Policy and integrated management Environment

Posted November 1998

Environmental Impact Assessment Training for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development: A Case in Kenya

by Patrick Duffy
FAO consultant
5839 Eagle Island, West Vancouver, B.C. Canada V7W 1V6
email: 73071.1141@compuserve.com
The author served as consultant and project coordinator on a mission in Kenya under the auspices of FAO. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FAO. See also: Environmental Impact Assessment training in Cambodia


See also: Environment Specials
  • Global climate maps
  • Organic agriculture
  • Integrated coastal area management
  • Biodiversity in agriculture
  • Earth Summit+5
  • Agroclimatic concepts
  • Remote sensing
  • Maps of the World Food Summit
  • Sea-level rise and agriculture
  • On the global scale, the agriculture food industry employs an enormous work force and contributes substantially to national GNP accounts. At present the sector is being threatened by shifts in trade, rising costs, bankruptcies and farm abandonment, as well as chronic environmental degradation from natural causes and from poor agricultural practice and technologies which lead to resource depletion. Thus the root causes of stress on the system include both economic and natural environmental elements.

    Agricultural and rural development sectors have not benefitted greatly from systematic environmental analysis and management. For example environmental impact assessment has not been practiced in the way that proposals for physical projects and activities are scrutinized as in other sectors. As a result haphazard planning has occurred, mistakes have been made and improper practices have persisted. Consequently, in many regions physical resources are deteriorating rapidly, poverty is deepening, and despite substantial technical and assistance programmes, the global situation continues to worsen.

    There are efforts being made to respond to this predicament through sustainable agriculture and rural development. At the global level, the world conservation strategy publication "Caring for the Earth" states that, "in all countries, there should be action to:

    In lower-income countries, priority should be given to increasing sustainable production on irrigated and rain-fed lands, increasing the self-reliance of small farmers on marginal lands, and developing new, sustainable techniques" (IUCN, 1991).

    The World Bank`s operational directive on environmental assessment states that sustainability is a requirement that Bank projects must meet. Thus sustainability is not one value to be traded off against others in an economic analysis. Rather all options to be compared must be sustainable, so whatever is not sustainable is not even to be included among the options to be ranked economically (World Bank, 1991).

    Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is recognized for its potential to promote and deliver sustainable development. Basically it is defined as an activity which predicts the impacts of a proposed project or action on human well-being, including the well-being of ecosystems on which human survival depends. Thus EIA is normally a predictive exercise aimed at foreseeing the environmental and related socio-economic impacts of development.

    The results of an EIA are reported in an environmental impact statement (EIS) which is a documented assessment of the environmental consequences and recommended mitigation measures to reduce the negative impacts and to enhance the positive ones. Normally the EIS is prepared for government by the developer or land manager and not by any other party. For this reason EIS has been called "an action-forcing mechanism" in that it makes the proponent describe the environmental consequences of an action before a decision is taken on whether or not to proceed. The outline of the EIS typically follows the following sequence:

    1. Project need/rationale
    2. Project description and alternatives
    3. Description of the environment of the project
    4. Predicted environmental impacts
    5. Mitigation measures to treat impacts
    6. Residual impacts
    7. Further studies required.

    In Kenya, the agriculture/rural development sector is under strain from a number of internal and external forces. These include prolonged drought in some regions, rapid population growth, in-migration from one district to another, influx of refugees from bordering countries, economic difficulties from lower market prices for coffee and other crops, and from donor restraint as government reforms are implemented. In this period of adversity, farming practices are degrading the environment and are not sustainable.

    EIA has potential to be useful in analyzing new agricultural practices and rural development projects. As well it will be shown here that it has important application to analyzing ongoing practices which have chronic and negative effects on the environment.

    It was against this background that GOK and FAO mounted a 1992 training initiative on EIA sustainable agriculture and rural development for District Environment Officers. This was a followup to a 6-week environmental orientation course for DEOs held in 1989 at Lake Naivasha.

