Sosoma is a huge chunk of land in eastern Kenya of roughly 60,000 hectares. It is located along a major highway, Thika-Garissa road, which is asphalted and leads to Nairobi. The area is largely unpopulated because it is quite inhospitable.
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. Our mother company, Better Globe Forestry Ltd. (BGF) has signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the owners to use their land for tree planting.
Even the area is truly dry, the area has other qualities that make it interesting for us. It is flat, has a good soil composition and quality, no rocks and enjoys good access. In addition, our preferred tree species, notably, Mukau (Melia volkensii) and Acacia senegal, grow naturally there.
Feasibility studies on both Mukau 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 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is in the making for planting of 100 hectares in 2015, which will be the start-up of the operations in that area.