Unraveling complexity: Understanding the land-water-food nexus in Elgeyo-Marakwet, north-west Kenya

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

Abstract

The communities of Elgeyo-Marakwet, northwest Kenya reside across the ecological continuum of the temperate Cherangany Hills and arid Kerio Valley. Heavily reliant on the land-water-food nexus, they offer a well-studied example of resilience in the face of multiple environmental changes over the last 200 years (Davies and Moore 2016). Earlier research by the PI, CoI and team has focused on management of water through a network of built water channels used for agricultural and domestic purposes; the sophisticated management of agricultural soils through complex patterns of tenure and fallowing; management of botanic resources including diverse indigenous and imported crops; and the importance of forests which serve hydraulic functions and as reserves of gathered medicines and foodstuffs.

However, recent work indicates growing apprehension of the impact of new ecological changes, including general concerns over climate change, as well as a shift towards water-intensive mono-cropping, the introduction of new crops, and the installation of piped-irrigation which is exacerbating unequal access to water resources. While these latter changes were meant to help mitigate food insecurity, research suggest that they may have had the opposite effect by increasing soil degradation, introducing unfamiliar weeds and crop diseases, and placing pressure on existing water sources. Related to this are concerns about the loss of traditional natural resource management, the loss of culturally valuable biodiversity, and the implications for food security. Compounding these tensions are land-use changes within the Cherangany Forest catchment, especially deforestation resulting from increased agricultural and pastoral activities. This has raised concerns of fertilizer runoff, land degradation, biodiversity loss, and decreased water quality and quantity across the upland-valley ecological continuum.

There is pressing interest among local communities and the County government, to understand the implications of these new challenges and develop practical solutions. We focus on disentangling the complex and interdependent land-water-food nexus across the Cherangany Forest reserve and the semi-arid Kerio Valley. Using ethnography, interviews, botanic survey, aerial photography, GIS mapping and building on existing collaborative strengths, we will effect these aims along two axes: 1. Forest Management and 2. Agriculture. We will collate, review and extend existing data to understand the land-water-food nexus in relation to both historic and potential future environmental changes. We will also examine existing literature on regional climatic change and collate local weather station data to produce a practical understanding of how these key axes (forests and agriculture) have and may respond to climatic fluctuation. Production of more highly resolved analyses of potential climate induced impacts seems especially important since current predictions for Eastern Africa are spatially heterogeneous and often of low certainty.

To produce localized and grounded knowledge for practical policy making we will partner with Elgeyo-Marakwet County Council, nearby Eldoret University (UOE), the Marakwet Research Station (MRS), British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA), National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) to produce research to be directly incorporated into new county-level environmental and conservation planning. We have undertaken preliminary meetings with County officials and established MOU's with UOE and MRS. This work will advance longer-term goals of developing local research capacity, encouraging appropriate resource management, and devising policy frameworks that track and address emerging climate change and other ecological impacts by bringing together experts, civil society, and policy makers.

Davies, M.I.J and Moore, H.L. 2016. Landscape, time and cultural resilience. Journal of Eastern African Studies 10:67-87

Planned Impact

From inception to completion (and as a building block for future research), this project aims to generate important new findings pertaining to the complex relationships between climate, land, water and food in a vulnerable part of rural Africa. We aim to tease apart the connectedness of different ecological zones and their reciprocal impacts on human resource security, and will do so at high spatial resolution - moving beyond larger scale ecological and climatic models and towards region and community specific analyses.

Our primary aim is to generate knowledge that creates direct social, economic and resource security benefits for the Elgeyo-Marakwet study community. We will achieve this by working directly with the local County Government of Elegyo-Marakwet and Community Business organisations to develop appropriate resource management plans for a sustainable future. We will disseminate and apply our work through a range of policy papers and community workshops, and we will create a range of resources for local needs. These will include local hardcopy and digital data-stores and online resources accessible to government and community organisations (including reports, blog posts, images, audio-visual). The local community will be directly affected by the implementation of good environmental policy by the County Government, but they will also benefit from access to considerable new knowledge and resources with which to implement their own effective management strategies and for use in their negations with outside managers and policy makers (NGOs etc).

