Better Globe Forestry

Sosoma ranch

By E M Musyoka - Chairman, Sosoma Ranching Cooperative Society Ltd (SRCS)

Sosoma Ranching Cooperative Society Ltd (SRCS)
was the brainchild of some elders in Ngomeni and Nguni locations of the then Nguni Division of Kitui District. They came together in 1975 and decided that the area in which their ancestors used to graze cattle and which belonged to the state, should be transformed into a ranching cooperative society. The group of elders was led by one Muthangya Mwendwa, who on the formation of the society became its first chairperson.

The society was registered on August 30, 1976 through the District Cooperative Office of Kitui. Subsequent documents of the society were transferred to Mwingi, when Mwingi was gazetted as a district in 1994.

Today, Sosoma ranch lies in three administrative divisions, namely Nguni, Nuu and Ngomeni of Mwingi and Kyuso districts respectively. The ranch has an allotted area of 60,705ha and is fully owned by SRCS Ltd with a membership of 769 as at March31, 2008.

The ranch was granted a leasehold of 45 years starting in 1991. Initially the ranch was intended for raising cattle and goats. With an estimated carrying capacity of 10ha per unit of livestock, it would have been possible to accommodate 6,000 animals. However, when members made their contribution, they raised a mere 88 heads of cattle, which was far below what was required to make the venture viable. This number has dwindled over the years to less than 20 heads of cattle, indicating that the ranch is seriously underutilized.

A number of proposals to ensure the land is properly utilized have been put forward. These have included tree-planting, bee keeping and charcoal production, all spearheaded by KEFRI, and all of which failed to take off as large-scale undertakings. However, KEFRI made a pioneering research study into the use of various unconventional, but very common tree species on the ranch, for charcoal.   

Further studies in the Ukambani region (1999-2003), stimulated by the Belgian Technical Cooperation, the Forest Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Kenya-Belgium Study and Consultancy Fund, somehow bore the seed of a future major forestry intervention in the ranch.

Kilimanjaro Agricultural Cooperative Society came up with an irrigated Cotton Production Project, which was fully embraced by the shareholders of the society. However, the Kilimanjaro cooperative members vanished after facing the harsh realities of the environment.

That did not dampen the spirit of the leaders of SRCS and they continued to search for a partner to invest in the ranch. Thus in May 2008, Better Globe Forestry Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding with SRCS, to undertake a project of planting Melia volkensii (mukau) and Acacia senegal (kilaa) trees. So far, this project is advancing very well and every precaution has been taken to ensure it is a success.

This project is expected to change the entire landscape in the area for, apart from growing trees and creating jobs, factories will be built and a greater socio-economic impact will be felt.

SRCS Ltd has come a long way from a run-down society to this viable proposition, in which member are bound to reap substantial benefits from their investments. This is thanks to the involvement of the government in all levels of this project and the personal support of Vice President Hon Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, who single-handedly ensured that SCRS was granted a letter of allotment in 1991. We look forward to his untiring effort and support as we venture into this investment. Indeed our very own survival as a society now depends on the survival of our trees and related products.

All in all, Sosoma Ranch has a bright future based on tree planting and the accompanying water exploration, which is going on now and which will tie up with wealth and employment creation as advocated in the Government Recovery Strategy, 2003.
 

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