“And when do you Collect the CO2?”

Sports4Trees is a campaign run by the German association Sports for Future to promote forest protection and reforestation in sub-Saharan Africa. The aim of the campaign is to inspire the world of sport to get involved in and make a contribution to climate protection. myclimate works in partnership with Sports4Trees on three projects in the target region. Recently, it travelled there with Sports for Future founder and chair, Stefan Wagner, and the WWF, to witness the projects in action*. In this guest article, Stefan Wagner gives his impressions of the projects and explains why climate protection efforts in the Global South really do make a difference.

“Indulgence trade”, “global justice”, “bridge to avoidance”, “greenwashing”: these are all buzz words and phrases that often crop up in discussions on the topic of carbon offsetting. The inference is that creating a positive footprint somewhere on the planet doesn’t really compensate for a negative one left elsewhere. But that certainly doesn’t mean we should stop trying. 

The climate crisis is an existential problem to which the solution lies in taking responsibility – and action. Sports for Future, through its partners myclimate and the WWF, supports a number of forest protection projects in East Africa. The results of these projects demonstrate one of the basic tenets of sport – that, by working as a team, great things can be achieved.  

In September 2022, we visited East Africa, together with employees of myclimate and the WWF. The trip took us through Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, where we witnessed the projects we support in action: 

  • Protection of Tanzanian forests for indigenous people, wildlife and climate (project partner: myclimate) 
  • Reforestation of the Chepalungu Forest in Kenya (WWF) 
  • Reducing deforestation of the rainforest thanks to more efficient stoves in Kenya (myclimate) 
  • Reforestation by smallholders in Uganda (myclimate)

Forest Reserve in the Yaeda Valley, Tanzania 

Our first stop was Tanzania. The region around Lake Eyasi and the Yaeda Valley, south-east of the Serengeti, is home to the Datoga and the Hadza – traditional tribes whose ways of life are far removed from those of the modern world. The area is sufficiently distant from the hotspots frequented by safari tourists to have retained its own fascinating and very rural character. 

For the Hadza, who number about 1,600 people, the concept of stockpiling is unknown. They go hunting every day with bows and arrows, they collect fruit, roots or honey, and are otherwise content to sit and relax around a small, constantly blazing fire. In the past, they have been repeatedly driven out of their home areas – for example, by the Maasai. 

The forest protection project, implemented by the local social enterprise Carbon Tanzania, covers a total area of about 110,000 hectares. This makes it by far the largest such project in the country. Funds and donations from Sports for Future have contributed to protecting some 6,000 hectares. Areas to be settled, protected and cultivated, as well as those that are to be left completely untouched, are agreed with the local communities. Financial resources are made available to them, to be used as they see fit – for example, to set up schools or health facilities. Local people are hired as rangers to ensure that the areas are respected. In addition, efforts are made to secure more land rights, including for the Hadza, who now hold land titles for the first time in their long tradition. By walking with them through their lands for a few hours, you get a hint of how important this is to them and how their way of life, which may seem backward from our point of view, is actually quite far-sighted.

Reforestation of the Chepalungu Forest, Kenya

Our route took us further through the breathtaking Serengeti to an area north of the Masai Mara –the Kenyan part of the Serengeti – to the Chepalungu Forest. Here, some 5,000 hectares of forest were destroyed during political unrest in 2008. As a result, tributaries of the Mara River – the only source of water in the Mara Serengeti during the dry season – ran dry, food for cattle herds disappeared and devastation loomed. At the request of the local population, WWF started a reforestation project. To date, 350,000 trees have been planted, around 40,000 of which were made possible by Sports for Future. In addition to its positive climate effects in general, this project is of great importance for the micro-climate and for the preservation of the adjacent, unique, nature reserve.

Efficient Cooker Programme, Kenya

The next project we visited was in the Kakamega rainforest. This is Kenya’s last remaining pristine forest and home to an immense variety of unique and endangered animals and plants. Traditionally, cooking here is done on three-stone fireplaces, which lose a lot of heat and therefore require a lot of firewood. As part of this myclimate project, TSG Hoffenheim subsidises the provision of Upesi natural ceramic stoves, which are 30–50 per cent more efficient than the three-stone method .

Other benefits of the stoves include: 

  • less smoke in the huts, with significantly more positive health impacts
  • more opportunities, especially for women, to earn an income from the production and installation of the stoves
  • pess time spent collecting firewood (often by children) and, therefore,
  • more time for the children to go to school.

We crossed the border from Kenya into Uganda on foot. Immediately, we noticed the noise: a music truck, accompanied by honking mopeds with Ugandan flags, was passing – seemingly randomly –through the streets. Uganda has a special spirit, an engaging atmosphere, featuring lots of music and dance. Via the capital, Kampala, we drove west to Hoima, near Lake Albert. This is the source of the new EACOP pipeline, which will deliver oil through Tanzania to the port of Tanga. 

This area is home to thousands of smallholders, of whom up to 21,000 will eventually be involved in the afforestation project of myclimate and local NGO Ecotrust. They use part of their plots of land, which average around one hectare, for planting forest plots, some of which form combined corridors for wildlife between once-connected forest areas. About 40,000 trees have been planted thanks to Sports for Future and the TSG Hoffenheim “Climate Ticket”.

One of the smallholder farmers we visited asked when we would collect the CO2 we had bought. Of course, that sounds a bit funny and rather “uneducated”, but the farmer quickly put things into perspective for us. Yes, he was uneducated, having never attended school himself, but, thanks to the income he earned from the project, he was able to send his 14 children to lessons. Apologising for the condition of his simple hut, he said educating his children was very important to him, as was the ability to buy five chickens and three goats, which he also managed to do with income from the project. 

This is when it really became clear to us that the standards we use to classify such projects are far from sufficient. The term “climate protection project” does not do them justice at all, as they are just as much about improving the living conditions of the local people. 

Finally, we visited a group of women who run a tree nursery for these smallholder farmers. Among other things, they told us how domestic violence has reduced, because the afforestation project offers them a perspective in many ways. They laugh and sing more at home than before.

But then, they also spoke of their fear that all their work – the trees they planted and the beneficial effects on their community – would potentially be destroyed by accidents during the construction of the EACOP pipeline. A pipeline that, like the climate crisis, is linked mainly to our way of life and not theirs...

* myclimate experts visited these climate protection projects as part of project monitoring. Such visits help build long-standing, close and trusting cooperation with the external partners – in this case, Sports for Future – as well as with the people and communities at the project locations. These visits are part of myclimate’s quality assurance and internal due diligence, in addition to audits by external auditors and checks by certificate issuers.

Tree nursery in Uganda. A group of women explains the impact on several levels: nature, health, reduction in violence. Photo: Stefan Wagner



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