    It was proposed that EIA has potential to be very useful in analysing new agricultural practices and rural development projects in Kenya. It was further proposed that the EIA approach or model could have important application to analysing ongoing practices which have chronic and negative effects on the environment. It was decided to examine this application in the work on 35 case studies brought to the course by the participating DEO`s.

    This paper reports on the planning and delivery of a course on "EIA training for sustainable agriculture and rural development" given in the unique circumstances in Kenya at present, illustrating "the benefits of EIA in times of adversity", and on the results of the application of EIA principles, procedures and methods to 35 case studies in Kenya.

    Planning and delivery of the EIA training to district environment officers

    Against the background described above the mission undertook the following activities:

    Interviews and field visits with DEOs took place in 23 districts in March - April, 1992. This was essentially a needs assessment to find out what the best course content would be and how to deliver it most effectively. The discussions focussed on the major environmental issues in the districts, action taken and the present status, the DEOs educational background and experience, solicited advice on an effective course format, and an important case study from each district.

    The needs assessment revealed several main points:

    1. There are 38 DEO`s tasked to coordinate environmental planning and decision-making, involving district staff as well as municipal councils, local town councils, industry including the agro-chemical industry, farmers co-operatives and individual farmers, educational institutions, chiefs, and elders.

    2. Typically the DEO is a male senior officer with more thatn10 years of experience in district administration at the District Officer level. Appointed in 1989 with a salary equivalent to the District Commissioner, he has university schooling in one of the social sciences (history, geography, sociology, government administration, economics). A few have education or science degrees (chemistry). By virtue of working in up to six districts each as District Officers in administration, the DEO`s have strong skills in working with the public in rural areas. They are specialists in public awareness and how to deal with issues involving the public.

    3. In terms of staff, budget, and leverage available to DEO`s in their work some generalities can be made. In district offices most or all of the following discipline specialists are available to the DEO: agriculture, soil conservation, water, forestry, livestock, and public health. Engineering expertise is available from municipal councils in most town. At present the DEO`s budget is such that almost all operations outside the office are impossible, apart from riding environmental activities in on other projects as the opportunities present themselves. The leverage of DEOs comes mainly through advice and persuasion. Therefore they have very little power and no decision-making responsibilities. Such powers are vested in the District Commissioner and the District Development Committee. Some DEOs exert more influence through activities with committees involving local town councils, educational institutions, industry, non-government organizations, and the public. An example of this can be foundin the Lake ankuru Pollution Control Project, Nakuru District.

    4. It is concluded that when Kenya`s present national situation eases and when budgets and resources are forthcoming, the DEOs can be empowered to rapidly improve rural environemtnal management throughout Kenya. This will require not only funds, staff and more decision-making authority, but also a funtional set of acts and regulations in the rural sector. These necessities are achievable over time.

    Interviews at UNEP, World Bank, UNDP, and USAID for background, advice and documents. The relevance of the proposed training course to ongoing programmes was established and a number of suggestions were received and incorporated into the course planning.

    Assembly of relevant documents, including District Environment Assessment Reports, Guidelines for Soil Conservation, and EIA methods, and FAO reports. It was found that there are very few universal guidelines and publications which deal specifically with EIA and agriculture/rural development. There are no such Kenyan guidelines available at present and this hampers training, agriculture extension, and field trials. Standard universal guides on such topics as land use planning, soil conservation measures and irrigation scheme management do give support to the planning of environmentally friendly agriculture. However there is a critical need for EIA guidelines in this sector with several case studies covering a wide range of conditions from arid land pastoral grazing to intensive agriculture on small plots. The guidelines will facilitate orderly and penetrating analysis of problems/issues and their solutions.

    Based on the needs assessment mission, the course curriculum for the course was drafted and resource persons were assigned. The course plan was then reviewed with GOK, DEOs, Moi University School of Environmental Studies and with FAO. The course was then finalized as illustrated in Figure 1. Subsequently all course materials and references were assembled.

