Financial benefits for smallholders help realize Kenya Upper Tana landscape initiative

Andrew Bilski
24 July 2018

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Since gaining independence in 1963, Kenya has prioritized the protection of its land alongside the development of its people. Its focus on environmental conservation benefits agriculture, alleviates poverty and promotes sustainable development.

One of the country’s most ambitious endeavors is the Upper Tana Natural Resources Management Project (UTNaRMP), an eight-year effort (2012-2020) funded by the Kenya government, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Spanish Trust Fund and local communities.

The stated goal of the project is to “contribute to reduction of rural poverty in the Upper Tana river catchment” which provides water to about half the Kenyan population. This goal is pursued via two development objectives, which reflect the connection between poverty and environmental degradation: increased sustainable food production and incomes for poor rural households living in the project area, and sustainable management of natural resources.

“UTNaRMP has become a model for landscape restoration initiatives,” said Esther Mwangi, principal scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “It illustrates how engaging local communities, addressing their concerns and need for income can ensure landscape restoration initiatives become a success.”

The project area is the Upper Tana catchment, which covers 17,420 square kilometers. Project implementation is along 24 river basins and the tributaries of four river basins that drain into the Tana River. The area covers six of Kenya’s 47 counties, home to 5.2 million people and under growing population pressure.

The Upper Tana catchment has experienced considerable land degradation and a drastic reduction of surface water availability during the dry season, and poor water quality during the wet season mainly due to high silt loads.

The area is densely populated, with large concentrations of poor and very poor people, particularly in the mid-altitude zone. Landholdings are small and diminishing as population grows, crop yields are low and declining due to fertility depletion and erosion, and rural households are poorly linked to markets and services.

The result has been a reduction of tree cover both in the forest reserve and in the farmlands. The reduced tree cover, inappropriate land use practices in the farmlands and overgrazing in the pastoral lowlands resulted in increased soil erosion rate and higher sediment load for the Tana River and its tributaries.

The project targets about 205,000 poor households (1,025,000 people) whose livelihoods revolve around the use of the natural resources of the Upper Tana catchment. These include smallholder crop and livestock farmers, fish farmers, rural traders, and community groups involved in natural resources management (NRM) and income -generating activities.

Special focus is on women and youth as well as other vulnerable groups. The project is also providing indirect benefits to the non-target groups in the Upper Tana catchment through services and enterprises linked with the project activities, as well as to populations outside the catchment who rely on its water, hydro-electricity and other natural resources.

The implementation is through four components: Sustainable Water Resources and Natural Resources management, Sustainable Rural Livelihoods, Community Empowerment and Project Coordination and Management.

Common Interest Groups (CIGs) are trained by relevant components on various technical skills like horticultural farming, bee keeping, tree nursery management, fish farming and others.

To encourage local participation, UTNaRMP refined a practice employed in a previous NRM project, Payments for Environmental Services (PES), which assigns value through financial incentives paid to farmers and landowners for managing their land so it provides an ecological service.

Paul Njuguna, UTNaRMP’s Land and Environment Coordinator, says the project was designed using the PES approach of motivating the communities to conserve the catchment through sustainable NRM activities to generate income, ensure food security and conserve the environment in order to ensure the catchment continued to provide environmental services like water for hydro- electricity generation, irrigation and domestic use as well as supply of water to key towns and cities like Nairobi, which gets 92 percent of its water from the upper Tana catchment.

“UTaNRMP is essentially a PES project where poverty reduction through NRM-based income generation activities, food security and environmental conservation for continued provision of environmental services are addressed simultaneously in an integrated and sustainable way,” says Njuguna.

The objectives are in line with IFAD’s goal of empowering rural women and men to achieve higher incomes and improved food security, and Kenya’s Vision 2030 blueprint which aims at creating a “globally competitive and prosperous country with a high quality of life by 2030” and transforming the country into “a newly–industrializing, middle–income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment.”

The total cost of the project is $68.8 million. It is financed by an IFAD loan of $33 million, Spanish Trust Fund loan of $17 million, government of Kenya funding of $11.34 million and local community contributions of $7.5 million.

Simon Mumbere, UTNaRMP’s Knowledge Management and Learning Officer, points to some key accomplishments as the project enters its final phase.

Community Water Projects:

Increased area under irrigation with additional 1,576 hectares by upgrading 15 irrigation schemes that have improved efficient utilization of water from 35 percent to an estimated 75 percent. These are benefiting 20,000 households directly. This has contributed to food security/nutrition, diversification of farm enterprises as well as increased cropping from once a year to three times a year of high value crops.

Now, 115,500 people have access to domestic water through rehabilitation of water projects, supply of water tanks for roof water harvesting, springs and wells development.     

 Riverine: 794 km of riverine planted with water friendly indigenous tree seedlings and bamboo with a survival rate of 75 percent leading to improved riverbank stabilization.

 Water quality: Construction and equipping of two water laboratories has contributed to water quality improvement due to monitoring, information dissemination and sensitization. For example, fecal coliform has decreased from 1,450/100ml in 2014 to 1,379/100ml by March 2017.

Safety: Construction of 60 km of solar electric human-wildlife control fence has contributed to food security and increased incomes as a result of reduction in human-wildlife conflicts and this is directly benefiting 173,700 people from increased food production and diversification; reduced conflict incidences from 125 reported before project per year to just five in 2017; improved ecological health due to controlled entry to the forest.

School greening program:  In 1,972 out of targeted 2,172 schools has contributed to increase of tree cover as well as in inculcating tree growing culture among the school children/pupils through “adopt a tree approach”; This has reached 853,000 pupils.

Forest rehabilitation: 2,138 hectares of forest rehabilitated, with survival rate of 83%

Artisans training: 91 Community artisans trained on fabrication of energy saving devices with a reported adoption rate of 40 percent

Bio-plants/gas: Nine institutions have benefited from bio-plants and 90 households with biogas units have reported reduction of 40 percent use of fuel wood and 30 percent in energy expenditure.

Among the many locals who have benefitted from UTNaRMP are a group of young farmers in Kenya’s Meru South district. Frustrated by crop failures due to contaminated soil, the group applied for a grant to build a hydroponic growing system and get technical training.

“Now we get double the harvests we used to get when we planted on soil,” said farmer Dennis Mutwiri. “Unlike others who depend on rainfall and soils, we are able to harvest several times a year,” explained Mutwiri. “We always have a ready market. When the other farmers exit the market we are always in the market!”

Find out more about restoration initiatives throughout Africa at the Global Landscapes Forum GLF Nairobi summit, August 29-30, 2018Click here

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