Monday, April 25, 2016

0 Dr Mureithi from University of Nairobi – AgriFoSe2030’s first visiting scientist

Dr Stephen Mureithi from the Department of Land Resources Management and Agricultural Technology, at the University of Nairobi, has been visiting Sweden.
He is part of theme 2 in AgriFoSe; Multifunctional landscapes for increased food security and visited University of Gothenburg, Linköping University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences for workshops and writeshops.
AgriFoSe decided to take the opportunity to ask him a few questions before his arrival.
Stephen Mureithi looking over a Kenyan agricultural landscape. (Courtesy of Stephen Mureithi)

Q: What is your area of research and what are you investigating at the moment?

SM: My research area focuses on the direct effects of disturbance in dryland ecosystems.

My main interests are:

  1. Sustainable land, soil and water management,
  2. Rehabilitation of degraded drylands
  3. Desertification, a phenomenon often equated to a reduction in the biological and economic potential of land to support human populations, livestock and wildlife and which, ultimately, is linked to global climate change, biodiversity loss, pastoral livelihoods patterns, and land use change.
At present, I am carrying out an IGAD funded project as a Co-PI on “enhancing the resilience of livestock-based production systems in northern Kenya’’ in a consortium of researchers from the University of Nairobi, African Dryland Institute for Sustainability (ADIS), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), an NGO called PACIDA, and the County Governments of Isiolo and Marsabit in northern Kenya.

Q: What will you be doing in the AgriFoSe programme?

SM: I am part of theme 2 in AgriFoSe; Multifunctional landscapes for increased food security, led by Madelene Ostwald. We are conducting science-based syntheses and analyzes aimed at understanding the role of multifunctional landscapes (Parklands in Burkina Faso, enclosures in Kenya and home-gardens in Sri Lanka) in promoting food security. In so doing, we will address the gaps in science and policy with the goal to make these landscapes sustainable and resilient.

Q: What do you hope to achieve in the coming years with your research?

SM: Almost all of my research is now action-research, mainly in the rehabilitation of degraded grazing lands as a way of enhancing land productivity and livelihoods. The hardest nut to crack in this equation is the management of the restored lands, which is a governance issue. In the coming years, I look forward to demonstrating clearly that a household can live only on grass-livestock value chain as a main source of their livelihood. I also look forward to fostering greater partnership for action-research, innovation and technology development and transfer among the University of Nairobi, the dryland communities, County Governments and other stakeholders including NGOs and private business practitioners.

Q: Do you have a research team, who are they?

SM: I have no reserch team, but try to always reach out to others. Of course, I also work together with my students. I believe in networking and creating strong collaborations. I am currently in a number of research consortiums and collaborations. These include:
  • Land, Livestock & Livelihood (Triple L Initiative) Dynamics in East African Drylands - started in 2012 in collaboration with SLU, Lund University, JKUAT, University of Nairobi, ILRI and ICRAF, with planning grants from ILRI, SLU and GCGD.
  • Research Scientist in the Government of Kenya’s Systems for Land Based Emissions Estimations for Kenya (SLEEK) funded by the Clinton Foundation with funds from Australian Government.
  • Application and development of isotope techniques to evaluate human impacts on water balance and nutrient dynamics of large river basins. A Research Co-ordinated Project supported by IAEA.

Q: Why are you passionate about your research, why is it so important?

SM: Imagine you are a pastoralist, majorly depending on livestock as a source of livelihood. Then you wake up one day and the grass is gone, literally! This is how I feel and imagine when I visit most of our dryland counties, especially those in northern Kenya. Either there is no grass or the vital herbaceous cover is missing.
Land degradation negatively influences vegetation structure and density. Consequently, it impacts on carbon assimilation, storage and transport in ecosystems, and cycling of water and nutrients. Range rehabilitation and improved grazing management is an example of ‘a multi-use ecosystem carbon sequestration’, addressing loss of ecosystem function and productivity, and would bear a two-fold benefit:
  1. Increased CO2 sequestration in biomass and soil leading to increased soil organic matter contents, which in turn will have a positive impact on environmental, agricultural and biodiversity aspects of ecosystems through the subsequent improved land-use and management practices;
  2. The benefits of an increase in soil carbon storage can include increases in soil fertility, land productivity for pasture and food production and security, and prevention of land degradation, thus leading to economic, environmental and social benefits for the local agro-pastoralist communities.
Degraded landscapes are common phenomena in Sub-Saharan Africa, but there are proven methods for turning them into productive grasslands, Mureithi points out. (Courtesy of Stephen Mureithi)

Q: What are you hoping to achieve with your visit to Sweden?

SM: I hope to strengthen the collaboration between the University of Nairobi and the Universities in Sweden, and also the networking among the Triple L researchers.

Q: What are your expectations of the programme? What do you think makes the programme important, and why and to whom does it matter?

