Ecosystem-wide seasonal grazing management in community land [Kenya]

technologies_3372 - Kenya

Completeness: 84%

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:
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Book project: Guidelines to Rangeland Management in Sub-Saharan Africa (Rangeland Management)

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:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


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

Community-based rangeland management in the southern Kenyan rangelands

Community-based rangeland management in the southern Kenyan rangelands [Kenya]

Olkiramatian Group Ranch strengthened the capacity of its community governance structures and began to engage in more rigorous implementation of seasonal grazing plans. This was based on traditional ecological knowledge and rangeland management practices. The group ranch incorporated conservation, research, and joint rangeland management planning with neighboring communities.

  • Compiler: Lance W. Robinson

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Livestock movements are managed through community governance systems to maintain spatial and temporal heterogeneity of pasture, creating a gradient of quality and quantity of pasture across the landscape. This is achieved through clearly designated seasonal grazing areas for livestock and tight controls on settlement areas, grazing patterns and water points. In addition, at the individual herder level, traditional ecological knowledge plays a strong role in the decisions made to improve livestock production

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


This technology is applied in the South Rift Valley, Kenya, across a semi-arid landscape, with erratic rainfall averaging 400-600 mm per annum. Water availability is an issue. The perennial Ewaso Ngiro South river flows through the Shompole swamp, a vital drought refuge for livestock and wildlife, before ending up in Lake Natron. The area, roughly 1000 km2, is covered by two group ranches, Olkiramatian and Shompole, which are managed as a single ecological unit. A group ranch is a jointly owned freehold land title given to the customary occupants of communal lands. The total number of occupants of both ranches number roughly 20,000 people, with the majority belonging to the Maasai ethnic group. The ranches have not been subdivided and are not fully sedentary, unlike many other areas of southern Kenya.
There is a long history of co-existence of wildlife and livestock in Maasialand. In Olkiramatian and Shompole seasonal livestock movements and herding practices are formalized by group ranch grazing plans governed by local committees. The wet season grazing areas are termed “livestock rearing zones”. The dry season grazing areas have been retained as “grass banks” for livestock, and since the early 2000s, have been used additionally as wildlife conservancies for ecotourism (see figure below). Livestock rearing occurs to the east of the Ewaso Ngiro river; grass banks and the wildlife conservancy to the west. Grazing committees from both group ranches manage livestock access to certain areas, with the conservancy (grass bank) rested during the wet season of up to six months. When grazing is permitted in the conservancy, as the dry season progresses, temporary settlements are limited to an area called the “buffer zone”. Livestock must then move into the conservancy from the buffer zones to access this late season grazing. The “livestock rearing zone” is permanently settled and grazed year-round. Within each zone there are small “Olopololis” (grass banks of a few hectares), situated near individual settlements and used to maintain higher quality pasture for weak and young animals. This management strategy ensures that the dry season grazing area is rested during the rains, and it helps to maintain consistently higher biomass and taller grass than that of the wet season grazing area. The higher biomass also corresponds to a rainfall gradient running from the Nguruman Escarpment edge in the western extremity of the group ranches to the dry central rift valley floor in the east. The biomass in the dry season area is used by both livestock and wildlife grazers during the late dry season and in droughts. The grass bank is only grazed out during prolonged dry periods. The Maasai employ a strategy of using the shorter milk-producing grasses of the livestock areas during the rains and the coarser grasses in the grass banks for the dry seasons. The shorter wet season pastures have a higher nutrient content and greater digestibility than the grass bank: this is very important for lactating females. The grass is kept short from both grazing by livestock during the growing seasons and due to intrinsic differences caused by shallower soils and lower rainfall in these grazing areas.
Within this broader governance framework and control of grazing areas, individual decision making is also permitted within these controlled areas. This allows herders to manage livestock to improve production in relation to each herd. For example, individuals might split the herd to take advantage of different energy and nutrient requirements of lactating females, bulls, and calves.
This maintenance and exploitation of forage heterogeneity is vital to the productivity and resilience of the landscape, and this heterogeneity exists at multiple scales, with the major differences existing between the grazing areas, but also smaller difference within them. Resource heterogeneity facilitates wildlife-livestock coexistence. This heterogeneity creates a matrix of varying quality and quantity of forage. Wildlife species have different metabolic requirements and diets, and this varied base ensures that a diverse wild ungulate population is maintained year-round. Late season forage boosts the resilience of wildlife during extreme events. This technology requires a governance structure that is both responsive to the changing ecological conditions and able to build consensus and enforce grazing management.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

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:
  • 100-1,000 km2

The technology formerly worked across the entirety of Maasailand (50,000 km2). However, breakdowns in social structures, culture, and governance arrangements have led to wide-scale losses in traditional grazing management. Olkiramtian and its neighbor Shompole, are two of the few communities managing to graze in such a way to maintain and capitalize on the spatial-temporal heterogeneity of forage resources through merging traditional and modern institutions.

