Wild Class

Picture this: It is a Thursday morning two weeks before exams and you’re learning about factors influencing the distribution of wildlife in East Africa. Your teacher is throwing around phrases like ‘spatial dynamics of landscapes’ and ‘grazing behaviours’. The wildest animal you have ever seen is your neighbour’s cat that makes strange noises at night outside your bedroom window. The wildest landscape you have ever seen is your uncle’s back yard. Your classmates are all looking confused because they too have never seen wildlife or landscapes and so you raise your voice with confidence and shout, “Yes! Wild landscapes exist in Nairobi!” Your teacher laughs kindly and says, “No, let’s go out on a field trip and will I show you what am really talking about”.

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Two students talk about counting giraffes at Mpala Raanch, Laikipia

On leaving the classroom, you are guided to a bus with the words Laikipia Wildlife Forum written on the side. In two hours’ time you are at a conservancy gate, and you begin to realize what a different kind of experience this is going to be. The guide at the gate welcomes you to the conservancy and explains what is in store for you. Before you know it, you are seeing zebra, elephant and rhino, all in their natural habitats. Things which previously came alive to you in pictures or in textbooks now are right in front of your eyes, living and breathing. You are overwhelmed and you feel a little nervous, but it is also really cool. Will these animals attack us? You wonder inwardly, but the feeling of excitement quickly takes over as you and your classmates are shown how to hand-feed a black rhino. This is what is called ‘experiential learning’. Learning by seeing, touching and experiencing.

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Young boy takes notes about wildlife in LWF bus

Laikipia Wildlife Forum, supported by EKN and USAID (in partnership with Conservation Educationists in Laikipia and Northern Kenya) has for a significant period of time invested in experiential learning. This special kind of learning has enabled young people, predominantly from Laikipia County, to enjoy firsthand experiences of Conservation Education; and this is what we now call Wild Class.

In an effort to transition Conservation Education into a more sustainable land-use activity, Wild Class allows kids from various economic backgrounds, both locally and from all over Kenya, to participate in handson, experiential learning. More than ten conservancies in Laikipia and northern Kenya have come together to develop Wild Class. The conservancies all offer their own unique experiences, from learning trigonometry through making origami in the wild to embracing Conservation Education through Art and Art Forms; or being able to learn about endangered species whilst getting a chance to actually touch them. Through structured experiences and activities targeted at various age groups, the Conservation Education programs enable youngsters to fully comprehend in a tangible way how natural resources and ecosystems affect each other as well as how these resources can be used wisely. The experiential learning process encourages critical thinking and challenges the learners to develop their own theories about conserving the natural resources that surround them, and which are part of their heritage as Kenyans.

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Back to our narrative: As you head back to school you feel like an environmental guru. I mean, you fed a black rhino, got to see wild animals you have only seen on Animal Planet, walked down a river bed, and then you saw llamas (not endemic to Kenya, obviously) and exotic birds without leaving the country! At this point you are back at school and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum Conservation Education officer gives you a recap of the day and tells you that the next adventure will be travelling to learn about Wetlands and Biodiversity. Leonardo DiCaprio has nothing on you at this point, because now you are a member of the Wild Class!

The Great Grevy’s Rally; Adventures on Loisaba Conservancy A Citizen Scientist View of the Great Grevy’s Rally

The main sentiments felt within our small group of citizen scientists as we headed into the field that Friday the 29th of January was probably ‘Let’s not get eaten by lions’. By the time we returned to Nanyuki at the end of the weekend, those sentiments had changed to ‘Let’s do this again!’

Our group of eight was composed of an eclectic mix: two biologists (neither with any experience with Grevy’s sampling), one logistics officer, one project manager for an embassy, one communications officer, one photographer, one economist and one finance intern working for a start-up company. Some of us had never been camping in the bush, some had never been in a four-wheel drive vehicle, and some of us, amazingly, had never stepped in mud! All of us were, however, very excited to be spending the weekend adventuring for a worthy cause. We started off with registration and training from the organisers in Nanyuki, as well as receiving directions, maps and last minute prepping before being released into the wild.

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The drive up from Nanyuki to Loisaba was largely uneventful and we were even afforded some breaks to take in the scenery and get a head start on our photography. After lots of winding roads and impossibly beautiful panoramas, we arrived at the campsite at dusk. There we were greeted by Dale, the Conservancy manager, and Fiona, who runs the tourism business. After assigning us our target areas, our maps and our personal guides (who also doubled as our last line of defence against lion attacks), they left us to set our tents up and begin our adventure in earnest. The campsite was simple but we had everything we needed; water, food, shelter and, most importantly, firewood for a bonfire.

