The process of establishing Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) began in 2012 after several unsuccessful attempts by non-state actors in the sector to establish a national representative forum that would convene and advance the aspirations and interests of community and private landowners living with wildlife.
The strides that began the journey of developing a national grassroots conservancy movement in Kenya, dates to the mid 1990s when efforts towards Wildlife Policy, Legislative and Institutional Reforms in Kenya were being reviewed and formulated. It was envisaged that the registration and institutionalization of an independent national organization for wildlife conservation and management would lead to a structured and coordinated industry that would contribute to the sustainable management of biodiversity and empowerment by community and private landowners.
A new Dawn
Fast forward, in 2010, the promulgation of the Constitution provided for a decentralized system of governance for the management of wildlife resources in non-protected areas by landowners. There was renewed vigor to ensure that the national conservation association leverage and bargain power to advance their issues through policy advocacy at the national and regional levels, partnership with private sector and seek support from international community. The draft Wildlife (Conservation and Management Bill 2011 and the draft conservancy regulations 2012 both explicitly recommended devolution of rights to landholders and the institutionalization of the wildlife industry in Kenya.
Several stakeholders in the wildlife sector, led by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and representatives from Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), Amboseli Ecosystem Trust (AET), Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) and Maasai Mara Group ranches, South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and WWF rallied together, holding consultative meetings with the government to drive this historic agenda.
This culminated in a leaning study tour to Namibia to visit Namibia Association of CBNRM Support Organizations (NACSO) who already had a successful model of connecting the communities and organizations that manage and conserve Namibia natural resources to replicate the same concept in Kenya.
An all-inclusive approach
TNC and other partners raised funds for consultative meetings carried out across eight regions in the country with over 600 conservation leaders from government, non-governmental conservation organizations, communities, private landowners, conservancies, religious leaders and politicians were intensively engaged in these consultative meetings to gain consensus and buy in.
A national consultative process of 140 participants drawn from landowners, regional and community associations, governments and conservation NGOs was held in Nairobi to a unanimous agreement of the need to create a national umbrella body that would champion the interests and represent the collective desires of Kenyan communities and private landowners in wildlife and natural resources management.
Political goodwill from the government through KWS who have the mandate over wildlife resources in the country (Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013) helped steer the process in the right direction. Their vast network and reach across the country made mobilization of participation across the country through the Community Wildlife Service department possible.
Soon thereafter, a consultative forum with private sector stakeholders in conservancies was held to solicit input towards the development of the national conservancies association. In December 2012, KWCA was endorsed and legally registered in April 2013 under the Societies Act.
Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association was adopted as the official name of the national umbrella for wildlife conservancies in Kenya during the National Feedback Workshop with all the stakeholders involved in the process. Previous proposed names included;The Kenya Association of Wildlife Conservation Support Organizations (KAWCSO) a replicate of NACSO in Namibia.
Our Governance Structure
An interim board comprising 12 regional associations representatives were nominated by community and private conservancies as the main constituents for the association. KWCA now has a clear structure for engaging national and county government and other key stakeholders on their role in wildlife conservation and management.
In April of 2013, KWCA secretariat office was officially opened at Magadi Tenting Centre, on Seminary road off Magadi road with Dickson Simiren Ole Kaelo and Gladys Warigia recruited as founding CEO the policy coordinator respectively.
The rise of a National Movement
Since 2013, KWCA has grown in leaps and bounds and now boosts of a membership of 116 conservancies in just a few years of existence.
It has grown its capacity to engage in policy analysis, review and advocacy and has expanded its human resource capacity from a staff of two to seven and has developed its organizational policies through Community Conservancies Policy Support Program CCSP a four-year grant by USAID implemented in partnership with TNC.
Encouraged by the great strides made and inspired by the journey ahead and our mandate to champion the collective interests of conservancies we forge ahead.
Our impact would certainly not be possible without our dynamic members and the invaluable support by our Partners who include: USAID, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), African Wildlife Foundation, UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), and International Union for Conservation for Nature (IUCN).