As the country continues to witness severe effects of drought in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) counties with pastoral communities engaging in perennial conflicts due to fight over resources, the Kerio valley Development Authority (KVDA) has strengthened efforts to introduce pasture farming by embracing certified grass seeds distribution to reseed and restore the degraded rangelands.
Speaking to KNA, the KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos said that the Authority had embarked on distribution of certified seeds for pasture development to support the government in its role in the restoration of the degraded rangelands in the ASALs and promoting peaceful coexistence among warring communities by availing enough pasture for their livestock.
He added that the authority through partnership with NGOs like the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is able to cover a wide reach in the distribution of pasture seeds and grass to the rangelands.
“We distribute mainly to ASAL counties, and up to Somalia by FAO, they take our grass and then they distribute within ASALs all the way from Kajiado, Marsabit, Samburu, Turkana and others. Our main distributors are the NGOs who support the pasture seed development, they buy from us then distribute as part of their programme of reseeding of the degraded lands,” said Naporos.
The MD pointed out that the Authority majors at promoting pasture farming of the African Foxtail grass species scientifically called Chenchrus Ciliaris and commonly referred to as the Sudan grass, which have high nutritional value compared to the indigenous grass species. Additionally, the African foxtail species thrive well in the harsh climatic conditions of the ASALs with little rain.
“The recurring conflict between the pastoral communities in ASALs is as a result of the fight over scarce natural resources mainly pasture, through pasture farming we would counter the impacts of desertification due to degradation of arid lands through gullies and soil erosion, overstocking leading to pasture depletion in terms of quantity, when communities have enough for their livestock, they would be able to coexist peacefully by embracing sedentary lifestyles and that would promote sustainable development in the ASALs,” he said.
“The only way to replenish the diminishing grass is through reseeding by introducing the seeds afresh,” he added.
Naporos said that the authority has focused on transforming the livelihoods of farmers in the degraded rangelands through pasture farming by looking at it as an income generating activity, adding that KVDA is currently engaging 150 registered farmers at Chemeron, Marigat in Baringo County to produce the pasture seeds that are required which are then bulked and distributed mainly to the ASALs.
“Looking at pasture as income generating activity, farmers at Chemeron earn up to Sh 8 million annually from the sale of bulked pasture seeds, with the cost of 1 kg of the pasture seeds ranging between Sh 450 and Sh 500, it is a new cash crop for farmers in the ASALs, African foxtail require little rain and have high nutritional value, it has two advantages, after harvesting of seeds farmers can also make hay for pasture, “explained Naporos.
He further noted that the African Foxtail pasture grass seeds is approved by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to be grown in the ASALs.
The MD also pointed out that through Sudan grass farming owing to its high nutritional value, farmers have witnessed increased milk production and improved quality of their cows’ breed.
To promote the pasture development the authority further agreed with farmers to set aside two acres each for pasture farming.
Naporos has called for the elaborate partnership between the government, KVDA and the NGOs in the efforts to support the government in its role in the restoration of the degraded rangelands in the ASALs through coming up with enough budget, as the authority looks forward to plant about a million hectares of pasture grass annually to address the effects of desertification and depletion of grass in the degraded rangelands through aerial reseeding.
By Ekuwam Sylvester