A lot of human activities including deforestation, converting grasslands into arable land, repeated soil tillage, and burning of fossil fuels have disrupted the carbon cycle, taking it out of balance. To this end, scientists and climate change activists have made a clarion call to farmers, as land managers, to play an active role in taking carbon back to the soil.
Soils act as a source and sink for carbon and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Conservation agriculture and agroforestry are some of the practices that simultaneously improve soil carbon, soil fertility and water conservation, hence their adoption at scale can help increase food production to meet the needs of the growing population.
In one of the COP24 side events co-hosted by SACAU, an important point was raised to the effect that for farmers to heed the call of ‘taking carbon back to the soil’, there needs to be a compelling value proposition apart from the rhetoric of benefiting from ‘increased yield and household food security’. Farmers need to capitalise on carbon sequestration.
When polluters buy carbon credits, the financial returns are enjoyed by a company, organisation or project that has prevented an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere.
If farmers can store substantial amounts of carbon in the soils, why can’t they benefit from the carbon market? While it was pointed out that measuring the actual amount of carbon sequestered in soils and plants could be difficult and very costly, this is a matter that needs to be debated further, with the hope that more innovative approaches will be introduced.
Farmers’ level of awareness, knowledge and understanding of carbon sequestration also need to be improved for them to benefit from such an initiative.