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Rehabilitation of community-owned, mixed-use rangelands: lessons from the Ewaso ecosystem in Kenya

David W. Kimiti, Anne-Marie C. Hodge, Jeffrey E. Herrick, Adam W. Beh, Laurie E. Abbott
Plant ecology 2017 v.218 no.1 pp. 23-37
Acacia, Opuntia stricta, arid lands, cattle, desertification, drought, ecosystems, food security, forage, grasses, grazing, humans, perennials, rangelands, vegetation, wildlife, Kenya
Globally, 10–20% of arid and semi-arid rangelands have been classified as severely degraded (UNCCD, in Elaboration of an International Convention to Combat Desertification in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa 1994; MEA, in Ecosystems and human well-being: current state and trends. Island Press, Washington, DC, 2005), and in sub-Saharan Africa specifically, 70% of rangelands are considered moderately to severely degraded (UNCCD 1994). Given that these drylands make up 43% of Africa’s land area and support approximately 45% of its population, restoring, maintaining and even increasing their productivity is imperative from both conservation and food security standpoints. In the Laikipia and Samburu counties of Kenya, degradation manifests itself through the increase of bare ground and the replacement of perennial grasses by undesirable plant species, primarily Acacia reficiens and Opuntia stricta, resulting in reduced forage availability. Further complicating management is the fact that most land in this ecosystem is owned by community conservancies, where the land is managed to support both wildlife and livestock grazing. There has been considerable effort targeted towards using mechanical clearing coupled with reseeding to combat A. reficiens spread. Additionally, the use of both traditional and modern mobile cattle enclosures (commonly referred to as bomas) has been used to create vegetation patches in areas with increasing bare ground. Here, we look at the challenges faced in implementing these interventions, as well as the successes and opportunities associated with them.