Laikipia and Samburu Counties have started mapping the extent of the invasive cactus and acacia plants that has ravaged most grazing land in the two areas.
With the support of the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) and the World Agroforestry Centre, the two counties have embarked on mapping the extent of Opuntia stricta and Acacia reficiens in conservancies in the region.
The two-month exercise will be carried out using a mobile application called ‘Invasive species mapper’ developed by RCMRD. It will involve random sampling of vegetation plots in different conservancies using smartphones fitted with the application.
The information collected through the software would include, date, latitude and longitude, altitude and accuracy, the species name, the area covered by the invasive species, canopy cover, habitat, species abundance, land ownership, whether the area is accessible or not and whether the species is in homesteads or not.
In Laikipia, the focus will be on Lekurruki, Il ngwesi, Makurian, Kurikuri, Borana and Ngare Ndare conservancies while in Samburu County the mapping will zero in on Westgate, Sera, Namunyak, Meibae and Kalama conservancies.
The move comes barely a month after Laikipia County government formed five strategic working groups tasked with finding sustainable solutions to eradicating, controlling and managing the invasive species.
Formation of the working groups was pegged to the different mechanisms of both biological and mechanical ways of controlling the species.
The Laikipia County Livestock Chief Officer, James Mungere said that the groups have been tasked to work closely and ensure that the area becomes free of Opuntia stricta.
“The invasive species are consuming almost 80 percent of grazing land by displacing and destroying the native grass species and that’s why as a county government we are focused on identifying a permanent solution to the cactus invasion before it escalates further,” Mungere said.
The Centre for Agriculture Biosciences International (CABI) representative, Winnie Nunda while addressing Laikipia invasive species symposium in Nanyuki last month said that biological control of the cactus was the best way to eradicate the plant.
“Biological method is perceived as slow since it takes many years to fully eradicate the species but it eventually works and is the way to go,” Nunda said.
Biological control of invasive species involves the introduction of living organisms such as insects, mites or fungal pathogens to the targeted plant where they feed on or destroy it thus eradicating it from the ecosystem.
By Martin Munyi