A New Home on the Rangeland

Originally published on August 13, 2014.

Cattle inside a moveable kraal, which helps to manage cattle and allows the enclosed land to receive urine and manure that serve as natural fertilizer.
Degraded rangeland is an acute problem in Buhera district, where farmers struggle to break the tough soil and animals nibble at dry scrub. With funding from the United States Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Zimbabwe Livestock for Accelerated Recovery and Improved Resiliency project (ZRR) is helping farmers and communities across four districts to tackle this problem by integrating livestock with innovative rangeland management and soil conservation practices.

Under this project, Land O’Lakes and its partner, the African Center for Holistic Management, introduced the concept of a movable kraal. Each night, farmers move their herds into the kraal, allowing that section of land to receive a concentration of urine and manure as well as a good churning of the topsoil by multiple hooves. Every five to ten days, these light-weight metal kraals are moved, until the entire cropping area or poor rangeland has been covered. Over time, this natural fertilizer and tillage improves crop yields and grazing land, as well as water filtration, leading to better household food security, and it reduces labor in that manure does not need to be moved out of the kraals.

Implemented since May 2012, the ZRR project combats the negative effects of years of severe economic decline in Zimbabwe, which, coupled with a series of droughts and unpredictable rainfall, have decimated the small livestock sector. Through May 15, 2014, the project will provide training in livestock production, restock household herds, build community capacity in rangeland management, develop rangeland management plans, revive the livestock infrastructure, and link producers to markets.

The project has established fourteen kraal sites with over 280 animals being used to improve the soil and overall environment. Livestock owners across Zimbabwe are excited about the system as a way to manage cattle and the environment. The next step for the kraals will be further training in more communities in Makoni, Marange, Buhera Mangwe and Bulilima.