Carbon market could pay poor farmers to adopt sustainable cultivation techniques
November 26, 2008
The emerging market for forest carbon could support agroforestry programs that alleviate rural poverty and promote sustainable development, states a new report issued by the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF).
The report — which will be presented at the upcoming UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Poznán, Poland — suggests that proceeds from the carbon market could be used to reward farmers who adopt cultivation techniques that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Such methods include growing crops under a canopy of fruit or timber trees, planting fodder trees for livestock, and curtailing the use of slash-and-burn agriculture.
“If we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and effectively as possible, we need to do everything we can to encourage the people living in and around the world’s tropical forests to adopt carbon-saving and carbon-enhancing approaches to development,” said Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Center, one of 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). “One crucial way to do that is to give them the same opportunities to sell their carbon as a commodity in the global market as is encouraged in other sectors.”
“Rewarding poor farmers for planting more trees would put money in their pockets while also helping to protect our environment and fight climate change,” added Dr. Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of the Green Belt Movement International, an ICRAF partner. “These long-term investments would truly benefit the entire global community.”
ICRAF estimates that allowing farmers to sell that carbon on global carbon markets could generate as much as $10 billion each year for poor rural populations around the world. Presently there is little benefit generated from the destruction of forests for subsistence agriculture. A study published last year by ICRAF showed that farmers in Indonesia currently earn less that $5 for every ton of carbon dioxide equivalent released by their activities — far below what it would have been worth in the carbon markets.
“If these forests were being valued for their carbon storage, then it would be clear that cutting them down is not just environmentally destructive, it’s bad business,” said Brent Swallow, ASB’s Global Coordinator. “We understand that pricing the carbon contained in forests and agroforests represents considerable challenges. But it can and must be done. Until land users in developing countries have a real financial stake in the carbon stored in their trees and forests, we will neither halt forest destruction nor deal effectively with global climate change.”
The IPCC estimates that agroforestry could remove 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.