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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

0 Share the road in Nairobi – Need for green transport including rail, walking and cycling infrastructure

By Dr. SM Mureithi

Photo Courtesy of

I am definitely not a morose, but in January, 2013, I was very saddened by some news that I read in the Daily Nation, that ‘A woman lost her life in Kawangware after being pushed out of a moving bus’ actually because of KShs. 10. I felt very sad. What a loss of a soul; somebody’s daughter, a wife, a mother. Maybe she was a single parent and her children were waiting for her to return with food the whole day. Maybe she was going for a job interview, who knows.

What makes me even sadder even today is the fact that there are millions of Nairobi residents (hereafter referred to as Nairobians) who cannot afford a decent life, leave alone have enough for transport. Nairobi had a population of about 3.1 million according to year 2009 population census. It has been estimated that about 60% of the Nairobians, live in the slums. About 85% of these live under a dollar a day, and are jobless. Now I hope you start getting the picture of why one can board a matatu (privately-operated mini-vans and buses, referred as ‘public’ transport in Kenya) without enough fare, or walk like many do. It is normal for Nairobians.

Nairobi as a city was designed by the British colonial masters as their capital for the British East Africa in 1907, and it eventually became the capital of a free Kenyan republic in 1963. The roads were designed to suit their need for that time, only for motor vehicles, that we refer simply as cars. Any other road-user was not foreseen, be it a walker, a jogger or a cyclist.

Let us excuse the colonial city planners for now. That was their time. But do not be fooled, in Britain, cycling is the order of the day. Fast forward Nairobi to 2013, we are probably over 4 million of us. The question is how we can share the road that was designed for only a few cars passing there in a day. It is absurd to have ‘roads just for cars’ while over 80% of the city residents do not drive. This is a policy, planning and a visionary issue.

Let’s go back to the soul we lost in Kawangware. Had that lady been cycling alongside that matatu, would she have lost her life? I guess not. May be she would have saved the Kshs. 30 she already paid the conductor before she was thrown out for lack of a 10 bob. She would also most likely be enjoying good health emanating from the cycling physical exercise. Thirdly, she would be free - from embarrassment, harassment, abuse and security risk experienced by matatu passengers at times. Free from being tossed from a moving bus to her untimely death.

I know all the Nairobians, and especially the poor in the slums, those struggling to balance their budgets and the lower-middle class living with more month than money understand this. I urge you to talk to your leaders about the need you have for ‘walking and cycling infrastructure’ in Nairobi Metropolitan. Nairobians want to save, live healthier lives and be free.

Lately, we are experiencing very notorious traffic congestion in all the major roads in the city. The promise of jam free city with the completion of the Thika Super-Highway, creation of By-passes and other links has evaporated. Why is this? We build the road for cars, and as a result, we have more of them in the road. Business-as-usual (BAU) will significantly enlarge vehicle fleets and exacerbate their costs to society.

I also call upon all the authorities in charge of our city roads (Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, Nairobi City County Government, Kenya Roads Board, Kenya Urban Roads Authority –KURA, The Kenya Police Service, and our elected leaders – the Governor, Senator, Women Representative, MPs and County Representatives) and any other stakeholders and development partners to take this into consideration for the sake of the urban-poor in Nairobi. The more easily and cheaper people can move, the more they can do business, work, develop themselves, and get out of poverty.

We need to in fact include ‘walking and cycling infrastructure’ in all the current and proposed projects in the Nairobi Metropolitan. I am very encouraged to see this has been done along the Thika Super Highway and in the upgraded Kileleshwa Roads. However, the walking and cycling infrastructure are still not fully functional as they lack safety in the junctions and roundabouts. We need to do it having the ‘departure and destination of the cyclist in mind, including safe passage on junctions, roundabouts and cross-sections’. We also need to overhaul the Highway Code to include human powered vehicles (HPVs), basically, bicycles. This should be included in the driving schools curricula too.

