Gray Maguire speaking at Greenpop's Reforest Fest. Photo by Schalk Hanekom

Welcome to the carbon credit feedback loop

How the Climate Neutral Group is incentivising regenerative farming in Southern Africa

By Skye Ayla Mallac, freelance writer

When you think of greenhouse gas emissions, what springs to mind? Factory chimneys? Backlogged traffic? Few typically think of pastures and farmlands – but the truth is that the largest single sector of greenhouse gas emissions comes from agriculture, forestry and other forms of land use. We could shut off every single internal combustion engine tomorrow and still exceed our carbon budget. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Gray Maguire, who worked for the Western Cape Government as the green economy coordinator for four years before joining the Climate Neutral Group, is looking to address that problem at its source. How can you provide food, fiber and materials for almost 8 billion people while actively reducing the carbon footprint of production and ensuring no one is deprived of access to resources?

Gray Maguire speaks at the GLFx Cape Town Speaker’s Stage at Greenpop’s Reforest Fest

Well, there are several steps to balance the scales. First, increase the level of organic soil carbon. Years of pesticide use, repeated crops and overgrazing have stripped the soil of nutrients. Rebuilding mineral-rich, naturally healthy soil again is paramount. Second, water. When the level of organic soil carbon increases, so does the soil’s ability to retain water. Increased microbial activity basically turns the earth into a sponge, instantly increasing water efficiency on farms. 

The Climate Neutral Group is working with farmers to make the transition toward regenerative practices. The farmers involved in the project make the necessary changes to their practices, and Climate Neutral Group quantifies the reduction in their emissions as a result of the shift. This data generates carbon credits through a third-party carbon certification body, and when the credits are sold, the funds are channeled back to the farms to cover the transitional costs and incentivise further change. 

This creates, essentially, a carbon credit feedback loop that both stems from and economically supports the same farmers. In turn, this helps the industry, the environment and the food security of the country at large. 

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