SM: I expect that AgriFose will generate knowledge and information that will feed into policy processes in the programme areas, in a way that will make the lives of the communities more food secure, and more resilient and adapted against global environmental changes. It is also my expectation that the knowledge generated will be shared across the study sites, in a way that the lessons, innovations and technologies and best practices can be replicated by the communities. My ultimate goal as a researcher is to contribute in making the lives of people better.

Q: How did you come to be a researcher? Was it a childhood dream? Did you want to solve something?

SM: I knew I wanted to be a plant scientist in high school. I loved biology and chemistry. I ended up in ecology. There is nothing as intriguing as watching a plant grow – you do not see it, but you see the result!

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

SM: I enjoy nature travelling with my family, mentoring the youth and agripreneuring – I market healthier coffee, tea and chocolate with the King of Herbs (Ganoderma lucidiumCheck it out!

Q: Is this your first visit to Sweden?

SM: Yes, and I am excited about it. I have been to many European Countries in the West, but this is a first to a Scandinavian Country.

Contact information

If you want to find out more about Stephen Mureithi’s visit to Sweden, please email Madeleine Oswald:
If you want to know more about Stephen Mureithi’s research contact him at:

Published by: Anneli Sundin & Cajsa Lithell

Saturday, November 15, 2014



Combating land degradation in the semi-arid rangeland of sub-Saharan Africa is essential to ensure long-term productivity of these environments. In the Lake Baringo Basin in Kenya, communities and individual farmers restored indigenous vegetation inside enclosures in an effort to combat severe land degradation and address their livelihood problems. This study quantified the benefits of rangeland rehabilitation using yearly communal enclosures’ utilisation data compiled by Rehabilitation of Arid Environments (RAE) Trust over a 6 year period (2005–2010). Results showed that communal enclosures provide a source of income through the sale of fattened livestock, harvested grass seeds, hay, honey and charcoal, among other products. Regression analysis showed an increasing total enclosure income with time. The enclosures also provide grasses for thatching, livestock feed and dry season grazing. Indirect products like milk, blood and meat are essential for household nutrition and food security. These benefits reinforce the management through incentive to maintain existing enclosures and establishing new ones, and therefore, the increasing trend in rangeland enclosure. Increased soil and biomass carbon storage could come with other indirect environmental benefits including improvement in soil quality, land productivity for pasture production and food security, and prevention of land degradation, thus leading to economic, environmental and social benefit for the local agro-pastoralist communities. Copyright: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.


  • environmental services;
  • Kenya;
  • land management;
  • pastoral livelihoods;
  • reseeding;
  • semi-arid rangeland

See Full Paper in Land Degradation & Development

Sunday, September 21, 2014



The impact of community conservation management on a semi-arid savannah herbaceous vegetation and soil nutrient status was studied in the conservation and grazing zones of two community ranches in Laikipia County, Kenya. Land zoning was carried out in 1999 using participatory approaches to demarcate conservation areas excluded from livestock grazing, buffer areas for grazing and high-intensity use zones for both grazing and settlement. Collected data included cover, grass species composition, standing grass biomass and topsoil chemical characteristics using line transect and quadrant methods. The conservation zones had significantly higher herbaceous diversity, species richness and relative abundance of both annual and perennial grasses, basal cover and herbage and a lower percentage of bare ground compared with the continuously grazed zones. The conservation zones also had higher total organic carbon, organic nitrogen and exchangeable basic cations content, indicating improved soil nutrient status. The grazing zones exhibited loss of vegetation cover and reduction of forage production, with a decline in rangeland condition, whereas the conservation zones showed recovery and improvement of the rangeland condition. Long-term implementation of Natural resource management programme in community wildlife conservancies seems to drive the semi-arid savannahs to exist in two steady states and transitions under the influence of grazing. We recommend long-term monitoring of the impact of the community conservation model on the rangeland and timely incorporation of remedial measures such as shifting bomas (cattle corrals) across the grazing zones, aggressive rangeland rehabilitation of severely degraded areas through reseeding and random grass seed broadcast along stock routes. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • conservation management;
  • herbaceous vegetation;
  • land zoning;
  • livestock–wildlife interface
  • rangeland condition
Cite as: Mureithi S. M.Verdoodt A.Njoka J. T.Gachene C. KK.Warinwa F. and Van Ranst E., (2014), IMPACT OF COMMUNITY CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT ON HERBACEOUS LAYER AND SOIL NUTRIENTS IN A KENYAN SEMI-ARID SAVANNAHLand Degrad. Develop., doi: 10.1002/ldr.2315

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

0 Kenya makes headway in accessing lucrative global carbon market


Kenya is destined to benefit from a National Carbon Accounting system, which will support the country’s access to carbon markets, through practical Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, the government has said. Speaking during the opening session of the East African workshop on National Carbon Accounting Systems, Environment principal Secretary, Dr Richard Lesiyampe said this seeks to strengthen national capacities of East African Community (EAC) countries to implement national climate change policies and strategies.

