Carbon stocks of the terraces of the Lower Tana River floodplain and delta, Kenya, prior to conversion for biofuel production

Published in: African Journal of Aquatic Science
Volume 41, issue 1, 2016 , pages: 119–125
DOI: 10.2989/16085914.2016.1151401
Author(s): LV MukhwanaKenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research Team (KENWEB), Kenya, Q LukeKenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research Team (KENWEB), Kenya, E DelmasKenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research Team (KENWEB), Kenya, K OtoiKenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research Team (KENWEB), Kenya, O HamerlynckKenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research Team (KENWEB), Kenya, L VandepitteFlanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Belgium, B AdkinsDadacha Consulting Ltd, Kenya


Few studies have addressed the terraces adjacent to the Tana River and delta. In May 2012 a survey assessed the woody vegetation of the terraces in anticipation of their conversion to a biofuel farm. The 64 000 hectares targeted by Bedford Biofuels for clearing for Jatropha curcas would have released over 1 million Mg of carbon at a social cost of the order of US$36 million. The lease agreement set the payment to the communities at US$0.75 per hectare per year, i.e. about US$100 000 annually. The intact terraces are a resource for famine food, fodder, traditional medicine for humans and livestock, firewood, fencing and housing, but are especially important for pastoralist communities at the beginning of the dry season when waiting for the deltaic floodplain pastures to become accessible. They are also important migratory routes for wildlife, including elephants, dispersing to and from the Tsavo ecosystem. It is unlikely that the communities would have derived substantial benefits from conversion. Maintaining and even improving the carbon storage on these semi-arid lands would therefore be a better option, especially if compensation was available through the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme. The biofuel company has since abandoned the project.

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