Women, the Unsung Heroes of Rangeland Management in Arbahajan Ward, Wajir County, Kenya

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Women play a crucial, yet often unrecognized, role in rangeland management. Beyond caring for small-livestock herds and tending to pregnant, lactating and young livestock, they are key actors in rangeland management. Women possess innate knowledge of resources that they utilize, actively monitoring and preserving resources fundamental to the well-being of both the ecosystem and the community. Their role underscores the importance of gender-inclusive approaches in promoting sustainable and participatory rangeland management.  

AICCRA (Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa) works with national and regional partners to transform climate services and scale climate-smart agriculture, increasing access to and use of CGIAR innovations. One such innovation is participatory rangeland management (PRM) which has resulted in significant impacts on good governance including women’s participation, land and livestock productivity and communities’ commitment to restoring lands. Piloted in Baringo County with the support of the CGIAR Research Initiative on Livestock and Climate, AICCRA is now building capacities in other counties to scale PRM.  

As part of this scaling, in 2023 PRM was introduced to Arbahajan Ward, Wajir West Sub-County, Wajir County, a much more arid area of Kenya than Baringo offering a different context and likely set of challenges. ILRI is leading this process working with Kenyan NGO RECONCILE and the Wajir county government. 

Arbahajan Ward, much like other pastoral areas, heavily depends on its rangelands for sustenance and livelihoods. These expansive lands house vital resources, including grazing areas for livestock and medicinal plants for humans. Pastoral women play a significant yet often underestimated role in rangeland management. A stakeholder mapping exercise undertaken as an early step in the PRM process identified some of these essential tasks.  

Livestock is key to livelihoods in Wajir County, Kenya but coping with drought is an increasing challenge. Photo by I.Mukalo/RECONCILE.
Livestock is key to livelihoods in Wajir County, Kenya but coping with drought is an increasing challenge. Photo by I.Mukalo/RECONCILE.

Women prevent bushfires. One of the foremost challenges in rangeland management is the constant threat of bushfires. Women in Arbahajan Ward actively monitor and prevent these destructive events. Their vigilance is essential for preserving rangeland health and preventing the depletion of pasture vegetation cover, crucial for the well-being of livestock.

“We contribute a lot to rangelands management. We raise the alarm by screaming when fires happen. We also participate in putting it out.” (Female stakeholder mapping participant). 

 Women not only respond to potential bushfires but also serve as educators within the community. They inform others about the dangers of bushfires and the importance of preventing them. This awareness-raising effort significantly reduces the risk of wildfires and the negative impact on the rangelands.  

 “We do this at every opportunity we get, as we know that healthy rangelands translate to healthy livestock, which makes it easy for us to get food and take care of our families. We are very keen to ensure that everybody knows how to take care of our resources. We suffer a lot when there is no pasture.” (Female stakeholder mapping participant). 

Women are responsible for fodder and pasture storage. Managing and storing fodder and pasture resources is another vital responsibility of women in Arbahajan Ward, particularly in preparation for drought. However, the shortage of adequate storage facilities poses a challenge, jeopardizing their ability to make the most of extended periods of grass plenty.

Women educate on grazing patterns. Sustainable grazing practices are key to preventing overgrazing and ensuring the long-term health of rangelands. Women in the community actively engage in educating herders about appropriate grazing patterns, emphasizing responsible livestock management to protect the balance of the ecosystem.

Women raise awareness on the negative impacts of charcoal burning. Charcoal burning poses another threat to rangeland health, potentially leading to deforestation and land degradation. Women in Arbahajan Ward play a crucial role in raising awareness about the negative effects of charcoal production on the rangelands. Their efforts promote responsible land use and sustainable management practices.

To disseminate information and raise awareness on good rangeland management practices, women in Arbahajan Ward leverage local radio stations like Star FM. Actively participating in radio programs and calling-in during specific time slots, they discuss topics related to rangeland management, including bushfires and sustainable practices. These radio initiatives extend the reach and impact within the community. 

Women in Arbahajan Ward are the unsung heroes of rangeland management. Their dedication to monitoring, educating, and preserving rangelands is fundamental to the well-being of both the ecosystem and the community that depends on it. Their role exemplifies the importance of gender-inclusive approaches to sustainable land management. The involvement of women in these critical activities highlights their integral role in maintaining the ecological balance of the rangelands and promoting practices that benefit all stakeholders. 

Header image: Visit to the Kulmie Women Group Project during the Rangelands Stakeholders Mapping in Arbahajan Ward. Photo by I.Mukalo/RECONCILE. 

Story by Irene Mukalo, Head of Programs, RECONCILE.


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