The German retailer chain Lidl starts a consortium with the organisation of farmers in Flanders and East Belgium, Boerenbond, Boerennatuur Vlaanderen, Bodemkundige Dienst van België and Rikolto to help Belgian farmers make the shift to 'carbon farming'. After all, in the fight against climate change, farmers can play an important role by storing CO2 in their soil.
Over the next five years, the organisations will guide fifteen Belgian farmers towards a more sustainable business model. Through experience in the field and academic research, other farmers can also be put on the road to becoming carbon farmers.
The earth's soil can be the key to combating climate change. The Netflix documentary 'Kiss the Ground' made this clear in 2020. Farmers can be the driving force. By keeping their land covered with plants as much as possible and cultivating the soil as little as possible, greenhouse gases can be removed from the atmosphere. After all, plants take CO2 from the air and store it long-term in the form of humus in the soil and in wood.
"So the potential is great," says Gert Engelen of Rikolto, "but if we want farmers to work with it, we have to make sure they get an attractive price for it. This collaboration aims to find solutions for that."
Farmers can be the driving force. By keeping their land covered with plants as much as possible and cultivating the soil as little as possible, greenhouse gases can be removed from the atmosphere.
In Flanders alone, so-called 'carbon farmers' could store up to 18.3 million tonnes of CO2 under their fields over several years. That corresponds to 13% of the total emissions of the agricultural sector in the past 20 years. "Moreover, this type of restorative agriculture improves soil quality, water management and biodiversity. In time, this will also benefit the harvest," adds Gert Engelen.
To help farmers in their transition to become carbon farmers, Lidl starts a consortium with de Bodemkundige Dienst van België, Rikolto, Boerenbond and Boerennatuur Vlaanderen.
Together they will guide fifteen farmers over five years to make carbon storage an essential part of their operational management. The Bodemkundige Dienst van België (BDB) and Boerennatuur Vlaanderen are responsible for the direct guidance of the farmers.
Together they will guide fifteen farmers over five years to make carbon storage an essential part of their operational management.
The BDB will also monitor their carbon footprint. Rikolto will help look for opportunities to scale up, communicate to the outside world and share the results with its extensive network. As initiator, Lidl has the final responsibility and the supermarket chain will support the project financially.
Lidl is committed to addressing its climate footprint from 'farm to fork'. Research shows that most of the emissions associated with our products occur at the beginning of our chain, in the primary sector. We want to tackle this as a chain and help farmers in the transition, because the costs are short-term, while the benefits will only be felt later. The unique aspect of this cooperation is that with the Soil Research Service of Belgium, Boerenbond, Boerennatuur Vlaanderen, Rikolto and Lidl, the entire chain is represented. In this way, the knowledge we gain through this project is widely disseminated and we can encourage even more farmers to engage in carbon farming.
Boudewijn van den Brand
Besides guiding farmers, the consortium also develops a sustainable earning model around carbon farming. After all, by storing carbon in the soil, agriculture can help other companies achieve their climate objectives. Farmers can sell so-called 'carbon credits' to companies that want to reduce CO2 emissions. Boerenbond will take on the concrete elaboration of the earnings model.
Carbon farming is a win-win for the farmer and society. By storing CO2 in their soils as humus, they provide a service. And in the long term, it ensures better soil quality, which in turn benefits the farmer. With our participation in this project, we also want to make sure that farmers receive proper compensation for their efforts in reducing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
Sonja De Becker
Chairwoman Farmers' Union
In the coming weeks, the consortium will select fifteen Belgian farmers who want to join the project.