New atlas helps identify connections between poverty and ecosystems

On Wednesday 30 May, ILRI and partners launched ‘Nature’s benefits in Kenya: An atlas of ecosystems and well-being’. It is a first attempt to provide information on how people, land and prosperity are related.

Cover of Nature’s benefits in Kenya: An atlas of ecosystems and well-being

The atlas is a multi-year effort between two Kenyan organisations and two international organisations – the Kenyan Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Kenya’s Department of Remote Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) – and many others.

This atlas is a first for Kenya. It is a step forward from the landmark findings of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment – that 15 of the world’s ecosystem services are degraded – and provides a model for other countries to develop their own similar maps. Similar studies are already planned for Uganda.

ILRI economist and lead author, Patti Kristjanson, said, ‘Four institutions, 13 collaborators, 67 authors and 23 reviewers – the many people and institutions that collaborated in this study is truly remarkable. Kenya, with this book, has become a leader in facilitating innovative institutional partnerships to explore and improve our understanding of the connections between poverty and the environment.’

The links between poverty and ecosystems are often overlooked. For the majority of the poor, rural environmental resources are key to better livelihoods and economic growth. Attaining development goals means policymakers and civil-society groups need to access evidence-based information and analysis on the numerous interconnections between environmental resources and human well-being.

Robin Reid, a landscape ecologist at ILRI and a lead author, said ‘There is a crippling division between sectors and disciplines within the areas of poverty and the environment. This is an effort to cross these boundaries. This has not been done in many places. It is an attempt to close the gap between science, policy and communities so that science can be applied more quickly on the ground. We, at ILRI, are eager to engage and help at every step of the way.’

The atlas and its 96 different maps include significant policy and economic development analyses that will be useful to policy-makers worldwide to improve understanding of the relationships between poverty and the environment. The atlas overlays statistical information on population and household expenditures with spatial data on ecosystems and their services -water availability, livestock and wildlife populations, etc. – to provide a picture of how land, people and prosperity are related in Kenya.

Mohammed Said, a lead author and scientist at ILRI explains: ‘One of the maps shows the spatial coincidence of poverty and locations with high milk production. Most of the areas with high milk production correspond to locations with a low incidence of poverty, but further investigation is needed to determine whether households in these communities became less poor once they became high milk producers or whether a certain amount of capital had to be in place to support a high-milk production system. Similarly, further examination of areas of high milk production and high poverty rates will provide useful insights into the causes of high poverty rates.’

Professor Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate and member of Tetu Constituency of the Kenya Parliament wrote the foreward to the Atlas and commended the contribution it can make to sound decision-making and good governance.

‘As a result of this type of work, we will never be able to claim that we did not know. Rather, using this knowledge, we can move forward to protect our environment, provide economic opportunity for everyone, and build a strong democracy’ said Maathai.

Maathai’s views were echoed by Edward Sambili, Permanent Secretary, Kenya’s Ministry of Planning and National Development, at the book launch on Wednesday. He concluded: ‘This (book) is going to change the lives of Kenyans. It is going to reduce poverty.’


The book is available for download in PDF format as an entire document or by chapter.

Full book.
(PDF: 15MB)

Natures Benefit in Kenya_Cover
(PDF: 856KB)

Authors and Credits
(PDF: 466KB)

Authors and Credits
(PDF: 466KB)

Planting a Seedling for Better Desicion-Making_Wangari Maathai_Nobel Peace Laureate-2004
(PDF: 62KB)

Table of Contents
(PDF: 62KB)

Natures Benefits in Kenya_Executive Summary
(PDF: 97KB)

Building Partnerships for Better Poverty-Environment Analyses
(PDF: 61KB)

Preface and Readers Guide
(PDF: 75KB)

(PDF: 98KB)

Chapter 1_Ecosystems and Ecosystem Service
(PDF: 1.4MB)

Chapter 2_Spatial Patterns of Poverty and Human Well-Being
(PDF: 1.6MB)

Chapter 3_Water
(PDF: 1.8MB)

Chapter 4_Food
(PDF: 2.3MB)

Chapter 5_Biodiversity
(PDF: 2.5MB)

Chapter 6_Tourism
(PDF: 2.2MB)

Chapter 7_Wood
(PDF: 2MB)

Chapter 8_The Upper Tana – Patterns of Ecosystem Services and Poverty
(PDF: 4.5MB)

Lessons Learned and Next Steps
(PDF: 100KB)

(PDF: 72MB)

(PDF: 39KB)

(PDF: 482KB)