Laikipia has always been a rangeland. For as long as people can remember, the plateau of Laikipia has been a location of low rainfall, abundant grasses, livestock, and wildlife.
In previous editions of the Forum Focus, we have presented LWF’s efforts to rehabilitate grasslands in parts of Laikipia through a seven-year programme of Holistic Management (HM). These efforts focused on the group ranches of the Naibunga, Il Ngewsi and Lekurruki Conservancies. The results of this work were presented at last year’s LWF Annual General Meeting.
An evaluation of the holistic management programme showed that people had improved their knowledge and attitude towards adoption of HM. However, most felt that efforts to manage group ranch rangelands last year were a failure. Their struggles to hold on to grass reserves and enforce grazing plans were undermined by livestock keepers and herders from outside the county.
Residents of these group ranches also believe they are worse off than five years ago, despite efforts to practice HM.
The Forum Focus has also presented the importance of grass for inter-county peace. In 2015, we had approximately 450,000 visiting livestock, and some 3,000 herders and their families visit Laikipia. Fifty-two human deaths resulted from conflicts over grass and water in this county, much of it unreported by the media or officials.
So what’s the future of our rangelands? 90% of Laikipia is “high and dry” – mostly too dry or too high for cultivation. 75% of the land is used for ranching and livestock. 5% of this total of dry land is dedicated to wildlife tourism alone. Thus Laikipia’s future is linked to the future of its rangelands.
Ranching, livestock, and rangelands members of the LWF see the future of Laikipia relying on 4 things:
One – Linking the rangeland management efforts of Laikipia with our county neighbours in Baringo, Samburu, Isiolo, and Marsabit. We have a responsibility to work with neighbouring counties to address rangelands and livestock across the Ewaso and Baringo landscapes. We can’t solve our rangeland management problems in Laikipia by isolating ourselves. We must find ways of working between counties so that the approach to grass and water access is part of a regional plan to keep rangelands alive and healthy, and people peaceful.
Two – Grazing Plans. For centuries, pastoralist peoples of Kenya have used Laikipia as a dry-season grazing reserve, and vice-versa. It wasn’t so long ago that Laikipians (both European and African) who suffered from drought sought assistance from their neighbours to the north. They took cattle from Laikipia to greener pastures in the lands now belonging to the Samburu and Rendille. But right now there is nothing but confusion surrounding access, such as how much livestock can enter different sections of the rangelands, who pays how much for this access, and how water and grass are shared. We must stop this confusion, and bring common sense, organization, and clearly defined rules into our rangelands. We need people to respect community grazing plans. We also need to develop conservancy grazing plans and county grazing plans that respect larger areas of our rangelands. These plans need to guide the distribution of livestock and the movement of people legally, effectively and safely over the landscape.
Three – Holistic Management. LWF believes that the future success of our rangelands’ health lies within us. By this we mean that the future of our rangelands is within our hands and our experience. We believe that rangeland health can be revived using local knowledge and techniques, and that livestock and wildlife are part of the solution, not the problem. The cornerstones of holistic management already exist in Laikipia and in our rangelands system. We just need to focus on them and make them stronger.
- Successful rangelands management depends on strong social institutions. We are stronger and more successful together than as individuals, thus we must come together.
- Our rangelands require us to restore soil health and increase biodiversity. We can do this better through the use of livestock and planned grazing.
- Managing livestock the numbers of livestock, the time they spend grazing, and the density at which they graze are all key to rangelands management. We must learn how to better manage livestock reproduction, fattening, marketing, sales, and reinvestment.
- We can no longer avoid the need to plan our use of the land, and the location and density of our infrastructure. Our population is too big and growing too fast to ignore the role that smart land use planning plays in the success of our rangelands.
The ILngwesi grazing management Supervisor, Mr. Siparo Kinyaga believes that Holistic Management practice is neither easy nor difficult but totally depends how one prepares one’s heart for the job. He thinks people must avoid politicking amongst each other. He encourages people to share information and decisions on grazing plans, and be tolerant of one another.
Four – Build Capacity and Knowledge. We are all smart in our own way. But we must possess some new skills and must work together to improve people’s access to new information and skills.
Mzee Ole Nomboyo of ILpolei claims that communities can easily succeed with their planned grazing so long as they are well informed and are well aware of what is happening.
Laikipia has a role to play in being a hub for training and information sharing on rangelands rehabilitation, management, and holistic management. We need to build a culture of respect for herding, livestock management, and grass and soil management. Laikipia can lead the way, and show ourselves, our neighbours, all Kenyans, and the world that rangelands and nature are alive and well in Laikipia, Kenya.
The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, and LWF are joining together to address these issues. As rangelands and conservation leaders in this landscape, we are combining skills, people, and resources to improve rangelands management and rehabilitation.
We invite others to join us.
ILngwesi senior grazing management committee member and supervisor,
Mr. Ole Tunkai says that holistic management is the best practice he has ever seen.
He advises people to stand firm and fulfil what they have been tasked by the community as their responsibility. He cautions not to let anyone distract you from doing what you are supposed to do. Leadership roles are always accompanied by criticism, so, take a firm stand!
ILngwesi/Lchurrai sub –area senior grazing management committee member,
Mr. Keshine says, “The community which we had relied on for support kept failing us. We therefore made the decision to take the lead by combining our own leaders’ herds, and that made others follow in our footprints.” He insists that you must work hard as hard work earns.
“We have not increased the size of the land but through this management, we have been able to increase the land-yield in the form of grass and livestock populations.