Charles L. Amunyunzu
UNESCO-Turkana Resource Evaluation and Monitoring Unit (TREMU)
Evolution of the programme
Inventory and descriptive phase.
It is through the realisation that to minimise the effect of natural calamities on man, man himself and his relationship to his environment had to be studied and understood thoroughly, that the Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme was set up by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The paper gives a brief overview of one of the pilot projects, the Integrated Project on Arid Lands (IPAL), under MAB that has looked at livestock production and problems of environmental degradation and desertification in arid and semiarid land inhabited by nomadic pastoralists. The paper looks at how production in these nomadic pastoral systems could be increased for the good of the country as a whole especially in the supply of meat and livestock products. It also looks at some of the constraints to improved livestock production, problems encountered and offers some suggested remedies.
The integrated approach to resource management in northern Kenya has been carried out under the auspices of the Integrated Project on Arid Lands (IPAL) in the Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme. MAB is a United nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) - sponsored programme started in 1971 as a result of the existing climate of general awakening to all manner of environmental concerns sparked off by the experiences and enthusiasm generated by the International Biological Programme (IBP), the first major venture in International Biology Research (di Castri et al, 1981). Following the recognition that there was general deterioration of major world ecological systems and predictions of a gloomy outlook for the world by the year 2000, a biosphere conference convened by UNESCO in 1968 recommended the setting up of an inter governmental and interdisciplinary programme of research. At about the same time, natural resource managers all over the world had discovered that a lot of the research information available at that time was of little value for their planning purposes because man had been ignored and yet the research results were supposed to be of most benefit to him, plus the haphazard nature in which the research topics had been chosen. MAB activities officially began following the first session of its co-ordinating council in November 1971 (UNESCO 1971).
Its objectives are:
1. To encourage both natural and social science research on environmental problems. Man and his interactions with the environment play a central role in the research.
2. To encourage research that has direct and pragmatic application for improved land use and resource management.
3. To encourage the training and promotion of environmental education as an essential component of research.
4. To test the feasibility of integrating research findings in both natural and social scientific disciplines through specific research projects.
Fourteen major themes of research were identified covering the whole range of major ecosystems from polar to tropical zones excluding oceanic ecosystems. Due to financial and human resources constraints, the MAD programme has up to now been restricted to six main areas (UNESCO, 1987):
1. Coastal areas and islands;
2. Humid and sub-humid tropics;
3. Arid and semi-arid zones;
4. Temperate and cold zones;
5. Urban systems and;
6. Biosphere reserves.
The tendency by many natural science researchers in the 1950's was to choose singe plant or animal species and study them in detail in complete isolation of their interaction with other plants or animal species and the environment in general. With the establishment of ecology as a major scientific and research field and the evolution of the ecosystem concept in the 1960's, there emerged a trend towards defining the environment in terms of major global ecosystems and the development of global models from which global solutions to environmental problems were designed. In the late 1960's and early 1970's there was an impatience to put long-discussed ideas on ecological approaches to land development to rest at the field level, a trend which itself implies a willingness to experiment and to accept failure (Lusigi, 1986).
The IPAL project developed in northern Kenya in 1976 (Figure 1) was an outgrowth of this concern to bring multidisciplinary research to the field level where it could address some of the most urgent problems of the deterioration of arid lands inhibited largely by pastoral nomads (Lusigi, 1986).
Figure 1. Location of IPAL study are.
The IPAL programme had a working hypothesis: Through research and training improved land use systems can be devised to reverse the trend of land degradation and to sustain land production for needs of a growing (and partially sedentarised) population of northern Kenya (Figure 2). Man is a central factor having significant influence on the ecosystem. Due to this influence, his way of life and interaction with his environment had to be clearly understood through the human component of the study. As the study was looking at productivity of the whole ecosystem, two other components also had to be understood.
1. Abiotic component - climate, geomorphology, soils, hydrology
2. Biotic component - primary production and secondary production
The choice of a suitable study site is critical in an ecosystem study if the objectives of the study are to be adequately realised. It is important that the site be representative in order to incorporate all situations and processes being observed or investigated (Lusigi, 1986).
The IPAL study site was selected to meet this criterion. With an area of 22,500 km2 it is sufficiently large and covers the major biotic communities found in the area. From near woodland in the south, where Ngurunit station is located, it extends northwards up to the edges of Chalbi Desert. On the west it is bounded by Mr. Kulal, a major water catchment area and to the east by Mt. Marsabit. The study area covers the home ranges of the Rendille, Gabbra, Boran and Samburu pastoralists who are the major nomadic tribes in the area. The problems of aridland deterioration are to be observed to varying degrees in this area. The area is undergoing a process of man-made desertification largely due to the following factors.
