Environment and Natural Resources Management

Biodiversity and climate change budget for FY 2013: 

$5.3 million

Key Partners:
Government of Kenya:

  • Kenya Wildlife Service
  • Water Resource Management Authority
  • Kenya Forest Service
  • National Museums of Kenya
  • Ministry of Lands
  • Climate Change Secretariat

Implementing partners:

  • Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (NRT)
  • Laikipia Wildlife Forum Ltd
  • International Development Law Organization (IDLO)
  • DAI for DCA


USAID is charged with managing and achieving results in Kenya under two high-level U.S. Government efforts: President Obama's Global Climate Change Initiative and the new Agency Biodiversity Policy and Congressional Biodiversity earmark. Kenya is a priority country for these highly-visible and important initiatives. Given Kenya's significant biological diversity and current threat climate, it is one of only three bilateral programs in Africa designated as a Tier 1 Biodiversity country under the new policy. Kenya is also a key partner for the U.S. Government's commitment under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to advance Low Emissions Development and support adaptation to destabilizing climate impacts.

In February 2014, President Obama’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking released the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. USAID/Kenya is taking bold and swift action to advance anti-trafficking in Kenya, particularly given the country’s world class wildlife resources.   Kenya’s rich biodiversity attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Tourism is the second highest revenue earner, accounting for 12 percent of gross domestic product. Conservation and sustainable management of this natural capital is an important strategy for Kenya’s economic growth. They are also critical components of the Vision 2030 development strategy and Kenya’s goal of attaining a clean, secure and sustainable environment.


USAID pioneered a new model of community-based natural resource management in Kenya: community conservancies. Through local ownership, management and benefits sharing, communities, even those formerly in conflict, have come together across 27 conservancies to protect wildlife and improve local livelihoods.  Under the U.S. Government’s Enhancing Capacity for Low Emissions Development Strategies, USAID works in close coordination with the Government of Kenya’s Climate Change Secretariat to support critical gaps in Kenya’s ability to meet its commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change for establishing baseline emissions and country-specific emissions factors. This work is critical to establishing scientifically verifiable downward trends in carbon emissions as Low Emissions Development are implemented. USAID also advises on reforms in policies, laws and regulations governing wildlife, forests and land management. Priority programs include combatting wildlife trafficking, strengthening community conservancies and protecting critical watersheds.

To promote local and long-term resource management, USAID helps Kenyans who live in or around Kenya’s national forests and parks to establish nature-based enterprises that preserve, rather than deplete, natural resources. In 2013, 65,000 men and women participating in biodiversity programs earned up to KSh 224.4 million ($2.54 million) in income from a variety of conservation enterprises – ecotourism, women’s butterfly farming and crafts exports, sale of seedlings and honey, livestock business, and payment for environmental services.

USAID trains farming and pastoral families in climate change adaptation and mitigation activities, and encourages community conservation and wildlife protection. USAID has worked with Northern Rangelands Trust since 2004 to improve livestock and water management and reduce human/wildlife conflict. Trained community rangers, working with the Kenya Wildlife Service, have significantly contributed to reduced banditry, cattle rustling and poaching in conservancy areas. Community conservancies expand livelihood opportunities, protect natural resources, and encourage neighboring tribes to work together for shared preservation.

Through the development and use of biodiversity management plans, initiation of mechanisms for securing land tenure rights for communities, testing of voluntary easements, collaborative natural resource management and wildlife monitoring, over 2.5 million hectares of biologically significant land were put under improved management in 2013. More than 19,000 individuals – 40% being women – received training in biodiversity conservation management.

Until recently, the communities of northern Kenya, once an area teaming with black rhino, have had very little involvement with the species’ conservation. But attitudes are starting to change, and as the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) shifts its focus toward community-based conservation efforts, organizations such as the USAID-supported Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) have been instrumental in helping marginalized communities benefit from protecting their natural resources. Sera Community Conservancy, situated between Mt. Kenya and the Ethiopian border, is one of 26 NRT conservancies, and has been chosen as the site for Kenya’s first community-owned black rhino sanctuary.

The black rhino is listed as Critically Endangered and is on Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). The eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) is endemic to Kenya, where approximately 85 percent of the world’s remaining wild population of this sub-species remains. Like many other conservancies in the area that would have once supported free-roaming black rhino, Sera’s history is tainted with heavy poaching, tribal conflict, cattle rustling and road banditry. Since becoming an NRT member conservancy in 2001, the communities of Sera have spearheaded peace talks with neighbors and started to implement strict grazing management programs. Rangers, employed from the local community, conduct regular anti-poaching patrols and wildlife monitoring. The effect this has had on securing peace in the area and stabilizing wildlife populations has been so significant that in 2007 talks began on establishing a protected area for black rhino in Sera’s 3,450 square kilometers. With the backing of the Sera Conservancy Board, KWS carried out habitat, veterinary and security assessments in 2009 and 2010, and a 120-square kilometer area was designated for a fenced sanctuary.

The community is more resilient because of Sera Conservancy– profiting from peace, a more stable environment, and the income from tourism that conservation draws. 

USAID/Kenya Contacts:
Karen Freeman
Mission Director
Tel: + 254 (0) 20 862 2000
Email: kfreeman@usaid.gov

Juniper Neill
Environment and Natural Resources Management Office
Tel:  +254 (0) 20 862 2106
Email: jneill@usaid.gov


September 2014

Last updated: December 11, 2014

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