Kenya’s Chyulu Hills are home to the Maasai people, small-holder farmers and legions of iconic wildlife – including some of the largest populations of elephants in Kenya. They are also beset by unsustainable land use and deforestation.
In the face of these struggles, a new plan is afoot to restore these famous hills. Together with key partners in the landscape, particularly the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and the Big Life Foundation, Conservation International is aiming to put tens of thousands of hectares of Chyulu Hills savannah woodland and grassland under restoration by 2025.
The initiative also aims to serve as a demonstration site for other landscapes to emulate, and therefore catalyze the adoption of cost-effective, high-impact landscape restoration practices. Restoring natural landscapes is one of the only cost-effective and immediately available ways of removing climate-warming carbon from the atmosphere at scale.
Historically, restoration has been carried out by directly planting trees and grasses in degraded areas — an expensive approach. In the Chyulu Hills, Conservation International is exploring “natural regeneration”: the potential of ecosystems to regenerate naturally using good community governance, with minimal or no need for direct planting. Recent science has shown that such approaches can reduce costs by at least half, while the conservation gains can be tripled.
Helping fight climate change
Restoring degraded rangelands could lead to the removal of up to 4 metric tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide per hectare per year. Restoring the approximately 900 million hectares of degraded rangelands across Africa could help to remove up to 3.6 billion metric tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year – which is the annual emissions from all the cars currently in use in the United States, China and Europe.
Partnering with Apple
This initiative is helping to develop a new approach to restoring nature in Africa and beyond. Through this investment Apple is supporting new methodologies for driving down the cost of restoration, increasing the effectiveness of restoration best-practices, and attracting the diverse partners needed to restore and reforest landscapes.
If successful, this new approach could demonstrate how to put tens of thousands of hectares under restoration at a fraction of the cost of past methods, while improving the well-being of thousands of Maasai. What’s more, this approach can serve as a model for restoring communal rangeland across Africa and demonstrate how to fight climate change while supporting rural livelihoods in a changing world.