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Thursday, 21 January 2016

Building a System for Land-based Emissions Estimation in Kenya

By Winfred Musila
Achieving long-term sustainable economic growth in Kenya in the face of climate change is a primary concern. There is need to use knowledge driven insights to help communities effectively mitigate, prepare and adapt to climate change.
In the current information age, with institutions and individuals producing new data each day, “big data,” or large, complex datasets are being generated at high speeds. Understanding and sharing of these massive amounts of data provides an opportunity of addressing climate change. Shared information has the potential to inform, educate, and usher a new wave of communication, innovation, and opportunities.
Decision makers, land-managers, and farmers need to have access to accurate data to effectively manage land, mitigate adapt to climate change. However, data in Kenya is fragmented, incomplete, or inaccessible providing little benefit to Kenya’s development. For the last three years, Kenyan Government officials, academia, and scientists have been working with the Clinton Foundation to address this problem by building a System for Land-based Emissions Estimation in Kenya (SLEEK).
This program is supported by the Government of Australia and will help provide essential information about Kenya’s land sector. The program’s primary goal is to build a national emissions estimation system for Kenya. 

Emissions estimation systems play a key role in tackling climate change for a number of reasons. Firstly, they allow a country to understand their emissions with great precision. Without this precision, it is impossible to know the impact of policies on a country’s emissions.
Secondly, emissions estimation like SLEEK allow countries to model and plan different scenarios. It allows countries to compare different approaches to make climate smart decisions. 

Finally, it builds confidence among donors and investors to invest in carbon reductions, as they know that carbon reductions are being properly tracked and measured. 

This has the potential to unlock access to the $100 billion of climate finance funds that has been promised to help tackle climate change.
To achieve this, SLEEK will bring together five key data sets namely: Soil data providing information about soil nutrient and carbon levels; data showing forest distribution in Kenya and how much carbon is stored; Comprehensive weather maps, showing key climate indicators across the country; Information about Kenya’s key crops including how much carbon is stored by different crops; and Land cover maps of Kenya showing how land-use has changed.
Potential impact
While these data sets are primarily captured for emissions estimation, they can also be used to address issues ranging from food security, agricultural productivity to land-management. Kenya has already identified a wide range of applications that could be developed using SLEEK data. For example, the SLEEK data on Kenya’s climate data, crop growth information, and maps of Kenya’s soils can be used to estimate the best crop to grow in a particular area.
This information can be disseminated to farmers and land-managers through SMS, programs or mobile applications. As the climate changes, SLEEK will help farmers and land-managers adapt by giving them access to up-to-date information. By continuously providing cutting-edge advice on climate data, soils information and crops, SLEEK will help farmers land managers and communities to access innovative data that is key to adapting to climate change.
SLEEK can also help connect local databases with national infrastructure. For example, a forest tracker could help Kenya’s forest managers track deforestation. Communities will also be able to use this data to help plan their own reforestation projects, allowing them to estimate the income they could generate by selling carbon credits to people wanting to offset their environmental impact.
These applications show the possibilities of harnessing big data by the SLEEK program. Continuing to identify and capitalize on these datasets will be a key opportunity for all ministries within the Government of Kenya.
SLEEK is a program that has potential to an enormous difference it Kenya. The program will harness data to help the country tackle climate change and support sustainable development. This will help Kenya understand both its emissions and its land – which is so important to its future prosperity and sustainability.
Source: Joto Afrika Newsletter
Winfred Musila (PhD) is the Program Coordinator SLEEK, Government of Kenya Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities. He can be reached through

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