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Member Interview: PECDC discuss their vision of sustainability in Africa

RSB’s community of members and certified operators around the world are doing amazing work to drive sustainability in the bio-based and circular economics – while adjusting to the coronavirus crisis as they respond to challenging economic and social situations, mitigation regulations and the remote working.

RSB chatted to member, PECDC, to find out about how they are responding to the crisis. Serigne Diouf, Co-founder and President at PECDC, talked to us about how the company was founded, its vision for real environmental and social sustainability to uplift communities across Africa and how the coronavirus crisis provides a wake up call for humanity in its dealings with the natural world.

“These unsettling days are a wake-up call, a firm reminder that our world is connected and that human well-being is inextricably linked to biodiversity and the health of our planet whether it’s climate change, forest fires, emergent tropical diseases, pandemics, loss of freshwater – and protecting the environment is really about saving ourselves.”

Firstly, can you tell us a little about your own journey in the bioeconomy – how did you get to where you are?

My name is Serigne Diouf, I’m the co-founder and president of Pan-African Environmental Conservation and Development Company (PECDC). I met Henri Bonina, co-founder and vice-president of PECDC, a few years ago at a networking event in Seattle, WA. Our stories are very similar as we both came from French-speaking African countries; I’m from Senegal and he is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we both came to the US as students and decided to start a company to make a difference and create jobs on the African continent using our collective experiences, expertise and network. Before co-founding PECDC, Henri had the chance to work with his dad’s company on multiple green projects and I also had the chance to work on a couple green projects in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. We both saw a need in our own countries for clean solutions; after a few weeks of discussions, we knew we shared the same vision, and PECDC was born.

Our members are drawn from all parts of the bioeconomy and civil society – can you give us a quick introduction to PECDC?

PECDC is a US-based company located in Seattle, WA that identifies and develops sustainable green projects in Sub-Saharan Africa by promoting the development of the African continent with the application of the best environmental and sustainability standards and innovations in managed forestry, clean water, bio-energy, agriculture, renewable energy generation. All PECDC projects align with the United Nations sustainability goals. PECDC focuses on sustainability, improving the environment through responsibly managed projects, uplifting indigenous communities, and creating verifiable and marketable products and intangibles such as carbon credits.

Why is sustainability, and working with RSB, so important to you and PECDC?

We believe that the necessary nexus of commercial opportunity and environmental need is ripe for the establishment and expansion of sustainable managed green projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our forestry project, for example, includes the sustainable protection and the managed development of forests for wood-fuel and charcoal/biochar industries to serve domestic (and potentially export) markets, the development of REDD+ (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) programs and carbon finance to help countries capture potential revenue from the carbon storing value of forests and promote co-benefits with communities through landscape restoration, agroforestry and reforestation projects, increased management planning, development, and financing for protected areas, community-based resource management and eco-tourism and improved forest sales management in heavily forested countries and reduction of waste through the use of biomass energy. We will also apply these on our green projects in other regions. Without PECDC’s and others action, environmental degradation and resulting human suffering will continue and even worsen. This is one of the reasons why we work with RSB in order to develop guidelines that will help ameliorate and improve both the environment and related human outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa to promote sustainable forest management, integrate forestry and agriculture for climate change resilient productive systems and agroforestry, promote biomass energy and encourage good and transparent governance and better institutional arrangements.

What are the biggest challenges you face in scaling up?

As a new company, and also as two African founders, we had no other choice but to work twice as hard as the other companies. We had to invest our own funds in the company to build trust. In scaling up, being well-connected in the Sub-Saharan Africa regions is not enough. We invite investors to get to learn about our organization and connect with us as we really know where and how the solutions could be applied. We also want to add to our partner list, the best in class organisations to bring solutions and investments in those countries. We welcome all RSB members that are interested in investing and/or expanding in Sub-Saharan Africa to reach out to us to discuss partnership opportunities with our organization in order to make a bigger impact. Africa has a huge potential in terms of opportunities and most of its resources are not exploited. With the new technology and our partners, we intend to build the most sustainable projects.

What does the future hold for PECDC?

PECDC’s initial focus is on certain West African countries, but includes all of Sub-Saharan Africa. We are very well established in most of those countries and work closely with government officials and communities to develop projects that will have positive impacts in the bioeconomy world. We believe that the environment and population take the biggest hit when it comes to climate change or global threats, that’s why our projects are centered around making positive impacts in those areas. Our current project is our REDD+ project (VCS and CCBS) in the DR Congo, it’s about 500,000 hectares. We also are implementing other projects such as a biofuel project as well as a green housing project in other regions. The company has the goal to be the biggest green projects developer in Sub-Saharan Africa focusing on the sustainability of both communities and environment.

The world is in unprecedented upheaval: how has this affected your work? Has it made you more committed to sustainability? What are the new challenges you face and how are you going to overcome them?

PECDC’s mission has never seemed more important: To protect the environment so that our communities and the planet thrive together. We know that the significant and unrelenting challenges facing the environment will not stop due to this pandemic, and some may accelerate and we will continue our work with focus and vigor to deliver on the promises that so many have helped support. These unsettling days are a wake-up call, a firm reminder that our world is connected and that human well-being is inextricably linked to biodiversity and the health of our planet whether it’s climate change, forest fires, emergent tropical diseases, pandemics, loss of freshwater – and protecting the environment is really about saving ourselves.  The events of the past few weeks have only strengthened my deep appreciation for why our work to safeguard the environment is so important.

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