||Kulera Landscape REDD+ Program for Co-Managed Protected Areas in Malawi was developed within the framework of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Kulera Biodiversity Project (KBP). Malawi is the poorest country on earth and a landscape-based REDD+ approach that works directly through community association is the most dependable path for conservation based sustainable development. The REDD program areas are located in a five kilometer zone inside the boundaries of three key protected areas in central and northern Malawi: Nyika National Park, Vwaza Wildlife Reserve, and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. These parks are under increasing pressure of encroachment from local populations, which has exacerbated deforestation and forest degradation rates along the borders of the protected zones. The overall goals of the Kulera Landscape REDD+ Program are to reduce deforestation and degradation in these select protected areas, and to improve livelihoods by managing natural resources as an asset base to capture long-term economic benefits.
The project proponents, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), the Nyika-Vwaza Association (NVA), the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve Association (NAWIRA), and Terra partnered with a Malawi-based NGO, Total LandCare, to prepare this REDD+ program and generate Verified Emission Reductions (VER). The project is now selling VERs to continually fund conservation efforts in conjunction with livelihood improvements for successful climate, community and biodiversity benefits in a win, win, win situation.
One of the principal objectives of the project is to improve understanding of co-management agreements for protected areas and build the capacity of community associations to carry out program management and enforcement activities. In addition, within the five kilometer buffer zone surrounding each protected area, the project has introduced a number of livelihood improvements designed to provide alternative income sources, improve food security, and reduce pressures on natural resources. These programs include agricultural improvements through crop diversification, improved varieties and new interventions, planting woodlots on degraded lands, using improved cook stoves, and improving management and areas of community forests.
Kulera Landscape REDD+ Program for Co-Managed Protected Areas targets over 65,000 households (350,000 people) living in rural communities in the border zone of the project protected areas. Most households are characterized by dire poverty, undertaking practices that are destructive to the resources upon which their livelihoods depend. In addition, many communities have limited access to support services because they reside in remote areas with poor roads and infrastructure. The level of community involvement is decided through a consultative participatory process based on defined criteria, which include assessments of resources, capabilities and interest, as well as the type and level of support needed. The entry point to identify beneficiaries begins with the leadership structure of communities and villages and established Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) associations falling within the management zones of each protected area. In all cases, gender factors are taken into account to ensure participation and support of women, as well as youth. Given that many households are directly or indirectly affected by HIV/AIDs, the project ensures that interventions encompass opportunities to target these households. Special efforts are being made to target households engaged in illegal exploitation of reserve resources with the aim to understand and address this behavior by providing alternative solutions.
Malawi’s protected areas are a primary concern of the Government. Between 1972 and 2005, Malawi’s forest cover was cut in half from increasing demands for farmland and fuelwood. Until recently, most of this occurred on customary land; however, encroachment into protected areas with exploitation of natural resources is now common because of weak Government enforcement. Miombo woodland, the forest type that can be found in all project areas is one of the most threatened forest types in Africa and is home to numerous species found on the IUCN Red List.
The project focuses on improved governance, protection and management of three key protected areas uniquely important for biodiversity: Nyika National Park, Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve, and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. Nyika National Park is located in the northern region of Malawi, covers 3,200 km2 of montane grassland, miombo woodland and evergreen forest and is home to more than 95 mammals, 430 species of birds, 47 species of reptiles, and 34 species of amphibians. Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve lies on the watershed between Lake Malawi and the Luangwa Valley on the Central African Plateau and supports a diverse vertebrate fauna that includes 326 species of birds, 10 species of fish and 50 mammal species, including rare and endangered species such as the African elephant and the African wild dog. Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is a key watershed to Lake Malawi, an IUCN Biodiversity Hotspot, and supports a number of large mammals including the rare and endangered African elephant, waterbuck, blue monkey, and 280 bird and 24 fish species .