Infrastructure Development and the Ewaso Ng’iro Basin

By Sarah Chiles – African Wildlife Foundation

As the government of Kenya seeks to achieve Vision 2030, infrastructure developments are gaining substantial momentum. Several developments, under various stages of planning and development, are due to affect the Ewaso Ng’iro Basin. These include LAPSSET, the Isiolo Mega Dam, the Isiolo Resort City, the KETRACO powerline, and the inter-county tarmac roads.

The developments test the harmonisation of national-level vision and county-level priorities, and also that of inter-county coordination. The Isiolo Mega Dam (see maps), proposed by the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation, is a case in point. If realised, it will impact Laikipia, Isiolo and Samburu counties, and will require ongoing upstream-downstream management collaboration.

The dam and other developments have significant and cumulative implications for the ecosystem and human resilience in the Ewaso Ng’iro Basin. They present the possibility of substantial land use change. When this happens in a dryland ecosystem, where economic activities largely comprise pastoralism and wildlife-based tourism, it will impact the movements of people, livestock, and wildlife.

As the window of opportunity for influencing infrastructure developments closes, there is an urgent need for communities, conservationists, and those involved in tourism to come together and discuss these developments in a coordinated manner.

This realisation has prompted the formation of the Ewaso Ng’iro Basin Stakeholder Forum, which aims to foster improved partnerships between groups with vested interests. The Forum aims to provide efficient information sharing and coordination of activities in an effort to influence the best possible outcomes for people and ecosystems in the Ewaso Ng’iro Basin.

The forum was formed on the 6th April 2016 at a stakeholder workshop held at the African Wildlife Foundation Headquarters in Nairobi. Over sixty organisations and individuals from the Ewaso Ng’iro Basin were invited to participate. Through its water basin focus, the forum encourages thinking about ecosystems and therefore is an opportunity for stakeholders to act in integrated ways about infrastructure, people and the environment.

The steering committee is currently composed of Northern Rangelands Trust, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, the Samburu Isiolo Tourism Forum, IMPACT, the Conservation Alliance of Kenya, and the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association. The African Wildlife Foundation was requested to serve as the secretariat, and has accepted this role. Based on the outcomes of the meeting on 6th April 2016, the steering committee is currently deliberating on priorities for action. The forum will engage with development proponents, the business communities in these counties, consultants, county governments, and NEMA.

Should you wish to know more about the forum or become a member of the forum, please email Sarah Chiles on schiles@awf.org, or contact LWF at josephat.musyima@laikipia.org

Water, Education and Climate Change

The water- bank model and its technology need to be replicated not only in water-stressed zones but in the construction of all other public buildings and community spaces~ Governor Laikipia County Joshua Irungu.

In Africa, people spend thousands of hours finding and fetching water. This task usually falls to women and children, especially in communities living in arid areas. The long hours spent looking for water can mean missing out on work, spending time at home with families, or being at school. The risks associated with going to gather water are also a problem; these include wildlife attacks, sexual harassment or assault.

The Zeitz Foundation is addressing this challenge through a unique model that addresses both water and educational needs. Speaking recently during the launch of the Ereri school water bank, the Director of the Zeitz Foundation, Mr. Njenga Kahiro noted that the new model is innovative; offering a solution to people living in water-stressed zones while addressing much needed educational facilities.

Speaking at the same event, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for Environment, Natural resources and regional authorities, Professor Judi Wakhungu praised the model as being viable and easy to replicate.

She said, “I am pleased that the water-bank model is taking root here and providing a template for other counties and other countries to emulate in community climate change adaptation.”The Ereri water-bank is the sixth such building constructed by the Zeitz Foundation with funding from the Parker Fray Family.

The building harvests and stores 100,000 litres of water while at the same time offers a great learning facility to more than 320 students and teachers. It has 5 classrooms and 2 teacher offices with a central multipurpose courtyard that can easily be used as an assembly ground or a theatre hall.

