Paying Farmers for Environmental Services

    | April 27, 2009

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    Communities depend on the environment for energy, food, medicine, and a variety of other basic needs. In short, the environment makes life possible. Quality of life as well as the simple ability to sustain life are both strongly linked to how communities and individuals interact with the world around them. This week’s script offers a first look at Farm Radio International Script Package 87, which focuses on ways that communities can live and grow in harmony with their surrounding environment. Topics range from renewable energy to sustainable interactions with wildlife, along with scripts on the general theme of protecting the environment.

    This week’s script of the week examines a partnership between a number of organizations, including the World Agroforestry Centre, Harvard University, and the government of Malawi, to grow trees for carbon storage. Farmers benefit by harvesting timber and firewood, and are paid to compensate for lost income from crop production. The script is based on interviews with farmers involved in the project as well project managers.

    This script, along with the seven others in package 87 has been mailed to Farm Radio International’s partners and will be available on the Farm Radio website in the coming weeks.

    Notes to broadcaster

    Land is a resource farmers need to invest in. The benefits come after a certain period of time, depending on the type of crop planted, and how long it takes to mature. In this script, farmers will learn how the World Agroforestry Centre, the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University in the United States, and the Government of Malawi’s Forestry Department are training farmers to invest in their land by growing trees which will store carbon, as well as providing the farmers with timber and firewood. The timber and firewood benefits come only after a number of years. Since the farmers will not personally benefit for some years, the trainers pay them a certain amount of money for this use of their land, and for their labour and proper management of the trees. The amount of the first payment will depend on the number of trees planted, while subsequent payments will depend on the number of trees that survive.

    There will be an assessment at the end of the 3-year project to find out if the payments made any impact on farming practices, and how farmers used the money. The collaborating institutions will also find out if there are farmers who dropped out of the project before it came to an end. What were their problems? They will look at the characteristics of farmers who dropped out of the project and of those who managed their trees well. They will find out if women are better managers of trees than men. They will find out whether households with more members managed their trees better than those with fewer members, and if this tree planting affects the farmers’ maize production?

    This script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
    Host: Hello everyone. Today you will hear how a partnership between the World Agroforestry Centre or ICRAF, the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University in the United States, and the Government of Malawi is teaching Malawian farmers the importance of dedicating a piece of land to tree planting for carbon sequestration or storage, and for timber and firewood. In this project, farmers will be paid for dedicating a piece of their land, and for their time and energy. For the remainder of this program, I will refer to the project partners as ICRAF and its collaborators. Stay tuned. I am your host, Andrew Mahiyu.

    Music for 10 seconds and fade

    Host: I am speaking with Dr. Oluyede Ajayi, ICRAF’s Senior Scientist in Malawi. Dr. Ajayi, we have heard that ICRAF and its collaborators are running a project in Ntchisi, a town in central Malawi. Can you tell us what the project is all about?

    Oluyede Ajayi: ICRAF has been working in Malawi for about a decade. We use trees for various purposes. We have trees that can fix nitrogen or fertilizer trees; we have fodder trees, trees that farmers plant and feed to their animals; and we have fuel wood trees, trees that farmers can plant, and after three to four years they can be used as timber or firewood. Instead of destroying the forest, people then have their own trees for firewood. ICRAF has developed all these technologies over a number of years. We now feel that there is a potential for farmers to also take advantage of the new phenomena of planting trees so they can sequester carbon. When I say that they “sequester” carbon, it simply means that the trees store carbon. By sequestering carbon, trees remove carbon from the atmosphere. Removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in trees reduces global warming, which is a global benefit. Farmers will plant M’bawa trees (Khaya nyasica) on a piece of land, and they will be paid a certain amount of money for their energy, land and time. M’bawa is an indigenous tree, native to the area, and it produces valuable timber after a number of years.

    Host: On whose land is this project being tried?

    Oluyede Ajayi: It is actually the farmers’ own land. We explained the project to the farmers, and we work with the forestry and agriculture officers in the district, and the Director of Agricultural Extension Services headquarters. We also linked up with the Directors of the Forestry Department at their headquarters.

    After we explained the project to farmers, we said we wanted farmers who might be interested. There were many farmers who showed interest. We explained to them what we wanted them to do, and told them that we could not take all of them. We used a fair sampling process and signed contracts with 176 farmers. We wanted farmers who had at least half an acre of land to devote to this project.

    Host: So, once you had chosen the farmers, what is it that these farmers had to do?

    Oluyede Ajayi: We provided them with seedlings and gave them the necessary training through the District Forestry Officers and the District Agricultural Training Officers. They were asked to plant these trees and take care of them. In return, they will be paid the amount of money that we agreed on every year. In the first year, farmers will be paid the full amount agreed in the contract, and in the second and third years they will be paid based on the proportion of trees that survive in their field.

