The importance of carbon credit projects

African farmers urged to participate in new opportunities

Tree planting has several benefits apart from the cash awards to farmers
Carbon Credit Projects in Agriculture
Carbon credit projects, which sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to help mitigate climate change, can provide income and help realise development objectives on small farms.

This is one of the main findings of the recently launched Institutional Innovations in African Smallholder Carbon Projects report (published by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security), which examined carbon credit projects and farmer beneficiaries from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. 

But Moses Masiga, one of the report's authors, says only a small number of farmers are taking part. "We know that many more farmers would consider the opportunity of participating in mitigation projects. However, a market failure of access to adequate and reliable information limits this participation," he told SciDev.Net.

The reults of the report, if disseminated, will allow other farmers who have not considered carbon projects or are apprehensive about them to consider taking part, and the current opportunities can be scaled up to include them.

For instance, it describes how farmer co-operatives in Humbo Woreda in Ethiopia are supported by the non-governmental organisation World Vision to restore 2 700 hectares of a biodiverse native forest. Their certified emission reductions — carbon credits — are sold to the World Bank BioCarbon Fund, via the Clean Development Mechanism.

In Uganda farmers have increased the amount of woody biomass on their farms through afforestation and reforestation to sequester carbon. The certified emissions reductions generated are sold under the Plan Vivo standard for certifying community-based payments, on the voluntary carbon market.

The markets could include companies in both developed and developing countries that wish to offset their emissions. Current offsetting is dominated by buyers from developed countries. The study was conducted through participatory action research, in which participating stakeholders (including the farmers) agree upon a common vision, and then work with the managers of the project to identify opportunities for strengthening its institutional capacity.

Shem Wandiga, managing trustee at the Centre for Science & Technology Innovations in Kenya, says the study revealed benefits that can accrue to poor farmers. "This is good news to the farmers. Tree planting has several benefits apart from the cash awards to farmers," said Wandiga.

He cautioned that the balance between using land for food production and tree planting could become one of the big challenges that farmers and policymakers face in realising their projects.

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