Following a declaration by the United Nations that 2026 will be the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists, Northern Kenya counties are eyeing a share of the carbon credit billions.
The pastoral communities in these regions have embraced Carbon Credit Project to tap into their age-old traditional environmental conservation techniques to save the environment, economic growth, and resilient livelihoods.
According to the NRT Carbon Credit Chairpersons Andrew Dokhle, at first, it was a big challenge as the community was reluctant to embrace the project.
He took upon himself the task of explaining a proposed soil carbon removal project a decade ago, to the largely illiterate residents of Northern Kenya about the benefits of the concept.
“For our project to attain the Triple Gold status, we underwent stringent additional audits in 20 different categories, over and above Verra’s own Verified Carbon Standard, becoming one of only 21 out of 200 projects worldwide to have attained this status globally,” said Mr Dokhle.
It also took massive efforts to convince the community to buy into the idea and the results today are phenomenal, he added.
The project involves 14 out of the 43 community conservancies of the NRT that carry out activities such as supporting rotational grazing and meeting the conservancy-level reporting requirements.
He said since the project picked up NRT has been providing technical expertise for the conservation of the grass rangelands and ecosystem protection for carbon trade.
At a time when companies all over Africa still shied away from investing in the carbon credit project Northern Rangeland Trust took a leap of faith and is already reaping big from the venture.
A spatial area of 1.9 million hectares of grasslands was certified for environmental protection and additional revenue generation for 14 community conservancies in a bid to increase the financial viability and the conservancies’ resilience.
The grass rangelands have been able to trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and consequently purify the atmosphere.
The initiative, which began in December 2012 is also the first of its kind to use the new VM0032 methodology focusing entirely on soil carbon removals.
The project area is monitored through a remote-sensing system known as the Normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI), which analyses satellite photos of the Earth’s surface to evaluate vegetation cover and how grazing affects it.
It has been designed to remove and store 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide for over 30 years which is the equivalent of the annual emissions from over 10,000,000 cars.
Indeed, at a time when carbon credit largely remained an academic concept in Africa at large, NRT in partnership with the 14 community conservancies proved that the venture can be made a reality.
Marsabit South Peace Chairperson Peter Galworsi also detailed that the grass rangeland they ventured into was not a vain venture as they were made to believe initially.
He admitted having been at the forefront of opposing the project as a ploy by the NRT to grab land from the community at its onset.
Northern Rangeland Trusts Marsabit County Director Dida Fayo during a relief food distribution to over 600 households in the Koya location in Laisamis sub-county courtesy of the Carbon Credit Project, boasted of the huge milestones made since the onset of the carbon offset project.
He explained how over 200,000 people under the 14 community conservancies engaged in the carbon credit project have experienced a multitude of positive socio-economic impacts ranging from well-conserved grass rangelands to the ecosystem, and additional revenue.
The sale of the sequestered carbon from the community rangelands continues to create income for the communities and enhance their conservation efforts including the improvement of habitat for four endemic endangered species -Eastern black rhino, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, and beisa oryx.
On the other hand, it also addressed the impacts of climate change.
Fayo revealed that the first Northern Kenya Rangelands Carbon Project (NKRCP) generated $14.6 million for the local conservancies in 2013.
In 2017, the NRT enlisted the services of Native Carbon Trading Company to market its carbon credits.
Three years later 3.2 emissions reduction credits covering the years 2013 to 2016 were verified and consequently generated revenue of $14.6.
In 2021 alone, NKRCP received Sh36.7 million in payment.
In 2022, each participating conservancy received $324,000 and similar amounts are anticipated to be paid out in 2023 and 2024.
The NKRCP is expected to generate $300 million over 30 years.
Each community conservancy participating in the NKRCP contributes five percent of its revenue to county government development mechanisms that support rangeland activities.
Some portions of the revenues generated are channelled into community projects such as water piping, borehole repairs, improving the education sector through classroom construction, and drought response.
For instance, from the 2021 revenue Sh5.5 million was allocated for relief food provision to over 6,000 households in five locations in the Laisamis sub-county including Merille, Koya, Lontolio, Laisamis town, and Logo Logo.
Also, 16 million was channelled toward paying student bursaries in Isiolo, Samburu, Laikipia, and Marsabit counties.
NKRCP is currently undertaken in only one community conservancy known as Melako community conservancy in Isiolo but plans are underway to expand the project to other three conservancies in Marsabit such as Songa, Jaldesa, and Badasa.