    Host: So these farmers will not be paid every month. Is that correct?

    Oluyede Ajayi: That’s correct. Payment will be made four times. After the first six months, farmers will be paid the full amount agreed in the contract. After the second six months, they will be paid based on the survival of the trees on their plots. So, within the first year they will be paid twice, in the second year once, and the third year once.

    Host: Can you tell us the amount of money one farmer will be paid?

    Oluyede Ajayi: We will pay them up to 12,000 Malawian kwacha (Editor’s note: US $85 or 66 Euros) for the full contract, so 3,000 during each of the four periods. The first payment happens after six months. How much we pay after a year will depend on the rate of survival of the trees.

    Host: It sounds as if the farmers are the ones who are going to benefit from the project. Why then are you paying them when you know the trees will belong to them?

    Oluyede Ajayi: I will explain. Let us take maize as an example. If farmers plant maize today, after four to five months they can see the benefits of maize; they can sell the maize and enjoy the benefits. But when farmers invest their money in planting trees, and in managing the trees, it costs them money but the benefits come only after 15-20 years, when the trees mature into timber. So we are trying to bridge that gap. We train them and give them some money for dedicating their land and labour. In the long run, they will learn to appreciate the importance of investing in projects like this one. After year three, year four, and year five, the cost of managing these trees will go down, but initially the cost of managing these trees is higher.

    The benefit will go to every individual farmer who participates. Any trees that survive will go back to the farmers, who will use them for timber. After the project is finished, we will evaluate it. We will look at the impact of the payments made to the farmers, and how they used the money they were paid for managing the trees. We will also find out if there are farmers who dropped out of the project before it came to an end. What were their problems? Are there certain characteristics of farmers who dropped out of the project? Are there characteristics of farmers who managed the trees well? Did women manage the trees better than men? Do households with more members manage the trees better than those with fewer members? Those are the kinds of questions which we are going to answer at the end of the project. We will collaborate with our partners from the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University in the United States to evaluate the project. But, for now, our interest is in training the farmers to manage trees, and making sure that they know they own the trees. It’s their land, and the trees are theirs.

    Host: Have you tried this project elsewhere? If so, how has it worked?

    Oluyede Ajayi: We tried it in Asia, in Vietnam, and it worked very well. By planting and managing trees, farmers are providing services to the global community. Apart from providing timber for farmers, trees provide other services like absorbing or sequestering carbon. This carbon sequestration doesn’t only benefit the farmers; it is a benefit to the global community, the whole world. So you can see this project as a way for the global community to give some kind of reward or compensation for all the efforts farmers are making.

    Host: What did you learn from working on tree projects in Malawi?

    Oluyede Ajayi: We found that the first three years, when the trees are still young, are the most critical, and that’s when farmers need the greatest assistance. That is the time when farmers need to put more money into managing the trees, fertilizing them, and watering them if there is little or no rain. But after four or five years, the trees will have strong roots, and the amount of resources needed to manage the trees will be reduced. At that time, the trees will be fully formed and have some access to carbon in the atmosphere.

    Host: Why are you so concerned about carbon?

    Oluyede Ajayi: Everyone should be concerned about carbon, because the increasing amount of carbon in the atmosphere is what is causing climate change. Climate change is a big issue worldwide, not only in developing countries but also in developed countries. Africa and the developing world will be the most affected by climate change. So it is in the interest of everyone to do what they can to adapt to the changing conditions caused by climate change, as well as trying to reduce or mitigate climate change. This project is one way to reduce climate change.

    Host: (Pause, then speaking to the audience) I visited the Agricultural office where the project is taking place, and met with Andrew Msosa, who is the Land Resource Conservation Officer in Ntchisi district.

    Andrew Msosa: It’s true that we have this project in Ntchisi. The project will run for four years. Farmers will plant M’bawa trees to sequester carbon. They have welcomed the project, because of the benefits that they will get. More fertile soils will improve food security and provide timber as well as sequester carbon.

    Host: I understand that farmers will be paid after six months, and every year thereafter. Is this true?

    Andrew Msosa: Yes, this is quite true. We need to understand that land is a valuable resource. If a farmer sacrifices a piece of land to grow trees, that land will not be used for annual crops for the next fifteen to twenty years. Because the farmer will not get anything from that land for a long period of time, it may be counted as a loss to their farming business. So we will be paying farmers to encourage them to make the choice to grow trees.

