Enhancing capacity to deliver impact

S. Kilungu (CCAFS)

Emissions data now ‘made in Kenya’ thanks to state-of-the-art laboratory

East Africa
Low Emissions Development

A new laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya, will quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from different eco- and agricultural systems, such as cattle and sheep farms, smallholder farms, and forestry and tea plantations.

Born out of a partnership between the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany), and Maseno University (Kenya), the Mazingira laboratory—named after the Kiswahili word for ‘environment’—began operations in late 2014. The laboratory, which is supported by CCAFS, aims to enhance African research capacity in climate and agriculture and become a central hub for environmental research excellence in Africa.

A first for Africa: high-precision climate data captured locally in a new ‘Mazingira’ laboratory in Kenya

A first for Africa: high-precision climate data captured locally in a new ‘Mazingira’ laboratory in Kenya. S. Kilungu (CCAFS)

Since its opening, eight African researchers have already been newly trained in the measurement and mitigation of GHGs and the laboratory is being well used by policy makers from the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture and agricultural scientists from different countries. Research results will feed into a new national marketing association for the Kenyan dairy industry.

Accurate emissions data is particularly important for dairy and other forms of livestock farming, which accounts for approximately 80% of the world’s emissions from agriculture. While livestock farming mainly occurs in developing countries, research on its environmental impact tends to focus on developed countries. This imbalance needs redressing. While smallholder livestock keeping in developing countries provides a vital source of nutrition for some of the world’s poorest people, developing country livestock farming also emits more GHGs. For example, 1 kg of edible milk protein emits 10–20 kg of CO2 in Europe and North America compared to 100 kg of CO2 in sub-Saharan Africa.

By providing in-situ data on livestock and other agricultural emissions, the Mazingira laboratory will help policy makers balance trade-offs between emissions reductions and providing smallholders with climate friendly ways to increase their food security.

The laboratory will also help African delegations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Countries such as Kenya currently rely on generic estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that have only limited scientific basis or costly consultancies from expensive experts to inform negotiating positions. Already Mazingira is providing more concrete data with early research results showing emissions from manure are 4 times lower than previously estimated.

“[The] calculation of the emission factors and greenhouse gases from livestock is a very, very good initiative down here in Kenya… It’s a first in Africa … and I am happy that it came at the right time, just when we are preparing our national reporting application to UNFCCC, which will inform the 2015 climate agreement.” Charles Mutai, Deputy Director of Kenya’s Climate Change Secretariat