Participatory Mapping of Restoration Sites in Kenya's Chyulu Hills

  • October 25, 2021
  • Posted by: ajamah

By Tom Kiptenai, GIS/Remote Sensing Analyst 

Communities living in rangelands largely depend on these ecosystems for everything including but not limited to water, fuel, grazing grounds for their livestock, construction materials, farming, tourism among others. However, climatic conditions characterized by long droughts, and floods as well as high population increase and associated anthropogenic impacts have negatively impacted the integrity of these ecosystem. A case in point is the rangelands around the Chyulu Hills in Kenya.

Over the years, there has been evidence that the factors identified above has led to land degradation. Ideally, this translates to reduced soil fertility and land utility leading to declining food production, reduced pasture, and provision of other ecosystem goods and services affecting livelihoods and wildlife.

Land degradation calls for immediate action to be taken by governments, community organizations and individuals. However, often, the size of land that needs restoration is huge. It is important to prioritize areas to be restored based on the available resources and where the largest impact will be realized.

In the case of Chyulu Hills, Vital Signs team utilized remote sensing to map areas that are degraded, remained stable or improved between 2001-2018. Approximately 27.7% of the total Chyulu hills land was degraded, 70.0% is in stable condition while only 2.6% is improving. Most affected areas regarding land productivity and land degradation are the eastern and south parts of Imbirikani, and central parts of Kuku.

The decision on a restoration option needs to be goal oriented, specific to a certain ecosystem, at various scales considering the recovery potential of the system and the needs of the society. Hence, defining clear restoration goals requires not only the identification of plausible options that are available for the ecosystem, but also considerations of the diverse interests of stakeholders. Restoration and degradation mitigation responses are constrained by variables such as available resources (e.g., budget, community support), technologies, knowledge of the system and choice of options. Therefore, a comprehensive assessment of the biophysical, socio-economic, and governance/institutional variables is essential to make informed decisions on restoration.

Based on the above factors, the restoration sites were identified through a participatory mapping exercise. After generating the maps, together with the local communities, we ventured in conducting a fieldwork to validate the findings. Indeed, every location we visited mapped as degraded were indeed degraded as shown in the photos below:

After the validation, the printed maps were shared with communities comprising of elders, youth, and women as well as the leadership of the two ranches. Through a participatory approach, the communities identified several potential areas for restoration. The criteria that led to the final selection of the sites are:

  • Sites should not include settlements and ought to be within the conservancies (Imbririkani and Kuku). 
  • Characterized with high level of degradation (reduced or no vegetation cover especially grasses, huge gullies and having invasive species).
  • Highly exposed to drivers of land degradation.
  • The size should be viable considering the limited financial resources and available restoration technology This analysis led to the implementation of a restoration project in Chyulu targeting 11,000 hectares.

For more information, please email Tom  Photo Credits: ©Ami Vitale and ©Tom Kiptenai 

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