Building Climate Resilient Mixed Crop-Livestock and Agro Pastoral Farming Systems in Elgeyo Marakwet County Through Agroecology: quantification, reduction and community sensitization on greenhouse gas emissions (CRAPAE)

Project PI: Dr. Abigael Otinga

The GRAPAE project which is funded by Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) is being coordinated at the University of Eldoret through the Department of Soil Science, School of Agriculture and Biotechnology and will be implemented from October 2023-September 2025. The project was awarded under the two-year Graduate Research Grants (GRGs) funded by the Government of New Zealand, in support of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA;

Project Summary

Agriculture is the driver of many Sub-Saharan African (SSA) economies but has continued to perform dismally in comparison to the maximum possible yields. Over 80% of the population in the East African region derive their livelihoods from agriculture and this sector contributes to over 35% to the region’s GDP. Most of the agriculture is rain-fed and influenced by increasingly depleted soils, high temperatures, vulnerability to frequent drought and/or devastating floods, and pest and disease outbreaks exacerbated by the changing climate. Consequently, most households’ food production is hardly sufficient resulting in food insecurity, malnutrition, and high poverty levels. Mixed crop-livestock and agro-pastoral (AP) systems are no exception to these effects.

Intense research and initiatives by governments in the region has gone into improving the sector for the purpose of increasing productivity, improving livelihoods and feeding the burgeoning populace. As agriculture is intensified to meet the food and feed needs of the African continent, a heightened use of fertilizer, manure and crop residues is foreseen, which will lead to surges of GHG fluxes (Hickman et al., 2015; Leitner et al., 2020). The target community-EMC- is characterised by both mixed crop-livestock farming systems and agro-pastoralism with poor manure management and high temperatures that contribute to GHG emissions. The entry point in terms of reductions of GHG emissions and increasing the resilience of this community to effects of climate change is adapting their livestock and agro-pastoral systems to the principles of Agroecology (AE) (FAO, 2018). We believe that in order to be effective, strategies have to adhere to principles of AE while special attention is needed for possible tradeoffs.

Agroecology is fundamentally different from other approaches to sustainable development. It is based on bottom-up processes, helping to deliver contextualized solutions to local problems. Agroecological innovations are based on the co-creation of knowledge, combining science with the traditional, practical and local knowledge of producers. By enhancing their autonomy and adaptive capacity, agroecology empowers producers and communities as key agents of change (Wezel et al., 2020).

The overall objective of CRAPAE, therefore, is to contribute towards increasing the resilience of mixed crop and livestock and agro-pastoral farming systems to the effects of climate change through adapting the systems to the principles of agroecology. The research is three-pronged and involves 

  1. Exploratory studies that establish a baseline on common AE practices in mixed crop and livestock agro-pastoral systems, 
  2. On-farm field experiments aimed to establish the common drivers of GHG emissions in the use of inorganic and organic (FYM) fertilizers for producing food and fodder in these livestock systems, and 
  3. Co-creation of knowledge and information sharing between researchers and the community. 

We will follow an integrated approach and address several of the thematic areas laid down in the GRA-GRG call viz; ‘improving African livestock GHG inventories’, ‘Manure management’, ‘Traditional indigenous farming systems’, ‘extension of mitigation knowledge to farmers’ but narrow the focus to the ‘quantification of CH4, N2O and CO2’. Specifically, we seek to make our contribution towards the understanding of GHG emissions in the African mixed crop and livestock and agro pastoral systems through data collected on farm and on the landscape. We also endeavour to contribute to the body of knowledge on potential AE practices that can reduce GHG emissions but increase the mixed crop and livestock and agro pastoral systems in a sustainable manner.

The expected project outputs include (i) GHG inventories across different mixed crop and AP systems, (ii) rates of organic and inorganic fertilizers that contribute to reduced emissions relative to yield in mixed crop and livestock and AP established, (iii) AE practices with the most potential for higher yields and lower emissions in mixed crop and AP systems delineated and documented, (iv) knowledge on cost-effective management of mixed crop and AP systems in the context of AE generated, documented and shared amongst various stakeholders including the community and the central and county governments, and (v) strengthened collaboration between participating institutions and Elgeyo Marakwet County. Graduate training is an integral part of this project and as such two MSc. students will be trained.

Envisioned achievements of CRAPAE are to contribute to data on the quantification of GHGs in SSA. This data will help in the development and implementation of policies for reduction in GHGs in the agricultural sector. We take cognisance of the fact that our results will be influenced by yield and emissions and farmer preferences but in future researches, analysis of the gross margins for farmers and the societal economic costs and benefits will be necessary follow-ups. We also endeavour to sensitise and create awareness to mixed crop-livestock and agropastoral communities about effects of climate change and co-create knowledge on how they can adapt and/or mitigate against these effects through appropriate interventions embedded in the principles of agroecology.

By directly training two MSc. Students and several others indirectly through seminars and workshops, university staff, farmers and extension officers, CRAPAE will have made a great achievement in capacity building. We shall empower key personnel and expertise at the University’s Outreach Centre in climate change and agroecology and enhance the university’s curricula by incorporating modules in these topics both for the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Finally, we endeavour to bring knowledge together for a holistic view of practices, to see which practices deliver yield and potential resilience, sustainability, and lower GHG emissions. In general, the focus is to reduce GHG emissions from the mixed crop and livestock and AP practices but more so make a comparison of all factors in light of yield and resilience. Of importance also is that such practices can be taken up by farmers for example, if results show they are feasible, farmers “like” them, or if costs associated with them are low as compared to the conventional ones. This knowledge will be shared amongst the stakeholders through the Outreach Centre of University of Eldoret.

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