PlantVillage to Establish 3,000 Soil Bunds as Project Enters Phase II

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Following the harvesting of Cenchrus ciliaris grass seeds from 2,500 soil bunds established in 2023 by PlantVillage field officers in collaboration with the pastoral community in Northern Kenya, the organization has begun phase II of soil bund digging. 


This time, the aim is to dig over 3,000 soil bunds by the end of April.


The soil bunds initiative in Isiolo, Samburu, Marsabit, and Baringo counties is part of the Warrior View Project funded by Google and aimed at restoring the rangelands, combating soil erosion, and promoting grass growth for livestock fodder.

PlantVillage to Establish 3,000 Soil Bunds as Project Enters Phase II

The team begins by digging several semi-circular circles in the ground to establish the layout of the soil bunds before actually excavating them. Photo credit: Evans Kiprono, PlantVillage's field officer in Baringo.


Evans Kiprono, a research extension officer overseeing the project at PlantVillage, notes that the timing of soil bund construction coincides with the onset of the long rainy season expected in Northern Kenya.


"We anticipate long rains in most parts of Northern Kenya in mid-April. By then, we hope to have established a substantial number of bunds and planted grass seeds, leveraging the water from the rain for growth, this will go a long way in providing pasture for the livestock for the pastoralists," he remarked.

A section of the 800 soil bunds recently constructed in Oldonyiro ward, Isiolo County. Photo credit: Frankline Lemasulani, PlantVillage's Isiolo's field officer.


Community Collaboration

In collaboration with the local community members, the organization's field officers have surveyed the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) region to identify specific areas for the soil bund establishment. 


Leshinya James Oyite, a village administrator in Sesia, Samburu County, welcomed the initiative, highlighting the suitability of the landscape for grass growth.


"We have agreed that soil bunds should be established in this location due to its landscape. It is also a community-protected area with minimal animal interaction, and it is near where I live, making it easier to monitor. We believe that the grass will grow well here," he said.

A woman from Sesia, Samburu County, is planting Cenchrus ciliaris grass seeds provided by PlantVillage in one of the recently constructed soil bunds in the area. Photo credit: Tyson Yassin, PlantVillage's field officer in Samburu County.


To kickstart the project, PlantVillage has supplied the pastoralists with grass seeds, primarily harvested in the first phase. 


Melodine Jeptoo, PlantVillage's WarriorView Project lead, emphasized the resilience of the Cenchrus ciliaris variety to the region's harsh climate, advising pastoralists to reseed for future cost savings.


 "Compared to their local grass variety, this can withstand the harsh climatic conditions and remain green for some time before drying up," she said.


 Empowering pastoralists

The initiative goes beyond soil bund construction. Hay-making workshops led by PlantVillage field officers have equipped the pastoralists with the skills to sustain their livestock year-round. Through diligent efforts, tangible improvements emerge, transforming once-barren landscapes into vibrant green expanses.


"We have trained the pastoralists on how to cut and make hay using homemade hay boxes from this grass; we have also trained them on how to store the hay to be used in the future when there will be no fodder for their livestock," said Kiprono.

A practical session offered by Evans Kiprono in Baringo County to the pastoralists on how to make hay using hay boxes. Photo credit: Evans Kiprono.


As the soil bunds take shape, they symbolize hope and resilience, offering pastoralists like Simon Kitol a source of income and investment opportunities. Kitol anticipates significant earnings from grass farming, signaling a shift from livestock farming.


"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 considering shifting from livestock farming to focusing on grass farming," said Kitol, a farmer in Marigat, Baringo County.


PlantVillage's overarching goal is to rehabilitate over 3,000 hectares of barren land in Northern Kenya through soil bunds abundant with grass.


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