Politics and policy
Carbon trading scheme offers tree farmers from Kisumu economic lifeline
Posted Thursday, June 28 2012 at 18:31
To many farmers in Kenya, the just concluded United Nations climate change conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil may have passed unnoticed or made little sense to them.
But to one farmer in Kisumu, the Rio summit meant a lot because he is already reaping the benefits of sustainable development that formed a key theme at the conference.
Maurice Kwadha has turned his 0.6 acre piece of land into a ‘gold mine’ that pays all his bills and sustains his family. He earns more than Sh40,000 a month from the sale of tree seedlings and vegetables he grows on this tiny parcel of land.
“From my one acre farm, I am able to get income and provide a balanced diet for my family. Initially, I used to go to the lake to look for fish which has become very rare because of the high number of fishermen and the water hyacinth,’’ he says.
Apart from the direct sale of the tree seedlings and crops grown on this parcel, Mr Kwadha will soon be paid for tackling carbon pollution through smart agricultural practices which have at the same time maximised the yields.
Mr Kwadha is among East African farmers that have been picked as new beneficiaries of a special UN carbon trading scheme that is targeted at promoting environmental protection through sustainable practices.
The scheme is based on principles of the Kyoto Protocol—the international agreement on climate change that enables less industrialised states that contribute less to the overall pollution of the earth to trade their carbon credits with heavily polluting industrialised states.
In this market, carbon is given an economic value that allows people, companies and nations to trade in it just as they buy and sell securities or commodities.
This means a farmer’s earnings will depend on the area under crop since each plant is considered to absorb certain amounts of harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby reducing its harmful effect on the climate.
The carbon market attaches value to the estimated carbon that a crop such as the maize plant can absorb and offers this for trade in the global market.
In the market, a nation that buys carbon has the right to burn it while the seller forfeits its right to do so.
Before venturing into planting tree seedlings for sale, Mr Kwadha’s farm was bare and barren. Two years down the line, the farm has no space left with green foliage covering every bit of it. When he harvests maize and beans, he plants other crops but having a cover crop is mandatory to him.
His farm has maize, beans, cassava, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, napier grass, cow peas, passion fruits and several other crops that do well in the region.
What gives him the biggest revenue are the tree seedlings he has planted in every space available. The tree shades in his compound are covered with seedlings of all types of trees, which waste no space.
To cut costs, he plants the seedlings in improvised polythene sheaths, filled with soil dug out of a water harvesting pond just in front of his house.