Youth taking lead in community-based adaptation to climate change in Yala

By Emily Mateche

As the world reels from droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires, the global focus is shifting towards green agricultural practices to cope with the effects of climate change. Climate-smart agriculture is emerging as one of the sustainable farming alternatives. And farming, long regarded as a preserve of the middle-aged and elderly, is gaining popularity among youth as a livelihood option for communities residing adjacent to Yala Swamp, Kenya’s largest freshwater wetland.

In Siaya County, two youth groups supported by Nature Kenya – under the AfriEvolve project – are charting the path towards sustainable farming through climate-smart agriculture and other nature-based livelihood activities.

At Kanyibok village, near the shores of Lake Victoria, lies a green vegetable farm belonging to the 30-member Kanyibok Youth Group. Black nightshade (managu), amaranth (terere), collard greens (sukuma wiki) and other vegetables cover the approximately 0.2-acre plot, which also serves as a climate-smart agriculture demonstration farm.

“Our farm is small but the harvest is good. Climate-smart agriculture has enabled us to transform our small piece of land into a productive vegetable growing area using minimal resources,” says Lilian Akatcha, a member of the group.


The youth group’s climate-smart venture has seen them secure tenders to supply vegetables to secondary schools in the area. In addition to schools, the group also supplies their produce to markets nearby.

Through the demonstration farm, the group is educating local farmers on various farming techniques such as application of organic manure, soil and water conservation measures, crop rotation and growing high-value, fast-maturing and drought-resistant crops. To reduce dependence on rain for farming, the group has installed a solar-powered irrigation kit.

“Using irrigation, we are able to grow vegetables all year round. This means we can supply these vegetables even during the dry season,” adds Lilian.

To stay updated and informed, the youth farmers have embraced mobile technology. Using mobile apps, they can get area-specific weather information and advisories from the County Directorate of Meteorology and expert advice from the County Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. This information helps them make sound farming decisions like what crops to plant, when to plant, when to harvest, when to stock and how best to control pests and diseases. The use of mobile phone technology is proving useful not only for accessing information but also for marketing and sharing experiences through community social media forums.

In Yimbo, one of the driest regions in Siaya County, another group – Wambasa Youth Group – is also changing the fortunes of local youth through climate-smart agriculture and beekeeping. Group members grow vegetables and cereals on their farms. The group also has an apiary with over 200 hives.

“We hardly look for a market for our honey. Our honey is sold out by the time we harvest,” says Robert Ouko, a group member.

Apart from crop farming and beekeeping, the youth group is also into fish farming and chicken rearing.

This new crop of youthful farmers is a source of inspiration to local communities in Siaya who have, in the past few years, seen their farming fortunes dwindle due to the adverse effects of climate change. With climate-smart agriculture, communities are now better prepared to deal with the uncertainties of climate variability.

Sunday Birdwatch in Gatamaiyu Forest

By Richard Kipngeno

July’s Sunday Birdwatch destination – Gatamaiyu Forest – caught the attention of many of our readers. This was a new site since the resumption of our bird walks after the Covid pandemic.  As we approached Limuru junction on July 16, heavy fog engulfed the road. One could hardly see what lay a few meters ahead!

We were met by Ann Njeri Githua, a member of Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) – our Site Support Group (SSG) for Kikuyu Escarpment Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and our host for the bird walk. Elizabeth Njeri, the chairperson of Lake Elmenteita Community-based Organization (LECBO) – our SSG for the Lake Elmenteita KBA – was also in our midst, as well as the Nature Kenya Chairman, Rupert Watson.

With gloomy weather and high canopies in the forest, it was difficult to get a good view of birds. Songs and calls came in handy in identifying bird species. Hunter’s Cisticolas were the first to make it into our bird list. Eastern Double-collared Sunbirds were all over flowering trees. Yellow-whiskered and Cabanis’s Greenbuls chirruped from the forest. Further into the forest, a White-starred Robin stared at us. A Hartlaub’s Turaco could be heard calling from the valley. Brown-chested Alethe perched silently on the climbers just above the ground. Our path was littered with Safari ants and occasionally you would hear “watch out” warnings from the ones in front.

The skies eventually cleared, letting warm sun rays peek into the forest. Insects were flying all over, triggering some bird activity. African Paradise Flycatchers, Chinspot Batis, White-bellied Tits, Chestnut-throated Apalis, and Brown Woodland-Warblers all seem to be in a feeding frenzy. Calls from a Crowned Hornbill could be heard coming from tree tops. An African Goshawk was comfortably perched on a dead tree.

We made our way down to the Thaba waterfall, tucked in the middle of nowhere. Down the stream, we saw Mountain Wagtails, African Black Ducks and Black Crakes. A Black-tailed (Mountain) Oriole, White-tailed Crested-Flycatcher and Mountain Grey Woodpecker were spotted as we exited the forest. What a great way to spend the Sunday outdoors connecting with nature!

