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Wild Asia Group Scheme

Smallholder biochar in Malaysia
Wild Asia Group Scheme

Wild Asia Group Scheme (WAGS) BIOchar for Smallholders www.wildasia.org

Low-tech biochar production for smallholders as an opportunity for enhancing livelihood and promoting climate-smart agriculture

Wild Asia, a Malaysian-based social enterprise, created WAGS, or the Wild Asia Group Scheme (WAGS), in 2011 to provide much-needed extension support to independent oil palm smallholder farmers. Today, WAGS BIOchar for Smallholders is part of a mission to demonstrate that improving soil health naturally is not only good for the planet but a means to improve on-farm income for farmers. Over the next 10 years, we hope to show that we can build at least 1 million mt of carbon pools under agriculture. These carbon pools are managed by farmers that understand the value of biodiversity for not just better plant health, but as a means to develop healthier communities.

The Issue

  • Oil palm is the largest and most widely cultivated agricultural crop in Malaysia. It covers almost 20% of the total land area.
  • Oil palm is produced typically in monocultures, with extensive land works, and is dependent on chemical and inorganic fertilizers and agro-chemicals to ensure that oil palms are nourished and fields are managed.
  • Up to 40% of farmers' oil palm income is spent on expensive inorganic inputs and chemicals.
  • We want to show that there are alternatives to conventional oil palm cultivation, one that makes farmers more money, enhances local biodiversity and builds soil organic carbon.
  • These regenerative approaches will ultimately reduce pressure on natural areas, enhance local biodiversity through reduced chemical inputs and promote more diversity on and between farms.

The WAGS solution

You can now support a unique carbon removal project to explore how low-tech methods for smallholders could be supported to encourage the conversion of oil palm agriculture waste into biochar that will be used as natural soil amendments back on their farms. Biochar is a form of charcoal that has been produced in low-oxygen environments and essentially “fixes” the carbon in plant matter into a long-term, stable, form that persists in soils. Natural farmers and increasingly commercial farmers have long known the value of biochar as a soil amendment: improves water retention, assists in acidic soils, encourages soil microbiota, improves plant yields, etc. We anticipate that our BIO farmers will see improvements in yields, the soil conditions they manage will improve and they will see improved farm profitability.

These efforts by smallholder farmers can also have a global impact. We know that for every tonne of biochar that is produced, this has the potential to store at least 2 mt of carbon in our soils. For how long? Our calculations are based on conservative estimates from scientific studies which put it at at least 75-100 years. We do know that the oldest remaining terra preta soils in the Amazonias are over 4,000 years old. For a typical oil palm farmer of 1 ha, they could produce 5 mt biochar annually (equivalent to a carbon pool of 10 mt carbon dioxide equivalent), all this from oil palm fronds that would have been left to rot in the farms and the carbon would have been lost. These calculations are made possible with our technical partners, Ithaka Institute based in Switzerland. They are one of the main contributors behind the European Biochar Certificate (EBC) which sets the standard and methods for biochar production and application that yields a carbon sink (e.g., carbon removal).

Supporting WAGS BIOchar for smallholders with your Carbon Investments

Wild Asia will be offering a limited number of smallholder carbon removal credit certificates to Pond Foundation members. Each credit will support the production of 0.5 tonnes of biochar from on-farm biomass which will be used back on the farms. These carbon sinks are equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2 that have the potential to remain in the soils for at least 75-100 years. Some of the oldest carbon sinks of this kind are called Terra Preta in the Amazons; of what remains some have been dated to be over 4,000 years old.  You can access these credits through our members’ store. Upon purchase of units, you will receive a certificate to verify your R3 action, and you can update your CBS.