MERECP is a programme of the East African Community whose oversight, coordination and supervision was delegated to the Lake Victoria Basin Commission. It was designed by IUCN through multi-stakeholder consultations, discussions and interaction with the East African Community Secretariat (EAC), governments of Kenya and Uganda through relevant national government agencies, local government/districts, user groups, NGOs, private sector, local communities, conservationists and researchers.

MERECP is co-financed as a four-year grant programme by the Governments of the Royal Kingdom of Norway and Sweden from 2005 – 2009. On 2 September 2005, an Agreement was signed between the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the East African Community (EAC) regarding support to MERECP Implementation Phase with a total financial grant not exceeding NOK 34.2 million. MERECP Implementation commenced in October 2005 after one year’s inception phase

The Mid-Term Review (MTR) of MERECP was conducted in April/May 2008 according to the Cooperative Agreement between EAC and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway. The need to redesign MERECP was one of the key MTR recommendations and the redesigning was undertaken in October/November.

Programme location: MERECP supports the EAC Secretariat and governments of Kenya and Uganda to strengthen management of protected areas components of the Mt. Elgon ecosystem and initiate sustainable development activities in the districts of Trans-Nzoia West, Kwanza, Mt. Elgon in Kenya; and Kapchorwa, Bukwo,Sironko ,Manafwa, Bududa and Mbale in Uganda.

Rationale and approach for MERECP

The Mount Elgon ecosystem faces a daunting challenge of maintaining or developing its natural resources base to meet increasing demand by the people for livelihoods and development aspirations on a sustainable basis. This is because the livelihoods of the peoples of Mount ElgonMount Elgon ecosystems while meeting conservation and livelihoods needs through increasing conservation benefits and provision of other livelihood options are inadequate. Consequently the natural resource base in the landscape surrounding the protected areas is becoming depleted thus affecting the livelihoods security and undermining the security for the resources within the protected areas. ecosystem are primarily small-scale subsistence agriculture-based, hence dependent on the natural resources endowment. Further the institutional capacities to manage and develop 

MERECP was therefore designed to address the conservation and development needs of the Mount Elgon ecosystem, among others. It adds value to national conservation and development activities as well as achievements of the recently concluded Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs) on both sides of the Mountain to address issues that require a regional approach and efforts. MERECP links environmental management to livelihood security and poverty alleviation, which are priorities for the Governments of Uganda and Kenya. The Programme addresses pressures currently being put on Mount Elgon ecosystem by enhancing natural resources productivity, provision of livelihoods options and adding value to natural resources. Further MERECP strengthens institutional capacities, policy and legal frameworks for enabling conservation and sustainable development in a transboundary context, because it is a shared ecosystem between Kenya and Uganda.

MERECP design recognizes that both an ecosystem and transboundary natural resource management approaches, which are crucial to the continuation of the ecological and development benefits and services provided by the mountain ecosystem – both directly to the local peoples of the area, the remote users of Mt Elgon products and the biodiversity not only within national jurisdictions, but also in a transboundary context. MERECP Programme up scales on going conservation and development work as well as focusing on fostering transboundary natural resource management, trade, security and tourism.

The Protocol on Sustainable Management and Development of Lake Victoria Basin (LVB), which is an annexture to the Treaty,was signed by the EAC Partner States (Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) on November 29, 2003 and ratified in November 2004. The Protocol, which addresses environmental concerns in and around the lake, has 52 Articles that set out an institutional framework, including the establishment of a special Council of Ministers for Lake Victoria Basin and a Lake Victoria basin Commission (LVBC), which became operational in July 2006. Important areas of focus of the Protocol that are relevant in the context of MERECP implementation are: equitable and reasonable utilization of water resources; protection and conservation of the basin and its ecosystem; sustainable development of natural resources; sustainable agriculture and land use practices; natural resources and environmental monitoring; and exchange of data and information.

