social justice movements.

The Indigenist Missionary Council, or CIMI, for example, threw their support behind the illegal loggers who had put a $100,000 bounty on Almir’s head.

They launched a flagrant disinformation campaign that characterized the logging ban as a ban on traditional hunting and gathering, and they portrayed the head of the logging faction as the voice of the people despite the fact that his faction lost the vote.

The whole thing was bizarre to anyone who knew the truth, and that, fortunately, included most indigenous leaders across the region. The denounced CIMI, and I’ll link to my coverage of that in the show notes, but most media swallowed CIMI’s lies hook, line, and sinker.

Despite these efforts to sabotage it, the project succeeded in slowing deforestation — at least for a few years.

Then, some time around 2015, gold and diamonds were discovered in the territory, sparking a tsunamic of illegal invasions that tipped the balance in favor of CIMI and the loggers.

Deforestation surged, and the project is currently suspended as a result.

Opponents gleefully celebrated this tragedy and used it to validate their own ideological biases.

And what are those beliefs?

Here’s what CIMI says:

“The environment, and the cultures living in harmony with it, should be the basis for human development and societies; not an item of the market economy.”

Greenpeace also opposes REDD, and here is their justification:

“One must question the motive for this ongoing reliance on market-based mechanisms, the very system that has led humanity to what is now a point of systems collapse.”

Now, we all agree that climate change is a result of the greatest market failure in human history — one that values a dead forest more than a living one — and I created Bionic Planet to unpack ALL the efforts to correct that failure — not just to go on and on about REDD all the time.

I keep coming back to REDD because the torrent of disinformation spewing onto the pages of certain newspapers is making it impossible to have a rational public discussion on the subject, and forests are dying as a result.

There is an incredibly rigorous and DECADES-LONG DEBATE over how best to fix this mess, and my goal with Bionic Planet is to mainstream that legitimate debate, so you can see what’s true, what’s false, and where reasonable people can disagree.

Everyone should be free to express their views, but no one is allowed to support their beliefs with opinions disguised as findings, or with half-truths, innuendo, and facts that are cherry-picked, decontextualized, and distorted — which is what CIMI, Greenpeace, and a lot of those opposed to market mechanisms and the whole ESG movement do — as I pointed out in Episode 77.

I mention all this because I ran into Almir at year-end climate talks in Dubai, and he’s still fighting for his people’s forest and still arguing — rightly — that we ALL need to support people on the front line of the climate challenge. Finance is how we do that.

I’ll link to stuff I’ve written about the Paiter-Surui in the show notes, but for now, the main thing to keep in mind as you listen to today’s show is that all these efforts involve real people in real communities facing real challenges that need our help.

That gets lost in a lot of the abstract discussions and technical terms we throw around — such as, for example, our tendency to differentiate between CLIMATE benefits and CO-benefits.

Climate benefits are the reductions or removals of greenhouse gasses, while co-benefits are the social, economic, and biodiversity impacts.

In the Surui project, the co-benefits are things like…

support for sustainable livelihoods in an indigenous community,

the promotion of gender equality through support for women-run enterprises, and

the restoration of habitat for rare and endangered species, among other things.

But the term “co-benefits” is a misnomer, because these activities make the emission reduction possible — whether you’re talking about stand-alone projects or the new jurisdictional initiatives that I’ll be covering more of in Season 9.

Today’s guest, Geoffrey Mwangi Wambugu, is the lead research scientist at the Kasigau Corridor REDD project, and we sat down to discuss the project’s theory of change — another of those buzzwords that leaves people cold. In the midst of our discussion, he said something profound.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

In our theory of change document, we actually do recognize what you are calling co-benefits, “c-o” as core benefits, “c-o-r-e.”

STEVE ZWICK

So, it’s not co-benefits, it’s core benefits.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

Core benefits. Particularly for a project like ours. These benefits are increasingly being recognized as core and essential to achieving the climate objectives.

OPENER

MUSIC BED

STEVE ZWICK

Earth! We Broke it, we own it, and nothing is as it was. Not the trees, not the seas, not the forests, farms or fields, and not the global economy that depends on all of these. But we can restore it — make it better, greener, more resilient, more sustainable.

But how?

Technology?

Geoengineering?

Are We doomed to live on a bionic planet, or is nature herself the answer?

That’s the question we address in every episode of Bionic Planet, a podcast of the Anthropocene, the new epoch defined by human impact on Earth, and today we examine it through the eyes of Geoffrey Mwangi Wambugu, lead research scientist for the Kasigau Corridor REDD project — the very first project to earn credits for saving endangered forests under the Verified Carbon Standard.

This project is important for several reasons.

To begin with, it’s not just the first REDD PROJECT certified under the Verified Carbon Standard.

It spearheaded the very first REDD METHODOLOGY generated under the standard.

It also faces an uncertain future, because Verra RETIRED that methodology last year in favor of one that’s less subjective.

METHODOLOGIES, as we learned in Episode 81, are like recipes for mixing existing tools to create a new project.

Methodologies are built with the best available science, and they’re designed to update over time as realities change and science advances.

Under the new methodology, which, again, we’ll explore as the season unfolds, this project will get less credit for reducing deforestation, but it’s also not getting credit for activities like the ones we learned about in Episode 90.

That’s when we met George Thumbi.

This same carbon project pays for the tree nursery he runs and the training he conducts, but it gets no credit for the carbon those activities capture — for reasons we’ll touch on today.

As this series unfolds, you’ll see the question isn’t whether the project is or isn’t having a positive impact.

It clearly is.

The question is how big that impact is.

We’ll pick that up later today and expand on it in later episodes, but first to Jeff.

INTERVIEW

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

My name is Geoffrey Mwangi Wambugu. I’m the senior research scientist at the Kasigau Corridor REDD Project. Under me, I have a social scientist and a biodiversity scientist and two data clerks. I did my undergraduate degree in wildlife ecology from Moi University here in Kenya.

And uh, then I did a master’s in environmental planning and management also here in

Mm-hmm.

My PhD is also in environmental planning, and management, focusing on the impacts of humans on terrestrial ecosystems. I also hold the post-doc, fellowship with the Smithsonian Institution.

It’s based Atala Research Center in Nanyuki that is the central part of Kenya. Uh, My specialty is anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems [00:01:00] both terrestrial and aquatic,

STEVE ZWICK

So, he spent his entire academic career studying the ways human activities impact forests, fields, rivers, lakes, and the creatures that live in them.

At first, he was more interested in which land management systems were friendliest to forests.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

For undergraduate, I was looking at the impacts of eh, management systems on forests in the coast of Kenya.

So when, at that time, eh, the one that work best was those forests that were managed by the government, those ones that were managed by the community, they were not doing very well as a result of erosion of the, community values, traditional values, eh, traditional systems for managing forests.

STEVE ZWICK

This is something you find happening around the world.

Indigenous communities manage their land sustainably, with future generations in mind.

Then, something changes — in-migration, desperation, a combination of both — and the forests suffer, as does the climate.

For his PhD, Jeff expanded his research to include our impact on waters.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

But for my PhD, I looked at uh, land use impacts on uh, rivers. Between different land-use systems.

Which one is associated with the best water quality? And I found out that, again, the most Christine ecosystems like forests had the best uh, water quality. Both for aquatic macroinvertebrates and also the physical chemical. Water quality.

STEVE ZWICK

This is another common theme. Remember David Okul from episode 86?

DAVID OKUL

The basis of life is actually in forestry. Most people say it’s water, but when you really think about it, most of what does this actually come from forestry. So it might be the chicken and egg thing, it starts, from forestry. then it goes to other biomes. and other systems

STEVE ZWICK

Now, if you’re an ecologist, you’re thinking, “Well, duh!”

This is pretty basic stuff.

Terrestrial systems interlink with aquatic systems, and human systems interlink with ecosystems.

It all blends together.

But way too many people miss or dismisses these interlinkages, which are critical to understanding how this all works.

Biological systems are different from social systems, and legal systems are different from economic systems.

They shouldn’t be, but they usually are, and the challenge isn’t just about forcing them into alignment — which can be like hammering square pegs into round holes — but rather about finding areas where they should naturally align and making it possible for that alignment to happen.

I’m hoping to unpack a lot of these technical issues this year, which is Season 9 of Bionic Planet.

If you like the show and want more and better episodes, you can help me deliver them by becoming a patron at patreon.com/bionicplanet. There you can support the show for as little as on dollar per episode and with a monthly cap.

By the same token, if you’re an ethical business looking to reach a global, climate-aware audience, you can sponsor the show by reaching out to me directly at steve@bionic-planet.com. That’s steve@bionic-planet.com.

Finally, you can support the show by giving me an honest five-star review on whichever podcatcher you access me through. That helps because the more stars I get them ears I get, and the more ears I get, the more minds I can reach. And we must reach hundreds of millions of minds if we’re to meet the climate challenge.

We can do it if we all work together.

To summarize, after getting his PhD, Jeff started teaching. That’s where he learned about REDD and RDDD+

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

I was teaching Environmental science in a university before I came

I focused on the use of geographical information systems in management of natural resources. Mm-hmm. Particularly forests [00:07:00] and other ecosystems.

And I was also teaching a bit of environmental law.

