In Kenya, Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration is a remedy to Climate Change

An extension agent delivering training to farmers.
World Vision Kenya
16 March 2016
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Climate change is a well-established reality in Kenya, with evidence continuing to mount in recent years. Over 70 per cent of natural disasters are related to extreme weather and climate: recurrent droughts, floods, mudslides, crop failure, loss of livestock, and unpredictable erratic rainfall patterns.

Vast areas of farmlands in Kenya have been degraded and no longer produce adequate, regular crops and pasture for livestock. However, a majority of Kenyans are subsistence farmers, who rely on this degraded resource for their livelihoods. This means poverty and recurrent fragmentation, with land subdivided into units that are neither viable nor economical, unable to support meaningful agriculture and natural resource management.

The result: vicious poverty cycles and environmental degradation.

Without firm action, there will be dire need for humanitarian and development interventions in future. It is imperative to help communities adapt to climate change. It is also necessary to help them participate in abating that climate change.

So, with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Government of Australia, World Vision Kenya (WVK) is undertaking a project dubbed, Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). It is aimed at improving food security for climate resilience and carbon sequestration with smallholder farmers in Kenya. FMNR is a rapid, low cost, easily replicable approach to restoring deforested and degraded lands through tree stumps, roots and self-sown seeds.

Jonathan and FMNR extension on his farm, after harvesting grass.

Jonathan and FMNR extension on his farm, after harvesting grass.

The FMNR pilot project is active in Nakuru and Baringo counties, areas characterised by unpredictable weather conditions leading to long periods of drought and famine. More than 7,700 farmers have adopted the project to help with recurrent drought situations. They are also reaping other benefits, such as increased firewood, land productivity and household income.  Approximately 1,000 hectares of degraded farmlands have been restored with trees – which act as carbon sinks.

Farmers explain the impact:

‘‘I did not know this was really easy. After receiving training from World Vision, I embarked on practicing FMNR on an unproductive section of my farm. I fenced it off and to my amazement, trees and grass started growing.  I harvest grass for my livestock and have managed to sell a surplus of 50 bags of grass, worth Kenya shillings12,500 (145 US Dollars). Milk production increased from 3 to 13 liters per day. I used the proceeds from sale of grass and milk to buy books, uniforms, and paid school fees for my children. My wife and children now have enough time for other economic activities, such as kitchen gardening, attending social functions, playing and concentrating on school work as they do not have to graze livestock and fetch firewood – now available within the homestead!’’

Mr Jonathan Lagat – FMNR farmer

The FMNR concept is gaining prominence in the region, as it received the 2013 Land for Life Award by United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), was ratified by Africa Union during the Second Africa Dry land week in August 2014, and adopted during a UNEP workshop dubbed, “Enhancing the Horn of Africa Responsive Capacity to Climate Change Impacts Workshop”, for presentation to the Africa Ministers of Environment.

Harvested and stored grass in readiness for drought season.

Harvested and stored grass in readiness for drought season.

Up-scaling of FMNR as an ecosystem approach has great potential, but the following ideas are key:

  • Community awareness and participation through community agents in promotion of FMNR at the grassroots;
  • Mainstreaming FMNR model into relevant County and National government polies;
  • Clear land and tree user rights – FMNR adoption is slow where land tenure and tree user rights and especially by women is uncertain;
  • Design and use of community by-laws where they do not exist for natural tree regeneration on communal land;
  • Partnership – working closely with relevant government line ministries and other partners in building capacity and offering technical support to the community in tree regeneration;
  • Promotion of alternative livelihood and energy options that ensure farmers meet their needs as they await benefits from FMNR (and especially where there is total exclusion of other land activities from FMNR site) and use less firewood for cooking thus reduced deforestation;
  • Farmer exchange visits where early adopters are used as training grounds for new farmers;
  • Flexibility – farmers should be allowed to be innovative as possible by use of their indigenous knowledge on natural regeneration;
  • Children participation – children provide insights on FMNR as well as change agents in the society

FMNR has proven to be a model that build household resilience, carbon sequestration, as well as contribute to Paris Climate Agreement of restoring 350 million hectares of devastated forest areas by 2030.

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