As a secondary impact we will also support planners in the Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government in the enactment of their roles. Kenya has recently transitioned to a devolved structure of County Government, allowing local planners considerable control over the management of regional resources. However, there is a dearth of detailed local knowledge on which to base contextually specific planning decisions including in relations to questions of forest management, agricultural development and climate change mitigation. We will work directly with local planners to establish the inter-connectivity of these changes, producing research data to fill these knowledge gaps and develop future resource management strategies through a series of co-produced policy papers.

Academic beneficiaries include both local and international scholars. We will work in partnership with colleagues from the University of Eldoret, Kenya. Helping them to develop research networks and capacity. We will also produce a range of high resolution environmental records of considerable comparative interest to other UK and European research projects in the immediate region. We also aim to demonstrate an approach aligned with local community and government interests which may be of significant benefit to future academic research trajectories. Regional botanic collections will also be established as both local and national resources at the University of Eldoret and the National Herbarium at the National Museums of Kenya. These will archive unique plant genetic diversity for future research, conservation and teaching purposes and contributing to stores of knowledge of national and wider significance.

Finally, the UK currently spends considerable sums on climatic, environmental, agricultural and other related aid projects in sub-Saharan Africa and we aim to positively impact the effectiveness of these UK development interventions by promoting locally engaged and contextually specific research. Through the UCL IGP, the Nexus Network and DFID contacts we will disseminate our findings and approach through UK policy circles.

Publications

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Description This project has achieved its primary objective to bring together interdisciplinary experts, policy makers, and community members to explore the land-water-food nexus in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Kenya. We have begun building a comprehensive picture of how communities in two linked but environmentally contrasting locales (highland forests and low-land agricultural systems) have managed resources over time and have adapted to changing climate, water availability, deforestation, land degradation, and biodiversity loss. We have communicated these results to local policy-makers and are working on a co-authored environmental/climate policy document. We have further established new collaborative partnerships to take this impactful work forward. We here highlight four key achievements:

1. We have synthesised and archived an extensive body of existing and new research data including published academic sources, government statistics, aerial/satellite imagery, ground-truthed GPS/GIS data, primary interviews with local farmers, and botanic and climatic information. We have deposited digital copies with local communities via the Marakwet Research Station and with local policy makers in the County Government.

2. We have generated considerable new research data in line with four original objectives. Objective 1.1. Forests and Water: we have physically mapped changing forest boundaries, incursions and settlement patterns and are developing advanced models of changing forest cover and land-use using Landsat. Objective 1.2. Forests and Food Security: we have conducted 12 botanical transect surveys. Combining participatory and scientific methods, we have generated comprehensive lists and samples of wild plant food and medicinal specimens. Objective 2.1. Agriculture and Water: we undertook primary interview work with farmers concerning perceptions of environmental change and conflict. Unfortunately, we were unable to undertake hydrological flow measurements as planned, due to tense local circumstances outside of our control. Objective 2.2. Agriculture and Food: working with local farmers, we have surveyed and collected samples demonstrating the diversity of crops grown and extracted information on yields from existing survey data.

3. We have solidified new partnerships for future impactful research including with the Kenyan National Herbarium (two meetings, MoU in progress), Nature Kenya (two meetings), World Agro-Forestry Centre (two meetings), the University of Eldoret (MoU signed), and especially the new Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government. The latter was facilitated by two planning meetings followed by a workshop/policy development meeting in February 2017, attended by eight County Government ministers. We are working on a jointly authored policy document.

We have increased capacity of the local Citizen Science research team through training in various data collection methods in support of future research. The project has further inspired us to seek technical partnerships for advanced data modelling - including climate-yield modelling with partners at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources and biodiversity/land-cover change modelling with partners from Kew Gardens (planning workshops undertaken).

