Carbon scheme will not help farmers, say scientists

By David Njagi

Kenya forests

Kenya forests

The carbon market, once thought to be a lucrative niche of the future, may have been a baseless hype after all.

Going by recent studies, scientists say they have evidence that carbon trading will not benefit small holder farmers in Africa.

Instead, Kenya and the rest of Africa should focus on climate and development smart agriculture, according to a group of scientists from UN agencies.

This is the key message the experts from World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), are passing to policy makers ahead of the RIO+ 20 summit in Brazil, June.

“The carbon market as payment for environmental services will not stop deforestation,” says ICRAF Director General, Prof. Tony Simons. “The future of humanity depends on an integrated and sustainable intensification of agriculture production.”

To demonstrate how carbon trading is failing to achieve its purpose, the experts refer to a situation where farmers are making millions in revenue from the sale of timber harvested from their farms.

Yet, if the same trees would still be standing in their farms they would fetch about Ksh. 5,000 every year from carbon payment.

The carbon scheme relies on buyers from the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU) keen on giving their companies a good name by reducing green house gas emissions.

The companies choose not to cut their own emissions by reducing industrial production and instead scout for carbon offsets from projects based in developing countries.

The alternative being offered by the experts calls on raising food production, investing in renewable energy while also reducing pressure on land.

“What Africa needs is new technologies that scale up agriculture production,” says CIMMYT Project Leader, Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA), Dr. Tsedeke Abate.

The Rome based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says food production needs to increase by 70 per cent in 2050 to save the world from possible destitution.

“The world will need to produce 50 per cent more food and energy by 2030,” writes England’s Chief Scientific Advisor John Beddington.

The RIO+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is the 20th of its kind. It is being held to negotiate a deal on climate change by rallying for remewed commitment by world leaders to the cause.

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About seventysixthstreet

Science and human rights journalist, Kenya
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