text size: smaller reset larger

 

 

Carbon trading uplifts livelihoods in rural Uganda

The carbon offsetting project commenced in 2003 in Bushenyi district (© Elaine Muir/Plan Vivo Foundation)
The carbon offsetting project commenced in 2003 in Bushenyi district
© Elaine Muir/Plan Vivo Foundation

Farming communities in seven districts of rural Uganda are countering the effects of climate change by planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide and restore the deforested environment. The scheme, Trees for Global Benefits (TGB), has nearly 2,000 farmers planting indigenous trees and getting paid for the amount of carbon their trees sequester from the atmosphere.

The carbon offsetting project commenced in 2003 in Bushenyi district with around 33 farmers, supported by the Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST). Farming communities in Bushenyi had depleted their lands of trees for use as firewood and had started encroaching into neighbouring forests like Queen Elizabeth National Park, resulting in conflict with forestry managers.

To counter the destruction, ECOTRUST urged the communities near these protected areas to voluntarily grow indigenous trees together with their food crops. Besides absorbing carbon, the trees would also stop soil erosion and protect water bodies from siltation. Then ECOTRUST sought clients in Europe and America interested in offsetting some of their carbon footprint, striking a deal based on how much of their carbon they would like to clean up and pay for.

Plan Vivo

ECOTRUST uses Plan Vivo, a voluntary carbon trading scheme that allows grassroots communities to venture, as groups, into the carbon market. "This is a system created to address the barriers that prevent local communities accessing the carbon market," says Pauline Nantongo the Executive Director of ECOTRUST. By themselves, these rural farmers would have been very unlikely to obtain certification to sell carbon credits due to the complexity of the system and the small size of their individual land holdings. Through Plan Vivo, farmers are to be paid individually over ten years for the amount of carbon dioxide their trees absorb, a model dubbed conservation financing.

In Bushenyi farmers initially practised agro-forestry, growing crops alongside their young trees (© Plan Vivo Foundation)
In Bushenyi farmers initially practised agro-forestry, growing crops alongside their young trees
© Plan Vivo Foundation

Participating communities are actively involved in tree species selection, as well as seed gathering, nursery preparation and planting, which gave them a sense of project ownership. Some indigenous species chosen for the Bushenyi project were mahogany, Prunus africana and maesopsis, all common in Ugandan forests, and offering a variety of benefits throughout their growth.

The TGB model in Bushenyi had farmers initially practise agro-forestry, growing crops alongside their young trees until the trees matured. At planting, farmers set goals in terms of the products they expect to harvest from their trees over their lifespan, and ECOTRUST then calculates the amount of carbon the trees will have absorbed during this period. For farmers, immediate benefit may be fruits, fodder or firewood from pruned branches. Yet crop yields are also recorded to have increased as a secondary benefit of TGB in Bushenyi.

Storing carbon

The setting of management goals for the trees, and their link to the carbon payments ensures that trees are not harvested prematurely. In the case of trees grown for timber or building poles, they can be harvested once the trees have matured and reached the target size. However ECOTRUST restricts farmers from using whole trees as firewood as this would undermine the carbon storing process, by putting carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

ECOTRUST has also trained farmers to estimate carbon content sequestered by a tree species by measuring its diameter and biomass. They were also trained on nursery and tree management, climate change issues and accessing the carbon fund. In 2010 there were 27 training sessions with 1,452 farmers attending. ECOTRUST also require farmers to open bank accounts where payments from selling carbon credits can be deposited individually.

ECOTRUST has trained farmers to estimate carbon content sequestered by a tree species (© Elaine Muir/Plan Vivo Foundation)
ECOTRUST has trained farmers to estimate carbon content sequestered by a tree species
© Elaine Muir/Plan Vivo Foundation

Being a long-term project has made it easier for the communities to access credit facilities and use carbon credits payments as security. Opening bank accounts and accessing loans from microfinance institutions wasn't possible before these poor communities ventured into carbon trading. This is now enabling them to start other income generating projects like chicken rearing, dairy farming, increased crop production and payment of school fees. "One widow was able to construct a house in Bitereko sub-county and another carbon farmer managed to buy a piece of land to plant more trees," says Gerald Kairu, a Programme Officer with ECOTRUST.

External auditing

To ensure the project has impact and transparency the Rainforest Alliance (RA) audits the ECOTRUST findings on emissions to validate them, after interviewing the farmers to gauge their TGB objectives. According to RA findings, the project is expected to sequester over 50,000 tons of carbon over 20 years, in ten years a hectare of land earning, on average, US$904.

Based on the success of TGB in Uganda, ECOTRUST is sourcing for like-minded partners to set up similar carbon-offset schemes elsewhere in Africa, targeting poor farming communities facing similar challenges. According to Nantongo, the more farmers they reach the better, as more land makes the carbon offset project more cost effective and sustainable in the future. ECOTRUST is also offering study tours for NGOs considering implementing Plan Vivo projects in their countries.

This article is supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

Written by: James Karuga

Date published: May 2012

 

Have your say

I think to maximise the absorption of CO2 from the artimosph... (posted by: Nshaba Daniel)

 

The New Agriculturist is a WRENmedia production.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.
Accept
Read more