Monday, December 17, 2012

0 Film Primiere "Let's Talk About Soil"

Soils are fundamental pillars of sustainable development. They are essential for food security, support human well-being, and provide further ecosystem services, such as carbon storage.
They are not only essential but also severely threatened, suffering a continuous decline in quality and being taken over by urban sprawl.
Even though soils are managed and owned locally, their degradation is a key global issue, as their functions transcend national boundaries.
Therefore, we urgently need to upscale actions towards sustainable soil management.
The First Global Soil Week will provide a platform to initiate follow-up actions on land and soil-related decisions made at the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference and will take place within the framework of the FAO’s Global Soil Partnership.
The First Global Soil Week offers a forum of interactive exchange and dialogue.
Stakeholders from science, government, business and civil society will come together to share their land and soil-related experience and expertise, and to develop future plans of action for sustainable land/soil management and governance.
The animated film LET’S TALK ABOUT SOIL emphasizes human dependence on soils and describes how sustainable development is threatened by certain soil use trends; the film offers options to make the way we manage our soils more sustainable.
LET’S TALK ABOUT SOIL was produced by designer and animator Uli Henrik Streckenbach for the Global Soil Week and the Global Soil Partnership with the support of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) – Global Soil Forum, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Deutsche Welle.

Friday, November 30, 2012

2 Effects of enclosures and land zoning on the restoration of degraded semi-arid rangeland in Kenya

Below is a summary of my PhD thesis, defended successfully on 29th November, 2012 at Ghent University, Belgium.

In response to the increasing land degradation in arid and semi-arid environments in Sub-Saharan Africa, numerous approaches to their restoration have been developed. Very few of these have been successful beyond the project implementation period. In some parts of Eastern Africa however, rangeland enclosures and community-based conservation are increasingly being adopted in pastoral areas under transition and in the livestock-wildlife interface, respectively. The two approaches represent restoration initiatives at site (enclosure) to landscape (conservancy) levels. However, their impact on the semi-arid ecosystem health is still not well understood. This study aimed to assess and describe the impact of enclosures and community conservation management on the restoration of degraded semi-arid rangeland in Kenya. 

The specific objectives were to (a) assess the impact of enclosures under private and communal management on ecosystem health using the key biotic (herbaceous vegetation) and abiotic (soil properties) indicators; (b) quantify the tangible benefits derived from rehabilitating a degraded semi-arid rangeland in communal enclosures; (c) assess the impact of community conservation management on a semi-arid savannah; and (d) determine the effects of range rehabilitation through reseeding on large herbivore dynamics. The study was conducted on the Njemps Flats in the Lake Baringo basin (Baringo County), and in a number of group ranches in the neighbouring Laikipia County. 

Enclosure establishment and active management has led to recovery of herbaceous vegetation, especially grasses and standing crop biomass, compared to the adjacent degraded rangeland. Enclosures were also effective in restoring soil quality. The tangible benefits realised from the restored areas are one of the incentives driving rangeland enclosure establishment in the Lake Baringo basin. Positive correlations between enclosure total incomes with time demonstrate increase in the enclosure income. The improvement of the soil quality, general rangeland condition, and economic return show that creating rangeland enclosures is a potential avenue for combating land degradation and poverty in the drylands where pastoralism is in transition from extensive to sedentary and hybrid systems. 

The adoption of community-based conservation (CBC) by the pastoral communities in northern Kenya has leveraged more land for conservation of wildlife, habitats and grazing lands. It has also secured the community land from sub-division and erection of fences which impede wildlife migration and pastoralism. Thirdly, CBC offers a great opportunity for the communities to benefit from wildlife and other natural resources existing on their land through profit-sharing from eco-tourism initiatives using the payment of environmental service (PES) arrangements. However, CBC and its natural resource management programme have also created new challenges such as a declining and improving rangeland condition in the grazing and settlement, and conservation zones, respectively. The challenges of planning and budgeting the utilisation of key land resources, especially pasture, remains a serious threat to the success of CBCs. This thesis highlights a number of pragmatic suggestions on how the situation can be managed, in order to abate further decline in range condition in the grazing zones. These would increase the resilience of the rangeland ecosystem in the long term and increase the potential of community conservation management to restore degraded grazing lands and habitats, conserve biodiversity, and alleviate poverty in the Kenyan livestock-wildlife interface areas.

Citation: Mureithi, S.M. 2012. Effects of enclosures and land zoning on the restoration of degraded semi-arid rangeland in Kenya. PhD thesis. Ghent University Press. pp. 210. ISBN 978-9-4619708-4-8

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

0 Plant Your Age Initiative by Green Africa Foundation

Green Africa Foundation in conjunction with its partners, namely, Kenya Forestry Services (KFS), Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) and Rotary club of Nairobi has organized the second tree planting campaign dubbed “Plant age campaign”. In this campaign we are calling Kenyans from all walks of life, to plant trees equivalent to their age as way of helping our beloved country attain 10% forest cover as articulated in vision 2030.

