Baseline survey on prosopis management in Kenya

1.0 Introduction: about the tree

(Sw.) DC is an evergreen tree native to South America, Central America and the Caribbean. In the United States, it is well known as mesquite. It is fast growing, nitrogen-fixing and tolerant to arid conditions and saline soils. Under the right conditions, prosopis can produce a variety of valuable goods and services: construction materials, charcoal, soil conservation and rehabilitation of degraded and saline soils. Concern about deforestation, desertification and fuelwood shortages in the late 1970s and early 1980sprompted a wave of projects that introduced prosopis and other hardy tree species to new environments across the world. The tree has survived where other tree species have failed and in many cases become a major nuisance. Prosopis has invaded, and continues to invade, millions of hectares of rangeland in South Africa, East Africa, Australia and coastal Asia (Pasiecznik, 1999). In 2004 it was rated one of the world’s top 100 least wanted species (Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN, 2004).

The ALRMP II-funded Agroforestry for Livelihoods Improvement in the Drylands (ALID) project, implemented by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) was the first serious engagement by ALRMP with management of a national environmental problem. The 2 year project (Jan 2005 – Dec 2006) made some impact on engendering awareness on the beneficial uses of the species. This project was mainly successful in helping resource-user groups in Garissa improve their techniques and technologies for better yields: it also provided huge quantities of horticultural germplasm, mainly grafted high-yielding mango fruit varieties, for planting in areas that were cleared of prosopis by the farmers themselves.

1.1 History of introduction

Prosopis was introduced into Baringo district through the efforts of the “Fuelwood/afforestation extension in Baringo” project, a joint FAO/Government of Kenya initiative. This project originated from prior consultations that identified Baringo district as an area needing rehabilitation from over-grazing and over-exploitation of its semi-arid woodlands (FAO, 1985). The Baringo Fuelwood/Afforestation Extension project became operational in February 1982. It was implemented in two phases, phase I from 1983-85 and phase II from 1987-90, with a brief interruption in 1987 when FAO temporarily withdrew project management support.

Prosopis was first introduced in Bura in 1983 when a forester working for the State’s National Irrigation Board (NIB) established a pilot 10 ha plantation near Bura town, using seed of unknown provenance sourced from a commercial tree seed supplier in the Netherlands (Zeila et al., 2004). It is after this introduction at Bura that the species’ prolific growth abilities expanded its coverage in all directions, including spreading to the neighbouring Garissa district.

1.2 The prosopis problem

Invasion and colonisation of lands by alien invasive species tend to have adverse impact on the lives, livelihoods and the native biodiversity of the colonised lands (Jama and Zeila, 2005). More than thirty years after the introduction of prosopis into the drylands of Kenya, there is now increasing concern and debate about the negative impacts of the species on the lives, livelihoods and ecological integrity, as well as the possibilities for its control and perhaps total eradication. Thickets of prosopis have become established in dry season grazing reserves (wetlands), croplands and along river courses. Concerns have been voiced on the impacts of the tree on the biodiversity of native species and on water resource dynamics in dryland streams. The species now features on the IUCN list of 100 world’s worst invasive alien species (Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN, 2004). The species has been referred to as “the species of the politically disenfranchised”: those who do not have the means to undertake or demand development research into identifying uses and markets for this locally abundant species and who are vulnerable to environmental agencies which demand total eradication (Bakewell- Stone, 2006).

Communities living in the drylands have registered their complaints that centre on the adverse effects of the species’ powerful and poisonous thorns, its aggressive colonisation of useful habitats such as pasturelands and farmlands, its negative effect on animal health (which consume excessive amounts of seed pods), and its other unforeseen uses, including the use of the impenetrable thickets as hideouts by cattle rustlers in rustling-prone areas of northern Kenya.

Fast-growing, drought and salt-resistant, and with remarkable coppicing power, prosopis has succeeded in colonising large swathes of drylands in Kenya. The species mainly reproduces via seeds, producing one main crop annually. Each seed pod generally carries between 5 and 20 seeds, with potentially hundreds of thousands of seeds produced per mature plant. Animals consume the nutritious seed pods and excrete viable seeds in their droppings, helping to spread mesquite over shorter distances. Cattle are mainly responsible, although horses, pigs, goats and sheep are also known to consume the seed pods. As long as the seeds themselves are not damaged by chewing the process of digestion actually helps germination, especially since the expelled seeds are deposited in moist, nutrient-rich dung. Seed pods are also spread by flooding (CRC, 2003).

1.3 The economic cost of prosopis

It is a nuisance in rangelands where it forms dense impenetrable stands, particularly around waterways, resulting in negative implications for the largely pastoralist economy of Kenya’s ASALs. The large herds in these lands contribute to the spread of the species. The management of the effects of colonisation of Prosopis is widely regarded as an expensive venture, with not many countries reporting success in the fight against the species. Felker (1996) estimates the total environmental cost of prosopis presence in the United States at US$24 billion. African countries, with their weak economic bases and hence low spending on social development ventures, can hardly be expected to provide the enormous resources that are required in anti-Prosopis projects. In Mauritius, for instance, it costs US$10,000 to reclaim a hectare (Dulloo et al., 2000). Control of the species may thus require an integrated management approach, including mechanical, chemical and biological techniques and the use of fire and grazing strategies.

The species has been declared a noxious weed in many countries, including Kenya by NEMA. However, the debate is still ongoing, with many citing the need to factor its useful attributes, such as its potential for meeting the country’s fuelwood and timber requirements. In India, also suffering from the species’ colonisation of what was once the best grazing and pasturelands in the whole of South-east Asia, the species is used by 70% of the rural population living in the vast arid and semiarid lands of the country for fuelwood (Jama and Zeila, 2005). During a preliminary survey, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute and the Forestry Department found the value of prosopis-based income in 2002 to be KSh 154,882 per household per year (Choge et al., 2002).

