Taking the heat out of farming
‘Taking the Heat out of Farming’ is the tenth book in the ‘Trees for Change’ series published by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). The booklet charts the success of a World Agroforestry Centre project in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttrakhand.
The 'Enabling smallholders to improve their livelihoods and benefit from carbon finance' project aims to empower smallholder farmers to build up carbon stocks and hopefully sell their carbon on the international market.
This series of booklets has been very popular with 11 produced so far and now the tenth in the series featured in this year’s CCAFS annual report. Author, Charlie Pye-Smith explains in the booklet that the ICRAF project has succeeded because it uses innovative incentives that give farmers the opportunity to take advantage of the carbon market.
Without the ICRAF project, it was financially risky for farmers to plant trees because investors did not want to pay farmers in advance. On the other hand, investors were concerned about the lack of incentives to encourage farmers to nurture trees to maturity. As a result, it seemed countries or multinational companies who wished to offset their carbon emissions were not partaking in the risk associated with the carbon market. The project was created to tackle the issues restricting farmers from entering the carbon market.
Commenting on the risks farmers must endure, World Agroforestry Centre’s Regional Coordinator for South Asia, Pal Singh said, “They can’t produce the minimum volume required to enter the market, their landholdings are small and scattered, and they conduct all sorts of diverse activities to feed themselves and make a living, which makes measuring carbon stocks a complicated business.” Furthermore, the costs of registering projects, drawing up contracts and monitoring carbon stocks are prohibitively high for smallholders acting alone or in small groups.
The ICRAF project has encouraged large groups of farmers to adopt activities which improve their yields and incomes and, at the same time, either reduce their emissions or sequester carbon, claims Charlie in the CCAFS report.
The popularity of the project has inspired more than 5000 farming households. The measures adopted by farmers in India fell into three main categories: planting trees to sequester carbon; switching to agricultural practices that reduce emissions, such as ploughing crop residues back into the soil rather than burning them; and reducing energy consumption by using fuel-efficient stoves and energy-saving compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs.
“At the household level, these measures may sound trivial,” says Singh, “but when you add together the activities of many thousands of farming families, they become highly significant, both for the environment and for the farmers.”
Charlie writes, "In Andhra Pradesh, for example, it is estimated that farmers where the project is operating could save the equivalent of 11,500 certified emission reductions (CERs) per year." The success of this project lies in improving the environmental awareness of the famers which then makes it possible for them to see the real non-financial benefits of a healthy ecosystem.
An important component of the ICRAF project is co-investment by both the farmers as well as the carbon buyers. From the onset, villagers are made to understand that every technology change must be paid for, iterated Charlie. As an example, farmers must pay roughly 50% of any fuel-efficient stoves, CFL bulbs or tree seedlings. Money that is raised from environmentally friendly energy options are placed in community bank accounts.
After observing the success of the project, other organizations and international donors such as the German agency, GIZ, have shown interest in setting up similar programmes. The end goal is to scale up the success of the project so that many more households will be positively affected.
“Scaling up these kinds of activities so that they reach tens of thousands of households will involve matching institutional design, future activities and implementation partners with local conditions and international climate funding regimes,” says Henry Neufeldt, Head of the Climate Change Unit at the World Agroforestry Centre. “This is something we will be working on in future, together with our national and international partners.”
Citation details: Pye-Smith C. 2012. Taking the heat out of farming: An innovative agroforestry project is helping Indian smallholders to join the global carbon market. Trees for Change No. 10. Nairobi: World Agroforestry Centre.