Located along the Eastern Boundary of the Maasai Mara Game reserve, Siana conservancy is a relatively new conservancy that seeks to work with land owners around this area to form an 8,000 to 10,000 hectare wildlife conservancy. The MaMaSe project uses a Holistic Management which is a participatory approach that encourages communities living within and around the wildlife zones to adopt a suitable grazing model aimed at improving the health of the rangelands along the middle Mara River basin. Communities in the Mara Siana conservancy who are mainly the Maasai, are already reaping the benefits of sustainable rangeland management .
Holistic Management approach addresses major challenges the Mara ecosystem is facing such as land degradation which is a result of overstocking by the pastoral communities and increasing land fragmentation. Such unsustainable practices have degenerated into perennial human and wildlife conflict and that of pasture resources. The impact has been a total breakdown of basic livelihood of the local pastoral Maasai communities within the Mara landscape.
Watering point at Enonkishu Conservancy to reduce movement to other water sources.
The Mau Mara Serengeti Sustainable initiative (MaMaSe) through WWF-Kenya has so far managed to secure 2,400 acres of land and are currently working with 55 landowners. As part of holistic management, the community has also been empowered to develop grazing plans for both wet and dry weather seasons. These grazing plans determine how many animals can graze per (non fenced) blocks and for how many days. Through the grazing plans, communities are now able to ensure that the animals have more grass available and their is adequate time for grass to regenerate, hence improving the coverage and reducing the effect of erosion.
Training herders is particularly important in this process since they are directly involved in bunching and directing the livestock for effective animal impact and uniform forage utilization within the grazing blocks. Using professional herders also means that school going children who would otherwise look after livestock now have more time to attend school and study. The conservancies have also established grazing committees that ensure grazing plans are fully implemented.
Bunching cattle as they graze
To improve the livelihoods of the communities, this approach encourages the communities to rear commercial herds with a working philosophy of keeping few animal but high performing livestock for economic gain. With the support of the SNV partner, the communities are also linked to high-end markets for their livestock.
Kimpai Ole Njapit, the Chairman, Nkoilale Holistic Management pilot in Mara Siana, noted that, “The idea of keeping small number of high performing cattle is a great idea. ”Since we’ve adopted this approach we have sold a good number of livestock and generated substantial amount of money for the land owners. We currently have 150 cattle after selling 35 animals, where we are currently ploughing the sale proceeds to buy more livestock"
Njapit observes that the commercial herd they keep, following the Holistic Management approach, is fetching almost twice the price of livestock sold out of the pilot. This has since motivated landowners who were previously skeptical about the approach, to now join the conservancy.
Communities assert that there has been increased biomass of palatable forage for both wildlife and livestock. In addition, improved grass cover has led to reduced soil erosion as well as improved water infiltration which is an important result for this eco system.
Kaano Ole Sayagie, the treasurer of the conservancy adds that, “Recently we sold part of our commercial herds at an average of Ksh 32,000 per cow while those from neighbouring communities outside the project fetch for Ksh 20,000.”
Adoption of holistic management through the MaMaSe project, shows that it is possible to sustainably provide for wildlife and livestock within the Mara River Basin and can be successfully replicated across other regions in Kenya and beyond.