    Host: (Pause, and then speaking to the audience) Michael Saulosi Kankondo is a farmer who is participating in the project and is happy to have received tree seedlings. (Speaking to Mr. Kankondo) Mr. Kankondo, tell us how you came to receive these tree seedlings. How did it start?

    Michael Saulosi Kankondo: We were told that ICRAF would give us M’bawa trees. We have received them wholeheartedly. We know our children will benefit from these trees. Everybody was told to set aside part of his or her land to plant these trees. In the long run, we will have nowhere to get timber or firewood if we don’t plant trees now.

    We also heard that there is air pollution as a result of factory work and other substances that release carbon fumes. These have a negative impact on the climate. I did not know this before. It scared me a lot. We are told that if these trees grow ? and as you know M’bawa trees grow very tall ? they will be removing carbon from the air, for our own health, and that is very good.

    Host: I have heard that farmers participating in this project will be paid for the work. Why is it like that?

    Michael Saulosi Kankondo: Indeed, I heard them saying that everybody who takes care of his or her trees will receive something. This is not different from what happens in a classroom. When a child does well in a certain subject, that child is applauded. But as for me, I am extra happy that I have found gold that will assist my children in the future. Of course they will give me money, but having an acre of trees these days is no joke. In this village, or the village next to us, how many farmers have an acre of M’bawa trees? None. That is why I am saying this is my gold. I am assuring ICRAF and its collaborators that we, as a family, will put much effort into the project, to make sure that most of the trees survive, not for the prize, but for my children. The prize comes second. I am targeting 100% survival. I am only praying for good rains.

    Host: How do you plan to use the first payment?

    Michael Saulosi Kankondo: The first thing I will do is assist my children with school necessities like notebooks, pencils, soap, skin oil, and other small things needed for them to go to school happily. If the money is enough to buy a goat, I will definitely do that.

    Host: What will you do if your trees are not growing well after all your efforts?

    Michael Saulosi Kankondo: We have advisers from the Department of Forestry, and from Agriculture extension, and they will definitely assist us. Since this is my first time growing M’bawa trees, at every stage of operations I will not be doing it alone. I will be requesting help from extension staff.

    Musical break

    Host: One of the villages where this project is taking place is headed by a woman, Chinkhota. She is also one of the beneficiaries of the project. Chinkhota starts by saluting ICRAF and its collaborators for the gift of trees.

    V.H. Chinkhota: We are happy to have this project running in our village. We were given 50 seedlings of M’bawa trees each. With this, we know we will be self-reliant for timber and firewood in the future.

    Host: You are the head of this village, and in that capacity you are supposed to influence development. What role will you have in this project?

    V.H. Chinkhota: I started playing my role the day they briefed us about the project. I mobilized people to take this seriously. I asked them to identify part of their fields and dig planting holes. They responded positively. And I will not rest; I will be monitoring every stage of the management of these trees.
    Host: I understand you will be paid at certain stages of the project. What if another project comes next time, but without any money attached to it ? are you going to welcome the project?

    V.H. Chinkhota: Yes, as a leader I am supposed to explain to my people the benefits of the project. In this village, we mould bricks for schools, hospitals, and other structures, but we do not receive anything. We know that this is for our development. Why should we deny development?

    Host: (Speaking to audience) Village headwoman Chinkhota says that she will make sure that any development project will be welcome in her area, even if people are not paid for it. Farmers in her area will know how to invest in tree planting and management, and with patience they will benefit after 15 to 20 years, at the same time that the trees are doing the work for the whole world of sequestering carbon to reduce climate change.

    This is all I have for you today. Till next time, good bye.

    Contributed by: Andrew Mahiyu, National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
    Reviewed by: Oluyede Ajayi of ICRAF Malawi and Kelsey Jack of Harvard University.

    Special thanks to Oluyede Ajayi of ICRAF Malawi, Kelsey Jack of Harvard University, Andrew Msosa from the Ministry of Agriculture, based in Ntchisi district, Dr. Brent Swallow of ICRAF Nairobi, and Dr. Festus Akinnifesi of ICRAF in Malawi.

    The financial grant provided by the European Union, the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University in United Sates, and Irish Aid to support some of the activities of the project in Ntchisi and Malawi is gratefully acknowledged.

    Common names for Khaya nyasica include:
    Bemba: mululu, mushikishichulu
    Chichewa: M’bawa
    English: African mahogany, East African mahogany, Mozambique mahogany, Nyasaland mahogany, red mahogany
    Français: acajou africain, acajou d’Afrique, acajou de Côte d’Ivoire, acajou du Mozambique
    Hausa: madachi
    Igbo: ono
    Kiswahili: mkangazi
    Mozambique: umbaua, mbaua
    Nyanja: mbawa, mlulu
    Yoruba: oganwo

    Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)