2.6 Date of implementation

Indicate year of implementation:


2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • as part of a traditional system (> 50 years)
Comments (type of project, etc.):

The grazing management system is adapted from traditional grazing management of Maasai pastoralists.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • conserve ecosystem
  • preserve/ improve biodiversity
  • mitigate climate change and its impacts
  • create beneficial economic impact

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

Grazing land

Grazing land

Extensive grazing:
  • Semi-nomadic pastoralism
Animal type:
  • goats
  • sheep
  • cattle

Number of growing seasons per year: 2
Long rains fall between April - June; Short rains fall between October - December.
Livestock density: Cattle 6.2 / km2; Shoats 52.2 / km2

3.4 Water supply

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

The area is semi-arid and receives rainfall erratically, both in space and time, in a bi-modal pattern.

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • pastoralism and grazing land management

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

management measures

management measures

  • M2: Change of management/ intensity level
  • M3: Layout according to natural and human environment
  • M4: Major change in timing of activities

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
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover
  • Bh: loss of habitats
  • Bq: quantity/ biomass decline
  • Bs: quality and species composition/ diversity decline

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

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

Although in general, this technology aims to prevent land degradation through the maintenance of forage cover; localized degradation does occur across different locations within the landscape, especially in areas of highest livestock impact, such as water points and settlement areas.

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

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

The drawing shows the management units used in this seasonally structured grazing management system. The livestock rearing zone, to the east of the Ewaso Nyiro river, is permanently settled and is grazed heavily during the wet season (April - July). During this time herders utilize the short, nutritious grasses in this low biomass area. As forage biomass begins to reduce the community grazing committees meet to discuss the opening of settlements to the west of the Ewaso Nyiro river. This decision is made using traditional ecological knowledge, comparing available forage biomass and the numbers of livestock to previous years and past experiences. Once the grazing has been opened to the west of the river people may settle within the buffer zone. This limits direct access to the higher biomass areas within the conservancy and grass banks, and increases the length of travel for each herd every day, in an effort to preserve forage for longer. Once forage has been depleted in the buffer zones and the periphery of the conservancies, the committees meet and allow access for herders into the conservation areas, which have tall, high biomass, but low-quality grazing. Often access to this area requires considerable distances to be walked by livestock. In recent years, adaptive management systems have led to the settlements within the south of the conservation area to be closed to preserve forage biomass within the swamp and conservation area for a longer period of time; and allow for recovery of partially degraded land.


Peter Tyrrell



4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology unit
Specify unit:

The two group ranches

Specify dimensions of unit (if relevant):

Approximately 1000km2

Specify currency used for cost calculations:
  • USD
Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities


No activities were required to establish this practice as it has been ongoing and builds on traditional management structures.

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment



4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Management meetings Seasonally

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


The only real costs of this technology, which is different to any other form of grazing system, would be the cost of management through meetings. Otherwise the costs are just that of any other livestock production enterprise.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

There are no or little costs to this technology, as it builds off structures of management which are already in place and work organically within the area.

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
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Highly variable rainfall both spatially and temporally. Annual average rainfall has a 33%CV.

Indicate the name of the reference meteorological station considered:

Lale'enok Resource Centre

Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid
  • arid

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.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant
Comments and further specifications on topography:

This area lies at the bottom of the rift valley, with the Nguruman Escarpment and Loita Hills towering up to the west. This change in elevation ensures that there is fresh water reaching the area year round and that there is very late season forage available at higher altitudes if required.

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):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)

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)

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?




Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Seasonal floods down the Ewaso Nyiro river provide an important water source for the Shompole Swamp. This swamp acts as an import drought refuge for livestock.

