Climate change: Africa has a major new carbon market initiative – what you need to know
Noise from deep-sea mining may disrupt whale song, study finds
Grass protein: The next plant base for alt-meat?
Cape Town’s Urban Waste Management Plan for organic waste
Welcome new Mycelium members

To diarise
World Wildlife Day – 3 March
International Day of Forests – 21 March
Film Impact Screening Facilitator Short Course – deadline 31 March 2023
Southern Africa Biodiversity Partners Program – deadline 20 March 2023
Africa Impact Investment Awards – deadline 30 March

Film Festivals to Enter
International Nature and Environmental Protection Festival, Hungary
Wild Oceans FilmFest, Spain
Science Film Festival, Thailand
FReDD International Film Festival, France

Interesting reads
David Attenborough’s camera wizards on how to film Britain’s wildlife
Africa’s first heat officer is based in Freetown
Meet 10 Storytellers Supported by Africa Refocused
Transforming Cities

We are loving …
Saai launches AI platform for farmers
Ground-breaking project teaches children to farm using Minecraft
Wetland incorporated into Agulhas National Park
First equity fund for green energy investments

Who are Mycelium?

WELCOME by Stephanie Swanepoel

It feels as if life is getting faster with the advent of more and more technological fixes (see our stories on AI and gaming for farming success) and more and more interventions to try and stave off ecological collapse (carbon credit markets and grass proteins). Sometimes in that fastness, we can forget the importance of slow things – encouraging the emergence of community voices, creating equitable and safe spaces for discussions about our common future and remembering that sustainability will only come about through living with the natural systems that surround us, not despite them.

Creative, original and authentic storytelling has never been more important as stories create our reality – they cast the hero and the villain and they delineate our possible futures and who will benefit in them or not. We need a multitude of stories from different continents and cultures, from different perspectives, to create a rich tapestry of possibilities that cater for a multitude of contextual sustainable and equitable futures. See the film festivals profiled in this newsletter and the opportunity to apply for a short course on impactful storytelling. Each of us working in this space has a responsibility to contribute towards a rich tapestry of stories, built on the stories of our ancestors and our dreams for our descendants, nested within our community and cultural stories.

We hope you enjoy the newsletter, follow us on social media to stay up to date with the exciting projects undertaken by Mycelium Colab. Our Mycelium network is growing fast, read more about the innovative work undertaken by two new members related to generating and sharing knowledge for sustainable futures. Find out how to join our network here.

Yours in story


Climate change: Africa has a major new carbon market initiative – what you need to know

Climate finance for the African continent got a boost at the 2022 United Nations Climate Conference (COP27), with the launch of the
African Carbon Markets Initiative. This aims to make climate finance available for African countries, expand access to clean energy, and drive sustainable economic development. Led by a 13-member steering committee of African leaders, chief executives and industry specialists, the initiative promises to expand the continent’s participation in voluntary carbon markets.

Carbon markets are trading platforms which allow individuals, firms and governments to fund projects that reduce emissions (instead of reducing their own emissions). Kenya, Malawi, Gabon, Nigeria and Togo have already indicated their intention to collaborate with the market.

Climate projects include reforestation and forest conservation, investments in renewable energy, carbon-storing agricultural practices and direct air capture. In return for funding projects like these, investors receive carbon credits – certificates used to “offset” the emissions that they continue to produce.

The African initiative’s goal is to produce 300 million new carbon credits annually by 2030, comparable to the number of credits issued globally in voluntary carbon offset markets in 2021. However, there is considerable scepticism about whether carbon offset credits do mitigate climate change.
Two important issues

In assessing the effectiveness of carbon credits, one important concern is the concept of “additionality”. Emission reductions or removals are “additional” if the project or activity would not have happened without the added incentive provided by the carbon credits. For example, if a landowner is paid to not cut down trees, but had no plans to cut them down in the first place, the project does not deliver additional emissions savings. The landowner is paid for doing nothing and the buyer’s emissions are not offset.

Providing carbon credits to projects that would have been implemented anyway delivers zero climate mitigation, and can result global emissions that are higher than if the credits hadn’t been issued. This is a serious challenge for carbon offset markets because additionality is not measurable, despite industry claims. While project managers may claim that they are unable to proceed without funding, there is no way of knowing whether these claims are true.

A second issue is permanence. Carbon offsets have to be permanent because carbon emissions remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. It is almost impossible to guarantee that emissions will be offset for this length of time. But it depends on the type of offset project. There are two types of carbon offset project:

  •      those that reduce the amount of carbon that is emitted
  •      those that remove carbon from the atmosphere.

