The lack of red tape in the NAGA grant allowed us to move quickly in locating three woodlands restoration plots and setting up a number of grassland recovery sites around heavily degraded Maasai settlements.
Two woodland plots span the park boundary and include portions of the adjoining group ranch, where they will protect the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust’s Nongotiak Resource Centre from heavy grazing, and the Kitirua Hills spring from trampling by livestock. In barely a month the sites were selected, the fence designs drawn up, the tenders awarded on a competitive basis and construction underway. Two of the woodlands plots are now operational in time to benefit from the rains. In showing Carolyn Greene of African Conservation Centre-US the newly complete Kitirua recovery plot, she was fortunate to catch a bull elephant demonstrating his wariness of the fence (see African Conservation Centre-US)
The grassland restoration plots are based on the traditional Maasai olopololi, thorn exclosures located close to settlements to keep out adult stock and reserve a grass bank for calves in the dry season. ACC, working with Maasai women on Mbirikani Group Ranch near Amboseli at the height of the 2009, set up an olopololi that has since restored the grasslands, provided fodder for calves and grown enough seed to sell the surplus (http://www.accafrica.org/).
The olopololi program has the potential to grow rapidly as a Maasai home-grown solution to pasture conservation and management. A similar program has been adopted by the Il Polei and Munushoi communities in the Mukogodo region of Laikipia (http://www.accafrica.org/).
NAGA, in collaboration with AET, ACC and ACP, is also looking into arresting the heavy soil erosion on the Eremito Ridge where permanent settlements have degraded the grasslands and created heavy riling and gullying.
Restoring the wood habitats and grassland of the Amboseli ecosystem will take many years and call for a broad collaborative effort between the Maasai communities, conservation organizations, the Kajiado Council, safari operators, KWS and other government agencies dealing with livestock and water. On 11th November, the various parties met in Amboseli and agreed to set up a restoration group under the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust to design and oversee a restoration program for the ecosystem. The strongest support came from the Maasai representing the group ranches surrounding Amboseli and spanning the ecosystem.