1. deterioration of the herb layer due to overgrazing;
2. deterioration of the woodlands due to wood cutting for boma (livestock night enclosures) constructions;
3. fuelwood needs and house construction
4. increase in both human and livestock numbers as they become sedentarised.
Recurrent drought and loss of their livestock base has forced many pastoralists into famine-relief villages and there is a gradual reduction in the practice of a nomadic lifestyle as a survival strategy.
The IPAL programme evolved through three main phases: 1) Inventory and description phase, 2) Management plan phase and 3) Pilot programme phase programme phase.
The management plan phase
The Pilot Programme Phase
This phase involved the compilation of an inventory of all the natural resources in the study area and the productivity. In the range and woodland ecology component, vegetation was the most important renewable natural resource. Answers to the following questions regarding vegetation were sought during this phase.
a) What major plant communities occur in the region and what are their species and structural characteristic?
b) What is their distribution (plant communities) in relation to climate, altitude, soils topography, human and animal influence.
c) What are the characteristics biomass densities of the two main layers (herb/tree) in each major plant community in relation to mean rainfall, drainage, soil conditions, human and animal influences?
d) What are the annual primary production levels in each major plane community in relation to recent rainfall under different conditions of soils, drainage and use.
The answers to the above questions constituted the baseline data upon which future ecological monitoring depends. A further series of questions were posed, the answers of which relate more directly to the management of vegetation resources.
a) What proportion of annual primary production is available to livestock and what proportion is actually consumed.
b) What proportion of the biomass and annual production of wood is used by the pastoralists for building, fencing, fuel and what are their annual requirements?
c) What is the spatial distribution of utilisation of the vegetation?
d) What are the tolerance levels of different plant communities to exploitation?
e) What are the rates of change in plant biomass and productivity in different areas of region in response to animal and human impact?
In human ecology answers to three basic questions were sought during this phase:
a) What was the population structure of the nomadic pastoralists?
b) What were their needs and how do they relate to their environment?
c) What were their aspirations
On livestock which is the basic resource upon which the livelihood of the nomadic tribes depends, answers to several questions were sought during this phase:
a) What is the livestock species composition?
b) What is the traditional animal husbandry for the different animal species?
c) What are their nutritional requirements
d) What are their feeding habits?
e) What major diseases affect the livestock?
f) What are the main constraints to increased production?
The information obtained from the above questions was Used in formulating a management plan for the study area. The management plan was intended to contribute to the improvement of the well-being of the pastoral people in all ways, but in particular (assisted by an appropriate education), by the development of an improved land-use a system that will reverse the trend of land degradation and sustain land production for the needs of the growing and partially sedentarised pastoral population (Lusigi, 1984). The resource management plan was based on the following principles:
a) That the people of the range areas must be allowed the opportunity for full development in terms of modern world and in accordance with the principle of human rights;
b) That range areas should be developed, conserved and managed in accordance with the ecological principles of proper land-use;
c) That, in so far as other principles allow, the range areas should be developed to yield benefit to the national economy.
This was a testing phase whereby the ideas recommended in the resource management plan were put to test on the ground on a small-scale to determine their workability. This was necessary so as to remove any unworkable ideas from the plan before recommending it to the general public. At this phase the project was not only looking for the success of some of the recommendations but was also ready to accept failure.
Most of the results have been published in the IPAL Technical Report series (Lusigi, 1984). This paper will highlight only some of the major findings.
1. There were five major livestock species kept in the study area - sheep, goats, cattle, camels and donkeys. The pastoralists try as much as possible to have a good mix of all the livestock species.
2. Livestock are kept mainly as source of food (milk, blood, meat) and as a sign of wealth and prestige.
3. Three major constraints to improved livestock production in the area are disease, nutritional deficiency and non-availability of water.
4. Livestock husbandry is also a constraint to improved production especially due to the fact that many pastoralists keep too many unproductive animals.
On the Range
1. The problem of overstocking is concentrated around permanent settlements with permanent water supply and guaranteed security while the rest of the area is under utilised and about 40% of the study area is hardly used at all.
2. The range in the area can support up to twice the current livestock numbers without causing any serious damaged to the environment with proper water distribution.
On the Pastoralists
1. There is an increasing tendency for the pastoralists to become sedentarised in line with the official government policy. The nomads are settling down to take advantage of public services provided for by the government and other donor agencies: schools, health services, water, security, etc.
2. Most of the settlement is taking place in areas that were formerly reserved for drought and dry season grazing. These areas are now lost to the nomadic pastoralists.