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We set off early the next morning with the two vehicles in our group dividing up the 56,000 acre property between them. We had been assigned specific blocks, and we attempted to make our way through them as best as we could. Dale had warned us that the Grevy’s might have moved around onto other properties after the rains, so we had cautious expectations. Both teams did manage to spot more than a dozen Grevy’s each, and the good weather and general flat terrain meant that we had an excellent chance of getting photos of the animals’ requisite right flank for use in identification and matching. Some of the zebra proved to be restless subject matter, and we had to spend some time coaxing them to pose for us. Even then they would stubbornly turn in unison and face the wrong way. Extreme measures often had to be taken in order to acquire a usable shot of a particular zebra, including driving through dry river beds, up imposing kopjes or bobbing and weaving through thick bushes. Through all this, we were lucky to see many other ungulates and assorted wildlife, including Impala, Gazelle, Oryx and the more common but only slightly less elegant plains zebra. After a late afternoon Sundowner at one of Loisaba’s upcoming lodges on the escarpment, we went back to camp for the night.

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The following day was mainly an attempt at recreating the previous day’s sampling blocks. Success was varied, and we won’t be sure what percentage of the sightings we saw that afternoon until the photos are analysed. We broke camp and drove off in the early afternoon, enjoying the picturesque scenery. We felt thoroughly satisfied with our camping adventure and our small contribution towards science. This contribution hopefully will provide the necessary data to continue protecting the majestic Grevy’s zebra.

GGR Update

Thank you so much to all citizen scientists for your participation in the Great Grevy’s Rally (GGR) as well as the County Government of Laikipia, landowners, conservancies and partner organisations for supporting the historic event. As a result of your involvement, the GGR was able to sample 45 counting blocks covering over 25,000 sq. km in the first ever age structured census of the endangered Grevy’s zebra.

The initial estimate is that there were over 50,000 images taken! The Rally brought together conservancy managers, National Reserve wardens, tourism partners, conservation organisations, county governments, research scientists and interested members of the public from many parts of Kenya. The Rally also represents one of the biggest collaborations of conservation organisations in northern Kenya and garnered strong support from the Samburu, Laikipia, Isiolo and Marsabit counties, demonstrating the power of devolution and support from local communities.

The disk with all the images will make its way back to the US within a couple of weeks and then the IBEIS team will identify all the unique individuals seen and compare the sightings on the first day with the sightings of the second day to estimate the size of Grevy’s zebra populations by region and nationally.

The next step will then be to examine the photos to assign ages (adult, juvenile, foal) to each uniquely identified individual. Dan Rubenstein will create a Zooniverse website so that volunteers worldwide can help review the thousands of images and categorise Grevy’s zebra age classes. The public will be notified when the Zooniverse site goes live so that anyone interested can help out again as a citizen scientist! You don’t have to be an expert on Grevy’s zebra ageing as there are hundreds of people working on the images thus drawing on the power of the crowd which will produce weighted and more accurate results.

We look forward to sharing more news in due course and thank you again for taking part in this unique citizen science event to save one of Kenya’s most iconic species!

For frequent updates please log on to the GGR website: http://www.greatgrevysrally.com

Little LWF gets Support from big TNC

LWF and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are working together to promote the unity and conservation of Laikipia’s landscapes for both people and wildlife.

Born out of the LWF mission to conserve wildlife and ecosystem integrity and to improve the lives of its people, LWF and TNC share a set of values for conservation of the land and water upon which life depends.

The partnership will help LWF with its new strategic and business plans, and with development of a conservation land trust. LWF and TNC agreed last year to equally share the costs in this effort, with USAID underwriting LWF’s investment.

Founded in the United States in the 1950s, The Nature Conservancy is one of the world’s largest conservation non-profits. TNC works collaboratively with local communities, landowners, governments, and others to promote the conservation and sustainable use of lands, waters and oceans. They take a non-partisan, non-confrontational approach to finding solutions that work for everyone. With support from its one million members, TNC has helped to protect some 120 million acres worldwide.

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LWF is 24 years old, and supported by some 6000 members. It has helped to conserve over 6200 acres across Laikipia, including many of the private conservancies and community conservancies such as Naibunga, Il Ngwesi, and Lekkuruki.

Kent Wommack, TNC’s Senior Strategist for International Programs, is working with LWF in Nanyuki over the next several months. Kent is one of TNC’s most experienced field leaders, having helped initiate or manage TNC’s programs in Maine, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We sat down with Kent to talk about this partnership with LWF.

LWF: You have worked in conservation for over 30 years. What lessons have you learned?

Kent: Years ago, many people thought the key to protecting wildlife was simply to establish parks and other protected areas – to provide safe sanctuaries for wildlife apart from human communities. While protected areas can be useful, the real need today is to find ways for people and wildlife to co-exist on the landscape, because generally what is good for one is good for the other.

