soil-carbon sequestration: triple win strategy

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There is a renewed interest in the role of agriculture at the climate change negotiations, as evidenced by a number of interesting side-events during COP 16 in Cancun. The reason is simple: Agriculture and related activities account for a third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, most of which can be mitigated, an opportunity that policy makers simply cannot afford to miss. What’s more, some of the techniques that sequester carbon have the added advantage of building the water-retention capacity and nutrient content of soils, hence contributing to a triple-win situation where mitigation, adaptation and yield increases are all addressed. In response to this, SIANI and Sida arranged a one-day workshop on the theme From Source to Sink: How to make Agriculture part of the Solution to Climate Change while contributing to Poverty Alleviation? The main purpose of the workshop was to link the multiple potentials of agriculture to other development goals such as over-all poverty alleviation and food security, with particular reference to the needs of smallholder farmers who make up 70% of the world’s poorest people.


  • 1. Soil Carbon Sequestration:The Triple Win Strategy for FoodSecurity, Climate Resilience and LowEmission AgricultureAdemola Braimoh, PhD
  • 2. Introduction The link between agriculture and human well-beingwill grow stronger in the 21st Century because ofthe enormous promise that agriculture offers forgrowth, poverty reduction and supply of ecosystemservices Seventy-five percent of the worlds poor live in ruralareas and depend on agriculture for theirlivelihood. By 2050, agricultural production will need toincrease by 70% to feed the worlds 9 billionpeople
  • 3. Accelerating climate change is an additional challengeto meeting the food security needs of the increasingpopulation. Global surface temperature has risen by 0.8oC since thelate 19th Century. Average rate of increase is 0.15oC per decade since1975 (IPCC, 2007). Projected increase during the 21st Century is 1.5 5.8oC (IPCC, 2001).
  • 4. Intensification of hydrologic scarcity and variability. Crops have to grow in hotter and drier conditions. Higher temperatures and shorter growing seasons willreduce the yields of most crops Changes in precipitation pattern will increase thelikelihood of short-run crop failures and long-runproductivity declines (IFPRI, 2009). Overall impact is expected to threaten food security.Impacts of Climate Change on Food Production
  • 5. Effects of land-use change on soil carbon is a major concern ininternational policy agenda Agriculture and forestry sector account for about one-third of globalemissions. Most agricultural soils have lost 30 40 t ha-1 (30% - 75%) of theirantecedent soil organic C pool (Lal et al. 2007) Degree of loss is higher in soils that are susceptible to acceleratederosion. If a given land-use change (deforestation) leads to soil carbonlosses, then the reverse change (reforestation) could potentiallyincrease carbon stockLand use as a source of emissions
  • 6. However, it can take several years to recover the original levelof soil carbon stock after such a significant disturbance to theland system.SoilCTimeSteady state ASteady state DSteady state CSteady state BSteady state EDisturbanceNew managementInfluence of management on SOC
  • 7. Improved land management practices has large mitigationpotentials 5.5 6.0 Gt CO2 equivalent by 2030; 89% through carbonsequestration.Land use as a sink of emissions0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000Up to $20Up to $50Up to $100Biophysical potentialMt CO2 - equivalentA2; a more divided world, a world ofindependently operating, self-reliant nationsB2; a world more divided, but moreecologically friendlyA1b; a more integrated world with abalanced emphasis on all energy sourcesB1; a world more integrated, and moreecologically friendly
  • 8. Mitigation potential across world regions (Mt CO2-eq)70% of the potential resides in developing countries
  • 9. Soil Carbon Sequestration PotentialValues in parenthesesare in kg C ha-1 yr -1 (Lal 2004)
  • 10. Soil Carbon Sequestration potentials in Sub Saharan AfricaLand management practice Attainable rates Mg ha-1yr-1Natural or improved fallows 0.1 5.3Manure, crop residues and no till oncroplands0 0.36Permanent cropland with no till 200 -1500Permanent croplands with fallow 400 18500Fallow systems Up to 28500Vagen et al (2005)
  • 11. Soil Carbon Sequestration and Crop YieldsExpected change in cereal yields by increasing soil organic Cin the root zone by 1% in different countries (based on Lal,2010)Change in yield (Mg ha-1) Crop Country2.24 Wheat Argentina1.76 Maize Northeast China1.01 Rice India2.87 Maize Nigeria0.33 Wheat Russia
  • 12. Soil carbon sequestration provides ancillary benefitsincluding Reduced soil erosion Improved soil structure Increased nutrient holding capacity Increased nutrient use efficiency (spend less onfertilizers) Reduction in land requirement for farming -agricultural intensification - less emissions
  • 13. Constraints to adoption of soil carbonsequestration practices Land tenure/property rights Displacement of emissions Permanence Monitoring costs Absence of incentives -(e.g. non recognition byCDM, lack of insurance/risk management, PES)
  • 14. Moving the Soil Carbon Agenda ForwardImproved knowledge of Carbon sequestration potential of sustainable landmanagement practices across agroecologicalzones The trade-offs and synergies between carbonsequestration and food security that is associatedwith changes in land management practices. The role of socioeconomic and institutional factorsin the adoption of sequestration practices The appropriate incentives for soil carbonsequestration in different regions of the world.
  • 15. Soil Carbon Assessment at the World BankWe intend to develop an open source, geospatial database forsoil carbon monitoring for specific land usesExamples of scenario questions answered by the database: What is the carbon sequestration rate of soils inlocations X, Y and Z? Given the soil and climate conditions of location A, whatcultivation and management practices are required toachieve a carbon sequestration of x tons and when willthis be achieved? What is the effect on carbon storage if managementpractice changes from P to Q and in what year willcarbon sequestration reach saturation?
  • 16. 16You can contribute ideas, data and otherinformation to the database development bysending e-mail to


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