Mm-hmm. Red plus was my favorite right.

Subject. And after about six or seven years of teaching in university, I needed something new.

So

I decided to come over here and

try something else.

Steve Zwick: Okay.

How do you measure the impact of human action on nature? What is there a way you can summarize that in a hundred

Jeff Mwangi: words?

Yeah. Okay. There are many ways of doing that. There is a wide range of methods that you can use to measure the impact of Humans on ecosystems.

One of my favorite ones is to check on uh, species diversity.

And usually you can compare a pristine habitat and one that has got some form of anthropogenic influence. More often than not, you find [00:08:00] that an ecosystem that has been disturbed has, eh, poor species diversity and this can be found also in our ecosystems

Steve Zwick: Mm-hmm.

Jeff Mwangi: There is one ecosystem that we’ve been measuring for the last 10 years, the mountain

So we have plots along the elevation gradient. And preliminary analysis of that ecosystem shows that areas that have

more disturbance

attributed

to poor species diversity. So that’s just one way of doing that. There are many other ways.

Steve Zwick: d And another issue that’s really interesting is you’re, you’re here to measure human impact, then you’re here to change human impact. Yeah. And that brings us to this issue of theory of change. Yes. What is the theory of change at work here?

Jeff Mwangi: Okay. Uh, A theory of change is [00:09:00] a hypothesis or a roadmap of how a project it intends to meet its objectives. For example, if you are coming from Chicago, to Caigo, you are going to take a taxi to the airport, then you take a flight to. Probably somewhere in Europe. Change your flight then fly to Nairobi, take a train,

More

or less, something like that.

A roadmap. It’s a plan of how you are going to achieve your objectives. But before you actually have that plan, you must have the objectives first. You must know what you want to achieve. So for a project like ours we have about three theories of

change. So we have the overarching theory of change which is based on the objectives of red plus

To conserve forests for the benefit of climate people [00:10:00] and biodiversity. That’s the overarching one. But then we have several other theories of change in our project, but for us, we only have two others.

One is the community theory of change, and then you have the biodiversity theory of

change. Mm-hmm.

So I’ll talk a bit about

each. For the community theory of change, before we start a project, we have to engage communities and really know what they want the project to achieve. So we engage our communities,

To understand what are the things that they want the project to achieve. So I’m sure you have heard about the location of carbon committees.

Steve Zwick: Yes.

Steve (2): We’ll learn about locational carbon committees, or LCCs, in later episodes, but the gist is they are locally-elected committees that engage [00:11:00] the carbon project and decide things like how the community spends its carbon income. Keep in mind, these are communities, not monolithic entities. They’re comprised of famers and pastorialists, Luyha and Maasai. They don’t all agree on every item they discuss.

Jeff Mwangi: In our theory of change, we believe that those are the best representatives of the

communities because they are drawn from the six project

locations.

They are elected in a way that’s fair and transparent. And uh, we believe that they are the real representatives of the communities. So these are the people that we engage

To understand what issues they would like the project to solve.

So we called them in our workshop in 2011,

And uh,

the workshop is designed to be highly consultative, ensure that every member of the LCC is participating. And [00:12:00] the first thing that we do is to create a vision statement

In that

workshop

Each LCC has five representatives and everyone is given a card.

They

are asked to write one thing that they would like the project to address. So everybody writes something. So at the end of that exercise, we have that five cards each having an issue that we want the project to

address. So the issues that are the same, we are lumped together and we use that to write statement.

Steve Zwick: Okay. And yeah. So it, it comes from the ground

  1. It’s like

Jeff Mwangi: from the ground up, yes. Okay. So, And uh, if somebody wrote two issues instead of four and they didn’t follow the rules, we put that card aside, we don’t throw it away. Because probably somebody had[00:13:00] two issues that they think are almost the same.

So we don’t throw it away. We put it aside and check whether it is similar with any of the other issues. Okay. And that vision statement that we craft from that exercise is displayed for the rest of the

workshop.

So that it serves as a reminder what

Steve Zwick: everyone sees it, everyone says, this is why we’re here.

Jeff Mwangi: Why we are here. Then after that, we count the number of cards Then after that, we rank the issues, so we know which are the most important issues. And we select five five with the highest frequency.

Because we can’t deal with all, with all of them.

Right. Right.

We prioritize five and those issues, we call them FO

issues. So we select five focal issues and then randomly redistribute the group, each one [00:14:00] to deal with one focal issue for the rest of the workshop.

So the five focal issues the next thing that we do is we do something that we call the without project scenario.

So there is, without project scenario, tells us how those communities are thinking about that particular issue and how it’ll change in the next five to 10 years. If we don’t have a project, and we allow them space to think about how they want to think about it, how they perceive it, how they see the issue, what are the key vis. And uh, once they do that, then uh, we redraw that in what we call the problem flow diagram.

We put it in a problem flow diagram showing that this issue originates from this thing. [00:15:00] So we are able to understand, eh, where the issue originates from. And how it’ll change over the next five to 10 years.

Steve Zwick: So you start with the objective, and then you go back and you map the causes, and then you try to say, okay, how do we, okay.

So once we do that, eh, the next thing that we do is we do with project

Mm.

Okay.

Jeff Mwangi: if we have a project what are the strategies that we will use to resolve the focal issues. So again, they go back and now using the problem through diagram, they first start by, if the focal issue was human wildlife

conflict, example.

Steve Zwick: Which came

up quite a lot in our conversation

Henry Kronk: too.

Jeff Mwangi: Yes. That is always one of our major focal

issue. If the focal issue was human wildlife conflict, which [00:16:00] we ask them to change it to sound more positive,

They’ll say something like, less human wildlife

Steve Zwick: So it’s an objective rather than Yeah.

Henry Kronk: Okay.

Jeff Mwangi: And then from the problem, from the diagram, then they can input the strategies that can be used to lead to less human wildlife conflict. So at the end of that exercise, what we have is the communities themselves have, are telling us, How can we resolve the human wildlife

Henry Kronk: conflict?

Jeff Mwangi: And it is from that diagram that you are able to draw the project

So if, eh, the issue, for example, if we go to human wildlife conflict, the issue could have been the wildlife comes out to look for

water.[00:17:00]

So

if wildlife had water in their natural areas, then there’ll be less human wildlife conflict.

So the project strategy automatically becomes, provide water the

Nedra.

So how do we provide water? We have. Eh, water tanks. We have, eh, dam scooping.

We have eh, boreholes, etcetera.

Steve Zwick: So that’s why you have these tanks out there. We saw these tanks. Like how do these tanks end up scattered all over the, it was, it came from this exercise.

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah. It came from that exercise water provision, for example. And it’s also water provision both inside and outside in the community

area. So that is automatically a project strategy, but then we ask ourselves, how can we be sure that we are achieving our objectives?

So we have to select [00:18:00] indicators and we have to collect data on that, in, on those indicators.

Steve (2): We’ll get to that later… I have indicators as well, NONE IS WHETHER i’M PAYING THE BILLS…

Jeff Mwangi: It’s a project strategy to deal with one of the focal issues, which was environmental degradation.

One way to deal with environmental degradation, particularly in the community areas, is to have a greenhouse that, is aimed at helping plant motor trees in the community

areas. Mm-hmm.

So it’s a direct project

strategy.

Coming directly from the theory of

change.

Steve Zwick: I get it. Now so the water tanks came from this the human wildlife interaction. How do we correct that, put water out there? The next one was degradation. How do we correct the degradation?

Go back and look and that again. That’s why even though the trees. Do enhance. Yeah. The carbon content of the landscape. That’s not their objective. Their objective is to meet the theory of change. Exactly.

Jeff Mwangi: Okay.

Then, [00:19:00] eh, how do we measure our impact with measure impact by selecting indicators and these indicators, we have two strategies.

The first strategy is called in-house reporting.

In-house reporting is during our day-to-day activities. We task them with collecting data. For example, one of the indicators we use is

bursaries. yeah. Bursaries to address a focal issue that was poor education. They wanted kids to be

more

Yeah. To access education. So bursaries. Automatically becomes one of the ways to

address that.

STEVE ZWICK

Again, education became a focal issue because the communities wanted it. As we learned in episodes 87 and 88, people were chopping trees to pay for college.

Bursaries — or scholarships — remove that need

I mentioned earlier the current methodology is being retired in favor of one that’s more standardized, while the ultimate objective is to move towards jurisdictional crediting.

I’m worried that this, combined with sloppy media coverage, will create so much confusion that people give up on conservation finance. If that happens, the people we’re meeting on Bionic Planet will end up suffering the most, and deforestation will resume.

I’m working on another episode that should clear some of that up — it looks at the origin of current methodologies under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

Back in the 1990s, the IPCC identified several land-change models that accurately projected deforestation around the world. They found all of the models worked, but they didn’t all work the same in all circumstances. The world’s leading land-change scientists basically agreed that there will always be a degree of subjectivity in how models are selected and applied.

You’ll learn how they overcame that later in this season, season 9, but for now, let me just throw an analogy at you — the same one I made in episode 75: medicine. We don’t expect doctors to treat all patients and all diseases with the same medicine, but for some reason, people expect a simple model to emerge that accurately predicts deforestation in all forests under all circumstances.

