Carbon Farming

Belgian farmers become carbon farmers together with Lidl

28 April 2022 - Published by Paula Nijman
Lidl starts a consortium with Boerenbond, Boerennatuur Vlaanderen, the Soil Service of Belgium and Rikolto to help Belgian farmers to make the shift to 'carbon farming'. After all, in the fight against climate change, farmers can play an important role by fixing CO2 in the soil. Over the next five years, the organisations will guide fifteen Belgian farmers towards a more sustainable business model. The consortium represents the entire agricultural chain - from field to plate. Through experience in the field and academic research, other farmers can also get inspired in becoming carbon farmers.

In Flanders alone, so-called 'carbon farmers' could store up to 18.3 million tonnes of CO2 under their fields over several years. That corresponds to 13% of the total emissions of the Flemish agricultural sector in the past 20 years. Moreover, this type of restorative agriculture improves soil quality, water management and biodiversity. In time, this will also benefit the harvest.

Together, they will guide fifteen farmers over a period of five years to make carbon storage an essential part of their operational management. The Soil Service of Belgium (BDB) and Boerennatuur Vlaanderen will provide direct guidance to the farmers. The BDB will also monitor its carbon footprint. Rikolto will help look for opportunities to scale up, communicate to the outside world and share the results with its extensive network. As initiator, Lidl has the final responsibility and the supermarket chain will support the project financially.

Besides advising and guiding farmers, the consortium also develops a sustainable business model around carbon farming. After all, by storing carbon in the soil, agriculture can help other companies achieve their climate objectives. Farmers can sell so-called 'carbon credits' to companies that want to reduce CO2 emissions. Boerenbond will take on the concrete elaboration of the business model.

Sonja De Becker, chairman of Boerenbond: "Carbon farming is a win-win for farmer and society. By storing CO2 in their soils as humus, they provide a service. And in the long term, it ensures better soil quality, which in turn benefits the farmer. With our participation in this project, we also want to ensure that farmers receive proper remuneration for their efforts in reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere."

The consortium will select fifteen Belgian farmers to join the project in the coming weeks.  The pilot phase will start in Flanders and will later be extended to Wallonia.