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‘It All Hinges on the Herders’: World’s Largest Soil Carbon Removal Project Enlists Kenyan Pastoralists

A scheme that sets down strict grazing plans to benefit the environment and generate revenue for local people was highlighted at Cop27 as a future model

When Andrew Dokhole, a community leader in Isiolo, northern Kenya, took on the task of explaining a proposed soil carbon removal project a decade ago, he had to convince largely illiterate people about the benefits of a “foreign” concept.

“Our people didn’t know what carbon was,” says Dokhole. “There is no word for carbon in our local language, not even in Swahili, the national language. Yet the success of the project depended on the pastoralists understanding how the concept works and how it would affect their daily activities.”

Dokhole had done his research. He understood all the nuances of carbon sequestration – the capturing, removal and storage of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) – so he settled on some vivid illustrations to reach people.

“In one forum I asked them, ‘Why do you expel bad gas from your body?’ They said the foul air was not good for the body. I then asked a motorcycle rider in the meeting to rev his bike until black smoke came out of the exhaust. I told them those exhaust fumes were similar to unwanted gases warming the world resulting in more droughts and livestock deaths.