Revitalizing grasslands in Kenya’s dry Amboseli with Maasai women

Southern Kenya, along the border with Tanzania and north of Mount Kilimanjaro, is predominantly inhabited by Maasai communities, which rear their livestock across seemingly endless rangelands. However, these landscapes and their ecosystems are steadily degrading. In these areas, Justdiggit partnered with several local organisations to empower women, who often have trouble starting their own businesses, to restore their landscapes in a way that can financially benefit them.  

In the Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR), Justdiggit works with the Amboseli Conservation Programme and the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust, as well as Maasai Wildlife Conservation Trust in nearby Kuku. Together, they reached out to train groups of Maasai women to develop their entrepreneurial and business skills. Most importantly for this world-famous grassland ecosystem, they are now setting up their own seed banks to accelerate the regeneration of native grass species. These regenerated grasslands can produce hay, which livestock can feed on during the dry season, offering a new source of income for local women. 

The seeds are sold to herders and to local organizations that are running restoration projects in and around Amboseli National Park. To give them a helping hand as their businesses get up and running, Justdiggit pledged to purchase their entire seed production for the next few years. These seeds will be sown into Justdiggit’s soil bunds (a type of water retention technique that uses barriers of stone and earth covered in native seeds). Their goal is to boost the regeneration of natural vegetation.  

With the revenue that they will earn from the project, these women can scale up their businesses, invest in storage facilities that can preserve their product for a longer time, and improve their families’ livelihoods by paying for their children’s school fees.  

So far, Justdiggit and their partners have helped set up six grass seed banks, run by around 150 Maasai women. Because best practices for growing grass seeds the right way depends on deep local knowledge and understanding, the women’s groups are also sharing their experiences and learning how to grow a product of higher quality and value. Justdiggit and and its current and future partners are now planning to help these women leaders set up an additional 16 seed banks. Their goal? Help put more money in the pockets of these rural communities. 

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Mary Bezabeth, Marketing Lead for Africa, Mary@justdiggit.org