Holistic Grazing Land Management and Restoration

Hausner Wendo
Published: 30 July 2018
Last edited: 06 February 2023
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Pastoralism is a livelihood system that currently faces pressure from various factors. Key among them are climate change-driven droughts and pasture depletion from overgrazing; this has been evident in most parts of Mt. Kulal area, Marsabit County. The main resultant problem from the foregoing situation is degradation of grazing lands beyond ability to support livestock. This trend needs to be stopped and reversed to avoid total collapse of pastoralism as a source of livelihood.

Working in the area, VSF Germany, utilizing an approach called Holistic Natural Resource Management, implemented community-based grazing land management and restoration, focusing on local pasture species and traditional land management practices. The solution is composed of three key approaches or building blocks: improved grazing land management; restoration of degraded grazing land and local grasses; community linking and learning; and livelihood support through introduction of fruit and fodder trees.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Grassland ecosystems
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Genetic diversity
Land management
Local actors
Traditional knowledge
Erratic rainfall
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Lack of food security
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Sendai Framework
Target 1: Reduce global disaster mortality by 2030
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030


Marsabit, Eastern Province, Kenya


  • Climate change-related unpredictable rainfall trends disorganizes community-managed grazing patterns.
  • Overgrazing due to human and livestock population increase threatens biodiversity and diminishes ecosystem services as rangelands exceed their carrying capacity.
  • Low resource allocation to County departments of Agriculture, Livestock, Water and Environment hampers ability of technical resource officers to support communities.
  • Decline of customary grazing and natural management systems has resulted to inter-communal competition for pasture and water leading to rangeland over-exploitation and resource-based conflict.
  • Climate change and over-grazing is diminishing or leading to the disappearance of some local resilient and nutritious species of grasses suitable for the local agro-ecological system.
  • Weak local resource governance structures hamper enforcement of community natural resource management bi-laws, regulations and codes of conduct.


  • Local communities in 8 villages.
  • Women and children benefit most from improved livestock productivity.
  • Local government rangeland resource managers.

How do the building blocks interact?

The building blocks are integrated to form an approach known as Holistic Natural Resource Management, which is a variation of landscape management of ecosystem management and restoration. The understanding is that sustainable management of ecosystems like rangelands providing imprortant pasture, fodder, and water resources to sustain a socio-ecological system like pastoralist requires consideration of factors across the entire environmental spectrum i.e. Ecological, Economic, Social, and Cultural. This this approach tries to bring together ecological approaches like management and restoratio of ecosystems with social, economic, and cultural considerations such as governance, inter-communcal relationships and livelihoods. Only when these factors are considered together in a synergistic relationship can there be sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services for livelihood support in pastoralist areas.


Environmental Impacts

  • Pasture enclosures and reseeding of degraded grazing lands allows natural rangeland regeneration as trees, shrubs, and local grasses are allowed to thrive.
  • Management of invasive species through clearing enables useful local species to thrive, particularly grasses and other forms of undergrowth.
  • Controlled grazing under community-managed rangeland governance enhances ecosystem health and species diversity by improving grass and fodder productivity.

Socio-economic Impacts

  • Improved ecosystem health enhances pastureland productivity thus supporting viable pastoralism for food security and income generation.
  • Introduction of fodder trees enhances productivity of small stock (goats and sheep) and is an effective disaster risk reduction strategy as the fodder supports and minimizes loss of weak animals during drought.
  • Introduction of fruit trees improves nutritional diversification by providing vitamin particularly for children while supporting food security and improved household incomes for those that can produce enough to sell.

Long term Socio-ecological Impact

  • Strengthened socio-ecological resilience for pastoralist communities and supportive ecosystems in Mt. Kulal area.
  • Protection and enhancement of bio-diversity and ecosystem services for pastoralism around Mt. Kulal biosphere.


VSF Germany

“We thank VSF Germany and GIZ for giving priority to peace dialogues: all the communities in Mt. Kulal have had honest, serious talks amongst themselves on peace and sharing the scarce pasture and water resources. We met all other communities in Loiyangalani and discussed issues of pastureland management and restoration, resource sharing and friendly coexistence."

Lepalo Ledungu, Environmental Management Commitee Member (Larachi - Mt. Kulal)

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