Assessing agroforestry practices and soil and water conservation for climate change adaptation in Kenya: A cost-benefit analysis (November 2020)


The study was carried out under the Integrating Agricultural Sectors into National Adaptation Plans programme, with the aim of capacity building, generating evidence-based results for selecting adaptation options, and informing adaptation policy dialogues on adaptation in agriculture. This study analyses the economic worthiness of adaptation measures currently being practiced by some farmers on their land. It uses cost-benefit analysis (CBA), which is recommended by the Least Developed Countries Expert Group as one of the methodologies to be used in the preparatory stages of the NAPs to rank and prioritize adaptation options according to their costs and benefits to society.


  • Researchers used cost-benefit analysis to analyse the financial and economic worthiness of agriculture adaptation measures (soil and water conservation and agroforestry) using primary data from a survey of 642 households spread across five counties in Kenya.

  • The results show that the assessed climate change adaptation options are economically worthwhile as they generate positive on-farm net benefits resulting from reduced soil erosion, better water retention, higher crop yields and ultimately higher incomes.
    Positive externalities include public benefits such as mitigation of carbon emissions and reduced siltation of dams.

  • The costs of establishing terracing and grass strips are considerably high for most farmers and therefore a major barrier to adoption. Labour cost is a major constraint for promoting onfarm adoption. One possible solution is the deployment of National Youth Service (NYS) staff to undertake terracing as part of their public service.

  • The demonstrated profitability of these adaptation options is not enough to guarantee adoption. Governments at the national and county level can increase adoption of economically worthwhile measures by addressing the drivers for adoption.

  • Potential areas of government support for adoption of these agricultural technologies include enhancing access to agricultural extension. Government agencies can support extension services to increase awareness amongst farmers on climate change, and educate farmers regarding the technical aspects of the implementation of proposed adaptation practices.

  • Improvements to land tenure security, including land titling and prompt resolution of land disputes, ensure that farmers are incentivised to invest in longer term, more expensive SWC and forestry measures. Given that gender is also a driver of the adoption of adaptation actions, gender should be mainstreamed into adaptation programmes. The unique challenges faced by female and male farmers must be addressed in all stages of project design.

  • Increasing uptake of analysed adaptation practices also requires continued agricultural productivity.
    Investing in farmers’ access to productive inputs is also crucial.
    This can be accomplished by creating a conducive macro-economic environment for the private sector. .and improving targeting of farmers in need.