Kajiado county grasslands is under attack by a choking weed, ipomoea purpurea, governor Joseph Lenku declared on Wednesday.
Governor Joseph Lenku with Chancellor Abbas Gullet and his VC Omar Farah on November 21.
Lenku said the weed is quickly threatening local livelihoods by choking pasture in a county that has not walked out of last season’s traits of drought.
It is locally known by the pastoralist communities as Oltiameletei. They say it is a dangerous weed can that threatens to cover all the available grazing grounds in the region.
Lenku, who made the announce during an International conference on science, technology and innovation for sustainable development in dryland management, at Umma University on Wednesday, said it has affected at least 30 per cent of pasture land and getting worse.
“I would like to challenge our scientists, especially those who are here, to help us find a permanent solution to this menace. We shall be glad to enter into a partnership towards this end,” pleaded governor Lenku.
According to plants specialists’ sites, Ipomoea purpurea is mainly a weed of agricultural areas and disturbed sites (e.g. crops, roadsides, parks, gardens, fence-lines and waste areas).
However, it also invades bushland and riparian zones (banks of watercourses) and can be serious environmental weeding warm moist areas, where it chokes out native plants.
Farmers in Mashuuru and Kajiado Central Sub Counties have reported invasion of such a weed in their areas. Others have linked the same plant to witchcraft and sorcery.
This is the first time a senior government official is raising a red flag about the plant that for several years have looked into the eyes of starving livestock during drought.
The weed flourishes and becomes green during drought and from far, it can be mistaken for grass by pastoralists.
Lenku while presenting his speech said he takes cognizance of the fact that like-minded universities have found it worth to engage stakeholders towards direction of enhancing communities’ resilience.
I congratulate Umma University and South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU) for taking the lead in organizing this forum.
“The two universities operate in one of Kenya’s most resourceful drylands and by creating this platform, they have started their intellectual pursuits in this region on a very positive note.
This initiative comes at a time our communities are living the statement “Survival for the fittest,” said Lenku.
He said there is a vicious competition for the available resources and environmental degradation and exploitation through human activities are at peak.
There is need to regulate the communities, industry, urbanization and development needs to achieve sustainability.
“Our people need every available support to help map out solutions to challenges that border on improving food and livestock feed security, access to water (for both domestic and agricultural use) and education,” he said.
The new universities, in Kajiado he said, need to create the required synergy with devolved units and local communities. They need to support production of locally desired skills.
The governor said international NGOs and other humanitarian institutions also have a role to play in building the local community resilience endeavor so that they can curb the occurrence of calamities they are mandated to help address.
“As a government, we cannot allow the continuation of old and retrogressive practices, but look forward to technology, innovation and partnership building for a better future,” Lenku added.
He challenged the stakeholders present to help identify local interest groups for capacity building and research on priority issues, adding that through such groups desired developmental objectives will be met faster.
Governor Lenku said; “Urbanization and industrialization are here with us and while we welcome this development, we must not lose sight of the dire need to protect the pastoralist communities natural and cultural heritage resources”.
The governor said mass hay production and conservation is the next big thing in this county.
“Therefore, we need more impact research that can transform the economic lives of our pastoralist communities. I challenge Umma University and SEKU to focus on that,” he said.
“I also seek your indulgence on how we can transform the harvesting of rain water. We lose so much water during the rainy seasons, yet this water, if well harnessed, can take us throughout the dry spells. Experts in rain water harvesting technologies are welcome to Kajiado, more so if such technologies will go hand in hand with improving the roofing systems of our households,” Lenku finally said.
The theme of the conference was – “Harnessing Dryland Natural Resources for Sustainable Livelihoods in the Era of Climate Change.”
Earlier in his speech, Lenku said he hailed the new partnership between Umma University and Tangaza University College for embracing a vibrant inter-religious dialogue, social transformation and peace building.
Some of the leading scholars in attendance were led by Umma University VC, Dr. Idle Farah. The forum brought together other partner universities, educationists, researchers and other stakeholders.