Communities strategize on the Future of Wildlife
Posted: 23rd Oct 2017 04:15:16 AM
Growing up in Suswa, Narok in the 1980s, was a wonderful experience for Ishmael Nkokoo. He used to walk about 5km from his village to school through a migratory route for elephants that migrated from Mosiro to Longonot area. "I remember around the month of June, I used to see hundreds of elephants crossing through suswa to longonot. The area was open and spacious, there were no settlements, roads or farms like it is today. The wildlife would roam freely and the community would embrace their presence." He says.
John Tororomy from Loita in the southern part of Maasai Mara, shares the same experience with nostalgia, "there used to be rhinos, lions and a lot of giraffes, when growing up, we co-existed peacefully only that in some few cases, we'd go hunting for lions if and when they killed our livestock. it was part of our culture." He says.
Now in their 40s, Ishamel and John are saddened by how things have changed over the years. "Wildlife in the region have dramatically declined in this region due to human encroachment." John says. "The migratory routes for elephants have now become farms and the only shop that existed in the area is one among many other shops that have developed into a small town." Ishamel adds.
According to Ishamel and John, the situation is getting more worse with the increased demand for game meat in neighboring towns threating wildlife conservation in the region. Lack of compensation is also a challenge for communities in the region. The community has experienced crop raids, livestock deaths, human injuries and deaths by wildlife and this has caused bitterness towards wildlife "we are justified to kill these elephants and lions for the damages it causes, if the wildlife does not benefit me, it should not be in my land." John says.
While this presents a challenge for wildlife conservation, the future of wildlife is not all bleak. There is hope if concerted efforts by government, organizations and communities alike can design strategies to reduce human wildlife conflicts and provide incentives to communities who host wildlife in their land only then would Ishmael and John be compelled to conserve wildlife "If the government can support the community to establish conservancies and provide consolation funds for livestock lost to wildlife, we’d participate in the protection and conservation of our wildlife species." Ishmael Says. "We've also seen the benefits conservancies offer to communities in the Maasai Mara, conservancies promote tourism hence an additional income, this region has immense potential for tourism but we've not explored its potential." he adds.
By presenting an opportunity for communities living with wildlife to consciously diagnose the problems affecting them and give solutions to resolve those problems, the communities see themselves as important stakeholders in the protection, conservation and management of wildlife resources.
As a member of the steering and synthesis Committee team appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural resources involved in the formulation of the national wildlife strategy, KWCA was tasked to spearhead grassroots meetings with communities and landowners to collect their views on threats affecting wildlife in their regions and the proposed solutions for countering those threats. The Wildlife Act 2013 sub section 5 subjects the cabinet secretary to formulate the national Wildlife Conservation and Management strategy once every 5 years to protect, conserve, manage and regulate wildlife resources.
KWCA and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) with support from USAID Kenya, through the Community Conservancy Support and Implementation Program has been working with landowners and communities to build a supportive and enabling policy environment conducive to the growth and sustainability of private and community conservancies in Kenya.