Samburu herders earn Sh10 million from carbon credits

Samburu governor Lati Lelelit (second right) received a dummy cheque of Sh 10 million from officials of the Northern Rangelands Trust led by carbon credit project director Dr Mohammed Shibia (center) on February 28, 2024, in Maralal town. [Michael Saitoti, Standard]

Herders in the drought-prone Samburu county earned Sh10 million from the large-scale grasslands soil carbon removal project in 2023.

Northern Rangelands Trust carbon credit project director Mohammed Shibia, said the project which is reliant on modified livestock grazing practice, has changed the livelihoods of the pastoralist communities in the county.

Speaking on Wednesday during the handover of the Sh10 million cheque to Samburu Governor Lati Lelelit, Dr Shibia said the initiative has helped rehabilitate 2 hectares of land through rotational grazing.

“The initiative will sequester 50 million tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years, equivalent to the annual emissions from more than 10m cars,” he said.

The project uses grass to produce carbon and the herders target to plant 50 million tonnes this year through community participation in grass rotational grazing.

Shibia revealed that the five community conservancies have each generated Sh2 million.

He said the revenue will assist the county in building resilience, especially in environmental conservation to sustain livestock.

“The Sh10 million was the initiative of good work from the residents working in Kalama, Westgate, Sera, Kalepo, and Ngilae conservancies,” he said.

The governor described the carbon credit initiative as an innovative model for the sustainability of community conservancies.

“The project is a new local revenue stream for the county. We commit to utilising these funds for the needy based projects and programmes aimed at serving our people.” Lati said.

Lelelit said his administration was committed to providing the necessary support for the project to achieve maximum success.

Tom Lolosoli, a member of the carbon project oversight committee, said the project hinges on herders adhering to a strict grazing management plan overseen by a grazing committee in each conservancy.

“The committee plans the grazing patterns in the different zones within a conservancy. By practicing sustainable pastoralism like rotational grazing, grass can regenerate, collect, and store more carbon from the atmosphere,” he said.

Lucy Lolosoli said the carbon project was started due to effects of climate change that have heavily impacted the livelihood of pastoralists.

“Our people were educated on various fields to which they are now benefiting, and we will continue to grow grass to initiate other productive projects in the area,” she said.

"The sale of the sequestered carbon will bring in money for local projects such as education and sinking boreholes while enhancing the conservation of four endangered species – the eastern black rhino, Grévy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, and beisa oryx," Lolosoli added.

“If we have more carbon stored in the soil, we have more grass and healthy livestock that will fetch higher prices in the market resulting in healthy livelihoods. In addition, the project will contribute to thriving wildlife and reduce unnecessary human-wildlife conflicts,” Shidia said.

Apart from slowing environmental degradation, the project has ensured peace in the region.

Northern Kenya is home to the Samburu, Borana, Turkana, Rendille, and Somali – communities that have in the past engaged in bloody conflicts over diminishing resources.

Shidia said after some communities exhausted their pasture, they would drive livestock to land belonging to other communities, often with fatal consequences.

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