Click on each picture to download a larger view.
swale_ full_ (cover).jpg (123352 bytes)

Ngare Ndare Dryland Restoration Project.
A joint project by: Borana; Seven Ravens Ecoforestry: and Sustainable Agriculture Research Institute.

Borana is a 35,000 acre ranch located on the Laikipia Plain, Kenya.  Traditional use of this ranch has been livestock farming of cattle, sheep and goats.  Observations over the years concluded that the damage created by the goats and sheep was too great.    The severe pressure on wildlife throughout the country from poaching and habitat destruction instigated the owners to adapt the property towards wildlife management.   Selective cattle-grazing has helped to manage and improve grasslands for the wildlife. Top end tourism has provided the income to subsidise the cost of wildlife management.

wild_ elephant.jpg (27392 bytes)wild_ giraffe.jpg (16980 bytes)
Two of the many species of animals to be seen at Borana ranch.

In the interest of preserving and enhancing the local environment they have started working with the local communities in setting up eco-tourism as an alternative source of income.  Forest preservation and improved utilisation have been key elements.  Il N’gwesi and Tassia are two examples of successfully run eco-tourism projects.  In spite of the ecological benefits to these two areas, the Maasai have transferred their animals to other areas where new degradation is happening.  

Michael Dyer from Borana decided that he wanted to create a demonstration project on a very denuded piece of land and so asked Michael Nickels (an eco-forestry consultant from Canada with ten years of land restoration and nursery development experience in Kenya) and Jeff Nugent (a permaculture consultant, teacher and author from Australia) for their assistance.

The property has been fenced to prevent wildlife, particularly elephants, from invading agricultural land to the south.  To streamline fencing an area of about 13 hectares was excluded from fencing.  This is the site of the project.  It sits between the fenced Borana ranch, the Ngare Ndare Forest and the Ngare Ndare village.

goats.jpg (24174 bytes)firewood_ collecters.jpg (21117 bytes)
The daily traffic of thousands of animals and the
gathering of fuel-wood cause severe land degredation.

The villagers use the project site as a short cut to the Ngare Ndare Forest where they run their livestock and collect firewood.  They also harvest firewood and other products such as bark, honey and aloes.  The impact on the site is pronounced.  Most of the vegetation has been removed and the soils are heavily compacted by stock

erosion_ gully.jpg (22976 bytes)
Gully erosion is severe and would continue to worsen if nothing were done.
water_ erosion_ 4.jpg (24694 bytes)

The objects of the project are:


In establishing the model it will be important to keep all of the examples within reach of the local people.  Where machinery is used to hasten development, similar work will be done by hand, employing local people.  These people will learn the skills by doing.  At every stage of development workers are taught why a task is being performed giving them a broader understanding.   It is hoped that some will take these acquired skills and apply and develop them on their own places.  It is also hoped that some will derive employment using their newfound skills.

The first priority once the site is secured is to halt erosion.  To this end a series of swales have been built onto the site.  In the early stages a combination of lack of understanding by the workers and a 40mm rainfall event in about 30 minutes resulted in some of these swales washing out.  This has been a good lesson to all involved. 

swale_ broken_ no_ water.jpg (24091 bytes)swale_ marking.jpg (24988 bytes)
Repair work and swale building will now be done under strict supervision.
teach_ swale_ build.jpg (27841 bytes)swales_ in_ parallel.jpg (27483 bytes)
Hand-dug swales were planted to trees or tree seed and protected with acacia branches, pruned on-site to improve the long-term timber potential of those trees.

The site will trial many species with potential to feed people and livestock and to provide basic human needs such as food, shelter, fuel-wood, fibres and medicines.  Some of these species will be indigenous to the area, but many will not.  The species will be planted so as to avoid monocultures and to maximise conditions such as shade, sun, soil and water.  They will also be arranged so as to maximise their products and functions.

Once established, the more successful species will be propagated so as to provide nursery stock to the village.

Field days have been held to explain to the villagers the importance of the project and the need for their co-operation. 

meeting_ at_ dam.jpg (20099 bytes)meeting_ at_ gully.jpg (24553 bytes)
Approximately 100 Interested community members came to a field day. 
meeting_ at_ top_ swale.jpg (22017 bytes)meeting_ over_ planted_ swale.jpg (25838 bytes)
Community Field Day April 12 2002.

