Wednesday June 18 2014

How climate change can be utilised by farmers to earn from carbon credit

Those involved in various farming activities

Those involved in various farming activities such as cattle keeping and tree planting are some of those who can benefit in the carbon credit trade. FILE PHOTOS  

By Lominda Afedraru

It has always been thought that climate change is only a challenge to farmers but there is the opportunity to utilise its effects to generate income. Farmers in Uganda can use finished farm products to trade in carbon credit now.

Ritah Rukundo, a research associate at Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), says the organisation has signed the Kyoto Protocol to monitor carbon emission reduction in various countries, including Uganda, where farmers could be beneficiaries.

She was speaking at the May Ag Content Café held in Kampala. It is a monthly informal interaction of journalists and professionals in agriculture or agribusiness. It is an initiative of Usaid Feed the Future Agricultural Inputs Activity.

Such projects can earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide, which can be counted towards meeting targets set in Kyoto Protocol. The price varies from country to country.

A CDM project might involve, for example, rural electrification using solar panels or installation of more energy efficient boilers.
The mechanism stimulates sustainable emission reductions, while giving industrialised countries flexibility in meeting emission reduction or limitation targets.

Most African countries do not have target on emissions, but there are those countries that have a lot of carbon emissions but do not meet the required 10 per cent reduction. These can buy carbon credit from those that do not.

According to Rukundo, in Uganda, projects dealing in carbon credit include those involved in making cook stoves, energy saver projects and forestry. The latter is where farmers engaged in tree planting could benefit.

Globally, 2,000 activities are in carbon credit trade with two per cent of them in Africa. There are larger enterprises registered by China, India, and European Union (EU), among others, which support the projects in Africa. EU purchases carbon credits from countries categorised as least developed countries Uganda being one of them.
Uganda also received $2.6m (Shs6.7b) from Belgium for a scheme to be overseen by Ministry of Water and Environment.

In this, private sector companies will receive funds for training, monitoring, verification and negotiation for carbon credit transactions.
Eligible ones include those dealing small-scale hydro-electricity, land fills, solar energy, water purification, biodiesel, sugar and waste water management.

For instance, sugarcane farmers could negotiate on the purchase price to sugar companies who offset the biodiesel made from by-products as a means of carbon credit purchase.

The 50 projects registered by CDM in Uganda mainly cover biomass, energy efficient cook stoves and forestry. Out of these, five are running independently only for Uganda with the rest operating in various countries but partnering with Uganda.

There are people involved in writing these projects who make agreements with the designers and implementers who then involve the end-user farmers
Venteura Silver, CDM regional collaborator and team leader in Uganda, feels that farmers should be brought on board because some farm waste can be used for carbon credit purchase. A case in point is rice and maize husks use to make brickets for cooking, could be utilised as a carbon credit initiative.

Another one is dairy farmers who use cow dung in a similar manner.
Currently, the focus is on farmers who could earn from trees they have or plant as a carbon credit tool.
But Venteura advises that since it is difficult to deal with individual farmers, there is need for them to organise into groups.

Complement efforts
Samuel Senkunda, from Uganda National Meteorological Authority, noted that it is good for farmers to embrace the CDM. And they should follow information about weather patterns.

“We communicate data on weather and climate out of observations which we pass on using different media like radio, television, and print,” he said. “It is advisable for farmers to follow this for planning purposes.”
Senkunda added that despite the challenges faced, they have set up several meteorological stations across the country.

“What farmers need to know is that good agriculture in Uganda is based on rainfall performance and this depends on the weather and climate variability,” he explained.

To complement these efforts, there is initiative to tap into indigenous knowledge of weather predictions in places like Nakasongola and Karamoja.

Background to carbon credit trade

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows a country with an emission reduction or emission limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to implement an emission reduction project in developing countries.
A CDM project must provide emission reductions that are additional to what would otherwise have occurred. The projects must qualify through a rigorous public registration and issuance process and approval is given by designated national authorities.
Public funding for CDM project activities must not result in the diversion of official development assistance. The mechanism is overseen by an Executive Board, answerable ultimately to the countries that have ratified the protocol.
Operational since 2006, CDM is anticipated to produce emission reduction of more than 2.9 billion tonnes.