Management of soil carbon may offer potential for improving agricultural practice and productivity whilst providing co-benefits in terms of climate mitigation and biodiversity conservation. Agricultural productivity in Africa has remained stagnant over recent decades, and this is generally attributed to a loss of soil fertility and of soil carbon. Increasing soil carbon is thought to increase water retention capacity, suitability for agriculture and soil biodiversity. But a better understanding is needed of the relative roles of rights and responsibilities of landholders and incentives measures to drive management changes. Incentive measures that encourage sequestration of soil carbon are less developed than for forest carbon with outstanding questions on methodology and long-term biodiversity benefits.
Further investigation of the potential of payments for soil carbon is warranted as the agricultural community seeks to capture carbon finance by advocating a programme of work on agriculture in the decisions of the Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) at Cancun. Similarly, soil carbon and related payments for ecosystem services have featured in a recent global conference on agriculture and in several of the top 100 questions on agriculture. A range of aspects merit further research, for example: to explore cost-effective methods for soil carbon measurement and verification; to explore the value of payments for soil carbon services in terms of enhancing provisioning services at different spatio-temporal scales, e.g., crop productivity and contributions to rural development for small-holder farmers, as well as contributions to the conservation of biodiversity, including both wild and domestic agrobiodiversity.
This project was funded by the CCI Strategic Initiative Workshop Fund. This fund provides seed grants for participatory workshops that contribute to the understanding and conservation of biodiversity.