Community based adaptation in Kenya

  • 2015•05•14

    By Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson

    My recent visit to the Nyeri and Nanyuki area close to Mount Kenya was part of a field visit organized by the 9th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation. It was educational in learning about how the communities struggled with drought, dry spells, flash floods, increased rainfall variability and temperatures as well as forest destruction. I was able to draw parallels to the Gibika Research to Action project which contains two study sites in Northeastern Bangladesh that similarly confront drought and dry spells. Here are some highlights:

    Pic 1-2
    The government of Kenya is working hard to expand Kenya’s forests from 3-4% to 10% through conservation, reforestation and other adaptation initiatives. Two types of trees that are being planted in Naromoru, Nyeri are the indigenous Olea Afriacana and the exotic Cypress. The logic of combining one exotic and one indigenous tree is that the Cypress tree grows much faster (+50%). It is therefore primarily used as fire wood and timber, while Olea Africana is mainly planted as a reforestation approach.

    Pic 2-2On the way to Segera, Laikipia County, Rift Valley, Kenya the bus got stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere. After three hours of trying to push the bus out of the mud, some Maasais collecting their livestock in the area showed up and finally managed to get the bus out of the mud.

    Pic 3-2The community members in Segera, Laikipia, practice energy effective cooking introduced by Zeitz Foundation and UNDP. Referred to as fireless cooking, they first warm the food to the right temperature and then leave it to cook in wonder bags which have been insulated with cotton. The idea is that you do not need fire but heat to cook food, saving the community members energy, forest destruction and time. Since women do not need to spend as much time searching for fire wood or watching over the food as it cooks, they benefit the most from this technique. The time saved up gives them an opportunity to tend to alternative livelihoods – increasing both the income and living situation of the household.

    Pic 4-2The Laikipia area experiences constant droughts, unreliable and unevenly distributed rainfalls. Climatic stress reduces natural water resources and speeds up the riverbank erosion, land degradation, deforestation and desertification in the area.

    Pic 5-2The community of Segera, Laikipia demonstrates how to filtrate water to get it up to drinking standard. Rainwater harvest and water filtration are crucial during dry spells and drought, as water resources during these times are very limited there. Frequent dry spells and poor rainfall distribution are limiting factors to the agricultural production in the area. Alternative livelihoods such as handicraft production provide essential income opportunities that help increase the resilience of the community against the climatic stress.

    Indigenous knowledge provides valuable knowledge that is vital to understand how to best set up functional and effective community-based adaptation solutions. The local communities need to be included and properly consulted. The lack of a people-centered approach is one of the most common failures in adaptation strategies to climatic stress.

    The ‘Jikos’ (cooking stoves), help prevent forest degradation and conserve the Kenyan forests, as they need less firewood than when using the traditional open three-stone stoves. In Nanyuki Township, SCODE and UNDP are substituting the community with 50% of the stove cost, which has made most household shift to the more environmental friendly ‘Jiko’.

    “I was relocated as many other Kenyans from the forest and provided with a small piece of land in Nanyuki. For two years I have been struggling to turn my kitchen garden into commercial farming. I grow onion, tomato, beans, spinach, potato, corn and cabbage.
    When I first started many people in the village had kitchen gardens but people get discouraged from the conditions. If not the dry spells and droughts which kill my vegetables, then it’s the frost or the pests. I have built my own irrigation system and when it dries out, I try to buy water from the only deep tube well in the area. If there would only be a micro-credit or micro-insurance initiative in the village, either through an NGO or the government, things would be easier, and less people would give up.
    Everybody else has given up on kitchen gardens – but I continue. I can’t give up”.

    Find out more about the 9th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation in Nairobi, Kenya.

    Learn more about the Gibika project.

    *All pictures copyright UNU-EHS_2015/Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson. All rights reserved.