Sustaining Lives by Improving the State of Rangelands

Published June 24, 2016 by Omar Dahir

yyySoil bunds are among the water retention techniques that were used in the rehabilitation of the valley-Kobdexaad,Bari

Kobdhexaad Valley in the Bari region of Puntland, Somalia, used to be a productive valley with massive vegetation cover of herbaceous species, which is very nutritious for livestock and wild animals.

The valley has been at the heart of the pastoral literature and was praised in poems for its different life-sustaining plants that it proffered in the past. Extensive unsustainable land use coupled with destructive and climatic factors has transformed this landscape into a completely barren, and deserted piece of land that cannot sustain the communities that live upon it.

When the valley ceased to sustain the livestock of the pastoralists in the area, they migrated to nearby valleys and grazing lands in search of pasture for their livestock and water.The Kobdhexaad rangeland degradation is nothing new in Puntland, on the contrary, it’s a typical scene throughout the region. However, the condition of this valley was the most critical after a technical need assessment was been conducted by Natural Resource Management (NRM) team.

NRM 'Your Environment is Your Life" is a four-year project funded by the EU and implemented by Adeso in  partnership  with  CARE  and  Puntland  Ministry  of  Environment  Wildlife  and Tourism (MoEWT), to reduce hunger and food insecurity by the reclamation of rangeland productivity in the Puntland State of Somalia. An assessment of degenerated sites for potential interventions under Adeso’s NRM project was conducted, as a result, Kobdhexaad was considered in dire need of rehabilitation.

The assessment concluded that there was a need for water conservation structures. As a result, the NRM activities focused on using soil-band structures to conserve water and soil, and allow water infiltration into the soil. These water and soil conservation techniques increased the re-emergence of herbaceous again, consequently attracting pastoral households to migrate back towards the valley.

Soil and water conservation interventions were designed for reclamation of rangeland production and increased vegetation cover. The intervention was implemented through Cash for Work (CFW) activities, where casual labourers from the area were paid to construct physical soil and water conservation structures. During a short period, those interventions have led to remarkable environmental and social improvements. They have improved rangeland herbaceous forage production and provided the pastoral beneficiaries with an income source while the CFW activities were being carried out.

Once the interventions were completed, there was a considerable transformation in the valley’s productivity and biodiversity. The pastoral communities in the area were so fascinated by the impact of the intervention. And even though in the beginning they did not fully understand the function of the structure, they quickly perceived its significance and purpose in action.

Abdi Ali, a 38-year-old resident of nearby Kobdhexaad valley, and one of the CFW labourers, who participated in the construction of the structures, mentioned that Geesa qabad valley has noticeably changed. ‘’the valley looks different from the place we worked in few months ago, vegetation has re-emerged, and gradually people are returning back to the valley,’’ Ali said.

“The valley is now sustaining a number of pastoral communities with extensive herding. The improved state of the land impacted the production of milk, fodder, and meat, resulting in better livelihoods for those who reside in the valley and its surroundings. There is also an increase in the immigration levels of the pastoralists seeking pastures for their livestock” he added.

Apart from the income and environmental protection benefits, Kobdhexaad intervention influenced the attitude and behavior of its residents. The interventions instilled the idea that easily-implemented solutions such as soil bunds structures can have long-term and immense beneficial impact on both the environment and the livelihoods of the people.