That’s the mistake the Guardian made last year when it applied one poorly-calibrated, untested model to a bunch of projects and concluded the projects — and not the model or their application of it — were wrong.

It’s a silly conclusion that’s done a lot of damage, as you’ll see later in this season.

Another thing we’ll be looking at are efforts to capture more of the social and biodiversity benefits that Jeff is describing.

Verra, Gold Standard, and others are developing ways of quantifying gender equality and habitat improvement, while Wildlife Works is spearheading the creation of a whole new standard called “Equitable Earth,” together with my old employer, Forest Trends.

These aren’t just interesting ideas. People’s lives depend on our ability to measure and OUR WILLINGNESS TO PAY for the activities we’re learning about in this series.

I also rely on willingness to pay — your willingness to pay — for these shows.

If you like the show and want more and better episodes in Season 9, you can help me deliver them by becoming a patron at patreon.com/bionicplanet. There you can support the show for as little as on dollar per episode and with a monthly cap.

By the same token, if you’re an ethical business looking to reach a global, climate-aware audience, you can sponsor the show by reaching out to me directly at steve@bionic-planet.com. That’s steve@bionic-planet.com.

Finally, you can support the show by giving me an honest five-star review on whichever podcatcher you access me through. That helps because the more stars I get them ears I get, and the more ears I get, the more minds I can reach. And we must reach hundreds of millions of minds if we’re to meet the climate challenge.

We can do it if we all work together.

Now back to Jeff Mwangi and the role of education in carbon finance.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

The link becomes very clear [00:20:00] because if we have more educated society, then people can access jobs that are more

decent. And they’ll stop getting into the forest to cut down the treeS. eh, Where was I? I was on

Steve Zwick: how do we measure the impacts? And then Yeah. Then I,

Yeah.

Jeff Mwangi: So we have,

Steve Zwick: and bursaries as a measurement

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah. So we measure, we look at the number of students who get the

bursaries.

We look the amounts spent on bursaries. We look at the issue between guards and boys. We look at the classroom projects. The number of classrooms that we have supported Another

in-house report we get is from the greenhouse where you are. So every month.

we

get information from the greenhouse on how many trees have been propagated, how many have been bought from the community, how many have been planted[00:21:00] which species. We get all that information, what is the

survivor rate?

Once they outplant they measure how, what is the rate of survival? So we have an idea

Of effort versus impact.

Yeah.

Steve Zwick: I can see how this data would provide an indicator of success, but do you have any baselines like any, any, anything where you can say, this number means this, this, or, yeah.

Jeff Mwangi: Yes, indeed. So that is in-house reporting, but we also have another way of measuring our impact.

And this is called field work.

I mentioned earlier that we have two, eh, resident scientists. We have one social scientist and one by diversity

scientist.

These ones are tasked with implementing field work research that is designed in a way that is much more scientifically robust.

Such that that data can inform us on[00:22:00]

various

things that we need to know about.

One of them is called the household survey.

The household survey is done by annually.

Once every two

years.

The first one was done in 2011. And how we did this, we randomized in all the six project locations, each eh, project location, having 30 households. So we had our baseline survey in 2011, and the questionnaire is designed to look at the baseline scenario. And every two years we go back, we interview the same households. The intention is to follow these households until the end of the project.

Of course. You have. People coming in and others going And uh,

you find that we don’t have all the one eight[00:23:00] that we originally interviewed in the first household survey.

But

the large proportion of them is there.

So we are able to follow them.

And every two years we analyze this data. One of the questions that we ask is, what is the impact of the

project? And from the response we get, we can be able to gauge whether we are achieving our objectives.

Steve Zwick: And that’s just one of the many questions. So it’s something

Jeff Mwangi: yes. Yeah. That

Steve Zwick: It’s not, they’re sitting out there

Jeff Mwangi: yeah.

Yeah. It’s a huge it’s a huge uh, questionnaire. It takes two months to cover all the.

households And another two months to enter the data, another two months to produce the summary report.

And then in the following year, we do a follow up s b

workshop.

We go back to the community, we present those results ask them whether [00:24:00] they think that this is a true reflection of what they think.

And from that then we can always use adaptive management to redesign reify and change a few things, work a few things here and there to ensure that we align better and we have better results in the next iteration.

Steve Zwick: What kinds of um, adaptations have you had to make?

Jeff Mwangi: For example? One of the most difficult things to, to deal with in the theory of change is the problem of attribution.

Saying that you attribute

a certain intervention to a certain impact. It could be you, it could be somebody else, it could be something else that has changed, that has led to better impacts or not. So in one of the data sets we had that problem. We couldn’t really separate water [00:25:00] projects that are in schools and purely water projects. So you have to change the way you report it.

Such that instead of calling them water projects or school projects, you call them, eh, something else,

like

education projects. That way you have a better separation of, eh, even if it’s a water project that is in school, then you just call it an education

project.

Yeah.

Yeah. So those are things that we grapple a lot with, eh, separating eh information so that it’s more clear we

Yeah.

Steve Zwick: Have you changed your approach? Have you found sometimes something you thought would have an impact didn’t deliver or delivered a different impact? Have you altered your be, times. Yeah.

What’s a good example

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah. Let me see. One of, the good examples [00:26:00] is ranger patrols

In the region patrol dataset.

We also ask our rangers to collect any information that they find what we call high conservation

Henry Kronk: Mm-hmm.

Jeff Mwangi: you have these species which look similar.

So somebody cannot tell whether it was a Leo pad or a cheetah,

or

a SVO

So sometimes you have to tell them, just write it in your

mother tongue.

So they write the it in their mother tongue, and when uh, we come back, look at the data

Then we know what it was.

Yeah. So sometimes, eh, we do that sometimes, eh, you have the problem of, eh,

somebody

saw a herd of elephants and somebody else who was close by saw the same herd of elephants. So you [00:27:00] have uh, that being reported twice. So if you record it, then you You might get the problem of

Mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm. So we came up with a method where you have a unique identifier, so you combine three things.

You combine the ranger team the gps and uh, the base station.

So that way you have a very unique identifier and eh, the risk of somebody reporting the same animal toys becomes

Yeah.

Steve Zwick: So you’re constantly revising the way you manage the reporting to make it more accurate.

Yes. Have you, in this process, found that your own interventions didn’t deliver the results you wanted, and you had to change what you did? Or have you just been dead on? Have you found that, oh my God, everything we did worked right?

Jeff Mwangi: Not that I’m aware of. Uh, most, of the interventions that we design [00:28:00] have actually been successful.

Oh, yeah.

Largely because we do take our time before we go for rotor.

So we take a lot of due diligence, eh, talk to people and ensure that, everything that we are doing,

Is, easy to understand.

But also with a level of scientific rigor and cost effective.

We don’t want to do something that’s sophisticated, then we do it two times, then we stopped. Because in our reporting, we are required to have data for the entire year

And for the project lifetime. So we want to be sure that once we have uh, a thing to report, we can report it

in a

way that’s easy to understand. And also in a way that’s cost effective. And even the way we store the data, [00:29:00] it’s in a way that can easily be stored.

Stephen Donofrio: The world we operate in on the other side, outside of the field is people call it climate benefits. And that’s the co2 and that’s we price and then co-benefits. And those are what gets certified you know, with ccb, SD Vista, whatever it is.

But the process you described is that the carbon benefits are not possible without considering the co-benefits first, and that the co-benefits are actually not co-benefits, they’re enablers of the climate benefits.

And so if you could, reflect on that for a second and actually reconsider the terminology that it’s not really co-benefits, but it’s, these are essential attributes. Of a successful climate project. That’s a, that’s red plus.

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah. That’s very good question. In our theory of change document, we actually do recognize what you are calling co-benefits, “c-o” as core benefits, “c-o-r-e”

Steve Zwick: so it’s not co-benefits, it’s core-benefits

Jeff Mwangi:Core benefits. Oh, Particularly for a project like ours. These benefits are increasingly being recognized as core and essential to achieving the climate objectives. This is uh, why we have to address all these other issues that are around the carbon fast because those issues are the ones that might lead to us having problems with the carbon stock. Yeah.

Stephen Donofrio: And I almost feel like the word co-benefits or even core

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah.

Stephen Donofrio: is underserving

Jeff Mwangi: Yes.

Stephen Donofrio: their. Their essential role. It’s like you can’t [00:31:00] drive a car Without having the frame. The engine, wheels, the axles, all those are the core essential components. Yeah. So thinking of it as core

Jeff Mwangi: Yes.

Stephen Donofrio: Yes Of a successful

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah.

Stephen Donofrio: Climate, positive red plus

Jeff Mwangi: Definitely. Yes.

Stephen Donofrio: Is how I’m hearing

Jeff Mwangi: you describe it. Yes, indeed. And uh, on your second part of the question is

the, we have the c, c, B as one of the standards, eh, that we use, and therefore we have to report not just the climate benefits.

We

also have to report the community benefits.

And the biodiversity benefits, which brings me to our biodiversity theory of change. Cause it’s a separate theory of change. Because biodiversity, you can’t involve communities mostly. You can

involve them A bit.

but you need [00:32:00] experts, people who are actually knowledgeable about the biodiversity of the area.