This campaign will run through out the entire short rains season, October to December 2012.
Green Africa Foundation through its Green Africa villages tree seedling production center,  will avail tree seedlings for this event. To support Green Africa Foundation farmers seedling are being availed at subsidized price of Kenya Shillings Thirty (KES 30) per seedling. Alternatively tree seedlings can be obtained from any of KFS tree nurseries country wide.

The climax of this campaign will be a tree planting event on 17th November 2012 to be held at Nairobi National Park. For those who will prefer, there will be a hole digging machine on hire at cost of Kenya Shillings Fifty (KES 50) per hole. We have an M-Pesa dedicated pay bill number 505900 for this event.

You are cordially invited to grace this important event.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

0 Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies

In a world fractured by the effects of environmental degradation, political turmoil, and economic crises, it is easy to forget that cultures of peace depend on good governance and equitable management of our natural resources. Sustainable development from the grass-roots up can only happen if these three core issues are addressed. Furthermore, the connection between environmental challenges and local conflicts cannot be assessed separately. They must be understood and acted upon not just by academics, but by as many different kinds of people as possible – bustling city-dwellers, hard-working villagers and farmers, children, poets, dreamers – and by those who visit our country and carry away with them a sense of our key cultural developments and aspirations. Moreover, successful fusion of university research and traditional training requires the provision not only of academic resources, but of experiential learning opportunities, community mentoring, and utilization of indigenous knowledge.

Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai

Monday, October 1, 2012

0 12 Year old Kenyan boy honoured at the UN International Day of Peace

Stephen Njoroge is sipping a mango juice, dressed in a blue school uniform like any other boy his age. Mango trees are his favourite — but as an environmentalist, Njoroge loves trees of all varieties. And at just 12 years, he has planted over 10,000 of them — and made it to the UN history books. Last Friday, his efforts to create a sustainable future for Kenya were honoured at the UN International Day of Peace. Kenya’s most eminent conservationist, the late Prof. Wangari Maathai, once said tree planting was “her little thing”.  Three years ago, Njoroge decided to make it his big thing — and has been working to keep Kenya’s forests healthy ever since.  Not surprisingly, Maathai’s legacy has influenced the young boy, but he says his organisation, We Care Club, was a family operation from the start. 
"Our family loves the environment” Stephen Njoroge. Photo/SARA MOJTEHEDZADEH  NATION MEDIA GROUP
Start a club
“Our whole family has had this love for the environment so I decided to start a club to show how we really care.” Thanks to his uncle who grew seedlings, Njoroge and his school friends had a ready supply of young trees to plant — first in their backyard, and then in public forests like Karura. And thanks to Njoroge’s father, they were never short on inspiration either. “My dad worked for the United Nations and he really loved the environment” remembers Njoroge. “We always used to go for trips with him checking the climate of places and the kind of trees that grow there.” The elder Njoroge has since passed away, but his son is keeping his legacy alive at the UN.
“He is a young person who has made a mark, and we want to recognise him, especially because he is working for peace,” said Irene Mwakesi of the United Nations Information Centre.  But planting 10,000 trees requires no small amount of teamwork, so Njoroge insisted that his entire class at Mariki School in Nairobi accompany him to the UN celebration in Nairobi. “I had to bring the whole army!” he maintains.
The We Care Club is a veritable army now. It has grown from just 100 members to over 5,000. “A fact that I’ve learned is not everybody is a tree hugger,” says Njoroge. “So we try and find what they are interested in. For example a number of people in the club like playing football. So we plant trees and find a place where we can play football together. “Since we are kids, we don’t like all these official things. So we are trying to make it a bit more fun.”
That is a relief for Njoroge’s mother, Mercy Njoroge, who says: “It’s a big responsibility he’s taken on his shoulders. So to protect the fact that he’s a child is important to me.” And Stephen, for his part, credits his mother with helping him balance his environmentalism and school work, a gargantuan task for a boy who has planted the equivalent of a small forest. “She’s the one who gives me the repeated inspiration. When I’m feeling down and feeling like I can’t handle all the pressure, she’s the one who usually helps me out, tells me how to set my goals and take them one by one.”
Stephen certainly has ambition in abundance: he has already served as an ambassador for Kenya at the 2011 United Nations environmental summit in Indonesia, has travelled to five continents, and hasn’t ruled out a running for President. His political career may have to wait for some years, but Njoroge sees his youth as an asset rather than an obstacle. “I noticed that its only older people who are inspiring children. Now I’m trying to make children inspire older people.”
To that end, he has started a campaign to enlist the help of public figures in Kenya for his tree planting projects. Last week, he officially launched the We Care Club, an event attended by the Ministry of the Environment and the Kenya Forestry Service officials.  But Njoroge has another invitation to extend — to the President Kibaki. “President Kibaki’s birthday is coming up and we want to do something special for him since this is going to be his last year as the President. “We can do something he likes. Like go play golf, or something like that.”