1.4 Prosopis as an economic resource: case studies from elsewhere

Pasiecznik et al (2001) and Pasiecznik (1999) provide a comprehensive account of the generic uses of Prosopis juliflora. Prosopis plays a leading role in the afforestation of arid lands. Their capability of growing on degraded land under arid conditions has made them especially suitable for this purpose. Being a multipurpose tree, prosopis fits very well into dryland agroforestry systems, controlling soil erosion, stabilizing sand dunes, improving soil fertility, reducing soil salinity, providing fuel energy resources, supplying feed and forage for grazing animals, furnishing construction timber and furniture wood, supplementing food for humans, and promoting honey production.

Prosopis produces good quality fuel of high quality calorific value, which burns well even when freshly cut. It also produces high quality charcoal and its heartwood is strong and durable. It branches are widely used as fencing posts, while its pods which are high in protein and sugars may be important fodder for livestock, and / or food for humans. However, the pods have been reported to result in facial contortions, impacted rumen and constipation among livestock. These ill effects may sometimes result in death. Prosopis juliflora has also been used to shelter agricultural crops from wind and to reduce the movement of soil and sand. Its leaves contain various chemicals known to affect palatability to livestock, but also suppress the germination and growth of crops, weeds and other trees.

Empirical studies conducted in Sudan indicate that wind speed inside a five-year-old Prosopis juliflora plantation was reduced by an average 14 %, while potential evaporation was reduced by 22%. There was also considerable improvement in soil texture and soil organic matter under the tree canopy, with soils under the canopy having higher total nitrogen and available phosphorus, and lower soil pH than soils in the adjacent open field (El Fadl, 1997). Similar studies in the Njemps flats of Kenya’s Baringo district reveal that standing biomass of understory plant species were five times lower under the P. juliflora canopy (Kahi, 2003). Plant cover was also lower under prosopis than in the open areas. Organic carbon and total nitrogen concentrations in soils under prosopis were 13% and 45% higher than in the open areas. An evaluation of the comparative performance of prosopis against other tree species such as Albizia lebbeck, Azadirachta indica, Dalbergia sissoo, Morus indica, Populus deltoids, Syzigium cuminii and Syzigium fructicosum found that prosopis seedlings had the highest survival rate, height gain, girth growth and the highest primary biomass production.

The importance of prosopis as a dryland resource is illustrated in India where it is considered a valuable tree species of the desert ecosystem, particularly in the arid zone of the north-western Gujarat state. There, it constitutes a large percentage of vegetative cover, producing about 25 to 30 tons of biomass/ha/year at a short rotation age of 4 to 5 years (Varshney, 1996). It also has a tremendous potential for pod production. Between 1990 and1995, the Gujarat Agricultural University, collected about 2000 metric tons of pods, generating about 100,000 man-days of labour. During the same period the university collected, processed and marketed about 300 metric tons of honey, which generated about a half million man-days of labour, an important source of employment and income for local people. In addition, the Gujarat Agricultural University manufactures charcoal from Prosopis juliflora for the government of Gujarat. Between 1990- 1995, it manufactured about 300,000 bags of charcoal and generated about 300,000 mandays of labour demand.

In Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil, Prosopis pods are an important source of animal feed (Felker and Moss, 1996). In Peru, pods of especially sweet varieties are used for human food. Prosopis juliflora pods are a valuable low cost fodder in the semi-arid areas of north-eastern Brazil (de Barros et al, 1988), where it partly offsets fodder scarcity during the dry season.

The remarkable economic and physiological characteristics of Prosopis juliflora make it a prime contributor to the development of many arid regions, especially if its invasive habit is controlled and the thorns that limit its widespread acceptance are controlled. Efforts are underway in different parts of the world to moderate these unwanted attributes. New erect Prosopis clones with small thorns and high production of highly palatable human pods have been identified in Peruvian field trials (Felker, 2002). These have had exceptional performance in field trials in Haiti, Cape Verde and India. India’s mesquite improvement program is involved in the large-scale collection of seeds of superior mesquite trees, both within the country and abroad (Singh, 1996).

2.0 District summaries

2.1 Garissa District

Garissa district is one of the districts most affected by prosopis infestation. This infestation seems closely linked with the river meandering course of the Tana River. A recent study conducted on the woody biomass available in the district suggests that there is enough standing biomass (as of 2005) to support the entire energy needs of the 130,000-person refugee complex in Dadaab for a whole 17 years. The study also computed the annual charcoal consumption in Kenya and reported that the then available woody biomass could last the country one year of national supply based solely on prosopis charcoal<a href="http://www.csdikenya.org/MembersB/EditPage/editPage.jsp?

2.1.1 Situation report: ongoing programs/activities[3]

As of present, both ALRMP Garissa and KFS Garissa are engaged in, or are planning to engage, prosopis management interventions, although not on the scale that will achieve much result in engendering popular awareness on the value of alternative beneficial uses of the tree. ALRMP II reports that there is one youth group that is under consideration for funding. This group proposes to promote charcoal production from prosopis wood as an alternative livelihood. It was proposed that CSDI provides training to this group on the use of relatively efficient charcoal production methods, such as the Casamance kilns that CSDI has been promoting in the three districts.

