Q&A: Cancún COP16 climate talks | Environment | guardian.co.uk
Growing trees is a long-term investment – trees require additional labour inputs for their establishment and maintenance, and it can take several years to see benefits to crop yields. This delayed return on investment has been a major challenge in promoting the adoption of agroforestry. However, if this gap could be bridged, it would benefit smallholder farmers through increased food security and resilience to climate change, as well as the global community through climate change mitigation from GHG (green house gas) sequestration.
Carbon markets have the potential to build such a bridge. Climate change has made GHG emission sequestration into a valuable asset, one that farmers can create with the resources already available to them – land and labour, along with seeds. Farmers could then realise the financial value of these carbon assets through carbon markets, providing them returns to cover their investment. But land-based emissions in both compliance and voluntary markets are burdened with complex rules and require ongoing monitoring, reporting and verification, incurring transaction costs that are prohibitive for individual smallholder farmers.
The Africa Carbon Credit Exchange (ACCE) along with GKI will partner with businesses and NGOs that have broad access to smallholder farmers and leverage their infrastructure and extension networks to ensure sufficient scale and robust implementation.
Carbon offsets based on tree intercropping represent a legitimate new financial asset for smallholder farmers, and once that increases yields – which means enhanced food security and reduced pressure on Zambia’s precious resources.
The faidherbia albida is a species of tree native to Africa. For thousands of years it has been recognised in countries such as Ethiopia and in West Africa as a very beneficial tree and now appreciation of this tree has spread to Zambia and Malawi.
Although many species show promise in agroforestry, Faidherbia albida, an indigenous acacia-like tree is particularly beneficial in two ways. At the recommended planting density of 100 trees per hectare, mature Faidherbia albida trees supply equivalent 300kg of complete fertiliser and 250kg of lime, which result in an estimated 250-400% yield in increase in maize under a tree canopy. In addition, Faidherbia display the unusual trait of reverse phenology. This means that they leaf up in the dry season and defoliate in the rains, the reverse of the common growth pattern and thus reducing competition for sunlight with rain-fed crops (such as maize, a common crop in countries like Zambia) which are grown underneath the trees so as to benefit directly from improved soil fertility.
For more on the faidherbia albida tree: http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantefg/faidalb.htm
For more on agroforestry and its use for environmental sustainability: http://www.worldagroforestry.org/newsletter_?news=7