The Economic of Land Degradation (ELD) workshop was attended by key stakeholders and practitioners within and outside governments to share experiences with the ELD initiative and other human-land relationship indicators in Kenya.

The ELD Initiative is a global collaboration to evaluate and raise awareness on economic benefits of land and land-based ecosystems. It is currently supporting studies in Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

The workshop also aimed to strengthen partnerships to advance the 2030 Agenda.

Delegates during the planning workshop for the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) study in Kenya hosted by SEI at ICRAF Headquarters. Photo: Susan Onyango.

Planning for the Economics of Land Degradation study in Kenya 

SEI led participants through discussions to identify and address underlying barriers hindering implementation of ELD in Kenya. Participants pointed out that the very often basic socio-economic and institutional structure of Kenya are the main challenges affecting the implementation strategy.

Among them are: funds shortage; inappropriate implementation policies for studies on land tenure arrangements; poverty; and population growth.

These factors affect implementation of the ELD initiative and contribute to land degradation. A more comprehensive approach must be taken by the authorities responsible for policy in areas including food security, forests, soil conservation, and water resources.

These diverse factors also seem to contribute to challenges affecting the implementation of the ELD project both in Kenya and other developing and rapidly urbanizing regions of Africa.

According to a report by the UN Environment, land degradation has been a major global issue during the 20th century and will remain high on the international agenda in the 21st century.

Strengthening capacity of local researchers

Speaking during the workshop, Dr Richard Thomas (the Kenya Study Team Leader and a Consultant at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas – ICARDA) noted that the project has achieved several milestones. He also discussed some upcoming activities relevant to the project.

“We have so far done training for water trust organization in India, completed the module on cost benefit analysis through a partnership with London School of Economics which awaits official launching and participated in ecosystem services partnership in Togo,” he said.

Just as many other countries, Kenya’s government has focused on climate change far more than the loss of biodiversity or land degradation whereby by any means has many disastrous effects on productive capacity and ecological wellbeing.

Thomas pointed out that “through the ELD Initiative, we are supporting and strengthening the capacity of local Kenyan researchers and policy-makers on use of economic analysis tools for high quality research and policy impact to reduce land and ecosystem degradation.”

Moving forward with the initiative, the ELD Team Leader mentioned that ELD will be organizing side events during the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 14) in New Delhi, India in September 2019.

Leaving no one behind in protecting life on land

SEI Africa’s Acting Director Dr Philip Osano outlined the ELD Policy Engagement process in Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. He noted: “The ongoing studies are designed to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal 15, and support countries in achieving the agreed Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets.

“Some of the planned policy engagement processes include establishing existing policy gaps and opportunities at sub-national and national levels, development of publications and policy briefs, and holding national policy workshops involving multi-sectors and multi-stakeholders.”

ELD partners presented progress and proposed next steps on two projects: Economic Valuation of Selected Sustainable Rangeland Management Practices in Isiolo County, Kenya; and The Economics of Land Use Changes on Ecosystem Services in Aberdare Water Towers Kenya.

As with other developing countries, the key driving forces of land degradation in Kenya remain to be limited land resources and population increase. As a result there are small farms, low production per person, and increasing landlessness.

Workshop participants agreed on the need to improve and broaden understanding of physical characteristics that influence social contact between humans and land, and provide evidence that nature especially land plays an important role in sustaining human development.

Both projects (Economic Valuation of Selected Sustainable Rangeland Management Practices in Isiolo County, Kenya and The Economics of Land Use Changes on Ecosystem Services in Aberdare Water Towers Kenya) fall under the ELD component one that aims to Reverse Land Degradation in Africa through Scaling Up Evergreen Agriculture Programme.

Key achievements include mapping ecosystems being studied in the project, and collection of data from different target groups for further analysis.

Compiled by Kennedy Wahome Muthee, Research Intern on Natural Resources and Ecosystems at SEI Africa. Twitter: @wahomeken