In 2008, the Laikipi Wildlife Forum initiated a 10-year rangeland management program in the area surrounding Mount Kenya, which emphasized rehabilitating bare land across the district to build the region’s resource base and reduce competition for natural resources, such as pasture, land and water.
The program involved moving the animals through the landscape on basis of a pre-determined sequence according to water availability, grazing competition, distance, and other factors. Most importantly, grazing animals were gathered into tight herds to minimize soil disturbance and to graze different sections of the landscape each day to prevent overgrazing.
Demonstrations proved the value of properly managed herds, allowing plants to regenerate, and led to community planning and the successful implementation of a grazing plan for 6,000 cattle and 3,000 sheep and goats in their dry season reserve.
Relationship to CSA
The successful land restoration can be attributed to the focus on enhancing the four ecosystem processes that together determine ecosystem health and productivity, namely (i) the water cycle, (ii) the mineral cycle, (iii) energy flow and (iv) plant and living communities. The project contributes to all three climate-smart agriculture (CSA) pillars:
- Productivity: The immediate results included: improved land health, livestock survival and productivity, youth involvement and community unity.
- Adaptation: Planned grazing increases the soil surface protection by living and decomposing vegetation, increases soil organic carbon and supports wider soil ecosystem services, making the entire system more resilient to climate change.
- Mitigation: This initiative is reversing a long-term trend of carbon release from soil to atmosphere. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisations of the United Nations (2013), rangelands have low carbon sequestration rates on a per unit basis, compared with more highly productive pastures. However, because of their vast area, they could capture 2 - 4 % of annual anthropogenic GHG emissions on a global basis (i.e. 20% of the CO2 released annually from global deforestation and land-use change).
Impact and lessons learned
- Land degradation is primarily a social issue rather than a technical one, and involves a number of key, interconnected elements that have at least four different characteristics: personal, relational, collective, systemic (structural).
- No one issue can be sustainably tackled in isolation. Each situation compromises a complex ‘whole’ composed of interconnected social, environmental and economic dimensions.
FAO. 2013a. Climate-Smart Agriculture: Sourcebook. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3325e.pdf Between now and 2050, the world’s population will increase by one-third. Most of these additional 2 billion people will live in developing countries. At the same time, more people will be living in cities. If current income and consumption growth trends continue, FAO estimates that agricultural production will have to increase by 60 percent by 2050 to satisfy the expected demands for food and feed. Agriculture must therefore transform itself if it is to feed a growing global population and provide the basis for economic growth and poverty reduction. Climate change will make this task more difficult under a business-as-usual scenario, due to adverse impacts on agriculture, requiring spiralling adaptation and related costs.