Agricultural land allocation in small farms around Maasai
Mau forest, Kenya and the implications on carbon stocks
Joanes O. Atela1,2*, Manfred Denich3,
Richard Kaguamba4 and Jacob Kibwage5
of Earth and Environment, Sustainability Research Institute,
University of Leeds LS2 9JT, United Kingdom.
Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Kenya
Secretariat, P. O. Box 46270-00100, Nairobi, Kenya
Nations Environment Programme, Division of Environmental
Policy Implementation, Terrestrial Ecosystem Unit, P. O. Box
30552-00100 Nairobi, Kenya.
of Environmental Studies, South Eastern University College
(A Constituent College of the University of Nairobi), P. O.
Box 170-90200, Kitui, Kenya.
*Corresponding author. E-mail:
Accepted 28 December, 2011
Recent assessment of the
Maasai Mau forest-part of the largest remaining natural
forest in Kenya revealed that direct expansion of small
farms into the forest in response to population and climate
induced land use pressures, largely contributed to a 42%
loss in forest cover between 1995 and 2008. In response, the
Kenyan government plans to integrate farmers into forest
management initiatives through incentive schemes such as
on-farm carbon payments. To contribute to the envisaged
carbon payment scheme(s), a regression model depicting the
most efficient land use design with higher net carbon
addition was derived based on existing land use types,
respective allocations and carbon stocks in 30 small farms
of 2 to 6 ha occurring within 5 km from the forest boundary.
Results confirmed that smallholder land allocation is a
function of first, food crops for subsistence (p≤0.01)
followed by cash crop for income (p≤0.01) while tree
planting is least prioritized. Aboveground carbon stock per
farm, on average, amounted to 13.2 t/ha. Based on a linear
model (R2=68%), trading off 10% of open grazing
land for farm forest, while unchanging the traditional land
allocated to food crops and cash crops, doubles carbon
stocks per hectare of these farms. While incorporating
carbon sequestration potential into small farms require
careful tradeoffs between environmental, social and economic
land demands, it presents a win-win incentive oriented
strategy to restore Maasai Mau and the larger Mau forest.
However, such initiatives must be informed by ordered
empirical research on land use demands and associated costs
and benefits within the forest and its surrounding.
Carbon payments, forest management, land use tradeoffs,