Breakthrough science and innovation

C. Schubert (CCAFS)

User-friendly SHAMBA promises to help sub-Saharan smallholders generate income from carbon credits

East Africa
Low Emissions Development

In order to generate income from carbon credits, smallholders need to prove that their fields are capturing carbon. The difficulty is how to measure the amount of carbon captured without incurring significant costs. With support from CCAFS, scientists at the University of Edinburgh are testing a low-cost way for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to calculate the expected climate benefits of planting trees, agroforestry, increasing organic inputs to soils and reducing the amount of crop residues burnt. By determining the climate benefits of their agricultural activities at a reasonable cost, smallholders can gain carbon credits, and thus draw additional income from climate funds.

CCAFS scientists are testing a low-cost way for farmers to calculate the expected benefits of their low-emission agricultural activities

CCAFS scientists are testing a low-cost way for farmers to calculate the expected benefits of their low-emission agricultural activities. S. Kilungu (CCAFS)

The scientists are working to fine tune the Smallholder Agriculture Mitigation Benefits Assessment (SHAMBA) method for calculating climate benefits. If SHAMBA proves successful, the Plan Vivo Foundation will use it for projects throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Plan Vivo is a Scottish charity that provides support to communities to manage their natural resources more sustainably with a view to generating climate, livelihood and ecosystem benefits.

SHAMBA is user-friendly, designed specifically for smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa to calculate carbon capture. Users with little technical expertise can use SHAMBA to estimate how changes in smallholder agricultural practices will generate climate benefits in line with greenhouse gas accounting requirements. SHAMBA calculates the expected climate benefits of tree planting, agroforestry, agricultural practices that increase organic inputs to soils and reducing burning crop residues.

“Reducing the cost of estimating carbon benefits is particularly important when additional spending diverts funding from activities that could improve the livelihoods of poor communities.” Nicholas Berry and Casey Ryan, scientists at University of Edinburgh

Tests in Mexico, Mozambique and Uganda currently underway will show how well SHAMBA works. If successful, then Plan Vivo Foundation will put SHAMBA into practice in its projects. Once proven, SHAMBA promises to help rural communities throughout Africa and beyond verify how much carbon their agricultural activities capture and to derive extra income from carbon credits.

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