Modern rangeland system to reduce grazing conflict in ASALs

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021 08:38 |
Cattle farming in arid areas.PHOYO/COURTESY

For many years, Arid and Semi-Arid Land (Asals) regions have struggled with frequent conflicts as pastoralists fight for limited resources, mainly pasture and livestock. The battles have led to family break-ups, high illiteracy levels as children abandon school, and cutting off women from economic activities in the area.

Rangelands, which make up more than 80 per cent of the Kenyan landmass, are faced with numerous challenges that affect the realisation of optimal livestock production. Further, severe droughts have been affecting the availability of fodder with increase settlement resulting to fragmentation leaving less land for pasture use. Conssequently,  conflicts coupled with severe drought have kept off investors, leading to low development, poverty escalation and insecurity. 

However, the conflict rate has been reducing in the recent past, thanks to implementation of an ambitious plan by stakeholders to equip communities with skills to manage grazing areas to guarantee fodder to livestock farmers throughout the year. 

New toolkit

The Participatory Rangelands Management (PRM) toolkit —a new grazing area management concept, supports community leadership and inclusiveness in land use planning policy and practice. It considers interests, positions and needs of all rangeland users in pastoral areas .

Not only does it offer opportunities for negotiations between different stakeholders over future pastoral land use, but also provides a legitimising process of communal land and resource tenure that fits with priorities of pastoralists as well as government bodies

The tool has led to the emergence of new economic activities thus boosting efforts to build the collapsed livelihoods. Under the PRM, livestock farmers are able to manage rangelands in terms of dry, wet, and drought season area. The toolkit is a component of the USA Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) programme, and is being implemented by the Consortium of International Livestock Research Institute, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid tropics (ICRISAT) and International Potato Centre.

“The livestock subsector in the North Eastern region is grappling with multiple challenges —diminishing rangeland resources occasioned by severe and recurrent drought, rangeland degradation resulting from incidences of overstocking and unplanned grazing.  And further weakening the resilience of the livestock livelihood system in the region,” says Adan Abdi AVCD field coordinator in charge of Isiolo and Marsabit counties.

Abdi explains that the programme was designed to address four components —drought tolerant crops, staples value chains, dairy and livestock value chain. He adds that the AVCD Livestock value chain (AVCD-LVC) has been working closely with national and county governments and other stakeholders to address the challenges in Northern Kenya counties of Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana and Wajir.

Under the programme, the LVC seeks to scale up technologies and innovations in animal health, range management, agriculture productivity and nutrition.

For easy implementation of the programme, communities have been organised into ward planning committees or Dheedha councils that comprise men and women in particular wards.

Aden Boru, a livestock farmer and chairman of Dheedha council in Kina area in Isiolo County, confirms that planning committees have assisted in ensuring the grazing areas are well managed, contributing to conflict management and solving emerging disputes among the livestock communities.

“Under the implementation of the AVCD programme, we have witnessed increase in livestock production and revival of collapsed livelihoods. The programme has led to emergence of commercial hay production, bee keeping and fish farming, launch of small businesses and camel rearing thus helping restore the communities’ livelihoods.

The donor initiative is designed to address the root causes of poverty, hunger and malnutrition and transforming lives. Further it seeks to widely apply modern technologies and innovations for selected value chains,” he adds.  

Women, Abdi says, have benefited from the programme . “They are able to attend to other cost-effective activities such as table banking and starting small businesses,” he says.

Abshiro Mohamed agrees and says women are more involved in livelihood restoration.

“Nowadays, we no longer travel for long distances with our husbands and children in search of green pasture.  Our families are more intact and stable than before. We are getting more milk to feed our children and sell the surplus to our neighbours and in the neighbourhood urban centres.

Our children are going to school frequently and are well nourished. Equally, we have been able to start businesses such as small groceries, milk selling and group to pool resources for future activities such as  table banking,” she says. 

In Bute ward, Wajir county, livestock farmers are now able to undertake other economic activities such as bee keeping, sorghum farming, poultry, and dairy farming.

Even the disabled livestock farmers have formed a self-help group –Bute United Disabled Self-Help Group where they are now farming sorghum and undertaking dairy farming. 

At first, stakeholders faced the challenge of convincing communitie to to accept the concept and its components, but selected members of the council  were able to show them the benefits of the programme and they got on board.

Boru recalls that many decades ago, conflicts among pastoralists and nomads were fewer owing to strong traditional rangeland management. 

“During those days, we could graze our livestock without any interruption and cohabit well with our neighbours. But following the collapse of the traditional rangeland management systems in recent years, communities have been fighting against each other leading to loss of lives and animals,” says Boru.

Years of normalcy

He notes that in the last five years normalcy has been restored following the introduction of the new grazing areas management concept.

Isiolo county executive member in charge of agriculture, livestock and fisheries, Lawrence Mwongela Mwongela, says the toolkit has contributed to attraction of investors, who are now undertaking fodder production. Prominent businessmen, various companies and organisations have expressed interests in pasture making as well.

“Huge percent of pasture in the region suffers from dry weather leading to huge livestock losses. If hay production is achieved, livestock farmers will benefit throughout the year and maintain a productive flock,” he says. 

He adds this will eventually lead to impressive prices both in local and outside markets.  

“Even though hay production is not a popular in the region as pastoralists prefer traveling long distances in search of green pastures, the new gesture by investors and other value chains will help in solving challenges of feeding the livestock,” he adds.

Bernard Wafula, Isiolo county rangeland management officer, attests to the successful implementation of the programme and benefits communities have achieved. 

“The farmers are able to manage their resources amidst the escalating vagaries of climate change. They are able to feed their cattle well and monitor their productivity.  The implementation of the programme has equally created new economic opportunities like –bee, fish keeping commercial hay production and camel farming as a way of mitigating the whimsies of global warming.

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