By Mwangi Mumero
A new project to restore Kenya’s arid rangelands has been launched aiming at reducing the cost of climate change induced drought.
Funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and led by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the project is working with a myriad of implementing partners and service providers to positively impact 620,000 people in 11 counties and restore over 500,000 hectares of degraded rangelands in Kenya.
The Centre for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) conducted systematic assessments of soil and land health across three arid and semi-arid landscapes in Kenya to better target and track rangeland restoration interventions.
According to a study conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya loses 2–2.4 percent of its gross domestic product annually because of climate change, such as drought and floods.
Droughts alone cost the country 8 percent of GDP every five years.
Over 80 percent of Kenya’s landscape is arid and semi-arid and is home to about 36 percent of the total human population, and seventy per cent of the nation’s livestock and 90 percent of wildlife.
Livestock’s contributions account for 80 percent of household incomes in arid lands, and 65 percent in semi-arid lands.
The 5-year project is divided into three components: climate-change-adapted planning for drought resilience, restoration of rangeland landscapes for ecosystem-based adaptation, and climate-change-resilient ecosystem management for investment.
“The project offers an opportunity to collaborate with multiple partners to restore rangelands across Kenya,” said Dr. Leigh Ann Winowiecki, global research lead of soil and land health at CIFOR-ICRAF.
Over the past three years, Kenya has experienced its worst drought in 40 years. Critically, rangelands that provide feed for livestock have been devastated threatening livelihoods leading to competition for resources as well as inter-ethnic conflicts.
Customary institutions have become weakened, leading to breakdowns in natural resource governance, degradation of resources, and escalating conflict.
“In the livestock sector, the rangelands and general pastoral livelihoods, this project is contributing to improved adaptation to climate change of Kenya’s national policy of Ending Drought Emergencies, as outlined in Kenya Vision 2030,” observed Blaise Okinyi, an official from Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and one of the project’s coordinators.
According to Mr. Okinyi, the project will strengthen climate change adaptation in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands which will in turn benefit 104,000 households spread over a landscape of 2.5 million hectares.