Bringing back grasses with Maasai pastoralists
The Olgulului – Ololarashi group ranch is close to the border of Tanzania and home to Maasai pastoralists. For the Maasai people, livestock are very valuable and at the centre of everything. But nowadays, it’s not easy to keep livestock. Due to severe droughts, overpopulation and therefore overgrazing, and less communal land for the Maasai, the rangelands are heavily degraded. Trees, shrubs and grass species have disappeared resulting in heavy erosion. The loss of pasture due to all the above has resulted in a decline in livestock productivity and an increase in competition between people and wildlife, especially elephants….
But….. Together with partners African Conservation Centre (ACC) and Amboseli Ecosystem Trust (AET) we started a two-year program (July 2019 – June 2021) to restore and regreen the degraded areas, and to improve the livelihoods of the communities. We selected a combination of interventions among which the digging of bunds, setting up and managing olopololi’s (dry season grazing areas) and grass seed banks and educating the Maasai communities about livestock and grazing management.
- Movie roadshow
- Water bunds
- Stone lines
- Grass seed banks
- Vallerani method
- Grazing Committees
To prevent overgrazing
A movie will travel from village to village with the aim of not only creating awareness, but also to inspire and activate the Maasai pastoralists to take better care of their own land. The film is fully shot at the Olgulului – Ololarashi Group Ranch. The film shows the story of a young shepherd who is worried about the drought, his cattle and family. He would like to understand why there is almost no grass left. He therefore decides to go on a journey, meets inspiring people and takes home hope and valuable advice. It shows people the benefits and techniques of livestock and grazing management in an inspiring way.
Dry season grazing reserve
17 olopololi plots of each 1,000 ha will be set up and managed. An Olopololi plot is a traditional grazing technique. Grazing committees specially set up for this purpose agree together that grazing in an area is only permitted during specific periods (usually at the end of the dry season when there are fewer other places to graze) or only for certain animals (e.g. calves).
All restoration activities of the whole program are taking place within the olopololi’s. The borders of the olopololis will be marked by large white poles, so that all shepherds know that they cannot enter this area with their cattle. It is closely monitored by the committees, so that grass has time to grow back. The sustainability of the projects is supported by a grazing management plan.
1200 hectare covered with earth smiles!
These half-moon shaped pits in the ground will capture rainwater and prevent it to run off and cause erosion. The vegetation will naturally recover due to the increased soil moisture availability. At some areas extra (grass) seeds will be sown if there aren’t enough seeds present in the soil due to heavy erosion.
The 'rock paper scissor' game ;)
Some areas of the group ranch are covered with a lot of stones… and we can use them well in bringing back vegetation. Stones break the erosive power of water and increase the infiltration of water into the soil. Organic material and seeds also nestle behind the stones, giving the seeds time to sprout.
The stone lines are built in an area of 400 hectares.
Grass seed banks
This project will enable Maasai pastoralists to grow, harvest and sell grass (hay) and seeds within the community or to NGOs and private companies who want to grow grasses elsewhere. It creates a place where cattle can graze and brings cooling through the amount of vegetation.
Five grass seed banks (with a total of 50 hectare) will be managed and maintained, each by a group of 10-20 members of the community (for example, a women’s group). They will be trained in sowing and harvesting grass and are taught business skills.
Ploughing for regreening
This intervention is suitable at extremely degraded land and areas with little or no existing vegetation. A special plow, pulled by a tractor, plows furrows in the ground. This allows rainwater to be retained, just like the bunds, and infiltrate into the ground.
We will restore a total of 200 hectare by using the vallerani method.
Being a role model
Key in the regreening program are the grazing committees. Around 130 grazing committee members are trained to educate their fellow pastoralists about the importance of regreening. The members are empowered to supervise the sustainable management of the rangelands. The committee will provide a platform for all the pastoralists to work together to achieve land rehabilitation. This way the pastoralists will recognize and support the restoration activities and adopt grazing rules.