So we engage, eh, stakeholders in the biodiversity sector, call them again to a meeting, and we discuss issues that are of importance that we really need to think about to conserve the diversity. So we ask them the same

question.

what does it mean to you for the diversity of the area to be conserved? What are the things that we really need to look for? And so they give us things that they think we need to look for. And for biodiversity, we have for, we have habitat management. So ensuring that we have a vegetation cover, we have a safeguarding high conservation valley species. human wildlife conflict came again in the [00:33:00] biodiversity theory area of change.

And the last one was corridor maintenance.

Ensuring that the corridor between and waste remains open. And therefore, we also now come up with indicators for those as well. So that’s why we have H C V species, high conservation value species. The methods are also based on in-house reporting and field work.

In-house reporting, we are using ranger patrols to tell us what kind of biodiversity is out there because they are always in the field doing patrols and doing the walking and all that, the driving in the field. Then we have a framework in this theory of change that we call the precious state response model.

we have indicators that tell us. What the pressure looks like. So we might have indicators for example, things like population [00:34:00] growth things like a number of incidences recorded, maybe number of charco bags that were recorded et cetera. Then we have state indicators is reports on wildlife populations?

What are we seeing? Are we seeing elephants? Are we seeing wild dogs? Are we seeing lions that is state?

And then response indicators is what we are actually doing, to respond to this. So we record, for example, the patrol distance how many patrols were done in that month. How far or how many flights did the gyros, go around the, project area? And we also map those. We map the tracks. We map the patrols so that we are able to know, eh, the response, what response we are, and that all that, eh, tells us [00:35:00] what we need to do more. Do we need to do more on, eh the effort? Or do we need to do more on uh, the state for the pressure more often on than not for some indicators. It is beyond our scope. If we have population growth, that is not something that we can

control asa.

But

we do like to know about it so that we know how to also deal with these others.

Steve Zwick: And none of these indicators that you’ve talked about are actually in the reports, the auditors, right? This is all your internal checks, and how are we, progressing towards the ultimate goal?

Jeff Mwangi: Actually, many of these are in the monitoring reports. I think about half of the data that we collect goes into the monitoring reports.

The rest of it is for our own internal use. [00:36:00] As I mentioned before, we use adaptive management a lot. So we analyze this data Periodically to check to see where we need to put more effort and to check where we need to change things. Like for example one of the ones that we did recently was to look at the effect of wildlife on waterholes.

Remember we said that we are providing water in the waterholes, but it’s not always a good thing. Because wildlife will tend to congregate on this waterholes. And what happens is that the shrimping of vegetation, especially during the dry areas,

So we have to measure that impact.

So we, we have a group that measures uh, vegetation from the water hole as you move out.

Steve Zwick: But so you’re taking something that looks like a simple indicator, huh?

Yes. Number of animals around the water hall. Yeah. Success, yes. But no, that’s not really the case. It’s, it could mean, oh

[00:37:00] yeah, definitely. They’re trampling everything else

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah, Yeah,

Exactly. So it could be successful, on one side, but on the other

side. it has detrimental effect. So we check which ones are the most affected and sometimes we have to make some

interventions. I think Last month we closed some of the waterholes mm-hmm. to allow wildlife to go to waterholes that are less degraded. we, we use the data to make better decisions. And what we do every five years when we go to an S b A workshop, we review the focal issues. So we have done it once. Mm-hmm. Uh, So there was the original focal issues, which we reviewed in 2017. So they changed a bit. And now this year we are going to review them again [00:38:00] because five years have lapsed. So in June we are going to another SBA workshop and we will do the focal issues again.

So that uh, we ensure that we are still focusing on the things that are important to the community and that particular time. So fo issues change over time. Sometimes they become less important. Because of maybe something changed. They, maybe they found that this is no longer a focal issue, or maybe we have addressed this focal issue enough, so maybe we need to change it eh, after five years.

Jeff Mwangi: Being a wildlife

corridor that has communities around it. Uh, Striving to grow food in an environment where human wildlife conflict is a major issue. There’s always an issue that comes up.

One major, one big one now is the prolonged drought. It [00:39:00] was identified in the theory of change, but at that time rains were much more consistent, at least before are sure that every April and every October we get rain. But now when you have a scenario where now we, you don’t have rain for two years, then it becomes a bit.

Problematic. So we are thinking that this will be one of the major FO issues in the next review.

Periodically we have an influx of had us from other communities that come into the area. There’s usually problems also associated with them, so we usually have to. Go back and uh, check and see how best we can deal with this. Cause it’s not just a al problem, it’s a problem of the entire county and not just this county, even the [00:40:00] neighboring county. So we do have sometimes problems like those that we have to think about addressing in the short

term.

Steve Zwick: what’s fascinating here is you’ve got a theory of change. Yeah. You’ve Clear things that have worked in the past that you try to implement.

Yeah.

And then you’ve got things that you can’t foresee that you have to adapt to

it.

It all means you’ve got a classic wicked problem. Something that there really is no one single solution.

Yeah. There are people out there who say it’s too complicated. We shouldn’t use carbon finance to address it because it’s so complicated. We can’t really be sure of anything.

Yeah. And this is like listening to what you’re talking about and based on everything I’ve seen. Yeah. It’s complicated. Yeah. There’s

Yeah.

but the direction is clear

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah.

But

Steve Zwick: there are people who argue against carbon finance cuz what they’re saying is,

mm-hmm.

Yeah. All these great theories, everything looks great, but something’s always gonna happen. Something’s always gonna go wrong. And they [00:41:00] essentially argue we can’t use carbon finance to do it because of the uncertainties.

How would you address that concern or that argument? That argument

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah.

In our, one of our strategies, eh, we encourage adaptive management.

Eh, adaptive management is, eh, being formed by the data you are collecting. The circumstances that are at that particular, instance. And adapt accordingly. And as you have seen in our LCC model, the communities have the freedom to use their carbon finance as they wish.

As long as they are adhering to the standard operating procedures. So there’s that flexibility and there is that allowance for you to address things as they come. Because if you cast it too much on stone, you [00:42:00] might not address the things that you really need to address.

So if you don’t address uh, the root. cause

of a problem, then you might not be addressing the things that you really need to address. So we encourage that we use adaptive management informed by best practice and also adhere to standard. That way you always have room to address problems as they come.

STEVE ZWICK

Jeff Mwangi Wambugu wrapping up this edition of Bionic Planet.

If you like the show and want more and better episodes, you can help me deliver them by becoming a patron at patreon.com/bionicplanet. There you can support the show for as little as on dollar per episode and with a monthly cap.

By the same token, if you’re an ethical business looking to reach a global, climate-aware audience, you can sponsor the show by reaching out to me directly at steve@bionic-planet.com. That’s steve@bionic-planet.com.

Finally, you can support the show by giving me an honest five-star review on whichever podcatcher you access me through. That helps because the more stars I get them ears I get, and the more ears I get, the more minds I can reach. And we must reach hundreds of millions of minds if we’re to meet the climate challenge.

We can do it if we all work together.

That wraps up today’s show. Until next time, I’m Steve Zwick in Nairobi. Thanks for listening.

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Remembering the Surui Forest Carbon Project, which was the first indigenous-led REDD project, plus:

A conversation with Geoffry Mwangi Wambungu, Chief Research Scientist at the Kasigau REDD Project in Kenya.

He explains what social scientists mean by “theory of change,” and tells us why he believes the term “co-benefits” is a misnomer in natural climate solutions.

Further reading on the Surui Carbon Project here: https://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com/articles/story-surui-forest-carbon-project/

Full Transcript (non-scripted portions translated by AI)

CO-BENEFITS VS CORE BENEFITS, WITH GEOFFREY MWANGI

Bionic Planet, Season 9, Episode 95

OPENING HOOK

STEVE ZWICK

Almir Surui was ten years old when the first logging truck came to his tiny village deep in the Amazon Forest.

It came to chop a single stand of centuries-old mahoganies, and it came with the grudging approval of the chiefs.

After all, they reasoned, it was just one truck, one stand, one time, and for a good cause.

The chiefs weren’t the grizzled old men you probably imagine. Most were barely into their 30s, because more than 90 percent of everyone had died in the five years before Almir was born in 1974.

Ninety Percent.

Gone.

They lost their mothers, their brothers, their sisters, and their lovers.

They lost almost everyone who knew anything about governance.

The surviving chiefs, shamans, and elders lost faith in their own abilities to serve their people, because their time-tested traditions had failed.

Prior to 1969, Brazilian authorities categorized Almir’s people as an “UNCONTACTED” tribe of the Amazon, but in reality, they HAD contact — SOMETIMES peaceful but MOSTLY violent contact — with neighboring tribes, rubber tappers, and even Brazilian explorers going back decades.

One of those neighboring tribes called Almir’s people the “Surui,” but Almir’s people called themselves the Paiter.

In the regional Tupi dialect, Surui means “enemy,” while Paiter means “real people.”

Due to a miscommunication, the Paiter were entered into the lexicon of indigenous people as “Surui” in the leadup to First Contact, which took place on October 7 1969.

Today, their name is hyphenated: Paiter-Surui.

The Paiter-Surui had lived in harmony with the forest for centuries, but they didn’t live in harmony with those who invaded their territory.

