A new report is questioning the current model of community based wildlife conservation under communal land tenure system in northern Kenya.
The survey by the Indigenous Movement For Peace Advancement And Conflict Transformation (IMPACT), shows that the loss of grazing land is the big challenge arising from community conservancies across Marsabit, Isiolo, Laikipia and Samburu Counties.
“This underscored our assessment that livestock production remains the most important livelihood activity in these areas. It is also an indication that the introduction of tourism and other related livelihoods can only supplement, but not replace, earnings from livestock rearing,” says the report in part.
The report, which recommends conservancies to adopt the 2016 Community Land Act also indicates that the wildlife protection model being used in the North is causing human-wildlife conflict, community conflict and corruption.
“Corruption in this context refers to the perception of unequal distribution of benefits amongst conservancy members,” says Mr. Mali Ole Kaunga one of the authors of the report.
Conflict between communities arises from perceived biases in natural resource use decisions like grazing and other benefits like employment, particularly of security personnel in the conservancies.
“The respondents stated that these disputes began with the creation of Biliqo-Bulesa conservancy in Isiolo and the perceived bias of Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) towards the needs of the Samburu community over those of the Borana community,” the report continues.
Further inquiry revealed that in Laikipia County the complaint arose from the large numbers of wildlife using grazing areas and water sources in the community areas, rather than the core wildlife areas.
This, said Ole Kaunga, led to the perception that the loss of access to grazing in the core areas is unfair, since wildlife are still using all areas in the conservancies, including the areas where the community lives.
“This could be a detrimental effect of grazing restrictions, since it is well-known that the survival of wildlife populations and pastoralism as a livelihood depends on the maintenance of open grasslands.”
In the last 15 years, NGOs and other civil society conservation interests have undertaken an aggressive effort to bring important wildlife habitats in Northern Kenya under some sort of conservation management in an effort to protect the wildlife populations therein and ostensibly to create income-generating opportunities from conservation.
The wildlife habitats targeted by these initiatives are those outside the Government protected areas, namely parks and reserves.