ALRMP uses the framework of participatory integrated community development (PICD) as a planning tool for entry into communities, where the communities prioritize projects and programs in the subsequent community action plans (CAPs). ALRMP reported that some communities in Garissa had mentioned in their respective CAPs need for training on beneficial uses of the tree that will ameliorate the many negative impacts of the tree.

In collaboration with the KFS (through the Garissa District Forestry Officer – DFO) ALRMP had developed a workplan to build the capacity of two (2) common interest groups that would take up prosopis development and management programs as income generating activities.

In Dadaab refugee complex, which now hosts about 300,000 mainly Somali refugees, the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in close cooperation with the UNHCR for a number of years ran an energy project whose main objective was to provide the refugees with fuelwood for cooking. The project operated in a way that enabled the local host community to benefit by gathering dried wood, which were then weighted and sold to GTZ. However, this inadvertently resulted in massive land degradation and desertification in the general Dadaab and neighbouring areas, evidenced by the massive dust bowls that usually engulf the area. In addition, the project was deforesting 650 ha per year, while re-afforesting in the same period only 100 ha.<a href="http://www.csdikenya.org/MembersB/EditPage/editPage.jsp?
GTZ was convinced of the need to refocus away from the indigenous tree varieties to the problematic prosopis. A food-for-work (FFW) project run by GTZ then commenced in 2005, running for about nine (9) months. 300 ha of originally prosopis-infested land were cleared, mainly in the Ifo camp. However, nothing was done to regenerate vegetative growth in the cleared and subsequently prosopis, a coppicing species, re-colonised the now-bare-again land and established itself in an even more remarkable manner.

In 2007, GTZ and the UN on a small scale began a program on harvesting prosopis poles for shelter (the Somali tukuls). The refugees began harvesting the tree poles and selling them to UNHCR, which gave them to the new entrants into the camps from Somalia to make new tukuls. In addition to this, GTZ, the UN and KFS started a pilot project to supply prosopis fuelwood to the refugees in the camps. Tendering for this program is done in the camps while the harvesting is done along the Tana. About 50MT was supplied to the camps initially: the program was then upscaled to 150MT. There are now plans afoot to increase the tonnage to between 700 and 1000MT. however, there are unforeseen political pitfalls: energy is a political issue in Lagdera constituency, where the refugee camps are located. Awarding of the fuelwood contracts is a form of political patronage between the political and administrative leadership and the society’s businessmen.

In relation to the two other districts, there is a relatively vibrant market for prosopis products such as charcoal and timber in Garissa. Yards specialised in prosopis poles and charcoal are now increasing in Garissa: supervision and oversight is still needed, however, to ensure selective cutting and burning, and if possible complete extraction of stumps to minimise massive coppicing. CSDI held a number of focused group discussions with businessmen who directly use prosopis products (such as hoteliers and building contractors) as well as with farmers and the charcoal producers themselves. It emerged that KFS Garissa has given special permits to some charcoal producers, who are restricted to the production, movement and sale of strictly prosopis charcoal. This is meant to assist is arresting the spread of the species while at the same time reducing the pressure on indigenous trees. The KFS Garissa office reports that almost 90% of all charcoal sold in Garissa is made from prosopis wood, although there is no study yet that has been done to quantify the household energy consumption/budgets. KFS plans to have a demonstration plot along the Tana, with the objective of showing to interested groups how the species can be managed for maximum beneficial uses. There is, however, need for training on best-bet forest management practices, such as on pruning.

Compared to charcoal from the various acacia variants, prosopis charcoal is cheap: it retails at KSh 160 for every 25kg bag. This jumps to KSh 180 during the rainy season when the supply is constricted due to inaccessibility of the usual charcoal production zones, which are mainly along the course of the river Tana. However, the legislative environment is not yet conducive to large-scale charcoal production. The government plans to enact subsidiary legislation/regulations for charcoal production, which have provisions officially allowing the production, movement and consumption of charcoal made from prosopis: this is apart from allowing its other uses as timber poles and animal feed.

2.2 Baringo District

In Baringo district (shaded in the map below), prosopis is largely confined to Marigat division (about 100kms from Nakuru, on the bottom of the Rift Valley), which itself covers an area of 1,276km2. The area, mainly rangeland, has flat lands and scarp elevations between 1,000 and 3,000 meters above sea level. The area has two water bodies, Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria. These are smaller lakes in the Rift Valley system of lakes that bisect Kenya from northeast to southwest. Lake Baringo (130 km2) is a fresh water lake, while Lake Bogoria (34 km2) is a salt-water lake that is globally renowned for its high population of migratory birds. The catchment area for the lakes includes escarpments, steep hillside areas, rolling hills leading down to the lakes and small flatlands near the lakes.

Rainfall is highly variable, both annually and interannually. Average annual rainfall is 650 mm with weak bimodal peaks recorded from March- May and June-August. Temperatures vary from 30oC to 35oC and can rise to 37oC in some months. The monthly mean maximum temperature is usually 30oC; with the mean minimum varying from 16- 18oC. Vegetation in the area is comprised of Acacia trees (mainly A. tortilis) in association with Boscia spp and Balanites aegyptica and bushes of Salvadora persica. The ground is generally bare springing up with ephemeral herbs when it rains. This sparse vegetation gradually gives way to bush savanna grassland towards the uplands in the eastern, western and southern extremities of the area. Vegetation becomes sparser towards the north of the area.

