Out & About in Riebeek West in the Western Cape

Out & About in Riebeek West in the Western Cape

27 May 2023


By Brigette Nagel, Carbon Project Developer


On 27 May, the CNG AgriCarbon team visited one of our farmers, Nickie Serdyn, on two of his farms close to the quaint town of Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape region of South Africa.  Upon meeting Nickie, we were immediately struck by his passion for regenerative agriculture, underpinned by a firm belief that a natural ecosystem has the ability to heal itself if supported rather than overruled by human intervention. 

This concept entails building soil organic carbon by keeping living roots in the soil throughout the year, incorporating livestock, practicing minimal chemical or mechanical soil disturbance, keeping the soil covered and therefore protected from harsh elements like sun and wind, while building plant diversity in the soil. 

Nickie argues that, instead of balancing soil chemistry through synthetic additives, farmers should focus on correcting soil-biology and then allow the soil chemistry to balance itself.  He says that we underestimate the power of micro-organisms, earthworms, insects, and plant extracts to bring about the desired results in cropping systems.  He jokingly adds “A farmer who doesn’t own a microscope is not truly regenerative.” 

During our visit, Nickie explained that weeds and pests actually have a meaningful purpose – to scavenge weak plants, and to spotlight – and repair – areas of disturbance and nutrient depletion in the soil.  Once the soil is healthy, varied and balanced plant growth will occur.  This is observed by the fascinating Brix concept (a measurement of the sugar content in plant sap).  Plants with a Brix score below 7 are susceptible to moulds, algae, and fungi.  On the other hand, plants with a Brix score above 14 will thrive as insects cannot tolerate the high sugar content in the sap.  When asked how to increase plants’ Brix score, Nickie noted: “A healthy microbial community will make all the difference”. 

Like other farmers partnering with CNG, to Nickie this is not just a topic of interest but cuts to the core of farms’ survival in the face of extreme challenges.  In 2017 the Western Cape was hit by the worst drought in 100 years.  This forced him to discontinue his dairy herd and rely solely on crop-based farming.  Thankfully, one of the benefits of regenerative farming is resilient crops that are better geared to weather the storms faced by farmers. 

We left there inspired and acutely aware that the regenerative agriculture journey is much more than an occupation to our farmers.  Rather, it is a passion that impacts every part of their daily lives.  Their motivation, reaching far beyond meeting financial targets, stems from a deep respect and appreciation for nature and a drive to restore ecosystems to function as they’re intended to – in perfect harmony and balance.  We are proud to support farmers like Nickie, and to scale their impact and commitment to the benefit of consumers, communities, and our planet. 

Climate-smart agriculture, nature-based solutions, and agroecology

Climate-smart agriculture, nature-based solutions, and agroecology

[Photo credit: Grant Little – Senior Carbon Project Developer]


Thursday, 7 July 2023

What do these mean practically for farmers?

By Dr. Jackie Raw, Carbon Project Developer


Including the agricultural sector in climate change actions and policy has become increasingly more important over the past decade. Agriculture was first brought into international climate discussions at the 17th Conference of the Parties – COP of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which was held in Durban, South Africa in 2011. Since then, several concepts have been used to integrate agriculture into climate change actions for both mitigation and adaptation. These include climate-smart agriculture, nature-based solutions, and agroecology. But what are the main differences between these concepts (are they just buzzwords?), and how do they translate into farm-level practices?

Agricultural systems are uniquely (and perhaps precariously) positioned when it comes to climate change. Production demands are expected to continue to increase with an continuously growing global population, but it is estimated that over 50% of global agricultural land is in a degraded state1. In South Africa, the most significant climate change risk to agriculture is related to the increased severity and frequency of droughts. This will be especially detrimental for crops and livestock that are currently being produced in areas where conditions are already close to temperature and water availability thresholds2. Despite this, agricultural systems also provide opportunities for mitigating and adapting to climate change as described by three main concepts (see Box 1).

Box 1. Concepts relating agricultural systems to climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. Definitions as per the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations

Agroecology – a holistic and integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems. It seeks to optimise the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while also addressing the need for socially equitable food systems within which people can exercise choice over what they eat and how and where it is produced.

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) – an approach that helps guide actions to transform agri-food systems towards green and climate resilient practices. CSA supports reaching internationally agreed goals such as the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. It aims to tackle three main objectives: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible.

Nature-Based Solutions (NbS) for Agriculture – these encompass a broad range of practices that can be deployed directly in the context of the production of food and fibre, either by agricultural practitioners or on lands or waters used for production. Many of these practices align with an emerging field of practice called regenerative agriculture.

While agroecology, climate-smart agriculture, and nature-based solutions share some similarities as approaches to guide agriculture under climate change, there are also some key differences.

