By Byron Shelton
East Africa is known for having as good of an intact functioning natural system as any place in the world as far as having abundant wildlife with their predators. Some of these animals migrate through the Serengeti/Mara regions of Tanzania and Kenya. Others remain in the same region year round and do not migrate.
The Mara Training Center and Enonkishu Conservancy in the northern Mara region of Kenya is a Savory Institute Hub working to enhance the region’s plant and animal life and increase the economic viability of the region. Mara Beef provides a vertically integrated business selling grass fed beef into the Nairobi market.
With seasonal rainfall of 40” (1,000 cm)/year much forage is grown in the fall and winter months that becomes undesirable by the wildlife throughout the dry season as there are currently not enough wildlife to maintain the forage that grows during the rainy season.
Being unable to decompose on its own, this uneaten forage is avoided by most of the wildlife in the following dry season. They concentrate on areas previously grazed, as that forage remains fresher, causing over grazing and over utilizing. When the next rainy season comes these uneaten or un-trampled plants are unable to grow as they are full of old plant material.
To address this problem the Enonkishu Conservancy is using livestock to improve the forage and ecosystem processes for the wildlife and their predators. Private Masai landowners have agreed to combine their livestock herds and have their herds and land managed by the Enonkishu Conservancy. This allows for increased plant recovery and animal impact through Holistic Planned Grazing that is being implemented.
Neighboring conservancy managers and wildlife rangers are already noticing the difference between their land and the improving Enonkishu Conservancy land where there is more grass and more wildlife. The wildlife tends to follow the movements of the grazing animals.
The Mara Training Center began their training in Holistic Management with Richard Hatfield, an SI Accredited Professional, in 2014 and completed their training in December 2016 with Byron Shelton, Senior Program Director for SI. Byron worked with individuals from the Mara Training Center, Mara Beef, wildlife rangers, conservancy managers, livestock owners, landowners, and university veterinarians.
The Mara Training Center is working to spread the knowledge of managing land holistically to other conservancies in the Masai Mara region to increase the potential for more wildlife and their predators, an improved ecosystem, and increased economic viability for the region.