Smallholder farmers in western Kenya are now benefiting from carbon credits generated by improving farming techniques. These are the first credits worldwide issued under the sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) carbon accounting methodology.
The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP) involves 60,000 farmers on 45,000 hectares to support farming that is more productive, sustainable and climate-friendly. After years of land degradation, many farmers struggled to grow enough food for their families. They are now using a wide range of methods to increase the organic matter in soils. In the long term, this should improve the soil’s water absorption, nutrient supply and biodiversity, and help prevent erosion. Better soils raise farm yields, improving food security and making agriculture more resilient to climate change.
On January 16, the project issued its first carbon credits under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) for sequestering carbon in soil, thanks to these changed agricultural land management practices. The credits represent a reduction of 24,788 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to emissions from 5,164 vehicles in a year.
“This is an inspiring example of how agricultural practices that improve the productivity and livelihoods of smallholder, subsistence farmers can also be climate-smart”, says Diarietou Gaye, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. “This project demonstrates synergies between climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in agriculture. Carbon credits are creating a revenue stream that enhances the extension services provided to farmers, which are critical to the adoption of these practices and also adds to farmers’ income beyond their increased crop yields. This also improves their food security, which is now more important than ever given the vulnerability to climate change.”
Experience from 1,505 farmer groups over three years illustrates how carbon finance can promote the adoption of SALM practices and open up the carbon market to smallholder farmers. Results so far show that SALM can help increase farmers’ yields by up to 15-20%. These productivity gains from greater soil fertility help counteract the effects of increasingly extreme weather conditions. By sequestering more carbon in the soil, SALM also helps mitigate climate change.
KACP forms an important part of the World Bank’s efforts to extend climate finance to incentivize better land management. The Swedish NGO Vi Agroforestry is responsible for implementation in Kenya, supported by the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund and its participants - the French Development Agency and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. The Fund will purchase a part of the carbon credits generated by the project by 2017, estimated at $600,000.
The BioCarbon Fund’s pioneering SALM methodology received VCS approval in December 2011. The methodology spells out how carbon sequestration in soils are measured and engages farmers themselves in the monitoring process; for the first time they are measuring the impact of their agricultural practices on crop yields.