“In Kenya, the forestry sector and REDD+ emission have been identified to strongly support realisation of our climate change mitigation and adaptation goals,” he said in remarks delivered on his behalf by Conservation Secretary, Gedion Gathaara. “A lot of preparatory activities to support its implementation have been initiated with support from my Ministry, the FCPF, UN-REDD and other bilateral partners,” he added.

Forests in Kenya provide critical ecosystems goods and services, including prevention of land degradation, and also help in regulating water supply; and support biodiversity, the PS noted. These forests, he said, are indiscriminately being cleared and degraded, and as a result creating negative impact that is contributing to food insecurity and climate change vulnerability.
The programme, under System for Land Based Emission and Estimation in Kenya (SLEEK) will seek to help Kenya to meet the national development goals and international reporting obligations. The principal secretary further added the government has launched a multi-stakeholder driven SLEEK programme to provide comprehensive estimates in GHG profiles from land sector.

“Kenya is keen to share lessons learned as Sleek is being implemented to enable other EAC countries to have an advantage and better starting point as they embark on development of their own national systems,” he said. Sleek will also establish sustainable economic development through improving food security via improved agricultural productivity, infrastructure and access to the market.

It also plans to reduce climate change and other environmental factors through both mitigation and adaption activities. The programme will run for three years with the Australian support after which the intent is for it to transition to the Government of Kenya for continued development and operational responsibility.

It is expected the system will be generating results and able to be fully operated by the Government of Kenya within three years, while recognisng it may take longer than three years for full SLEEK implementation. Government of Kenya will evaluate progress and re-assess feasible outcomes in the remaining time frame.

The System for Land-based Emissions Estimation in Kenya (Sleek) would enable the country to estimate; report and establish a basis for verification of her greenhouse gas emissions data from the land sector.  Valued at Sh1 billion (US$12.5 million) through the Australian government support, Sleek will help the country be able to use this data to reduce the GHG emissions.

During the launch of the project last month the Australian Ambassador to Kenya, Geoff Tooth said the system will boost economic growth and food security through improved land management, increased agricultural productivity and better water availability.  “We hope that our experiences in developing our own system, including the lessons we have learnt along the way, will help the Government of Kenya to develop Sleek as a world class system,” he said.

CCI Country Director, Jackson Kimani said the system will have a critical impact on the way Kenya responds to climate change.  “It will allow this country to understand its emissions in the past and to analyse what is likely to occur in the future,” added Kimani.  He, however, said the implications of SLEEK are far more wide-reaching than simply addressing emissions.

Source: The People

Thursday, April 10, 2014

0 Nairobi Water Fund: Securing Water from Tap to Tap

With Nairobi’s population growing at almost 3% annually and water availability decreasing more rapidly as a result of climate change, the city and its four million residents face a serious challenge. More than 90% of Nairobi’s water and at least 60% of its electricity come from the Tana River.
School boys enjoying spring water in Maragua
sub watershed. Photo: Fred Kihara
The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a global not-for-profit organization, is working with 18 public and private partners, including Coca-Cola, East African Breweries, KENGEN and the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), to proactively address Kenya’s water scarcity issues by bringing the Water Fund model to Kenya. Over the past 12 years TNC has worked with partners in Latin America to create 32 Water Funds that now help to conserve water sources for tens of millions of people. The Nairobi Water Fund, started in 2012, marks the first for Africa.
The Water Fund model engages large, downstream users, usually corporations and utilities, that willingly contribute to a water conservation fund as a way of shoring up their business investments. Revenues generated by the water conservation fund are then used to help pay for water-smart management practices, such as tree-planting and terracing, on upstream lands that filter and regulate the water supply. A healthy watershed reduces water treatment costs, minimizes water shortages and enhances communities’ ability to adapt to climate change.
For the Nairobi Water Fund, TNC has completed a feasibility study, launched pilot conservation projects in three priority watersheds – Maragua, Sagana and Thika- Chania, all of which are important for Nairobi’s water and power supplies – developed environmental and socio-economic monitoring programs and formed a high-powered Steering Committee.
Over the next five years, the goal is to capitalize Nairobi’s water conservation fund and increase watershed conservation upstream efforts to further reduce sedimentation and water treatment costs. As sedimentation decreases through improved land management practices, so too will water treatment costs, which allows organizations like WRMA and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to channel more of their resources into efforts that improve treatment and distribution systems. Ultimately, the aim is to develop a replicable tool that can be used to ensure good water quality, adequate supply, lower treatment and distribution costs and reliable power in other parts of Africa.

Land owners implementing soil conservation measures in Upper Tana.
Photo credit: Fred Kihara

More information about Water Funds can be found in The Nature Conservancy’s Water Fund Manual or A Primer for Monitoring Water Funds

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