Determine if it is feasible to measure and verify the carbon emission mitigation levels on fields of no-burn rice farming practice adopters in Myanmar.

Photo courtesy Proximity Designs

Member: Proximity Designs

Project Location: Delta agro-ecological region in Lower Myanmar 

Size: 2,500 farmers who own and manage more than 5,000 hectares of rice-growing land

Type of intervention: Sustainable agriculture; rice cultivation

Proximity Design has developed a no-burn straw farming crop residue management solution that meets the needs of farmers to quickly deal with rice crop residues, negating the need to deploy traditional burning methods and promoting soil health and other benefits associated with regenerative practices. The project will assess the feasibility of quantifying and verifying the reduction in CO2 emissions resulting from rice farmers’ transition to no-burn rice straw farming. This constitutes a crucial aspect of establishing an MRV system necessary to demonstrate the viability of this regenerative farming approach and to promote its eligibility for carbon market financing.

Over the course of six months, Proximity will conduct a feasibility study to assess the viability and associated costs of measuring and verifying reductions in CO2 emissions from the adoption of the no-burn rice straw practice by smallholder farmers in Myanmar.

Key pre-feasibilty activities will include:

  1. Mapping GPS coordinates of the plots where farmers have adopted the no-burn practice.
  2. Developing data models to estimate the boundaries of farmers’ plots.
  3. Accessing historical and real-time satellite imagery of farmers’ plots.
  4. Developing models to estimate the emissions avoided and subsequently reduced through adopting the no-burn practice.
  5. Consulting with experts in carbon emission verification to determine the data and evidence requirements.
  6. Conducting a thorough analysis of the costs and manpower needed to carry out the activities on a per-farmer basis.

In Lower Myanmar, over 300,000 rice farmers rely on double-cropping rice-rice or pulses-rice crop rotations to sustain their livelihoods. Supporting an average household size of five individuals, smallholder farms typically generate approximately USD 1,600 of income per year. Between May and November, farmers burn crop residue in open fields to clear the land for the subsequent growing season.

Agricultural burning is a regional challenge across South and South East Asia. Burning seasons result in lockdowns and increased respiratory hospitalizations due to severe pollution. At an aggregate level, rice cultivation accounts for 10% of agricultural GHG emissions and a third of all black carbon emissions. For smallholders, this method of crop residue management is the most prevalent and convenient and is often their sole option for quickly preparing their land for the next cropping cycle.

This practice, releases an estimated 7 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year in tandem with dangerous levels of PM 2.5 particles which pose serious health risks to communities. Open burning is also detrimental to farmers’ natural endowment over time. Repeated seasonal burning degrades organic matter in the soil, undermining the stimulation of microbial growth integral for maintaining soil fertility. In time, this contributes to declining crop yields and increased dependence on expensive chemical fertilizers.

The overarching aim of proliferating Proximity’s no-burn rice practice is to enhance the incomes of low-income smallholder farmers. Proximity’s practice has demonstrated its capacity to improve farm profitability. It is expected that improved soil health will contribute further to enhancing agricultural productivity and offsetting dependence on fertilizers, in the medium term.

Proximity anticipates that adopters of no-burn rice farming will constitute 20% of its customer base by 2026, with significant potential for replication beyond Myanmar. Developing and demonstrating the practice’s carbon potential and the utility of using Proximity’s microbial solution formulation as a substitute for residue burning is a priority. 

Pre-feasibility will contribute to Proximity’s aims over three years to:

  1. Transition 150,000 Myanmar rice farmers to regenerative no-burn practices.
  2. Enhance the soil health of approximately 2 million hectares of farmland.
  3. Avoid over 2 million tonnes of agricultural CO2 emissions.
  4. Establish a comprehensive soil health database documenting Myanmar’s most intensively cultivated arable land.
  5. Pilot innovative financial instruments to incentivize farmers to adopt regenerative agricultural practices.