The EAC’s Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources in Chapter 3 has a number of articles with provisions for management of transboundary resources. These include the following:

Article 9: which commits Partner States to develop, harmonize, adopt and implement common policies, laws, strategies, plans and programmes relating to the conservation and use of all forms of biological resources. Specifically Section 2(a) states that partner states shall collaborate in the conservation of transboundary biodiversity;

Article 11: Section 3 states that the Partner States shall cooperate and where necessary, enter into agreements or other arrangements, in the management of transboundary wildlife ecosystems and protected areas; and promote management of shared wildlife resources and wildlife habitats across international borders including the conservation of species and populations, marketing of their products and development of transboundary conservation and management programmes;

Article 12 Subsection 3(h): the Partner States shall improve water catachment management; and

Article 19: management of Mountain Ecosystems and in particular Section 2, where the partner states shall protect mountain ecosystems such as critical water catchments, conservation and heritage areas and other areas of common strategic interest at local, national, regional and international level; and Subsection 3(b) the partner states shall promote regional cooperation and exchange of data and information on transboundary mountain ecosystems.

MERECP was designed as an element of implementation of the EAC 2001-2005 Strategic Plan, which addressed the mandate of EAC to manage transboundary watershed areas of East Africa including Mt Elgon. In the EAC Development Strategy 2006-2010, the LVBC is required to implement the Shared Vision and Strategy Framework (SVSF) for Management of LVB. In this Framework, the management of transboundary ecosystems such as Mt Elgon is covered under thematic area – Environment, Natural Resources and Ecosystems. In effect, MERECP is a pioneer transboundary natural resource management and environmental project that is expected to inform other or similar projects within EAC. Its principles and results can be replicated in other transboundary resources elsewhere

EAC EIA Guidelines for Shared Ecosystems: MERECP offers the opportunity to apply/test the recently developed Regional EIA guidelines for shared ecosystems of EAC.


Redesigned MERECP Vision, Goal, Purpose and Objectives:

Vision: A Secure and productive Mt Elgon ecosystem

Goal: By 2015, sustainable use of shared natural resources benefiting livelihoods and mitigating and adapting to anticipated climate change impacts in the Mt Elgon transboundary ecosystem of the East African Community

Purpose: In the short-term; by 2010, effective transboundary natural resource management and participatory benefit sharing models successfully demonstrated in the Mt. Elgon ecosystem (Kenya and Uganda).

In the mid-term, by 2013, transbiundary natural resource management and participatory benefit sharing models up-scaled in the Mt. Elgon ecosystem (Kenya and Uganda) as a demonstration and replication model in EAC.


The following objectives/outputs will be achieved over the short term:

  • Benefit sharing and co-management models of ecosystem and biodiversity conservation and management around PAs demonstrated successfully by end of 2010 
  •  Equity and benefit sharing models/revolving funds that create opportunities for payment of ecosystem goods and services for improved livelihoods are in place by 2010 
  •  Linking of livelihoods improvement to climate change mitigation/adaptation demonstrated successfully by end of 2010: 
  •  Appropriate institutions strengthened in support of the transboundary ecosystem approach by end of 2010:

Output 1: Benefit sharing and co-management models of ecosystem and biodiversity conservation and management around PAs demonstrated successfully by end of 2010. This will be measured against the following indicators:

Participatory benefit sharing agreements (PBSA) have been entered into with local communities (households and community based groups at least 10 in each country), which allow them user rights of land owned or managed by KWS/KFS in Kenya, and UWA/NFA in Uganda;

At least one co-management model of biodiversity and ecosystem protection and benefit sharing along the boundaries of NPs and FRs being practiced by selected CBOs in Kenya and Uganda (e.g. village level patrolling, fence maintenance etc.);

UWA and KWS database on biodiversity (fauna and flora) show stabilization of species and animal populations in 2010 as compared to 2005 and earlier, decrease in encroached areas as compared to 2005, and increased vegetation cover as compared to 2005 as evidenced through participatory biodiversity surveys and monitoring of the ecosystem in 2009 and 2010;

UWA and KWS provide cash payments to community members participating jointly in conservation activities, such as participatory biodiversity surveys and monitoring of the ecosystem in 2009 and 2010;

UWA increases its revenue sharing with CBOs and tops up established revolving funds (CRFs) with its contributions; and

Uniformity of approaches and incentives that enhance TBNRM in Mt. Elgon.


The following activities will lead to the above outputs.

