The University of Helsinki will on Monday, May 17, launch a research project on climate-smart livestock keeping in East Africa.
The Finish embassy said the project focuses on climate-smart livestock management in the region, “which is the primary source of livelihoods to nearly 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa”.
The four -year initiative is dubbed the ‘Earth observation and environmental sensing for climate-smart sustainable agropastoral ecosystem transformation in East Africa’ (ESSA).
It is funded by the Development of Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture development cooperation instrument of the European Union.
Experiments and diversification of the agropastoral livelihoods are in Taita Taveta, Kibwezi experimental farm of the University of Nairobi and Kapiti research station of ILRI in Kenya, and Yebelo area and Munessa forest in Ethiopia.
The research project will be coordinated by the University of Helsinki’s Taita Research Station in Kenya and researchers from the Department of Geosciences and Geography led by professor Petri Pellikka . It will run until 2024.
According to the statement, the project aims to increase understanding of the interlinkages between tropical upland forest cover and semi-arid lowland landscapes, as well as the dynamics of their multifunctional agricultural ecosystems. This is particularly in terms of water resources in Ethiopia and Kenya.
“In addition to water balance, ESSA investigates drivers of vegetation change, determines the carbon footprint of livestock management processes and develops remote sensing techniques for estimating cattle numbers and monitoring environmental change,” the statement said.
The project focuses on pastoralists and aims to diversify their livelihood into, for example, beekeeping and the manufacture of plant-based products (e.g., baobab and Aloe vera}
The livelihoods pursued alongside livestock management can generate income opportunities especially for women and young people, consequently improving their status in nomadic communities.
The statement said the goal of the project is to develop environmentally sustainable solutions that promote the maintenance of woody and grassy vegetation cover.
EU Chargé d’affaires in Kenya, Katrin Hagemann said the programme will bring multiple benefits to the people of Kenya and Ethiopia.
“Firstly, the partnership between the University of Helsinki and various research institutes in Kenya and Ethiopia will enhance knowledge transfer and research capacity,” Hagemann said.
She noted that ESSA project is important for Kenya, where arid and semi-arid landscapes with main income in pastoralism make almost 90 per cent of the country and involve almost 40 per cent of the population.
“Diversification of livelihoods and sustainable agro-pastoral ecosystems are important tasks, especially with climate change,” Hagemann said.
The project is being carried out in Ethiopia and Kenya in cooperation with eight research institutions: the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), the University of Nairobi, Addis Ababa University, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
Others are the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Council Secretariat and the Regional Center for Mapping the Resources for Development.