In April this year Rugwegwe Olivier N. joined Agriterra’s commissioned research on sustainable carbon farming and carbon credits business models for farmers in emerging economies, focusing on Kenya as a case study. He wrote a blog about his internship.
Worldwide, there is an increasing demand for food as a result of the increasing world population and due to limiting factors in food production such as land scarcity and high labour cost. As response to high demand of food, the Green revolutions was established to ensure the productivity through the intensification of agricultural production. In addition to increasing food demand, food consumption patterns are changing as the average person in the world gets richer has led to food waste as the result of food mass consumption.
Long chains of international food trade and huge food waste increases the release of greenhouse gases (GHG). Likewise, agricultural practices such as heavy mechanical machines which use fossil fuels, land-use practices such as deforestation, irrigation, drainage, and fertilizer application also contributes heavily in GHG emissions.
Agriterra is a Dutch International Agri-Agency that specialises in cooperatives and farmers’ organisations business development. Besides, Agriterra stimulates climate smart farming, in order to support farmers and their cooperatives to be resilient towards climate change.
In April this year I joined Agriterra’s commissioned research on sustainable carbon farming and carbon credits business models for farmers in emerging economies, focusing on Kenya as a case study. It was my first time to hear the term “carbon farming” and I realised how much is needed to spearhead the climate actions awareness not only for farmers but also researchers and policy makers.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic the world is undergoing special circumstances of restricted movement including international flights. The use of literature review and key informants’ interviews were the possible methodologies. In adding to that, Agriterra Kenya team was associated with the whole process of data collection for farmers survey which is still in progress.
Through literature review, I realised that the agricultural sector in Kenya remains the largest source of GHG emissions by 58.6% and livestock-related emissions accounts for the overwhelming majority (96.2%) of the agriculture emissions. However, the sector is still vulnerable to climate-change whereby 98% of farming is predominantly small-scale and rain-fed with high dependence on climate conditions.
Regardless of the Agriculture sectors contribution to GHG emissions, the agriculture sector in Kenya accounts for over 25% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Kenya’s economy. However, the Agriculture Forestry and other Land Use (AFOLU) sector is believed to hold the largest GHG emissions mitigation potentials, mainly through carbon farming. Several international and national treaties, policies and actions for countries and private entities to mitigate their emissions have been developed ranging from United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Kyoto Protocol, Paris agreements, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
In this research, I have come to learn that many countries including Kenya have already implemented carbon credit programmes through AFOLU and energy such as Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP) where Sustainable Agriculture Land Management (SALM) methodology was on spot while Northern Kenya Grassland Carbon Project is rewarding Agriculture Land Management (ALM) through proper grazing management. These projects and several others in progress have documented success stories for improvement of biodiversity, soil nutrients and beneficiaries’ livelihoods.
In this research, manure management, feed production to improve animal quality feeds and land management through agroforestry, were backed by sciences to be the potential livestock carbon farming practices despite several other trade-offs presented.
Regardless of the contribution of these carbon farming practices in GHG emissions reduction, its sustainability is still unclear due to heavy investment in developing carbon credits projects and does not necessarily increase farmers productivity who rely on the agricultural sector for their livelihoods.
The outcome of this study will define the financial and ecological cost benefits and trade-offs of these carbon farming practices. Besides, the study recommendations to Agriterra will be based on the developed business models for farmers’ cooperatives to be incentivised for their good practices while improving their livelihoods.
Rugwegwe Olivier N.
Rugwegwe is a Research Associate at Agriterra and Graduate student at the Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences pursuing a MSc in Agriculture Production Chain Management majoring in Livestock Value Chains based in the Netherlands