Conserving Arabuko-Sokoke Forest – the economic perspective

By Francis Kagema

Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Kilifi County is a miracle of resilience. Despite being surrounded by over 135,000 resource-needy local people, the 420km2 coastal lowland forest ecosystem has survived, remaining more or less unchanged over the years.

A cost-benefit assessment conducted in 2007 concluded that from a community perspective, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest only offers ‘marginal’ benefits.  The lack of a valuation system for ecosystem services and their contribution to the community can explain the marginal value capture in the forest cost-benefit matrix. At the national level, the GDP ignores most of the value and benefits ecosystem services contribute to our well-being. It is not surprising that the same applies to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest’s case. By breaking down one item at a time, this postulation becomes clear.

For instance, butterfly farming income was valued at Ksh 19 million in 2019, while beekeeping stood at Ksh 1.6 million. The two enterprises have proper records though most of the honey was sold through undocumented channels. Other monetized benefits summed up contributed over Ksh 18 million during the same period.

Hundreds of community members enter the forest every day for one reason or another. Many of these visits are illegal and detrimental to the forest. Non-timber products sought from the forest include breeding stock for butterfly farming, edible mushrooms, herbal medicines and wild fruits. Harvesting of timber forest products like firewood, timber and poles in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is illegal. However, the majority of households adjacent to the forest use fuelwood for their cooking needs, and about 70 per cent of this fuelwood comes from Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. Fuelwood collected from the forest annually is estimated to be worth over Ksh 383 million. Data on poles harvested and charcoal produced from the forest is missing. A conservative value of Ksh 10 million can be appropriated to these two products obtained illegally.

All these streams together sum up to Ksh. 422 million! This value distributed across a population of 135,557 living within 5km from the forest edge gives Ksh. 3,116 per capita – 3.8 per cent of Kilifi County’s GDP per capita. Comparing this value with the gross landscape produce of adjacent communities living up to 5km away from the forest edge, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest accounts for about 4 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and possibly 10 per cent of all income.  Several other items, however, remain unaccounted for in this calculation: ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water storage, soil protection, climate regulation, and maintenance of a gene pool for the future.

What does all this mean? Arabuko- Sokoke Forest contributes significant regulating ecosystem services like carbon sequestration and climate regulation,  as well as provisioning ecosystem services such as medicines and food, which if valued and monetized appropriately and fairly, have substantial input to the lives of the people and their livelihoods. All this presents a strong case for conservation of the forest and its biodiversity.

KBA in Focus: Kaya Gandini

By Joshua Sese

Kaya forests are sacred sites revered and cherished by the Mijikenda community living on the Kenyan Coast. Kaya forests served as important social and spiritual centres for the community, where they conducted rituals, ceremonies, and communal gatherings, while also using them as burial grounds for esteemed ancestors. One such site is the Kaya Gandini Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) in Kasemeni ward, Kinango Sub County, in the vast Kwale County. The KBA is of great cultural and historical significance to the Duruma ethnic group of the Mijikenda community.

Kaya Gandini is a designated Important Bird Area (IBA) and a national monument listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It hosts organisms of conservation concern, such as the endangered Sokoke Pipit, the vulnerable Spotted Ground Thrush and the near-threatened and CITES-listed Fischer’s Turaco, among others. The habitat is characterized by semi-arid conditions with mixed lowland vegetation of woodland, forest and scrub vegetation on sandy, loam to clay soils.

Despite its biodiversity and cultural importance, Kaya Gandini faces threats to its existence. These include overexploitation through logging, poor land use practices, encroachment, and climate change-induced adversities such as prolonged severe droughts. These threats contribute to biodiversity loss, forest habitat degradation and food insecurity. Further, there is a significant decline in respect for conventional Kaya management systems and practices and a lack of awareness regarding the significance and values of Kaya forests. Lack of knowledge about cultural and traditional practices, especially among young people, is alarming. Many perceive these practices as outdated, increasing the Kaya’s vulnerability to biodiversity loss, habitat destruction and cultural erosion.

In efforts to address the challenges, in the year 2021-2022, Nature Kenya implemented a project funded by GEF Small Grants Program (SGP), aimed at enhancing the capacity of grantees to effectively deliver projects towards the conservation of the Mijikenda Kaya Forest landscapes. Fifty-two individuals from 16 organizations based in Kilifi and Kwale counties were trained. The 52 trainees then trained 95 individuals from 10 additional SGP grantees. Among those trained were community members from the Kaya Gandini KBA.

To further the conservation actions, a biodiversity survey in the neighbouring Kaya Mtswakara was recommended. This will support the delineating the Kaya as a new KBA, or extending the current KBA boundary to include the two Kaya forests as one KBA. Nature Kenya looks forward to directly engaging the local community in the area to enhance their capacity to continue safeguarding this invaluable relict as its custodians.