The key to successful conservation is to recognize that people are very much a part of the landscape, and that people and wildlife in fact need the same things – clean water, healthy productive land that grows food, open space to move around, peace and security.

LWF: Tell us about TNC’s work in Africa.

Kent: We work in a half dozen countries in Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Gabon. Here in northern Kenya, we have been very involved with protection of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Loisaba ranch. TNC does not own either of these properties, but instead has helped set them up as conservancies, owned by local Trusts and managed by their own independent boards.

We have also helped support the Northern Rangelands Trust, which has grown considerably over the last few years. The NRT model is based on a belief that pastoralists must be full partners in managing rangelands, and that the benefits from good management should flow to local communities, so everyone is rewarded for their efforts to conserve open space and wildlife habitat.

LWF: Why is TNC investing so strongly in this partnership with LWF?

Kent: Laikipia is one of Kenya’s most intact landscapes, and is home to an extraordinary array of wildlife and endangered species. It is also a growing destination for eco-tourism and environmental education, which generates local jobs and revenue.

Keeping this landscape open and unfragmented will benefit people, livestock and wildlife for years to come, but it requires hard work and collaboration between many interests – county government, pastoralists, landowners and more. LWF is widely respected in its ability to bring these parties together to identify common interests, provide good science, craft new solutions and secure funding to protect Laikipia’s landscape.

LWF: What are the major challenges facing Laikipia?

Kent: Scientific studies show, and pastoralists confirm, that northern Kenya’s grasslands have been seriously degraded over time. Less grass means less food for both native wildlife, livestock and people too. Illegal invasions by pastoralists heightens conflict across the region. Helping local residents and landowners protect and sustainably manage their resources will make Laikipia stronger and more secure.

LWF: What can be done to protect Laikipia’s intact landscape?

Kent: Landowners – whether private ranchers, conservancies or group ranches – are critically important partners. Most are deeply committed to being good neighbours by generating employment, revenue and food, as well as protecting wildlife. We must find ways to encourage and support these activities for the good of the whole region.

Among other ideas, we are exploring the creation of a land trust for Laikipia that could hold “conservation easements” on key parcels, thereby ensuring their long term protection by restricting uses that might damage the land’s productivity for grazing and wildlife.

LWF: Any last thoughts?

Kent: I am looking forward to working with LWF over the next few months. This is a very important organization with great potential for shaping a bright future for Laikipia’s people and wildlife.

LWF Strategic Planning Update

The Unit Forums for LWF strategic planning process kicked off on 11th January 2016 with teams going out to the field to carry out a recce to ascertain logistics and meeting venues. The unit meetings were aimed at collecting views from communities, community and opinion leaders and community groups that are organised around natural resource management. These forums were carried out in the form of focus group discussions, and included a Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats analysis of LWF carried out by the participants. Each of the forums lasted half a day and consisted of selected community and community organization representatives.

A total of 23 stakeholder forums were held in different centres across the five units. These forums ran concurrently and were carried out by five teams; they were scheduled to run from 19th January to 17th February 2016. Over 500 participants representing communities and community groups across Laikipia participated in the stakeholder forums. However, across all the meetings, there was low representation of the youth and in Ewaso Nyiro and Northern Units there was both low female and youth representation in the Forums. In all forums, there was generally good knowledge of how LWF functions, based on previous interaction with LWF, and its involvement in specific areas, but the majority of the participants did not fully understand the scope and mandate of LWF. What emerged from the focus groups discussions was as follows:

Central

  • In the Central Unit, it emerged that the priority programs for LWF are: • Conservation Education: Establishment of a tertiary technical college to train on purely conservation matters and establishment of scholarship programs for students in membership groups.
  • Conservation Enterprise: Focusing on potential marketing products for the groups e.g. honey and handicrafts.

The most pressing concerns that emerged from the discussions with the Central Unit were:

  • The members are not fully included in the overall and financial planning of LWF activities; hence want to be consulted on the identification and prioritization of their needs.
  • Some projects that were initiated by LWF have stalled along the way, due to lack of follow up.
  • The frequent change in office bearers of the community organizations was negatively impacting LWF activities as there was no effective handover procedure between the old and new office bearers.

It also emerged that there was a need for LWF to re-engage the communities so as to clarify what LWF really does and how the community can be involved. It was deemed necessary to carry out an impact assessment and evaluation of previous projects and activities to assist in effective planning for the future.

Eastern

In Eastern unit, the participants felt that the priority programs for LWF are:

Conservation Enterprise: Marketing of farm products and connecting the enterprises with markets.

Water Resources: Water harvesting, capacity building on maintenance of common water intakes, water purification and water storage.

