Current research projects

“African Ruminant Methane: Measurements and Analysis (ARMMA)” – funded by the Cambridge-Africa Alborada Research Fund (2020)

Short Summary:

This project will bring together experts in Cambridge and Kenya to tackle one of the biggest challenges we face in the greenhouse gas and climate sciences community – understanding the sources of the rapid rise in atmospheric methane. To achieve this we will measure the isotopic fingerprint of methane from African cattle, sheep and goats, in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya. Methane is a powerful climate warmer. The amount of methane in the air is growing rapidly, with much of the growth led from the tropics. The causes of methane’s rise are not known but may include increased emissions from tropical cattle. Nearly 60% of Kenyan methane emissions are from agriculture, with virtually all coming from livestock, primarily cattle. Sub-Saharan Africa has enormous cattle populations, used for both food production and for social status. Although much is known about methane emissions from European cattle, little data has been produced in the African context. African cattle live under very different conditions to European cattle, so the European data may not be applicable. This may lead to vast over-estimation or under-estimation of the methane emissions of African nations. Thus, an accurate assessment of emissions from tropical ruminants is urgently required.

Specific Objectives:

1. Sampling of air from tropcial cattle and other methane sources in Kenya.

2. Isotopic anaylsis of air samples at Royal Holloway, University of London.

3. Collection and analysis of manure samples from tropical livestock to allow for DNA sequencing and subsequently assess inputs and gut microbial composition.

4. Interpretation and modelling the impacts.


Sampling of air from cattle in Kajiado county, Kenya

“Climate change and small ruminants in extensive systems in East Africa – challenges, co-benefits and options for methane mitigation (CHANCE) ” – funded by IDRC (2020-2022)

Short Summary:

Climate change is an urgent issue and on the top of the global political agenda. National and international attempts to mitigate and to adapt to climate change are amongst the highest political priorities, both in OECD countries but also in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) such as Kenya. Up to date, there is a lack of localized data on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (especially enteric methane production) from livestock systems in tropical regions, especially for livestock kept in extensive systems in SSA. Countries from the Global South are characterized by low animal productivity and as result higher GHG emission intensities (GHG emissions per kg product, i.e. milk or meat) compared to the Global North. In addition to the lower productivity of local breeds, smallholder livestock keepers face additional challenges such as animal diseases that contribute to or even impair animal productivity. This additional disease burden affects ruminant livestock productivity, thus leading to reduced household income through livestock and likely even more unfavourable GHG emission intensities.

Specific Objectives:

1. GHG emissions from sheep kept in extensive systems in Sub-Saharan Africa – interactions of breed and health status (enteric fermentation and manure)

2. Impact of improved feeding on animal productivity and enteric methane emissions in sheep compared to goats

3. MPACT: Knowledge Transfer and Stakeholder engagement


Sheep in respiration chamber at Mazingira Centre

“Fluorescence measurements – the first FLOX tower in Africa ” – in partnership with University of Milano and ILRI’s Index Based Livestock Insurance Team (IBLI) (2019 onwards)

Short Summary:

Remote sensing technologies to monitor African pastures and predict their annual production are widely used, including the IBLI team of ILRI. Vegetation fluorescence is a promising measure to improve such estimates. For this reason the first measurements of solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF) on the African continent have started in September 2019 at Kapiti Research Station. With those measurements, the collaborating researchers from University of Milano, Kings College London and ILRI’s Mazingire Centre try to improve currently available remote sensing product with direct ground measurements of SIF as well as carbon fluxes.

more here: Webpage


The first FloX tower on the African continent.

“Assessing the carbon balance of a large-scale dryland agriculture in semi-arid South Central Kenya” – in partnership with Lund University and Ausquest Ltd. (2019-2021)

Short Summary:

The overarching goal of this project is to assess the carbon budget of large-scale dryland agriculture in the semi-arid regions of Kenya. There are different land uses for the semi-arid savanna biome, common rangeland and/or dryland agriculture. A thorough assessment of either system in terms of their “climate smartness” has not been done yet. In detail, it remains unclear what the overal productivity of either of these systems is, not what the environmentla footprint of these systems is. However, such an assessment is critical to allow for sustainable food production as well as for Kenya to accurately report their greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement to UNFCCC.

Specific objectives:

1. To quantify the carbon balance of a larg-scale dryland agriculture systems in South Central Kenya

2. To link the the carbon fluyx measurements to multispectral measurements of the vegetation.


Eddy covariane tower on an agricultural field adjacent to Kapiti Research Station

“Restoring African degraded landscapes with plant biodiversity and livestock management – ReDEAL” – funded by Global Challenges Research Fund GCRF (2019-2020)

Short Summary:

The overarching goal of this project is to elucidate the underlying biological mechanisms behind successful restoration of degraded grazing lands in the highlands of Kenya, supported by an understanding of the required governance of resources required to sustain success. Specifically, we seek to exploit plant biodiversity and livestock management for the recovery of degraded lands, thereby increasing the quality of livestock fodder, livestock productivity and nutrient content of manures.

Specific objectives:
1) Identify states of degradation and their association with soil and ecosystem functioning, and livestock management in Kenyan highlands to derive practical metrics

2) Identify the role of plant functional diversity in building soil functioning to support plant production and high feed quality in degraded grasslands.

3) Define opportunities to manage landscape level interactions to support restoration and communities livelihoods through a validation of alternative scenarios.

4) Engage key stakeholders to understand restoration needs and constraints and to build capacity.

more information here ProjectWebpage and @RestoreGrazing


Degraded landscape following overgrazing in Western Kenya

“Land surface temperature validation and carbon flux measurement in a common wildlife/livestock system in Kenya” – in partnership with Kings College London and Kapiti Research Station (2018-2021)

Short Summary:

Accurate land surface temperature estimates are essential for various applications. One of these are Pest Risk Assessments of herbivores. In order to make such assessments land surface temperatures are derived from satellite products. However, up to data such products were hardly validated on the African continents. Thus, under the lead of Kings College London we aim at validating several land surfae temperature products with ground measurements carried out Kapiti Research Station . The station is a 14.000 ha wildlife – livestock savannah ecosystem located in the semi-arid region of South Central Kenya. In addition, the carbon balance of such ecosystem which are both used for conservation and livestock production has not been assessed in-situ so far. Thus, we installed an eddy covariance tower at this site to quantify the exchange of carbon dioxide and methane in order to derive a full carbon budget for such an important ecosystem.

Specific objectives:

1. To validate land surface temperature satellite products with ground based measurements of land surface temperatures.

2. To assess the carbon budget of a typcial wildlife livestock savanna ecosystem in East Africa.

3. To identify the drivers of methane and carbon dioxide exchange at ecosystem scale.


Land surface temperature and eddy covariance tower at Kapiti Research Station.

“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.

more information here ProjectWebpage and @Upscalers_News


Milking of a cow in Burkina Faso

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 – more here: eWeigh Android mobile phone application

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

more information here ProjectWebpage and @PCSLstock


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