    The course was given twice on back-to-back weeks, following the schedule in Figure 1. The venue was the School of Environmental Studies, Moi University 30 km. south of Eldoret, Uashin Gishu District. The course was a combination of seminar, lectures, and workshops.

    Three field trips were arranged as follows:

    1. Pollution at a domestic water supply and reservoir which serves the population of Eldoret. The purpose was to develop a complete statement on "What is the problem ?" This illustrated the need to exhaust the fact finding activity in order to understand the problem. An effort was made to gain information on the terms and conditons of the project plan, the physical and socio-economic effects of the project, donor involvement, history of the area, the actual experience during construction and operation of the facility, the parties involved (stakeholders) including the municipality, national government and local population. The legal framework for the project was also reviewed together with the present status and future prospects. The case solution was obtained during the course workshops at Moi University.

    2. Forest and environmental degradation following the eviction of forest workers and squatters from Kaptagat Forest 30 km. south of Eldoret. The purpose was to give hands-on experience using practical methods of EIA, including matrices, checklists, overlays, networks and ad hoc committees.

    A successful Catchment Agriculture Project in Ainapikoi Divison, 40 km south of Eldoret in Uasin Gishu District, giving an excellent illustration of collective action by a farmer`s co-operative, local council, and relevant ministries. In 3 - 4 years the project has achieved a sustainable highly productive agricultural system on several catchments.

    The main lessons learned from the three field trips are as follows:

    1. Because the DEOs have each worked in 5-6 districts, they are broadly familiar with the case problems but not with the underlying causes. The time spent on problem definition permitted the DEOs to rapidly gain insights into cause/effect relationships and to identify the significant elements of the problem.

    2. The field trip and workshop on practical EIA methods revealed that with a background in social sciences, DEOs quickly gained facility with the methods and used them correctly.

    3. The field trip to the catchment agriculture project gave the group an opportunity to observe and discuss a successful project in sustainable land use and crop management. This goes right to the heart of the problem in Kenyan agriculture. The group discussed the main ingredients of building catchment agriculture projects and building confidence with participating farmers that a seemingly complex problem can be solved.

    4. Field trips of the kind used here are essential to provide a common experience or reference points for discussions in the seminar and workshops.

    Following a brief description of each DEOs case problem, then three working groups of 5 - 6 participants tackled nominated environmental case studies in a workshop setting. The nominating DEO would elaborate on the case and the group would then work through the EIA process using the EIS outline as a sequence and guide. The outline is as follows:

    1. Project need/rationale, e.g. coffee production factories. Why is the activity/project needed ?

    2. Project description and alternatives, i.e. how is the activity carried out ?

    3. Description of the local environment in which the activity occurs. Physical, social and biological aspects.

    4. Environmental impacts of the activity, positive and negative.

    5. Mitigation measures to reduce negative impacts and increase positive ones. e.g. well managed waste water lagoons and what steps can be taken in planning and executing the project to reduce negative impacts?

    6. Residual impacts, those which cannot be avoided by mitigation measures. Give examples.

    7. Further studies required.

    In drafting the EIA based on the EIS two sets of assumptions were used:

    1. Present day constraints prevail; identify stoppers.
    2. Required resources are available, i.e. adequate time, staff, resources, information, process, and political will, and include the consultation with affected parties.

    Simulated public technical meetings

    The results were written up as an EIS in outline form on flip charts for presentation to a simulated public technical meeting before two groups, namely Group 1, senior officers of government (i.e. deputy secretary level) and Group 2 public groups and individuals. The presentations and questioning yielded a broad understanding of the problems and practical options for solving them.


    The needs assessment mission permitted extensive involvement from the DEOs in the development of course content, priorities, and scheduling. Valuable information was also gathered on the DEOs experience, educational background, and critical problem areas in the field.

