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Adapting to climate change in coastal Kenya communities


There are a number of challenges to adapting to climate change in coastal Kenya communities. Forests and landscapes contribute directly to the well-being and food security of poorer communities.

The condition of local forests can have a direct impact on adjacent communities – where huge populations depend on these forests for their livelihoods.

However, this natural resource is under extreme pressure due to the demand for land to grow crops or harvesting of wood for timber, fuel and charcoal. These pressures, coupled with weak governance, poor management and forest crime, are depleting natural forests in coastal Kenya.

The climate change threat

Climate change is also threatening these forests and the people who depend on them. Climate change continues to wreak havoc on the livelihoods of coastal Kenya communities. Increases in climatic hazards such as flooding and droughts have resulted in more trees and plants dying – caused by nutrients in the soil being washed away and heat stress.

It’s a vicious cycle. Deforestation and degradation generate greenhouse gasses that drive further climate change, which exacerbates both droughts and flooding. This puts extra stresses on already fragile forest ecosystems and their surrounding communities.

Our Coastal Kenya Programme

Our programme works with farmers to promote farm forestry and woodland management on community land. These farmers are part of local communities – they depend on the forest resources for their livelihoods and mainly use forest resources for fuel. Many of them understand that it is no longer sustainable to be so heavily dependent on forests. They know they need to do something else to improve their livelihoods.

works with farmers to promote farm forestry Working with farmers to promote farm forestry, © John Bett

This is where we’re providing support. To increase tree cover and improve livelihoods, we are working with farmers to encourage them to integrate tree growing on their farms.

Branching out

Through our initiative, all participating farmers have allocated one acre each [125 acres in total] to farm forestry. They grow climate change resistant fruit trees – mainly high value mango and coconut trees. Not only do they provide a substantial contribution to the national forest cover, but will also provide a source of long term household income. This income is also expected to build the farmers’ capacity to withstand effects of climate change if other crops fail, making them more resilient.

Planting trees for more resilient farms. © John BettPlanting trees for more resilient farms. © John Bett

The same farmers are also engaged in planting timber trees along hedgerows. Some have even established woodlots – particularly those who have bigger farms. This will help to increase forest cover, improve livelihoods through sale of timber and other tree products. More importantly, it will reduce dependency on existing forests.

A fruitful future

The programme supports agricultural officers to provide training on using seed banks and applying good forest management practices. This includes making sure that the most appropriate tree species are used – boosting productivity and quality.

As much as possible, training is conducted through the local language so that key messages are well understood. Farmers often learn more through observation, so training is also done through demonstrations. As a result, farmers are confident they’re growing the best trees and applying the best practices.

Local training for farmers. © John BettLocal training for farmers. © John Bett

The programme will continue to strengthen the role of farmers and tree producers’ associations in commercial wood production, trade and access to market information so that they continue to benefit from sustainable forestry in future.

WWF’s Coastal Kenya Programme is kindly supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and Size of Wales. We are very grateful for the continued support.

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