4. We have/will produce several outputs that lay foundations for future research: several academic presentations, poster, two blog posts, two academic papers, policy document, data archive and botanic collections. The work also contributes directly to the production of three PhD projects, including one from the University of Eldoret, Kenya that enhances regional skills and capacity.
Exploitation Route Our research outcomes will primarily be taken forward by ourselves in collaboration with our partners. We have already created a range of resources (data archives, reports, images) for use by local communities and County officials and we envisage that these actors will utilize these resources in their own future activities. However, we see significant impact emerging from further sustained academic and non-academic collaboration. To this end as a joint Kenya-UK academic team we will continue working with County officials to focus future research on environmental, agricultural and hydrological issues that they identify as crucial for the long term sustainability and prosperity of Elgeyo-Marakwet. This is vital for developing long-term partnerships that synergise scientific research/knowledge with effective policy making. In particular we are planning two further policy development meetings over the coming year. We are also planning further collaborative funding bids with Kenyan and UK academic partners, in which we aim to address knowledge gaps - both for academic research and local policy - building research capacity in Kenya and enhancing community-policy-research synergies. In particular, we already envisage the need for effective down-scaling of predictive climate models and have begun developing a partnership with climate modellers at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources. We also envisage need for more effective understandings of plant biology and land-use potential to maximize regional land-use in the face of climatic change. To that end we are working to establish future funding applications with researchers at Kew Gardens and the Kenyan National Herbarium.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment

URL http://www.marakwetheritage.com
 
Description The overall non-academic impacts from the Unravelling Complexity project (ES/P002609/1) are still maturing. However, we here identify three areas were impacts have are beginning to emerge: 1. We have employed and trained a local Citizen Science research team of six individuals and one Director. This has enhanced regional research capacity and extended the dissemination of research results. As project activities grow/extend (see below) and involve broader collaborations with regional policy makers, this research team will act as a key resource both for conducting primary research and facilitating community engagements and disseminating research results. Regional communities are now more aware of their ability to conduct and influence research and policy. 2. We have produced a range of digital research resources (archive of research papers, research and key statistical summaries, and primary data and analyses including GPS mapping of regional agricultural practices and technologies, satellite and aerial photographic imagery) for use by regional policy makers in the newly formed Elgeyo-marakwet County Government. These resources are beginning to influence policy making, most notably in the formation of an environmental resources managment working group (in February 2018) of which our ongoing research team is a part. The future policy outputs of this working group will stem from future collaborative research, but the structures for delivering this are now in place. We are also in the process of beginning to draft an initial policy brief alongside the county government 3. In addition to the direct policy engagements with the Elgeyo-Marakwet County government, the Unravelling Complexity Project has resulted in the development of a wide range of UK and Kenya-based scientific partnerships (Kew Gardens, UCL ISR, ICRAF World Agro-Forestry Centre, Kenya National Herbarium, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Institute, Nature Kenya, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Marakwet Research Station) which have opened up unique avenues for cross and trans-disciplinary research and which can be accessed by policy-makers in this relatively remote part of Kenya. This cross disciplinary research network has not only resulted in the development of a major research grant bid to the BBSRC focussed on greatly elaborating the original scientific and policy aims of this initial project, but also creates a unique network of expertise that all partners are now able to draw on in the development of effective policy generation and future research, including outside of the context of standard research council funding. While the quantifiable impacts of the Unravelling complexity Project are therefore difficult to asses at the moment, we believe that the broader impacts of the networking, partner building, training and pilot research undertaken are beginning to mature and we look forward to reporting on these further in the near future.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Engagement with Environmental policymakers in Elgeyo-Marakwet Kenya and creation of a working group to examine and develop policy on nexus issues
Geographic Reach Africa 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description UCL GCRF Small Research Grants
Amount £99,960 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 07/2019
 
Description UCL Global Engagement Office Sea and Currents Fund: MOU with University of Eldoret
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 08/2016
 
Description UCL Global Engagement Office grant: Communicating Climate Science in Eastern Africa
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 06/2018
 
Description Creation of environmental policy working group with Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government 
Organisation Government of Kenya
Department County Government of Elgeyo Marakwet
PI Contribution Following several planning meetings and workshops at which we have presented our ongoing Nexus research to county officials and where we examined their needs/requirements, we have now established a working group to develop further collaborative research engagements and develop policy.
Collaborator Contribution Following several planning meetings and workshops at which we have presented our ongoing Nexus research to county officials and where we examined their needs/requirements, we have now established a working group to develop further collaborative research engagements and develop policy.
Impact No formal outputs have yet been developed. The project is highly multidisciplinary, working across the social (anthropology, archaeology, economic modelling) and natural sciences (biosciences, climate science, remote sensing etc).
Start Year 2017
 