In the case of carbon reduction projects, overall emissions remain positive. Examples of carbon reduction credits include investments in renewable energy. Even though the supplier of the carbon credit is not generating any emissions, the buyer continues to emit, and so the overall level of emissions is positive. Carbon neutrality – net-zero emissions – cannot be achieved using carbon reduction credits.

There should be more funding available for carbon reduction activities in Africa, but investors should not receive carbon credits to offset their own emissions when supporting these activities. Such investments would be philanthropic – for the good of the planet, not to balance the carbon accounting books.

Carbon removal projects do, however, have the potential to deliver a permanent net-zero emissions outcome. Direct air capture projects, which use chemical reactions to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store them deep underground, can meet this goal. The cost of direct air capture, however, remains very high.

Forest growth, a less costly type of carbon removal project, is less permanent. Landowners may commit not to cut down trees, but wildfires, disease, and other disruption events can release much of the stored carbon back into the atmosphere. There is still value to forest carbon credits, but they can’t guarantee permanence. Forest projects provide “carbon deferrals”. Additional forest growth projects remove carbon from the atmosphere for a fixed amount of time. There is value to this delay because it can reduce peak warming and gives society more time for the costs of decarbonising technologies to fall. While there is value to these carbon deferral projects they should not be used to generate carbon credits that are used to permanently offset the emissions produced through economic activity.

The African Carbon Markets Initiative has bold ambitions. It will attract investments in Africa by firms, consumers and governments in countries that have historically contributed the most to climate change. Whether these investments result in any meaningful climate benefit, however, is unclear. Time will tell.

Existing carbon offset projects lack credibility. This doesn’t mean that carbon credits can’t be more useful in future. Being transparent about what projects actually deliver, rather than what we hope they deliver, is paramount. Given the limited resources available to mitigate climate change, we need more than good intentions.

Republished from The Conversation

Noise from deep-sea mining may disrupt whale song, study finds

Noise produced by mining the seabed could interfere with whales’ ability to communicate with one another, according to a study released on Tuesday, 14 February, just as plans to start deep-sea mining for battery metals gather pace. The peer-reviewed study, funded by Umweltstiftung Greenpeace, a foundation arm of the environmental organisation, argues that more research is needed to assess the risk deep-sea mining could pose to large marine mammals.

Several nations and companies are pushing ahead with plans to mine rocks rich in battery metals that blanket vast swathes of the seabed. Mining in international waters may not begin until regulations are agreed at the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a Jamaica-based United Nations body. An estimated 22-30 cetacean species, including endangered blue whales, can be found in the Clarion Clipperton Zone, an ocean region in the northern Pacific where the ISA has granted 17 seabed mining exploration licences.

“The sounds produced from mining operations, including from remotely operated vehicles on the sea floor, overlap with the frequencies at which cetaceans communicate,” said the study, published in Frontiers in Marine Science. Mining is likely to produce noise across a range of frequencies that could travel hundreds of kilometres, the study said, interfering with marine mammals’ ability to navigate using echolocation and disrupting the messages they send via whale song.

Grass protein: The next plant base for alt-meat?

Netherlands-based plant-based protein specialist Schouten Europe and Dutch biotech startup Grassa are collaborating on a project to develop meat substitutes using protein from grass. According to the companies, grass protein is a suitable alternative to soy, an ingredient now commonly used in meat substitutes. Schouten Europe and Grassa will be researching and testing the potential uses of grass protein in meat substitutes in the coming years.

“Grass protein has massive potential,” says Rieks Smook, director of Grassa. “Grass yields 2.5 times as much protein per hectare as soy. Grass supplies are readily available. Grass protein is a high-quality, local and scalable alternative to soy. When compared to other protein sources, it provides a huge reduction in the carbon footprint.”

“A cow converts only 30% of the grass protein into milk and meat. Seventy percent is converted into manure. Grassa removes some of the excess proteins from the grass beforehand. The residual product, processed grass, is eaten by the cow. In this way, the protein in grass is optimally utilised,” says Smook. In addition to extracting 50% more protein from the same hectare of land, the nitrogen problem is also tackled at the source. The importationa of soy is replaced by grass protein and because of less protein in the processed grass, the cows emit less nitrogen (ammonia).

The term protein transition refers to the shift from the consumption of animal proteins to (more) vegetable and alternative proteins. “As a pioneer and innovator in the meat substitute market, we are always looking for interesting protein sources that can contribute to the protein transition,” says Henk Schouten, owner of Schouten Europe. In order to meet the need for vegetable protein, the European Union wants to become less dependent on the import of protein-rich crops such as soy and become more self-sufficient. In 2018, the European Commission called on the member states to develop a national protein strategy. Following the European Commission’s protein report, the Dutch government presented the National Protein Strategy for the Netherlands in 2020. The National Protein Strategy aims to increase self-sufficiency in new and plant-based proteins over the next five to 10 years, in a sustainable way that contributes to the health of humans, animals and the natural environment.

