Do improved farming actions boost carbon levels in soils?
Dr. Sara Namirembe recently did an exchange in the AgriFoSe2030 programme, working on soil organic carbon levels in croplands in East Africa.
Sara is originally from Uganda but did her PhD in Forestry and Agricultural Sciences at Bangor University in UK. Currently she is the Executive Director of STEPUP Standard Limited, a company that seeks to mentor young people in environmental science through practical attachment with various institutions in Uganda.
Sara previously worked with World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) on Payments for Ecosystem Services and Climate Change (2010-2016). Before that Sara was lecturing at Makerere University and as a development worker promoting participatory forest management with various development organisations.
What have you been doing during your visit in Sweden and in the AgriFoSe2030 programme?
I am currently conducting a literature review on soil organic carbon levels in croplands in East Africa in response to land use change or agronomic management. The review seeks to bring together evidence of the feasibility of mitigating climate change through agricultural soil organic carbon sequestration in order to inform policy decisions in East Africa. At SLU, I accessed information from data bases, discussed the research progress with various scientists and I have also visited the experimental farm at Lanna.
Together with the research team in AgriFoSe2030 we plan to publish a journal article as well as a policy brief from the findings. We have also presented preliminary findings as posters at the Soil Organic Matter Symposium in the UK. I expect to interact with fellow researchers and contribute to any follow on actions to influence decision-makers with the findings.
What are your expectations of what the programme will be working on? What do you think makes the programme important, and why and to whom does it matter?
I hope to learn new information on the global “4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate” and contribute to the evidence that informs its feasibility in East Africa. The 4/1000 Initiative is an agreement, signed at COP 21 in Paris, where parties (countries, regions, private sector, NGOs, international agencies) committed to voluntarily a) implement farming actions that maintain and enhance soil carbon stocks in agricultural soils and (b) preserve carbon-rich soils. My research seeks to inform the first by generating evidence around farm actions’ potential to improve soil carbon. I particularly focus on smallholder farmers. The information matters to policy-makers by demonstrating what can be realistically expected from farm practices to achieve climate mitigation goals and at the same time ensure food security and sustainable land management.
Tell us one thing that you are passionate about!
Smallholder farmers in Africa, who contribute to most of the food production on the continent, do not seem to be profiting from farming judging from their poor living conditions. I would like to see smallholders benefiting from technologies and approaches that increase food production and conserve natural ecosystems. By working together in functional cooperatives farmers have a stronger voice in advocating for policy support as well as in marketing their products.
Interview by Anneli Sundin, AgriFoSe2030 Communication and Engagement.
Read about Sara’s colleague Bezaye Tessema who also recently did a visit to Sweden and met with AgriFoSe2030 researchers: http://www.slu.se/en/ew-news/2017/9/bezaye-tessema/