Indigenous Knowledge on Uses, Availability Trends and Variations of Indigenous Grass Species in Southern Kenya
Patricia Ndung'u1, Oliver Wasonga2, William Mnene3, Yazan Elhadi4, Oscar Koech1
1University of Nairobi, Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technologies, Kenya
Local communities have in the past been invaluable sources of information about their environments and the natural resources that occur within. The inclusion of traditional knowledge alongside scientific research into decision-making processes on natural resource use, particularly of pastures, could improve the adoption rates of proposed policies and technologies thus making our rangelands more productive. To pastoral and agro-pastoral communities that rely on livestock production for 50% or more of their household income, grass is a key resource. Despite the many uses of the different grass species in Kenya's drylands, their role as livestock feed is the most significant. This study sought to investigate local perceptions on uses, abundance, availability as well as variations of key indigenous grasses in southern Kenya using focus group discussions (FDGs), key informant interviews (KIIs) and a review of previous studies in the study area. Indigenous grass species were found to be mostly used as livestock forage. Their trend in availability and abundance was reported to be both increasing and decreasing with the declining trend mainly being attributed to drought (98%), increasing human population (82%), and overgrazing (63%) while the increasing trend was primarily attributed to the promotion of grass species for the rehabilitation of degraded lands and improvement of natural pasture resources. Interestingly, some important species such as Panicum maximum and Digitaria macroblephara have rarely been studied for conservation and multiplication purposes despite their reported declining trend. A number of species were identified by the communities in the study site as having ecotypes with different ecological requirements and different preferences by both livestock and the communities. This warrants further studies to screen ecotypes for their biomass yield, nutritional quality and drought tolerance among other factors in order to determine their suitability for arid and semi-arid lands.
Keywords: Grass ecotypes, indigenous grasses, local knowledge, southern Kenya
Contact Address: Patricia Ndung'u, University of Nairobi, Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technologies, Nairobi, Kenya, e-mail: ndunguluizagmail.com