Kenya’s southwest Mau and Vietnam’s highland regions set to become models in sustainable landscape management


Looking out over tea fields to the Mau Forest. Photo courtesy of BBC World Service: One Planet via Flik.

Looking out over tea fields to the Mau Forest. Photo courtesy of BBC World Service: One Planet via Flik.

A new initiative launched on 28 February 2014 will be carry out projects in Kenya and Vietnam, projects whose success could serve as an example for integrated and sustainable land and water management for productive landscapes.

The initiative, called the Sustainable Land and Water Program, will seek to address the joint challenges associated with water, erosion, land, climate and food security. The two project areas are the tea-growing Southwest Mau Forest region of Kenya and the coffee-growing Central highlands of Vietnam. These were selected because they are important for commodity production, but they also provide critically important environmental services beyond their immediate boundaries.

The Mau Forests Complex  is  the largest indigenous forest in East Africa and Kenya’s most vital water tower. Besides, Mau’s 270,000 hectares of forests are the source of critical environmental services such as river flow regulation, flood mitigation, recharge of groundwater, reduced soil erosion, water purification, conservation of biodiversity, and micro‐climate regulation. The non-forested Southwest Mau region, an important tea-growing area, will be the focus of the new Program.

Vietnam’s Central Highlands of Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Lam Dong and Gia Lai are a leading producer of agricultural commodities such as coffee, pepper and increasingly cocoa. However, due to the intensive agricultural development, environmental conditions in the highlands have been deteriorating.

The integrated perspective to be applied at the two sites will be tailored to the local landscape and local needs. The approach will seeks to foster practices that lead towards sustainable prosperity and environmental health.

The lessons in sustainable landscape management learned from these two pilot sites will be shared with similar areas around the globe, through the initiative and partners.

Recent research by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), published recently in the journal Climate and Development, advocates for “a landscape approach within a ‘rural development’ framework.” The authors recommend:

  • Good rural development practices, and ways to integrate climate-change adaptation and mitigation into rural development;
  • Appropriate incentive systems (e.g. PES) to promote agroforestry and indigenous species; and
  • Environmental indicators for monitoring the impacts of integrating mitigation and adaptation on farms and in agricultural landscapes.

The recently launched initiative, with a 20 million-Euro investment by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, envisions partnerships that will secure the productivity of vulnerable production areas for future generations.

—By Daisy Ouya

The Sustainable Land and Water Program is a partnership of the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) together with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative (LPFN) and private- and public-sector stakeholders.

For more information about the program and the two pilot projects, please visit:

Related study: M.H. Hoang, S. Namirembe, M. van Noordwijk, D. Catacutan, I. Öborn, A.S. Perez-Teran, H.Q. Nguyen & M.K. Dumas-Johansen (2014): Farmer portfolios, strategic diversity management and climate-change adaptation – implications for policy in Vietnam and Kenya, Climate and Development, DOI: 10.1080/17565529.2013.857588'

Daisy Ouya

Daisy Ouya is a science writer and communications specialist with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Over the past 15 years she has been packaging and disseminating scientific knowledge in the fields of entomology, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS research, and marine science. Daisy is a Board-certified Editor in the Life Sciences ( and has a Masters’ degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut, USA. Her BSc is from the University of Nairobi in her native Kenya. She has worked as a journal editor, science writer, publisher, and communications strategist with various organizations. She joined ICRAF in July 2012. Twitter: @daisyouya

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