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New study on measuring GHG emissions for smallholder landscapes

If smallholder farmers are going to gain from carbon-friendly practices, such as agroforestry, how do you measure the carbon gains from their mitigation activities?

This is the issue addressed in a new technical report published by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Programme (CCAFS) and co-authored by scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre. The report is titled Methods for the quantification of emissions at the landscape level for developing countries in smallholder contexts.

The report outlines how there is considerable agricultural mitigation potential in developing countries where farming systems are dominated by smallholder farmers. It looks at the gaining popularity for a landscape-scale approach where farmers can pool resources and expertise, making it easier to participate in carbon markets and gain access to funding sources.

There is an overview of landscape-scale greenhouse gas quantification approaches to date, including ground-based measurements, remote sensing techniques and computational and ecosystem modelling. Some of the resources currently available are analysed with the intention of assisting funding agencies, government agencies, NGOs, academics and others to quantify greenhouse gases at the landscape level in areas dominated by smallholders.

Research gaps and areas for improvement are also covered in the report, including the need to: develop libraries of data with relevance to the geographical areas and land management systems associated with smallholder farmers; develop models which can simulate all of the complex interactions between different emission sources and sinks of GHG; link landscape assessments to social and economic models to help identify the real world potential of a technically feasible GHG mitigation strategy; certify tools as acceptable to a voluntary carbon market; and develop tools for the calculation of permanence and leakage.

The report concludes that “landscape-scale methods for the quantification of GHGs and estimation of change require complex datasets drawn from a variety of sources” and that the best estimates will be achieved through the use of integrated methods and tools. With the further development, the resources available “could open up landscape-scale GHG quantification to a wider range of stakeholders including those representing smallholder farmers.”

The full report is available on the CCAFS website:

Milne E, Neufeldt H, Smalligan M, Rosenstock T, Bernoux M, Bird N, Casarim F, Denef K, Easter M, Malin D, Ogle S, Ostwald M, Paustian K, Pearson T and Steglich E. 2012. Methods for the quantification of emissions at the landscape level for developing countries in smallholder contexts. CCAFS Report No. 9. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

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