Cape Town’s Urban Waste Management Plan for organic waste

The reduction of organic waste is an important intervention against global warming. When organic waste decomposes in a landfill, it creates landfill gas. Made up primarily of methane, this gas has a global warming potential that is much greater than carbon dioxide.

In August 2022, Cape Town’s Urban Waste Management Directorate issued a directive to all businesses generating organic waste to share their plans for reducing the amount of organic waste that is sent to landfills. While major generators of food waste are generally responding to this call, there is a noticeable scarcity of submissions from smaller restaurants, hotels, food processing facilities and similar businesses.To submit a waste management plan, go here.

Welcome new Mycelium members

We are a network of changemakers, regenerators and multimedia creatives working on different aspects and at different scales but all with the same passion to bring about a better world. A critical element necessary for large-scale transformation of our social and economic systems is the ongoing co-creation and sharing of knowledge.We are delighted to have new members join the Mycelium Network!

Agricultural Activist
Speciality Area Organic/ecosystem-based farming systems
Experience Three decades working in the transformative food and farming systems space. Currently sit on the Global Board of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
Skills Networking, coordinating and training

My work entails empowering communities to farm in environmentally friendly ways, eat healthily and generate livelihoods while regenerating the environment. One of my projects is the IFOAM Southern African Network (ISAN) magazine – a quarterly publication that showcases smallholder farmers and others in the organic value chain working to make food and farming systems more sustainable, equitable and healthy in the southern African region. More info about the ISAN magazine can be found at ISAN Magazine – KHSA.

Communications Officer
Speciality Area Social media, photography and videography
Experience 5 years in the multimedia space
Skills Strategic planning

I believe in creating safe spaces and platforms for unheard voices to be able to share their messages including challenges faced and success stories. A current project is conceptualising and organising a ‘food jam’ for journalists in Windhoek, Namibia for the Namibian Organic Association. Journalists will tour an organic farm and then harvest and make their own lunch. My team will host a discussion after lunch to determine how best to support them in making the linkages between current challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss and food insecurity and the unsustainability of industrial agricultural systems. This will support the dissemination of more integrated reporting on these challenges and raise awareness for the need for sustainable food and farming systems.


World Wildlife Day – 3 March

World Wildlife Day is a United Nations International day to celebrate all the world’s wild animals and plants and the contribution that they make to our lives and the health of the planet. This date was chosen as it is the birthday of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, signed in 1973. This World Wildlife Day is also a celebration of CITES as it turns 50. In recognition of the work CITES does and the collaborative work for conservation that is going on globally, the theme for World Wildlife Day this year is ‘Partnerships for Wildllife Conservation’. Find events celebrating this day

International Day of Forests – 21 March

The International Day of Forests draws attention to forests as one of the key solutions to stop global warming. Forests can absorb 2.6 billion tons of CO₂ every year, which represents one-third of the CO₂ released from burning fossil fuels annually. While this alone isn’t enough to solve climate change, natural carbon sinks must be protected so they can help us restore a healthy balance of CO₂ in our atmosphere. The theme for each International Day of Forests is chosen by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, the theme for 2023 is “Forests and health.” How will you mark the day? Here are some ideas:

  • Organize or join events celebrating forests: tree plantings, symposiums, art exhibitions, photo competitions or host a student debate.
  • Share the logo, banner and posters – available in 13 languages.
  • Join the conversation on social media using the #IntlForestDay hashtag. Pass on some of this year’s key messages or take a photo of your favourite forest and share it.

Read more.

Film Impact Screening Facilitator Short Course – deadline 31 March 2023

The UCT Centre for Film & Media Studies Film Impact Screening Facilitator Short Course has been created in partnership with Sunshine Cinema to give a practical  toolkit for organising, marketing and hosting facilitated impact screenings. This innovative, 100% online, short course offers participants a 6-month deep dive into the theory and practice of engaging with audiences on social change issues using documentary and fiction film screenings, discussions and other interventions. The course was born out of the need to address the lack of training opportunities in the growing field of Impact Producing, and is driven by two leading practical and theoretical African partners. Applications close 31 March 2023, course runs June-November 2023.  Ten bursaries are available. More info

