ESSA - Earth observation and environmental sensing for climate-smart sustainable agropastoral ecosystem transformation in East Africa


Objectives of the project

The project aims to contribute to the pastoralist households’ transition towards climate-smart agropastoral systems in sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia and Kenya) by understanding the dynamics of and interlinkages between tropical upland forest cover and semi-arid lowland landscapes, and the multifunctionality of agropastoral landscapes, through a system-wide view of food and nutrition security, diversified livelihoods and ecosystem sustainability leading to improvements.


During recent years, pastures have been transformed to croplands, while the number of livestock has remained unchanged leading to less land being available for animals. The carrying capacity of pastures has decreased to a level that cannot withstand the current land use and climate pressure which subsequently leads to land degradation. Incremental adjustments in pastoralist systems currently carried out with livestock-based livelihoods is not adequate to cope with future challenges. Mechanisms that contribute to the transformational adaptation in pastoralist systems in response to climate change need to be explored, identified, analyzed and implemented. Pastoralists in East Africa are increasingly pursuing non-pastoral income and livelihood strategies to buffer against climate change impacts. Diversification of livelihood and adoption of mixed strategies combining livestock management with alternative income earning sources, such as beekeeping, is a promising option for sustainable pastoralism in Africa. However, the UNEP and GRID Arendal Gap Analysis indicates a significant lack of knowledge e.g. on alternative livelihoods and therefore recommends specific attention to be given to countries where data and information are lacking, through e.g. frequent analysis of remotely sensed data, and locally ground-truthed data.

The theory of change to achieve the objectives

Our intervention is based on a holistic approach where we will first create the possibilities for multidisciplinary research and capacity building with partners and stakeholders from various disciplines and expertise e.g. from biogeochemistry and hydrology to crop scientists and agricultural extension workers.

The project addresses significant knowledge gaps in the impact of land cover change on carbon stocks, pollination service in SSA pastoral areas, rangeland mobility, how pastoralist women and youth cope with changing environment and diversification of livelihoods. The project develops protocols for mitigation and adaptation to climate change and transforming pastoral lands and livelihoods through options for diversification. ESSA facilitates active and broad cooperation and participation of scientific and development partners, and especially the pastoral communities who are the key beneficiaries, in the co-creation of innovative solutions for monitoring environmental change and for the adoption of livelihood options that contribute to sustainable management of arid and semi-arid ecosystems. Technical support and training are provided to local organizations to establish demonstration sites for

e.g. apiaries and plant-based product development in the pastoral and agropastoral communities. ESSA builds the resilience of pastoralists to mitigate and adapt to climate change through diversification of livelihoods that help increase carbon stocks in dry lowlands and in upland moist


landscapes through agroforestry and increase of tree cover to support ecosystem services, such as water provision, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. The project also develops methods to assess points of change when the carrying capacity of the environment is reached using remote sensing and modelling in Earth science.

In addition to the above-mentioned knowledge gaps, we will carry out basic research e.g. on land cover changes, carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas fluxes and hydrology, and model the environmental change. Socioeconomic studies will assess the conditions for the potential transformation of existing pastoral livelihood activities to apiculture and non-timber product to promote diversified livelihoods and a climate-smart landscape framework. Agriculture specialists in the project will simultaneously test in the field to demonstrate the feasibility and appropriateness of beekeeping and plant-based product approaches for livelihood diversification. They will build the capacity of communities and extension workers on these practices.

The transformation potential and socio-economic thresholds of studied livelihoods will be investigated through participatory methods with communities considering gender issues and balance. The capacity of partners and stakeholders will be improved through hands-on training on methods and technologies by sharing best practices. The governmental organisations of the consortium will be strengthened in various domains through field training to academic training. North-south cooperation will be reinforced too. Both practical and scientific results and outcomes will be disseminated through respective media and a central portal of knowledge, while the results are shared with the respective ministries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Finland.

The main expected outcomes are: 1) Increased scientific knowledge of climate-smart agropastoral systems and enhanced on-the ground capacity of National Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS), 2) Sustainable livelihood transformation framework from pastoralism to integrated agropastoralism, 3) Enhanced potential of income diversification to support the transition towards climate-smart agropastoral systems among pastoralist households in Ethiopia and Kenya, and 4) Improved quality and availability of Earth observation and environmental sensing methods for environmental change and landscape degradation assessment and for monitoring improvements and climate-smart agropastoral system transition in pastoral areas.