Soils are mainly clay loams with alluvial deposits derived from tertiary / quaternary volcanic and pyroclastic rock sediments that have been weathered and eroded from the uplands. They contain high levels of P, K, Ca and Mg and low levels of N and C. They range from acidic to slightly alkaline. While the soils are generally fertile, high evapotranspiration rates and low variable rainfall create water scarcities that limit intensive agricultural use. Irrigation practiced on Ministry of Agriculture demonstration plots yields a wide range of products including maize, tomatoes, onions and watermelons

The CSDI team visited Loboi and Ngambo areas of Marigat. According to our key informants (local residents and government officials) these two areas represent a density gradient from very high densities of prosopis in the Ngambo areas where the initial planting sites were, through to Loboi on the northern edge of Lake Bogoria, with moderately dense stands. The Loboi area is at the edge of Lake Bogoria National Reserve where there are individual prosopis trees

2.2.1 Situation report: ongoing programs/activities

A range of formal government organizations, non-governmental organizations and traditional institutions are active in Baringo District. In Marigat Division there is a heavy presence of government administration, including line ministries such as Agriculture, Livestock and Marketing, Environment, Health, etc. The Rehabilitation of Arid Environments (RAE) Trust is a non-governmental organization that has been active in range rehabilitation and reseeding in various parts of the Division for more than 20 years. In order to stimulate an interest in the commercialization of Prosopis juliflora products, RAE Trust in 2004 purchased prosopis poles from individuals in Ngambo location. RAE also managed to mobilise the community in Salabani and Kampi ya Samaki areas of Marigat division to remove mechanically prosopis trees in an area measuring 2,000 ha. This cleared land was subsequently re-planted with grass species, especially Cenchrus ciliaris. This was to prevent prosopis from re-colonising the cleared land again, keeping in mind that prosopis has a huge underground reservoir of dormant but viable seed bank. This was also in keeping with experiental learning: KEFRI had cleared some land using communal labour in the same area but because the now-bare land was not replanted with some vegetation to ward off prosopis, re-colonisation had occurred, rendering the earlier work fruitless.

KEFRI ran a 2-year prosopis project funded by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN (FAO) and subsequently received funding from the CDTF for programmatic interventions in prosopis management. Baringo was used by KEFRI to generate the methods they are now applying to control the spread of the species. KEFRI established five farmers field schools (FFS) and were trained on prosopis management principles in demonstration plots, including pruning, thinning and growing of grass on cleared areas to exclude prosopis regeneration.

Besides the group plots individual members are now using the newly acquired techniques on their own farms. As in Garissa, KFS has given some groups and individuals harvesting and movement permits for prosopis products. However, commercialisation of prosopis products is still too low compared to the existing market niche and potential.

2.3 Tana River District

Of the three districts, Tana River is the most affected by prosopis invasion in that it has the largest prosopis standing biomass. It was also the first district in which the government of Kenya introduced the species, with the original intention of ensuring self-sufficiency in wood products, making the environment habitable and safeguarding the existing natural vegetation from over-exploitation by the rising human populations. Prosopis was first introduced in Bura, Tana River, in 1983 when a forester working for the National Irrigation Board (NIB) established a pilot 10 ha plantation near Bura town, using seed of unknown provenance sourced from a commercial tree seed supplier in the Netherlands (Zeila et al., 2004). It is after this introduction at Bura that the species’ prolific growth abilities saw to it that it expanded its coverage in all directions, including spreading to the neighbouring Garissa district.

2.3.1 Ongoing programs/activities

Interestingly enough, this district even though having the largest standing prosopis biomass of the three districts in this study has the least commercialisation of the species. The World Agroforestry Centre ran a 2 year project, funded by ALRMP II, with the aim of arresting the spread of the species by commercialising its products. This was done through training common interest groups in these aspects (technologies and techniques of charcoal production, timber, wood carving and animal feed production). The project also supplied some equipment in this regard. Some of these are still lying unused in the compounds of the groups, and CSDI’s impression is that it will take some time for the markets to respond to the presence of prosopis. In Hola, there is, for instance, little demand for charcoal: most of the residents use fuelwood instead. This means that there will be little motivation for investing in techniques and technologies that will not yield much investment return to the end users and to ALRMP/DMI. However, the CIGs such as charcoal producers can form marketing cartels and eye the large neighbouring Garissa market.

KEFRI has invested heavily in trainings for the CIGs in production techniques: cooking human food, sawing, charcoal, etc. A 5-acre demonstration plot was also set aside in Bura. In the plot prosopis management techniques were demonstrated: thinning and pruning regimes and stump killing methods.

There exists a market for prosopis wood carving in Malindi district, which neighbours Tana River. Malindi is on one of the main tourist circuits in the country. It would be profitable to train wood carvers in Tana River to make artistic figurines, which can then be sold to the tourists who flock to Malindi and perhaps even Mombasa. In this regard, Tana River is well placed to take advantage of this since it has the most mature trees with good quality wood.

3.0 Constraints to adoption of prosopis management and utilisation and identification of the support needed by communities

After exhaustive analysis of the issues raised during our meetings with district stakeholders, we have come to the understanding that lack of appropriate silvi-cultural education, extension services, infrastructure and incentives are the main constraints to adoption of prosopis management and utilisation technologies and techniques in the three districts. Beside lack of knowledge, the most obvious constraint is the inadequate capital and lack of experience among pastoralists/farmers. Security of land tenure is another important constraint.

3.1 NRM training/education and technologies

In so far as tree/forestry education is concerned, we have observed that communities living in prosopis affected areas have not had trainings that would enable them to appreciate the potential useful services and uses of prosopis. Forestry education has to include people’s education. Social forestry needs people who are dedicated. Both men and women must be inducted into forestry and given basic knowledge of prosopis management for optimal benefits.