    The field trip cases provided real life agriculture and rural development situations for group problem solving. It seems that two to three cases are sufficient for a 5 - day course.

    The available technical literature on EIA in agriculture and rural development is very limited and this inhibits the quality of course offerrings of this type. A priority is up-to-date practical environmental guidelines for the sector.

    Follow up training (e.g. an EIA course of one-week duration) would reinforce the analytical work on environmentally degrading agriculultural practices and projects, by bring DEOs and professional officers into group problem settings. Staff from 4-5 districts would assemble at a district location where representative cases are accessible for field visits. The courses should be of one - week duration and should put emphasis on team work. About 10 courses could be given over a two year period.

    DEOs need to have the benefit of study tours in countries with working EIA processes which focus on agriculture and rural development where conditions resemble those found in Kenya. Examples are Spain, Israel, Malaysia, and Indonesia. These visits should take place before the proposed Kenya EIA policy and procedures are put into effect.

    The simulated public meetings were effective in shifting the perspective of DEOs. The training was reinforced by role playing (acting), using humor, by challenging participants to achieve practical and realistic solutions, and creating memorable experiences for the participants.

    Environmental impact assessment in 35 case studies

    A variety of case studies on which EIAs were completed, following an outline of the EIS; and, illustrate the usefulness of the EIA approach in solving environmental problems stemming from both proposed projects and ongoing agricultural practices. Each case was proposed and written up by the relevant DEO with the problem in his district. One case was brought by a staff member of the National Environmental Secretariat. Cases were solved in working groups, the output being an Environmental Impact Statement, with recommendations and this was the subject of a presentation in a simulated technical hearing.

    Examples of proposed activities and projects

    EIA was designed as an activity to predict impacts of proposed projects. A case which suits this objective is that of a planned sewer system for Lodwar in Turkhana District. This will require the creation of a water supply, the connection of a new sewer system to all premises, the construction of an environmentally sound treatment plant and the decommissioning of pit latrines. By examining the proposal in the EIS format, several impacts were identified and evaluated, alternatives for construction were described, and mitigation measures were outlined to reduce impacts on the environment and the residents.

    In Table 1 case problems are listed which have recently been undertaken in Kenya with observed impacts. By applying the EIA approach to problem analysis to recent projects, a hindsight view showed what was done and why, what the effects were and what can be done to rectify the damage done or to avoid such problems on similar projects in the future. These included resettlement planning, water dams, a 60,000 person refugee camp, expansion of saltworks on the coast, and the cleanup of Lake Nakuru.

    Table 1. Rural development projects with negative environmental effects
    Saltworks expansion, Kilifi Destruction ofmangrove ecosystems
    Coffee Factory operation, Nyeri and KirinyagaMassive pollution of streams and waterbodies.
    Refuse collection and disposalPollution of land and water, threat of disease.
    Sand mining from stream beds, MachakosDestruction of stream environment, social impacts of unregulated activity.
    Tree planting in rural and urban parts of Isiolo, Meru, Kakamega, Kisii, KerichoHeavy mortality through inadequate planning, protection and community support.
    In-migration to farmland in LaikipiaUncontrolled development and practices, lack of sanitation, soil degradation.
    Water storage dams in Nyandarua and Uasin GishuWater pollution and health threats.
    Encroachment of industrial and rural development on lakes and water bodies, NakuruPollution of lakes and streams, threats to wildlife populations.

    Agricultural practices with chronic negative environmental effects

    As noted above the EIA model was not designed to analyse ongoing agricultural acitivities which result in impacts on the environment. In the present training project it was proposed to try the EIA sequence as a practical approach to examine detrimental practices. The approach was to follow the EIS outline and prepare the statement ("action forcing mechanism") to sort out cause and effect and options for mitigation measures.

    Examples of cases in this category are given in Table 2 including:

    1. the use of chemicals in agriculture in general, where there is a need to prescribe the correct compound, application rate, and procedures;

    2. overgrazing in flat lowlands in Baringo, where drought has driven cattle farmers to concentrate grazing in unsustainable numbers;

    3. sugar plantation practices in Nandi, where farms are located on highly erodible soils.

