Biochar Integration in Small-Holder Cropping Systems –Economy, Food Product Value Chains, Climate Change Resilience and Soil Fertility

Project coordinator:
Dr. Erik Karltun, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

Partner countries:
Kenya, Norway, South Africa, Sweden

Scientific abstract
Biochar integration in small-holder agriculture is a transformative adaptation of the food production system to achieve climate mitigation, climate resilience and sustainable intensification. This project aims to quantify the contribution of biochar to climate change resilience, improved food security and profitability and to address knowledge gaps regarding biochar use in small-holder agriculture contexts in sub Saharan Africa. We will study the biochar contribution to climate change mitigation using a life-cycle analysis approach. Here, it is important to use a system perspective to assess both direct climate mitigation but also to consider trade-offs.

Adoption of biochar will be dependent on profitability at farm level. We will therefore evaluate the cost-benefit of biochar integration and the impacts of produce quantity and quality on food value chains. Interaction between biochar and the nitrogen cycle will be studied to evaluate nitrogen use efficiency and the sustainability of nitrogen supply in the cropping system. We will also study the importance of biochar-soil-water-crop interaction for improved climate and (drought) resilience. We will use a range of state-of-the-art methodology from our respective disciplines.

The consortium consist of a trans-disciplinary team of researchers from Sweden, Norway, Kenya and South Africa with a broad competence in system analysis, agronomy, soil science, agricultural economy, food technology and microbiology. We will interact with local farming communities in Kenya and South Africa and test biochar integration in on-farm trials but also utilize data from our on-going research in other countries. Our results can be utilized to guide policy development on how biochar can be integrated in small-holder farming systems, and how bottlenecks that prevents the integration can be identified and addressed. Increased use of biochar can contribute to Agenda2030, SDG1: No Poverty, SDG 2: Zero Hunger and SDG13: Climate Action.


Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, Oslo, Norway

Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway

University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya