There are vast areas of dryland ecosystems in the world, many in developing countries, where improvement of farming systems can add carbon to soils. Results from the various case studies presented above show that several practices are available to increase carbon stocks in soils.
Whereas CS itself is not a priority in poor countries, land management options that increase CS, enhance plant productivity, and prevent erosion and desertification are of major interest in these regions. However, it is unlikely that current mechanisms, such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), can provide the necessary funds for these regions (FAO, 2002c). Although soils are the major terrestrial carbon reservoir, and agriculture is recognized as one of the major causes of GHG emissions to the atmosphere (IPCC, 2001), neither soils nor land use practices are eligible under the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. This is partly because of the difficulty of measuring and verifying carbon sequestered and maintained in soils, particularly in drylands where any changes in soil carbon will be small. However, actions for soil fertility improvement through increased organic matter in dryland soils are a real win-win situation with higher agronomic productivity, reduced land degradation, and increased CS and biodiversity. Enhancing CS in degraded agricultural lands, could have direct environmental, economic, and social benefits for local people. It will increase farmers' benefits as well as help mitigate global warming, at least during the next few decades until other alternative energy sources are developed. Therefore, initiatives that sequester carbon are welcomed for the improvement of degraded soils, plant productivity, and consequently food safety and alleviation of poverty in dryland regions, and are among the main priorities of FAO.
While a purely carbon market approach is not likely to be applicable to smallscale farming systems in developing countries, a multilateral approach for mobilization of resources under existing mechanisms is what is required. The Global Mechanism of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) promotes such a multilateral path in implementing its mandate to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of existing financial resources and to explore new and additional funding mechanisms for the implementation of the convention. Specific emphasis is given to small scale farming systems in dryland areas of the developing countries. Multilateral approaches include sources to combat climate change with desertification funds, links with sustainable livelihoods and provision of visible benefits to local people, mobilizing resources from the private sector, and so on. Several UN conventions are closely linked and share common goals. The CCD is concerned with the degradation of extensive areas that show declining crop production and are insufficient for the needs of local people as a result of land degradation and reduction in carbon stocks. Therefore, the CCD, the Climate Change Convention (CCC), the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), and the Kyoto Protocol all share a common goal, the proper management of soils to increase soil carbon. Therefore, an important goal of the FAO-GM program on CS is to promote synergies with the conventions and the private sector for the establishment of an environmental fund specifically targeted to CS projects in drylands. Opportunities exist for bilateral partnerships with industrial country institutions to initiate soil CS projects involving local communities also linked to global networks on CS. FAO
believes that more effort should be put into exploring and exploiting those opportunities.
FAO will take part in the design and implementation of CS programs in tropical dryland countries based on the regional policies, and will bring the attention of governments to the possible benefits that CS measures could bring to dryland farming communities and society. FAO could also play an important role in providing secure institutional support for the implementation of CS programs that encourage the collaboration between local farmers and investors.
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