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Seeing the trees for the carbon: agroforestry for development and carbon mitigation

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Abstract

Land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities will play an important role in global climate change mitigation. Many carbon schemes require the delivery of both climate and rural development benefits by mitigation activities conducted in developing countries. Agroforestry is a LULUCF activity that is gaining attention because of its potential to deliver climate benefits as well as rural development benefits to smallholders. There is hope that agroforestry can deliver co-benefits for climate and development; however experience with early projects suggests co-benefits are difficult to achieve in practice. We review the literature on agroforestry, participatory rural development, tree-based carbon projects and co-benefit carbon projects to look at how recommended project characteristics align when trying to generate different types of benefits. We conclude that there is considerable tension inherent in designing co-benefit smallholder agroforestry projects. We suggest that designing projects to seek ancillary benefits rather than co-benefits may help to reduce this tension.

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Notes

  1. Nair et al. (2009) suggest that estimates of sequestration potential for agroforestry should be used with caution. This figure is included to indicate the hoped-for contribution of agroforestry to mitigation relative to other activities, a motivation for increased interest in its use.

  2. In the carbon literature, the term “co-benefits” is commonly left undefined, or used interchangeably with “ancillary benefits” (e.g. Aunan et al. 2004; Pittel and Rübbelke 2008). For the purposes of this discussion, a “co-benefit project” is addressing and maximizing benefits for dual development and climate priorities.

  3. Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, an approach to reducing global emissions linked to forest sources. REDD (now generally referred to as REDD+) includes project-based approaches, which could potentially include smallholder agroforestry.

  4. Similarly, Roshetko et al. (2007) suggest that co-benefit projects should be socially and economically viable without carbon revenue, which could be viewed as a strong version of the ancillary benefits argument. However, this would also reduce the potential for synergy from additional carbon revenue.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge funding support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Government of British Columbia and the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of British Columbia. The authors are grateful to Gary Bull, James Tansey and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and feedback, and to Rita Zamluk for editing assistance.

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Anderson, E.K., Zerriffi, H. Seeing the trees for the carbon: agroforestry for development and carbon mitigation. Climatic Change 115, 741–757 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-012-0456-y

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