Sunday, December 4, 2011

Carbon Controversy

A most interesting debate is coming out here in Durban: should agriculture be able to generate carbon credits through carbon credits through sequestraton in soils?

The extremes of the debate are illustrated by the stance of FANRPAN, the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (based in Southern Africa), who have been repeating for three years the phrase "No agriculture, no deal." They believe that there is significant potential for African farmers to adopt farming practices that improve income, improve resilience, and sequester carbon, and that carbon credits may help to incentivize that adoption (

On the other hand, the Institute for Agricultural Policy and Trade has launched a concerted campaign to discredit and undermine the carbon credit approach. Their position is expressed on their website:

Yesterday that debate was played out over the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project, financed by the World Bank BioCarbon Fund. The project, whose design has been informed by the minimum tillage protocol of the Alberta offset market, was presented by the project leader, while a representative of IAPT criticized the project in their commentary. So far the project has helped 40,000 poor Kenyan farmers to adopt agroforestry and water harvesting, and seems to be a great example of Climate Smart Agriculture. It is implemented by a Swedish NGO, Vi Agroforestry, which I know and respect.

The criticism seemed to focus on the fact that carbon finance cannot be relied upon to generate significant returns to farmers. I think that this struck most of us as a bit mean-spirited; all of us in the room were aware that carbon markets are not reliable right now: this doesn't mean that CSA is a bad idea. I found out this morning that this is not the first time that IAPT has criticized the project. Apparently they launched a fairly fierce campaign to undermine support in Sweden for Vi Agroforestry.

My feeling is that climate change related finance should be used to finance CSA; at the level of the farmer, it matters very little whether that finance it is generated by a fund or market mechanism. Projects of this type do not happen overnight; in the next few years there may be more funding opportunities for CSA. I question why an organization that does very little if anything for African farmers would try to discredit another organization that does.

1 comment:

  1. Just like bio-fuels, a few years from now, CSA will be exposed not to be make development sustainable but poverty and hunger sustainable.