GRASS!

Nakukulas, Turkana

By Norbert Rottcher | Indigenous Tree Nursery Consultant

 Grass Seed Varieties

Grass Seed Varieties

Turkana South has enjoyed a very wet November this year. In total, 76.5 mm fell at the Barefoot Soulutions’ demonstration farm, Amana Akiro Analairen in Nakukulas, during a month when expected rainfall is much less. Given that the region is classed at best as Semi-Arid, one would expect such good rainfall to result in a total rejuvenation of the land. Indeed, in select small parts of northern Kenya, it has:

However, compare this with the area around Nakukulas only 100 km away, taken at the same time of year and after the same amount of rainfall:

Unfortunately, in most of Kenya’s arid North, there is simply WAY too much livestock – particularly goats and sheep.

However good the rains are, every blade of grass is eaten as it appears out of the ground. Over the years, the grass has simply not had the opportunity to seed, because it is never given time to develop seed heads. After each passing year, there are less seeds in the ground at the end of the dry season. In vast swathes of Turkana this has gone on for so long that the ground now simply has no grass seeds left. It is one of the main stages in the inexorable process of desertification.

And such is the situation around Nakukulas. Even within the confines of the since 12 months’ livestock-free farm compound, barely any grasses have appeared after those good rains. This is a clear indicator (or ‘control’), showing that the soil has indeed lost its grass seed reserves.

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However, at Amana Akiro Analairen, we are hoping to help turn the tide…

Several hours drive south-west of Nakukulas,  in the border region between Turkana and Pokot, years of cattle rustling and tension between the two communities have created an insecure no-man’s-land. Here, the grass still grows tall, and when we visited the area at the end of November, ripe heads of many varieties were waving in the breeze, ready to scatter their seeds to the four winds. It was perfect timing, and we collected a large crate-full of hundreds of thousands of seeds, of about ten different species.

Back at the shamba, we spread the seed heads out in the sun to dry properly, and put them in safe storage for the moment.

 Grass Drying | Nakukulas, Turkana

Grass Drying | Nakukulas, Turkana

They are now ready for us to plant in the irrigated rows and – in the hope of more rain – to also scatter all over the farm. By next year the farm should look a lot more like the Turkanaland of yore, and the wind will once more re-seed the barren surroundings…