Trash to Treasure: Sustainable Fodder Farming Initiative in Kenya's Arid Lands

Posted on

PlantVillage field officers in Kenya's Arid and Semi-arid lands (ASALs) have commenced harvesting Cenchrus ciliaris grass seeds planted last year on soil bunds.


Selected for its resilience to harsh climatic conditions, this grass species is set to significantly impact the region's regreening initiatives.


The harvested seeds will be recycled, with pastoralists receiving guidance from field officers and local morans on creating soil bunds and planting the seeds.

Trash to Treasure: Sustainable Fodder Farming Initiative in Kenya's Arid Lands

Rashid Buroya, PlantVillage field officer (right), and Simon Russo, Moran (left), harvesting Cenchrus ciliaris grass seeds in Ririma, Marsabit County. A soil bund can yield up to 1 kg of these seeds. Photo credit: Rashid Buroya, PlantVillage field officer.


"In communal land, we intend to harvest and utilize the seeds for reseeding other degraded grazing areas. For example, in Baringo County, where land is individually owned, the farmer gives us a certain percentage and sells the rest to other farmers at a subsidized rate," explained Evans Kiprono, the research extension officer spearheading the project.


The initiative involved planting 220 kg of grass seeds within the 2,500 soil bunds established in Marsabit, Baringo, Isiolo, and Samburu counties.


Surplus Fodder and Income Opportunities


The market price for these seeds is $5 per kg, but the organization subsidizes them, making them available to the community at $4.4 per kg or even less.


Once the grass is fully established and harvested, we leave everything in the hands of the community or individuals to decide; we encourage them to store enough for their livestock before thinking of selling.

“Field officers and Morans will periodically visit farmers to inspect their fields and provide guidance on managing the reseeded lands,” Kiprono added.

In Kenya's arid and semi-arid regions (ASALs), the sale of fodder is currently among the most profitable businesses, as many pastoralists depend on livestock for their livelihoods. Photo credit: Dennis Avokoywa, PlantVillage media and communication officer.


In addition to traditional farming practices, some farmers have ventured into a novel business—selling grass. This unconventional move not only demonstrates the agricultural community's adaptability but also creates diverse income opportunities, highlighting their resilience in exploring innovative avenues for economic sustainability.


"A bale of this grass sells for $2.5 in the market. I anticipate harvesting 100 bales from one of my five-acre farms, which is almost $250. I am contemplating shifting from livestock farming to focusing on grass farming," said Simon Kitol, a farmer in Marigat, Baringo County.


Beyond its business potential and agricultural benefits, utilizing grass for thatched roofs in Kenya represents a transformative, eco-friendly initiative. Amid challenges such as high cost of living and a scarcity of roofing materials, pastoralist farmers are innovatively transitioning from nylon-thatched houses to sustainable, locally sourced grass. This shift not only enhances living conditions but also underscores the versatility of this natural resource.

hut with a grass-thatched roof in Marigat, Baringo County. Photo courtesy: Evans Kiprono, Baringo's PlantVillage field officer.
Heart Heart icon