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Overgrazing is worsening climate crisis, forum warns

Cows in Bukiri village, Busia county grazing along the roadside. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The Ministry of Agriculture has warned that the country’s grasslands may be in danger due to overgrazing and climate change.

Calls to discuss ways and means to protect the rangelands and grasslands emerged at the joint 24th and 11th Rangelands and Grasslands Congress, held in Africa and Kenya for the first time.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Prof Hamadi Boga said these eco-systems apart from providing fodder, are centres of bio-diversity. Some of the world renowned grasses like the bracharia species have come out of this eco-system here in Kenya.

Some of the big eco-systems the government is looking to restore are the Mara and Tsavo.

“We have noticed degradation in the rangelands and grasslands especially due to overgrazing. We have to look at ways and means to protect this precious eco-system,” said Boga.

The Virtual Rangelands and Grasslands Congress took take place from October 25 to October 29, 2021 with 80 countries participating.

The theme “sustainable use of grassland and ranchland resources for improved livelihoods” is in line with Vision 2030 and the Big Four agenda.

Boga said there is the challenge of growing population that is looking for more settlement areas, which most are found within these grasslands.

“We are working together with stakeholders to address the issue of landscape restoration, where degradation has taken place. Some of the big eco-systems we are looking at include the Mara, which is a grassland under threat, as well as the Tsavo eco-system,” said Boga.

Chief Administrative Secretary Livestock and Fisheries Lawrence Omuhaka said in Kenya, grassland cover 83 per cent of the land, supporting 70 per cent of livestock and 83 per cent of wildlife, and there are 10 million people living in this area.

Rangeland Management and Pastoralists Strategy 2021 has clear objectives on reducing land degradation and restoring degraded areas.

Omuhaka said the productivity of the grasslands and rangelands is increasingly under threat, and in the recent decades, where factors from climate change have led to environmental variability, leading to frequent droughts, fires, floods, land degradation and loss of biodiversity.

These have threatened the sustainability of rangeland resources and created economic challenges that need urgent attention to safeguard the wellbeing of the communities particularly pastoralists.

“This year, Kenya and the Horn of Africa countries have faced a major drought, threatening their productive assets – livestock. We are actively integrating climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies into our national policies,” said Omuhaka.

In this regard, he added, the National Climate Change Response Strategy focuses on reducing vulnerabilities to climate change and improvement of the country’s response to the challenge.

President of the Grassland Congress Professor Smith Ray said livestock and wildlife are both very important to the people and the economy.  


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