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FAO, Partners Develop Methodology for Herders and Grazers to Access Carbon Finance

FAO30 May 2014: In recognition of the potential for grassland restoration to both mitigate climate change and improve profitability of livestock farmers, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), in collaboration with Chinese partners, has developed a tool that can measure carbon sequestration resulting from sustainable grassland management. The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) has approved the tool, which will allow the carbon credits derived from improved grassland management to be sold in voluntary carbon markets.

The tool uses two methods to measure carbon sequestration: soil sampling or computer modeling based on soil types and farming practices. The latter approach reduces the costs associated with direct measurement.  FAO and its partners pilot tested the tool through a project in Northern China.

The tool has the potential to open emissions trading markets to agricultural carbon projects, which have often been excluded because of difficulties in measuring, reporting and verifying (MRV) carbon sequestration resulting from improved farming practices. Such improved practices can include grazing rotation, limiting grazing of a single area and planting fodder crops near households. Using these practices, the project in China could sequester three tons of carbon dioxide per hectare on average every year for the next 20 years, according to FAO. The FAO's methodology is specifically focused on assessing and quantifying these climate benefits. The tool can also be used in MRV reduced emissions from Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).

The sale of carbon credits have the potential to improve livestock herders' and grazers' financial means of investing in sustainable grassland management, according to FAO. While restoring grasslands has been shown to increase agricultural income and profitability, the initial costs are often prohibitive. Carbon finance could aid these farmers in the initial years, until returns from improved productivity of grasslands are realized.

FAO developed the tool in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Agriculture Science (CAAS), the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and China's Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology (NWIPB). [FAO Press Release] [UN Press Release] [ICRAF News] [IISD RS Sources]