Kenya is moving towards coordinating the various monitoring tools used in the country so as to have a ‘one stop shop’ that collates all progress in restoration.

By Marion Aluoch

As the world gears up for the launch of the United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, questions are rightly being asked about how do we know if we’re succeeding or not in restoring the millions of hectares of degraded land that have been committed by countries globally.

Kenya is one of the eight nations involved in the large-scale Regreening Africa restoration project, set out to coordinate efforts to monitor national progress.

Mohamed Elmi, chief administrative secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, recently emphasized the need to have a solid plan as the first step to setting up a proper framework for monitoring, having the right people and training them so that they have an understanding of the restoration approaches.

‘We need to relook at the plans we have,’ he said, ‘and whether they are being acted on by the people on the ground, with clear timeframes. Having done that, then we need to identify the right people who are going to carry out the reforestation activities and train them.’

He also pointed out the need to have a simple monitoring framework, agreed on by all, that can be continuously revised to make sure it is always up to date.

Hamadi Boga, principal secretary of the State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research at the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, pointed out the need to ‘own’ the process of monitoring. It was important to ‘take a step back’ to see the progress achieved in restoring degraded land.

‘Monitoring is an exercise that we need to own — to internalize — and make sure that it is implemented and, as we do so, we also need to have more conversations like this, to look back to see what we are doing,’ he said.

The two officials were speaking at the first joint national working group for forest landscape restoration monitoring and reporting, which took the form of a webinar on 23 April. The aim was to develop a shared vision for an integrated restoration monitoring and reporting framework and accompanying mechanism for Kenya.

Kenya has a national target to increase tree cover to 10% and restore 5.1 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes by 2030, as part of commitment to the Bonn Challenge and the African Forest Landscapes Restoration Initiatives.

The working group is comprised of Government ministries, departments and agencies — including the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Forestry Research Institute — World Agroforestry and Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR-ICRAF), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Resources Institute.

Mieke Bourne, the Regreening Africa manager, noted that a stocktaking survey had been completed that would inform an integrated Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV) framework at national level.

‘Seventeen projects filled the survey,’ she said, ‘with a total reported target of 470,000 hectares and just under 90,000 hectares under restoration so far. The indicators being measured include hectares of either planted, restored or managed land; the number of people trained; number of trees planted or managed;, the survival rates and germination growth rates. The tools used included before and after photos, satellite imagery, remote sensing, apps, community feedback and survey. The challenges include cost of tools; capacity of those using the tools; period of implementation; technology available; image resolution; and time taken to see the benefits of restoration.’

Tor-Gunnar Vågen, senior scientist and head of SPACIAL, the spatial analysis unit at CIFOR-ICRAF in Nairobi, demonstrated how the Regreening App, an Android application, helps users to collect information on how farmers are managing and protecting trees on their farms and enables one to see where trees are planted and what they are used for.

The chief conservator of forests at  Kenya Forest Service, Julius Kamau, stated that the Service had employed various management tools to effectively and accurately measure the contribution of restoration initiatives.

‘We have a robust GIS technology with various institutions and the GIS capabilities that can tell us where is what and what is happening in which ecosystem so that as we plan restoration we are not moving blindly but we are guided by geographical information,’ confirmed Jane Njuguna, senior deputy director of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute.

Other speakers from the Institute and the Service as well as the United Nations Development Programme, Council of Governors, World Resources Institute and FAO all confirmed that there were various monitoring tools already being deployed that could be synergized.

The Global Evergreening Alliance uses the Global Restoration Monitor (GRM), an online system that utilizes ground data to track global and restoration projects spanning from large multi-country programs to local grassroots initiatives.

‘Through the GRM we also showcase stories from the families and communities that are engaged in communication work with emphasis on consistent monitoring,’ explained Talia Liney, who manages the system.

As a way forward, ‘we need to have a master plan that exists for restoration and have it quickly implemented at the field level,’ summarized Elmi. ‘We also need a national monitoring framework platform that is beyond projects as projects have timelines.’

For all these to be harmonized, he underscored the need for everyone to come together to create a coordinated and integrated system that will be used by everyone.

This Forest Landscapes Restoration webinar was one of several thematic webinars that have taken place since December 2020 and will culminate in a National Land Restoration Conference in late June 2021. Other webinars include the launch of the National Land Restoration Scaling Conference,  Youth Power in Restoration, and the Roots of FMNR Movement


About Regreening Africa

Regreening Africa is an ambitious five-year project funded by the European Union that seeks to reverse land degradation among 500,000 households, and across 1 million hectares in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. By incorporating trees into croplands, communal lands and pastoral areas, regreening efforts make it possible to reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes.

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.