Current research projects

“Upscaling Site-Specific Climate-smart Agriculture and Land use practices to Enhance Regional production Systems in West-Africa” – funded by the African Union  and the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) (2018-2021)

Short Summary:

The major objective of this project is to provide research guidance on the optimum use of soil water, land, livestock management practices and climate information in small holder farming system to increase cereal/legume productions (millet, maize, rice & cowpea) and improve land resilience for sustainable agriculture jointly with partners in Africa and Europe

Specifically, the project will:

i) Set up participative observations and modelling frameworks to develop climate-smart management practices fitting site-specific conditions by mixing crop/livestock productions for higher water and nutrient use efficiency while reducing GHG emissions;

ii) Develop and communicate regional climate change information for adaptation options in crop-livestock farming.

iii) Develop a regionalization scheme of “good practices” and lessons learnt to support the upscaling and transferability of technical measures on productivity increase in family farms across northern Volta-Niger Basin & West Africa;

iv) Improve communication, exchange of experience, transferability of knowledge and technology among scientists, crop/livestock stake holders (farmers, herders, local NGOs, etc.) and policy makers through participative observations and modelling framework;

v) Create incentives for women and youth empowerment by promoting a secured women’s access to land, documenting and incorporating indigenous knowledge, involve women and youth in on-farm experiments and exchange programs.


Training materials and tools for smallholder dairy farmers: towards achieving climate smart livestock – funded by GIZ under the Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector (2018-2019, Kenya)

Short Summary:

The project is a follow-up activity on a previous project that aimed at focused farmer training courses in Western Kenya (Smallholder farmers’ training presents new livelihood horizons for a group of women in western Kenya) during which the need for additional trainings as well as tools for smallholder farmer climate smart development were identified. Therefore, the current project will consist of three components and cover:

(1) the development of a mobile phone application,

(2) training materials for smallholder farmer training courses to be used in national curricula of livestock extension officers, and

(3) an assessment of the potential of smallholder farmer training courses to meet the three pillars of climate smart agriculture.


Farmer feedback workshops in Western Kenya that aimed at improving current farming activities. photo credit Esther Kihoro

“Programme for Climate Smart Livestock – PCSL” – funded by BMZ via GIZ and jointly implemented by Mazingira Centre, our colleagues within the Sustainable Livestock Systems Program of ILRI and the Worldbank (2018-2021, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda)

Short Summary:

The Programme for Climate Smart Livestock Systems (PCSL) supports interventions to increase the contribution of livestock production to the three key pillars of climate smart agriculture (CSA) (increased productivity, mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adaptation to climate change), across major systems and species in the three focus countries (Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda). PCSL aims to enable key livestock stakeholders to increasingly direct their livestock practices, sector strategies and policies towards the achievement of climate smart livestock systems. The project consists of three core activities:

1) DISSEMINATION: Dissemination of interventions for climate smart livestock systems,

2) POLICIES: Integration of climate change mitigation and adaptation in livestock-related policies, and

3) REPORTING: Capacities of responsible stakeholders to report on national contributions to the UNFCCC.

For more information please do not hesitate to contact us.


Livestock keeper in rural East Africa. photo credit Sonja Leitner


“Supporting EU-African Cooperation on Research Infrastructures for Food Security and Greenhouse Gas Observations – SEACRIFOG” – funded under H2020 (2017-2019)

Short Summary:

African societies face growing global change risks, with rapidly changing patterns of human settlements and intensity of use of ecosystem services. At the same time, climate variability and climate change trends are intensifying stress on the ecosystems that ensure environmental security, both locally (e.g. ecosystem services), regionally (e.g. sustainable development options) and internationally (e.g. carbon sequestration). Approaches that can address this challenge in an integrated and multidisciplinary way are urgently needed in many places in Africa where there is a close relationship between societal well-being and environmental condition, relating particularly to biomass for energy and food production, and hydrological considerations such as water yields. Policymakers and land-use decision makers are increasingly dependent on knowledge on the state of the environment. Long-term observational systems and research infrastructures have been identified to be indispensable elements of knowledge generation to serve climate change adaptation, food security, and climate change mitigation. This proposal supports EU-African cooperation on research infrastructures. Its aims are to increase coherence and interoperability between infrastructures in Europe and Africa, to enhance technical competence, science awareness and lifelong learning in Africa in order to facilitate the use of research results for evidence-based policy making, and to identify knowledge gaps for future research directions. The project will:

1) identify the essential parameters needed to develop science based strategies to improve food and nutrition security including early warning systems and to mitigate climate change,

2) formulate a roadmap towards fully interoperable and accessible research infrastructures in agricultural and climate research in the EU and Africa that match the needs of the users, and

3) deliver a contribution to capacity building and human capital development in Africa.


SEACRIFOG Team and East African stakeholders during the project KickOff meeting in May 2017. photo credit Lutz Merbold


“Greening Livestock:  Incentive-based Interventions for Reducing the Climate Impact of Livestock in East Africa” – funded by IFAD (2016-2019, Kenya and Tanzania)

Short Summary:

The project will support the Governments of Kenya and Tanzania to integrate Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) planning for livestock production in smallholder systems by providing the evidence base they need for informed policy making. The Kenyan government is actively developing plans for LED in the livestock sector and the Tanzanian government is well positioned to develop their plans that include the livestock sector. However, there are currently a number of constraints in Kenya and Tanzania that prevent smallholder livestock producers to adopt different CSA practices and in turn receive compensation for using more sustainable practices. These include the lack of available data in Kenya and Tanzania concerning how much emissions reductions can be achieved and the types of incentives and institutional arrangements needed to support smallholder livestock producers implement CSA practices. The project strategy is designed to simultaneously tackle the lack of quantitative data for establishing mitigation targets associated with productivity gains and monitoring progress and the lack of information available on implementation mechanisms. The project’s approach for achieving impact recognizes that national level action is needed for mitigation in the livestock sector; national decisions are needed to enable behaviour change through incentives at the local/ household level. In Kenya, several platforms for implementing payments for GHG emissions reductions are being considered, including a Livestock NAMA and REDD+.


Agricultural training college in Bukura, Western Kenya. photo credit Lutz Merbold

“Climate-smart dairy systems in East Africa through improved forages and feeding strategies: enhancing productivity and adaptive capacity while mitigating GHG emissions” – funded by IFAD (2017 – 2020, Rwanda and Tanzania route to Kenya and Burundi)

Short Summary:

Animal Source Food is a critical component of a balanced diet and contributes to nutrition security in particular of children. As a result of high population growth and diet shifts, the demand for meat and milk is rising quickly. Mixed crop-livestock systems produce 70% of the meat and 90% of the milk in Eastern and Central Africa, while also providing livelihoods for some 50 million of Africa’s rural poor. At the same time, they cause important environmental impacts and must thus urgently begin a process of sustainable intensification. In many of the areas that are facing feed-deficits, increasing the production, storage and (year-round) availability of high quality feed resources provides a huge opportunity for sustainably increasing livestock production. It will enable farmers to become reliable suppliers of milk and engage in commercialisation. Expected climate change impacts are multiple, with effects on livestock productivity most prominently mediated through impacts on quantity and quality of feed resources. On the other hand, livestock systems of the East African highlands are hotspots for GHG emission intensity mainly due to low productivity. Climate-smart forage options (grasses, legumes) integrated into mixed production systems are among the relevant options to increase resilience and reduce the ecological ‘hoofprint’ and have been identified as some of the most promising triple win Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) options. This project will target forage-based technology options to specific bio-physical and socio-economic conditions and integrate these options in equitable and gender-sensitive dairy value chains. Particular attention is given to climate-robust options increasing productivity while, at the same time, enhancing environmental benefits (soil fertility, mitigation).


Forage seed production near Karama, Rwanda. photo credit Lutz Merbold

“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.