Source: Daily Nation;  Story By SARA MOJTEHEDZADEH 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

0 Restoring The Ecology Can Boost The Economy

Research co-authored by Bournemouth University (BU) Professor Adrian Newton and published in the journal Science shows that ecological restoration in areas of environmental degradation can help reverse global biodiversity losses, as well as promoting recovery of ecosystem services.

However the research also showed that measures of biodiversity and ecosystem services are higher in pristine land, freshwater and marine systems than in restored systems.

Examples of ecosystem services include improved water quality and increased carbon storage, services which benefit human well-being.

The research was carried out by an international team from the University of Alcalá in Spain, the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and Bournemouth University in the UK.

Professor Newton, an environmental conservation expert from BU’s Centre for Conservation Ecology and Environmental Change said: "These results highlight the importance of ecological restoration approaches for addressing the environmental degradation that has occurred in many parts of the world. The research suggests that restoration can offer a 'win-win' solution, by increasing the provision of environmental benefits to people, while at the same time increasing biodiversity."

Lead author, Professor José M. Rey Benayas from the University of Alcalá and President of the International Foundation for Ecosystem Restoration said: "In addition to the improved biodiversity resulting from ecological restoration, our findings show that such restoration also has benefits for ecosystem services. These services can act as an engine of economy and a source of green employment, so our results give policymakers an extra incentive to restore degraded ecosystems.”

Ecological restoration is widely used to reverse the environmental degradation caused by human activities. However, the effectiveness of restoration actions in increasing provision of both biodiversity and ecosystem services has not previously been evaluated systematically.

The research team analysed results from 89 restoration assessments carried out in a wide range of ecosystem types across the globe. On average, ecological restoration increased provision of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 44% and 25% respectively. Increases in biodiversity and ecosystem service measures following restoration were positively correlated. However, values of both remained lower in restored than in intact (undamaged) reference ecosystems.

The results indicate that restoration actions focused on enhancing biodiversity should support increased provision of ecosystem services, particularly in tropical terrestrial areas, which hold the largest amounts of biodiversity and are usually subject to high levels of human pressure."

Co-author, Professor James Bullock from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said: "We have shown that across the globe restoration projects are able to help reverse loss of the biodiversity and ecosystem services in areas degraded by human activities. While restoration can help reverse losses, this research shows it is critical for human well-being that we conserve pristine habitats and the biodiversity and ecosystem services they provide."

Source: Bournemouth University (2009, August 31). Restoring The Ecology Can Boost The Economy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 8, 2012, from­/releases/2009/08/090828150735.htm

Journal Reference: Benayas et al. Enhancement of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services by Ecological Restoration: A Meta-Analysis. Science, 2009; 325 (5944): 1121 DOI:10.1126/science.1172460

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

4 Backyard Aquaponics: DIY system to raise fish with veggies

Rob Torcellini bought a $700 greenhouse kit to grow more vegetables in his backyard. Then he added fish to get rid of a mosquito problem and before long he was a committed aquaponic gardener. Now his 10 by 12 foot greenhouse is filled with not only vegetables, but fish. And the best part is: the poo from that fish is what fertilizes his garden.

Fish poo as fertilizer
“The fish excrete ammonia through their gils as their waste and that ammonia travels in the water and gets pumped into the growbeds," explains Torcellini, "and there's a naturally occurring bacteria that converts the ammonia into nitrites and then the nitrates and then the nitrates are absorbed by the plants as a fertilizer. So it's a whole natural process that breaks it down.” You don’t have to understand the chemistry to grow this way. There are hundreds of Americans, and thousands of Australians (it’s popular in this drought-prone country because aquaponics uses 80-90% less water than traditional agriculture), who are growing fish in a symbiotic environment with their vegetables.

Aquaculture + hydroponics
Aquaponics combines fish farming (aquaculture) with the practice of raising plants in water (hydroponics). It’s organic by definition: instead of using chemical fertilizers, plants are fertilized by the fish poo (and pesticides/herbicides can’t be introduced to kill pests because they could harm the fish). Since the plants don’t need dirt, aquaponics allows gardeners to produce more food in less space. And in addition to the vegetables they can grow, most aquaponics gardeners cultivate edible fish as well.

