Grass strips [Uganda]

Omukikizo (Runyankore)

technologies_1151 - Uganda

Completeness: 78%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:

Ayoreka Ruth


Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
The Transboundary Agro-ecosystem Management Project for the Kagera River Basin (GEF-FAO / Kagera TAMP )
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO Food and Agriculture Organization) - Italy

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches (documented using WOCAT)

Extension advisory service

Extension advisory service [Uganda]

Through ULAMP by agricultural extensions ,adopted to conserve land degaradation by practicing grass strips.

  • Compiler: Wilson Bamwerinde

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Napier grass strips control soil erosion on annual and perennial cropland on moderately-angled to highly-angled slopes.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Napier grass is native to the tropical African savanna, where one cultivar is also known as Uganda grass or elephant grass. In Uganda, extensive natural Napier grasslands grew on the fringes of tropical forest until quite recently, the grass being used as mulch for coffee plantations and, later, banana plantations. Its use as cut fodder is more recent.

Napier grass strips as a conservation technology was introduced to members of Farmer Field Schools in Mwizi sub-county by Kagera TAMP field facilitators. Its extensive rhizomatous root system coupled with dense, leafy clumps makes it a quickly establishing vegetative technology against soil erosion by stabilizing the soil and checking surface runoff.

The technology is watershed oriented, with grass strips planted on the upper side of "Fanya Ju" trenches to enhance runoff checking and sediment retention. Mulching is also used to reduce direct impact of rain-drops that otherwise loosen the top soil and worsen the process of surface erosion. When established, grass strips form a continuous hedge along the contour, 0.5m to 1.0m high, regularly cut to provide fodder for livestock or for mulch. The strips are 10m apart.

Purpose of the Technology: The grass strips protect the land from surface erosion, progressively checking the speed of surface runoff, trapping sediment and increasing infiltration. Over time grass strips lead to the formation of terraces.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: Napier grass is propagated from root splits, canes with 3 nodes or from whole canes. In the soil excavated from a shallow (0.30m to 0.60m) fanya ju trench, the planting material is planted 0.15m to 0.20m deep with splits planted upright, three node canes planted at an angle of 30-45 degrees while whole canes are buried in the furrow 0.60m to 0.90m apart. The root splits and canes are usually spaced 0.50m to 0.60m along the contour. Root splits generally take more labor to prepare and to plant but result in quicker establishment and earlier and higher forage yields. Once the crop is well-established the original planting material type generally has little effect strip characteristics.

The grass strips are maintained by regular harvesting to a height of o.3m or lower depending on the amount of rain.

Natural / human environment: Maintenance is simple and cheap. Hand hoes and pangas are the only tools used in establishment and maintenance. A little manual labor is all that is required for establishment and management. Stands can survive for decades when well-maintained, but because of its rapid growth and high yields, Napier grass requires regular application of nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in the form of farm yard manure, readily available in Mwizi from the livestock that feed on the grass. While pests and diseases that attack the Napier grass exist, it has not yet been observed to be a problem.

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:


Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 1-10 km2

The technology is being adopted well on perennial cropland banana plantations, on moderate to steep slopes in Mwizi sub-county, Mbarara district.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions
Comments (type of project, etc.):

It was initiated by Uganda siol and water pilot project in 1994

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • create beneficial economic impact

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Land use mixed within the same land unit:


Specify mixed land use (crops/ grazing/ trees):
  • Agroforestry



  • Annual cropping
  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • legumes and pulses - beans
  • root/tuber crops - potatoes
  • casava, Napier grass/ Uganda grass/ Eplephant grass
Perennial (non-woody) cropping - Specify crops:
  • banana/plantain/abaca
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 2

Longest growing period from month to month: September to January Second longest growing period from month to month: From March to June

Grazing land

Grazing land

Forest/ woodlands

Forest/ woodlands


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): There was erosion and plant/crops were growing stunted. The soil was dusty.

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): There was low crop production per unit area, crops were washed away by runoff.

Future (final) land use (after implementation of SLM Technology): Cropland: Ca: Annual cropping

Type of cropping system and major crops comments: Coffee is planted in banana plantation

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?




Cropland: Ca: Annual cropping

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • improved ground/ vegetation cover
  • cross-slope measure

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V2: Grasses and perennial herbaceous plants

Main measures: vegetative measures

Type of vegetative measures: aligned: -graded strips *<sup>3</sup>

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion

Main type of degradation addressed: Wt: loss of topsoil / surface erosion

Main causes of degradation: soil management (Continuous cultivation), other natural causes (avalanches, volcanic eruptions, mud flows, highly susceptible natural resources, extreme topography, etc.) specify (Steep slopes facilitate the speed of v), population pressure (Land is subdivided into small pieces and is left to rest.)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Grass strips are lines across the slope and are separated by the annual cropland. The distance between the strips range between 10m and 15m .