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • high
Habitat diversity:
  • high
Comments and further specifications on biodiversity:

The area has an intact community of large herbivores, 21 species of carnivore and a growing population of elephants. This in part due to the habitat diversity and heterogeneity that has been maintained. Habitat diversity is facilitated by elevation changes up the Nguruman Escarpment, a variable rainfall gradient from East to West, the presence of Soda lakes, and the presence of perennial rivers. The area is also an Important Bird Area and is home to two community conservation areas. It holds some of the largest numbers of large mammals outside of government protected areas in Kenya.

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

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

All ages are involved in this practice and all genders. It is a way of live using this management.

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)?
  • medium-scale

This land is managed under two community land titles. The management is at an intermediate scale as it does not address grazing management beyond the ecosystem boundary and across the greater landscape. This larger-scale approach is, however, a critical component of a larger landscape management system which was previously governed under Maasai culture.

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

Land ownership:
  • communal/ village
Land use rights:
  • communal (organized)
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)
  • Traditional methods of water management through comittees exists in some areas. In other area the creation of Water Resource Users Associations has begun to manage water.

The land is owned under two community titles. The land-use is restricted to members of the group ranches, who may allow for reciprocal grazing rights to be exchanged with neighbouring communities.

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


fodder production

Comments/ specify:

This is in contrast to areas without seasonal grazing management.

fodder quality

Comments/ specify:

This management system works best to preserve lower quality higher biomass fodder. Quality may not increase dramatically, but the creation of short areas of well-fertilized grass near settlements may increase the local quality of fodder during the wet season.

risk of production failure

Comments/ specify:

In comparison to other systems the preservation of late season grazing is crucial in preventing complete losses of livestock during droughts.

Socio-cultural impacts

cultural opportunities

Comments/ specify:

Management of land in this manner relies on traditional ecological knowledge for both individual and community decision making. This is dependent on cultural values and understanding, and underpins grazing management in Maasai society.

Ecological impacts

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover

Comments/ specify:

This method increase vegetation cover by maintaining heterogeneity of forage resources across the landscape, and resting pasture seasonally to allow for vegetation regrowth.

biomass/ above ground C

Comments/ specify:

Late season forage available. Recovery and rest allows for greater productivity and rainfall use efficiency.

animal diversity

Comments/ specify:

Maintenance of spatial and temporal heterogeneity of forage resources ensures that wildlife species have access to the variable resources that they require over time.

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 rainfall decrease moderately
seasonal rainfall wet/ rainy season decrease moderately

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

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

very positive

Long-term returns:

very positive

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

very positive

Long-term returns:

very positive


No costs to establish and low direct cost of management actions.

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • > 50%
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

This system is adopted by most land-users because of the governance systems in place. There are some individuals who may not choose to abide by the rules set out by the committees, but a combination of peer pressure; traditional curses; and fines usually prevent this.

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


If yes, indicate to which changing conditions it was adapted:
  • climatic change/ extremes
Specify adaptation of the Technology (design, material/ species, etc.):

The management is constantly being adapted based on the prevailing ecological conditions. In 2015, over fifty settlements were closed by the community grazing and group ranch committee within the dry season grazing area to allow for pasture regeneration and to consolidate preservation of the dry season grass bank.

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
This technology stems from a community based and is not imposed from a top-down perspective, and tries to create consensus among resource users.
Allows individual flexibility within the broader grazing structure so that people can manage livestock within their own objectives.
This technology provides forage for livestock into the dry season and drought.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Management in this way also replicates the methodologies used for land management for thousands of years by pastoral people and helps to generate an enabling environment for the coexistence of wildlife, domestic livestock, and people.
Ensures that pasture is rested during the growing season within the dry season grazing areas, so that root mass can be established and to ensure grass seed production.

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

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Exploitation of the system by elites in charge of management decisions, allowing their livestock to access preferential grazing, which may not represent the needs of all groups. Ensure credible management structures in place; with the new community land act, this should encourage greater equity in decision making.
Preventing settlement in areas of traditional occupation by certain households.
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Lack of focus on a production based system and income generation through livestock sales. Create and enabling environment for change, through market improvement and learning exchanges.
Lack of resting and recovery of forage in the wet season grazing area. Rotate and rest wet season pasture for a few weeks during the growing period, potentially through grazing in the dry season reserve for a longer period.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys

Living in the area for the last four years.

  • compilation from reports and other existing documentation
When were the data compiled (in the field)?


7.3 Links to relevant online information

Title/ description:

Seasonal movements of wildlife and livestock in a heterogeneous pastoral landscape: Implications for coexistence and community based conservation


Links and modules

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