The launch event on April 14th 2016, was overseen by the CS Prof Judi Wakhungu, and graced by Laikipia North Member of Parliament, Hon. Mathew Lempurkel and Governor Joshua Irungu. Other government officials also attended, including partners and stakeholders from both national and county level with teachers, students and hundreds of community members in attendance.

Professor Wakhungu noted that rainwater harvesting is a major part of being able to attain Kenya’s Vision 2030. She emphasized that a lack of water is a major constraint to economic development. This is especially so in Laikipia, where communities are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The Governor of Laikipia promised to have the model and technology replicated in other areas of the County.

Financial Sustainability Workshop with EKN

On Fools Day, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN), with the help of Strathmore University and African Wildlife Foundation, hosted a workshop for EKN grant recipients on the financial sustainability of conservation organizations in Kenya.

However, not ones to feel foolish or left out, the LWF staff of Gilbert Momanyi and Peter Hetz participated along with NRT, various conservancy leaders, WWF, AWF, MaMaSe, and others.

The workshop focused on the tools associated with financial management and strategic planning in a Dutch effort to encourage greater financial self-reliance among their grantees.

Mukogodo Forest News

Significant progress is being made with the Mukogodo forest in Laikipia. The ILMAMUSI CFA is an organisation that has been charged with the daily management and protection of the indigenous forest. A number of key steps have been made to strengthen the CFA in recent months. The process was spearheaded by the LWF Community Liaison officer (CLO) for the Eastern Unit, in close consultation with all the other CFA partners: LWC, NRT, and BORANA.

In February 2016, four meetings were held in four locations, namely Il Ngwesi, Makurian, Mukogodo (Kurikuri) and Sieku (Lekurruki). These meetings were aimed at bringing together Group ranch committee members and CBO Committee members in order to take them through the Participatory Forest Management plan (PFMP). The PRMP is the KFS and CFA signed management agreement for the Forest. They also reviewed and signed the KFS Act of 2005. This is the first time in the history of the CFA that these critical documents were discussed by these committees, and it brought a clear understanding of the contents of the documents and the structure of the ILMAMUSI CFA to both groups.

Following a thorough discussions with the Group ranches and CBO committees, it was decided that there was a serious need to train the CBO committee members.  A total of 60 participants took part in the training. The aim of the training was to teach the CBOs about the requirements of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) in the management of community forests. The Ilmamusi CFA agreement was signed in December of 2014.  It ensured that the members understood their roles.

During the training, the CBO committees were able to fully understand and identify with the structural organization of the hierarchy of the CFA from the role of the CFA Board. The training also enabled the participants to map the forest resources found in their particular areas and also to identify the forest user-groups that exist in their respective areas.

In March and April this year, each respective CBO committee organised a community meeting in their area to pass on information about the training they received. This included information about the Forest management plan, Management agreement, and pertinent clauses of the KFS Act.

During these meetings it was apparent that a large number of community members do not fully understand how the ILMAMUSI CFA works as an organisation and have no idea of the CFA structure. These meetings enabled the majority of community members to understand the entities better.

More still needs to be done to strengthen the CFA and make its future even brighter. LWF will support a special general meeting between all the CFA partners. It will be a great opportunity for the CFA board to present important matters to its membership to allow the CFA move forward.

Awareness in the community has increased tremendously. More than ever, the majority of community members now understand the CFA structure. LWF and other Mukogodo partners want the CFA to succeed. But the CFA will increasingly need to take ownership of their own destiny and bring together the many voices and users of Mukogodo Forest under strong leadership. Mukogodo Forest is an important part of the north Laikipia neighbourhood. When this Forest is secured and conserved, all members of the neighbourhood will benefit, but a lot still needs to be done to strengthen the CFA and make it fully operational.

We remain very optimistic that if and when the Mukogodo forest’s full potential is realised, it will benefit the communities, wildlife as well as all of its the neighbours in a very big way.