3. Mortality rate amongst the pastoralists especially in children has bone down and general life expectancy improved resulting in an increase in population and hence pressure on the available resources.
In recent years, the arid and semi-arid areas in Kenya which cover over 70% of the total area have been receiving more attention as population and hence pressure on the land resources in the rest of the country increase. These areas are being looked upon increasingly to provide meat and other livestock products to the rest of the country. As demand for these livestock products increases there is great need to increase their production. One way of increasing production is by the removal of the constraints mentioned above. To ensure increased forage availability, the pastoralists should be encouraged to continue keeping mixed herds that should be constantly moved, and formerly under utilised areas should be opened up for greater utilisation.
In arid and semi-arid environments, the pastoralists over hundreds of years have developed several survival strategies, which include constant movement of their herds and the keeping of several livestock species. In areas where most of the herb layer consists of annual plants and the majority of perennial plants are either dwarf shrubs, shrubs or bushes, the most prudent way to utilise the range and ensure survival is to keep a diverse herd of livestock species that are able to utilise the whole range of available forage. In cases of drought, which are common in these areas, the diverse herd has got its advantage. During any drought, the small stock and cattle are the first to be affected while the camel continues to provide milk and blood for much longer periods. Following the drought, small stock recover fastest and provide food for the pastoralists as the cattle and camel recover at a slower pace.
Rainfall is erratic and sporadic in both its temporal and spatial distribution in these arid areas. Therefore constant mobility is essential if the pastoralist wants to take advantage of new plant growth following the rains.
About 40% of the study area is not utilised due to lack of water. If these under utilised areas were opened up for use, it is possible to increase livestock production to twice its current levels. These areas can be opened up through a controlled grazing regime based on provision of drinking water. The grazing regimes have to take into consideration the customs and traditions of the local people.
Another major constraint to increased livestock production is the disease factor. IPAL studies showed that with the input o simple veterinary packages coupled with education on proper animal husbandry, it is possible to increase tremendously livestock production from the arid lands. The animal husbandry should also lay emphasis on the culling of unproductive animals such as excess males and those that are too old.
There has been a lot of effort put into improving the lives of the nomadic pastoralist through improved livestock production. Most of these efforts have had no noticeable effects on the lives of the nomads for various reasons:
1. The blue print for many of the development programmes had been developed elsewhere and just super-imposed on the nomadic pastoralists. IPAL studies have shown that two sites are similar even if they border each other but are inhabited by different nomadic tribes. Therefore, each area should be understood thoroughly before initiating any development activities especially where it involves pastoralists.
2. The technological base available in an area was not taken into consideration especially in the provision of water for livestock. No due consideration was given to what would happen or would run the programmes started when the time came for the donor agencies to pull out. If one has to improve livestock production in arid areas through provision of better distributed watering points, then the technology involved must be simple enough for the local pastoralists to manage on their own, e.g. simple hand pumps that can be repaired in the field or techniques of protecting shallow wells to prolong their life span.
3. Traditional grazing patterns, if not taken into consideration, can lead to failure of any new recommended grazing regime. This was evident in the study area where four times a year, the livestock had to be brought to the permanent settlements for blessing and thanks giving by the whole family of the pastoralist in the ceremony of sorio. Therefore, any recommended grazing regime in this area which fails to accomodate this traditional sorio ceremony is bound to meet with little success at the moment.
4. Any new recommendation concerning development and improvement of livestock production that deviates from the traditional practices should be tested and its viability ascertained in a pilot scale before being recommended for wider application.
5. The current education curriculum does not lay much emphasis on traditional agriculture even in the schools in arid areas where there is little chance of putting that knowledge into practice. Even at the institutes of higher learning much emphasis is placed on the traditional livestock species in the higher potential areas and those best adapted for the arid areas like the camel are normally just mentioned in passing. Now that these arid areas are being incorporated into the main economy there is also a need for special curriculum more applicable in these areas to be developed.
With increased livestock production, there will be a need to remove the excess production if degradation to the environment through overstocking is to be avoided. Therefore, all these management interventions designed to improve livestock production in arid areas should be accompanied by improvement in the marketing infrastructure. The pastoralist has got to be assured of any outlet for his livestock with guaranteed attractive prices. There must be other goods which can acquire with the money from the livestock sales.
In conclusion, as population increase in most African countries, the people will look more and more towards the arid and semi-arid areas as a source of meat and other livestock products. There is an increasing need to improve livestock production in these areas to meet the increased demand. There is a need to incorporate these formerly neglected areas into the national economy. The only way to do this is through an integrated approach to management of the fragile natural resources based on sound ecological knowledge of the concerned ecosystems that will ensure sustainable production without degrading the range.
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