Zoning of areas within NPs, FRs, and adjacent district lands (UWA, NFA, KFS, KWS and districts)

Identification of degraded areas within NPs, FRs, and districts for planting and user right regimes on a pilot basis (UWA, NFA, KFS, KWS, districts and PMU)

Provision of technical assistance to CBOs to prepare, plant and maintain plantations (UWA, NFA, KFS, KWS and PMU)

Operationalization of ecological monitoring tools and database for the Mt. Elgon ecosystem with participation of communities and monitoring of ecosystem restoration and protection (UWA, NFA, KWS, KFS, NEMA-K, NEMA-U, Districts and PMU)

Identifying a catalogue of cross-border activities that can be regularized under an administrative agreement or MoU between relevant authorities (UWA, KWS and PMU)

Output 2: Equity and benefit sharing models/revolving funds that create opportunities for payment of ecosystem goods and services for improved livelihoods are in place by 2010.

This will be measured against the following indicators:

Community revolving funds (CRFs) are set up in 20 CBOs (10 each in Kenya and Uganda);

PBSAs entered into with land owners (managers) allow sharing of revenue at harvest applying a ratio of 70:30, whereby 70% of revenue goes to households and 30% goes to established community revolving funds (CRFs);

Good management of CRFs by CBOs is evidenced by clean and orderly books of accounts monitored by PMU and audited externally with support of districts;

Additional income earned by CBOs is put into CRFs to top up seed capital of US$10,000;

Micro-credit operations of CRFs managed by certified CBOs under MERECP shows a rate of repayment above 85% with interest earned accruing to the CRFs and is documented in the bank balance statements of the CRF; and

On-farm and household based cashflow of CBO members participating in MERECP revolving fund activities increased.


The following activities will lead to the above outputs.

Identification and registration/communication of CBOs that are “eligible and ready” and registered with accounts to receive seed capital for CRF;

Provision of technical assistance to CBOs to build capacity on micro-credit operations and undertaking income generating activities

Transfer of seed capital for establishing CRFs in 10 Parishes-Uganda and 10 Locations-Kenya

Monitoring of CBO performance of CRF operations and livelihood improvements -cash and non-cash based

Monitoring of plantations and ecosystem health 

Auditing of CBO accounts externally and submission of such reports to National Focal Persons on an annual basis

Output 3: Linking of livelihoods improvement to climate change mitigation/adaptation demonstrated successfully by end of 2010:

This will be measured against the following indicators:

UWA, NFA, KFS, and KWS undertake zoning and carbon sequestering plantations of indigenous species;

Reforestation for carbon sequestering plantations in the carbon zone of the borders of NPs, FRs and district lands are undertaken against cash payments to the beneficiaries for land preparation, planting, and maintenance under PBSAs entered into with land owners (managers);

Cash payments tied with performance bonuses for deforestation avoidance allow protection of over 95% of intact natural forests on border of NPs, FRs and settlements, providing opportunities for livelihood from climate change mitigation and sound forest protection against encroachments and forest fires; and

National benchmarking and monitoring data at NFA and KFS document carbon stocks at Mt Elgon and “certify” these for possible carbon trading on international voluntary markets with national level REDD benchmarking.


The following activities will lead to the above outputs.

Planning and study of the entire Mt Elgon Ecosystem (PA boundaries) to design a Climate Change/REDD based strategy covering all settlements adjacent to the Protected Areas; 

Undertaking of a Climate Change adaptation study covering vulnerable and high risk areas, raising awareness, building capacity in selected CBOs for disaster preparedness, and flagging CC adaptation needs;

Entering into PSBAs with selected CBOs for plantations for livelihood improvement, reforestation for carbon sequestration, and deforestation avoidance ;

Carrying out baseline surveys and establishing benchmarking and monitoring indicators for REDD (i) deforestation avoidance; (ii) reforestation for climate change mitigation-carbon sequestration;

Monitoring of plantations and ecosystem health; and

Auditing of CBO accounts externally and submission of such reports to National Focal Persons on an annual basis.

Output 4: Appropriate institutions strengthened in support of the transboundary ecosystem approach by end of 2010:

This will be measured against the following indicators:

At least one joint management plan of the ecosystem is drawn up;

Management plans of the individual protected area components in the Mount Elgon ecosystem are reviewed embracing transboundary natural resource management principles;

The joint tourism masterplan is completed;

Joint patrol, protection and monitoring plan is designed and at least four joint patrols undertaken; and

Policy and law harmonization initiated with draft policy documents and draft laws, regulations in process.


