Methane contributes to ozone formation, local air pollution and climate change. It is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. And looking ahead, another red flag needs to be raised: over the next 10 years, methane will potentially become responsible for 50% of global warming1.
Reducing methane emissions is one of our best opportunities to lower world temperatures in the short term. How? Rice production, which emits 12% of anthropogenic methane2, is part of the equation. Solutions to solve it already exist. For instance, sustainable irrigation techniques such as Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) can reduce costs and save money for rice farmers, cut methane emissions by 48% and reduce water use by 30% without reducing yields3. In September 2020, Vietnam committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 9% by 2030 and planned to apply AWD on 500,000 to 1,200,000 ha of rice land.
Will the full support of the Vietnamese government, together with the work of international organisations and NGOs, be enough to make the transition towards sustainable rice a reality in a country with some 7.5 million ha of rice paddies? As the average rice farm in Vietnam is only 0.5 ha and investment capacity is low, financial incentives and training are needed to encourage farmers to adopt more sustainable practices.
Carbon credits were designed to leverage private finance: companies that cannot easily reduce their carbon footprint by changing their production processes can offset their emissions by buying carbon credits, thereby investing in green projects. However, the Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) systems used to account for and value the GHG reduction efforts of farmers (and/or other value chain actors) and generate carbon credits saleable on the markets can be costly and time-consuming.
Led by Carbon Farm and in partnership with IRRI, we're piloting an innovative fully remote MRV system that could reduce the barriers to generating and using carbon credits for Vietnamese farmers.
1. Ocko, et al. (2021), "Acting rapidly to deploy readily available methane mitigation measures by sector can immediately slow global warming."
2. Searchinger, et al. (2014) “Creating a sustainable food future. World resources report”
3. Meryl Richards, et al. (2014) "Alternate wetting and drying in irrigated rice." CSA Practice Brief
Our vision of the world is one where land stewards won’t just be paid for the food they produce, but also for their impact on the environment. Thanks to our BPP partnership, we are piloting this vision at scale with 2,000 rice farmers in Vietnam. I am looking forward to seeing how satellite-verified carbon credits can accelerate the transition to sustainable practices, and lower barriers to access carbon markets worldwide!
Carbon Farm is working with IRRI to develop an innovative MRV solution that combines artificial intelligence and satellite data to remotely monitor practices and quantify the methane emission reductions achieved. This remote sensing approach is estimated to be 20 times cheaper than traditional MRV methods. It reduces monitoring costs, increases transparency and simplifies the whole process. For instance, thanks to this advanced technology, regular satellite images will be used to estimate GHG emissions reductions and allow investors to directly see where and how their dollars are used.
As Rikolto, we will ensure that local networks of farmer cooperatives and other actors in the rice value chain are involved in the project's implementation. We will engage with 2,000 farmers who are ready to embark on this journey on a total field area of 3,000 hectares. Building on our 10 years of experience in promoting inclusive and sustainable rice farming practices, we will organise training on sustainable practices according to the Sustainable Rice Platform standards, and in particular on sustainable irrigation techniques as AWD. IRRI Vietnam will support us with its agronomic expertise. We'll also strive to reach women and youth with our training, creating new employment opportunities and increasing their inclusion in the rice value chain.
The ultimate goal of this pilot is to demonstrate that an economically sustainable and easily scalable model can be built around CarbonFarm's MVR solution, encouraging wider adoption of sustainable practices. We will collect data and illustrate the process to convince other sustainable rice stakeholders in Vietnam, such as rice smallholders, cooperatives, entrepreneurs and NGOs, that selling registry-certified carbon credits in voluntary carbon markets is a new way to invest in their sustainable projects.
Sustainable rice carbon projects have many benefits, for carbon impact and beyond.
The lower cost and complexity of the Carbon Farm model will remove barriers to selling carbon credits. Profits from the sale of 14,000 Verra or Gold Standard accredited carbon credits on voluntary carbon markets, will be used to cover MRV activities, invest in farmer training and the remainder will be paid to farmers.
Vietnam has been at the forefront of sustainable rice innovation for many years. We hope that this innovative model will inspire and be used by other cooperatives and organisations in Vietnam, leading to an increase in the number of rice fields using sustainable practices.
Rikolto will continue to support farmers and cooperatives in adopting the SRP standards, especially the techniques for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We will also work with other stakeholders to expand the carbon credit model, focusing on large-scale impacts and targeting carbon emission reductions.