And invasions increased dramatically in the years prior to First Contact, as Brazilian authorities encouraged westward migration into the forest.

It was a bloody period, and the Paiter-Surui held their own in combat, but they couldn’t hold their own against European diseases — such as smallpox, measles, and the flu.

That’s what got them in the end.

The elders died, and kids became chiefs. One of those kids was a 17-year-old named Itabira, who learned to navigate the OUTside world of Brazilian society as the world IN-which he’d grown up disintegrated

(Aside)

By the way, if you can’t find any of this online, it’s because it’s all original reporting, and my book hasn’t been published yet.

Anyway, Itabira realized early on that to save his people, he had to push the Paiter-Surui and their struggle into Brazilian awareness. To do that, he and other chiefs stopped fighting illegal loggers and started colluding with them to finance trips to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

Soon, they were chopping trees to feed their families and pay for medicine, and by the mid-1990s, they were known as the “logging Indians” — despised by environmentalists who saw them as traitors to the cause and riven internally by fights over how to manage their resources.

The Paiter-Surui broadly split into three factions:

one that embraced the destruction of the forest for commercial gain,

one that opposed that destruction,

and one — the largest of them all — that WANTED to save the forest but NEEDED to feed their families.

Almir was born in 1974 — five years after First Contact — and by the time I met him in the late aughts, he was leading the tribe’s anti-logging faction.

To save the forest INside his territory, he had to first persuade the OUTside world — meaning most of us — that his people — and ALL indigenous people — needed help, not condemnation, if they were to end deforestation.

That’s because far less than half of tropical deforestation comes from corporate clear-cutting and most comes from poor people acting out of desperation, not greed — as we’ve seen in this series focused on Kenya.

Illegal logging is something of a hybrid, because commercial entities are buying that illegally-harvested timber, and corrupt officials often turn a blind eye to it.

Plus, standing up to loggers is dangerous.

I can’t count the number of indigenous people who have been killed doing so, and loggers even put a price on Almir’s head shortly after I met him.

Almir put his life on the line to save his forest, and he eventually slashed deforestation by developing the first indigenous-led REDD project.

REDD, with two Ds, stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, and it usually works by helping forest people develop sustainable ways of making a living — such as beekeeping, agroforestry, and non-timber forest products.

The overwhelming majority of community members voted in favor of Almir’s REDD strategy, but it wasn’t universal. The logging faction opposed it, and the loggers ironically found powerful allies among the wackier elements of the environmental and social justice movements.

The Indigenist Missionary Council, or CIMI, for example, threw their support behind the illegal loggers who had put a $100,000 bounty on Almir’s head.

They launched a flagrant disinformation campaign that characterized the logging ban as a ban on traditional hunting and gathering, and they portrayed the head of the logging faction as the voice of the people despite the fact that his faction lost the vote.

The whole thing was bizarre to anyone who knew the truth, and that, fortunately, included most indigenous leaders across the region. The denounced CIMI, and I’ll link to my coverage of that in the show notes, but most media swallowed CIMI’s lies hook, line, and sinker.

Despite these efforts to sabotage it, the project succeeded in slowing deforestation — at least for a few years.

Then, some time around 2015, gold and diamonds were discovered in the territory, sparking a tsunamic of illegal invasions that tipped the balance in favor of CIMI and the loggers.

Deforestation surged, and the project is currently suspended as a result.

Opponents gleefully celebrated this tragedy and used it to validate their own ideological biases.

And what are those beliefs?

Here’s what CIMI says:

“The environment, and the cultures living in harmony with it, should be the basis for human development and societies; not an item of the market economy.”

Greenpeace also opposes REDD, and here is their justification:

“One must question the motive for this ongoing reliance on market-based mechanisms, the very system that has led humanity to what is now a point of systems collapse.”

Now, we all agree that climate change is a result of the greatest market failure in human history — one that values a dead forest more than a living one — and I created Bionic Planet to unpack ALL the efforts to correct that failure — not just to go on and on about REDD all the time.

I keep coming back to REDD because the torrent of disinformation spewing onto the pages of certain newspapers is making it impossible to have a rational public discussion on the subject, and forests are dying as a result.

There is an incredibly rigorous and DECADES-LONG DEBATE over how best to fix this mess, and my goal with Bionic Planet is to mainstream that legitimate debate, so you can see what’s true, what’s false, and where reasonable people can disagree.

Everyone should be free to express their views, but no one is allowed to support their beliefs with opinions disguised as findings, or with half-truths, innuendo, and facts that are cherry-picked, decontextualized, and distorted — which is what CIMI, Greenpeace, and a lot of those opposed to market mechanisms and the whole ESG movement do — as I pointed out in Episode 77.

I mention all this because I ran into Almir at year-end climate talks in Dubai, and he’s still fighting for his people’s forest and still arguing — rightly — that we ALL need to support people on the front line of the climate challenge. Finance is how we do that.

I’ll link to stuff I’ve written about the Paiter-Surui in the show notes, but for now, the main thing to keep in mind as you listen to today’s show is that all these efforts involve real people in real communities facing real challenges that need our help.

That gets lost in a lot of the abstract discussions and technical terms we throw around — such as, for example, our tendency to differentiate between CLIMATE benefits and CO-benefits.

Climate benefits are the reductions or removals of greenhouse gasses, while co-benefits are the social, economic, and biodiversity impacts.

In the Surui project, the co-benefits are things like…

support for sustainable livelihoods in an indigenous community,

the promotion of gender equality through support for women-run enterprises, and

the restoration of habitat for rare and endangered species, among other things.

But the term “co-benefits” is a misnomer, because these activities make the emission reduction possible — whether you’re talking about stand-alone projects or the new jurisdictional initiatives that I’ll be covering more of in Season 9.

Today’s guest, Geoffrey Mwangi Wambugu, is the lead research scientist at the Kasigau Corridor REDD project, and we sat down to discuss the project’s theory of change — another of those buzzwords that leaves people cold. In the midst of our discussion, he said something profound.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

In our theory of change document, we actually do recognize what you are calling co-benefits, “c-o” as core benefits, “c-o-r-e.”

STEVE ZWICK

So, it’s not co-benefits, it’s core benefits.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

Core benefits. Particularly for a project like ours. These benefits are increasingly being recognized as core and essential to achieving the climate objectives.

OPENER

MUSIC BED

STEVE ZWICK

Earth! We Broke it, we own it, and nothing is as it was. Not the trees, not the seas, not the forests, farms or fields, and not the global economy that depends on all of these. But we can restore it — make it better, greener, more resilient, more sustainable.

But how?

Technology?

Geoengineering?

Are We doomed to live on a bionic planet, or is nature herself the answer?

That’s the question we address in every episode of Bionic Planet, a podcast of the Anthropocene, the new epoch defined by human impact on Earth, and today we examine it through the eyes of Geoffrey Mwangi Wambugu, lead research scientist for the Kasigau Corridor REDD project — the very first project to earn credits for saving endangered forests under the Verified Carbon Standard.

This project is important for several reasons.

To begin with, it’s not just the first REDD PROJECT certified under the Verified Carbon Standard.

It spearheaded the very first REDD METHODOLOGY generated under the standard.

It also faces an uncertain future, because Verra RETIRED that methodology last year in favor of one that’s less subjective.

METHODOLOGIES, as we learned in Episode 81, are like recipes for mixing existing tools to create a new project.

Methodologies are built with the best available science, and they’re designed to update over time as realities change and science advances.

Under the new methodology, which, again, we’ll explore as the season unfolds, this project will get less credit for reducing deforestation, but it’s also not getting credit for activities like the ones we learned about in Episode 90.

That’s when we met George Thumbi.

This same carbon project pays for the tree nursery he runs and the training he conducts, but it gets no credit for the carbon those activities capture — for reasons we’ll touch on today.

As this series unfolds, you’ll see the question isn’t whether the project is or isn’t having a positive impact.

It clearly is.

The question is how big that impact is.

We’ll pick that up later today and expand on it in later episodes, but first to Jeff.

INTERVIEW

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

My name is Geoffrey Mwangi Wambugu. I’m the senior research scientist at the Kasigau Corridor REDD Project. Under me, I have a social scientist and a biodiversity scientist and two data clerks. I did my undergraduate degree in wildlife ecology from Moi University here in Kenya.

And uh, then I did a master’s in environmental planning and management also here in

Mm-hmm.

My PhD is also in environmental planning, and management, focusing on the impacts of humans on terrestrial ecosystems. I also hold the post-doc, fellowship with the Smithsonian Institution.

It’s based Atala Research Center in Nanyuki that is the central part of Kenya. Uh, My specialty is anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems [00:01:00] both terrestrial and aquatic,

STEVE ZWICK

So, he spent his entire academic career studying the ways human activities impact forests, fields, rivers, lakes, and the creatures that live in them.

At first, he was more interested in which land management systems were friendliest to forests.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

For undergraduate, I was looking at the impacts of eh, management systems on forests in the coast of Kenya.

So when, at that time, eh, the one that work best was those forests that were managed by the government, those ones that were managed by the community, they were not doing very well as a result of erosion of the, community values, traditional values, eh, traditional systems for managing forests.

STEVE ZWICK

This is something you find happening around the world.

Indigenous communities manage their land sustainably, with future generations in mind.