Currently too, there is little exposure of the farmers and pastoralists to new techniques and technologies that can be used to control the spread of the species. Such technologies as the Casamance carbonisation technologies need to be made available to the end users of such technologies through in situ trainings and access to these technologies.

3.2 Forestry extension

The implementation of social forestry requires support activities and institutions which is possible by the creation of community-based suitable prosopis forestry support and extension organizations both at district and divisional levels. Training in extension methodology and technology should be imparted to the organisations. The strategy for the popularization of prosopis forestry should include the establishment of a number of field demonstrations: this is already happening in some of the districts. Popular active viz. local bodies, marketing cooperatives and school going children should be secured in these demonstrations.

Prosopis forestry extension education should aim at three main types of changes in human behaviour in relation to prosopis resources utilisation and management: knowledge (what people know), skill (what they can do), and attitude (what they think and believe) through good demonstration areas, proper publicity and proper literature. The ultimate aim of prosopis extension education is to make people conscious of the importance of prosopis, their rational use and also to inspire people to create wealth from what is now seen as a negative infestation.

3.3 Prosopis research

The dearth of appropriate research is also a constraint in the success of prosopis utilisation and management, which would otherwise have had the function of improving understanding of the tree and its usage. We have no answers to fundamental questions regarding its usefulness in intercropping with horticultural crops (the main agricultural industry in the three districts); effect of trees on soil fertility and yield, among other issues.

3.4 Incentives

Incentives are needed if popular participation in prosopis management is to be achieved. These incentives can be in monetized or non-monetized forms. It would bring very positive results if some incentives are provided to the people to motivate them, especially on land tenure. These could be in the form of lease of land to the landless or even better leasing prosopis-infested land to the private sector, as happens in Indian drylands. The private sector would be given leaseholds on these ‘wastelands’ to, for instance, deal in charcoal production from prosopis. These leaseholds can be valid for a year. The sector would then take care of dealing with prosopis. In addition to the private sector, the leaseholds can also be given to community-based organisations, which are then provided with such sweeteners as machinery to produce charcoal or other wood products. They can be provided with heavy machinery for levelling of infested land, certificates and prizes for good performance, interest free (or low interest) loans by banks and marketing facilities.

As part of incentives CSDI with its partners need to look at the role of markets in enhancing wide-scale use of prosopis products. The partners need to invest in enhancing the capacities of the affected community groups to market their products: they can be helped create common-interest marketing cooperatives and then facilitated with trainings on how to conduct effective marketing campaigns.

3.5 Government policies: resource use and land tenure

Government policies shape responses to the management of the species. Government policies may also constrain the range of possible profitable uses of the species. For instance, the ban on charcoal transportation may discourage more intense and profitable use of Prosopis products, which may have contributed to controlling the species’ rapid spread. GIS studies, which are complemented by socio-economic/livelihood research, can help in shaping government policies and response on the species by advocating for the establishment of a longer-term management framework. This multi-faceted framework will be used for monitoring and assessment of the species dynamics and putting in place a mechanism for rolling back the species while supporting the livelihood systems recover from the implications posed by the species. The results of the programme can also be used to extrapolate long-term implications of the species for vegetation resource dynamics and hence put in place remedial measures as necessary, since the economic mainstay of the population is livestock production.

The government procured algarobius weevils for biological control of the species through arresting of the seed production capability. This was successfully done in quarantine conditions at KEFRI Muguga. However, although the authority to release the biological control agents into the field (starting with Baringo) was received in early 2007, the livestock feeds industry lobbied and requested a two-year stay of execution (2007-2009) to allow them to test inclusion of prosopis as a component for formulation of commercial feeds.

However, all these efforts at containing the spread of the species may be in the final analysis fruitless with land tenure reforms. Land is a critical productive asset, and many livelihoods depend on this asset. For the poor ASAL population, land degradation is a major factor that affects their ability to achieve food security and improve their standard of living. Because ASALs typically have low vegetation cover, they are particularly vulnerable to mismanagement that results in the removal of grasses, bushes and trees protecting the thin layer of fertile topsoil from wind and waterborne erosion. Poorly-managed, intensified land use and deforestation of productive drylands result in land that cannot support agriculture – and sometimes not even pastoralism.

Traditionally communal ownership in the drylands reflected the complexity of ecological conditions. Changes beginning in the colonial era, and accelerating since independence of Kenya such as the creation of district borders which restrict mobility, repeated droughts, zoning off of areas for wildlife protection, a population explosion, surplus production for markets, etc have contributed to the unsustainability of pastoralism.

In the three districts investigated, land tenure is still a problem with most of the land classified as communal/trust land, under the care of the government. Land adjudication has generally not been done, except for a few places in Baringo. It has not been done in Garissa and Tana River at all. Desertification often occurs as a result of structural social and economic problems, including poverty and lack of access to land, and poorly defined or inequitable land tenure regimes. Land degradation and desertification is the precursor to prosopis colonisation of bare lands. The reversal of land degradation is vital for the livelihoods of people of the three districts. This task requires significant investments in land reform efforts.

Sustainable prosopis management can be achieved through support for efficient, effective and equitable common resource use arrangements. This will need DMI and ALRMP II to focus on removing capacity and policy obstacles to addressing prosopis degradation of arid and semiarid lands. Effective, secure, access to land resources can provide an essential incentive for land users to invest in sustainable land use practices.

