Drought-hit Kenyan pastoralists save wildlife and their livelihoods

  • Drought drives animals into villages to eat crops and attack livestock
  • Communities and private owners partner to protect wildlife
  • With agriculture a threat to biodiversity, conservation areas are growing

OLCHORO VILLAGE OIROWUA, Kenya, August 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Robert Nampaso and more than 30 other Maasai cattle herding families leased part of their land in western Kenya to a large-scale farmer, they thought the rent would generate much more. -Need extra income.

Overgrazing, rampant and relentless deforestation drought cycles it had severely degraded the land around Olchoro Oirowua village, forcing its animals to compete with local wildlife for scarce supplies of water and pasture.

But the deal only made the problem worse when the farmer cleared some of the land to farm and then raise cattle, further reducing the amount of available grass and driving out wild animals.

So together they came up with a solution that puts nature first, turning some of the farmland into sustainably managed pasture to create a wildlife conservation where livestock and wild animals can coexist and ecotourism provides jobs for local people.

“The strong link between nature, wildlife and grazing has been maintained for generations, that’s why our livelihood has survived all these years,” said Nampaso, 53.

Around the world, efforts to set aside land for conservation are hampered by the ravages of climate change impacts, including worsening drought, growth of human settlements, and loss of tourism revenue due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Community-managed wildlife conservation areas established on private land are playing an increasingly important role in protecting areas that governments are unable or unwilling to protect, while bolstering local livelihoods.

Since the Enonkishu Conservancy was founded in 2009 near Olchoro Oirowua, on the outskirts of the famous Masai Mara National Reserveit has grown into a 6,000-acre (2,428-hectare) initiative.

Herders graze their animals under rules designed to have minimal environmental impact, including bans on crops and permanent structures like fences or houses, and a restriction on the number of livestock allowed in the area at any one time, said Daniel Nampaso, official liaison with the community. .

To avoid overgrazing, herders follow seasonal patterns that ensure there are always grazing areas where wild animals can feed.

As a result, they have returned, while the herdsmen’s livestock are thriving, said Nampaso, who was among those who donated their land to the project.

“Since we started grazing management, our members have never experienced a shortage of pasture and water,” he said.

STOP ATTACKS

The United Nations Environment Program points to the global food system as the main driver of biodiversity lossand notes that the International Union for Conservation of Nature identifies agriculture as a threat to more than 85% of the 28,000 endangered species.

“The expansion of agricultural areas has been a key factor in the degradation of nature, including forest habitats,” said Claudia Ringler, deputy director for environment at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Rebekah Karimi, manager of Enonkishu, said conservation helps curb deforestation because herders no longer need to make ends meet. logging or charcoal productioncutting down trees that are essential to curbing carbon emissions and limiting global warming.

Pastoral landowners continue to receive rents from their farming partner, who manages the land, as well as a share of tourism revenue.

Villagers also work as community wildlife scouts, disseminating conservation information and reporting animals that stray from villages or farmland to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), which safely returns them to the protected area. .

Before the conservancy was established, many of those animals likely would have been killed, Karimi said.

Lions, elephants and other large animals often wander through the villages searching for food and water, attacking livestock and destroying crops.

The villagers would retaliate by killing any animal that came near, Karimi said.

But those incidents have dropped dramatically since the conservation launched, he said.

That’s partly due to the work of the project conserving local springs and channeling water to area watering holes.

That way, cattle and other animals that graze alongside them, including zebras, gazelles and giraffes, always have enough to drink and predators don’t need to leave the conservancy to find food.

The Enonkishu initiative also breaks with tradition by giving women the opportunity to help make decisions about how the land is managed, a task that Maasai culture typically reserves for men.

“It’s a resolution that was agreed upon by community members,” said Mama Yianti, a farmer who lives in Olchoro Oirowua. “The conservation meeting will not take place without us.”

DIFFUSION CONSERVATION

Conservancies have become increasingly popular since Kenya changed its land use policy in 2009 to encourage sustainable wildlife management, said Richard Chepkwony, deputy director of KWS.

The land covered by conservation areas across the country has increased from about 6.35 million hectares (15.7 million acres) in 2016 to 7.3 million hectares today, according to data from the Conservation Association of Kenya Wildlife, a non-governmental group.

In Narok County, a region under Chepkwony’s jurisdiction, the amount of land set aside for wildlife has doubled to 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles) in the past 15 years, with half donated by local communities, Chepkwony said.

“Without the conservation areas, we could have lost most of the wildlife in this country,” he said.

Faith Alubbe, executive director of the Kenya Land Alliance, said such conservation partnerships between communities, private landowners and companies play a vital role as governments in sub-Saharan Africa are converting wildlife space into large-scale infrastructure and agriculture.

But as Kenya works towards its goal of designating 30% of its land and marine areas for conservation by 2030, in line with a UN-backed program unit “30 by 30” – The government should take more responsibility for the protection of land and animals, Alubbe added.

“In Kenya, we have a lot of land policies, but implementation has been a big problem,” he said.

IFPRI’s Ringler said Kenya and other countries need stricter zoning rules that focus on preserving the largest possible contiguous natural areas for wildlife habitats.

In Enonkishu, Robert Nampaso prides himself on being on the front lines of conservation, helping his community restore the relationship with nature that runs deep in Maasai culture, he said.

“The lion is considered one of our domestic animals now,” he said. “It is no longer an enemy but of great value (because) we get paid when tourists visit to see them.”

Originally posted on: https://news.trust.org/item/20220815092507-ldhgc/

Reporting by Wesley Langat, Editing by Jumana Farouky and Megan Rowling. Give credit to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who are struggling to live freely or justly. Visited http://news.trust.org

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