THE HAGUE, Nov 4 – Small-holder farmers in Kenya are set to reap the rewards of the first soil carbon project in Africa.
In the west of the country, a group of farmers are changing practices and earning carbon credits. In the process, the groundbreaking Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project is set to improve food security, help address climate change, and improve the livelihood of rural folk who dwell in poverty.
"The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project is not only the first project that sells soil carbon credits in Africa, it is also paving the way for a new approach to carbon accounting methodologies," World Bank\’s Manager of the Carbon Finance Unit Joëlle Chassard said.
The agreement to purchase carbon credits which the project generates, the Emission Reductions Purchase Agreement (ERPA), was signed on Wednesday in a ceremony held at the International Conference on Agriculture, Food Security, and Climate Change in The Hague.
"As Kenya ramps up its participation in carbon markets, this project illustrates concretely how carbon finance can both support the environment and generate revenues for local communities," she added.
The ERPA adds the benefits of carbon finance to a sustainable agricultural land management project that increases the productivity of the Kenyan farmers and also sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Developed with the support of the World Bank, the project generates carbon credits which are sold to the Bank-administered BioCarbon Fund.
The direct benefit to local communities is over $350,000 with an initial payment of $80,000 to be made in the first year, 2011.
The project, implemented by the Swedish non-governmental organization Vi Agroforestry, is located on 45,000 hectares in Nyanza Province and Western Province.
There, small-holder farmers and small-scale business entrepreneurs are trained in diverse cropland management techniques such as covering crops, crop rotation, compost management, and agro-forestry.
These practices increase the yield of the land and generate additional sources of income for the farmers through the payment for environmental services in the form of carbon credits.
"We are proud to be part of the development of this ground-breaking project," said Henrik Brundin, Director at Vi Agroforestry.
"The development of a new methodology for carbon sequestration in agriculture has great direct benefits for the farmers in Kenya and tremendous potential for scaling up. Without the support of the World Bank and the Kenyan Government, this project would not have been possible."
The project is an example of what World Bank Climate Change Special Envoy Andrew Steer refers to as a "triple win."
At the opening ceremony of The Hague conference this week, Steer said; "We will be searching for the elusive triple win: policies and programs that will first, increase farm productivity and incomes; second, make agriculture more resilient to variations in climate, and thus promote stability and security; and, third, help make the agriculture sector part of the solution to the climate change problem rather than part of the problem."
The BioCarbon Fund is an initiative with public and private contributions, administered by the World Bank.
It purchases emission reductions from afforestation and reforestation projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), as well as from land-use sector projects outside the CDM.
These include projects that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and increase carbon sequestration in soils through improved agriculture practices.
In addition, the BioCarbon Fund, created to help open the carbon market, develops methodologies and tools that are in the public domain.