Lives of Laikipia

Mary Nyambura, Wathiani – Business lady

Rumuruti is situated in LWF’s Northern Unit. Residents of Rumuruti have dealt with issues surrounding human-wildlife conflict for decades. This has prompted the County government, Lwf and other key stakeholders to join hands in putting up a fence in sections around Rumuruti forest.  Meet Mary Nyambura Wathiani, an LWF member and a resident of Rumuruti town.

I was born and brought up in Rumuruti. It is a peaceful and calm town with more businesses starting up compared to when I was young. I am also an LWF member and their work is significant in our lives. They taught us how to make soaps and detergents so as to generate income from our newly learned skills. In the past, Rumuruti was a very dry place but when were taught about how to conserve trees and waterbeds, a lot has changed. Now people farm around the small dams and major rivers. The killing of both wildlife and people was common because of two human groups found in this region; pastoralists and farmers. Conflict would arise because of inadequate water and wildlife invasion-particularly elephants. This has since changed and people are embracing the idea of living harmoniously with wildlife. As LWF continues its education to its members about conservation, water and wildlife, there will be more farmers and less conflict between pastoralists. LWF also taught us about group dimensions, which has been helpful. Now we know the importance of interacting and working as one. They also had an education programme that would be of great help if it was brought back because we will witness a larger group of our children get quality education. I am grateful to LWF and I hope that, with them, Rumuruti will become a better place.

Laikipia practitioners lead the way!

Laikipia practitioners lead the way! Matthew Chana of LWF and Peter Lalampa of the Grevy’s Zebra Trust were active participants in a recent international dialogue conference in Kabarnet, Baringo County. They gave theoretical and practical demonstrations on land use, rangelands management, and holistic management to conference participants based on their work in Laikipia and NRT conservancies.

Land is an important and highly contested resource within Baringo County. The rehabilitation of degraded lands offers an immense opportunity for improving food security, water security and employment in the North Rift region of Kenya. At the same time, building trust between communities as well as between various land users is critical in ensuring long-term sustainability and peace within the region.

These issues were featured at the International Dialogue on Land and Security, held at the Rift Valley Hills Resort, Kabarnet, Baringo County. Approximately 100 local and international experts and participants attended this dialogue, and presented the latest debates on land, food, water, climate and human security..

Wild Class: Loisaba

“The future of our landscape, and the health of the natural resources found in Laikipia and surrounding counties is very much dependent on how we empower future generations in taking care of these natural resources. Conservation Education is a fundamental tool in driving this empowerment” – Tom Sylvester, Loisaba Conservancy.

Loisaba Conservancy is a 61,000 acre conservancy located close to Maralal. Recently, it celebrated the opening of a newly constructed lodge after a devastating fire destroyed the original one just two years ago. Loisaba has plans to develop even further, hoping to bring fresh ideas to Laikipia’s range of conservation based tourism activities. The Loisaba management is focusing heavily on Conservation Education (CE) as a land-use to empower future generations on the possibilities of how this area can be managed.

Now part of Wild Class, Loisaba is planning to invest substantially in its CE programme by providing a space where students can learn more about protecting wildlife. One of the ways it is doing this is through its sniffer-dog programme. It hopes to give kids access to research in a real “living laboratory”.

Partnership with The Nature Conservancy

One of Loisaba’s main strengths is that it enjoys a strong partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). TNC has worked with land custodians for decades. TNC’s presence in Laikipia and Northern Kenya is significant because it is assisting local communities and land owners to develop their land in a way that creates meaningful benefits for everyone.

Livestock to Market is a proven program that provides pastoralists in northern Kenya with improved market access in exchange for their efforts to protect their lands and wildlife. By scaling-up ecotourism and grazing operations, and expanding this Livestock to Market idea, the Loisaba Conservancy can become a self-sustaining revenue engine for peace, community development and wildlife conservation.

The development of the conservancy’s CE programme will enrich revenues and more importantly ensure that the programme remains sustainable. CE provides an opportunity for students to learn how the conservancy’s conservation programmess work and gives a platform for further development of CE in Laikipia and surrounding counties.

