On Tuesday 28th March 2023, the Plan Vivo Foundation (PVF) brought together stakeholders from across the East African region for our first East Africa Regional Meeting which was hosted in Nairobi, Kenya.  

Building on the successful onboarding of our East African Regional Projects Officer Lilian Mwihaki, and Regional Ambassador Pauline Nantongo, this workshop aimed to build Plan Vivo’s network and presence in East Africa and discuss solutions to key issues facing projects and partners in the region. 

A key element of Plan Vivo’s holistic model is community engagement: PVF requires that projects are designed in participation with local communities and that these groups have ownership over project implementation.  

During the morning session we heard from four well established projects in the East African region on how they effectively engage communities in holistic carbon projects. Project representatives highlighted many effective and innovative methods of engaging community members, including visioning (see image below), Farmer Voice Radio (where groups of farmers share knowledge via radio) and community meetings. 

Representatives from coastal mangrove projects Mikoko Pamoja and Vanga Blue Forest emphasised the importance of building project ownership within communities, including within the youth. One way in which they do so is their Forest Scholars programme, in which young people are encouraged to engage with the local environment by learning about the technical aspects of the projects.

A smallholder farmer’s vision, drawn up by the famer as part of their enrolment into the Trees for Global Benefits project in Uganda (credit: ECOTRUST). 

As the sessions continued we learnt that working with nomadic communities in the Yaeda-Eyasi Landscape REDD project requires unique engagement strategies. Isack Bryson, Regina Safari, and German Sedoyeka, all themselves members of the project communities, explained how Carbon Tanzania staff go to boreholes where community members water their animals and discuss issues relating to the carbon project there.  

There followed a lively panel discussion and Q&A session. One discussion focused upon how to explain carbon markets, which can be complex, to community members.  

Focusing on what project participants need to know and taking a pragmatic approach was highly advised. For example, by explaining that carbon markets function like any other market and linking climate change to changes participants have seen in their local environments.  

Pauline Nantongo, Plan Vivo’s recently appointed Regional Ambassador for East Africa commented; ‘‘communities are relational, you must build a relationship with the community… you must keep your word, you must be clear with them, you must respect them as you deal with them.’’ 

Left to right: German Sedoyeka (Yaeda-Eyasi Landscape REDD project), Kassim Juma and Anne Wanjiru (Mikoko Pamoja), Regina Safari (Yaeda-Eyasi Landscape REDD project), Mwanarusi Mwafrica (Vanga Blue Forest),  Lilian Mwihaki (Plan Vivo),  Isack Bryson (Yaeda-Eyasi Landscape REDD project).

The afternoon session focused on policy landscapes relevant to community-led carbon projects. As Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is being operationalised and more countries are publishing regulations on the VCM at national level (see Tanzania and Kenya) it is crucial to remain engaged in these discussions. Assessing the current landscape in the region and ensuring Plan Vivo projects continue to align with national policies was was highly advised.

The panel discussion concluded with panellists across government, project development and research agreeing that there is significant scope for the VCM to provide ethical finance for community-led conservation, but that the risks must be managed. Designing holistic projects with benefits beyond carbon is important to manage the risks to peoples’ livelihoods. The market may be messy and noisy, but it is there, and money will flow – but we must ensure that this translates to impact for communities and conservation on the ground.   

The attendees of Plan Vivo's first East Africa Regional workshop.

As noted by Dr James Kairo, Chief Research Scientist at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI); “the building blocks of any successful carbon project will be a government that is willing to support strong communities, good science and partnership.” Our East African Regional Meeting allowed us to bring together stakeholders across government, community and science to strengthen these partnerships and enable more community led, holistic carbon projects in the region. 

There is a huge amount of expertise and experience across Plan Vivo’s East African network. It was wonderful to be able to share and capture some of those learnings through this regional meeting. We look forward to welcoming stakeholders to our next regional event. 

As a way forward, Plan Vivo will promote this continued exchange of information and ideas among projects (current and pipeline) and key stakeholders. 


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If you are interested in Plan Vivo’s work in East Africa please email our East African Regional Projects Officer Lilian: [email protected] 

To learn more about Plan Vivo certified projects in East Africa, visit our 'Current Projects' page: Current Projects