Nelly Bassily | December 10, 2007
Farmers in the Laikipia District of Kenya are testing a simple and practical method of rehabilitating dry rangelands. The new strategy makes use of livestock’s ability to plough and fertilize pasturelands while they graze.
A 300-acre community ranch is home to a pilot project aimed at boosting the land’s fertility by carefully controlling the grazing of some 1,000 cattle and goats.
High concentrations of livestock are “bunched” together in small areas of pasture where their hooves break up soil and their manure provides fertilizer. This preparation makes the land more receptive to seeds that are dropped in the manure. It also helps the land absorb rainfall – a scarce resource in the Laikipia District.
When rain comes, the “bunched” animals are moved to a new plot, allowing pasture grasses to thrive on the previous plot.
The strategy was brought to the area by an American NGO called Holistic Management International. The organization promotes several methods which it calls low-tech solutions to climate change, both in the United States and in developing countries.
Ultimately, the goal of the controlled grazing process is to reclaim lands that have been degraded due to changing weather patterns and overgrazing. More fertile pastures should lead to healthier and better-fed livestock and a better livelihood for livestock owners.
While the project in Laikipia District is in the pilot phase, many community members have visited the ranch to obtain information on this method of land rehabilitation.