Recent assessment of the Maasai Mau forest-part of the largest remaining natural forest in Kenya revealed that direct expansion of small farms into the forest in response to population and climate induced land use pressures, largely contributed to a 42% loss in forest cover between 1995 and 2008. In response, the Kenyan government plans to integrate farmers into forest management initiatives through incentive schemes such as on-farm carbon payments. To contribute to the envisaged carbon payment scheme(s), a regression model depicting the most efficient land use design with higher net carbon addition was derived based on existing land use types, respective allocations and carbon stocks in 30 small farms of 2 to 6 ha occurring within 5 km from the forest boundary. Results confirmed that smallholder land allocation is a function of first, food crops for subsistence (p≤0.01) followed by cash crop for income (p≤0.01) while tree planting is least prioritized. Aboveground carbon stock per farm, on average, amounted to 13.2 t/ha. Based on a linear model (R2=68%), trading off 10% of open grazing land for farm forest, while unchanging the traditional land allocated to food crops and cash crops, doubles carbon stocks per hectare of these farms. While incorporating carbon sequestration potential into small farms require careful tradeoffs between environmental, social and economic land demands, it presents a win-win incentive oriented strategy to restore Maasai Mau and the larger Mau forest. However, such initiatives must be informed by ordered empirical research on land use demands and associated costs and benefits within the forest and its surrounding.
Key words: Carbon payments, forest management, land use tradeoffs, on-farm, smallholders.
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