Wildlife: Assisting them in setting up wildlife fences, with LWF to play an advocacy role e.g. to assist them in ensuring that they are compensated. LWF will also assist them in enabling KWS to be more responsive to community needs

The points of concern that emerged in the discussions in relation to Eastern Unit were:

  • Stalled or incomplete LWF projects.
  • The communities felt left out or were not consulted during decision making and planning of projects by LWF.
  • There was no follow-up by LWF on the existing projects and or activities and meetings for review and to ensure continuity.
  • There were few exit strategies-if any- and in the project’s lifetime, LWF had failed to explain the specific roles of the various communities in sustaining the project.
  • The membership would appreciate feedback from forums to handle different issues arising from conservation and use of the various natural resources.

The communities have high expectations of LWF, some of which are based on poor knowledge of the scope and mandate of LWF, and therefore need to re-engage and clarify this.

Western

In the Western Unit, the priority programmatic areas were identified as:

  • Conservation Enterprise: emphasis on the tourism sectorwork with existing conservancies to promote tourism and highlight the cultural diversity in Laikipia other than the traditional wildlife and bush excursions. This included the marketing of products made in the groups e.g. bead work, honey and wax.
  • Wildlife Programme: human wildlife conflict: LWF to act as a link/mediator between the community and KWS, and to intervene in wildlife destruction cases.

The points of concern that needed action in the forthcoming strategic plan were:

  • LWF to manage the expectations of the communities through clear and effective communication especially on its mandate and scope. Members are also not very clear of their mandates/roles in LWF.
  • LWF needs to improve on follow up of projects until the end, and even afterwards to ensure sustainability.
  • LWF needs to increase the number of field staff members because the existing ones are insufficient yet they must cover a large area and thus are unable to reach and serve communities effectively.
  • LWF is required to step up information dissemination through various channels to the members. Forums should be organized to update them on activities and progress.
  • The Strategic Planning process has resulted in high expectations of LWF, and many members have the general impression that they are being left out.

The participants felt that partnerships between LWF and County and National Government are acceptable but they would prefer that LWF takes a lead role in implementation to ensure a higher chance of success given that LWF was more accessible to them.

The participants felt that the aspect of LWF getting into ‹financially sustainable› activities was achievable, though it would take time to succeed. It would ensure flexibility of LWF in response to their needs.

Northern Unit

The priority programs for LWF’s consideration during the forums were identified as:

  • Conservation Enterprise: with a bias towards establishment of community cultural centers as income sources for both community and LWF.
  • Water: mainly in capacity building and support in water conservation initiatives for community and institutions.
  • Wildlife: in regards to mitigation of human-wildlife conflict and advocacy on behalf of the community in addressing human wildlife conflicts and compensation.

The points of concern that needed addressing in the forthcoming strategic plan were:

  • Lack of proper follow-ups on initiated projects. • Lack of intimate connection between LWF and the community as it was before, the community therefore feels left out with no defined position in LWF.
  • LWF should consider employing more staff from the community, those who understand the specific needs of the community.
  • They don’t seem to get any benefits from wildlife; therefore they felt that the large ranches should offer direct support to the communities through LWF.
  • Members do not understand their roles and how they can directly benefit from LWF after enrolling. The community has very high expectations for LWF; they feel it would be even better if LWF involved them directly in identifying needs and designing projects for the region.

Ewaso Nyiro

The priority program areas for LWF that were consistent throughout the unit were:

  • Water: Involvement of more Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) in the unit for the community to be satisfied with the level of their representation.
  • Rangelands: Increased capacity building to communities on management of pastures and rangelands.
  • Conservation Enterprise: connecting the community conservation enterprise initiatives to various markets.
  • Education program: working towards increasing the literacy levels of the communities.

The points of concern that needed action in the forthcoming strategic plan were:

  • High Illiteracy levels in the unit.
  • Members’ dissatisfaction at the services rendered by LWF.
  • Lack of market for the conservation enterprises..

The level of engagement was very good and they clearly stated their needs and expectations of LWF.

Overall the participants of the stakeholder forums were pleased to be involved in the process of mapping out the future of LWF and this raised their expectations. It increased their desire to be included in the LWF Strategic Plan process from beginning to end.

The process of engaging in stakeholder Forums continues, though community engagement forums have been concluded. On February 24th, LWF will be engaging conservation organizations in Nairobi, hosted by East African Wildlife Society, and will look to include other stakeholders in the process.

What future does the largest highland forest in Laikipia have?

The Mukogodo forest reserve covers an area of 280 square kilometres. It is one of the few remaining dry forests in Kenya and happens to occupy a region that is also home to four group ranches. It possesses a multitude of indigenous tree varieties, medicinal plants, and its important water sources and pastures are vital sustenance for pastoralists.

