NAIROBI -- African smallholder farmers lack adequate and reliable information about how to participate in agricultural carbon credit projects, says one of the authors of a recent report on innovations in such projects.
A report published in July by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security says 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.
But Moses Masiga, one of the report's authors, said 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 report, 'Institutional Innovations in African Smallholder Carbon Projects', examined carbon credit projects and farmer beneficiaries from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. Its results, 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, said Masiga.
For instance, it describes how farmer cooperatives 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 developed country buyers.
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, Kenya, said 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.