Ngitili agrosilvipastoral systems in the United Republic of Tanzania
Environmental degradation resulting from extensive grazing and haphazard exploitation of rangeland forestry resources is a severe problem for the agropastoralists of Shinyanga, a northeastern region of the United Republic of Tanzania. Threats to livelihoods and the environment in this region include, among others, shortage of dry season fodder, deforestation, woodfuel scarcity, food insecurity and severe soil erosion. However, a traditional management system locally termed 'ngitili' (dry-season fodder reserves) among the Wasukuma agropastoralists of Shinyanga has proved to be instrumental in range management and forest restoration. The system at the same time alleviates dry season fodder shortages, prevents environmental degradation such as soil erosion, and helps conserve biodiversity. It is estimated that between 350 000 and 500 000 ha of woodland were restored in the period from 1986 to 2001 (Kaale, Mlenge and Barrow, 2002). Ngitili are farmer-led initiatives evolved from traditional strategies for grazing and food security (Kamwenda, 1999). The system involves retaining an area of standing vegetation (grasses, trees, shrubs and forbs) from the onset to the end of the rainy season. The ngitili area remains closed to livestock at the beginning of the wet season and is opened up for grazing at the peak of dry season. The Wasukuma rules for protecting individual and communal ngitili are based on traditional village guards (sungusungu) and community assemblies (dagashida). These customary institutions are still important in contemporary natural resource management and have contributed to the successful management of ngitili, and particularly in adapting to the increase in herd size, which has grown above subsistence level. Unfortunately, the validity of ngitili as a silvipastoral system has remained unknown as a best practice for broader adoption or adaptation. To facilitate its extension, an iterative diagnostic and design (D&D) survey (a World Agroforestry Centre [ICRAF] methodology) was conducted in the Meatu district to identify the components, structure, management and technological specifications of the system. This survey was combined with qualitative land evaluation to establish the potential suitability of land for ngitili in comparison with extensive grazing.