Intensifying livestock production to increase incomes and protect forest in Kenya

This October, we started off a two-year livestock intensification project that will support forest-dependent communities increase their income levels while at the same time reducing deforestation in South West Mau Forest in Kenya.

Cattle and other livestock grazing is one of the main causes of forest loss in the Mau, which, as an important water source, is vital for communities, businesses, and downstream wildlife reserves alike. Yet, for the surrounding communities, grazing is an important source of income and livelihood.

Partnering with SNV, a Dutch development organization that provides capacity building support to communities worldwide, IDH began training households to rear cattle more productively at home rather than grazing them in the forest. The project will promote a livestock intensification model which will focus on improved pasture management, combined with growing fodder crops like maize for silage and supplementing with dairy meal daily to make up a balanced and cost efficient daily ration for lactating cows. Cows will be kept in a semi zero-grazing system with a simple but functional barn to keep them at night and to supply them with supplementary feeds, to milk and inseminate them, and to rear calves.

Initially this model will be demonstrated in 10 demonstration farms from where at least 20 community households (per demo) will be continuously trained, mentored and coached to adopt best livestock farming practices.

Forest grazing plans will also be developed to enable community members to harvest grass from the forest in a controlled manner. To boost uptake of this model, community members will be exposed to regions where SNV has implemented a similar intensification model successfully resulting in increased production.

The intervention will also focus on aspects of input access and market access to enable community members to access reliable markets for their farm produce as well as to access necessary inputs for increased production. The project is expected to increase productivity and as a result, household income, and disincentivize communities from grazing in the forest.

Livestock intensification is part of IDH’s integrated landscape approach in South West Mau forest, which further entails collaboration with Kenya Forest Service towards better law enforcement; installing a forest buffer to mitigate human-wildlife conflict; providing alternative energy sources for communities to reduce pressure on the forest; as well as projects to improve water quantity and quality in the region.

To date, IDH has built a strong coalition around the South West Mau Forest Landscape made up of the national and county governments; tea, energy and timber companies as well as a range of civil society and knowledge institutions all of whom actively participate in the program.