Diverse landscape restoration stakeholders join forces to catalyze a national landscape restoration movement in Kenya

By Tengetile Zanele Mphila-Nguru

The Kenya national landscape restoration scaling conference brought together a diverse range of people interested in landscape restoration to catalyze a national restoration movement.

The conference, held 9–16 July 2021, showcased different efforts towards the achievement of Kenya’s ambition to increase tree cover to 10% and restore 5.1 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 under the African Forest and Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and the Bonn Challenge.

Speaking at the conference launch, Keriako Tobiko, cabinet secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, emphasized the need for bringing science and policy together to address landscape restoration.

‘Interconnection between science and policy is important because policy makers need to make decisions based on evidence and data,’ said Tobiko.

He also stressed the need for meaningful engagement with youth for restoration.

Various themes at the conference featured presentations, insights and panels that fostered exchange of ideas.

Peter Minang, director for Africa with the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), noted that agricultural activities, infrastructure extension, wood extraction and increased aridity are the main drivers of degradation. He encouraged the conference participants to support the government in achieving its commitments.

‘The most important drivers of restoration include economic drivers anchored on “green” value chains or enterprises,’ he said, ‘along with socio-political drivers that leverage local knowledge and capacity as well as environmental drivers that ensure equitable and effective benefit flows to local people, including cash and ecosystem services.’

Increasing the momentum of the opening session, Kaluki Paul Mutuku, co-founder of Kenya Environmental Activists Network spoke on the needs and opportunities for youth to be meaningfully engaged in restoration.

‘Young people are already leading in restoration,’ he said. ‘There is a need to work with them on the ground and meaningfully engage them.’

He also requested honest answers about youth and women’s engagement, collaboration and partnerships in restoration and whether the Government is making it easier or harder for youth to engage.

The European Union has played a key role in Kenya’s restoration efforts through investment and partnerships in landscape restoration. One of the projects currently funded by the EU is Regreening Africa, which has been instrumental in the planning of the conference.

Myra Bernardi, head of Rural Development, Agriculture and Food Security with the Delegation of the European Union to Kenya noted that Regreening Africa aims to benefit 50 000 households by September next year and has already restored over 150,000 hectares with trees in Migori, Homa Bay, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Laikipia, Isiolo, Marsabit, Nakuru and Samburu.

‘In the last 7 years in Kenya’s bilateral cooperation with the EU, out of the EUR 435 million of investment,’ she said, ‘over half was invested in arid and semi-arid lands and in job creation in the agricultural sector with an additional EUR 175 million funding for sustainable energy.’

She also stressed the crucial importance of monitoring and reporting.

For the country to achieve 10% tree cover, smallholders need to be supported to grow trees on their farms. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been supporting smallholders in agroforestry through the Forest and Farm Facility, which provides direct financial support and technical assistance to strengthen forest and farm producers’ organizations representing smallholders, rural women’s groups, communities, and indigenous peoples’ institutions.

‘If we can support smallholders to grow trees with their crops then we can achieve 10% tree cover,’ said Philip Kisoyan, leader of FAO Kenya’s Natural Resources Governance sub-programme.

World Vison Kenya also supports smallholders through capacity building, training and media engagement to showcase the successes and lessons learned from supporting local communities to implement sustainable landscape restoration. This incorporates other livelihoods’ and nature-based value chains, such as beekeeping.

‘We have also been involved in providing platforms for partnerships, knowledge development and peer learning for sustainable landscape restoration,’ said Lilian Dodzo, national director of World Vision in Kenya.

The involvement of the nation’s counties in landscape restoration is critical in achieving 10% tree cover by 2022. The Governor of Elgeyo Marakwet County, Alex Tolgos, explained the measures the county is taking.

‘Land degradation has compromised the livelihoods of upstream and downstream communities and led to the loss of lives and property,’ he said. ‘A sustainable forest management and tree-growing policy has been developed, which seeks to reclaim degraded land and increase the county’s forest cover from 37% to 60%.’

Kenya Forest Service’s Chief Conservator of Forests Julius Kamau highlighted that the Service is leading a multi-stakeholder process for developing a Forest and Landscape Restoration Implementation Action Plan 2021–2025 with support from FAO and the Global Environment Facility. The 5-year plan aims to restore deforested and degraded landscapes for resilient socio-economic development, improved ecological functioning and contribute to the realization of national aspirations and international obligations. Kamau recommended that forest landscape restoration be designed in such a way that it attracts private-sector investment. He also urged effective participation and empowerment of communities.

Kenya National Landscape Restoration thematic webinars initiated the conference process, launched in December 2020 and running monthly until the conference. Pre-conference thematic webinars covered youth engagement in ecosystem restoration; Farmer-managed natural regeneration as a key approach; Forest and landscape restoration monitoring; Private-sector engagement in landscape restoration and capacity building.

 

About the project

Regreening Africa is a five-year project funded by the European Union (EU), through the European Commission. The project seeks to restore one million hectares and benefit 500,000 households in eight countries, including those under Great Green Wall such as Mali, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia and Somalia. Others include Kenya, Rwanda. By incorporating trees into croplands, communal lands and pastoral areas, regreening efforts make it possible to reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes.

Regreening Africa is implemented by a consortium of partners comprising of World Agroforestry (ICRAF), World Vision, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), CARE, Oxfam and Sahel Eco. But most important, the project builds on the knowledge, experience and commitment of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers in Africa who are keen to turn the deserts and degraded lands into thriving landscapes.

The project directly contributes to the goals of the Great Green Wall initiative and the AFR100 commitments. Its success, and that of other similar initiatives in the region, implies that the ambition of the Great Green Wall (GGW) is gradually becoming a reality.

 

This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Regreening Africa and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.