Completed research projects

“In situ assessment of GHG emissions from two livestock systems in East Africa – determining current status and quantifying mitigation options” – funded by GIZ/BMZ (2015-2018, Kenya)

Short Summary:

The goal is to quantify GHG emissions and testing of mitigation options for two livestock systems in Kenya/East Africa: 1) dairy cattle, economically the most important livestock production system in Kenya; 2) beef/ draught oxen, especially important in eastern Kenya and Ethiopia. The purpose is the improvement of current estimates of GHG emissions from livestock systems by generating currently lacking region specific information. The project encompasses a) generation of accurate baseline data for livestock GHG emissions for locally prevalent livestock systems by identifying current feed types and feeding levels and measuring GHG emissions arising from them. b) exploration of two nutritional intervention options – attempting to improve productivity on present feed types by supplementation with macro nutrients to optimise rumen function; or supplying a level of nutrition optimal for the genetic potential of the livestock being assessed c) assessing effects of animal health on ruminant performance and GHG emissions d) improving the RUMINANT model for simulating livestock performance and ruminant GHG emissions. e) up-scaling of GHG emissions to the rest of East Africa. Our hypothesis is that i) current smallholder feeding practices result in reduced animal productivity and higher GHG emissions per unit of product, and ii) current GHG estimates from livestock substantially underestimate actual emissions because of poor feed quality and low levels of feeding.

20160606 Kenya DJI PHOTOS-0036.jpg

Animal trial at Mazingira Centre (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya.

“Global Litter Decomposition Study: ILTER TeaComposition Initiative” – Mazingira Centre joined this global initiative in 2016 (2016-2018)

Short Summary:

Litter decomposition accounts for one of the largest carbon (C) fluxes of the global terrestrial C cycle. C dynamics of long-term litter decomposition have been well studied in recent decades. However, a lack of common protocols between experiments often present a challenge for data comparison across sites. The ILTER (International Long Term Ecological Research) TeaComposition Initiative aims to understand long-term C dynamics (C losses and C storage) and its key drivers through a worldwide litter decomposition study, with a common protocol and standardized substrates (Lipton Green and Rooibos tea bags) being used for all sites taking part of the experiment. Tea bags are incubated in the ground for differing periods of time (3 months, 1 year, 2 years and 3 years). The difference in weight before and after incubation represents a measure of decomposed organic matter over these periods of time, and is used to estimate C fluxes. The Mazingira Centre contributes to this 3-year study by establishing and managing two experimental sites in Kenya (one at the Mazingira Centre in Nairobi and the other at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Kapiti research farm in South-Central Kenya). The data generated in our experimental sites will be included in a Special Issue of Science of the Total Environment.

Our PhD candidate Victoria Carbonell is currently responsible for the project.


Buried teabags at ILRI main campus in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Innovative feed system management for improving smallholder dairy production” under the umbrella of the Green Innovations Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector – funded by GIZ (2015-2017, Kenya)

Short Summary:

The Mazingira Centre organizes targeted farmer training courses in Western Kenya. The main aim of this activity is to train previously identified innovative smallholder farmers in basic farm practices (i.e. feed preservation, forage production, basic livestock hygiene) in order to allow for higher farm productivity (i.e. milk yield, forage yields). The low productivity of existing livestock production systems results in 10-100 times higher GHG footprints of livestock products as compared to those produced in developed economies. Thus, the envisaged increase in productivity will directly lead to a reduction of the GHG intensity (emission per unit product) of livestock products. Moreover, the training aims: a) at the implementation of promising greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation options such as improved manure management, and b) at the introduction of strategies to increase the resilience of the livestock systems in the future (e.g. feed preservation techniques to bridge dry season shortage in fodder availability) and therefore fulfills the three pillars of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA).


Farmers that were trained preparing “dairy meal” – a feed supplement for cattle in the region.