Rabobank to announce initiative to tackle global CO2 challenge while enhancing farmers’ businesses

New tech-driven solution for carbon sequestration expected to launch in 2022

Utrecht, January 29th – Today Rabobank launches an agroforestry initiative aimed at sequestering CO2 while enhancing smallholder farmer practices in developing countries. This online platform connects large corporates looking to offset their emissions with smallholder farmers who are sequestering carbon through agroforestry. The initiative also helps farmers improve their business model by transforming monoculture farming into future-proof agriculture.

This initiative connects farmers to corporations to match supply and demand of sequestered CO2. By planting trees on their land, farmers in developing countries can offer the CO2 sequestered by their trees to large corporates on a platform developed by Rabobank in cooperation with Microsoft. Companies can purchase the sequestered CO2 to offset their own emissions. The initiative was founded on Rabobank’s roots in agriculture and Microsoft’s roots in technology, with plans to integrate remote sensing, AI and Machine Learning. The goal is to create a global and transparent platform to empower farmers while building a scalable climate change solution. The platform is expected to launch in 2022.

What is unique, is that the CO2 has already been absorbed, the trees have split the carbon (C) from the oxygen (02) and converted the carbon into growth of their biomass. Companies specialized in remote sensing technologies measure the delta in biomass in the past year, creating transparency on how much carbon is sequestered. For participating farmers, their business model improves on several fronts: by planting trees next to their crops such as mango, avocado and acacia, they apply a more resilient farming method improving soil nutrients and water levels, with less risk of yield loss due to climate and weather events.

In a pilot phase in sub-Saharan Africa, hundreds of smallholder farmers have planted more than 50,000 trees in the past year with the cooperation of Rabobank. As of 2025, this agroforestry project aspires to sequester 150 Mt of CO2 emissions annually. By then, 15 million farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are targeted to be enrolled in the project, amounting in an area of agroforestry three times the size of the Netherlands. Participating farmers come from the network of Rabo Foundation, which is affiliated with various African smallholder farmer cooperatives. Additionally, Rabobank can provide pre-financing for the planting of trees. Farmers will already benefit by selling sequestered CO2 as the trees are not yet producing fruit.

“In order to reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, it is essential that businesses operate in a more sustainable way to reduce carbon emissions to zero,” said Wiebe Draijer, Chairman of the Managing Board at Rabobank. “This has to be done as quickly as possible. Every sector, every company and every individual has a role to play. Still, every gram of emissions until the zero emission objective of 2050 is reached, has a negative effect on climate and biodiversity. We need negative emission/carbon dioxide ‘removal.’ The agroforestry initiative curbs climate change, as compensation for emissions that cannot currently be avoided. The beauty of this project lies in linking it to climate-proofing and future-proofing the food system, truly connecting the dots for us as a cooperative bank in Food and Agriculture.”

Follow-up process

Following this pilot phase, the next steps in the partnership with Microsoft will be scaling up the number of involved agroforestry projects and engaging certifiers. New parties can make use of this compensation option starting in 2022. Purchased compensation is not tradable.

Published: January 29 2021, 08:00 CET

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