Agroecology was developed as a concept with a scientific basis in both agronomy and ecology3 and it places emphasis on developing practices to achieve agricultural sustainability. Agroecology has also developed as a social movement to support small-scale farming systems that apply indigenous knowledge to protect soil resources, improve nutrient cycles, protect biodiversity, and promote social well-being in rural communities4. This is in contrast to agronomic models that propose high-input technology-based solutions and industrialised practices that are resource-intensive and considered environmentally destructive.

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as a concept aims to combine objectives for food security, sustainable development and greenhouse gas reductions. CSA endorses agro-industrial production methods if they can prove to be ecologically supportive i.e. soil conservation techniques5. The approach does not consider social or environmental impacts per se and this was a major source of criticism when the concept was initially promoted by the FAO. Since then there has been a general movement for CSA to include principles from agroecology6,7. While CSA tends to focus on policies, agroecology is strongly based on local farming practices that support agriculture as a socio-ecological system.

A socio-ecological framework for agriculture8 with arrows indicating the direction of influence of each component on the others. All components exist within the natural environment, therefore activities need to ensure ecological processes can support productive and sustainable agriculture.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) is the most recently developed concept and is used as an umbrella term for actions that involve restoring and enhancing nature to address societal challenges9. NbS for agriculture include practices and principles to manage farms for both ecological and human well-being10. Specific management and conservation actions that reduce GHG emissions and enhance the potential for carbon storage are considered natural climate solutions under NbS. Similar to agroecology, NbS for agriculture are focused on enhancing natural processes, including through application of indigenous knowledge10, to support agricultural productivity while ensuring sustainability1. NbS options include incorporating trees into croplands, ensuring optimal grazing intensity of livestock, and adapting fertiliser and irrigation practices to be less intensive. Besides avoiding carbon emissions and enhancing soil carbon, these approaches also deliver ‘co-benefits’ linked to ecosystem services from the agroecosystem (i.e. water availability, habitat and biodiversity support)1.

At the scale of individual farms and farming systems, certain agricultural practices may be aligned to multiple concepts. For example, crop diversification, planting drought-tolerant varieties, changing planting dates, and planting early maturing crops are dominant strategies applied by farmers in Africa in response to climate change11. Crop diversification is aligned with agroecology, while planting drought-tolerant varieties and changing planting dates are components of CSA. Similarly, communal and smallholder livestock farmers in South Africa have been participating in these recently defined climate-adaptive approaches for generations through targeting indigenous breeds that are inherently more resilient to climate change and have less environmental impact12.

Regardless of the alignment to different concepts, the challenge remains to transform the agricultural sector to be resilient under climate change and furthermore to provide opportunities for mitigation. At national scale, the strategic plan for the Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector includes advocating for the implementation of minimum- and no-tillage to expand conservation agriculture to ~ 6 million hectares13. The intent for this is to reduce soil disturbance and therefore enhance soil carbon stocks. Individual farmers also have a role to play and together can make significant contributions through applying a range of additional improved land management practices while still maintaining productivity14.


  1. Iseman, T. & Miralles-Wilhelm, F. Nature-based solutions in agriculture – The case and pathway for adoption. 53 https://doi.org/10.4060/cb3141en (2021).
  2. Engelbrecht, F. A. & Monteiro, P. M. S. The IPCC Assessment Report Six Working Group 1 report and southern Africa: Reasons to take action. South African Journal of Science 117, 1–7 (2021).
  3. Altieri, M. A. Agroecology: A new research and development paradigm for world agriculture. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 27, 37–46 (1989).
  4. Valenzuela, H. Agroecology: A Global Paradigm to Challenge Mainstream Industrial Agriculture. Horticulturae 2, 2 (2016).
  5. Hrabanski, M. & Le Coq, J. F. Climatisation of agricultural issues in the international agenda through three competing epistemic communities: Climate-smart agriculture, agroecology, and nature-based solutions. Environmental Science & Policy 127, 311–320 (2022).
  6. Saj, S., Torquebiau, E., Hainzelin, E., Pages, J. & Maraux, F. The way forward: An agroecological perspective for Climate-Smart Agriculture. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 250, 20–24 (2017).
  7. Akamani, K. An Ecosystem-Based Approach to Climate-Smart Agriculture with Some Considerations for Social Equity. Agronomy 11, 1564 (2021).
  8. Norton, L. R. Is it time for a socio-ecological revolution in agriculture? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 235, 13–16 (2016).
  9. Seddon, N. et al. Understanding the value and limits of nature-based solutions to climate change and other global challenges. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 375, 20190120 (2020).
  10. Wynberg, R. et al. Nature-Based Solutions and Agroecology: Business as Usual or an Opportunity for Transformative Change? Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 65, 15–22 (2023).
  11. Magesa, B. A. et al. Understanding the farmers’ choices and adoption of adaptation strategies, and plans to climate change impact in Africa: A systematic review. Climate Services 30, 100362 (2023).
  12. Molieleng, L., Fourie, P. & Nwafor, I. Adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture by Communal Livestock Farmers in South Africa. Sustainability 13, 10468 (2021).
  13. DFFE. Department of Environment, Forestry, Fisheries 2019/20 – 2023/24 Strategic Plan and 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan. https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/docs/strategicplan202021to202324.pdf (2020).
  14. Okolie, C. C., Danso-Abbeam, G., Groupson-Paul, O. & Ogundeji, A. A. Climate-Smart Agriculture Amidst Climate Change to Enhance Agricultural Production: A Bibliometric Analysis. Land 12, 50 (2023).
SCS validation for AgriCarbon 1 (PD 2554)

