Kenya faces devastating Prosopis invasion: What can be done

By Purity Rima Mbaabu. Originally published on The Conversation.

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Prosopis in Lake Baringo, Kenya. Photo: ©CABI

Woody plant species have been deliberately introduced into many arid and semi-arid regions across the world as they can help combat desertification and provide resources – like fuelwood – to the rural poor. But some of these alien trees and shrubs have become invasive, having devastating effects on other species as well as people.

This is big problem in the mainly arid Baringo County, in Kenya’s Rift valley as well as other counties north, east and south of the country.

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Scientists recommend measures to contain rapid woody weed spread in Baringo County, Kenya

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A team of international scientists, including CABI’s Dr Urs Schaffner, have recommended ways to manage the devastating spread of the woody weed Prosopis juliflora, where in Baringo County, Kenya, its coverage rapidly increased by 2,031 percent in just 28 years.

PhD student Purity Rima Mbaabu, affiliated to the University of Nairobi and co-supervised by Simon Choge, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Dr Sandra Eckert, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland, Profs. Maina Gichaba and Prof. Daniel Olago, University of Nairobi, and Dr Schaffner, is lead author of new research which states that the rates of Prosopis invasion in Kenya are a ‘major threat to the environment and rural people’s livelihoods.’

The study calls for the ‘urgent implementation of coordinated and sustainable Prosopis management in Baringo County and other invaded areas in East Africa’.

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CABI helps map ferocious speed and likely cause of woody weed spread across Ethiopia

Prosopis on river
Riverbank invasion of Prosopsis

CABI scientists have helped map the ferocious speed and probable cause of a devastating spread of the invasive alien tree Prosopis juliflora (Swartz DC) across an area equivalent to half of neighbouring Djibouti in the Afar Region of north eastern Ethiopia.

Dr Urs Schaffner, who is supervising lead author Hailu Shiferaw for his PhD studies, contributed to the Scientific Reports published paper ‘Modelling the current fractional cover of an invasive alien plant and drivers of its invasion in a dryland ecosystem’, which shows that the Prosopis invaded 1.2 million ha of grassland/shrubland in just 35 years.

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