Pastoral Womens Council

Environmental Regeneration Efforts in Monduli, Northern Tanzania

Monduli is one of the seven districts of Arusha Region and covers a total area of 6,419 square kilometers. It is also one of Tanzania’s driest districts with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 35°C, while rainfall ranges from less than 500mm in the lowlands to 900mm in the highlands.

The photos above were taken in Selela village in Monduli district, Arusha region. They depict one of the four women owned grass seed banks with the others being in Makuyuni, Loisirwa and Baraka villages in the same district covering 44 acres of land. In the first photo women are preparing the half-moon bunds in October of 2023, whereafter they planted grass in an effort to regreen the land whereas in the second photo shows the grass seed banks in January 2023.  

About the half-moon bunds or earth smiles

This technique belongs to the overall category of water harvesting interventions and consists of half-moon shaped basins dug in earth. The main goal of water harvesting, as the name suggests, is to collect water, and to make moisture available for vegetation for a longer time.  The bunds capture runoff and are used to improve rangeland and increase grass, tree, and crop production.

In order to achieve a longer lifespan for the bunds, it is important to maintain them well. This involves immediately repairing any breakages, especially after construction when the bunds are not yet well reinforced by vegetation. Additionally, the bunds need to be protected from livestock and wild animals.

PWC interventions to support climate change adaptation and resilience

Over the past three years, PWC has been engaging our communities and women groups on the harsh effects of climate change and seeking context specific and appropriate solutions to those challenges. Climate change presents threats to the pastoralist way of life and food security making pastoralist communities particularly vulnerable to climate-related hazards like droughts, famine/food insecurity, and flooding that result in a lack of access to basic quality health services, threatened livelihoods, and food insecurity.

Although pastoralist men and women are equally exposed to climate shocks and stress, women have fewer opportunities to access and control productive resources or engage in alternative climate resilience livelihoods and incomes. Their livelihoods are often wholly dependent on the land and natural resources.

One such solution that PWC piloted in 2023 is the establishment of grass seed banks. These are small parts of communal land that are set aside for production of grass and grass seeds to support restoration of the degraded landscapes, maintain indigenous rangeland grasses and provide income-generating activities for women. The grasses being grown are managed by women groups and protected from grazing livestock and wildlife. Once the grasses are fully grown, they produce grass seeds which are sold by the women in the local markets. The vision for this intervention is that the community members will learn and adapt the practice to their farms and finally reduce the intensity of pasture shortage during the long dry seasons.

The process

We purchased 700kg of grass seeds of which 660kg were Cenchrus and 40kgs of Maasai love grass. Thereafter, the purchased grass seeds were grown in the prepared sites, following best practices for cultivation and ensuring the selected species are well-suited for the local ecosystem and palatable for both wild and domestic animals.

In the course of the year, the grass seed banks faced various challenges during establishment. The prolonged dry period and interference of wildlife being the most challenging issues.

Through PWCs collaboration with TRIAS and JustDigIt, we organized a learning exchange visit to women’s GSB sites in Loitoktok in Kenya. The learning visit ignited the participants passion and interest to implement the project as they observed the positive changes in the environment and lives. The women groups were consistent in weeding and caring for the grass seed banks as well as fencing to ensure they were protected from wildlife.

As a result of the heavy rainfalls in the region in December of 2023, their efforts bore fruit and the half moon bunds were successful in ensuring the grasses utilised the rain. The resulting regreening of the landscapes was nothing short of magical.  The formally bare landscapes have become lush and green.

In Selela village, the women have started harvesting the grass seeds which PWC will buy from them in order to establish other women owned grass seed banks in other village. We will also store the excess grass to sell to community members during the drought season.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *