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Carbon Credits: Growing Our Way to Sustainability

The Carbon Credit industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in Africa both economically and ecologically. Our team decided to begin researching the possibility of adding a carbon credit revenue segment to St. Bakhita’s in the fall of 2022. We thought our project would be pretty easy to create because we had land, we already have trees by St. Bakhita’s and we have the help of the amazing St. Bakhita’s team.


However, we realized our project is much more difficult to act upon than realized. While there is land available, there are complicated land rights situations that we did not consider. We also assumed we could get trees for free as we did in the past, but realized there were certain trees that we would have to acquire for carbon credits. We also thought it would be easy and cost-efficient to partner up with a carbon credit vendor, but there were multiple steps we had to take before being eligible to work with a cost-efficient vendor. We also assumed we could take care of the trees because we have done so in the past at St. Bakhita’s. However, we realized that adding potentially 300 acres of trees to the initial plot of trees we already have would be unsustainable with our current resources. As you can see, much of our semester has been having these assumptions, doing research, and then coming up with solutions we faced during our research.


Carlos Flores, Simone Baravelli, and Matthew Espeland at Innovation Acres in Kalongo, Uganda

During our research process, we had one member of our group, Carlos Flores, travel to Uganda to conduct in-person research. Carlos reported back:


“Over Spring break, I had the chance to travel to Kalongo, Uganda as part of my Applied Impact Consulting course with the goal of helping the St. Bakhita’s Vocational school generate enough revenue to reach self-sustainability. My team tried to gain revenue by obtaining Carbon Credits through the trees planted on the farm. We worked on the project all semester, video-calling experts in the industry to learn the potential of our plan. Visiting Kalongo, however, taught us more than any classroom could teach. It not only allowed us to make exceptional progress on our Carbon Credit project, but it also allowed us to see the world from a completely different perspective.


It’s been a week since the trip and I can proudly say that it was one of the best experiences I have had at the University of Notre Dame. It’s classes like this that help make Notre Dame, Notre Dame. Experiences like these help me realize that Notre Dame's mission statement quote, ‘The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice,’ is not just words on a piece of paper but words that Notre Dame brings to existence. Through first-hand experience, my classmates and I saw what the Uganda lifestyle was all about. We knew right away that through our learning experiences, preparation in the classroom, and full hearts, Notre Dame was the hope that the community needed. That being said the trip itself taught me more than I could have learned in any classroom, and it also allowed me to progress in my project. After being there it is easy to see that with a continued work-ethic and strong faith, the progress to be made at SBVTC has no limit.”


As the semester is winding down, we are proposing that St. Bakhita’s move forward with our project in a small capacity to test out if we can care for the trees in a small capacity. This would be through a small plot of land. On this plot of land, we would also be able to teach the St. Bakhita’s students about helpful farming techniques so that they could become entrepreneurial farmers if it is in their own interest. The plan from here is if we can be successful on a small plot of land, we will potentially expand to a couple of hundred plots of acre land, where we can find annual revenues of potentially $48,000. This is the overarching goal of our project, and with the help of the future student body and the Notre Dame network, we hope we can accomplish this.


Here are some pictures we captured during our time on the project:




Meet the Team:


My name is Grant McElwee! I have been working on this project for a whole year, and it has meant so much to work directly with the St. Bakhita students as well as international organizations. It has been the project that inspired me most during my time at Notre Dame and has inspired me to eventually strive to work in an international setting helping others. I will be moving to Fayetteville, Arkansas to work for Procter & Gamble as an analyst in 2 months. I would love to continue to be a resource of help for this project since I understand the complications after working on it for a year now.



My name is Will Schweitzer! I have also been working with Saint Bakhitas for a full year now. I started working with a soccer league, but have recently transitioned to working on a carbon credits project with my new team the “Trees Of Knowledge.” I have had the privilege of having some amazing experiences here at Notre Dame like playing football in front of 100,000 fans, but working with this amazing class and Ugandan community has been undoubtedly the most meaningful experience I have had at Notre Dame. I am still a junior here and I look forward to continuing to be a part of this project and coming to Uganda next year!



My name is Steven Crabtree and I am currently a Junior at Notre Dame! I started working on this project at the beginning of the spring semester and it has been incredible so far. It’s by far the coolest and most meaningful thing I’ve done at ND so far, and it still baffles me that I’m taking this as a class. Throughout this semester our team has been planning how St. Bakhita’s could get paid for planting trees through Carbon Credits. This would raise money for the school and help them become a self-sustainable institution. I plan on traveling to Uganda over fall break next year to further implement the plan. I’m excited to see our hard work come to fruition and make a meaningful impact!



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