Wondering what the County is up to in its obligation to help build fences that protect wildlife, people, and property? Here’s a quick update of the status of the two major fence construction projects supported by Laikipia County Government, Space for Giants, ranchers, communities, BATUK, and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum.
Rumuruti Forest Fence – The Rumuruti forest covers an area of 6,500 hectares. It is managed by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) in conjunction with the Rumuruti Community Forest Association (CFA). Most of the local communities living adjacent to the forest rely on it for their daily needs. There are more than 67 km of fence surrounding this forest, and the fence is divided into sections. These sections have different lengths and face different challenges, making the maintenance of the entire fence a particularly complicated issue.
The sections of the fence include seven community sections – Melwa, Lorien, Salama, Mahianyu, Rwathia, Siron and Bondeni. About 2 thousand households are impacted by this fence. Because of the various wildlife and access challenges facing each section and its corresponding community, the County Government of Laikipia has decided to assist. They have put aside 97 million towards upgrading the fence. To date, only two new sections have been installed but are not complete. Some of these new sections have had more success than others. The Mahianyu section has only experienced one breakage since the new fence was installed. The Melwa section has suffered many challenges due to lack of community engagement and ownership, conflicts with grazers, poor solar power supply and political interference.
LWF has had a hand in mitigating some of the problems facing community members living by the fence. We have given out fence maintenance materials to the fence committees of Siron, Bondeni, Matigari, Lorian, Mahianyu and Salama. They have all worked very hard to maintain their fences but still face many challenges in mending them.
In a February meeting held by LWF for the Rumuruti Fence stakeholders, community members were able to voice their concerns about the various challenges affecting their fence sections. We worked with these stakeholders to identify problems associated with their fence sections and to come up with solutions. The issues raised by those at the meeting were many.
- Fence ownership.
- Community participation.
- Repairs and maintenance.
- Vandalism by herders.
- Lack of resources for fence committees.
- Reluctance by Rumuruti communities to support forest conservation, anti-poaching and sustainable use of forest resources.
- Lack of clear ownership of the forest and the fences which causes confusion about who is responsible for maintenance.
Constructing wildlife fences and keeping them maintained is a real cost to any community. That is why the planning that goes into such wildlife fences must carefully address both wildlife and community needs. Some of the resolutions reached during the Rumuruti community meetings included assigning roles and responsibilities to different stakeholders for the construction and maintenance of these fences. A decision was made to identify all the challenges, and work towards finding solutions. The area chiefs together with KFS, KWS and LWF will hold community barazas in all the seven sections of the fence to create awareness about the Rumuruti Fence Project going forward. This team will encourage the community fence committees to take charge of the fence and to understand the costs, the organization, and the roles and responsibilities of each partner in the success of a wildlife fence project.
West Laikipia Fence
The West Laikipia Fence was originally constructed by LWF in collaboration with KWS and surrounding landowners, through funding from the Kenyan Government and the Royal Netherlands Embassy, in 2007. Currently, over 70% of the sections of this fence are performing poorly, or absent completely.
Last year (2015), with the assistance of Space for Giants, the Laikipia County Government formed a Human-Elephant Conflict/West Laikipia Fence Task Force to address the problems with the West Laikipia Fence. The Task Force includes private land users, KWS, LWF, BATUK, Space for Giants, and County Government. Three sections of the West Laikipia Fence are targeted for repair/reconstruction: ADC, Ngorare, and Laikipia Nature Conservancy. After two years, these new fence sections will be privately owned and maintained in partnership with communities outside the fence sections. 43 Million Kenya Shillings from County Government have been committed to this fencing project. The balance of the 90+ million KSH project is coming from Task Force partners.
As of the beginning of March 2016, a consulting firm contracted to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment completed its report. The EIA was submitted to the National Environmental Management Authority for approval.
During the first three months of 2016, the County Government awarded a contract for the supply of fencing materials. The new fence construction will start at the Laikipia Nature Conservancy. The Task Force received the first delivery of fencing poles procured by the County Government at the District Officer’s compound at Kinamba.
The Task Force is using five tools to ensure the success of the West Laikipia Fence; (1) fence construction agreements with ranches; (2) fence maintenance contracts with ranches; (3) community engagement protocols; (4) fence vandalism protocols that are enforced under the law will be developed with county law enforcement officials; and (5) public information and awareness efforts.
Stay tuned for more Mending Fences update in future editions and on our website at www.laikipia.org.