The Baringo district northwest of Nairobi is one of the regions in Kenya where a number of mesquite species, Prosopis spp., were introduced some 40 years ago as part of poverty alleviation efforts. The trees were intended to provide, among other benefits, additional income.
Today Baringo is one of the most heavily invaded regions in eastern Africa, with severe consequences for the rural communities. As part of the kick-off meeting of the recently launched, Swiss government funded R4D (research for development) project called “Woody Weeds”, the project team visited the district, one of the case study areas in the project.
During this two-day visit, two communities were visited which suffered from high Prosopis invasion levels. These communities gave an interesting first insight into the dilemmas that have arisen due to Prosopis invasion. The first community we visited utilizes Prosopis for charcoal production and hopes to benefit in the future also from selling Prosopis wood to a local power plant; by utilizing this invasive species the community members gain some financial benefits and at the same time reduce the impacts of this plant on their land.
Irrespective of how the local communities deal with this invasive species, one of the main challenges in management is to find ways to slow down or reduce the spread of Prosopis and mitigate its negative impacts in Baringo (and elsewhere). While the government of Kenya supports local communities in utilizing Prosopis, there is, so far, little scientific evidence that utilization indeed slows down or even stops the spread of this aggressive invader.
One of the key tasks of the “Woody Weeds” project will therefore be the evaluation of the impacts on the environment and rural livelihoods of the various management options against Prosopis and other woody invasive species, such as management by utilization, physical, chemical or biological control, or doing nothing, and to inform decision-makers about the key findings.
Urs Schaffner, CABI