Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy is among the 14 community conservancies that are the Carbon Project beneficiaries. The project's fund started streaming in the Year 2022 and has doubled revenue generation, ambitiously edging the conservancy towards financial sustainability.  

The North Kenya Carbon Project

The carbon project links the rangeland activities in conservancies with the global carbon market to generate revenue for community conservancies. The planned rotational grazing practices developed through the community conservancy and village grazing committees and upheld by livestock herders are the project activities. These activities help to improve pasture for livestock and wildlife and in the long-term will help increase community resilience in times of drought.

If the rotational grazing plans are implemented, this leads to more perennial grasses and increased plant cover, which also helps to store carbon in the soil. The amount of soil carbon stored can then be calculated and this is represented as a carbon ‘credit’.

Carbon credits can be sold on an international market as part of a global initiative to respond to climate change by removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. NRT has worked with partners since 2009 to develop this project so that communities can generate revenue from soil carbon credits, helping to increase and diversify conservancy income.


Community Conservancies Involved

There are 14 participating NRT-member community conservancies: Il N’gwesi, Meibae, Namunyak, Lekurruki, Westgate, Kalama, Sera, Ol Donyiro, Nasuluu, Nakuprat-Gotu, Naibunga, Leparua, Biliquo Bulesa and Melako. Collectively, the landscape these conservancies cover is referred to as the Project Area.

When and How the Project Started

The project has been in development since 2010 following the successful piloting of Holistic Rangeland Management in West Gate and Kalama conservancies supported by NRT and Grevy Zebra Trust. In 2010 with support from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) NRT collaborated with a soil scientist, Dr, Mark Richie (Soils for the Future) to show that improved grazing management leads to an increase in carbon stored in the soil. Based on this and the success in West Gate, NRT scaled up its rangelands activities and developed the carbon project to include 14 NRT-member community conservancies across parts of Samburu, Isiolo, Laikipia and Marsabit Counties. The official project start date was 10 December 2012.

Developing a carbon project is a long and expensive process that requires very specific technical expertise. NRT has facilitated this over the past 10 years to enable member conservancies to benefit from soil carbon revenue. 

Conservancies Involvement

Since the start of the project, with support from NRT and in some cases GZT, conservancies have continued with their rangeland activities including development of rotational grazing plans, employment of conservancy rangeland coordinators, grazing committee meetings, regional grazing meetings, community awareness on grazing management, vegetation monitoring etc. Many of these activities have been documented and since 2013 rangeland coordinators have submitted monthly livestock movement reports as part of the carbon project requirements.

Conservancies have been engaged throughout the project development from soil and vegetation sampling to biodiversity monitoring; meetings with conservancy management and board chairs and communities, 3 visits by independent auditors, Letters of Intent signed by conservancies in 2015, Consent and Waiver form signed by conservancies in 2017/2018 and public notices at conservancy HQ and Chiefs offices in 2019. More recently to April 2021, a team has been working on ongoing reporting requirements, specifically a biodiversity sampling in a number of conservancies for the next verification process.

Current Status

After many years of development of the project including changes in the methodology, monitoring and checks by independent auditors, the project was finally verified in December 2020 by the globally recognized Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). This resulted in carbon credits for the period 2013-2016 could then be issued, amounting to 3.2 million carbon credits. The next verification process which involves biodiversity monitoring, soil carbon testing, compiling all monitoring data and reports and a review by the independent auditors was carried out in 2021 and 2022. This will result in calculation of the next batch of carbon credits available for sale.

The North Kenya Carbon Project is a first of its kind programme working with pastoralist communities in semi-arid grasslands, and is one of the largest soil carbon projects in the world. The project has also been awarded Triple Gold Status by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) due to the additional benefits from the project to wildlife and communities. Only 7 projects in the world have this status and it enables the project to sell carbon credits at a higher price.

How Revenue is Earned

Now that carbon credits have been issued, it is possible to sell them on the international voluntary carbon market. In 2017 NRT entered into an agreement with Native, a public benefit company specializing in carbon projects, to finalize the project development and market the carbon credits resulting from this project. Companies who wish to offset their carbon emissions will buy these credits

The 14 participating conservancies receive net revenue from the project – i.e revenue from the sales of the credits, after the project costs have been covered. Revenue will vary over time as the price of carbon credits is dependent on market factors such as demand and the number of credits available to sell depends on project success in terms of grazing management and recovery of rangelands.

However, at this stage participating conservancies received KES 36.3M per year from 2022 based on the revenue from the sale of first issue of credits. It was distributed as per the proposed Revenue Share Arrangements.

Revenue to conservancies from carbon is commercial revenue generated from activities being undertaken by the conservancies, similar to tourism revenue.

Project Partners

14 NRT-member Community Conservancies undertake the project activities supporting planned rotational grazing as well as fulfilling conservancy-level reporting requirements.

Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) is the principal project proponent and.  NRT administers the project, supporting 14 member community conservancies to implement the project activities and providing the reporting requirements to facilitate ongoing verification of the project and future issuance of credits. In 2017, each participating conservancy authorized NRT to sell carbon credits resulting from the project activities on their behalf.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have provided support and funding in the development of the project since it began and will continue to provide technical input going forward.

Soils for the Future is a soil science consultancy company which developed the project methodology through to verification by VCS, and continues to support the project in monitoring, reporting and technical advice.

Native leads the sale of the carbon credits generated by the project to ensure maximum value and revenue to the project. Native, as a project developer, also takes the lead in the validation and verification of the carbon and supports NRT to optimize the success of the project.

Fund Objectives

The Carbon revenue rivaled tourism earnings; it doubled the revenue edging the Conservancy towards financial sustainability.

The fund is split into two, 40% goes to support the Conservancy's operation, and 60% that goes to the community termed Carbon Community Fund (CCF). The 40% is further shared into equal halves between operations and Rangelands Management to ensure that best practices are adhered to store more Carbon in soil.

The 60% CCF, is used to develop the community's priority projects and cannot be allocated until the community is engaged through zonal/villages' public participation or an AGM.

The fund supported the following:-
  1. Conservancy Operations 40%
  2. The 60% Carbon Community Fund was used for:
    • Girgir Business Complex Construction (phase 1) - a 3 storey commercial building project in Archer's Town
    • Nandadapo Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDE) repair and maintenance
    • Lorubae Community Security Rangers' Outpost