Restoring African degraded landscapes with plant biodiversity and livestock management

African landscape
Photo credit: Lutz Merbold

Across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) approximately 660 million hectares of land is degraded, leading to low land productivity, poor and variable biomass production, inability to graze livestock and lack of resilience of agriculture to climate extremes.

Land degradation is a major factor in the instability of crop and livestock production, leading to a significant burden of food and income security.

Land restoration must be a priority if we are to secure future food supplies, and protect high carbon and high biodiversity ecosystems across East Africa.

This project seeks to explore the use of a novel combination of different local grassland plants species, coupled with new livestock management models to help farming communities in Kenya to recover degraded grazing lands.

Working in partnership with local farmers and community based organisations, the project team aims to improve grassland productivity, thereby increasing the quality of livestock fodder, and nutrient content of manure.

This will lead to restored functionality of soils for future plant production and a greater degree of resilience to future climate shocks.

Specifically, this interdisciplinary project will use a multi-scale approach to:

  1. Study the primary productivity and state of degradation of land at two contrasting sites of the densely populated highlands of Kenya.
  2. Explore the biological and socio-ecological characteristics of these different sites and use complimentary field and plot scale studies to identify the mechanisms involved in a process of successful restoration using plant biodiversity.
  3. Explore alternative management and regulatory scenarios with local farmers and stakeholders, highlighting the benefits for livestock production and ecosystem conservation.
  4. Engage key stakeholders to understand restoration needs and constraints, and to build the necessary capacity.

Project details

  • Principal Investigator: Prof. Mariana Rufino, Lancaster University
  • Funded value: £1,151,252
  • Funded period: April 2019 – March 2021
  • Funder: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)