Putting Smiles on Faces of Women

Putting Smiles on Faces of Women in South Eastern Kenya Region through Pasture Seed and Hay Production

Livestock production in the arid and semi-arid rangelands is majorly constrained by feed availability in terms of quality and quantity. These regions are about 50% degraded and experience erratic rainfall seasons making primary production fluctuate seasonally.

KALRO Kiboko has been involved in research and initiatives of improving the pasture, fodder base and rehabilitation of degraded areas in the arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya. Through the community based forage seed system, the centre has focussed on training farmers on pasture improvement for seed and hay production. Initially, KALRO Kiboko purposed to set up demonstration sites in Makueni County to be used for training on natural pasture improvement. A total of 9 Common interest groups, spread across the county were engaged.  

One of the groups, Utheu wa Aka, with a group membership of 30, introduced to the Centre by the State Department of Agriculture at Kibwezi has been involved in various enterprises including livestock production. Due to scanty information and knowledge, the group did not have capacity on how to improve their pastures to feed their growing numbers of livestock. The group was involved in an upgrading program where the members used Togenburg bucks to improve the local goat breeds in a merry-go-round system in which improved kids were distributed to members.

KALRO Kiboko set in to train and demonstrate to the members how to improve their own pastures.


A training of the group at Kibwezi by KALRO officers on pasture improvement

Previously, none of the group members had improved their pastures, with their livestock mainly feeding opportunistically on annuals and crop residues. These feed resources were sourced from their degraded farms and a commercial private farm, 4 km away where the women worked and were paid by a ‘feed for work’ system. It was therefore necessary for the group members to be introduced to the concept of having own feed for their livestock. The group set aside a one-acre piece of land in the farm of one of the members and KALRO demonstrated by planting range grasses so as to be able to get pasture seeds as well as feed for livestock. Initially the land was planted with Eragrostis superba (Masaai love grass) species with the farmers later on being provided with Cenchrus ciliaris (foxtail grass), Enteropogon macrostachyus (bush rye grass) and Chloris roxburghiana (horsetail grass).  

Degraded area (left) where the pasture establishment was done and the same area (right) after introducing range pastures

Upon maturity over 50 kg of seed was harvested, bulked and then sold by the farmers. The total amount of money earned by the group from the sale of the seed during the second season amounted to Ksh. 30,000 (approximately 315 US dollars). According to the group, they used this money to purchase weaned goats for group members who had not benefited from the goat multiplication venture. Group members also got seeds from KALRO Kiboko to also improve their own pastures, with each member required by the group by-laws to have her own pasture plot as a pre-condition for continuing to be a member of the group. The size was dependant on the size of land one has.  This enhanced the members’ capacity to feed their livestock i.e. the goats as well as harvest seeds which were in turn sold and the proceeds used to uplift their living standards. The money generated is also used by the farmers most of whom have small scale businesses to expand their ventures. Part of the seed is also used to expand the area under pastures on their farms with some now planting the grasses on the bench terraces constructed on the farms to control soil erosion.