Maasai community rushing to make half-moon bunds ahead of the rains
Kenyans in Olorika, Kajiado County, are making half-moon bunds in readiness for the rains as their livelihoods depend on efforts to keep as much water as possible in the ground.
Experts say the technique of creating demi-lunes belongs to the overall category of water harvesting and consists of half-moon-shaped basins dug into the earth.
The main goals of water harvesting are to collect water and to make moisture available for vegetation for a longer time.
This type of micro-catchment water harvesting technique is suitable for slopes up to 15 per cent, but bunds made of earth are seldom used in areas with slopes greater than 5 per cent with a precipitation rate higher than 300 mm per year.
The Justdiggit Foundation, a grassroots organisation that fights global warming by re-greening Africa, explained that they are using simple, low-cost techniques and working with local communities in areas most affected by climate change to restore vegetation.
Grass seed banks
Maasai women’s groups are now setting up grass seed banks.
“The seed banks produce seeds from indigenous grasses such as the African Foxtail grass, Maasai Love grass and currently doing seed multiplication for Enteropogon macrostachyus and Chloris roxburgiana grass,” reads a note from the organisation.
“The community groups have been trained by Justdiggit Foundation in partnership with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and aim to keep water on the ground long enough to allow vegetation to re-establish in otherwise degraded lands.”
The project is timely, said Olorika Chief Jackson Kiruti.
“This is a viable project in terms of restoring the bare land and will benefit at least 6,000 people in my community,” he said in an interview with the Nation.
The grasses produced by the women are then used to reseed the degraded half-moon bund sites in the Kuku Group ranch.
The women’s groups sell the seeds to Justdiggit for reseeding areas where the natural vegetation is depleted. Naturally, the grasses will grow to maturity and produce seeds, which drop on the ground and germinate again when it rains. But due to drought and overgrazing, this cycle is not completed.
This requires reseeding or the lands remain bare even after it rains.
The half-moon bunds are made by the local community members and leaders. The process usually takes at least four weeks because it includes community awareness campaigns and leaders meeting and deciding on the workforce. Some 100 diggers, 10 fundis and six technical team members are then selected from the community for training.
“Rainwater harvesting interventions are very important. We are also establishing fodder banks as they are still part of re-greening,” explained Ms Roniance Adhiambo, the Justdiggit Chyulu Landscape coordinator.
“A grass seedbank usually covers like 10 acres but for single land use, we do like 527 hectares.”
Because global warming is getting worse, said Justdiggit spokesperson Maureen Mwanu, “we only have 10 years to act”.
“Our solution as Justdiggit is re-greening. By restoring degraded land, we can revive vegetation all the while cooling down the planet. Let’s cool down the planet together.”
She added: “This year alone, two local communities (Olorika and Ilchalai) have dug 38,600 bunds and they are looking to complete 22,100 more bunds in July 2022, and they remain the only hope for communities to bring back vegetation needed not only for their livestock but also for wildlife.
“The community is set to dig 60,000 half-moon bunds in the second half of 2022. With such interventions, we can re-green the planet.”
A grazing calendar has also been created to tackle overgrazing in the area, said Charity Lanoi, the project lead with the Maasai Wildlife Conservation Trust.
“The idea of bunds is to help reduce or control soil erosion by controlling rain water,” she said.
“We introduced grass species that were endemic in this area and as a result we are able to bring back pasture and by doing so we are restoring livelihoods because we also employ the locals to work on the projects and in ranches.”