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Pastoralists strike rich by growing cattle fodder

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Digging half-moons, Maasai pastoralists have reclaimed unproductive land to grow fodder increasing their herd sizes, doubling milk output, and earning money to uplift their community.

Before the half-moons dug in 2018 on 96 hectares of semi-arid Pembamoto Village in Tanzania were full of lush Rhodesia grass, Fanuel Muhuri had no cattle of his own and milked just one and a half liters from the indigenous communal cattle. Seven years on he has a herd of 20 cattle, each giving him three liters of milk daily.

“Most of the land around us was barren desert with limited grazing spots. Today we grow enough pasture to store for use during drought,” Fanuel explained.

The project which was funded by Justdiggit and implemented through the Lead Foundation also enables the village to sell grass foder which is pumped back into the 4,000-plus community.

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In 2020 they sold 2,020 kilograms of Rhodesia grass for TSh1,800,000 which was used to build homes for teachers in the village, the following year they raised TSh2,400,000 to construct school classes and renovate the local dispensary. Due to the severe drought from 2022 to 2023, all the grass grown was used to feed the community’s cattle, averting the scores of livestock deaths witnessed across arid East Africa.

The grass is sold in 20-kilogram batches for TSh1,000 to community members and TSh2,000 to TSh3000 to outsiders depending on the season.

Strategically placed along the sloppy acres of community government-owned land, the half-moon bunds measure 2.5 meters long and 5 meters wide. The bunds and grasses growing on them help to avoid the loss of fertile topsoil as well as capture and store water that was previously washed away when it rained.

The captured rainwater has also encouraged the regrowth of trees and shrubs on the land which was desertified. 

“While environmental restoration was the driving force behind the project, the Maasai pastoralists have taken to it because it gives them adequate feed for their livestock and enables them to earn more money from them,” explained Elias Upina, the Lead Foundation Programme head in Kongwa District.

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It is also cheap to implement and easy to replicable only requiring manual labour to dig the half-moon contours.

The initiative has attracted scouting missions from farmers and government officials from other arid parts of Tanzania such as Morogoro, Arusha, and Singida looking to implement the same.

Photos Courtesy: Lead Foundation

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