Then, something changes — in-migration, desperation, a combination of both — and the forests suffer, as does the climate.

For his PhD, Jeff expanded his research to include our impact on waters.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

But for my PhD, I looked at uh, land use impacts on uh, rivers. Between different land-use systems.

Which one is associated with the best water quality? And I found out that, again, the most Christine ecosystems like forests had the best uh, water quality. Both for aquatic macroinvertebrates and also the physical chemical. Water quality.

STEVE ZWICK

This is another common theme. Remember David Okul from episode 86?

DAVID OKUL

The basis of life is actually in forestry. Most people say it’s water, but when you really think about it, most of what does this actually come from forestry. So it might be the chicken and egg thing, it starts, from forestry. then it goes to other biomes. and other systems

STEVE ZWICK

Now, if you’re an ecologist, you’re thinking, “Well, duh!”

This is pretty basic stuff.

Terrestrial systems interlink with aquatic systems, and human systems interlink with ecosystems.

It all blends together.

But way too many people miss or dismisses these interlinkages, which are critical to understanding how this all works.

Biological systems are different from social systems, and legal systems are different from economic systems.

They shouldn’t be, but they usually are, and the challenge isn’t just about forcing them into alignment — which can be like hammering square pegs into round holes — but rather about finding areas where they should naturally align and making it possible for that alignment to happen.

I’m hoping to unpack a lot of these technical issues this year, which is Season 9 of Bionic Planet.

If you like the show and want more and better episodes, you can help me deliver them by becoming a patron at patreon.com/bionicplanet. There you can support the show for as little as on dollar per episode and with a monthly cap.

By the same token, if you’re an ethical business looking to reach a global, climate-aware audience, you can sponsor the show by reaching out to me directly at steve@bionic-planet.com. That’s steve@bionic-planet.com.

Finally, you can support the show by giving me an honest five-star review on whichever podcatcher you access me through. That helps because the more stars I get them ears I get, and the more ears I get, the more minds I can reach. And we must reach hundreds of millions of minds if we’re to meet the climate challenge.

We can do it if we all work together.

To summarize, after getting his PhD, Jeff started teaching. That’s where he learned about REDD and RDDD+

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

I was teaching Environmental science in a university before I came

I focused on the use of geographical information systems in management of natural resources. Mm-hmm. Particularly forests [00:07:00] and other ecosystems.

And I was also teaching a bit of environmental law.

Mm-hmm. Red plus was my favorite right.

Subject. And after about six or seven years of teaching in university, I needed something new.

So

I decided to come over here and

try something else.

Steve Zwick: Okay.

How do you measure the impact of human action on nature? What is there a way you can summarize that in a hundred

Jeff Mwangi: words?

Yeah. Okay. There are many ways of doing that. There is a wide range of methods that you can use to measure the impact of Humans on ecosystems.

One of my favorite ones is to check on uh, species diversity.

And usually you can compare a pristine habitat and one that has got some form of anthropogenic influence. More often than not, you find [00:08:00] that an ecosystem that has been disturbed has, eh, poor species diversity and this can be found also in our ecosystems

Steve Zwick: Mm-hmm.

Jeff Mwangi: There is one ecosystem that we’ve been measuring for the last 10 years, the mountain

So we have plots along the elevation gradient. And preliminary analysis of that ecosystem shows that areas that have

more disturbance

attributed

to poor species diversity. So that’s just one way of doing that. There are many other ways.

Steve Zwick: d And another issue that’s really interesting is you’re, you’re here to measure human impact, then you’re here to change human impact. Yeah. And that brings us to this issue of theory of change. Yes. What is the theory of change at work here?

Jeff Mwangi: Okay. Uh, A theory of change is [00:09:00] a hypothesis or a roadmap of how a project it intends to meet its objectives. For example, if you are coming from Chicago, to Caigo, you are going to take a taxi to the airport, then you take a flight to. Probably somewhere in Europe. Change your flight then fly to Nairobi, take a train,

More

or less, something like that.

A roadmap. It’s a plan of how you are going to achieve your objectives. But before you actually have that plan, you must have the objectives first. You must know what you want to achieve. So for a project like ours we have about three theories of

change. So we have the overarching theory of change which is based on the objectives of red plus

To conserve forests for the benefit of climate people [00:10:00] and biodiversity. That’s the overarching one. But then we have several other theories of change in our project, but for us, we only have two others.

One is the community theory of change, and then you have the biodiversity theory of

change. Mm-hmm.

So I’ll talk a bit about

each. For the community theory of change, before we start a project, we have to engage communities and really know what they want the project to achieve. So we engage our communities,

To understand what are the things that they want the project to achieve. So I’m sure you have heard about the location of carbon committees.

Steve Zwick: Yes.

Steve (2): We’ll learn about locational carbon committees, or LCCs, in later episodes, but the gist is they are locally-elected committees that engage [00:11:00] the carbon project and decide things like how the community spends its carbon income. Keep in mind, these are communities, not monolithic entities. They’re comprised of famers and pastorialists, Luyha and Maasai. They don’t all agree on every item they discuss.

Jeff Mwangi: In our theory of change, we believe that those are the best representatives of the

communities because they are drawn from the six project

locations.

They are elected in a way that’s fair and transparent. And uh, we believe that they are the real representatives of the communities. So these are the people that we engage

To understand what issues they would like the project to solve.

So we called them in our workshop in 2011,

And uh,

the workshop is designed to be highly consultative, ensure that every member of the LCC is participating. And [00:12:00] the first thing that we do is to create a vision statement

In that

workshop

Each LCC has five representatives and everyone is given a card.

They

are asked to write one thing that they would like the project to address. So everybody writes something. So at the end of that exercise, we have that five cards each having an issue that we want the project to

address. So the issues that are the same, we are lumped together and we use that to write statement.

Steve Zwick: Okay. And yeah. So it, it comes from the ground

  1. It’s like

Jeff Mwangi: from the ground up, yes. Okay. So, And uh, if somebody wrote two issues instead of four and they didn’t follow the rules, we put that card aside, we don’t throw it away. Because probably somebody had[00:13:00] two issues that they think are almost the same.

So we don’t throw it away. We put it aside and check whether it is similar with any of the other issues. Okay. And that vision statement that we craft from that exercise is displayed for the rest of the

workshop.

So that it serves as a reminder what

Steve Zwick: everyone sees it, everyone says, this is why we’re here.

Jeff Mwangi: Why we are here. Then after that, we count the number of cards Then after that, we rank the issues, so we know which are the most important issues. And we select five five with the highest frequency.

Because we can’t deal with all, with all of them.

Right. Right.

We prioritize five and those issues, we call them FO

issues. So we select five focal issues and then randomly redistribute the group, each one [00:14:00] to deal with one focal issue for the rest of the workshop.

So the five focal issues the next thing that we do is we do something that we call the without project scenario.

So there is, without project scenario, tells us how those communities are thinking about that particular issue and how it’ll change in the next five to 10 years. If we don’t have a project, and we allow them space to think about how they want to think about it, how they perceive it, how they see the issue, what are the key vis. And uh, once they do that, then uh, we redraw that in what we call the problem flow diagram.

We put it in a problem flow diagram showing that this issue originates from this thing. [00:15:00] So we are able to understand, eh, where the issue originates from. And how it’ll change over the next five to 10 years.

Steve Zwick: So you start with the objective, and then you go back and you map the causes, and then you try to say, okay, how do we, okay.

So once we do that, eh, the next thing that we do is we do with project

Mm.

Okay.

Jeff Mwangi: if we have a project what are the strategies that we will use to resolve the focal issues. So again, they go back and now using the problem through diagram, they first start by, if the focal issue was human wildlife

conflict, example.

Steve Zwick: Which came

up quite a lot in our conversation

Henry Kronk: too.

Jeff Mwangi: Yes. That is always one of our major focal

issue. If the focal issue was human wildlife conflict, which [00:16:00] we ask them to change it to sound more positive,

They’ll say something like, less human wildlife

Steve Zwick: So it’s an objective rather than Yeah.

Henry Kronk: Okay.

Jeff Mwangi: And then from the problem, from the diagram, then they can input the strategies that can be used to lead to less human wildlife conflict. So at the end of that exercise, what we have is the communities themselves have, are telling us, How can we resolve the human wildlife

Henry Kronk: conflict?

Jeff Mwangi: And it is from that diagram that you are able to draw the project

So if, eh, the issue, for example, if we go to human wildlife conflict, the issue could have been the wildlife comes out to look for

water.[00:17:00]

So

if wildlife had water in their natural areas, then there’ll be less human wildlife conflict.

So the project strategy automatically becomes, provide water the

Nedra.

So how do we provide water? We have. Eh, water tanks. We have, eh, dam scooping.

We have eh, boreholes, etcetera.

Steve Zwick: So that’s why you have these tanks out there. We saw these tanks. Like how do these tanks end up scattered all over the, it was, it came from this exercise.

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah. It came from that exercise water provision, for example. And it’s also water provision both inside and outside in the community

area. So that is automatically a project strategy, but then we ask ourselves, how can we be sure that we are achieving our objectives?

So we have to select [00:18:00] indicators and we have to collect data on that, in, on those indicators.

