Climate change will impact many sectors of the economy: rural agriculture, biodiversity, hydrology, etc. Farmers are particularly affected since agriculture, livestock, fisheries, horticulture and agroforestry depend on specific soil, rainfall and temperature conditions. Mt. Elgon’s ecosystem is well known for its agricultural production hence our choice to study how the implementation of environmental policies affect the livelihoods of local communities. Kenya’s policy context for management of environmental resources and rural livelihoods is muddled, with overlapping and at times inconsistent mandates. Kenya has developed a climate change response strategy paper and a series of “Flagships”, which is in the process of being implemented through existing sector-specific policy structures. As many national climate change adaptation and mitigation priorities have only recently been identified, the effectiveness of local level implementation remains to be seen. This review provides evidence of the impacts of forestry, agricultural and related policy implementation at the local level, with particular insights from the experiences of stakeholders around Mt. Elgon. The hope is that this will assist national policy makers and decentralized governments to learn from the preceding decades of implementation experience in order to improve climate adaptation and mitigation approaches. Climate change will result in additional challenges for governments struggling to address pre-existing sources of vulnerability in rural agricultural livelihoods and challenges to natural resource sustainability around Mt. Elgon. Given the unique forest and land-use drivers that impact on afromontane ecosystems, policy lessons may be useful for applications to other areas in East Africa.