The following activities will lead to the above outputs.

Capacity building in management of protected areas and transboundary ecosystem management

Capacity of local NGOs/CBOs supported to improve implementation of TBNRM processes and partnerships developed with various institutions

Support to design and write up of a transboundary tourism/ecotourism development plan, monitoring and protection plan (Joint Patrol Plan), and management plan for the Mount Elgon ecosystem

Transboundary search and rescue mechanism and strategy developed

Multi-stakeholder and Technical Working Groups set up for activity implementation Draft relevant administrative agreement(s) or legal instruments that lead to harmonization of policy, law, and regulatory instruments of Mt. Elgon as a transboundary ecosystem

Documentation of TBNRM processes and information dissemination to stakeholders


Given the time frame of activities so far implemented, there is clearly limited progress at impact level. It would be fair to point out that with this kind of programme, impact takes time and demonstration of impact would be difficult depending on interventions

However the following Outputs were achieved during the period 2005-2008 within the Mount Elgon ecosystem

Secure integrity of the ecosystem: The protected areas were able to secure their boundaries with the communities through consultative processes

Reduced resource use based conflicts : This is still an ongoing process within the ecosystem

Sustainable natural resource access schemes that meet conservation and livelihood needs :

Strategies for regulating use of natural resources in protected areas: This is an ongoing process by the protected area authorities

Capacity to better manage protected areas and promote sustainable development in agricultural landscape: This has been achieved to a limited extent and mainly in areas of integrated soil and water conservation

Knowledge on well being & functioning of ecosystem established to guide MERECP investment priorities : through a number of studies by ICRAF, the community around the ecosystem was guided in issues like market access

Agricultural and natural resources based income interventions developed and adopted: a number of interventions were successful i.e. apiculture, livestock, fruit/ seed orchard farming

Enhanced awareness of conservation benefits: This was created through a number of interactions

Mt Elgon ecosystem values and benefits integrated into national and regional development planning and frameworks;

An integrated strategy for management of Mt Elgon Ecosystem

Multi-lateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) integrated into management of Mt Elgon Ecosystem

Enhanced capacity within EAC Secretariat to coordinate management of trans-boundary ecosystems

 Lessons Learned

Capacity building The programme has been generally involved with capacity building at institutional level. The experiences of partners were shared in quarterly yearly and annual bilateral meetings. The Project implementation Unit also followed up both in supervision and developing the outputs.

Direction and prioritization of MERECP interventions Priority identification and establishment of interventions in some of the implementing institutions was which led to the abandonment of some of the interventions e.g. Vanilla farming in Mbale. In some cases it was political interference that resulted in the spread of MERECP activities and therefore there would be no likely outcomes or impacts in changing the livelihoods of the community.

External collaboration: building synergies in the programme area. Whereas this may have taken time to take root, the institutions in UgandaThe PMU also realized that there were limited institutional linkages and coordination is a threat to some of the interventions that have centrally been established in government lands. One case in point is pertaining in Sironko where the land in which a 6 acre orchard was established was ploughed down. were able to build synergies with NAADS, Local government Programmes, NGOs and CBOS.

Delays in implementation: Whereas MERECP implementation is premised on building upon institutional activities, in Uganda the procurement processes caused a lot of delays in implementation. As a lesson learnt in the implementation of MERECP programme, Processes are inevitable for the achievement of MERECP targets .On the other hand there was also delay caused by late accounting by institutions. This necessitated the need to train financial managers of all the institutions which improved the accountabilities.

Efficiency: in terms on funds spent on the programme against tangible outputs. In the first year of implementation there was less funds on activities than allowances and fuel. This was however brought to the attention of all the institutions by the PMU

Supervision and coordination: this was generally weak in the beginning; however with improved monitoring of MERECP interventions, it generally improved towards the second year of implementation. The poor supervision in some cases was caused by lack of interdepartmental linkages among the staff (in some cases, the focal person in charge of the programme took a lot of effort and resources to have a focused departmental technical team). Monitoring became easier when institutions were allowed to use 10% of the budgeted activities for monitoring.

