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Women in ASALs at the forefront in restoration of rangelands

Readers Lounge By Wesley Kipng'enoh
Selina Kisio (right) and other women from her group load a wheelbarrow with opuntia stems after mechanical removal

Women in arid and semi Arid lands are taking lead in restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands.

In Makurian and Ilpolei area of Laikipia North constituency thousands of acres have been covered by an invasive species- Opuntia stricta shrub of cactus family.

But women in the locality are at the forefront of efforts to curb the spread of the species.

Speaking during an extraction exercise of the menacing shrub in Loisokut area, Selina Kisio, an environment enthusiast says that they are determined to expunge the shrub from their landscape.

Joined by other women from the community, Selina leads the exercise of mechanically uprooting the shrub and using the shrubs to cover trenches caused by persistent soil erosion.

Selina (left) sows grass seeds after clearing the invasive species as part of the Rangelands restoration

With the area experiencing massive soil erosion, the community are using the uprooted shrubs to cover deep gulleys in the area.

“We are killing two birds with one stone” she says referring to use of the uprooted shrubs to prevent further soil erosion.

The opuntia first introduced as an ornament has now infiltrated the landscape rendering livestock herding impossible.

“Our lives have been changed by this shrub” says Selina, “Initially we did not think it would spread this fast” She says.

She has witnessed the proliferation of the plant as it deteriorates the productivity of the environment and the fertility of the soil.

‘When we were young girls, the whole of this area was covered by long grass, She recalls adding “ We used to play hide and seek, but sadly, our children cannot enjoy that fun we had due to the invasive species”.

“The women, carrying pangas, jembes, wheelbarrows, spades and sacks are determined to see the shrub taken out .

The community has identified several clearing sites, where they’ll use them to pilot the rangelands restoration program.

Women join the community in Makurian, Laikipia North in clearing and reseeding

Working with a natural resources management program christened IMARA and County Government, the women hope to reseed more areas currently covered by the invasive species.

“We have so far cleared 5 acres and have reseeded that. Selina says that they are targeting 50 acres in the villages.

“With such areas, we can confidently have our feedlots for our livestock,” she says.

As part of the bigger plan to replenish the rangelands with pastures, IMARA is supporting communities in reseeding. “In our first phase, we have procured and distributed over 600 kgs of grass seeds to be grown in cleared sites,” IMARA Natural Resource Management Technical Specialist Margaret Makui says.

“The feedlot aid hasn’t always been enough, but with the reseeding, we can have control over our fodder for our animals," Selina says

The community group in Makurian is targeting to rehabilitate and restore pastures in 50 acres as a model site, before expanding it to other areas of the sub-county.

The program is keen to support these community-led efforts in the restoration of rangelands for the benefit of current and future generations.

Wesley Kipng’enoh is communications specialist at the World Vision

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