    In each case the EIS sequence was followed in order to assemble information and analyse impact. Only conventional and well known methods were employed. These were interactive matrices, overlays, networks, and the ad hoc committee approach. Each method was treated in the instructional portion of the course and the application was carried over to the workshop portion.

    Table 2. Agricultural practices with chronic negative environmental effects
    Farming steep hillsides without soil erosion prevention measures, Taita/Taveta Extensive soil erosion, stream sedimentation.
    Overgrazing and deforestation, partly for charcoal, KiwaleLoss of vegetation cover, soil erosion.
    Overgrazing in flat lowlands, BaringoMassive soil erosion.
    Overstocking of livestock in ASAL areas, SamburuRemoval of cover, over-concentration of grazing.
    Sugar plantation practices, NandiMassive gulleying.
    Use of chemicals in agriculture in generalThreats to human health, pollution of waterways.

    Results from selected case solutions

    Rural development projects and activities with negative impacts

    Saltworks expansion, Malindi, Kilifi where the task was to plan sustainable expansion of saltworks so that productive mangrove ecosystems were preserved, and a crab and prawn fishery was protected.

    Refuse collection and disposal in Embu town where an organized collection system and a managed disposal site will be achievable when funds and staff are provided. Compensation to landowners may be needed in order to acquire land for the site.

    In-migration and resettlement in Laikipia district where careful land use planning and allocation of plots need to go hand in hand with agriculture extension training of farmers who have emigrated from other districts where practices are different.

    Management of urban and industrial encroachment on Lake Nakuru where a multidisciplinary task force has visited and worked with 62 industries and the Nakuru town council to make an action plan to attack water-borne pollution at the source and to create buffer zones and wildlife habitat near the lake.

    Agricultural activities with chronic negative environmental effects

    Use of chemicals in agriculture (mainly pesticides and fertilizers) warrants much closer study and management, particularly on intensively cultivated farms in small catchments. An EIA yielded a variety of actions to reduce pollution, non-target mortality, and effects on farmers.

    Soil erosion due to overcrowding of small uneconomic farms and overgrazing on steep hillsides in Taita/Taveta district. Some gully erosion is traced to land use in neighboring Tanzania. The EIA resulted in bringing together a number of initiatives for a cohesive action plan and in filling in the gaps on additional steps required to cope with increasing population pressure on the land.

    Massive gully erosion is destroying landscapes in the sugar plantation belt of Nandi district. Scores of gullies are up to 7 meters deep and 20 meters wide on some properties belonging to absentee landowners. The EIA delivered several actions and mitigation measures ranging from erosion control structures to shifts in land use to rehabilitate degrading lands and to stop the degradation.

    Deforestation of gazetted forests in Kiwale district is caused by illegal charcoal production and fuelwood harvesting. The EIA pinpointed practical steps to shift the dependence on the natural forest for charcoal to other sources of wood and the necessary political will and local support required to make the change over a realistic time frame.


    Why was the EIA useful?

    The approach places responsibility for the environmental analysis with the developer or the sponsoring agency of government. In most of the cases here the work would be done by the responsible agency of government in cooperation with farm cooperatives, communities (municipalities), and the private sector.

    A problem statement and cause/effect analysis is required. The nature of the work leads to consensus on the problem statement and the alternatives and options to solve the problem. Where information gaps exist, steps are taken to describe the required studies to fill them.

    Consultation with affected parties (stakeholders) is encouraged in EIA and the form of this depends on the political and cultural environment. The main purposes of the consultation are to gain local information from the participants and to provide information on the activity or project proposal on an ongoing basis. Consultation between technical agencies is also facilitated.

    The product of the EIA is the EIS being a report with recommendations in advance of a decision whether or not to proceed and under what conditions. It is usual for the report to be released to the public.