The DMI and ALRMP II face five major challenges in lobbying and advocating for effective land tenure policies:

  • How to ensure that land tenure systems and land tenure reform processes in ASAL Kenya are truly participatory, accessible, and transparent
  • What institutional structures can be established at local and national levels to support legal aspects of land tenure security and reform
  • How can the national land reform process address the overlaps and contradictions between formal and informal, customary and modern land tenure systems, and hybrid systems
  • How can rights to control over land of marginalized groups, such as women, be promoted and protected
  • How can land tenure systems and land tenure reform processes take a holistic, comprehensive, and co-ordinated, view of the institutional and physical environment

3.6 Perceptions

Peoples’ perceptions of invasive species are determined by whether the species meets their socio-economic needs (Pasiecznik, 2001). In the Indian state of Rajasthan, for instance, local peoples’ perceptions of the prosopis were favourable during the early stages of its introduction. At the time it was a welcome relief from the then imminent fuelwood crisis. Peoples’ perceptions changed later as the species’ negative attributes become clearer and more pronounced: invasion of fertile farmlands, sharp thorns, suppression of grasses and associated vegetation (Zeila, 2005).

Income and wealth levels as well as dominant livelihood strategies are also important determinants of perceptions. The wealthier suburban dweller, who uses bottled gas for cooking, is likelier to have a more negative view of the species compared to the rural person who uses the species for firewood or fodder (Zeila et al., 2004). Pastoralists tend to view the species negatively as it tends to invade useful pasturelands. However, people in districts with strong trading history such as Garissa have mixed feelings. The goatherd finds it hard to live with the species as it tends to outcompete the prevailing, mainly acacia, tree biodiversity and results in diminishing of the available animal fodder biomass. The hotelier, on the other hand, is glad for the opportunity to benefit from the supply and provision of relatively cheap and regularly available charcoal made from prosopis. Therefore, disaggregation of the population into its various livelihood components is the starting point in any programme that is designed to manage the prosopis problem.

This brief account on perceptions and responses leads to the following conclusions:

1. The different livelihood strategies pursued by individuals have a bearing on the distribution of costs and benefits of living with prosopis among communities’ various segments. The directly resource-dependent segments such as pastoralists and farmers will incur higher costs/losses due to loss of pasture- and farmlands. Businessmen on the other hand trading in prosopis products will accrue greater benefits.

2. Women, who are heavily dependent on prosopis for fuelwood, will likely enjoy greater benefits from prosopis than men.

3. The distribution of these costs and benefits will likely influence the perceptions of individuals. Those who incur higher benefits relative to costs will more likely to favour the invasive species, while those whose costs are higher than benefits will strongly disfavour the species.

4. In the absence of joint community rules for management and control of prosopis, it is unlikely that individuals will invest in controlling and/or eradicating prosopis in the communal grazing lands.

5. Individuals will more likely invest in the control, management and/or eradication of prosopis in their own private land.

4.0 Prosopis training modules for ALRMP II staff and stakeholders

The next envisaged course of action for the ALRMP/DMI/CSDI collaboration will be trainings targeting officials from the district ALRMP II officials and other stakeholders. The district ALRMP teams reported being given some training in the use of global positioning systems (GPS). They were also given some training on mapping feature points (like a water pan) using their handheld GPS receiver units, for geo-referencing purposes. However, they have not had the time to do in situ (field-based) GIS training and they were not trained on mapping methodology and software and indeed identified this as a capacity need. The district forestry authorities expressed interest in training on efficient charcoal carbonization methods and technologies.

4.1 Proposed module

Module Timeframe
  • A review of changes in rangeland vegetation and livestock populations in ASALs of Kenya
1 day
  • Introduction to prosopis (mesquite, Algarroba): invasive weed or valuable forest resource:
    • Pod collection, storage, seed extraction
1 day
  • GIS management tools for assessment and monitoring:
    • Introduction to GIS and GPS;
    • Analysis and interpretation of satellite imageries;
    • Ground truthing
2 daysField work included
  • Managing spread of species
    • Management of existing naturally regenerated stands (types, management options for bushy thickets, woodlands);
    • Community participation in prosopis management.
1 day
  • Controlling the spread of prosopis by utilization: realistic approaches to the management of the species.
    • Particular reference to experiences in South African, India, Ethiopia and USA for both fuelwood and fodder production;
    • Also the experiences CSDI in Kenya;
    • Utilization modules: wood utilization as direct fuel, wood as charcoal, wood as timber; pod utilization as animal feed, pod as human food; other direct (exuded gum, seed gum, medicinal) and indirect (honey and bees wax) uses


1 day
  • Developing prosopis as a valuable resource for ASALs: wealth creation methods (economic models for prosopis-based systems for different markets/sites)               


1 day
  • Exploiting the value of prosopis for dryland forestry and agroforestry systems: silvicultural practices, cheap, simple improved kilns for charcoal production, small-scale pod processors, suitable saw-milling technologies for timber production, intercropping, soil conservation, soil amelioration


2 daysField work included
  • Way forward: how to engage best local governments and communities in the management of prosopis through utilization.
  9 daysField work included, can be staggered

4.2 Decision support tools for ALRMP II/DMI

CSDI was required to propose a decision support system for prosopis management in the three arid districts that were under investigation. The purpose of the decision support system is to support future DMI/ALRMP II decision-making on where to make investments and focus in as far as relates to prosopis management. This system will help the two organisations compile useful information from raw data, documents, personal knowledge, outside organisations such as CSDI. This tool will include an inventory of all knowledge and current information on prosopis and actors working on prosopis, prosopis biomass, prosopis-based industrial/marketing sectors. This system will improve efficiency in ALRMP II/DMI response to prosopis problems by expediting it, promote experiental learning and encourage research. We are therefore proposing the formation of district-based prosopis task force, comprising of the three partners organisation, to look into ways of creating a computerised database at the district level that will include the parameters mentioned as the main components of the DSS.