The local Mukogodo community has a traditional management system that has, until now, ensured the conservation of the forest for many years. Communities effectively managed use of forest resources through organized access to the forest. Through rotating grazing systems and restricted wood cutting, inhabitants have been able to keep careful tabs on the forest’s precious resources. With the intention of using the forest as a sustainable resource, the community has been able to benefit from dry grazing pasture, some firewood, building materials, and basic herbal remedies.

During severe drought, surrounding livestock keepers have traditionally migrated into the forest in search of water and pasture. Sadly, due to increased human and livestock populations, the forest’s pasture and water resources are no longer sufficient to sustain herd sizes, causing herdsmen to hack branches from trees to feed their animals.

What’s Special?

The Mukogodo forest and its surrounding areas are home to many species of wildlife. African wild dog, African leopard, Greater Kudu and Grevy’s Zebra are re among the species found here. Elephants visit each season. The remarkable biodiversity makes the region important from a conservation perspective. Mukogodo Forest has also registered with the Government as an important bird area, using our friends the birds to increase the conservation importance of the Forest.

Challenges

In recent years the forest has faced threats due to increased human settlement and uncontrolled access to its resources. There is a pressing need for intervention, in order to continue conserving the forest for present and future generations. It is in What future does the largest highland forest in Laikipia have? recognition of these challenges that the four group ranches that manage the Mukogodo forest agreed to form an umbrella Community Forest Association, or CFA. This group formation allows them to manage the government’s forest reserve at community level. With support from partner organizations such as the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF), the ranches have formed a group, which they have named ILMAMUSI – an acronym for Ilngwesi, Makurian, Mukogodo and Sieku.

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In its early days, LWF was able to establish a cordial relationship between the community and the private ranchers adjacent to the forest. LWF helped the CFA construct an office at Loragai and also supported community scouts with training, uniforms and radio communication equipment as well as motorbikes for patrols. Sadly, because of the withdrawal of donor programs, this support was discontinued.

Since its inception, ILMAMUSI has been bogged down by weak organisation and management. We regularly call this “governance”, and weak governance has in turn affected how information is shared with the local communities. The inability to hold annual meetings (as required by law), the weakness of conflict resolution efforts, as well as poor general management of the Forest has all affected ILMAMUSI’s success.

Fresh interventions

In 2015, LWF partnered up with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Borana Conservancy, and the Northern Rangelands Trust in order to revive the ILMAMUSI board and to draw up a game plan to get it back on track. This is a strong testimony to the commitment of neighbours working together.

NRT was tasked with training the board members to strengthen their governance. Borana pledged to help the ILMAMUSI coordinator to set up financial systems and figure out how to adhere to statutory government requirements. Lewa accepted the leading role in assisting the coordinator and office management, as well as fund raising. LWF was tasked with revisiting the governance structure of the CFA and to help the Board to disseminate ideas presented in the the first CFA management plan, whose development was supported by USAID. Too many community members know nothing about the CFA, the management plan, and their respective roles in the management of the Forest.

Recently LWF organized a series of meetings in Ilngwesi, Mukurian, Kurikuri and Mukogodo to assist the ILMAMUSI CFA to understand their management plan. From these meetings it was apparent that there were some internal misunderstandings between community based organizations on each group ranch, each group ranch board, and general members of the public. All these problems stem from poor communication.

Emerging issues

The governance of group ranches must be stronger if we expect the future of Mukogodo forest to be secure. Each group ranch board is responsible for organising a group ranch management committee. These committees are elected during the group ranch annual general meeting. Then each group ranch committee is responsible for appointing members to ILMAUSI CFA. 13 total members are elected by each of the four participating group ranches to represent them in the CFA. These multiple levels of governance often create confusion over roles and responsibilities, and this confusion is reflected in the operations of the CFA

In addition, the community has a strong traditional governance system led by traditional “elders” who have been instrumental in the conservation of the forest until now. Our challenge remains how to combine all these different governance systems effectively for the sustainable management of Mukogodo Forest.

Future Plans

We remain confident that by working as neighbours with ILMAMUSI CFA, LWF, LWC, NRT and Borana Conservancy will help the communities and people of Mukogodo Forest secure a stronger, brighter future. Mukogodo’s future is the future of this neighbourhood. Support for rangelands management, tourism development, forest protection, and wildlife conservation are all at hand. Our job remains to help the people of Mukogodo seize these opportunities for their own effective management of the Forest and its benefits.

Northern Rangeland Trust supports grazing committees for a healthier landscape

The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) now supports 33 community conservancies in northern Kenya. At the heart of community conservation lies the belief that the preservation of wildlife and landscape is inextricably linked to the sustainable development of rural communities. In a primarily pastoralist region, a lot of the time this means finding ways to manage livestock and wildlife together, by maintaining a rangeland healthy enough to support both in a semi-arid climate.