SCS validation for AgriCarbon 1 (PD 2554)

25 May 2023


Kingfisher birds are beloved around the world, with more than 90 species occupying a wide variety of habitats. 
They are recognised by their large heads and long beaks, and known for their keen vision, colourful plumage, and skilful hunting. Kingfishers are widely recognised as indicators of environmental health. By the same token, they are vulnerable when their habitats are destroyed. Some species are now threatened with extinction. 
SCS Global Services (SCS) has been providing global leadership in third-party quality, environmental and sustainability verification, auditing, testing, and standards development for three decades. Its programs span a cross-section of industries, recognising achievements in green building, product manufacturing, food and agriculture, forestry, power generation retail, and more. 
SCS is accredited to provide services under a wide range of nationally and internationally recognised certification programs. Consistent with its mission, SCS is a chartered benefit corporation, reflecting its commitment to socially and environmentally responsible practices. 
Certification by SCS, as represented by the SCS Kingfisher, is a visual expression of proven commitment to sustainability through environmental stewardship, responsible resource management, and protection of people and communities. 
AgriCarbon 1 (PD 2554) is proud to announce that it is now eligible to use the Certification SCS Kingfisher Mark B for Carbon Offset Project. 
Validation of carbon offset project plans, and verification of the actual carbon tonnage avoided or sequestered by these projects, confirms the accuracy of greenhouse gas (GHG) avoidance or sequestration claims. Carbon credits derived from offset projects can be traded on international carbon markets. 


Landbouweekblad Herlewingslandboukonferensies 2023

Landbouweekblad Herlewingslandboukonferensies 2023

Deur Dr Stephano Haarhoff


Dit was weereens tyd vir die gewilde Landbouweekblad Herlewingslandboukonferensies op Reitz en Ottosdal. Soos altyd was die hoof tema om boere te voorsien van nuwe grond-, gewas- en veebestuursbenaderings, wat hulle in staat sal stel om meer klimaat-slim en ekonomies volhoubaar te boer oor die langtermyn. Hierdie tema stem ooreen met Climate Neutral Group (CNG) se AgriCarbon program, wat daarop gemik is om boere te beloon vir die toepassing van herlewingslandboupraktyke.

Die hoof boodskap van beide plaaslike en internasionale gassprekers was om eerder op wins te fokus as opbrengs. Opbrengs-gedrewe boerderystelsels vereis duur eksterne insette wat die boer blootstel aan hoë ekonomiese verliese indien swak weerstoestande voorkom. Rick Clark, ‘n suksesvolle herlewingslandbou boer van die VSA, meen die gebruik van grondbiologie om grondgesondheid op te bou is die basis van ‘n wins-gedrewe boerdery. Ander groot dryfvere is die insluiting van vee- en gewasdiversifikasie om voedingstofsiklusse te verbeter en grondkoolstof te verhoog.

Voorleggings was beklemtoon deur veldbesoeke waar konferensiegangers kon sien hoe dekgewas- en ultra-hoëdigtheid beweidingspraktyke werk. Grondverdigting en ongebalanseerde pH-vlakke was bespreek, asook hoe ‘n boer hierdie struikelblokke kan aanpak tydens die oorgang van konvensionele na herlewingslandboupraktyke.

As ‘n beduidende rolspeler om die toepassing van herlewingslandbou te bevorder, word die AgriCarbon program belyn met boere om hulle by te staan met die uitdagings in hulle pad. Die AgriCarbon span verskaf professionele leiding aan boere rakende koolstofkrediete en gepaardgaande herlewingslandboupraktyke, en bevorder sodoende ‘n verskuiwing na volhoubare voedselproduksiepraktyke regoor Suid-Afrika. Die AgriCarbon-span was bly om by die konferensies verteenwoordig te word deur Dr Stephano Haarhoff, die AgriCarbon program landboukundige. Dr Haarhoff se werk het voorheen gefokus op geenbewerking- en herlewingslandboustelsels. Hierdie vorige werk het hom met insigte verskaf oor die voordele en uitdagings verbonde aan herlewingslandbou, hoe om dit te oorkom. Dr Haarhoff speel ‘n belangrike rol in die ondersteuning van boere tydens hul oorgang van konvensionele na herlewingslandbou. By die twee boeredae kon hy netwerk en herlewingslandbou met boere en ander industrie rolspelers bespreek om verdere insigte te kry oor die daaglikse uitdagings waarmee boere worstel en hoe om dit in die AgriCarbon program in te bou.