The Ewaso Lions and the Lion Kids Camp

“We learnt all about the threats facing lions and rhinos in Kenya and the importance of conserving them.” Winnie Rose, Laburra Primary School

What is the Lion Kids Camp?

Each year, the Ewaso Lions put on the Lion Kids Camp, a multi-day camp for local children that combines wildlife education, game drives, art competitions, and fun. The participants get to have life-changing wildlife experiences.

Most children in northern Kenya have only had negative experiences with wildlife. The Lion Kids Camps enable children to experience a positive connection with wildlife, inspiring them to be the next generation of park wardens, safari guides, and wildlife biologists.

Seeing Lions for first time

In December 2014, Ewaso Lions took their Lion Kids Camp to Solio Game Reserve. This camp was an opportunity for the children who have lived on the edge of Solio for most of their lives to learn about the animals they had rarely seen and why they are important to them and their families.

To be able to attend, students participated in a creative arts competition and were then selected based on their best entries. They had four teachers join the group of 32 kids who kept the entire group singing, laughing and engaged the entire time.

During the Camp, the children saw their first-ever rhinos – both black and white – including many young calves. They also saw some spectacular lions – young males with golden manes, females with cubs and older males with black manes too. For a first-ever sighting of lions, this was amazing.

The children were surprised to learn that most of the wildlife found in Kenya cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Although some had heard about poaching before, not one child realized that it was a major threat to lions in Kenya. The children could barely look at the images of the poached rhinos after seeing them in the wild. They had to accept the sad reality of it.

All of the children did a questionnaire before and after the trip to enable the Ewaso Lions team to evaluate the camp’s efficacy and to better understand what works for future planning. It was a fantastic few days in the Solio camp, and the children left it singing and feeling hopeful about the future.

About her experience at camp, Beatrice Njoki of Honi Primary School said, “When I went home after the Lion Kids Camp, I taught people to conserve the environment. We live near the Ark tourist lodge, where people have been killing dik-diks and gazelles but I urged them to stop because it’s very bad.  My family was very happy because I told them I wanted to be a tour guide and also one of my neighbours is a poacher but we encouraged him to stop poaching”.

Who is ‘Ewaso Lions’?

The Ewaso Lions is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to conservation. It strives to conserve Kenya’s lions and other large carnivores by promoting peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife. The organization uses education to foster support for conservation and help guide the long-term conservation management of lions in protected areas and on private lands.

Where is the Group Located?

The Ewaso Lions works in northern Kenya’s Samburu, Laikipia, and Isiolo Counties, which make up one contiguous ecosystem. This region is home to the third largest population of lions, cheetahs, and wild dogs in Kenya. As their Laikipian neighbour, Forum Focus is proud to support the Ewaso Lions. Like them, we believe Laikipia is special because ¾ of its landscape is used in conservation. There is nowhere else like it in Kenya. We believe Laikipia is the perfect learning environment because it is safe and incredibly diverse. We love that the Ewaso Lions are helping us to further develop the brand of Laikipia as a Wild Class.

Putting Local People first

Ewaso Lions firmly believes that the success of lion conservation hinges on the involvement of the local people who live alongside lions. Its programmes promote human-carnivore coexistence and build local capacity for wildlife rangers and community leaders.

What’s Special about Lions?

Did you know that Kenya’s lions could be extinct in the next two decades?

The African lion population has declined by 90% in the last 75 years and lions have disappeared from approximately 80% of their historical range. Kenya’s lion population is now less than 2,000 individuals.

This decline in lion numbers is mainly due to habitat loss and conflict with humans, primarily over livestock depredation. When lions attack livestock, pastoralists may retaliate by killing them. At the current rate of loss, Kenya’s lions could be extinct in the next two decades unless something is done.