As well as fundraising for conservancies, NRT provides pastoral communities with training and advice on how to manage their activities, without diminishing the ownership and independence of the communities and their programmes. The NRT Trading BeefWorks programme buys cattle selectively from high-performing conservancies at market price. This not only provides pastoralists with an incentive to adhere to their conservancy’s grazing management plans, but it also minimises the losses experienced when trekking cattle to market.

Healthy livestock grazing in a healthy landscape

Healthy livestock grazing in a healthy landscape

Each NRT member conservancy has their own, elected, grazing committee and many have established rangeland management plans. These include experimenting with bunched grazing techniques, as well as designating no-grazing and dry-season-only grazing zones. Over 1.8 million hectares have been brought under improved grazing management so far.

However, pastoralists travel long distances with their livestock in a single season, and transcend the borders of their conservancies, and their home counties.  These long distance movements often result in clashes with other livestock owners, especially during dry seasons. Many of these clashes end in violence.

In 2015 NRT supported the establishment of regional grazing committees. The aim is to help manage grazing at a wider, landscape level, ensuring better coordination. So far, this has helped to diffuse a lot of competition and conflict, especially during the last dry season. Landscape level grazing plans are underway.

The regional grazing committees are made up of selected members of the grazing committees from clusters of conservancies. More effective coordination of grazing plans will not only improve grasslands and help to maintain peace, but also start to address the long-term over-population of livestock and resulting rangeland degradation.

The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) now supports 33 community conservancies in northern Kenya. At the heart of community conservation lies the belief that the preservation of wildlife and landscape is inextricably linked to the sustainable development of rural communities. In a primarily pastoralist region, a lot of the time this means finding ways to manage livestock and wildlife together, by maintaining a rangeland healthy enough to support both in a semi-arid climate.

As well as fundraising for conservancies, NRT provides pastoral communities with training and advice on how to manage their activities, without diminishing the ownership and independence of the communities and their programmes. The NRT Trading BeefWorks programme buys cattle selectively from high-performing conservancies at market price. This not only provides pastoralists with an incentive to adhere to their conservancy’s grazing management plans, but it also minimises the losses experienced when trekking cattle to market.

Each NRT member conservancy has their own, elected, grazing committee and many have established rangeland management plans. These include experimenting with bunched grazing techniques, as well as designating no-grazing and dry-season-only grazing zones. Over 1.8 million hectares have been brought under improved grazing management so far.

However, pastoralists travel long distances with their livestock in a single season, and transcend the borders of their conservancies, and their home counties.  These long distance movements often result in clashes with other livestock owners, especially during dry seasons. Many of these clashes end in violence.

In 2015 NRT supported the establishment of regional grazing committees. The aim is to help manage grazing at a wider, landscape level, ensuring better coordination. So far, this has helped to diffuse a lot of competition and conflict, especially during the last dry season. Landscape level grazing plans are underway.

The regional grazing committees are made up of selected members of the grazing committees from clusters of conservancies. More effective coordination of grazing plans will not only improve grasslands and help to maintain peace, but also start to address the long-term over-population of livestock and resulting rangeland degradation.

Dedicated enforcement of water reforms necessary for proper management of resources

LWF has been supporting Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) for over 10 years with the aim of building the capacity of local communities so that they can fully participate in water resource management. The Water Act (2002) provides for the establishment of WRUAs as a key platform for water users and stakeholders to engage and participate in the management of water resources within their sub catchment. However, this has not always been the case. It was in 1974 that a fully-fledged Ministry in Charge of Water Development affairs was created. One of the Ministry’s first decisions was to take over the management of not only Government operated water schemes, but also self-help and County Council operated schemes. This decision was marked with challenges including; lack of effective control over its schemes, rapid and effective responses to operations and maintenance requirements, reduced level of consumer participation and responsibility, low levels of equity in the social distribution of scheme water, financial sustainability among others.

Ewaso River

Ewaso River

The ministry acknowledged these challenges and commissioned 2 studies in 1983. The Water Study argued that the ministry should stay away from operations and maintenance responsibility while the Operations and Maintenance Study recommended this function should be decentralised. The two reports also called for water sector reforms to address the challenges. In 1992, the ministry of Water Development released two important documents that guided the sector up to the end of the decade. First to be tabled was the delineation study that defined the roles, functions and responsibilities of various actors in the sector, in particular the ministry and National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation. Second was The National Water Master Plan which set out long term plans for the much needed reforms in the management and development of the sector.

Between 1995 and 1999, the ministry was involved in a policy development process for the sector. National Policy on Water Resources Management and Development was published on Session Paper No.1 of 1999 and would become the blue print guiding the legal, administrative and investment reforms in the sector. The reforms would be driven by the Water Policy 1999, the Water Act 2002, the new Water Sector institutions as illustrated in the figure below.

