The Livelihoods at Mount Elgon project (Kenya): improving the standard of living for farmers and protecting the environment

Summary

The Mount Elgon project was launched in Kitale (Kenya) on 11 October 2016: a joint initiative between the Livelihoods Fund, the dairy firm Brookside Dairies and the NGO Vi Agroforestry designed to improve living conditions for farmers living on the slopes of Mount Elgon, while preserving a badly-eroded ecosystem.
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16Nov.
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The challenges: a weakened natural ecosystem and precarious incomes

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Two million people live on the slopes of Mount Elgon, and the population is rapidly growing. This is having a serious impact on the environment, including deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and endangered water resources. Underlying all this are inefficient farming methods, which not only damage the ecosystem but also handicap crop and milk yields, thus depriving farmers of a decent income. In addition, as they lack solid, long-term links with the dairy industry, these small-scale producers have no access to a stable market for their milk production. This worsens the precarious situation of communities still further.

Solutions for improving farmers’ standard of living include agroforestry and better cattle management

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To rise to all these challenges, the Mount Elgon project proposes a holistic solution. The idea is to train farmers in sustainable methods like agroforestry (meaning new or historic practices mixing trees, crops and/or animals on the same plot of farming land, on the edge or in a field), crop diversification, fodder production and cattle management. This will help them to cope better with the effects of climate change, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and increase their productivity. In practice, the farmers are involved in the project via 1,200 groups (which coordinate the training courses) and 15 cooperatives (which collect the milk). Meanwhile, Brookside Dairy’s commitment to buy all the milk produced for 10 years will provide them with a secure and stable outlet for their production.

Major social and environmental benefits

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The projects’ ambitions are clearly-defined: to boost and stabilize the revenues and living standards of 30,000 farmers, increase crop yields by 30%, double the productivity of cows, and so on. Eventually, milk production in the region should be multiplied by a factor of nearly 30 in five years. From the environmental point of view, the project will make it possible to capture over 1 million metric tons of greenhouse gas over 10 years, thanks to the restoration of damaged ecosystems, while furthering the transition of 35,000 hectares to sustainable agriculture.

An innovative partnership between a private fund, a company and an NGO

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The Mount Elgon project is the result of a partnership between three players: a private fund, Livelihoods, which is shouldering the investment risk and will receive payments on results; a dairy company, Brookside Dairy, which will co-invest according to the quantity of milk produced, and an NGO specializing in sustainable agriculture and agroforestry, Vi Agroforestery, which is rolling out the project. This operational method, common to all projects supported by the Livelihoods Fund, caters to local communities’ needs as fully as possible while ensuring the long-term economics of the project. To quote Bernard Giraud, President of Livelihoods Venture, « The Livelihoods Mount Elgon project shows that by investing in rural communities and family farms, it is possible to create shared value for farmers, the private sector and society as a whole. This project paves the way to new investment models, moving from investment with social impact to public/private models based on results. »