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Carbon Project

The Carbon Program supports Indigenous land managers to establish, own and operate carbon abatement projects. It promotes Indigenous Knowledge as an integral part of land and fire management.

For thousands of years Indigenous Australians expertly managed the tropical savannas of north Australia. Their use of fire shaped the landscape and remains a critical aspect for achieving social, economic and spiritual well-being for country and people. Using this Indigenous Knowledge in contemporary land and fire management practices will protect the biodiversity rich savannas of north Australia from destructive wild fires late in the dry season.


Working with Indigenous land managers and communities, with land councils, scientists and governments, NAILSMA has been actively involved in developing opportunities for Indigenous people to earn an income and improve their livelihoods through land and fire management across northern Australia.

Traditional Indigenous fire management practices have been proven by scientific research that has shown that strategic fire management in savanna landscapes utilising local Indigenous knowledge and biophysical science leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, improvement in biodiversity values and provides an important livelihood option for Indigenous people opting to remain on their country.

Savanna Burning Methodology

Essentially, fire abatement projects seek to increase the proportion of controlled early dry season fires to create fire breaks and patchy mosaics of burnt and unburnt country to minimise destructive late dry season wildfires. Indigenous land managers together with scientists have developed effective on-ground measuring and accounting methods to determine the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and calculate the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the Savanna Burning Methodology. 

In July 2012, the Australian Government approved the Savanna Burning Methodology under the Carbon Farming Initiative. Another critical milestone was the approval in November 2012 of the Fish River Fire Project as the first eligible offsets project.

Read more about the approval process on the Clean Energy Regulator website.

At present, the approved methodology applies only to areas that receive more than 1,000 mm rainfall per annum. Work is ongoing to establish a methodology for areas with rainfall below 1,000 mm. You can go to the North Australia Fire Information (NAFI) website for a map showing the 1000 mm rainfall line (select layers, then base).

Savanna Fire Management Projects

The first project incorporating Indigenous Knowledge and scientific research, often called the 'two tool box' approach, was the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project. This very successfull project received several awards and is still going strong. It provides a model, baselines and guidelines for the development of future projects.

The first savannah burning project to get approval as an eligible offsets project under the Carbon Farming Initiative in November 2012 is the Fish River Fire Project. The former 1,800 km² cattle station situated along the Daly River in the Northern Territory was acquired by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) for future divestment to Traditional Owners. The project will now be able to earn carbon credits for their strategic fire management and sell these credits on the carbon market.

The Fish River Fire Project demonstrates that savannah fire management projects can achieve improved livelihoods for Indigenous people on their country as well as positive outcomes for conservation and sustainable development.

The NAILSMA Carbon Program is working across nothern Australia with a wide range of partners.

For more information please visit the following websites:

Key Issues

The Carbon Program strives to address several key issues through sustainable carbon abatement activities:

  • Climate  change mitigation - enabling Indigenous peoples to continue to reside on their country through sustainable carbon abatement activities
  • Engaging in the emerging carbon market - creating opportunities for more Indigenous people to work on country 
  • Other beneficial subsidiary projects such as biodiversity monitoring and management - open real and substantial opportunities for Indigenous peoples to develop independent projects and business entities for long term livelihoods on country



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The approval of the first savanna burning project, the Fish River Fire Project, under the Federal Government's Carbon Farming Initiative is another...

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