Georgina Smith/CIAT.

Sharing costs and benefits in the upper Tana

“Instead of the hours it takes to bake a cake, cooking up a landscape takes years- thousands. And as the icing is usually best, the top layer of soil is the most precious and fertile,” writes Georgina Smith from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in a recent post titled “Costing the earth: who’s responsible?” 

Degraded soils are a reality that we face today. In her post, Smith talks about the thriving construction industry in the hills of Kenya’s Upper Tana watershed and its impact on the environment. Quarrying has helped improved the livelihoods of the quarry workers, allowing some to even make enough to invest in other ventures and educate their children. But at what cost to the environment?

recent study by CIAT and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) shows that quarrying creates pathways which flush rain water and fertile top soil with it. Sediment yields have jumped more than 30 percent in the last decade. Soil erosion in this landscape is not restricted to one set of users alone. Restoring it therefore, needs a more inclusive decision making process which accounts for all users- from farmers to quarry workers to downstream users. Read the full story.

In pictures: Landscapes are shaped by communities that use them. In Kenya’s Tana River watershed, farmers and quarry workers upstream have been supported by big businesses like utility companies downstream, to make sure getting a clean glass of water doesn’t cost the earth. View the slideshow.

The Tana River watershed is Kenya's life blood. CIAT and partners are exploring ecosystems trade-offs to benefit both the environment and improve farmer incomes and livelihoods.
Georgina Smith/CIAT