Carbon Sequestration by Smallholder Farming Communities

Most carbon offset projects involve a large carbon emitter in an industrialized nation contracting with a tropical government to protect a large area of primary forest from deforestation, thereby avoiding the emission of more carbon. This process excludes many farmers from the process. Given the large emissions due to tropical deforestation, shown in Table 1.2, such protection is very important. But this does not result in substantial carbon reductions in the atmosphere, since primary forests are mature, and most of the carbon sequestered by photosynthesis in them is lost by respiration. To sequester large quantities of carbon, one must work with young secondary forests or agroforests.

Poor farmers in the tropics could benefit financially by sequestering carbon. It is a product they provide to the global community when using the other practices described in Table 1.2. This idea was proposed by the CGIAR Inter-Center Working Group on Climate Change at a meeting of the subsidiary bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lyon, France in September 2000 (www.iisd.ca/cli-matelsb13lsidelenbots11mon.htm). The idea was well received by developing country representatives and donor agencies. It represents a potential integrated approach to food security/poverty alleviation issues because it would also involve carbon sequestration as a "no-regrets" option. Research needs to be done to determine how the sequestered carbon can be accounted for in a heterogeneous landscape that includes hundreds of small farms, and about how benefits could accrue to farmers. Payments for sequestering carbon can help alleviate poverty. Assuming a price of $10/ton of carbon, a 1-ha farm could generate an additional income of $10 to $30 per year, which is significant to farmers who earn less than $1 per day.

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