Monday, September 17, 2012

Hidden treasures of Nguruman

By Esther Nanetia

Nguruman, located in Olkiramatian Group Ranch, past Lake Magadi is about 162km southwest of Nairobi. It is administratively run by the new Kajiado County hived from the former populous Rift Valley province. The area is situated at the foot of the Nguruman escarpment and boarders Ewaso Nyiro River to the east.

The plenty supply of water comes from Entasopia, Oloibortoto, Sampu and Ewaso Nyiro rivers which originate from the Mau ranges cutting through the conserved forests of Nguruman escapement as they flow to Lake Natron in Tanzania. Due to sufficient water supply, there is diverse vegetation cover of huge acacia, fig, and cordia seninsis trees among other native species. The under growth consists of bushes and herbs. This has resulted in a distinctive microclimate that brings out a serene natural environment of clean water and air.

The hospitable maa community is the main inhabitants of the area, who are mainly pastoralist while others have adapted to crop farming and retail businesses. The maa community is known for their conservative culture while their simple lifestyle enables them to conserve the environment.

Tourist facilities are rapidly developing in Nguruman. Lodges, camping sites and guest houses are springing up in the area. Sampu lodge, a community lodge in Olkiramatian Conservation, is strategically located on the Sampu hills overlooking the Sampu river where lions and buffalos among other wildlife come to drink, about twenty meters from the tents giving a magnificent view of the conservation area.

Sampu Lodge tented camp. photo by Kelvin Koinet
Oloibortoto centre commonly called Ngomongo hosts two guest houses which are also available in Entasopia centre. These are major services that provide accommodation to tourists visiting the area. Both centres are at the foot of the lush green escarpment providing a panoramic view to the guests.

Four camping sites are available situated in different sides of the area especially along the rivers. They include Cool Waters along Oloibortoto River, Entasopia River camping site, Enkare Ng’iro and Lalenook camping sites. These sites offer quite environment for tourists who wish to interact with nature away from the busy and noisy urban settings. They can also do leisure fishing, swimming and bird shooting. However, permission must be obtained from the relevant authorities to enable one conduct these leisure activities.

Some of the best shots of Loisiijo Camp located along river Ewaso Ngiro.
Photo courtesy of SORALO
Escarpment hiking is also available. This is due to the established hiking tracks in Ilchoroi vicinity. Those hiking usually end up being greeted by the awesome sights of Entasopia Falls. Swimming is also available at the falls.

The Maasai community is rich in culture. This is one of the major tourist attractions. Moran dances and meat camps are some of the regular events found in the area. The mode of dressing characterized by the cladding of beads, red ochre and shuka fascinates tourists. This is coupled with chanting of traditional songs accompanied by sensational jumping with horn blowing. In meat camps, eating of smoked meat and drinking of herbal soup is the main activity that occurs here. Visitors are usually treated with this local cuisine. Notably this is a preserve for men.

Nguruman has a lot of unexplored tourist sites. Those who visit the area will find the place charming and unique.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fig tree: the heritage of Nguruman

By Rafael Mutiso

Fig trees are rare, useful and grow naturally in sites with high water table, swamps and along rivers. In Nguruman, they mainly grow along the numerous streams and water canals constructed by farmers to convey water to their farms hence their spread and abundance in the area. They require soils that are sandy, rich and well drained. The trees are propagated through seeds and cuttings. When cultivated in a home garden they require considerable space as they enlarge, spread, very shady and are fairly fast growing. The most common species of fig trees is Ficus carica known as the common fig.

Common fig found in Nguruman  (Ficus carica)
The tree, due to its large size provides a cool shade, aesthetic value, and acts as a wind breaker. It also acts as a carbon sink keeping the air fresh. Its roots helps to hold soil firmly hence reducing soil erosion and increase water retention. This plays a key role in land improvement. It also acts as a mulch reducing loss of water through evaporation thus supporting vegetation underneath.

The inhabitants of Nguruman area are mainly the maa people who value the tree for its diverse uses. They use its leaves as fodder for their livestock by cutting the branches. The leaves are fairly high in nutritive value with about 9% crude  protein dry matter. Fruits are    eaten by livestock especially goat and sheep. Wild animals like monkeys, baboons and gazelles eat the fig fruits. Birds mainly the Mouse birds, pigeons and many specious of doves among other birds feed on the fig fruits thus supporting wildlife and reducing human wildlife conflict. They are also consumed by people; fresh, stewed or dried and stored for later use. Ripe figs are used for alcoholic beverages. The inner bark is used to make strong ropes used by women to carry firewood and water over long distances.

Nguruman residents also use the tree for various medicinal purposes. The leaves are used to treat snakebites and jaundice. The latex is said to be effective for chest diseases, colds and dysentery while the bark is used to treat coughs, throat infections, chest pain and anaemia in children hence saving lives as well as medicinal costs.

Some species of the tree has several spiritual and sacred uses such as performing various rituals in the community such as keeping away evil spirits. It is also a focal point for resolving conflict among the people.

Although the importance of the fig tree is irreplaceable and therefore must be conserved to keep the species around for a long time, it faces a big challenge as there is an ongoing project to pipe water for irrigation leaving the canals dry. This is a clear indication that all the fig trees along the canals may dry up.

Those who visit Nguruman will enjoy the shade and beautiful scenery created by the towering green indigenous fig trees.