Steve (2): We’ll get to that later… I have indicators as well, NONE IS WHETHER i’M PAYING THE BILLS…

Jeff Mwangi: It’s a project strategy to deal with one of the focal issues, which was environmental degradation.

One way to deal with environmental degradation, particularly in the community areas, is to have a greenhouse that, is aimed at helping plant motor trees in the community

areas. Mm-hmm.

So it’s a direct project

strategy.

Coming directly from the theory of

change.

Steve Zwick: I get it. Now so the water tanks came from this the human wildlife interaction. How do we correct that, put water out there? The next one was degradation. How do we correct the degradation?

Go back and look and that again. That’s why even though the trees. Do enhance. Yeah. The carbon content of the landscape. That’s not their objective. Their objective is to meet the theory of change. Exactly.

Jeff Mwangi: Okay.

Then, [00:19:00] eh, how do we measure our impact with measure impact by selecting indicators and these indicators, we have two strategies.

The first strategy is called in-house reporting.

In-house reporting is during our day-to-day activities. We task them with collecting data. For example, one of the indicators we use is

bursaries. yeah. Bursaries to address a focal issue that was poor education. They wanted kids to be

more

Yeah. To access education. So bursaries. Automatically becomes one of the ways to

address that.

STEVE ZWICK

Again, education became a focal issue because the communities wanted it. As we learned in episodes 87 and 88, people were chopping trees to pay for college.

Bursaries — or scholarships — remove that need

I mentioned earlier the current methodology is being retired in favor of one that’s more standardized, while the ultimate objective is to move towards jurisdictional crediting.

I’m worried that this, combined with sloppy media coverage, will create so much confusion that people give up on conservation finance. If that happens, the people we’re meeting on Bionic Planet will end up suffering the most, and deforestation will resume.

I’m working on another episode that should clear some of that up — it looks at the origin of current methodologies under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

Back in the 1990s, the IPCC identified several land-change models that accurately projected deforestation around the world. They found all of the models worked, but they didn’t all work the same in all circumstances. The world’s leading land-change scientists basically agreed that there will always be a degree of subjectivity in how models are selected and applied.

You’ll learn how they overcame that later in this season, season 9, but for now, let me just throw an analogy at you — the same one I made in episode 75: medicine. We don’t expect doctors to treat all patients and all diseases with the same medicine, but for some reason, people expect a simple model to emerge that accurately predicts deforestation in all forests under all circumstances.

That’s the mistake the Guardian made last year when it applied one poorly-calibrated, untested model to a bunch of projects and concluded the projects — and not the model or their application of it — were wrong.

It’s a silly conclusion that’s done a lot of damage, as you’ll see later in this season.

Another thing we’ll be looking at are efforts to capture more of the social and biodiversity benefits that Jeff is describing.

Verra, Gold Standard, and others are developing ways of quantifying gender equality and habitat improvement, while Wildlife Works is spearheading the creation of a whole new standard called “Equitable Earth,” together with my old employer, Forest Trends.

These aren’t just interesting ideas. People’s lives depend on our ability to measure and OUR WILLINGNESS TO PAY for the activities we’re learning about in this series.

I also rely on willingness to pay — your willingness to pay — for these shows.

If you like the show and want more and better episodes in Season 9, you can help me deliver them by becoming a patron at patreon.com/bionicplanet. There you can support the show for as little as on dollar per episode and with a monthly cap.

By the same token, if you’re an ethical business looking to reach a global, climate-aware audience, you can sponsor the show by reaching out to me directly at steve@bionic-planet.com. That’s steve@bionic-planet.com.

Finally, you can support the show by giving me an honest five-star review on whichever podcatcher you access me through. That helps because the more stars I get them ears I get, and the more ears I get, the more minds I can reach. And we must reach hundreds of millions of minds if we’re to meet the climate challenge.

We can do it if we all work together.

Now back to Jeff Mwangi and the role of education in carbon finance.

GEOFFREY MWANGI WAMBUGU

The link becomes very clear [00:20:00] because if we have more educated society, then people can access jobs that are more

decent. And they’ll stop getting into the forest to cut down the treeS. eh, Where was I? I was on

Steve Zwick: how do we measure the impacts? And then Yeah. Then I,

Yeah.

Jeff Mwangi: So we have,

Steve Zwick: and bursaries as a measurement

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah. So we measure, we look at the number of students who get the

bursaries.

We look the amounts spent on bursaries. We look at the issue between guards and boys. We look at the classroom projects. The number of classrooms that we have supported Another

in-house report we get is from the greenhouse where you are. So every month.

we

get information from the greenhouse on how many trees have been propagated, how many have been bought from the community, how many have been planted[00:21:00] which species. We get all that information, what is the

survivor rate?

Once they outplant they measure how, what is the rate of survival? So we have an idea

Of effort versus impact.

Yeah.

Steve Zwick: I can see how this data would provide an indicator of success, but do you have any baselines like any, any, anything where you can say, this number means this, this, or, yeah.

Jeff Mwangi: Yes, indeed. So that is in-house reporting, but we also have another way of measuring our impact.

And this is called field work.

I mentioned earlier that we have two, eh, resident scientists. We have one social scientist and one by diversity

scientist.

These ones are tasked with implementing field work research that is designed in a way that is much more scientifically robust.

Such that that data can inform us on[00:22:00]

various

things that we need to know about.

One of them is called the household survey.

The household survey is done by annually.

Once every two

years.

The first one was done in 2011. And how we did this, we randomized in all the six project locations, each eh, project location, having 30 households. So we had our baseline survey in 2011, and the questionnaire is designed to look at the baseline scenario. And every two years we go back, we interview the same households. The intention is to follow these households until the end of the project.

Of course. You have. People coming in and others going And uh,

you find that we don’t have all the one eight[00:23:00] that we originally interviewed in the first household survey.

But

the large proportion of them is there.

So we are able to follow them.

And every two years we analyze this data. One of the questions that we ask is, what is the impact of the

project? And from the response we get, we can be able to gauge whether we are achieving our objectives.

Steve Zwick: And that’s just one of the many questions. So it’s something

Jeff Mwangi: yes. Yeah. That

Steve Zwick: It’s not, they’re sitting out there

Jeff Mwangi: yeah.

Yeah. It’s a huge it’s a huge uh, questionnaire. It takes two months to cover all the.

households And another two months to enter the data, another two months to produce the summary report.

And then in the following year, we do a follow up s b

workshop.

We go back to the community, we present those results ask them whether [00:24:00] they think that this is a true reflection of what they think.

And from that then we can always use adaptive management to redesign reify and change a few things, work a few things here and there to ensure that we align better and we have better results in the next iteration.

Steve Zwick: What kinds of um, adaptations have you had to make?

Jeff Mwangi: For example? One of the most difficult things to, to deal with in the theory of change is the problem of attribution.

Saying that you attribute

a certain intervention to a certain impact. It could be you, it could be somebody else, it could be something else that has changed, that has led to better impacts or not. So in one of the data sets we had that problem. We couldn’t really separate water [00:25:00] projects that are in schools and purely water projects. So you have to change the way you report it.

Such that instead of calling them water projects or school projects, you call them, eh, something else,

like

education projects. That way you have a better separation of, eh, even if it’s a water project that is in school, then you just call it an education

project.

Yeah.

Yeah. So those are things that we grapple a lot with, eh, separating eh information so that it’s more clear we

Yeah.

Steve Zwick: Have you changed your approach? Have you found sometimes something you thought would have an impact didn’t deliver or delivered a different impact? Have you altered your be, times. Yeah.

What’s a good example

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah. Let me see. One of, the good examples [00:26:00] is ranger patrols

In the region patrol dataset.

We also ask our rangers to collect any information that they find what we call high conservation

Henry Kronk: Mm-hmm.

Jeff Mwangi: you have these species which look similar.

So somebody cannot tell whether it was a Leo pad or a cheetah,

or

a SVO

So sometimes you have to tell them, just write it in your

mother tongue.

So they write the it in their mother tongue, and when uh, we come back, look at the data

Then we know what it was.

Yeah. So sometimes, eh, we do that sometimes, eh, you have the problem of, eh,

somebody

saw a herd of elephants and somebody else who was close by saw the same herd of elephants. So you [00:27:00] have uh, that being reported twice. So if you record it, then you You might get the problem of

Mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm. So we came up with a method where you have a unique identifier, so you combine three things.

You combine the ranger team the gps and uh, the base station.

So that way you have a very unique identifier and eh, the risk of somebody reporting the same animal toys becomes

Yeah.

Steve Zwick: So you’re constantly revising the way you manage the reporting to make it more accurate.

Yes. Have you, in this process, found that your own interventions didn’t deliver the results you wanted, and you had to change what you did? Or have you just been dead on? Have you found that, oh my God, everything we did worked right?

Jeff Mwangi: Not that I’m aware of. Uh, most, of the interventions that we design [00:28:00] have actually been successful.

Oh, yeah.

Largely because we do take our time before we go for rotor.

So we take a lot of due diligence, eh, talk to people and ensure that, everything that we are doing,

Is, easy to understand.

But also with a level of scientific rigor and cost effective.

