The concept of developing a carbon footprint calculator for emerging farmers in the Western Cape is the subject of a Masters research project funded by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WC DoA). The purpose of this tool is to firstly create awareness around climate change and the impact on agriculture, and secondly to prepare emerging farmers for future carbon audits and declarations for formal market access locally and internationally, as well as the national legislation around the proposed carbon tax.
As with the Confronting Climate Change project, this is a first step to collecting data along the agricultural produce value chain for benchmarking in this sector, and to feed in to the proposed National Green House Gas Inventory in order for South Africa to meet international obligations such as targets set under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Blue North Sustainability (Pty) Ltd were requested to assist the student with the development of a data collection tool for mixed small scale farms as we have experience with managing and supporting the Confronting Climate Change (CCC) initiative as well as the development of carbon calculators for fruit exporters and international retailers.
The complexity of the small scale mixed farming carbon data collection tool and calculator is high due to the informality of the sector and the diverse commodities produced. The commodities range from cultivated crops such as grains and fruit to livestock such as sheep and peacocks. The boundaries covered are farm, processing (packhouses and dairies), cold store facilities and distribution to market. An interesting newcomer is a carbon sequestration section which covers farming practices around tillage, composting practices and land use changes.
The development of the carbon data collection tool and database is complete and thereafter the report layout will be finalised. This first phase is in Microsoft Excel format and the reports will be generated manually for each farm. The roll out will first consist of a pilot group of the farms already using the accounting and recording software offered by the WC DoA. These farmers already submit their invoices for purchases and accounts paid to a centralised service which record this data. This data will then also be used to complete the newly developed data collection tool and then generate the carbon footprint reports for each commodity per farm. Depending on available funds, the tool could potentially be rolled out to all interested small scale mixed farms in the Western Cape through information workshops, training and the eventual conversion of the tool from MS Excel format to an online platform as is the case with the Confronting Climate Change initiative.
This carbon calculator will be an extremely valuable tool for emerging farmers going forward to create visibility and start managing input costs, and ensure a smooth passage to securing market access when the need arises.