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Carbon Farming in India, Challenges, Global Initiatives

Context: Carbon farming offers climate solutions and economic benefits but faces challenges, especially in developing countries like India, where tailored strategies are needed for widespread adoption.

Carbon Farming

  • Carbon farming involves regenerative agricultural practices that aim to improve ecosystem health, enhance agricultural productivity, and mitigate climate change by increasing carbon storage and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon Farming

  • Techniques include:
    • Rotational grazing
    • Agroforestry (e.g., silvopasture and alley cropping)
    • Conservation agriculture (zero tillage, crop rotation, cover cropping, crop residue management)
    • Integrated nutrient management (using organic fertilizers)
    • Agro-ecological approaches (crop diversification and intercropping)
    • Livestock management (optimising feed, managing waste to reduce methane emissions)

Challenges of Carbon Farming

  • The effectiveness of carbon farming is influenced by various factors such as geographical location, soil type, crop selection, water availability, biodiversity, and farm scale.
    • Water scarcity in arid regions hinders plant growth and sequestration.
    • Financial burdens on farmers, especially in developing countries like India, where small-scale farmers may struggle with the initial costs of sustainable practices.
    • Limited policy support and community engagement are crucial for widespread adoption.

Global Initiatives

Several international efforts highlight the growing importance of carbon farming:

  • Voluntary carbon markets in countries like the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
  • Chicago Climate Exchange and Carbon Farming Initiative in Australia promote carbon mitigation in agriculture.
  • Kenya’s Agricultural Carbon Project is supported by the World Bank.
  • ‘4 per 1000’ initiative was launched during the COP21 in Paris to enhance carbon sinks.

Opportunities in India

India presents a significant potential for carbon farming due to its large agricultural base and the need for climate-resilient practices.

  • Economic potential: Agro-ecological practices could generate significant value, with an estimated potential of $63 billion from approximately 170 million hectares of arable land.
  • Carbon credit systems: These can provide additional income to farmers through environmental services, with agricultural soils potentially absorbing 3-8 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually over 20-30 years.
  • Regional Suitability: The Indo-Gangetic plains and the Deccan Plateau are favourable for carbon farming, whereas the Himalayan region and coastal areas face specific challenges such as mountainous terrain and salinization, respectively.

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