5.0 The way forward

5.1 Markets and marketing

Many people that we met on the study visit remarked that to eradicate prosopis there is only thing that needs to be done, and that is to “attach a value to prosopis” (and by extension its products). This is a function of markets and marketing. Kenya is not the only country confronted with the problem of Prosopis juliflora invasion

From our investigations we deduced that there is market for prosopis products even within the districts, more so in Garissa and Baringo, although there were a few differences in how markets react to particular products in a given district.

Table: Use of prosopis products in the three districts

Product Garissa Town (n=55) Marigat (n=65) Hola (n=60)
No. of respondents reporting use % of respondents reporting use No. of respondents reporting use % of respondents reporting use No. of respondents reporting use % of respondents reporting use
Charcoal 48 87 11 16 8 13
Construction poles 32 58 22 33 29 48
Fuelwood 6 10 47 72 43 72
Pods for livestock fodder 23 41 40 61.5 39 65
Honey 18 32 17 26 12 20


From the table preceding, one can surmise that:

  • In Garissa district, it would be best to invest in development and dissemination of charcoal carbonisation techniques and technologies and facilitate marketing of construction poles;
  • In Baringo and Tana River, it would be best to encourage the involvement of the animal feeds industry.

There is considerable opportunity to learn from other countries where a prosopis menace has been turned into a resource. In India, the Gujarat state authorities in concert with institutions of higher learning have developed programs for the collection, processing and marketing of various products from different prosopis parts, while providing employment to the rural poor. In the late 1990s, the Forestry Research Programme of the UK Department for International Development supported a project by the HDRA in the UK and CAZRI in India to collate information about the most common Prosopis species. The three main conclusions of that effort are that

(1) prosopis can be a very valuable resource for the drylands; that
(2) efforts to eradicate this species are overly expensive and likely to be ineffective; and that
(3) prosopis can be managed to be a very valuable source of commercial products and livelihoods in the drylands.

An ALRMP II team visited the drylands of India in May 2005 to acquaint themselves with India’s efforts in this regard and came with valuable lessons learnt.

Calculated learning and borrowing from India’s efforts will not only increase the range of options for dealing with the prosopis menace, but will also likely depress the costs of investment in basic research since there will be no need to reinvent the wheel. Commercialization of prosopis products will be challenging anywhere in Kenya. While it is known that the species also has potential for manufacture into tools, floorboards and carvings, the real economic potential of these enterprises is yet to be demonstrated. On the other hand, charcoal is at once a highly profitable and a highly problematic industry in Kenya, generating revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars from the arid and semi-arid areas, but subject to a wide array of taxation (legal and illegal), regulation and outright harassment (see the next item for more details).

It is especially problematic in Baringo and Tana River districts. Key informant interviews in the Lake Baringo area suggest that most people involved in the charcoal trade are young men hailing from other parts of the country. Due to the existing social norms and structure which places such ‘menial’ jobs at the lowest rung of the society, few local people would proudly claim to be charcoal producers of sellers. Other constraints, apart from cultures, to the development of vibrant markets include:

  • the poor infrastructure (roads, communication) existing in all the districts which prevent interested entrepreneurs from investing in these areas;
  • government policies such as the ban on charcoal movement, which prevented this industry from achieving its potential;
  • dearth of suitable government policies that would have encouraged the private sector to create wealth out of this problem. An example of such a policy would have been granting leasehold rights in prosopis infested areas like along the Tana to individuals or cooperatives through annual auctions where private sector contractors competitively bid for one-year lease concessions; the leaseholders would then contract charcoal producers (labourers) to work on the land and thus contribute to the local economy

Experience from elsewhere in Africa shows that a change in this situation is possible. This may require some changes, such as

  • lobbying for more active involvement and proactive participation of the private sector in prosopis product development and marketing;
  • a package of new technologies that would improve the process of charcoal production (for wood harvest and efficient charcoal production);
  • special labelling of the charcoal as being produced from prosopis for market establishment and penetration – this would also entail provision of in situ testing kits to KFS for random sampling; and
  • local marketing organizations to manage production, marketing, sale and distribution of proceeds.

5.2 The case for prosopis charcoal

Charcoal is the product of the carbonization of wood, which is brought about by heating wood, in the absence of air, to temperatures sufficiently high (e.g., in the range of 400 to 500ºC) that can sustain thermal decomposition. The wood’s physical and chemical properties, its wood content, the heating rate and external pressure determine the nature of the primary decomposition products (KEFRI, 2002). However, the three major factors that influence the conversion yield are (1) the moisture content of the wood at the time of carbonization, (2) the type of carbonizing equipment used, and (3) the care with which the process is carried out.

Charcoal is one of the main ‘industries’ in dryland Kenya, with some estimates indicating that the industry is worth KSh 40 billion. However, it is very inefficient in terms of production, with most of the charcoal sold in the country being made using the traditional earth kilns (TEKs). The traditional charcoal-making technologies in Kenya have, however, one main drawback: low recovery rates, in the case of Tana River and Baringo districts not more than 5%. This means apart from the inefficient and unsustainable use of natural resources, the producers themselves are not getting good enough returns on their investment in the process.