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: moderate (They are already trained)

Technical knowledge required for land users: high (There is high level of illeteracy)

Main technical functions: reduction of slope length

Aligned: -graded strips
Vegetative material: G : grass
Number of plants per (ha): -
Vertical interval between rows / strips / blocks (m): 1.8
Spacing between rows / strips / blocks (m): 10
Vertical interval within rows / strips / blocks (m): 1
Width within rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.5

Grass species: Napier grass

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):

Ug Shillings

If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Cutting wet season
2. Transporting
3. Planting

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Labour 200 7.0 100.0
Equipment Tools 200m 1.0 2.0 2.0 100.0
Other Grass cuttings 200m 1.0 8.0 8.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 10.0

Duration of establishment phase: 1 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Slashing 2 times a year

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Labour 200 m 1.0 5.0 5.0
Equipment Tools 200m 1.0 1.0 1.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 6.0

Machinery/ tools: Handhoes and pangas are used in daily activities.

Costs are calculated for grass strips for 5 strips of 30metres

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

There is cheap hired labour and the slope is not so steep

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Recieved twice a year, March/June and September/January

Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

Thermal climate class: tropics

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Altitudinal zone: 1501-2000 m a.s.l. (It its the highest parts of the district)
Landforms: Hill slopes (ranked 1, technolgy applied across the slope) and footslopes (ranked 2)
Slopes on average: Gentle (ranked 1, shoulder slopes are gentle), hilly (ranked 2, hill sides are steep)

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil depth on average: Shallow (ranked 1, at the upper end of the slope), very shallow (along the hill slopes, ranked 2,) and deep (in the valley)
Soil texture: Medium (cannot form a crumbling ribbon)
Soil fertility: Medium (can support plant growth)
Topsoil organic matter: Low (colour change to brownish)
Soil drainage/infiltration: Medium
Soil water storage capacity: Medium (crops can still grow during the dry season)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

> 50 m

Availability of surface water:

poor/ none

Water quality (untreated):

poor drinking water (treatment required)

Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Water quality (untreated): Poor drinking water (treatement required, water in valley only for livestock)

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • mixed (subsistence/ commercial)
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
  • rich
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • women
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users
Difference in the involvement of women and men: no difference
Population density: 10-50 persons/km2
50% of the land users are very rich and own 40% of the land.
30% of the land users are rich and own 50% of the land.
20% of the land users are average wealthy and own 10% of the land (have enough food,good housing).
Off-farm income specification: All land users do not get off farm income
Level of mechanization: Manual work (the terrain of the land do not allow animal traction and mechanised cultivation )
Market orientation: There is no specialization

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • small-scale

Average fragments

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • open access (unorganized)

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

From improved yields people have increased suplus for sell and enough money to cater for family necesities

fodder production

Comments/ specify:

Introduction of zero grazing

fodder quality


animal production


risk of production failure

Comments/ specify:

There is crop failure close to strips

production area

Comments/ specify:

Grasses occupy are where crops would grow

Income and costs

farm income

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Other socio-economic impacts


Comments/ specify:

Crop failure near gras strips (on the lower side)

Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency

Comments/ specify:

Food was enough,balanced diet

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff

Comments/ specify:

Water speed was reduced

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

pest/ disease control

Comments/ specify:

They create hiding places for rats

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

damage on neighbours' fields


damage on public/ private infrastructure

Comments/ specify:

There is no more water movement to the lower fields

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase not known

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
local windstorm not known
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought not well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood not known

By planting Calliandra alongside the grass strips

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly negative

Long-term returns:

slightly positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:



Grasses are used to feed livestock and mulching. It requires low labour.

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • > 50%
If available, quantify (no. of households and/ or area covered):


Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 11-50%

20% of land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

2 land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

Comments on acceptance with external material support: 2 families have applied the technology with external support

80% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

8 land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

Comments on spontaneous adoption: The technology was initiated by 2 land users and only 8 have adopted

There is a little trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: There is still need for community sensitization and material support

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Land users are already sensitized

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Continuous sensitization
There is high demand for animal feed and mulching

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Estabkish more grass strips
Planting materials are available

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Leaving some grasses to overgrow

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Low adoption of the technology setting demonstrations
Low turn up at training sessions Forining farmer groups like Farmer field schools

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

Links and modules

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