Southern Africa Biodiversity Partners Program – deadline 20 March 2023

Applications are open for the exciting Southern Africa Biodiversity Partners Program – a seven-month phased learning programme for entrepreneurs and those working in organisations wanting to refine their pro-nature businesses or projects. Stefanie Swanepoel, a Mycelium member, is the communications manager for the project. For more info, visit: Edition 2023 ( for more information. Applications can be made at

Africa Impact Investment Awards – deadline 31 March 2023

The inaugural Africa Impact Investment Awards, which aims to celebrate companies for the financial efforts made to improve social and environmental welfare, is now accepting entries. They use the Global Impact Investing Network’s definition of impact investments: “Investments made with the aim of generating positive, measured social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.” The deadline for submissions is 31 March 2023. The awards will be announced on 14 July 2023 at an event in Cape Town. Enter


International Nature and Environmental Protection Festival, Hungary

The mission of the International Nature and Environmental Protection Festival is to raise general public awareness regarding the protection and conservation of biological diversity, natural resources, values and beauties of our planet with a special emphasis on Europe and the Carpathian Basin through the display of films connected to the topics in the area. Regular Deadline: March 15, 2023

Wild Oceans FilmFest, Spain

Wild Oceans FilmFest is an international documentary festival that tries to show the beauty of the ocean to awaken the love for nature in society. The festival will be held in Gijón (Spain), between October 2nd and 6th, 2023. Wild Oceans FilmFest is an initiative of the Bioparc Foundation. The purpose of this institution is to promote the conservation of ecosystems by supporting sustainable conservation projects in situ, promote education, divulgate and add art as an essential tool of awareness and consciousness-raising. Regular Deadline: March 16, 2023

Science Film Festival, Thailand

Since 2005, the Science Film Festival of the Goethe-Institut has been inspiring young viewers about science, technology and environmental awareness. The festival is organised from Bangkok with participation from 20 institutes in Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. It is the largest audience festival of its kind in the world with over half a million viewers annually. More than 90 international films for all ages are shown, with a wide range of accompanying educational materials for teachers in schools, universities and other educational submissions from Brazil to the Philippines, and as an online offering since the beginning of the pandemic. Regular Deadline: March 17, 2023

FReDD International Film Festival, France

FReDD’s mission is to inspire audiences to look deep into ideas and films, and to highlight scientific knowledge, techniques and research around themes of sustainability. FReDD presents, promotes, distributes and produces media, thereby offering many opportunities to create and nourish the democratic conversations around these topics. The festival represents France within the Green Film Network (GFN), a network of more than 40 green film festivals worldwide. The FReDD International Film Festival is one of the main festivals in France dealing with cinema and sustainable development. To participate, submit your films and audiovisual formats before April 31, 2023.


David Attenborough’s camera wizards on how to film Britain’s wildlife

They have shot previously extinct butterflies, soaring white-tailed eagles and the lesser spotted David Attenborough. Now the team behind some of the BBC’s best nature docs are training their lenses closer to home. Wildlife film-makers work with forbearance in hostile environments all around the world. So three years at home filming domestic wildlife for the new nature documentary Wild Isles must have sounded like a comfortable assignment for many. But those tasked with creating a blue-chip natural history series that would make the landscapes of the UK and Ireland as exciting, epic and beautiful as Sir David Attenborough’s usual globe-trotting excursions soon realised it was their most challenging assignment yet.
The Guardian

Africa’s first heat officer is based in Freetown

Eugenia Kargbo has an unusual job: she is the city of Freetown’s chief heat officer. Her role in Sierra Leone’s capital is the first of its kind in Africa. She has been tasked with raising public awareness about extreme heat, improving responses to heat waves, and collecting, analysing and visualising heat impact data for the city, which is home to 1.2 million people. Freetown is increasingly threatened by dangerous temperatures. In 2017, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ranked Sierra Leone third, after Bangladesh and Guinea Bissau, on its list of countries most vulnerable to climate change.  The Conversation

Meet 10 Storytellers Supported by Africa Refocused

There is a critical need for stories about Africa to be told by and from the perspective of African people. To address this, National Geographic Explorers Noel Kok and Pragna Parsotam-Kok co-founded Nature, Environment, and Wildlife Filmmakers (NEWF) and collaborated with the National Geographic Society to develop Africa Refocused to create a space for African storytellers to own and drive the narrative about the need to protect the continent’s natural habitats and wildlife. Since NEWF’s founding in 2017, Kok and Parsotam-Kok have built a community of talented storytellers from across Africa—referred to as NEWF Fellows—who participate in professional development workshops—called NEWF Labs—which cover a range of highly specialized skills such as dive certification, cinematography, editing, music composition, post-production, and science communication. Read

