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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.