Sustainability: building sustainability in MERECP interventions proved to be difficult task. Some institutions wholly depended on MERECP funds e.g. Namatale National Reserve in Uganda. This contradicted the premise on which MERECP is set i.e. to upscale ongoing activities. On the other hand Kenya Wildlife Service has built sustainability in the fence maintenance from its own budgetary allocations. It was also realized that farmers (in Impact study) were replicating technologies being promoted. However, there was a high expectation by the local communities on MERECP to deliver in and around the ecosystem. MERECP programme has been able to build trust among and between institutions. The protected area authorities are now able to share information/ intelligence within the ecosystem.

Internal Monitoring and Documentation: It was initially expected that the institutions have a developed Monitoring and Evaluation system within their implementing institutions. This was not to be, and therefore the MERECP PMU trained the focal persons on measuring and documenting MERECP outcomes/impacts. It was also a challenge that most of the implementing institutions were not documenting the activities and outcomes, however in the second year of implementation this improved.

Publicity of the MERECP programme: Participating in events organized by MERECP implementing institutions within the Mount Elgon ecosystem offered useful opportunities for continuous publicity of the programme within the ecosystem. However, the main publicity of the programme delayed because of the communication strategy that was developed late. Involvement of different leaders in MERECP implementation had the buy-in-effect. 

Joint policy and legislation for protected areas: There was need for a joint policy and legislation to effectively allow UWA and KWS undertake cross border patrols be developed with support from the EAC. Further it was realized that there is need for regular consultative meetings involving the security organs at district, national and regional level together with the protected area authorities to address insecurity and illegal activities in the Mt Elgon ecosystem. (this is forms part of the transboundary focus that the programme is re –directing it is focus). Some of the main constraints to achieving institutional collaboration were mainly communication, law enforcement, political support, institutional policies, facilitation of implementing institutions, tourism, joint patrols, capacity building and skills enhancement


Some of the constraints/challenges experienced during the implementation of the MERECP programme include the following:

Un achievement of some of the planned targets; This was occasioned by multiplicity of factors which included delayed funding, tedious district procurement procedures, causing a spill-over of planned activities into the subsequent year.

High expectations: The beneficiaries had high expectations of the programme given its nature. In some places , they MERECP budgets were miniscule as per their expectations

Slow adoption : it took a while for the farmers to adopt some of the technologies and also there was low enthusiasm in some technologies like vanilla farming due to fluctuating market prices

Conflicts and insecurity in the ecosystem: the conflicts in Kenya in early 2008 affected negatively the implementation of MERECP

High number of institutions and creation of more: this is a challenge and there are also additional districts thereby spreading the existing resources too thin on the ground.


The redesigned MERECP programme intends to achieve the following outputs or results in the short term:

Benefit sharing and co-management models of ecosystem and biodiversity conservation and management around PAs demonstrated successfully by end of 2010

Equity and benefit sharing models/revolving funds that create opportunities for payment of ecosystem goods and services for improved livelihoods are in place by 2010

Linking of livelihoods improvement to climate change mitigation/adaptation demonstrated successfully by end of 2010:

Appropriate institutions strengthened in support of the transboundary ecosystem approach by end of 2010:

The redesigned MERECP will focus on three areas namely:

i) transboundary ecosystem management;

ii) livelihoods and climate change; and

iii) harmonizing policies, laws, regulations so as to provide a sound framework of cooperation and collaboration that supports transboundary management.


MERECP is funded mainly by The Royal Norwegian Government with assistance from the Swedish International Development Agency. Accordingly, the Royal Norwegian Government channels funding directly to Lake Victoria Basin Commission which administers funds to the implementing institutions through the Project Activity Implementation Manual (PAIMA), or contracts and monitors MERECP implementation (activities and financial management) through the monitoring and evaluation framework. Collaborating institutions are contracted to implement specific tasks based on annual work plans, on the basis of proposals submitted by them, or for tasks which MERECP has solicited their participation.

Total funding is USD4.8 Million over a four-year period (September 2005-August 2009). However, USD2.661 Million are the balance of funds available for the period 2009-2010.

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