With concerns about global warming and the damage of carbon emissions on the rise, companies across the globe are starting to be more proactive in finding ways to become ‘greener’ enterprises. Southern Mapping Company (SMC) has partnered with Peace Parks to help contribute towards this global greening initiative.

Peter Moir, chief executive of SMC, says that their involvement with Peace Parks has proved to be an insightful business venture. “Corporate social investment and greening are both important issues that affect all companies. When we were approached by the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) for help with their bio-mass project, we knew it would be a great opportunity to contribute towards greening and environmental conservation. It has also turned out to be a very satisfying and insightful learning experience for us.” The total value of SMC’s contribution to the project is R245,000.

Leon-Jacques Theron, an ecologist for PPF, explains, “PPF assists in establishing trans-frontier conservation areas in regions that have pristine forests that are under threat of deforestation and degradation. The Foundation has already established trans-frontier conservation areas in the cross border parks of Kruger-Limpopo along the SA-Mozambique border and the Ais-Ais-Richtersveld along the SA-Namibia border.”

The PPF identifies the trans-frontier conservation areas and embarks on projects to determine the potential for the forests in the project area to absorb greenhouse gases, which could ultimately create a sustainable funding source for large corporations who wish to offset their carbon footprint. Forests absorb a large amount of greenhouse gases and therefore play a pivotal role in the atmospheric decrease of these harmful gases.

Southern Mapping Company is currently involved with the largest project undertaken by PPF, namely the establishment of the Kavango-Zambezi TFCA, that will span Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe — a large bio-mass data collection exercise over an area of 1.5 million hectares. To ensure the long-term sustainability of the trans-frontier conservations areas, PPF has explored payment options for ecosystem services such as clean water and air.

“Natural resources can easily be taken for granted. In a global attempt to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, an ‘eco payment’ option has been enforced by putting in place a cap and trade system where polluters that are capped on their emissions are able to offset excess emissions by buying credits from businesses that have implemented various technologies to reduce their carbon footprint. This is a process that has been regulated by the Kyoto Protocol. Businesses that do not comply get fined,” says Theron.

Prevention of bush, forest or woodland clearing and replanting has also been included in the cap and trade system, therefore making the trans-frontier conservation areas a lucrative business opportunity for organisations who would like to offset their carbon emissions.

Continues Theron, “Substantial amounts of forests are cleared annually to make space for agriculture, timber and housing. This deforestation takes place at a much faster rate than plants are able to grow. If degradation and deforestation can be halted and the number of trees increased, credits can be claimed, which provides a financial motivation for areas to be protected.”

The Zambian component of the trans-frontier conservation area project took place over a period of six weeks. The survey included hundreds of grass, tree and soil samples, as well as measuring the canopy diameter, circumference and density of trees. This data is then converted to a mass and then a carbon dioxide value by using special equations.

Says Theron, “This process is not easy and leaves room for errors. Area sampling is difficult and the lower the sampling effort, the less accurate the findings. With Southern Mapping Company’s advanced aerial Lidar technology we are able to accurately scan and measure thousands of trees within specified sample sets over a large area in a period of just two to three days.”

The project has been well-received both locally and internationally and has also attracted the attention of various research institutes. “We look forward to continually playing a part towards sustainable and greener living,” concludes Moir.