Creating win-wins on soil? Rewarding smallholder farmers for building soil organic carbon
Partner session: Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)
COP26, the United Nations climate change conference last year, emphasised the urgency to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, both via emission reductions and the sequestration of atmospheric CO2, while ensuring a just transition to a low carbon economy.
These calls, however, have resulted in a massive push toward tree planting. But the potential of soils to store carbon, has hitherto not received as much attention as tree planting. Indeed, the earth’s soils contain about 2,500 gigatons of carbon, more than three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and four times the amount stored in all vegetation.
Soil carbon markets, however, have had difficulties even in advanced economies with very large farm sizes (>1000 ha) because anyone wanting to avail of the carbon credits has to use an approved methodology to demonstrate the carbon sequestered. While smallholder farmers would benefit greatly from being able to avail of carbon credits for shifting to regenerative practices and managing their land better, the question of whether, in practice, any of these funds will ever reach them remains to be seen.
The panelists will discuss successful approaches by which smallholder farmers have been rewarded for boosting soil organic carbon. How can such efforts be scaled? What are the institutional architectures needed to overcome the transaction cost problem while protecting smallholders interests?