Water

(Above) The new institution set up under water sector reforms -Source: WRUA Development cycle volume 3

The policy changes resulted in:  separation of functions as illustrated in the figure above; decentralisation from government delegating functions to decentralised institutions and operational levels; stakeholder’s participation with greater involvement of water users and stakeholders in decision making and water resource management through WRUAs and Catchment Area Advisory Committees; Consideration of water as social and economic good through commercialisation of water services; user and polluter payments; and systems of protecting less advantaged members of the society.

The new constitution has mandated the National Government with the role of Water Resource management and regulation while County governments with soil and water conservation, water and sanitation services. The constitution has placed greater demands and responsibility on National and County government in the provision of clean and safe water in adequate quantities. Many Counties, including Laikipia are benefitting from introduced mandates, however there are still strides to be made as communities still do not have access to water resources despite living within the catchment areas.

Currently, the water act bill 2014 has been set to align the current water sector institutions in order to fit to the requirements of the New Constitution.  It is only through the dedicated enforcement of these reforms can WRUAs and other dedicated stakeholders be successful in water resource management.

Poisoning of vultures stirs up questions for wildlife regulations

Africa’s vultures are under dire threat mainly due to poisoning and other human activities. In October 2015, four species of African vultures were declared critically endangered, and two species were up listed to endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species; the global indicator of a species well-being.

Poisoned White-backed and Rueppell’s vultures ADC Mutara 7 Jan 2016 Photo J Wahome

Poisoned White-backed and Rueppell’s vultures ADC Mutara 7 Jan 2016
Photo J Wahome

This means that the most commonly occurring vultures in Laikipia namely White-backed and Rüppell’s vultures, are at high risk of global extinction. Also facing extinction are the critically endangered Hooded Vultures, and the Endangered Lappet-faced Vultures. To date, there are three species of vultures that are only rarely seen in the wild in Laikipia and the are: The Bearded Vulture (or Lammergeier) that formerly nested on the Loldaigas; the White-headed Vulture whose former abundance in Laikipia is not well known; and the Egyptian Vulture that still thrived within the landscape until approximately 15-20 years ago, when their decline started to become apparent.

Today poisoning is the greatest threat to vultures worldwide, and the birds residing in Laikipia face the same threat. The poisoning of predators like lions and hyenas in retaliation for livestock loss is a huge challenge, and it is undoubtedly the biggest threat to Laikipia’s scavengers.

Sadly, early the New Year, vultures in Laikipia faced two separate poisoning incidents. The first took place at ADC Mutara on 6th January and occurred when lions killed four cows. In retaliation to this, herders laced three of the carcasses with an unknown poison. The result was the gruesome death of at least 32 White-backed and Rüppell’s vultures, and one Tawny Eagle. Two cows were also poisoned after grazing on grass contaminated by the vomit and faeces of the dying vultures. While the loss of livestock to predators is a serious issue for pastoralists, the indiscriminate use poisons is clearly not the answer.

The second incident occurred days later on Narok Ranch where two vultures, two Tawny Eagles, and one jackal were poisoned after a predator attacked a cow and a sheep.

“As a scientist, I can only speak with alarm when the small tracking devices we use to study the movements of vultures out lives the birds themselves. Vultures can live for many years and are slow reproducing birds. Ideally, they should live between 20 and 30 years, however most that I’ve tracked wandering widely in Laikipia, Samburu, and Marsabit Counties are lucky to survive even one year. For a group of species that typically lays only one egg, every other year, this situation can only result in the drastic decline Kenya’s resident vultures, affecting their long-term survival” says Darcy Ogada from the Peregrine Fund.

However it is not too late and measures can still be put in place that will help save these birds that play a vital role in the ecosystem. Efforts have already begun throughout Kenya will progress in 2016 and beyond. The more people involved, the more successful initiatives will be. This has begun through the training of rangers and field scouts to deter poisoning incidents. “We are also seeking creative ways to finance a vulture restaurant, or feeding station, which could provide ‘safe’ food for vultures.

As we work to improve the situation for vultures, please get in touch if you observe or have any old stories about Bearded, White-headed or Egyptian vultures anywhere in Kenya. We are also interested in knowing about the breeding locations of any species of vulture in Kenya. Finally, please report any poisoning incidences to KWS and to us” concludes Ms. Ogada.

KWS Board hosts discussions on wildlife regulations

In a rare and welcomed move, the Board Chair of KWS, Dr. Richard Leakey, and his respective board members, hosted a two-day open house meeting on January 21 and 22, 2016 to discuss over 20 regulations that have been designed to interpret the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act and put it into action. Dr. Leakey set the stage for open and honest discussions saying; “some of these regulations are punitive and confusing, let’s get them sorted out.”

