Northern Kenya Rangelands Carbon Project (NKRCP) is the world’s largest soil carbon removal project and proof of concept for rangelands restoration and community run development through the carbon market. It is the first ever project that uses rangeland activities in community conservancies to generate revenue for local communities. It is anticipated to remove 50 million tons of CO2 over 30 years – the equivalent of the annual emissions from over 10,000,000 cars – and generate millions of dollars for local communities. The sale of this sequestered carbon creates development income for local communities and enhances conservation efforts, including the improvement of habitat for community’s livestock, wildlife and the four endemic endangered species that live in the project area. The project benefits local communities, conserves nature, improves the environment and directly addresses the impacts of global climate change.
Work began on the project in 2009 with an official start in 2012. This is the first project to link rangelands restoration and livestock grazing planning to direct financial benefits for herders and local communities. The projects generates long-term sustainable revenue for communities. The first carbon credits were generated in 2013 and these, along with subsequent years of verified credits, were offered to the international voluntary market and have generated $14.6 million for local conservancies to date. In February 2022, each of the 14 participating conservancies received $324,000, their first of three payments from this sale. NRT receives no profit from the sale of the carbon credits. The project is improving rangelands across 1.9 million hectares (4.7 million acres). NKRCP was verified by VCS and awarded Triple Gold Status by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) due to the benefits from the project to wildlife and communities. Only 21 projects in the world have this status.
NKRCP has been recognised as a Lighthouse from the Natural Climate Solutions Alliance at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. The NCS Alliance is a multi-stakeholder group of businesses, solutions providers, and NGOs that are working to scale NCS in the voluntary carbon market. The award is designed to “build trust by ‘shining a light’ on projects that deliver high-integrity NCS carbon credits, generate biodiversity gains and provide substantive social and economic benefits for local communities and Indigenous Peoples.” Sales for the remaining 27 years of the project are expected to generate even higher amounts. Funding is split between conservancy operations and funding community identified needs. Funding is channeled directly to the communities, who hold sole financial control, and spend it on community identified and community endorsed development programmes. NKRCP has followed Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) standards and has been praised for its community engagement and democratic involvement. Communities’ lives are improving through development projects financially supported by the Carbon Community Fund (CCF). The communities are investing in infrastructure projects, education programs, and economic generating activities such as tourism and business.
Across the project area, wildlife numbers are increasing. Four endangered species are being protected within the project are: the Eastern Black Rhino, Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe and Beisa Oryx, all of whom will benefit from the increased funding toward conservation and restoration of rangelands. The project is improving the livelihoods of more than 205,000 people while also improving pasture for livestock and wildlife. This is leading to improved drought resilience and works to directly combating climate change by sequestering millions of tons of carbon in the soil across the northern Kenya landscape. H.E. William Ruto, President of the Republic of Kenya said “I am pleased to share encouraging news of an exemplary Kenyan project, which is the first and largest in the world focusing on soil carbon removals through sustainable grazing management. It is on course towards its inspiring target of removing up to 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the ecosystem of the next 30 years.”
Andrew Dokhole, a retired local community member and elected chair of the Carbon Project Oversight Committee said “Our people didn’t know what carbon was, we don’t have a word for it in our local language, or even in Kiswahili! Now we have created awareness and our people are aware that really putting grazing plans in place is very important for them, for their animals and also for carbon storage. Because of the benefits coming from this project, we are really supportive.” Mohamed Shibia, an NRT Regional Director said “We are really seeing people and their community conservancies thrive because of this work. The community conservancies of northern Kenya have set a very good example to the rest of the pastoral people and for semi-arid land across Africa. Carbon storage helps us in many ways. It improves the rangeland health, and by rangeland health we mean that if we have more soil carbon, we have more grass, we have more livestock, healthy livestock, thriving wildlife, healthy livelihoods for people.”
Priscilla Kushi, a local community member and Carbon Project Officer said “Improved grazing management through rotational grazing across the conservancies has led to improved pasture for livestock and wildlife. That means more grass, more pasture, more jobs, and healthier livestock and wildlife. This in turn, improves the soil conditions. When soil conditions are improved, we have more water storage and water retention and through this we are able to store more carbon within the soil. We get healthy animals which are putting better prices in the market and that improves the income of the pastoralist household.”