Die bereidwilligheid van die boere om nuwe kennis te leer en uitdagings te oorkom was opwindend om te aanskou. Dit was duidelik dat ons boere voedselsekerheid wil waarborg deur volhoubare boerderystelsels te gebruik: gesonde grond verseker gesonde Suid-Afrikaners.



A New Harvest is Coming: Explore our latest news on Regenerative Agriculture

A New Harvest is Coming: Explore our latest news on Regenerative Agriculture

By Franz Rentel, Country Director South Africa


It has been exactly two years since we launched AgriCarbon in March 2021 in what has been an intense and exhilarating ride. We started this journey to harness the power of nature to remove carbon from the atmosphere by rewarding farmers to build healthy soils and thereby produce the most scientifically rigorous agricultural carbon credits possible. This presents an exciting opportunity for farmers to lead the way in tackling the enormous challenge climate change presents while at the same time accessing a new revenue stream.

During the past two years we have had to adapt, grow and overcome real adversity while slowly but surely building on our incremental wins. Were it not for the continuous faith and support of our farmers, partners and investors, we would be nowhere near to where we are today: +150,000 hectares and +100 farmers enrolled into the programme, with our first carbon payments to farmers expected later this year.

The issuance of nearly 185,000 high quality soil carbon credits in a few months will likely be the first of its kind to be issued by the Verra Carbon Standard, the biggest carbon certifier globally. This “new harvest” of soil credits is unique:

  • The scientific rigor that underpins them,
  • The independent validation & verification achieved,
  • The quality standards and the integrity behind the process.

Climate change is the biggest challenge humanity faces today. The science around climate change is clear. The recently released IPCC 6th assessment report highlights that we need to improve agricultural practices and also that carbon removals are essential to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

But there are solutions here and now. Soil is one of the largest carbon sinks we have. By adopting sustainable agricultural practices, combined with cutting edge science and technology, farmers can play an essential role in capturing and storing carbon in healthy soils.

Our vision for AgriCarbon is to continue to push the boundaries for quality and integrity, which earns the trust of farmers and trust of the credit buyers within the carbon markets. This means going above and beyond the requirements of the Verra methodologies that ensure the essential components such as additionality, permanence, and risks and uncertainty determination. This will be supported by the highest scientific rigor, and a robust soil sampling and measurement protocol.

Going into the future we’ll be focusing on adding more farmers to our AgriCarbon community and providing additional value-add services, such as deeper insights into farming practises vs carbon yields, farm mapping, carbon footprinting, and other products and services. Another exciting development is that AgriCarbon is spreading across the globe: our journey has already begun in several countries in South America, and we have our sights firmly set on expanding into Africa.

We are excited for the journey that lies ahead. Join us as we unite in the vision that agriculture can offer an immediate, scalable and affordable solution to the climate crisis.

Click the links to read this Quarter’s newsletter stories:


Should you have any questions or wish to be added to the AgriCarbon newsletter mailing list, please complete our contact form by clicking Get in Touch or email us at info@agricarbon.co.za.

AgriCarbon enrolment window 2 expands carbon farming into new frontiers

AgriCarbon enrolment window 2 expands carbon farming into new frontiers

In our second sign-up window, we have 75 new farmers enrolled in the programme who have brought on 316 farms, which covers 123 000 hectares of new farmland entered into the programme, with nearly 7500 paddocks enrolled. The data integration for this amount of land is an enormous task as our farmer support team needs to work with each farmer to capture input data for each paddock which amounts to over 800 000 data points 

Where the first enrolment round of the programme exclusively focused on the dairy sector, CNG has subsequently been able to expand the programme to incorporate a range of new high-impact sectors. The programme has prioritized crop and livestock sectors where we know that the implementation of improved land management activities has maximum potential to re-build soils and capture carbon. These priority sectors include maize, wheat, soybeans, oats, sunflower, beef, dairy and pastures. We have however included in a number of other sectors in both cropping and livestock sectors and are gathering baseline data for the inclusion of new sectors in the build-up to our 3rd enrolment round later in 2023. 

These new farms outside the dairy sector that were enrolled in round 2 of the programme are more widely spread across the country which, based on our learnings from sign-up window 1, will likely mean a more complex and lengthy audit process, despite all of our learnings from the first enrolment round of the programme.  As a result, we have adapted our timelines and are working to complete the validation and verification report by the end of 2023 with the end goal of a carbon issuance in quarter 2 of 2024. The project can be accessed here on the Verra registry.