The low recovery rates are mainly due to the poor organization and structure of these kilns. As a result, these kilns generally give rates of usually between 5 and 10%. This can be improved if the charcoal producers modify and improve their kilns. Another factor contributing to the poor structure is that the producers are not motivated to improve their rudimentary production systems because the markets are not good or reliable enough.[5]
In Tana River, for instance, the producers interviewed for this study were not motivated to improve their production system because Hola town residents, the natural market for their produce, mainly use firewood as their prime energy source. However, the Garissa folks have good markets and were very innovative in their charcoal production technologies, with their kilns up to 20% efficient. They also have the opportunity of interacting with, and benefiting from, the skills of Somali refugees, some of whom were involved in the charcoal export business in their country.

There is need to commission a dedicated survey that will look at the markets for prosopis charcoal in the three districts. This survey will attempt to establish and quantify the existing market (both actual and potential) for charcoal in the three districts, the proportion of the energy needs that prosopis meets, focusing on the production rates and consumption levels in the three districts. It will also seek to disaggregate and understand the bottlenecks to the industry in the three districts, more so in Baringo and Tana River. Producer innovation in charcoal production is a function of the existence of reliable markets. This study will try to determine the kind of relationship between the supply and demand sides of the business, and how CSDI can add value to sustainable charcoal production in dryland Kenya.

We propose a six month project on marketing and utilisation of prosopis for charcoal that will focus on Garissa district as a pilot area. The objectives of the project will be: evaluating the relative contribution of prosopis to the charcoal market in Garissa, the merits/demerits of prosopis charcoal (availability, regularity, calorific values), training on best-bet carbonisation techniques (improved TEK/Casamance hybrid), strengthening the capacity of user/production groups in marketing of prosopis products, as well as assisting the stakeholders in the industry to come up with viable market-led programs on prosopis utilisation.

5.1 Other matters outstanding

There is a lot of promise for prosopis utilisation in the animal feed and human cereals industry. One ton of prosopis pods contain an estimated 2 million seeds: thus processing of the pods will therefore significantly reduce prosopis seed pool. In addition to this there are moves to diversify the risks to global agriculture, especially in cereals production. The rising global competition for cereals as human/livestock feed and in the production of biofuels makes it critical to find alternative sources of non-cereal raw materials, and prosopis offers opportunities in this regard. A national workshop to link prosopis markets with the animal feeds industry was held in March 2007 and led to the formation of Livestock Feeds Task Force to coordinate this new niche for prosopis.

Another area that requires intense research is the impact of prosopis on above and below ground diversity. There is need to assess the emergence of herbaceous species under prosopis relative to non-prosopis fields. This research will also seek to determine the seed pool of prosopis and the viability of herbaceous species under prosopis relative to outside fields. We propose that this study determines, in a mechanistic fashion, the cause-effect relationship, with focus on soil analysis, prosopis roots/leave extracts and the function of age and shade on the alleged out-competition of indigenous vegetation.

11.0 References

Esther Mwangi & Brent Swallow, June 2005, Invasion of Prosopis juliflora and local livelihoods: Case study from the lake Baringo area of Kenya. ICRAF Working Paper – no. 3. Nairobi: World Agroforestry Centre

Anderson, Stephan. 2005. Spread of the introduced tree species Prosopis juliflora in the Lake Baringo area, Kenya. University of Umea – SLU, Sweden


Bakewell-Stone, Petra. 2006. Marketing of Prosopis Products in the UK: Feasibility report. HDRA, Coventry, UK

Choge, S. K., Ngunjiri, F. D., Kuria, M. N., Busaka, E. A., Muthondeki, J. K. 2002. The status and impact of Prosopis spp. in Kenya. KEFRI, Nairobi


CRC Weed Management. 2003. Weed management guide: mesquite – Prosopis species. Queensland, Australia


Darkoh, K. 1993. The deterioration of the environment in Africa’s drylands and river basins. In: Laxen, J., Koskela, J., Kuusipalo, J., and Otsamo, A. (eds.) Proceedings of the Bura Fuelwood Project research seminar in Nairobi, 9-10 March 1993. University of Helsinki Tropical Forest Report 9: 17-30


Felker, P. 1996. Commercializing mesquite, leucaena, and cactus in Texas. In: J. Janick (ed.) Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA. p. 133-137.


Geesing, D., Al-Khawlani, M. and Abba, M.L. 2004. Management of introduced Prosopis species: can economic exploitation control an invasive species? Unasylva – No. 217 – Forest threats. An international journal of forestry and forest industries – Vol. 55 2004/2. FAO


Jama, Bashir, and Zeila, A. 2005. Agroforestry in the drylands of eastern Africa: a call to action. ICRAF Working Paper no. 1, Nairobi: World Agroforestry Centre


Pasiecznik, N. M., Felker, P., Harris, P. J. C., Harsh, L. N., Cruz, G., Tewari, J. C., Cadoret, K., and Maldonado, L. J. 2001. The Prosopis juliflora – Prosopis pallida Complex: A Monograph. HDRA, Coventry, UK

Zeila, A., Mwangi, E., and Swallow, B. 2004. ‘Prosopis juliflora: Boon or Bane for dryland Agroforestry?’ The Prunus Tribune, Jan – March 2004 edition. Nairobi: World Agroforestry Centre

Zeila, A. 2005. “Report of ICRAF mission trip to India.” ICRAF report, Nairobi, Kenya


[1]              Memorandum of Understanding between the DMI, ALRMP II and CSDI on Enhanced Management of Prosopis for Wealth Creation and Species Control: Exploratory baseline study (29 September 2008)

[2]              Zeila and Jama, 2005: The study was done using GIS Landsat Thematic Mapper ™ mapping.

[3]              This section attempts to summarise the current interventions, both market- and institutional-based.

[4]              Personal communication with Mr Noor, DFO Garissa

[5]              Zeila (2005): Charcoal from prosopis – study report

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