Backyard fish farming
The most popular choice of fish is tilapia because it’s breeds well, grows fast and can survive in fluctuating water conditions (i.e. changes in temperature, pH and oxygen). Though tilapia are a warm water fish so for people in colder climates- like Torcellini who lives in Eastford, Connecticutt-, it’s not a great option. Torcellini is currently farming goldfish and some koi, but he explains that if he wanted to grow edible fish, he could switch to a cold water fish like trout or perch. In the video above, Rob shows us the aquaponics greenhouse in his backyard, that he built mostly from scavenged parts, as well as his DIY indoor system where he’s growing lettuce under a grow light. He also shows us how he built his systems and talks about how most aquaponics farmers are do-it-yourself types.

You can try this at Home!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

0 Amazon's extinction debt still to be paid

Current species losses are just the tip of the iceberg.

The vast majority of species extinctions in the Brazilian Amazon are yet to come, predicts a paper published in Science*.
Deforestation has declined to record lows in recent years, and just over 50% of Brazil’s rainforest now falls under some form of protected status. But the effects of habitat loss take time to manifest. “Cutting down trees doesn’t kill a bird directly. It takes a lot of time for those birds to actually die. They’re all crammed into the habitat that’s left. Then gradually you’ll have this increased mortality,” says Robert Ewers, an ecologist at Imperial College London and the study's leader.
Previous models of how deforestation affects biodiversity have assumed that deforestation happens in one swoop. But that’s not how it works. Deforestation tends to occur in fits and spurts, and as it continues, the number of species headed for extinction — the 'extinction debt' — rises.
“If you cut down a patch of habitat and, before the effects are felt, you cut down more habitat, you’ve got some outstanding debt,” explains Daniel Reuman, a mathematician at Imperial College, who also worked on the project. “We wanted to figure out how it happens with multiple instances over time instead of just one instance. It’s an amazingly simple model extension that has big implications.”
So, Ewers, Reuman and their colleague Oliver Wearn came up with a formula that relates species extinction to the timing and amount of habitat loss. “It sorts out the bookkeeping of all these different deforestation events and extinction debts,” explains Reuman. When they plugged individual species data for vertebrates that depend on the tropical forest for food and shelter and deforestation patterns from 1970 to 2008 into their model, it projected that 80–90% of extinctions caused by previous rainforest loss are yet to come. Brazil still owes the grim reaper an average of two mammals, five birds and one amphibian per 2500 square kilometres.
Application: It is crucial to determine at all spatial scales, exactly where you have the highest extinction debt and we can target those particular areas and conserve the species that are still there.
*Wearn, O. R., Reuman, D. C. & Ewers, R. M. Science 337, 228232 (2012). 
Source: Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2012.11007

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

0 Value-Addition and Livestock Marketing in Drylands

A Kenya Meat Commission processing plant. Photo/FILE 
Northern Kenya is set to reap from the ongoing construction of abattoirs and tanneries around the country that are expected to provide ready market for livestock, hides and skins. The slaughterhouses will give a big boost to farmers around Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana and Garissa, Wajir, Samburu, Laikipia and Moyale. The Ministry of Livestock Development has earmarked KES1.35 billion for the construction of up to five slaughterhouses to beef up export earnings from livestock products. “These facilities will help traders to shift from selling live animals to processed meat products in higher earnings,” said Dr Mohammed Abdi Kuti, the minister for Livestock Development. Cattle-keepers in the region have not been able to successfully market their products in main urban areas where demand is high and in the export market due to lack of support services.

The abattoirs are being built in the arid and semi-arid areas of West Pokot, Isiolo, Garissa, Wajir and Lokichoggio which supply more than 40 per cent per cent of the country’s total livestock demand, especially for beef, mutton and goat meat. Data from the Kenya Investment Promotion Agency (KIA) shows that rangeland cattle constitute 34 per cent of the national herd. The region has 29 per cent of the total cattle in the country at 2.1 million and 37 per cent of all the goats at 3.1 million. It also has 2.1 million sheep which represent 33 per cent of these animals in the country and 694 camels which is 42 per cent of the national population. 

The proposal is to establish the main abattoir at Isiolo town, which is expected to slaughter 150 cattle and 200 goats and sheep in a day at an estimated cost of Sh656 million. The ministry is also building 14 satellite slaughterhouses at Sh25 million each in North Eastern and Rift Valley provinces to act as collection points and market for the produce. These are expected to increase returns on investment by value addition and also link producers to markets. The 19 abattoirs will be completed in the next one year and will complement private, municipal and KMC slaughterhouses. “The beneficiaries will include livestock herders from the ASAL districts of Northern Kenya, animal traders, and the unemployed youth in the area,” said Ken Manyala, the business development manager at KIA. It will also open up the region that has for long been seen as wasteland. The slaughterhouses are a step towards achieving the Vision 2030 goal that calls for innovative, commercially-oriented and modern farming. 

Read more....

Source: Business Daily, Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Story by By RAWLINGS OTINI


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