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Case Study
Kenya’s payment-for-watershed services for sustainable land management

Kenya’s payment-for-watershed services for sustainable land management

Assessing Kenya’s Tana River Basin's use of payment-for-watershed services for sustainable land management.
Good Practice
  • Payment-for-watershed services
  • Green Water Credits
  • Sustainable land management
  • Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use
  • Energy
  • Hydropower
  • Land use management

Kenya, Africa

Year Published


Case Summary

Payments for Watershed Services is a methodology by which a market economy in created for services that relate to protecting ecosystems. For communities surrounding a river basin, this approach rewards upstream water users such as farmers for adopting techniques that protect the water supply and quality for downstream users. Hydropower plants are down stream water users that benefit immensely from this approach. A specific type of the payment program that is mentioned in this case study is called “Green Water Credits”. Kenya’s Tana River Basin spans more than a 17,000 km2 area and a large population of farmers (~150,000) utilize this resource. The Green Water Credits program is centralized with themes of sustainable land management techniques that upstream farmers are encouraged to utilize, and the results of this pilot study would embolden implementation of this program in the Tana River Basin area.

Actions profiled

Sustainable land management techniques utilized include terracing, mulching and agroforestry. The benefits to downstream users are reduction in damaging runoff/sedimentation and increase in groundwater recharge and flow quantities. The benefits of this program are wide spread, primarily in hydropower, irrigation, and water supply.


The projected savings is ~12-95 million USD each year compared to an annual cost of 2-20 million USD in implementing the proper land management practices. It was shown that even with a 20% adaptation of proper land management strategies, a 10-fold return on investment is projected where the cost of 0.5-4.3 million USD can yield a benefit of 6-48 million USD.  It is expected that about 50% of this savings is due to reduced siltation and water flow issues that affect hydropower plants. Reduced siltation decreases the wear and tear cost of the hydropower turbines and thereby also reduces the cost of maintenance for the hydropower plants. Managing downstream water flow via proper upstream land management techniques, preventing extremely high or low flow, can also lead to increased efficiencies in hydropower generation.
  • Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture
  • Kenyan Agriculture Research Institute
  • International Soil Reference and Information Centre
  • International fund for Agriculture Development
  • Swiss Agency for Development and Coorporation

Results supported byUNDPWorld Resources InstituteTransparency partnership