A house will be established with a resident manager.  The house roof will serve as water collection for domestic use.  Water for garden use will be from a small dam, which will collect water from the road.  The dam will initially trial a system of sealing known as gleying. Straw will be spread around the dam and as the rains start a large number of sheep will be fenced into the area and fed a good diet. The combination of the manure from the stock, the resulting microbes, the compacting effect of the sheep’s feet, and the rising water level will contribute to seal the dam.  This process is within reach of the local people and does not rely on expensive non-renewable resources.

The day the swales were completed (April 19th 2002) 40mm of rain fell on to the project site in 20 minutes.  This was truly a test to see how the swales would hold up. 

patrick_ full_ swale.jpg (23082 bytes)swale_ full_ 3.jpg (19452 bytes)
5 million litres of water saved from eroding more soil and allowed to penetrate deep into the earth. 
These are ideal conditions for tree development.
swale_ full_ 2.jpg (15706 bytes)
Only 3 week earlier all of this water would have rushed off the land to the river with tonnes of top soil.

swale_ broken.jpg (21808 bytes)swale_ repair_ log.jpg (11813 bytes)
A few swales suffered some damage, but the system retained its integrity.  Damage was repaired.

bales_as_barrier.jpg (23075 bytes)straw_ bales_ retaining.jpg (24419 bytes)
The straw bales placed strategically throughout the project site worked effectively, building deep layers of topsoil eroded from uphill.

Some bales are brimming with banks of new topsoil and more bales are needed before the next major rain.  The cost of bales is a topic, which has been extensively discussed, but it is obvious from this experience that this is a most worthwhile investment.  For the farmer it means a new ‘instant’ terrace of rich soil, which can bring financial returns in about four months.  It also offers some insurance against crop loss due to flash flood.

The seeds, which were planted a few days earlier, began emerging.

pigeon_ pea_ sprouts.jpg (32422 bytes)tamarind_ sprout.jpg (27832 bytes)
Hundreds of thousands of seed have gone into swales and into net and pans.  Pigeon pea emerging on swale walls (left) and sprouting tamarind in net and pan (right).

tree_ planting_ along_ swales.jpg (37544 bytes)
Thousands of trees were planted throughout the site.

Over 80 species of multi-purpose trees have been planted (see appendix 1).  Many of the trees were purchased from the local community tree nursery.  Seed of all of the species on trial have been provided to this nursery to be grown ready for the next rainy season.

community_nursery.jpg (30489 bytes)baobab_sprouts.jpg (28575 bytes)
Left: Community Nursery members. Right:  Young baobab are
the first to sprout of the many species of seed provided to the nursery.

Vetiver grass has proven difficult to source and is still to be planted.  The absence of this grass in the district suggests a market for a local nursery.

Sisal will be planted in two rows, staggered at 1 metre spacing all along the fence.  In between the sisal, Kei apple (Dovyalis caffra) and Ximenia americana will be planted.  Both these plants produce edible fruits and together with the sisal will make an impenetrable barrier as a secondary fence.

The site provides a perfect location for holding educational workshops.  An interperatation centre will be set up in the future so that groups coming through can be shown videos and be toured around the project.

The adjacent school has requested that a similar approach be implemented on their grounds next year.  In the long-term interest of this project, education will play a key role. 

maasai_ workers_ 3.jpg (20690 bytes)
It is hoped that workers who have acquired new skills will be employed in land restoration.

Some of the industries which are likely to come on stream in the future include:  honey production; seed harvesting, sorting and packing; vegetable and fruit production; building materials; medicinal products; fibres and basketry; papermaking; and charcoal to name a few. 

The wider benefit is to the community in terms of a model of stable land management and food security.  It is hoped that the demonstration plot will be a catalyst in reversing the alarming trend of land degradation in the region.  This demonstration has been privately funded and the aim is to seek additional donor funding channelled through Laikipia Wildlife Forum to implement similar projects throughout the area.

aerial_a3.jpg (112219 bytes)
Click photo for aerial view (110K). Numbers on photo refer to planting.

See List of Species Planted

See Ngare Ndare Rainfall Records

News From This Project

Borana Website

Back to Homepage