Climate Action

Kenyan farmers earn first ever carbon credits from sustainable agriculture

First credits worldwide issued under sustainable agricultural land management methodology

  • 07 February 2014
  • William Brittlebank

The first credits worldwide have been issued to smallholder farmersin western Kenya under the sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) carbon accounting methodology.

The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP) involves 60,000 farmers and covers approximately 45,000 hectares to support farming that is more sustainable and climate-friendly.

Farmers are now using a wide range of methods to increase the organic matter in soils which should improve the water absorption of soil, nutrient supply and biodiversity, and help prevent erosion. Better soils raise farm yields, improving food security and making agriculture more resilient to climate change.

The project issued its first carbon credits under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) for sequestering carbon in soil on January 16, and the credits represent a reduction of 24,788 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to emissions from 5,164 vehicles in a year.

Experience from over 1,500 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 show that SALM can help increase farmers’ yields by up to 20 per cent. These productivity gains from greater soil fertility help counteract the effects of increasingly extreme weather conditions. By sequestering more carbon in the soil, SALM also helps mitigate climate change.

KACP forms an important part of the World Bank’s efforts to extend climate finance to incentivise better land management. The Swedish NGO Vi Agroforestry is responsible for implementation in Kenya, supported by the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund and its participants - the 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, estimated at $600,000.

The BioCarbon Fund’s pioneering SALM methodology received VCS approval in December 2011. The methodology spells out how carbon sequestration in soils are measured and engages farmers themselves in the monitoring process; for the first time they are measuring the impact of their agricultural practices on crop yields.