Opportunities for carbon trading among smallholder forestry farmers in semi-arid areas: a case study of Siakago division, Kenya
Gichu, Alfred Ndugu
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The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol was developed to enable developed countries achieve Green House Gas (GHG) emission reduction targets through sustainable development activities in developing countries. These activities include industrial modernization, energy substitution and efficient production processes or sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide through the carbon sequestration programmes. Afforestation or reforestation programmes have been approved as eligible activities for participation under the CDM. However, In view of the high transaction costs associated with CDM process and the strict eligibility criteria for forestry projects, it is important to carry out scoping studies to establish viability of forestry projects before communities and individuals can be encouraged to invest in them. This research was aimed at assessing whether the smallholder forestry farmers in semi-arid areas are able to participate in CDM activities. The study was carried out in Siakago division of Mbeere district as a representative of the semi-arid areas of Kenya. The research was both analytical and descriptive with the study subjects comprising landowners. Simple random sampling was used to select the sampling units with 10% of the farmholdings forming the sample size of the study. Data was collected through actual measurements, interviews and observation checklist and then analysed using both excel and SPSS computer packages. The study has established that opportunities exist for smallholder farmers to incorporate carbon offset as a tree product for participation under the CDM. 58.8 % of smallholder forestry practitioners have gone through basic primary level education and are therefore receptive to new ideas. In addition 63.3% were between 36 and 55 years, which is the most energetic phase of life and the most receptive age group for development information. 62% of them were also members of organized groups which were rated highly by the majority in addressing members' needs. Such communal strategies serve to reduce the transaction costs that go with the process while providing conduits for technology transfer and carbon trading opportunities. With an average farm size of 3-5 acres that is privately owned but which nevertheless suffers periodic crop failure, opportunities for promoting tree farming within farming systems are immense. Currently farmers have been able to stock 2.08 tons per ha of carbon with a market value of Kshs 31,200 through innovative agroforestry technologies and with support from the Government and the other private agencies. The total forest cover is still below the country definition of a forest as contained in the initial communication to UNFCCC for purposes of hosting CDM projects. This is in addition to other CDM eligibility criteria whose evaluation on the ground indicates the area can participate in the CDM process.