Sosoma Ranch is a 60,000-hectare chunk of land in Mwingi, eastern Kenya. It is also the biggest challenge that Better Globe Forestry Ltd faces currently. The ranch is located along a major highway, Thika-Garissa road, which leads to Nairobi. The area is largely unpopulated because it is quite inhospitable.
The owners, the Sosoma Ranching Cooperative Society Ltd, tried to develop the ranch for livestock keeping in the 1970s, but were unsuccessful. The reasons for the failure included undercapitalisation, the hot climate (with a thriving tsetse fly population), drought (no watering points at critical moments), wildlife (lions like to eat cattle for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and a ranch management that could probably have been better prepared for the task.
However, the area is flat, has a good soil composition and quality, no rocks and enjoys good access. In addition, BGF's preferred tree species, notably, mukau (Melia volkensii) and Acacia senegal, grow naturally there.
On the ground, BGF has not yet put its mark. However, a great deal of preparatory work has been done. An MoU has been signed with the owners, after lengthy negotiations. Regular consultative meetings with relevant government representatives take place to ensure possible bottlenecks are cleared even before they occur.
Feasibility studies on both Melia volkensii and Acacia senegal were completed for plantations of 30,000 hectares and 20,000 hectares respectively. Both studies confirmed the ecological, technical and commercial viability of the undertakings.
A hydro geological survey took place for analysing underground water potential, and three different borehole sites were identified. Permission for drilling was obtained, after an environmental impact assessment (EIA) submitted to, and approved by, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), the government watchdog guarding the environment. Another survey has looked at the possibility of establishing earth dams on small seasonal streams in the ranch.
After careful selection, a contractor was commissioned to sink a borehole, but despite all precautions, the borehole was dry. Many boreholes in this and similar areas are dry or yield salty water to varying degrees, making any tree nursery or other work impossible. Unfortunately, the availability or quality of water can only be determined once the drilling has been done.
Luckily there are other avenues to explore and readers of Miti magazine are no doubt familiar with sub-surface and sand dams. The management of surface water will be very important in the establishment of this project.
BGF is off to a promising start here, with full cooperation of the authorities and armed with technical expertise acquired from its planting operations in Kiambere, a similarly tough, though slightly less hostile, environment. An EIA is in the making for planting of 100 hectares in 2015, which will be the start-up of the operations in that area.
|NB: Remember to copy the coordinates as they are or type observing all the spaces between the numbers, to Google Earths Fly in section
|1. Kiambere Site: -0.689822, 37.91|
|2. Nyangoro Site: 02 19.782'S, 040 19.416'E|
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