In an effort to ensure that the board members are acquainted with the programs we are currently executing, we organized a field visit to one of the FAO project sites where LWF is supporting forest and landscape restoration through removal of invasive and reseeding in Maiyanat Community Land. FAO is dedicated to supporting interventions aimed at restoring degraded landscapes in the ASAL areas under the project “The Restoration Initiative,” that is being implemented in Laikipia, Isiolo, and Marsabit Counties.
In Maiyanat community land, our primary focus is the eradication of an invasive species called Opuntia stricta which is a major threat because the plant has invaded the area, depleting grazing areas and the much-needed pasture. During the visit, we had the opportunity to showcase the diverse methods we are employing to control the spread of this plant which includes:
- Physical Control: Where we engage the community in uprooting the plant and piling it into large heaps for natural decomposition. Thanks to funding from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, we have restored 25 hectares using this method and opened it up for grazing. This intervention has allowed for natural grass regeneration to occur.
- Biological Control: In collaboration with Africa Nature Investors (ANI), we are utilizing a greenhouse set up within the Loldaiga Conservancy to breed the cochineal virus. This greenhouse is adjacent to the Maiyanat community land, making it convenient for interventions in both the community land and within the private conservancy. The cochineal virus sucks the flesh of the plant. The virus is effective during dry seasons but dormant in rainy seasons. We have designated areas where this method is being applied to further eradicate this invasive plant.
- Utilization of the Plant: Partnering with FAO, we have a pilot project where we are converting Opuntia stricta into animal feeds. FAO supported the acquisition of a cactus shredder (meant for crushing the plant into small pieces) and flamethrowers (to burn the spikes of the cactus plant, which leads to the death of the animals once consumed). This pilot project is a game-changer in the management of this species. Additionally, some community members are using the plant for small-scale biogas production as a source of fuel at the household level.
The Board members were delighted to witness the progress made by LWF in the implementation of the land restoration projects, positively impacting the community. During a knowledge-sharing session, Dr. Kiome who is the Chairman of the Board proposed exploring additional alternatives for controlling the plant, including mechanical methods, to reduce costs and expedite the process. Dr. Kiome also committed to initiate discussions with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) team to develop a feeds formula that will inform the pilot project on converting Opuntia stricta into animal feeds. Paul Kimiri emphasized the importance of exploring Loisaba Conservancy to learn best practices for the proper disposal of Opuntia stricta to prevent regrowth.
The Board members were impressed with the interventions for land restoration. “Together, we are making strides towards a sustainable and productive environment that is able to support healthy populations of wildlife and the livelihoods of the community,” Dr. Kiome said.
The visit, held on 30th November 2023, was a good platform that brought board members together. Similar engagements will be organized for other projects to ensure that there is knowledge sharing for effective implementation of projects.