Farmers earn credits, double yields with soil fertility project

In a bid to earn carbon credits, over 60,000 smallholder farmers from western Kenya are doubling their yields through adoption of improved farming techniques, a move that has also helped them increase organic matter and soil fertility.

The initiative being spearheaded by World Bank aims at curbing environmental degradation fostered by poor farming techniques that was accelerating the rate carbon emissions and soil degradation. The World Bank through Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP) encouraged smallholder farmers to adopt better farming techniques which not only help double their yields through upholding soil fertility but also help them earn from carbon credits. The carbon credits are issued under sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) carbon accounting methodology.

The project which started in 2010 brought together over 60,000 farmers covering about 45,000 hectares. According to Abel Lufafa the Program Leader, their efforts are geared towards supporting farming that is more productive , sustainable and climate friendly. “After years of land degradation, many farmers struggled to grow enough food for their families.

We introduced them to a wide range of methods like soil solarization, better compost manure management, contour land usage to prevent soil erosion and use of livestock urine for top dressing in order to increase organic matter in soils, explained Lufafa. He added that in the long term, all these improved methods of land usage should improve the soils’ water absorption, nutrient supply and biodiversity hence making agriculture more resilient to climate change.

The first carbon credits from the project were issued in January 2014 under Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) for measuring carbon in soil. “Out of about 45,000 hectares under trial, the credits found represent a reduction of 24,788 metric tons of carbon dioxide which is equivalent to emissions from 5164 vehicles annually,” noted Lufafa. According to World Bank Country Director for Kenya Diarietou Gaye, the results are an inspiring example of how agricultural practices that improve the productivity and livelihoods of smallholder, subsistence farmers can also be climate-smart.

“This project demonstrates synergies between climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in agriculture. Carbon credits are creating revenue streams that enhances the extension services provided 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 1505 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 indicate that SALM can help increase farmers’ yields by up to 20 percent. Lufafa noted, “These productivity gains from greater soil fertility help counteract the effects of increasingly extreme weather conditions and by eliminating ore carbon in the soil, SALM also helps mitigate climate change.”

The project implementation in Kenya is supported by participants of World Bank Bio Carbon Fund like 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 which is estimated at Sh50,000,000.

The BioCarbon Fund’s pioneering SALM methodology received VCS approval in December 2011. It spells out how carbon sequestration in soils are measured and engages farmers themselves in the monitoring process through measuring the impact of their agricultural practices on crop yields. “This proves, yet again, that good environmental practices make good business practices, and in this case they are making for good farming practices which have tremendous trickle down benefits,” said David Antonioli, VCS Chief Executive Officer. “The exciting results in Kenya show how strategic investment by development organizations like the World Bank can truly benefit farmers in the developing world by helping them harness the power of the international carbon market.”