Transforming Cities

Cities around the world are seizing their moment. In the face of worsening inequality, the Covid pandemic, and the crippling consequences of climate change, their leaders are taking action to secure a better quality of life for the many of us – more than half of the world’s population – that call cities home. Adopting transformative plans, urban leaders are at the vanguard of climate action, in pursuit of a green and just transition. By collaborating with communities and engaging citizens at a grassroots level, local leaders are working to ensure nobody is left behind in the race to achieve critical climate targets. In the films and written pieces that make up this series, you’ll discover cutting-edge and practical solutions to cities’ toughest problems – with new episodes arriving on the site over the coming months. Find out how climate-conscious cities can give everyone, everywhere, a chance not only to survive but to thrive.
BBC Storyworks

… these initiatives which support our aim of living in a more sustainable world.

Saai launches AI platform for farmers

The Southern African Agri Initiative (Saai) has launched an artificial intelligence platform for family farmers. The WhatsApp-based platform named Hi Saai uses billions of data points on the internet to develop a complex framework within which a complete answer to a set of farm-related questions is given within minutes. “In future, farms will be managed with Big Data, robots, drones and satellites, the Internet of Things, blockchain technology, and especially artificial intelligence (AI). As a network for family farming, it is Saai’s mission to bring this technology within reach of every farm family,” says Dr Theo de Jager, executive board chairperson of Saai.

Within a few weeks, the free management support tool Hi Saai will be available to every farmer in South Africa before it is rolled out elsewhere in Africa and worldwide. “Through our active involvement in the World Agricultural Organization and the UN Decade of Family Farming, we want to make sure that organisations like Saai, which advocate for the interests of family farmers, take the lead and ensure they have ownership of the technology,” says Francois Rossouw, CEO of Saai.Saai is already involved in discussions with agricultural unions worldwide to make the platform available as widely as possible.

Ground-breaking project teaches children to farm using Minecraft

In a first for South African media, the multi-award-winning agriculture news publication Food For Mzansi now invites avid gamers, including farmers, to play along on its own virtual farm called Food For Mzansi Minecraft World. From Johannesburg to Jagersfrontein, gamers from all ages are already participating in the trial version that went live late last year. Now the crop and livestock farming game is opened up to all South Africans with access to a smartphone, laptop, Xbox or PlayStation.

The mastermind behind the Food For Mzansi Minecraft World is Gareth Davies, who is not only a gamer himself but is also the head of creative and development at the publication. He says in being a gamer himself, he noticed similarities between farming and Minecraft. “The goal is to engage learners, from primary to high school and everyone else who is young at heart. By playing the game, they will get to know more about agricultural automation, mechanisation and agritech,” Davies says.

Food For Mzansi co-founder and editor-in-chief Ivor Price says the Minecraft project links closely with the publication’s AgriCareers project. The AgriCareers project brings together 20,000 learners across South Africa every year, to introduce them to the A to Z of career opportunities and studies in the agricultural industry.

Access to the Food For Mzansi Minecraft is free as long as you have your own copy of Minecraft, which can be on your smartphone, laptop, PlayStation and even Xbox. Follow the link below to register to play and join the Food For Mzansi Minecraft World. Once applications have been reviewed, accepted applicants will be invited to join the Discord server to play, meet other enthusiasts and ask questions. Apply now to join the World:

Wetland incorporated into Agulhas National Park

A critical wetland, Soetendalsvlei, has been incorporated into the Agulhas National Park on World Wetlands Day earlier in February. The World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) took ownership of the Vissersdrift property for incorporation late last year. This was made possible by a generous donation to the WWF, which secured 90% of the Soetendalsvlei wetland and added a further 2 345ha to the park, about 200km from Cape Town, according to a statement by the WWF.

First equity fund for green energy investments

South Africa’s first private equity fund which allows green energy investors to qualify for Sars-approved tax deductions has been launched. Section 12B of the Income Tax Act No. 58 of 1962 allows for a tax deduction for certain qualifying assets used for electricity generation from renewable sources. Twelve B Green Energy Fund has a mandate to invest in photovoltaics (PV), inverters and batteries in residential complexes, and commercial and industrial installations, giving investors the benefit of Section 12B of the South African Income Tax Act.

“South African individuals, trusts, companies and pension funds can write off 100% of their investment against their taxable income in the year the assets produce electricity. Effectively, this could provide green energy investors with up to 100% tax relief in that year,” says Jeff Miller, founder of Twelve B Green Energy Fund. The minimum amount for taxpayers to invest in the Twelve B Green Energy Fund is R100 000. Find out more at
ALSO READ: Rooftop solar tax breaks – what it means for complexes and sectional titles in South Africa

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