Kapiti Farm – ILRI site

Project Overview

We are participating in RAPP with one site located in the semi-arid lands of Kenya (Kapiti ranch). The site is part of an experimental farm owned and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a CGIAR research center. ILRI mission is to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock – ensuring better lives through livestock.

The rangeland monitoring activities in Kapiti aim at developing long-term datasets of ground observations on rangeland production and health, quantifying GHG emissions from livestock systems, testing different rangeland monitoring and management options/technologies, developing (and supporting the validation of) remote sensing data products and models.

Main contact points

Francesco Fava (f.fava(at) Remote sensing scientist
Ilona Gluecks (Gluecks(at) Farm manager

Site description

The 13,000-hectare Kapiti plains ranch, located in Machakos county, southern Kenya, was acquired in 1987 by the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases- a predecessor of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) – to produce good-quality, disease-free cattle for research purposes, mainly the improved control of East Coast fever and African animal trypanosomiasis. The ranch is wholly owned by ILRI and registered under Kenya Company Laws as a public limited company.

The ranch is home to: 2,500 cattle (mainly of the local Boran breed, with a few Boran- Friesian crossbreds); 1,200 sheep (a mix of Dorper, Kenyan Red Maasai and some crossbreds); and 250 Galla goats native to northern Kenya.

Livestock in Kapiti farm

Kapiti ranch is located in Kenya’s semi-arid lands (550mm average rainfall) at an

Kapiti landscape

altitude of 1,650 –1,900m above sea level. The soils of the ranch are mainly black cotton (in the plains) and red cotton (in the ridges); and they support diverse savanna grasses: tussock-forming Themeda (commonly known as kangaroo or red oat grass); Panicum (switchgrass); Chloris (windmill or finger grass); Pennisetum (fountain grass); Cenchrus (African foxtail grass); Setaria (foxtail or bristle grasses); Acacia (whistling thorn); and Balanites trees.


Though the ranch’s pasture is usually adequate for its livestock farming, during the dry season water continues to be a major constraint to efficient production. Four boreholes and nine water pans (the latter largely dependent on rainfall) currently supply the ranch with water. A new water pan has just been completed, opening up an area with good-to-excellent pasture.

Kapiti is home to various wildlife, including giraffes, gazelles, antelopes and zebras, as well as predators such as hyenas, lions, cheetahs and leopards. Owing to various infrastructural developments in the neighbourhood (high

Kapiti cattlesheds and yards

ways, Konza Technocity), Kapiti has become a safe haven for wildlife. This presents unique opportunities to include wildlife in research projects for the RAPP community for instance.

Kapiti’s farmhouse is available for group retreats and workshops and to scientists conducting research on the ranch. Other infrastructure on the ranch include offices, spray races, a newly designed cattle crush, two cattle yards, the second with an attached laboratory, as well as various permanent structures and mobile cattle enclosures (bomas).



In-situ Observations

Several research activities are carried out in Kapiti spanning from animal productivity, diseases, and genetics to environmental and rangeland monitoring. As regards rangeland monitoring, we have an ongoing experiment aimed at assessing the main nitrogen loss pathways from semi-arid livestock systems. This research assesses nitrogen losses from cattle bomas with state-of-the-art micro-meteorological techniques. Gaseous losses of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ammonia from the ecosystem into the atmosphere are being measured continuously, as are nitrogen losses from the soil. This research will allow us to estimate how much Kapiti’s cattle bomas contribute to the ranch’s overall nitrogen budget. Long term meteorological measurements are also available since 1940.  We are also planning to start regular monitoring of several environmental variables: vegetation composition, biomass and phenology (using digital repeat photography), GHG fluxes (micrometeorological measurements), soil properties, etc. and to test different grazing management options.

EO Data requirements

Landsat (5-7-8)
Sentinel (1,2,3,5)
SPOT (VGT and 5)
Very high resolution optical data (multiple sensors)


Pilot site (Kapiti ): Latitude:  1°38’11.36″, Longitude: 37° 8’7.89″E

or (from Google Earth view, klm file): 1°37’18.15″ S  37°08’00.68″ E