Agriculture is one of the world’s biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions: farming techniques such as tilling, tractor use, chemical fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide application, and over-grazing, release carbon into the atmosphere at high rates.
However, there are alternative land management practices that can help store carbon safely in the soil instead, such as using compost and mulch, growing cover crops, and planting more trees and shrubs. These and several other practices are referred to as carbon farming. Not only does carbon farming have the potential to sequester carbon in the soil, but it can also bring lots of other benefits too – like increased crop yields and improved water holding capacity in the soil (leading to greater water efficiency).
Why is Carbon Farming important?
Earth’s carbon is stored in five main pools: soils, ocean, atmosphere, biosphere, and fossils. Carbon flows between these pools in an exchange called the carbon cycle.
Currently, the carbon pools are far from balanced. There is too much carbon in the atmosphere and not enough in our soils and trees. Even as we replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, the excess carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere.
Using Carbon Farming techniques, farmers can repair this imbalance, assist to lower the effects of climate change, and be paid to store carbon back in trees or soils. At the same time, these Farming techniques improve soil health and water retention on farm. These effects are known as ‘co-benefits’.
Carbon farming is successful when carbon gains resulting from enhanced land management and/or conservation practices exceed carbon losses.
Although Carbon farming has been practiced in developed world for a number of years, it’s a pretty new avenue for agricultural practitioners in underdeveloped and developing country like Nepal.
Carbon farming provides additional income opportunities based on emissions avoidance or carbon sequestration methodologies. Not only does it provide opportunity for extra income it also helps in climate change mitigation making earth a better place to live.
To be eligible for carbon credits farmers have to follow certain methodologies and the processes to make their claims which are different according to the different Carbon Standards.
Designing and developing a carbon project takes time and requires some technical expertise. It may also require financial support for the initial set-up. A project developer is needed to guide the farmers to go through all the process to successfully design a project. Such expertise is available from Carbon Farmers of Nepal.
The following steps are useful to design and develop a carbon project.
Feasibility study / scope of project
Project developer along with farmers share their interest and carry out meetings regarding the current agricultural practices of the farmer and figure out which project is feasible for the given location which matches the farmer’s interest.
The project developer then identifies which type of project needs to be developed i.e. afforestation, reforestation, soil carbon, methane reduction, etc.
Arrangement of Resources
One needs to be aware that a significant amount of time and money needs to be invested to develop a carbon project. The Project Developer may offer support with these things.
Analyze why it would be attractive to engage in undertaking a carbon sequestration project and what are the driving motivations. Farmers should be informed about the process and the smallholders should be supported in other agriculture-based income-generating opportunities so there is more than one win/win.
Ask: What are the co-benefits? – Improved productivity, more resilient farms, and more importantly an additional new ‘carbon’ income for up to 30 years or more. Can assist in Development goals for communities. Relieve poverty.
Farmers/villagers and/or co-operatives, along with advice from the Project Developer can identify who wants to participate and have land or forest which can qualify for the project type determined by the project developer/ farmer. The project boundary (geographically) has to be established.
The project area needs to be big enough to generate enough emission reductions or carbon storage to qualify for a carbon project. In addition, clear land-use and tenure rights are essential and farmers should be willing to sign a farm contract for at least 30 years giving the rights to project developer for selling the carbon credits.
Barren lands may also be utilized.
To organize, aggregate, and represent farmers, an institution is required, such as a community-based organization, farmer cooperative, NGO, etc., which is trusted by the project participants. It should have a robust and transparent institutional set up, with good governance.
The institute will work on behalf of project developer to implement and monitor the project activities.
The baseline and methodology need to be selected. Projects must use approved methodologies to calculate emission reductions. The project’s chance of being registered and the likelihood of more rapid project preparation increases by using approved methodologies.
Developing new methodologies can be resource- and time-intensive and may not be justified for smaller projects.
Preparing Project Design Documents
In coordination and support with farmers, the project developer will carry out the following activities which will lead to project design document (PDD) and registration of project.
Checklist for Preparation of Project design documents
- Determine project duration – 30-50 years!
- Hold stakeholder consultations.
- Define project boundary where new activity can be applied
- Apply additionality tool
- Apply land eligibility tool
- Conduct baseline assessment according to selected approved methodology.
- Estimate project sequestration according to selected approved methodology.
- Develop leakage mitigation plan.
- Carry out environmental impacts study.
- Carry out socio-economic impacts study.
- Analyze risks.
- Plan to mitigate risks.
- Create tree planting plan.
- Write Project design document.
- Agree contract with designated operational entity.
- Obtain host letter of approval from designated national authority
The project developer determines a third-party certifier (accredited by a specific carbon standard) who will review the Carbon Project Document. It is important for the project to be validated to ensure the transparency of the project design.
The VERs of the validated project are kept in a Registry on behalf of the owner until they are bought.
To find out more, please contact us.
Additional Carbon Farming Resources:
Carbon Cycle Institute (CCI): CCI works to advance carbon cycle solutions: working models of alternative practices, technologies, and economic value chains that can produce food, fiber, and flora in ways that improve the environment and are climate- and carbon-beneficial.
Marin Carbon Project: Seeks to enhance carbon sequestration in rangeland, agricultural, and forest soils through applied research, demonstration, and implementation in Marin County.
“4 per 1000” Initiative: An international initiative that aims to demonstrate that agricultural soils play a crucial role in stabilising food security and climate. An annual growth rate of 0.4% in the soil carbon stocks, or 4% per year, in the first 30-40 cm of soil, would significantly reduce the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere related to human activities.