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Agriculture is a vital part of Kenya’s economy making up a third of its GDP and over half its jobs, but it is also responsible for up to 40 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, the bulk of them methane emissions from livestock.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s (CCAC) Global Methane Assessment found that human-caused methane can be cut by 45 per cent this decade, avoiding almost 0.3 degrees of warming by 2045. Because methane is a potent climate forcer and an ingredient in smog, reducing it by this much globally would prevent 260,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits, and 25 million tonnes of crop losses annually.
Agriculture is a tricky sector to tackle, in part because so many smallholder farmers in developing countries rely on it for survival. Kenya’s dairy sector accounts for almost 3.5 per cent of GDP and almost a million households are directly involved in production—a number that climbs to 4 million when considering the entire dairy chain.
Kenya’s population is expected to double in the next 30 years, surging from 46 million to 96 million and the sustainable growth of the agricultural sector will be key to supporting that population.
Kenya is working to reduce dairy cow emissions and increase efficiency with the CCAC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC), and the Livestock Research Group (LRG) of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA).
Kenya is stepping up its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) ambition by committing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 per cent by 2030 while bearing 21 per cent of the costs, an increase from its original NDC. One way it will accomplish this is through Climate Smart Agricultural practices that include improved livestock management systems to reduce methane emissions.
Kenya’s updated NDC is bolstered by previous climate policy achievements, including Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2018—2022, which includes work with the CCAC and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to develop an action plan to reduce SLCPs and to integrate SLCP mitigation actions into relevant national planning processes.
[The CCAC] really built our capacity to estimate emissions, develop a framework for annual inventories, and model the emissions reductions that will contribute to our NDC.Bernard Kimoro
The CCAC also helped Kenya develop its Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) Systems so it can confidently measure baseline emissions and quantify whether or not their efforts are succeeding.
“The CCAC has been very instrumental to our work,” said Bernard Kimoro, a Livestock Climate Change Specialist in Kenya. “It is helping us improve scenario building so we can see how to reduce our emissions over time. It’s really built our capacity to estimate emissions, develop a framework for annual inventories, and model the emissions reductions that will contribute to our NDC.”
Before working with the CCAC, Kenya could only create a “Tier 1” emissions inventory, which is the simplest method that uses the most basic forms of data, and can’t reflect local circumstances or trends over time.
The CCAC, Kenya’s State Department for Livestock, and the FAO, organized a workshop to demonstrate the benefits of higher tier inventories for livestock and make an action plan for Kenya to improve its inventory. As a result, Kenya now has the capacity to develop a “Tier 2” inventory for livestock, which requires more detailed measurements and data and is linked to improved MRV systems. It can also show the change in emissions following productivity and efficiency improvements, which will help policy makers identify better mitigation targets. The Tier 2 methods have already been applied in the dairy industry and Kenya plans to use it for non-dairy cattle and small ruminants.
“Unless we’re able to provide evidence of which actions can reduce emissions, the actions won’t become policy, and policy is critical to ensure perpetual emissions reductions in the country,” said Kimoro. “Without the ability to reliably model emissions scenarios, we’ll be stuck doing small actions that are unsupported by evidence.”
The CCAC also helped Kenya study the potential for a productive but low-emissions dairy sector that identified cost-effective ways to reduce methane while contributing to sustainable development and climate resilience.
Kimoro says that all of this technical capacity was critical in developing the economic analysis and mitigation estimates for its Dairy Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) concept note, which Kenya hopes to submit to the Green Climate Fund next year to help achieve its NDC targets.
The NAMA will target 267,000 households, approximately 15 per cent of Kenya’s dairy cattle, and has an estimated mitigation potential of 8.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over 10 years— a sizable chunk of the country’s current 143 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. All this will be achieved while increasing milk production by an additional 6.6 billion litres.
Improving productivity through interventions in feeding, disease control, and other management practices means we could produce the same amount of milk with fewer emissionsBernard Kimoro
The NAMA concept note aims to increase cattle productivity with strategies like improved feed and disease control, which means that fewer cows can produce more milk. It also aims to increase post-production efficiency, including making the equipment used at dairy chilling and processing points more energy efficient with solar energy. Finally, the NAMA targets better manure management by helping 80,000 households invest in biogas systems to convert methane into energy that can be used for household cooking. This will also help reduce deforestation and black carbon emissions by replacing wood burning fires.
“Currently, our dairy herd is not as productive as we expect it to be but we can actually double productivity using the same livestock,” said Kimoro. “Improving productivity through interventions in feeding, disease control, and other management practices means we could produce the same amount of milk with fewer emissions.”
The CCAC, the FAO, and NZAGRC have another project in Kenya called “Creating the enabling environment for enhanced climate ambition and climate action through institutional capacity building.” The project is working with Kenya’s State Department for Livestock on an action plan to increase Kenya’s methane mitigation goals by aligning them with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and livestock sector strategies while increasing the country’s ability to secure climate finance.
The project will increase collaboration between Kenya and other East African countries to reduce methane and develop an NDC implementation action plan. . It will also run demonstration activities in Kenya showing how improved capacity to measure emissions can increase mitigation targets.
The project will use Kenya’s existing infrastructure to lower agriculture emissions while maintaining productivity, including Kenya’s Climate Smart Agricultural Strategy (KCSAS), funded by the World Bank. The project plans to reduce emissions from manure and enteric fermentation by using low emissions technologies like improved feed and better breeding practices. This project will develop agriculture NAMAs and improve Kenya’s MRV capacity, bolstering Kenya’s work with the CCAC and other partners.
The co-benefits of this work to Kenya are myriad: improved health, increasing agricultural production, alternative energy sources produced by manure, improved biodiversity through better manure management, all while saving farmers money that they can invest back into their work and families.
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