Apr 30
April 30, 2015

We Can Build a More Resilient Future


This story has been adapted from its original form. The full version can be found at

Flying over Kenya is a wonderful way to see its beauty, from the green hills outside Nairobi to the rich orange of the northern desert. But Kenya from above looks very different than it did even just a few decades ago. Lush farms have given way to degraded land, and new settlements have sprouted where forests once stood. Tree coverage has all but disappeared in some areas, and those brown patches remain empty voids in Kenya’s countryside.

The view from the ground isn’t much different. Where much of the land was once covered with dark brown, dense soil, it is now light and thin. And where weather patterns were once consistent and predictable, they are now much more erratic.

These changes are problematic, and they are all connected. Deforestation launches a vicious cycle affecting food-security, economic development and agricultural productivity. Clearing forests for farmland leaves less tree cover to protect against the effects of climate change. And as trees are cut down for fuel, the burning wood emits dangerous greenhouse gases that have a negative impact on individual health along with the environment. The 70 percent of Kenyans that depend on farming as their primary source of income are now faced with a compounded problem: changing climate and diminishing land productivity.

As a soil scientist, I work with farmers to develop products and tools that will allow them to better manage their soils and achieve higher productivity. It is very important for farmers to understand the composition of their soil – what nutrients are absent – so that they know what nutrients to put back in, so as to get the yields they want. The more information they have, the better decisions they can make about which crops to plant and when, how much livestock their land can support, and where trees are more likely to survive.

The Clinton Climate Initiative has been working with the Kenyan government on a System for Land-based Emissions Estimation in Kenya, better known as SLEEK. The system is collecting data from five pillars: climate and weather patterns, crops, forests, land-cover maps, and, of course, soil. SLEEK is, at its simplest, a data platform that will bring these multiple varieties of data sets together and allow them to be easily accessed.

See how SLEEK will help individuals and communities address climate change at