    What are the drawbacks?

    For EIA to work well, it is necessary to have a frame of reference in legislation and process. Then procedures are in place to give guidance to the analysis and decision-making. Such a framnework is under consideration at present in the Government of Kenya. Until procedures are established, exercises in EIA must be based on policies and procedures which have emerged as global standards, as described in guidelines from other countries and agencies.

    Information gaps are common in EIA. There are several ways to cope with them including increased consultation with experts, use of solutions from similar cases elsewhere, and using strategies in problem solutions which give recognition to the gaps. For instance, one rule of thumb in EIA is that unknowns are "red flags" and the analysis cannot be completed until the unknown is dealt with.

    EIA is an efficient planning and decision-making model, but it takes time and effort. Such a commitment may be seen as a drawback by participants until the results are seen.

    Were there different degrees of effectiveness ?

    The case solutions in the workshop setting were most effective where the DEOs shared the problem in their respective districts and where the potential solutions were known to them. Solutions were also better where the available information was substantial and without major gaps. An example of this is coffee factory pollution.

    Solutions were less effective when they required cooperation and coordination with a number of parties and included the need for political will at the executive level. However cases such as the Lake Nakuru cleanup project give encouragement by illustrating the effectiveness of a sustained effort to work with a large number of parties.

    If a complete or partial solution was known from elsewhere, this contributed to the confidence and approach required to reach an effective solution to a case problem. An example is the establishment of a dam and reservoir for drinking water purposes.

    How can EIA be made operational in the districts?

    There are a number of ways that some benefits of EIA can be obtained in the districts, including the following:

    EIA can be applied to projects and activities proposed to the District Development Committees inorder to give a consistent and workable analysis to new proposals and to ongoing practices which are damaging and unsustainable.

    Guidelines for some agriculture and rural development initiatives need to be prepared by DEOs and staff together with the agriculture extension officers. As experience is gained from similar practices, then guidelines can be drafted and used to assist subsequent applications.

    Where sustainable practices are obtained it is important to communicate the achievments through the press and TV media, in leaflets and posters and other forms communication.

    Demonstration farms and catchments are very effective ways of communicating sustainable agriculture because they are real case studies which can be visited and used for teaching and for briefing and are achievable for other farmers and landowners.

    Conclusions and recommendations

    Agriculture and rural development need to benefit from systematic environmental analysis and management, in order to become sustainable. EIA is one approach to achieve this and it has many applications in this sector.

    It has been shown in this project that EIA is effective in understanding cause/effect of environmentally degrading practices, as well as for the prediction of impacts on proposed projects, which is the conventional use of EIA.

    Through UNCED and other deliberations it is clear that sustainable development in agriculture and rural development is a necessary and achievable goal.

    There are a number of action items that can be taken to extend the use of EIA in Kenya, thereby contributing to sustainable development in the agriculture and rural development sector. These include the designation of demonstration farms and rehabilitated areas to illustrate correst practices, extending the training at the district level to staff, municipal staff, farmers cooperatives, and other non-government organizations, and preparing and circulating guidelines, video and printed material on practical means of achieving sustainable resource management in the sector.


    Duffy, P.J.B. 1992. "EIA as a catalyst to sustainable development in Mozambique". Impact Assessment Bulletin. Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 67-72. Int. Assoc. Impact Assessment, Terre Haute, Indiana, U.S.A.

    Gathuo, B., P. Rantala, and R. Maatta. 1991. "Coffee industry wastes". Water Science Technology. Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 53-60.

    IUCN/UNEP/WWF. 1991. "Caring for the Earth. A Strategy for Sustainable Living". Gland, Switzerland. 228 pp.

    National Environment Secretariat. "Several dates in the 1980s". District Environmental Assessment Reports. Government of Kenya, Nairobi.

    World Bank, Environment Department. 1991. "Environmental Assessment Sourcebook". Three Volumes. Technical Papers 139 and 140. Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

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