Dr. Richard Leakey, KWS Chair addresses the open house meetings in January

Dr. Richard Leakey, KWS Chair addresses the open house meetings in
January

With more than 40 participants drawn from the private sector, conservation groups, research institutions and KWS, Dr. Leakey invited forthright discussion of what works and what doesn’t work in the new draft regulations. Ensuring there would be no “acrimony or recrimination” for being outspoken on the Act and its regulations, Dr. Leakey chaired the two day event while drafting consultants took note of public inputs. LWF was actively represented for these discussions.

The two days focused on a range of topics including wildlife research, access, incentives and benefit sharing as well as activities in protected areas. The group also addressed Bio-Prospecting, Community Participation, and the Wildlife Compensation Regulation. The full list of draft regulations in their present state can be obtained from the LWF website – www.laikipia.org under “resources” tab.

Perhaps of biggest concern to LWF members will be the final regulations governing the Establishment of Conservancies; Access, Incentives and Benefit Sharing; and the Wildlife Compensation Regulations. Under the Act’s definition of protected area, conservancies will be included, and thus conservancies of all types have a vested interest in these regulations. LWF and the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (among others) are monitoring these developments carefully.

Expect the next draft of regulations out in the next two months using the feedback from these discussions. LWF and the KWS Board will remain actively engaged in creating a more “enabling environment” for all aspects of wildlife conservation in Kenya, and will be keeping the public informed of these developments.

Conservation Education in Laikipia set to benefit from formation of strong partnerships

The use of film to educate young minds is a tool that conservation education has taken advantage of for years. In partnership with Ol Pejeta Conservancy (OPC) and the Rufford Foundation, LWF continued to enhance conservation education using nature based films, hosting screenings for students in various local schools and communities living adjacent to the Conservancy.

The idea of the venture was to increase the level of understanding about wildlife, their respective habitats, wildlife conservation and management and how to improve community participation. It was hoped that the venture would trigger an eagerness to participate in wildlife management activities as well as appreciate the care for other natural resources.

Students at a film screening on wildlife

Students at a film screening on wildlife

The communities that live in and around OPC, in an ecosystem where wildlife thrives, have limited knowledge on the management of the resource continues to be limited. By introducing creative awareness of wildlife conservation and other related activities such as tree planting in schools, community areas and homesteads can be transformed and assist in keeping the landscape intact for future generations.

In addition, creating open spaces in schools and at surrounding trading centres where artistic expression through murals on building walls continues to stir interest in wildlife management and helps strengthen existing environmental clubs and networks.

The Rufford Foundation, formerly the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, is a trust based in the United Kingdom that funds nature conservation projects by small or medium-sized organizations in developing countries. The Foundation funded the Conservation Education Outreach Project initiated in February 2015 through a small Grant. Over the years the project has continued to achieve its aim and objectives.

There have been notable achievements and successes since the commencement of the project such as:

  • The provision of Rufford Small Grants to meet the budget costs;
  • Continued support from the implementing team an organisations;
  • Active and response audiences’ i.e. young learners and community members.

The initial stage of the project involved setting up a support network with key organisations such as African Environmental Film Foundation (AEFF) and Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF). AEFF donated 25 environmental themed films and documentaries to the project giving easy access to schools and other academic institutions within Laikipia through an established LWF network. The project was then introduced to teachers attending environmental education workshops organised by LWF while OPC did the same for local communities. In January 2016, the project was introduced to environmental educators from the larger Laikipia region during a 10 day training workshop on environmental education held in OPC.

Project contribution and outcomes  

  • The conservation education outreach schedules have created opportunities to reach out to wider target audiences in remote areas.
  • Through the nature based films, school going children and members of the local communities have had a chance to visually experience wildlife, their behaviours and their natural habitats increasing their awareness about wildlife conservation.
  • Through local community barazas (meetings), conservation issues have been discussed especially those that address human-wildlife conflict.

The project did face various challenges during its implementation, some of which were;

  • The manoeuvring around a challenging road network during the rainy season causing slight delays in the activities schedule.
  • Lack of information on conservation and use of Swahili translated films.
  • Set public school curricular proved to be inflexible to the introduction of the project, restricting the number of students who participated in the project.

LWF will continue to work with the Rufford Foundation, OPC and other key stakeholders in enhancing Conservation Education for local, national and international audiences, as well as look for ways to ensure a sustainable model for Conservation Education in Laikipia is implemented.

A poster supported by LWF, OPC and Rufford Foundation with the the Make A Choice on sustainable energy

A poster supported by LWF, OPC and
Rufford Foundation with the the Make A
Choice on sustainable energy