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ILRI scientists map Kenyan watershed services to benefit people, crops, livestock and wildlife

Land use in Ewaso Ng'iro Watershed

A map of land use in the Ewaso Ng’iro watershed, taken from Mapping and Valuing Ecosystem Services in the Ewaso Ng’iro Watershed, published in 2011 by ILRI.

From Ecosystem Marketplace comes this review of a new publication from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

‘. . . As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of floods and droughts in [dryland pastoral] ecosystems, water catchment and management becomes a crucial tool in building ecosystems resilience. For practical water management, entire watersheds need to considered; from the water catchment in highland forests to the basins in the lowlands.

‘Understanding the dynamics of the watershed, conducting cost-benefit analysis of different land use practices, and determining the economic value of ecosystem services in particular water, forests and biodiversity plays a key role in advocating for conservation and sustainable development of landscapes, where linkages between ecosystem services and human well-being are well documented.

That’s why the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a Nairobi-based NGO, published Mapping and Valuing Ecosystem Services in the Ewaso Ng’iro Watershed to inform the Government of Kenya on the latest developments on arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL’s) that cover approximately 80% of the country.

‘Typically, ASAL’s encompass a range between the savanna grasslands and desert areas. The extent of the Ewaso Ng’iro North watershed, the subject of the study, begins in the highlands of Mount Kenya where agriculture, logging and land grabbing have been documented, to the lower plains of Laikipia and Samburu which are famous for the wildlife and rich culture.

‘The step-by-step approach of mapping and valuing the ecosystem services of the watershed began with using spatial imagery to map the extent and characteristics of the watershed. This included water, biomass, livestock, wildlife and irrigated crops. These services were quantified and the demand for these services based on different land-use systems measured. An economic valuation of these services was then conducted.

‘The results of such a study are expected to inform the Government of Kenya on how to improve the standard of living in the region. This tool allows for a comparison of “alternative land and water uses between livestock, crop production, and wildlife-based tourism to enable future assessments of how and how much each use will improve the standard of living and whose standard of living.”

‘Determining the ecosystem services of the watershed takes into account more criteria than just water, but the categorization of water makes it possible to determine it’s unique value to human well-being.

The ILRI study priced the value of water based on what production systems water was a main contributor too, namely crop and livestock. It showed that value of water requirements for crops was much higher than livestock in the drylands, a cost that can now be used as a tool for various water pricing schemes and conservation incentives by policy makers.

‘The study also indirectly priced water’s contribution to tourism and biomass, values that can be used to compare different land use implications.

‘The use of such a study is not limited to policy implementation, but can inform a range of conservation and development initiatives on where to focus effort.

‘Considering different land use implications, energies can be directed towards opportunities that can deliver maximum benefit at least cost. This could be by developing conservation areas where agriculture may not be viable, or developing market mechanisms to boost livestock production. Payments for ecosystem services can also be developed for such watersheds to advocate for their conservation. . . .

[S]tudies such as the one conducted by ILRI take the first steps in informing us the how’s, why’s, what’s and how much ecosystems contribute to human well-being.

Read the whole article at Ecosystem Marketplace: Kenyan cattlemen map watershed services, 21 Dec 2011.

Read about the ILRI publication on the ILRI News Blog: Putting a price on water: From Mt Kenya forests to Laikipia savannas to Dadaab drylands, 19 Jan 2012.

Download the publication, Mapping and Valuing Ecosystem Services in the Ewaso Ng’iro Watershed, by Ericksen, PJ; Said, MY; Leeuw, J de; Silvestri, S; Zaibet, L; Kifugo, SC; Sijmons, K; Kinoti, J; Ng’ang’a, L; Landsberg, F and Stickler, M. 2011. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

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