Other Issues of Actual Concern in Agriculture and Climate Change

There are a plethora of articles and stories written on the importance of agriculture as a significant contributor to economic growth and development. As you are aware, the climate change action debate is being vigorously pushed as one means of achieving sustainable development – a feat no country is yet to attain. And to just bog you once more with some grim statistic, the World Bank's "Turn Down the Heat" report released last year, predicts that by 2040, drought and increased heat could reduce by 40-80 per cent the area of sub-Saharan Africa suited growing maize, millet or sorghum. It says a 2°C increase in temperature (projected for 2040), could reduce maize yields by 5 to 22 per cent, wheat by 10 to 17 per cent, and sorghum by 15 to 17 per cent. That is why developing countries are being advised not to pursue an economic growth model through which the industrialized nations accumulated their wealth – by burning coal and clearing forests – so as not to add to the climate change problem. 

At the heart of this new and ideal ‘green economic growth’ in agriculture are new concepts such as carbon neutral growth or Low Emissions Development/Climate Resilient Development, the Carbon Markets to generate the necessary funding and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Conserving and Enhancing Forest Carbon Stocks (REDD+) for forestry. Intertwined with these new concepts is Climate-Smart Agriculture, the new ideal way of conducting farming both at the small scale and large scale levels in order to minimize carbon emissions from agriculture and forestry which together contribute about 31 per cent of the global emissions. As you might expect, these new concepts will be spearheaded into fruition majorly by international non-state actors who are sometimes accused of sidelining local non-state actors as they seek to assist communities where they operate.

Until recently in the agricultural sector, much effort has been driven towards climate change adaptation while fewer resources and attention has been spent towards mitigation and soil carbon sequestration potentials through sustainable land-water management. However, a soil carbon project piloted in Western Kenya among smallholder farmers has since been promising climate change mitigation in agriculture intervention in the developing world. The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP) became the first soil carbon project in Africa to sign an Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA) with the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund in November 2010. But not everybody is genuinely in interested in such similar projects. Last year, it was reported that in Cameroon, a certain foreign company has bought land somewhere in the country in order to ‘sell’ the carbon in the soil and the trees to big companies in Europe and North America. 

The implementing organization, a Swedish public benefit organization (the term non-governmental organization is no longer being used here in Kenya) Vi Agroforestry is helping farmers adopt sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) practices, such as reduced tillage, use of cover crops and green manure, mulching, targeted application of fertilizers and agroforestry. Statistics indicate that to date, some 15,000 farmers in 800 farmer groups have adopted SALM practices, which have been applied to roughly 12,000 ha of degraded land. The organization targets to enroll a total of 60,000 farmers and apply SALM practices on around 45,000 ha by 2016. Vi Agroforestry estimates that this would result in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) each year, while also restoring degraded land, boosting crop yields and reducing the vulnerability of the farmers to the effects of climate change. This if achieved will ultimately prove to be a significant game changer in the field.

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