In January 2014, farm households in Kisumu and Kitale, Kenya became the first Africans to earn carbon credits generated in part from soil carbon sequestration. Farmers in these western Kenyan communities are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate. Significant changes are becoming more frequent, such as water scarcity, rainfall variability, emerging pests and diseases, and extreme weather events like floods. Agriculture is sensitive to these changes, especially on the highly degraded landscapes in western Kenya. Smallholder farmers in this area rely directly on rain-fed agriculture to meet their household needs, including food. Changes in rainfall threaten their very subsistence.
However, sustainable agricultural land management practices, such as the use of crop residues for mulching and composting, manure application, water harvesting, terracing, and tree planting help buffer these farmers from climate variability while increasing farm yields and sequestering carbon in the soil. And now farmers have even begun to earn extra income by selling carbon mitigation credits to an international market, which further improves their ability to weather bad growing seasons.
The Kenya Agricultural Carbon project, managed by the Swedish NGO Vi Agroforestry, is the first test case of the Voluntary Carbon Standard methodology for certifying soil carbon on small farms. As of January 2014, family farmers in Kisumu and Kitale have generated a reduction of 24,708 metric tons of carbon dioxide while improving their yields and adapting to the changing climate, becoming the first Africans to earn carbon credits generated in part from soil sequestration.
EcoAgriculture Partners, in partnership with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), has conducted research with this project in Western Kenya since 2010 to improve the viability of the carbon project and its benefits for the rural poor.
Through participatory research, project managers determined that building the capacity of local institutions to manage the project would increase the long-term development benefits, as well as reduce costs. In the past several years, they have been working to build the capacity of community resource persons to train other farmers – especially women – how to adapt their farming practices to a changing climate by sequestering carbon in the soil.
To do this, project managers have jointly written a field manual entitled, “Sustainable Agriculture Land Management Practices for Climate Change Mitigation: A training guide for smallholder farmers in western Kenya” that will be used by Vi-Agroforestry staff to train community facilitators on implementing and managing sustainable agriculture and land management (SALM) activities on their farms. In addition, the project managers hope that the training guide will serve as a tool for community resource persons as they recruit and train other farmers on SALM practices. The goal of this project is to increase the number of farmers in Kitale and Kisumu who are adapting and building resilience to climate change, while sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes. Selling soil carbon credits is just one piece of that effort.