Uganda Carbon Farmers receive first incentive under Payment for Environmental Services Fund

Florence Buhule receiving her Payment for Ecosystems Services (PES) from an ECOTrust official in Sironko (top). At the bottom, Florence Buhule shows off her well-tended garden with coffee, bananas and a few trees at the edges of her land. (Photocredit: Monica Aturinda-Kyeyune. EBA Project -UNDPUganda 2015).


Sironko/Bulambuli - Florence Buhule’s crop harvest has increased in the last couple of months.


The mother of six who survives on an acre of land along the densely populated slopes of Mt. Elgon has been practising conservation agriculture.


“Since I dug up these trenches and started pruning my crops, I have seen a big change. The leaves are greener and the crops look healthier, I foresee a bumper harvest this season,” Buhule said, adding that, “before, I  was just digging to get what to eat, but now, I am more careful when tending my garden because I know the benefits of having a well maintained garden.”


Buhule lives in Bunyodde parish, Bugitimwa Sub County, Sironko disrict with her husband and six children. She is one of the few farmers in the Elgon community, Eastern Uganda who has decided to commit half her acre of land to conservation land management practises. Land in this community is very limited and everyone tries to make the best use of their small acreage.


As a result of practising conservation agriculture, Buhule became one of the first beneficiaries of the Payment for Environmental Services (PES) scheme started by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) project. The initiative is carried out by the Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST), a pioneer NGO of climate financing in Uganda.


The scheme targets farmers who are committed to using conservation land management agricultural practises. These farmers are given a cash payment as an incentive to enable them get the right tools to farm and ensure that their farming practises protect the environment.


Launched in March 2015, the fund has enabled rural communities to participate in land use management practices that reduce on climate change impacts. This includes, digging of contours, planting trees and mulching among others, all of which are aimed at increasing their resilience to climate change.


Through the scheme, Buhule received Shs.500, 000 ($150) from the project beating the other four participants from her parish.


About 20 groups with a total number of 100 farmers from the targeted communities are already implementing the project activities.


“With this scheme, we incentivise households to undertake activities that provide quantifiable environmental services that are aimed at addressing the dangers of climate change in the catchment areas,” Mr. Paul Nteza, National Programme Coordinator, EBA said of the scheme.


Currently, the scheme is being piloted in four sub-counties of  Bugitimwa and Kisali in Sironko district, Bulegeni and Lusha in Bulambuli district after which it will be scaled up to other sub counties within the two districts. Farmers contributed an average of 0.3 Ha size of land towards the project an equivalent of up to 74 acres of land put under good conservation practices leading to improved natural resource management and community resilience and adaptation to climate change impacts.


In many parts of Eastern Uganda, the effects of climate change have greatly affected farmers by washing away homes and gardens as evidenced in 2011 at Munimani village, Namusini Sub County in Bulambuli district, where about 50 animals and 20 acres of gardens of coffee and food crops were destroyed. Interventions such as PES, are therefore key in helping communities improved land use management plans that can enable them reduce disasters such as these.


Nicholas Namisi, another beneficiary from Lusha sub county Bulambuli district says that he will use his Shs.500,000 ($150) to buy farming tools such as hoes, a wheel barrow and a spade to help him keep his garden well maintained in order to get better harvests.


“The amount participants received was dependant on the size of one’s land being used to practise conservation land use methods,” Ms. Sarah Nachuha, Programme Officer ECOTRUST said.


Buhule and Namisi are among the first group of 50 farmers to benefit from the Shs.15 million ($428) PES incentive given out so far.


With assistance from ECOTRUST, the farmers will establish good relationships with reputable purchasers of carbon who will help to buy it as it accumulates as one of the sustainability measures for the project.


“We are looking at marketing their carbon globally in order to sustain the project after EBA’s phasing out but also looking at diversifying their livelihood through training in poultry rearing and beekeeping so that they have an alternative means of survival,” Nachuha said.  


Besides the PES, the project has also introduced, saving and credit schemes, use of clean water by constructing and setting up water harvesting tanks in these communities.


“I am impressed with the incentive introduced to our communities because it is in line with our District Development Plan, and happy that the farmers have shown great interest in this initiative,” says Mr. Peter Gidongo, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sironko district.


The carbon scheme is expected to produce long-term, verifiable voluntary emission reductions by combining carbon sequestration, soil and water conservation with rural livelihood improvements through small-scale, farmer led, forestry/agroforestry activities while reducing pressure on natural resources in the Mt. Elgon National Park.


The five year EBA programme which ends in 2016, is implemented through a partnership of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the districts of Bulambuli, Sironko Kapchorwa and Kween.


Article by: Monica Aturinda-Kyeyune, Communications Assistant - UNDP EBA Project.

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