Protecting Against the Threats of Climate Change
A new initiative helps a livestock keeper and his community prepare for the future.
Yohana Lesirkon has spent the majority of his 46 years raising and herding livestock in northern Tanzania. As a Maasai, Yohana depends on a healthy herd as the main source of wealth for his family. But due to increasing livestock numbers, land conversion for farming, and the impacts of climate change, he and others in his community face a shortage of grass for their cows, sheep, and goats to eat.
“We are seeing prolonged periods of drought, less rainfall, and higher temperatures compared to previous years,” he explains. “This has been a big problem for me. Some of my livestock have died.”
Due to longer dry seasons, Yohana and his fellow community members realized that they needed to manage their pastures in a different way.
“Too many of our livestock were grazing in the same areas during the plentiful rainy season,” he says. “Then we were left with bare ground during the dry season. When the rains finally came again, the water runoff led to soil erosion and degradation of the environment.”
Yohana Lesirkon visits a grazing area in the village of Loibor Siret. (Photo: African People & Wildlife/Neovitus Sianga)
To help make sure communal pastures are protected over the long term, Yohana joined APW’s Sustainable Rangelands Initiative. The program supports teams of community rangeland monitors to assess the status of their grazing areas via a mobile-based reporting system.
The teams feed information to local grazing committees, including data such as the height and color of the grass, the percentage of bare ground, the presence of invasive plant species, and accompanying photographic evidence. After analyzing this information, the committees sit down with their respective governments to decide where and when community members can graze their livestock.
"We are seeing prolonged periods of drought, less rainfall, and higher temperatures compared to previous years."
A community rangeland monitor measures the grass height in a local pasture. (Photo: African People & Wildlife/Laura Milton)
Early successes are already noticeable. In the pastures of Ngolei, between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks, important plant species are returning, along with Grant’s gazelle and other wildlife.
“Because of this project, our communities are able to work together in a collaborative, scientific way,” says Yohana. “We’re already starting to see an improvement. Pastures that used to be bare now have grass growing. We also have transport assistance that allows us to monitor and manage areas that were difficult to reach before.”
APW is implementing the Sustainable Rangelands Initiative in 10 communities in northern Tanzania. The program will continue to expand to more locations in the coming years.
Despite ongoing environmental threats, Yohana is optimistic about the future. “I am hopeful that this project will help to educate future generations and prepare them for the challenges of climate change and invasive plant species.”
Learn more about the ways APW empowers communities to sustainably manage their natural resources.