Ngare Ndare and Ngusishi WRUAs Review their Management Plan

The Ngusishi and Ngare Ndare Water Resource User Associations (WRUASs) have been able to review their management plan due to EKN funding through LWF. This was led by the Isiolo and Nanyuki Water Resource Management Authorities (WRMA). Members of the WRUAs participated and contributed to this process.

The new plan includes an addition of new chapters on climate change, flood management and livelihood enhancement. They provide local solutions to build community resilience towards climate change, preparing communities to better manage the impacts of flooding and enhancing the financial sustainability of WRUAs.

Other Highlights of the Month

  • Water Stewardship Leadership Forum

LWF water specialist, James Mwangi, attended a Water Stewardship Leadership Forum. It included advanced training for practitioners on Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Program. This landmark event is designed to improve collaboration between businesses and the government to improve water security across East Africa. It equipped trainees (50 participants from 7 different countries) with a better understanding of water stewardship. The training was held in Arusha for 1 week under sponsorship of Water Resources Group 2030, the German/GIZ and International Water Witness.

  • Status of Pesi River

An illegal weir was constructed last year across Pesi River. It continues to divert the river flow to Thome irrigational canal, denying the downstream users essential water. During its construction, there was no EIA done to look at its potential negative impacts, nor were there any studies done on design and allocation. As it stands, there is no WRMA authorization certificate issued for its construction, no permit allowing use of water in the canal, and no EIA license. LWF has called upon WRMA (who are the regulatory body for water) to look at the matter and act accordingly. County authorities responsible for the weir have also been contacted.

An aerial survey of Laikipia

Together, Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) and Mpala Research Centre (MRC) commissioned a systematic aerial survey of the whole of Laikipia. They also surveyed some adjacent wildlife areas. The survey was carried out in early April and was successfully completed in 6 days. It used two Cessna Caravan aircraft flying transects (these are lines the earth’s surface, along which observations are made or measurements taken) with very experienced crews doing the counting and photographing of large groups of animals. Those involved did a complete photographic coverage of the area, which will be mapped and analysed. The data entry and analysis of the survey is underway right now and results will be out shortly. Look out for these in next month’s issue of Forum Focus.

The survey is part of LWF’s move to try to assess how it can best serve the needs of its members and all stakeholders in the region, and support the County government’s desire to carry out regional planning and development based on accurate information.

The Information that this type of survey provides is important as a baseline for monitoring and managing landscape health and integrity over future years. By using standard, repeatable methods, it gives us the opportunity to understand trends in the landscape based on the long history of these surveys in Laikipia. Consultations have been on-going through group and individual meetings to get feedback on improving LWF’s role and expectations from such a survey.

DRSRS is the highly experienced government agency that was set up originally as Kenya Rangeland Ecological Monitoring Unit (KREMU) in the 1970s. It has been carrying out surveys over the whole of Kenya’s rangelands since then. In partnership with MRC and LWF, systematic surveys of Laikipia have been done regularly since 1985, with the most recent in 2012.

This type of systematic sample survey, known as the Systematic Reconnaissance Flight (SRF), gives broad information on numbers and distribution of a wide range of things, such as wildlife like elephants. It also tells us a great deal about livestock, carcasses, human settlements, and land use.

How does it work?

The way the SRF method works is by setting up parallel rods on either side of the plane. The observers only count the animals they see between the rods, although they may note if group sizes of important species extend beyond the rods. This focuses the attention of the observers to make it less likely for them to miss animals while giving them a precise measurement of the area sampled.

Parallel transects are flown along measured distances over the entire survey area and then the length is multiplied by the strip width, giving the area counted. Calculations are then made to estimate total numbers of each species within the whole area. While this is going on, the front seat observer records other parameters of habitat, land use and the state of vegetation.

The survey is usually flown at the end of the dry season, partly to repeat the standard of past years and make it easy to make comparisons, but also to be able to measure and plot the time of maximum pressures on the land from grazing. This year the count was later than in other years because of the seasonal problems linked to climate change. We hope to be able to repeat this basic standard aerial measure annually and to be able to reinforce it with more detailed information on specific issues.