Gully Rehabilitation in Suswa, Rift Valley, Kenya

Suswa is one of the locations in Narok County-Kenya, which is inhabited by the Maasai community. For decades Suswa has served as an important rangeland with rich wildlife species and a haven for pastoral production. However, over the years, the community watched helplessly as their land continue to waste away due to unrelenting gully erosion. Today, there is a sigh of relief due to interventions of the Mainstreaming Sustainable Land Management in Agro-pastoral Production System of Kenya project, which is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Livestock Development (MOLD). The project has started the process of rehabilitating the gullies in a bid to restore ecological balance and enhance livelihood resilience.

The Suswa area has sharp gradient and volcanic-ash soils that are vulnerable to erosion. The land is bare because of the overuse and loss of grass cover. Torrential rains often pound on the vulnerable bare grounds, leading to formation of gullies. Change in the land tenure system is considered as one of the major contributions to land degradation in Narok. In the past, the Maasai community communally owned the open and vast rangeland where they practiced mobile pastoralism. Mobility enabled even utilization of the rangelands thereby conserving the land’s productive capacities. Currently land has been subdivided into individual ranches, causing land scarcity and increasing pressure on the available land.

In addition, former pastoral rangelands have been transformed into farm lands that are often leased to non-pastoral communities. The lease-holders often cut down the indigenous trees and other important vegetation to pave way for farming. Over the years, the land continues to be depleted of ground cover making it vulnerable to gulley erosions. Due to increased poverty, the community has also resorted to cutting down indigenous tree species for charcoal production. Recently, Narok has been identified as one of the hot spots of environmental concerns, in Kenya, due to the massive production of charcoal in the area. The charcoal producers are motivated by the ready market both locally and in the adjacent towns.

The project is using multi-pronged approach in addressing the land degradation problems in Suswa. These include: rehabilitation of the Suswa gullies, capacity building of farmer field schools on sustainable land management (SLM), pasture re-seeding and terracing, re-afforestation and promotion of energy efficient stoves. The project is also enhancing livelihood resilience through strengthening of livestock production sector and diversification i.e. improving livestock breeds, bee-keeping and dry-land farming.

Some of the control and rehabilitation measures being undertaken by the project include:

Identifying of the source of runoff causing gully erosion, Surveying the profile of the gullies, Designing and constructing gully control structures, Monitoring the gully healing progress, Strengthening community level institutions i.e. Farmer Field Schools (FFS), Community Forest Associations (CFAs) and Charcoal Associations and Disseminating information to the public,

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