Impact measurement: the link between farming practices and productivity, water, soil & carbon

Carbon is a key component to life on Earth. In the form of organic matter, it has a direct impact on the soil’s fertility and its capacity to retain water. Organic matter in the soil retains essential nutrients for plants, ensures the balance of its ecosystem (worms, bacteria) and acts like a sponge which reduces runoff. Farming practices and erosion can wear out the organic matter in soils. A degraded soil progressively becomes mineral and is less fertile and retains less water.

In Kenya, the Livelihoods Carbon Fund is supporting 30,000 family farms in their transition towards more environmentally friendly farming practices and the creation of a more resilient dairy value chain. Within this project, a new methodology has been designed to show the direct link between the soil’s carbon content with farming practices, fertility and water retention. This initiative is supported by Livelihoods Funds, Vi Agroforestry, an NGO, Unique Forestry and Land Use, an environmental consultant. Indeed, carbon is a very good indicator of the soil’s health. The impact of farming practices such as composting, cover techniques, crop rotation and agroforestry on soil carbon content have been measured. The study shows that these practices increase the quantity of organic matter in the soil content by around 1 ton per ha each year leading to 17,000 liters more groundwater available per hectare. As a result, this healthy soil sequesters an additional 2,5 tons of C02 per hectare per year. The study thus confirms that farming practices are a key lever to fight climate change, improve food security and access to water.

The Livelihoods Fund’s project in Mount Elgon empowers farmers to make them the leading players for soil and water conservation. The practices implemented by each farmer are closely monitored. Farmers are involved in groups where they share theirs results and concerns to foster continuous improvement. Farming practices are therefore constantly adjusted to make sure they are delivering expected results on productivity, water conservation and CO2 sequestration.

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Photos: Gérard Tordjman/ Livelihoods Funds.