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Maasai Centre, Kenya

  • Definition
    Devising project idea, defining the aim and main components
  • Design
    Specifying details such as time-frame, budget, target indicators, project partners and relevant steps to reach the project objectives
  • Financing
    Searching and securing funding and investment, setting up relevant financing partnerships, and discussing payment modalities
  • Implementation
    Execution of feasibility studies, context analysis, plot design, planting and setting up facilities and starting with potential capacity-building
  • Maintenance
    Operational phase (monitoring and evaluation, impact assessments and adjustments, execution of educational programmes and long-term capacity building)
  • Scaling Up
    Scaling up phase is when the project it has already shown success by obtaining impact as well as economic results and it's ready to become replicable.

The Maasai Centre for Regenerative Pastoralism (MCRP) and reNature will partner to design a regenerative agroforestry system Model Farm and Model School to train pastoralist farmers in regenerative practices. The agroforestry demonstration plot in Iltareto will be connected to the existing MCRP knowledge centre to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of regenerative farming practices.

The goal is to improve sustainability of Maasai cattle farming and provide women’s groups with income opportunities growing fruits and vegetables. Another important component is to increase their resilience to climate change by decreasing their complete dependence on cattle and introducing resilient farming systems. 

Source: Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism

Risk of soil erosion due to overgrazing

Traditional Maasai livelihoods, herding of cattle in a (semi)nomadic lifestyle, are challenged by a move to sedentary land use systems. When access to sufficient grazing grounds is unavailable, this can lead to deforestation and overgrazing.

Livestock can have a devastating effect on soil fertility if managed improperly. Once land is deforested and overgrazed, the top soil is starts eroding and is swept away during the rainy season, rendering the soil barren and unusable for farming.

Source: Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism

Aside from the local effects of environmental degradation of the natural environment in Southern Kenya, livelihoods are also increasingly at risk from the effects of climate change. Climate shocks such as droughts and extreme rainfall put at risk both the natural system and farmers, who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. To prevent a lock-in of ever increasing degradation by overgrazing and deforestation resulting in decreasing yields and resilience of cattle herding, interventions are necessary. 

Restoring livelihoods with healthy soil

The main activities will be designing and implementing a Model Farm, Model School and support the creation of a women’s group cooperative. We will create an agroforestry system Model Farm based on a food forest fruits and vegetables farming system and a silvopastoral cattle system based on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR).

The Model School program on agroforestry and FMNR will be conducted at the teaching facilities of the MCRP and target women’s groups mainly. A cooperative will be set up to cluster produce and ease facilitation of sales to nearby cities.

This project will have a strong environmental and social impact. It will improve Maasai smallholder livelihoods with a focus on women, restore soil fertility lost by overgrazing and to increase the forest cover by regenerating degraded grazing lands. 

Preserving cultural practices

This project will showcase that successful adaptation of culturally important practices such as cattle holding is possible while at the same time restoring the soil and increasing climate resilience. Inspirational impact is maximised by establishing the Model Farm food forests centrally on communal village land.

In this way exposure of different villages is maximised and the demonstration plot will be accessible for all. Community members, whether involved or not involved in the project, can experience the ecosystem services and microclimatic benefits provided by the regenerative agroforestry system. 

Holistic grazing management

Overgrazing and deforestation has devastating impacts on soil fertility. The MCRP has made great progress teaching about holistic grazing management and our program on agroforestry and FMNR will further support regeneration of grazing lands.

By covering the soil and increasing soil organic matter, it will be protected from soil erosion and provide more ecosystem services like water retention and nutrient provision. On a long term landscape level this project will restore natural tree cover and vegetation and allow local biodiversity to prosper.

Women empowerment

This project will primarily target women’s groups to participate and focus on capacity building for fruits and vegetable production as well as support them in making these products suitable for selling to local markets. Through the creation of a farmer’s cooperative, participating women will have the opportunity to gain an income for themselves and their families.

The introduction of fruits and vegetables will likely improve the nutrition of participating families. Maasai diets are traditionally highly dependent on animal products, maize and beans were added to most of their diets, but lack vitamin rich fruits and vegetables. At a community level the project will decrease dependence on livestock production and increase their resilience to shocks by increasing and diversifying local food production.

The MCRP has a great network of Maasai communities and the potential to scale up this project. By establishing a demonstration plot, visits by other communities have the potential to inspire villages far beyond the selected project sites. As more communities get involved and the size of production increases, it enables the opportunity of value-adding activities, processing and bulking to make commercial activities more viable.

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