Participatory action research to guide agricultural carbon projects
Addressing the global challenges of climate change, hunger, and poverty requires agricultural landscapes that both are resilient to climate change and store carbon. However, adaptation and mitigation activities tend to be approached separately.
At the same time, global climate finance has until now largely bypassed the smallholder farmers most vulnerable to climate change impacts, partly because of “last mile” capacity challenges in developing countries. Shaping carbon projects together with rural communities that are feasible, effective, and equitable is a major challenge for a climate-smart future.
The first payment-for-agricultural-soil-carbon project with smallholder farmers in the world needed help ensuring that the program reached enough farmers with the right materials, at the right times, to maximize the carbon sequestered and the community benefits of investing in increasing soil carbon. And they wanted to ensure that lessons learned in this first-of-its-kind project were widely shared and applied in the design of future smallholder carbon projects.
EcoAgriculture Partners works with local climate smart agriculture project leaders to evaluate their institution’s capacity needs, plan actions to address them, and evaluate the effectiveness of those actions. We design and execute research projects together with local project leaders that provide direct benefits to local farmers and institutions while also influencing the design and implementation of climate smart agriculture programs around the world.
We lead participatory action research projects that help build local institutional capacity while investigating how best to build all aspects of local institutional capacity. We publish our results, together with local partners, in peer-reviewed journals, so that both the important methodology for project research and its critical findings are shared with the global development, agriculture, and climate change communities of practice around the world. And we develop, with local partners, locally-appropriate training materials that transform those lessons into direct support for farmers and land managers in the field.
We partnered with two agricultural carbon project implementers, Vi Agroforestry and EcoTrust Uganda, to work with their local project managers using a participatory action research model. We connected local project leaders with government officials and regional knowledge networks to improve project performance.
We studied each landscape and each project to understand the best ways to improve outcomes. We looked at the on-farm practices farmers were employing, helped project managers evaluate potential interventions, and worked with local leaders to design a research methodology that addressed their needs.
We produced two manuals, designed together with field staff, to train new project extension staff, to ease expanding carbon project benefits to more farmers.
“This project really helped us see how we could improve our activities throughout our entire program of work, and make key changes to our carbon projects to make benefits more accessible to women in particular.”Amos Wekesa Project Manager, Vi Agroforestry
Working with EcoAgriculture Partners on this participatory action research project was very informative and helped us think critically about the effectiveness of our initiatives and how we engage with various stakeholders.Lilian Kiguli Project Manager, EcoTrust Uganda
Our research and the training materials we produced as a result are now used by our partners to train hundreds of farmers and extension agents in Uganda and Kenya in sustainable land management and agroforestry practices that have both climate mitigation and adaptation benefits.
Our work with Vi Agroforestry in Kenya helped farmers receive the first payments for soil carbon sequestration ever made to smallholders, with the World Bank estimating more than 40,000 farmers directly benefited.