Improving institutional capacity through locally led participatory action research

Photo credit: CCAFS-CGIAR

Trainers participate in research as part of the Trees for Global Benefit project in Mbale, Uganda. Photo: EcoAgriculture Partners

Local organizations in Kenya and Uganda lead smallholder carbon projects

Participatory action research yields benefits for smallholder farmers, carbon sequestration, and much learning.

Among the many men and women toiling in rows of maize, sunflower, sugarcane, potatoes and beans in Bungoma County, Kenya, practically no one was interested in growing carbon. For one, no one has ever asked for a big bowl of carbon for dinner. Also, carbon does not make any money on the local market (nor on the global market for that matter).

Thus, it is a challenge to attract participation in agricultural carbon projects – and thereby to lower total net emissions from agriculture in the developing world.

So what if carbon storage was a happy by-product of more immediately rewarding investments by farmers? Are there climate-smart agriculture practices that make sense to farmers and include investing in storing carbon on their croplands? And could carbon funds feasibly finance investments in those practices? And how can the projects be implemented?

Carbon projects involving hundreds of farmers are very complex: they require training farmers, distributing inputs or supplies, measuring carbon stored and distributing carbon payments. The more farmers involved, the greater the necessity for more tasks. Project success depends, then, on the institional capacity of project implementers.

Over the last several years, EcoAgriculture Partners found that when local institutions drive the project management and problem-solving processes, they generate deep learning, empowerment and ownership over the results. Though sometimes overlooked when focusing on hard adoption targets, local participation in management is essential for sustained carbon sequestration.

Read the full article: CCAFS-CGIAR

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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