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Microsoft, Rabobank Project Reward Climate Smart Farmers With Cash

Pro-climate Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have teamed up with Microsoft and Rabobank to implement a series of pilot projects offering financial incentives for farmers adopting climate-smart practices and switching their farms to agroforestry systems.

The initiative has already supported over 6,000 farmers with inputs, technical assistance and pre-finance to reduce their carbon footprint as part of efforts to find solutions and reduce emissions to help mitigate climate change.

The initiative is being implemented in Colombia and Peru by Solidaridad and the Norwegian Initiative for Forests and Climate (NICFI) with support from The Agroforestry in Action Initiative, by tech giant Microsoft and Rabobank.

Agriculture is said to be responsible for 20-30 percent of the Green House Gases (GHG) emissions globally.

Additionally, smallholder farmers who happen to manage about 75 percent of the world’s agricultural land are heavily impacted by climate change.

Solidaridad and Rabobank believe, “unlocking the potential of smallholder farmers to become a global force for good in addressing climate change has become a joint goal.”

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The breakthrough use of satellite technology enables the farmers to cash in on their efforts to sequester carbon emissions on their farmland.

The project partners are convinced that rapid scaling will enable thousands of families to diversify income and contribute to the global challenge to mitigate climate change.

“Smallholder farmers have not yet benefited from the carbon market at scale. This is mainly due to the high transaction costs to generate a tradable, unique and independently verifiable carbon asset, historically”, explained Joel Brounen, Colombia Country Manager for Solidaridad.

According to Brounen, “the market generally offered low prices in recent years. However, the market has changed dramatically, due to an increase of net-zero emissions of leading global companies such as Microsoft and Nestlé”.

“This offers a unique opportunity for the agriculture sector and food-processing companies to create a win-win situation for the full supply chain, especially for Tier 3 suppliers” he hinted.

Agroforestry according to experts is a beneficial venture for farmers, businesses and the environment.

Already, the project spearheaded by the NGOs and the Agroforestry in Action Initiative has reduced carbon emissions through better soil management, fertilizer management and wastewater management.

In Colombia, on average the participating farms reportedly went from carbon positive (1.1tons CO2 eq/hectare) to carbon negative (0.5tons CO2 eq/hectare) within three years of implementation.

Also, the productivity of the participating farms in the climate-smart agriculture project went up by 15-20 percent over the same period.

“What started as an idea, about a year ago, today has resulted in the first transaction of many. At the moment, we have supported about 100 producers in Peru, Colombia and Brazil,” revealed Jelmer Van De Mortel of Rabobank, the world’s biggest agriculture bank.

He added, “we have a huge ambition, we want to support more than a million farmers in the following years. And we are sure we can achieve it.”

Rabobank says it relies heavily on satellite data for the verification of the provided tree-based credits, explaining that more advanced technology in recent years has allowed the newly developed platform to perform verification processes at reduced costs.

According to Solidaridad, the results of the first pilots have been promising saying since farmers integrated climate-smart practices in their farms, their living incomes have increased and diversified through the sales of carbon emissions.

“First estimates indicate that farmer household incomes have gone by up to 20 percent. This, in turn, improves community livelihoods, and triggers broader behavioural change regarding farming practices and forest conservation, while ensuring social co-benefits in the form of climate adaptation investments for communities, which also secure the productivity and health/resilience of coffee plantations for future generations,” said Solidaridad.

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