A new Swiss-Kenyan project, Woody Weeds +has been launched to support a National Prosopis Strategy for Kenya which is aimed at the sustainable management of the invasive weed Prosopis juliflora – considered one of the world’s most threatening non-native tree species.
The three-year project builds upon the previous Swiss-funded Woody Weeds project which assessed the effects of prosopis on the environment and rural livelihoods in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania as well as ways to manage it.
Woody Weeds + was launched in the presence of representatives from six implementing partners (see the full list below) by Dr Chris K. Kiptoo, Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and Dr Joshua Cheboiwo, Director General of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI). The project will strengthen livelihood security and environmental integrity in areas affected by prosopis by supporting the delivery of the National Prosopis Strategy in pilot counties in Kenya.
Prosopis was introduced to Eastern Africa in the 1970s to provide wood and fodder and reduce erosion on degraded land. However, soon after its introduction, it started spreading rapidly with severe impacts including loss of grazing land, loss of access to water, declining biodiversity, reduced human health, increased human-wildlife and human-human conflicts. In Ethiopia’s Afar region, prosopis invaded 1.2 million hectares of land since its introduction in 1990. It is estimated that more than half of the annual rainfall in this area is used up by this weed that consumes 1-36 litres of water per tree per day.
The Woody Weeds + project will implement the newly established NPS, jointly with relevant stakeholders, in a target area stretching from West to East along the southern edge of Kenya’s northern rangelands, targeting areas in Baringo, Isiolo and Tana River counties. Additionally, stakeholders from the neighbouring counties of West Pokot, Laikipia and Meru will participate through meetings and awareness raising campaigns.
Four main outcomes will be achieved including the establishment of a governance system and institutional arrangements linking actors across different decision-making levels. In addition, the project will identify innovative financing mechanisms such as impact investment, to secure the long-term sustainability of prosopis management.
Dr Chris K. Kiptoo, Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said, “Land degradation caused by human activities is one of today’s greatest challenges to sustainable development. It undermines the well-being of over 40% of the human population, driving species extinctions and intensifying climate change. It is also a major contributor to human mass migration and conflicts over resource use.”
Dr Cheboiwo said that, “It is gratifying to note that development of the NPS benefitted greatly from the scientific results of the project, Kenya’s vision 2030 and other national pillars that define sustainable management and integrity in resource use. We are confident that the application of scientific knowledge and innovation that has informed the development of the NPS will help to contain the competitive edge of Prosopis over other vegetation.”
The Woody Weeds + will also see the creation of an app that will help the dissemination of information, awareness raising and decision support within and beyond the target area. Dr Cheboiwo added that the NPS will gradually reach 22 counties in Kenya with technologies and approaches tried and tested in the three lead counties of Baringo, Isiolo and Tana River.
Dr Morris Akiri, Senior Regional Director at CABI in Africa, said, “Sustainable management of invasive alien trees like prosopis requires an integrated management approach that combines physical, chemical and biological control measures and that aims to manage the invasive tree not only at the level of individual households but also at the landscape level.”
“We are delighted to be part of this consortium that is linking key actors in the fight against invasive alien species. This project adds to a long history of CABI working with partners to enhance economic growth, improve food security and overall protection of biodiversity in Kenya, helping millions of livelihoods.”
Dr Urs Schaffner, CABI in Switzerland, and Dr Albrecht Ehrensperger, Head of the Sustainable Land Systems Impact Area at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern, who jointly coordinates the project, added that, “We are grateful for the support of the project donors, partners, and particularly the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in taking this very significant work to monitor, manage and mitigate prosopis further.”