Therefore, this is a call to ‘share the road in Nairobi’, for the following main reasons:

First, poverty alleviation – the urban poor spend at least 30% of their meagre income on transport. Walking and cycling infrastructure will empower the poor Nairobians through bus-fare savings and boosting their dignity as a result of the ability to maneuver around the city without being dependent on matatus for transport. For instance, when it rains in Nairobi, fares of most popular routes at times spike up to more than double. For people living on less than a dollar a day, or on a minimal wage, this is simply not affordable and they have to walk to work or back. A bicycle would be a welcome alternative that majority of such people would not hesitate to acquire, even on loans, as long as there is enabling infrastructure. Indeed, such an agenda should be part of the Kenya’s Vision 2030 for all Cities and County Headquarters. New cities like Tatu City and Konza Technology City should out rightly include these infrastructures in their designs and plans, if they have not done so. This proposal is therefore, in tandem with the current’s government policy of reducing the cost of living especially for the poor Kenyans, Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the Millennium Development Goals.

Second, a healthier population - the physical exercise gained from cycling is generally linked with increased health and well-being. According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is second only to tobacco smoking as a health risk in developed countries, and this is associated with many tens of billions of dollars of healthcare costs. The WHO suggests that increasing physical activity is a public health 'best buy', and that cycling (and walking of course) is a 'highly suitable activity' for this purpose.

Third, employment creation – think of local contractors winning the walking, cycling and bicycle-parking infrastructure tenders, investors supplying the cycling gears and accessories, bicycle-for-hire businesses, bicycle repair shops on various routes, biking schools, ease of people movements, petty errands on bicycle, among others.

Fourthly, alleviation to chronic traffic congestion problem in the city – if the city residents are provided with functional and safe walking and cycling infrastructure, many would opt to walk and cycle rather than drive and be stuck in the crazy Nairobi jams for hours. I have witnessed this work in Ghent City in Belgium where I lived for four years. In all that time, bicycle was my main means of transport. I only needed to use a bus or a train when going far out of the city.

Fifth, promotion of sport industry especially for the youth – Development of functional walking and cycling infrastructure will encourage many youth to enter into cycling sport, which can also employ many. A safe well maintained cycle track from Nairobi to Nakuru is an ideal training and practice ground. For long distance, it does not have to be on both sides of the highway, unless it is a dual-carriage way.

Six, reduced road accidents and improved access to markets and other essential facilities – hence boosting the individual household, county as well as the national economy.

Seven, as we confront on the global and local problem of climate change, we need to act collectively as well as individually in order to reduce our net and per-capita carbon foot-print, respectively.

Therefore, a three-pronged investment strategy is needed to transform the city transportation sector: promote access instead of mobility; shift to less harmful modes of transportation; and improve vehicles towards lower carbon intensity and pollution. A fundamental shift in investment patterns is needed towards public (rail transport in Kenya) transport and non-motorised transport, based on the principles of avoiding or reducing trips though integrating land use and transport planning and enabling more localized production and consumption. Shifting to more environmentally efficient modes such as public and non-motorised transport (for passenger transport) and to rail and water transport if recommended by UNEP. Investment in public transport infrastructure that promotes walking and cycling generates jobs, improves well-being and can add considerable value to regional and national economy.

Please give me safe and functional walking and cycling infrastructure (including parking) in Nairobi and I’ll leave my car at home, save fuel, time and money, enjoy the cycling exercise and emit much less carbon than I am doing today driving daily around the city. Cycling is enjoyable, safe, healthy, clean, cheaper hence sustainable. It is the high time we embrace it and drop the BAU thinking that builds roads for cars instead of for people!


UNEP, 2013.  Share the Road: Design for walking and cycling.

UNEP, 2011. Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.  ISBN: 978-92-807-3143-9

The writer is a Lecturer in Land Resource Management at the University of Nairobi. He can be reached at

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