Amboseli’s rangelands are hurting. High numbers of livestock, and the breakdown of traditional rotational grazing practices, have resulted in unsustainable pressure on savannah grasses. Without a protective covering, soils are eroding, and gullies scar the landscape. This degradation has become more severe in the face of a changing climate and extreme droughts like we saw this past year.

When the rains do fall, all of that life-giving goodness runs straight off the hard surfaces as there is no vegetation to slow it down. Enter the humble bund: a half-moon shaped trench which catches water, allowing it to seep into the ground slowly, recharging the groundwater and increasing the ability of vegetation to regrow.

Thanks to critical support from Apple Inc. and Conservational International, Big Life embarked on an ambitious project in 2021 to restore land that had become practically desert-ified.

Two pilot sites of around 10,000 acres were chosen by the community, and a small army of Maasai women and men were employed to dig thousands of bunds – 77,898 bunds and counting - to be precise. 193 jobs were created at a time when the drought left many without an income, and 52 ‘restoration scholarships’ have been awarded primarily to kids from around the sites. Each bund was reseeded with palatable grass species and crucially, the community agreed to restrict livestock grazing to allow the sites to recover.

It hasn’t been easy and the drought definitely impacted recovery, but we have been encouraged by the results. Our partners at Justdiggit and MWCT are doing similar pilots in neighboring areas, and collaborative and ambitious initiatives like these are crucial to large-scale recovery of rangelands.

All life in Amboseli - both wild and human – depends on healthy rangelands, and we hope to expand this work significantly in the years to come.