IGP Stories

Enabling adaptation to achieve shared prosperity

Eve Njau

16th November 2022

The onset of the rainy season usually means the start of the planting season not only in the Mau Forest Complex but also in other Kenyan farmlands across the country. The usual subsistence and cash crops are being meticulously tended to but this season round, farms, public institutions and natural areas in the heart of the Mau Complex are introducing a novel category: indigenous tree seedlings.

Started as an offshoot of the TEEB Agri-food project, IGP’s PROCOL Kenya together with community leaders found it paramount to actualize their findings on shared prosperity and improved future climate resilience after they had realized the (largely invisible) value of the extraordinary ecosystem diversity and ecosystem services.

Through an exploratory scenario-building process, communities envisioned a future that could fast-track restoration of the Mau Forest Complex and attain improved and robust livelihoods, whilst simultaneously mitigating climate impacts and shocks. The most preferred scenario (carbon farming) was seen as the most effective option due to its high capacity of enhancing natural capital and ecosystem services as well as its high scalability at a global scale: reforestation and sustainable agri-food systems (regenerative farming solutions and efficient water use).

Pilot projects in Bomet, Kericho, Narok and Nandi

Reforestation by means of indigenous seedlings was settled on as the main method of restoration to recreate the Mau Forest’s landscape as it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

Communities kick-started the pilot phase of planting the indigenous tree seedlings in Bomet, Kericho, Narok and Nandi counties with funding from the Goldman Sachs Women Empowerment program. Over a period of ten months starting in May 2021, nearly 400 women representing their respective households were the lead benefactors, planting about 11,000 seedlings across 67 sites. With a potential of sequestering up to 18t/ha of carbon annually, indigenous seedlings representative of 34 species were planted in an area of about 63 ha while exotic seedlings, chiefly avocado tree seedlings, were planted in about 9 ha. Community leaders had been tasked with mapping areas that had low carbon potential such as deforested or degraded lands. These areas have experienced intense land degradation and therefore have high potential of carbon sequestration (after land restoration). Factors that were being considered included land availability and ownership consent to permit project activities; access from the main roads; water availability for easy seedling growth; good security especially from livestock; areas with high prospects of conserving or restoring the natural landscapes, such as riparian areas and forest reserves.

A monitoring and evaluation exercise indicated a survival rate of over 60% for the seedlings with some achieving 95% survival. Vital to this success were i) dedicated care of the seedlings from planting stage up to a period of three years (as opposed to leaving the seedlings unattended) and ii) livelihoods incentivization through payments for ecosystem services (PES) in the form of carbon credits and innovative value chains based on social inclusion, gender equity and community engagement.

The second phase of the project started in April 2022, in what would become PROCOL Kenya’s pioneer carbon project. 65 sites were selected, with over 19,000 seedlings planted in an area covering over 170 ha and estimated to benefit over 500 households. To enhance accurate monitoring and evaluation the trees are mapped using the Sapelli app, capturing the geo-location, threats, risks and seedling health, in a multilingual and pictorial manner.

How does this magnify the current climate change conversation?

COP27’s Adaptation and Agriculture Day on Nov 12th 2022 was based on the latest IPCC working group II report (2022) which assesses the impacts of climate change. (Since the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report, (2014), a wider range of impacts can be attributed to climate change.) Changes in temperature, rainfall, and extreme weather have increased the frequency and spread of diseases in wildlife, agriculture, and people.

At the same time Sabrina Dhowre Elba, Goodwill Ambassador for the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development stresses that “… Small scale farmers work hard to grow food for us in tough conditions, … yet they … need … help in building their resilience to extreme weather events and adapt to a changing climate”.

It is no coincidence that adaptation heavily relies on the agricultural nexus. Farmers, who represent the largest Global South demography, cannot be ignored and are in fact key to making this work.

PROCOL Africa’s work is just one example among many showing that local action at grassroots level is essential when it comes to mitigating and adapting to climatic effects. However, the biggest impediment remains getting support from local governments in form of climate finance contributions, capacity building, technological advance and infrastructural development.

The COP27’s new initiative, Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) looks to “ … helping countries access climate finance and investment, increase knowledge, and provide policy support and dialogue.” With one of the most controversial topics at this year’s COP, “loss and damage”, a model that seeks to have nations pay others that have been most affected by climate change, getting formally recognized, there’s hope that this initiative might hopefully provide the needed impetus that’s been missing.

Eve Njau is a Research Associate at British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. A natural capita specialist with a focus in ecosystem services valuation, she’s passionate about seeing communities earn sustainable livelihoods through nature-based solutions and biodiversity conservation.

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