Description Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL and University of Eldoret, Kenya 
Organisation University of Eldoret
PI Contribution Memorandum of Understanding signed between University of Eldoret and Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL. This work will advance longer-term goals of developing local research capacity, encouraging appropriate resource management, and devising policy frameworks that track and address emerging climate change and other ecological impacts by bringing together experts, civil society, and policy makers.
Collaborator Contribution This work will advance longer-term goals of developing local research capacity, encouraging appropriate resource management, and devising policy frameworks that track and address emerging climate change and other ecological impacts by bringing together experts, civil society, and policy makers.
Impact This partnership is still in progress. We envisage that the MoU will help us work towards a durable partnership with jointly trained research students, capacity building, authorship and grant applications.
Start Year 2016
 
Description UCL IGP-ICRAF (World Agro-Forestry Centre) 
Organisation World Agroforestry Centre
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Over several meetings our team presented ongoing nexus work in Elgeyo-Marakwet County Kenya to land health and soil science specialists at ICRAF resulting in a formal teaming agreement and collaborative joint grant bid for £1.9 million to the BBSRC (outcome pending).
Collaborator Contribution ICRAF partners have been able to demosontrate their expertise, especially in soil spectrometry, leading to joint collaborative grant as per above.
Impact No formal publications are yet forthcoming. However, a major collaborative grant bid was made as outlined above.
Start Year 2017
 
Description UCL IGP-Kew Gardens 
Organisation Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our research team was able to present to a select team of Kew experts and from this we have developed a set of overlapping and complimentary research interests. This has led to the development of a major joint grant bid to the BBSRC.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners at Kew were able to present their range of skills and expertise to our UK-Kenya Research team resulting in the development of a major joint grant bid to the BBSRC.
Impact No formal publications have yet resulted. However a major collaborative grant bid for £1.9 million has been submitted to the BBSRC. The project is highly interdisciplinary involving collaboration across the social sciences (anthropology, archaeology) and biosciences (biodiversity, plant ecology, species distribution modelling, remote sensing, climate modelling).
Start Year 2017
 
Description ESRC-Nexus Network Workshop: MAPS, MEASURES AND NARRATIVES FOR TRANSDISCIPLINARY 'GRAND CHALLENGE' RESEARCH 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Based on our Nexus research in Kenya, we have co-developped and are about to host a one day ESRC-Nexus Network workshop that will consider the capacity of research communities, such as, but not limited to those supported by The Nexus Network. The workshop will train participants to deliver inter- and transdisciplinary research. The workshop offers an opportunity for those engaged in such research to explore and pilot innovative methods for evaluating their own researcher capabilities, and the capacities of their research networks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.thenexusnetwork.org/events/
 
Description Policy Engagement Meeting with Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government Kenya 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Several meetings were held with County government officials and ministers in agriculture at Elgeyo-Marakwet County in Kenya. The meetings focussed on the transfer of existing project knowledge and data and the development of focussed research collaborations and the co-development of policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Policy Engagement Meeting with Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government Kenya 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Several meetings were held with County government officials and ministers in agriculture at Elgeyo-Marakwet County in Kenya. The meetings focussed on the transfer of existing project knowledge and data and the development of focussed research collaborations and the co-development of policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Policy Engagement Meeting with Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government Kenya 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Several meetings were held with County government officials and ministers in agriculture at Elgeyo-Marakwet County in Kenya. The meetings focussed on the transfer of existing project knowledge and data and the development of focussed research collaborations and the co-development of policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Research collaboration meetings with colleagues at Eldoret University Kenya 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Several meetings have been held with Colleagues at Eldoret University Kenya to establish a working group examining nexus related issues within Elgeyo-Marakwet and Uasin Gishu Counties in Kenya. Special focus has been placed on the establishment of detailed botanical research and possible establshment of botanic gardens at the University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018