Disruptive mathenge turns to sweet feed, charcoal

Tree fills agricultural land so fast, while its thorns can lead to loss of teeth in livestock.

In Summary

• CARE International is training Mandera farmers on value addition of mathenge trees which have become a menace to both pastoralists and farmers in the region.

A fully grown mathenge tree in Mandera town
A fully grown mathenge tree in Mandera town

Mandera farmers and pastoralists could soon tame the disruptive effects the Prosopis tree species, commonly known as mathenge, by turning it into livestock feed and charcoal. 

The plant has choked farmland and poisoned animals since its introduction in the 1970s to stem degradation in arid and semi-arid lands.

The tree fills agricultural land so fast, while its thorns can lead to loss of teeth in livestock.

But Care International has now started training the farmers to add value to the trees by milling it to make feeds and using its stem and branches to make charcoal. 

Senior project officer Said Ibrahim said under the Boresha project, Care has procured a high-quality milling machine for the farmers to use. He said their main target was agro-pastoral communities in the region. 

 Oscar Koech, one of the trainers from the University of Nairobi, said the processed charcoal from the trees will be of high quality, energy saving and environmentally friendly to access markets outside the county.

“Despite the negative perceptions by the community about the tree species, it has a lot of known benefits and we are trying to show them that value,” Koech said.

According to the researchers, the tree pods are rich in nutrients especially proteins and can be useful to animals.

“We are looking at how the community can benefit in terms of feed conservation for dry seasons and supplementing their lactating animals to improve their own household food security from livestock proceeds,’’ Koech said. 

At the BPI farming scheme two kilometres from Mandera town, mathenge has massively grown along the irrigation canal, affecting the flow of water.

From the farms, roadsides to homesteads,  mathenge trees continue to colonise the landscape of the region.

Once the program is fully implemented across Mandera county, conservationists hope it will save the acacia, an indigenous tree that locals use in burning charcoal.