We don’t want to do something that’s sophisticated, then we do it two times, then we stopped. Because in our reporting, we are required to have data for the entire year

And for the project lifetime. So we want to be sure that once we have uh, a thing to report, we can report it

in a

way that’s easy to understand. And also in a way that’s cost effective. And even the way we store the data, [00:29:00] it’s in a way that can easily be stored.

Stephen Donofrio: The world we operate in on the other side, outside of the field is people call it climate benefits. And that’s the co2 and that’s we price and then co-benefits. And those are what gets certified you know, with ccb, SD Vista, whatever it is.

But the process you described is that the carbon benefits are not possible without considering the co-benefits first, and that the co-benefits are actually not co-benefits, they’re enablers of the climate benefits.

And so if you could, reflect on that for a second and actually reconsider the terminology that it’s not really co-benefits, but it’s, these are essential attributes. Of a successful climate project. That’s a, that’s red plus.

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah. That’s very good question. In our theory of change document, we actually do recognize what you are calling co-benefits, “c-o” as core benefits, “c-o-r-e”

Steve Zwick: so it’s not co-benefits, it’s core-benefits

Jeff Mwangi:Core benefits. Oh, Particularly for a project like ours. These benefits are increasingly being recognized as core and essential to achieving the climate objectives. This is uh, why we have to address all these other issues that are around the carbon fast because those issues are the ones that might lead to us having problems with the carbon stock. Yeah.

Stephen Donofrio: And I almost feel like the word co-benefits or even core

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah.

Stephen Donofrio: is underserving

Jeff Mwangi: Yes.

Stephen Donofrio: their. Their essential role. It’s like you can’t [00:31:00] drive a car Without having the frame. The engine, wheels, the axles, all those are the core essential components. Yeah. So thinking of it as core

Jeff Mwangi: Yes.

Stephen Donofrio: Yes Of a successful

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah.

Stephen Donofrio: Climate, positive red plus

Jeff Mwangi: Definitely. Yes.

Stephen Donofrio: Is how I’m hearing

Jeff Mwangi: you describe it. Yes, indeed. And uh, on your second part of the question is

the, we have the c, c, B as one of the standards, eh, that we use, and therefore we have to report not just the climate benefits.

We

also have to report the community benefits.

And the biodiversity benefits, which brings me to our biodiversity theory of change. Cause it’s a separate theory of change. Because biodiversity, you can’t involve communities mostly. You can

involve them A bit.

but you need [00:32:00] experts, people who are actually knowledgeable about the biodiversity of the area.

So we engage, eh, stakeholders in the biodiversity sector, call them again to a meeting, and we discuss issues that are of importance that we really need to think about to conserve the diversity. So we ask them the same

question.

what does it mean to you for the diversity of the area to be conserved? What are the things that we really need to look for? And so they give us things that they think we need to look for. And for biodiversity, we have for, we have habitat management. So ensuring that we have a vegetation cover, we have a safeguarding high conservation valley species. human wildlife conflict came again in the [00:33:00] biodiversity theory area of change.

And the last one was corridor maintenance.

Ensuring that the corridor between and waste remains open. And therefore, we also now come up with indicators for those as well. So that’s why we have H C V species, high conservation value species. The methods are also based on in-house reporting and field work.

In-house reporting, we are using ranger patrols to tell us what kind of biodiversity is out there because they are always in the field doing patrols and doing the walking and all that, the driving in the field. Then we have a framework in this theory of change that we call the precious state response model.

we have indicators that tell us. What the pressure looks like. So we might have indicators for example, things like population [00:34:00] growth things like a number of incidences recorded, maybe number of charco bags that were recorded et cetera. Then we have state indicators is reports on wildlife populations?

What are we seeing? Are we seeing elephants? Are we seeing wild dogs? Are we seeing lions that is state?

And then response indicators is what we are actually doing, to respond to this. So we record, for example, the patrol distance how many patrols were done in that month. How far or how many flights did the gyros, go around the, project area? And we also map those. We map the tracks. We map the patrols so that we are able to know, eh, the response, what response we are, and that all that, eh, tells us [00:35:00] what we need to do more. Do we need to do more on, eh the effort? Or do we need to do more on uh, the state for the pressure more often on than not for some indicators. It is beyond our scope. If we have population growth, that is not something that we can

control asa.

But

we do like to know about it so that we know how to also deal with these others.

Steve Zwick: And none of these indicators that you’ve talked about are actually in the reports, the auditors, right? This is all your internal checks, and how are we, progressing towards the ultimate goal?

Jeff Mwangi: Actually, many of these are in the monitoring reports. I think about half of the data that we collect goes into the monitoring reports.

The rest of it is for our own internal use. [00:36:00] As I mentioned before, we use adaptive management a lot. So we analyze this data Periodically to check to see where we need to put more effort and to check where we need to change things. Like for example one of the ones that we did recently was to look at the effect of wildlife on waterholes.

Remember we said that we are providing water in the waterholes, but it’s not always a good thing. Because wildlife will tend to congregate on this waterholes. And what happens is that the shrimping of vegetation, especially during the dry areas,

So we have to measure that impact.

So we, we have a group that measures uh, vegetation from the water hole as you move out.

Steve Zwick: But so you’re taking something that looks like a simple indicator, huh?

Yes. Number of animals around the water hall. Yeah. Success, yes. But no, that’s not really the case. It’s, it could mean, oh

[00:37:00] yeah, definitely. They’re trampling everything else

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah, Yeah,

Exactly. So it could be successful, on one side, but on the other

side. it has detrimental effect. So we check which ones are the most affected and sometimes we have to make some

interventions. I think Last month we closed some of the waterholes mm-hmm. to allow wildlife to go to waterholes that are less degraded. we, we use the data to make better decisions. And what we do every five years when we go to an S b A workshop, we review the focal issues. So we have done it once. Mm-hmm. Uh, So there was the original focal issues, which we reviewed in 2017. So they changed a bit. And now this year we are going to review them again [00:38:00] because five years have lapsed. So in June we are going to another SBA workshop and we will do the focal issues again.

So that uh, we ensure that we are still focusing on the things that are important to the community and that particular time. So fo issues change over time. Sometimes they become less important. Because of maybe something changed. They, maybe they found that this is no longer a focal issue, or maybe we have addressed this focal issue enough, so maybe we need to change it eh, after five years.

Jeff Mwangi: Being a wildlife

corridor that has communities around it. Uh, Striving to grow food in an environment where human wildlife conflict is a major issue. There’s always an issue that comes up.

One major, one big one now is the prolonged drought. It [00:39:00] was identified in the theory of change, but at that time rains were much more consistent, at least before are sure that every April and every October we get rain. But now when you have a scenario where now we, you don’t have rain for two years, then it becomes a bit.

Problematic. So we are thinking that this will be one of the major FO issues in the next review.

Periodically we have an influx of had us from other communities that come into the area. There’s usually problems also associated with them, so we usually have to. Go back and uh, check and see how best we can deal with this. Cause it’s not just a al problem, it’s a problem of the entire county and not just this county, even the [00:40:00] neighboring county. So we do have sometimes problems like those that we have to think about addressing in the short

term.

Steve Zwick: what’s fascinating here is you’ve got a theory of change. Yeah. You’ve Clear things that have worked in the past that you try to implement.

Yeah.

And then you’ve got things that you can’t foresee that you have to adapt to

it.

It all means you’ve got a classic wicked problem. Something that there really is no one single solution.

Yeah. There are people out there who say it’s too complicated. We shouldn’t use carbon finance to address it because it’s so complicated. We can’t really be sure of anything.

Yeah. And this is like listening to what you’re talking about and based on everything I’ve seen. Yeah. It’s complicated. Yeah. There’s

Yeah.

but the direction is clear

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah.

But

Steve Zwick: there are people who argue against carbon finance cuz what they’re saying is,

mm-hmm.

Yeah. All these great theories, everything looks great, but something’s always gonna happen. Something’s always gonna go wrong. And they [00:41:00] essentially argue we can’t use carbon finance to do it because of the uncertainties.

How would you address that concern or that argument? That argument

Jeff Mwangi: Yeah.

In our, one of our strategies, eh, we encourage adaptive management.

Eh, adaptive management is, eh, being formed by the data you are collecting. The circumstances that are at that particular, instance. And adapt accordingly. And as you have seen in our LCC model, the communities have the freedom to use their carbon finance as they wish.

As long as they are adhering to the standard operating procedures. So there’s that flexibility and there is that allowance for you to address things as they come. Because if you cast it too much on stone, you [00:42:00] might not address the things that you really need to address.

So if you don’t address uh, the root. cause

of a problem, then you might not be addressing the things that you really need to address. So we encourage that we use adaptive management informed by best practice and also adhere to standard. That way you always have room to address problems as they come.

STEVE ZWICK

Jeff Mwangi Wambugu wrapping up this edition of Bionic Planet.

If you like the show and want more and better episodes, you can help me deliver them by becoming a patron at patreon.com/bionicplanet. There you can support the show for as little as on dollar per episode and with a monthly cap.

By the same token, if you’re an ethical business looking to reach a global, climate-aware audience, you can sponsor the show by reaching out to me directly at steve@bionic-planet.com. That’s steve@bionic-planet.com.

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We can do it if we all work together.

That wraps up today’s show. Until next time, I’m Steve Zwick in Nairobi. Thanks for listening.

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