There are two main components that contribute to healthy grasslands: limited access and proper management. We have found this to be true in Canada but have now seen it in Africa as well. As ranchers, we are constantly trying to keep people off of our grasslands in attempt to preserve them. Nowadays Canadians consider recreation to be: heading out on their four-wheelers to either hunt or drive around; unfortunately, healthy grasslands requires limited access. The most pristine grasslands we have found, in Canada and Africa, are where people access is difficult or discouraged. Here is a picture of an area we found this fall on our range:
This December we had the privilege of going as a family to Kenya, Africa. Erika’s family have been in Kenya since 1907. On my mother’s side, a Propst Family Reunion brought together 65 family members from 6 countries in Africa, Canada and the United States.
Being that Africa is a third world country, the biggest shock to us was the amount of garbage strewn about. In Canada we take for granted our countries wealth which enables us to have garbage removal and recycling. In Africa, so many people are consumed with their daily food and shelter requirements that garbage, and the removal of it, is not on their list of priorities.
On one of our excursions, we drove from Nairobi to the Maasai Mara National Reserve which is a 1500 square kilometer unfenced reserve, managed by the Maasai people. Being out in this area was a huge contrast from being in the populated areas, as it was without people and without garbage.
This protected reserve was spectacularly beautiful, filled with thousands of animals. We were again reminded of our love of beautiful, undisturbed grasslands, wherever they may be.
Although near the edges of the reserve, we saw the impact of people. The Maasai historically are a Nomadic people, although modernization has them moving less. The Maasai’s cattle is their wealth, and with their growing herd sizes: they are running out of grazing. At night they illegally bring their herds into the wildlife reserve to graze, retreating back in the day. This is starting to shrink the reserve because of the over-grazing close to the borders. Our tour guide estimates that only 800 square kilometers of productive reserve remains.
Seeing the massive cattle trail coming into the reserve, poses the question, “Why not restrict the cattle coming in?” But reality is: It’s their land. And the Maasai people are the ones who helped create this useful, open grasslands by their burning and grazing practices. Without their existence and management, the area would most likely have been developed and changed forever. If this landscape was found in Canada, would we have been able to keep it as they have? With protection, endangered species numbers are increasing. The Black Rhino has gone from 12 to 50 animals since 1992.
Wherever there is grassland, it takes thought and management to keep it healthy and productive. Grasslands are an exciting resource God gave us to use. We have to be wise in our use of them.
~Erika & Doug Fossen~