Important update from Laikipia

The Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) and associated national tourism bodies, (KTF and KATO) today came together with the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) and Laikipia tourism providers to form a tourism task force whose primary role is to promote Laikipia and its exceptional, diverse landscapes, wildlife and cultures.

The #KaribuLaikipia Task Force will also update the public and industry stakeholders regularly with news from the region.

 

The Task Force is a recommendation of an industry meeting held in Laikipia last week. They gathered to address the challenges to the tourism industry resulting from the movement of large numbers of herders and livestock into the landscape.  There was general agreement that this Task Force would help inform visitors to Laikipia.

#KaribuLaikipia is led by a team comprising of ranches, conservancies, hotels, and industry leaders. Their efforts will be led by a full-time Communications Specialist to head the clearing-house functions of this Task Force. Regular updates will be posted through LWF’s social media platforms. Posts will include both the current situation and also the many positive events and stories coming out of the Laikipia tourism industry daily.

This service will be linked to other social media channels that include information on the County’s activities.

Visitors to Laikipia continue to enjoy astoundingly diverse tourism experiences throughout much of the region.

To remain up-to-date with #KaribuLaikipia, please contact: TourismLaikipia@laikipia.org and join the #KaribuLaikipia Conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For more information, please see www.laikipia.org and www.magicalkenya.com

Laikipia’s Conservancies as Custodians of the World’s Rhinos

A ranger on duty at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (photo credit Martin Bauert)

“Who do these Rhinos belong to?”

asks a student on a game drive at one of Laikipia’s Rhino sanctuaries.

Laikipia prides itself as rhino country. We host 49% of Kenya’s black rhino population and 70% of the white rhino population. Laikipia has approximately 540 rhinos.

In addition, a breeding programme for the Northern White Rhino was recently established in Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Only three of these rhino remain in the whole WORLD!!

The rhino sanctuaries of Lewa, Solio, Borana, Ol Pejeta and Ol Jogi Conservancies lead the way in Kenya’s rhino conservation efforts.

The rhino and efforts towards its conservation have promoted tourism, created jobs and enhanced security for the communities around Laikipia.

And while we celebrate our Laikipia rhino conservation efforts, conservancies still face the enormous challenges of poaching. During the period, 2008-2013 the upsurge in rhino poaching incidents in Laikipia was indeed dramatic: from 3 animals killed in 2006 to 59 rhinos poached in 2013.

While the challenges are still plenty, great strides continue to be made to overcome the poaching crisis.

The successes in rhino conservation boils down to a number of factors: better research, more community outreach, and habitat management, to name a few.

But the main asset in these efforts are the people on the frontline: the ranger teams working in these conservancies. Every day they are risking their lives to safeguard our county, national, and international wildlife treasure – the rhinoceros.  

Our Conservancy ranger teams work closely with the Kenya Police and the Kenya Wildlife Service to stay ahead of the threat. They are trained regularly, and are supported by all sorts of technology that support their efforts. Each ranger is a member of an elite unit of Conservancy staff that receives refresher trainings.

Through the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF), a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the United States Agency for International Development in Kenya, was awarded to support the efforts of these three conservancies to:  

  1. Enhance the ability of our rangers to do their job. This will be done through rangers’ trainings.
  2. Anti-poaching efforts: Our Rangers will be supported with special equipment and facilities to help them do their jobs better.
  3. Deterrence to Wildlife Trafficking: Our Rangers work with communities, conservancies, the police and KWS to monitor poachers, their locations, movement, and intention. This grant will help them improve these efforts

LWF is also leading a communications campaign aimed at helping more Laikipians appreciate the role of rhino conservation in our heritage, our economy, our international reputation as a tourism destination, and in our future land use.

More about the Rhino Sanctuaries

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Boasting the largest black rhino sanctuary in Kenya and Africa .Ol Pejeta is home to three of the world’s last remaining three northern white rhinos, and a sanctuary for 115 critically endangered black rhinos. The Conservancy employ highly trained rhino protection squads, partner with international veterinary experts and ensure data is gathered regularly on each individual animal. Steps like these ensure they remain a role model for rhino conservation in East Africa. The importance of Ol Pejeta to the future of Kenya’s rhino population cannot be overstated. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is 90,000 acres (360km2) acres

The Ol jogi Conservancy

Established over 60 years ago, today, the entire ranch provides a rhino sanctuary and is surrounded by an innovative ring fencing system to offer protection against poaching and facilitate extensive monitoring and security systems. Ol Jogi is 58,000 acres.

Borana Conservancy

Borana is a non-profit conservation organisation dedicated to the sustainable conservation of critical habitat and wildlife. They are a sanctuary for both black and white rhinos which were introduced in from Lake Nakuru National Park and Lewa conservancy. The fence between conservancies – Lewa and Borana has been removed in one of the first efforts to increase rhino conservation and habitat by joining conservancy properties. Together these two conservancies are more than 94,000 acres.

Laikipia Tourism  – An Engine for County Revenue Growth and Development

In January 2017, The New York Times published a list of 52 must-visit destinations in the world.

Featuring in this listing was Laikipia with specific reference to Borana Conservancy and one of the County’s newest properties, Arijiju. Read the full review here

For years, Laikipia’s “eco-tourism” was a beneficiary of donor support. Pamphlets, maps, coffee table books, promotional videos, trade fair attendance, and websites were all accomplished with taxpayer dollars/euros.  LWF members and LWF tourism membership covered about 2%-4% of the total value of these donor subsidies.

In June 2014, these subsidies came to an end. Donors told LWF that 10 years was enough to develop an environmental enterprise that could stand on its own, and cover its basic costs.

In 2015, LWF took an initiative started by its Board, and worked with Conservation Capital on a 10 year Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism in Laikipia. The County Government was engaged on the development of tourism legislation tailored for the County, and a Tourism Task Force was formed in order to lay the foundation for sustainable tourism in the County.

Two years later, the tourism legislation still flounders in the County Assembly. The County has not adopted the Tourism Strategy but, the private sector remains engaged and active.

Using the Task Force established for the Strategy, and capitalising on its members, the Laikipia Tourism Association (LTA) has emerged. The LTA will soon become the vehicle for all sustainable tourism efforts of the private sector in Laikipia. Its goal is to build Laikipia to become the most diversified, sustainable tourism destination in Kenya.

Combining all forms of tourism in Laikipia, the LTA is expected to be the interface with County Government, National Government, and, as needed, with international tourism entities. The Association is also the private sector arm of the County Tourism Board called for in the County tourism legislation. It is expected to work with the County on issues of overlap – energy, waste, infrastructure, revenue generation and taxation, marketing and promotion, as well as environmental compliance and the adoption of incentives for the continued “greening” of the industry.

The LTA will soon have its own managing committee, with a full-time manager employed by the Association. Membership benefits include annual information on tourism performance, registration, and standards compliance. The LTA will also negotiate financial benefits, and serve as a representative to County and National Government on rates, levies, training and capacity building.

LWF will serve as a secretariat in the initial years to help keep operational costs down, and to provide accounting and admin services that are established to international and national requirements.

The first meeting of the LTA membership will be held on March 9, at 2pm, at the Nanyuki Sports Club.  All tourism providers are welcome.

Watch this space for regular updates on this new vehicle that will carry Laikipia forward as a sustainable tourism leader, not just for conservancies, but for all tourism services in the County!

Trenches in Laikipia – Solution or Menace?

Frustrations in Laikipia are running so high that some residents of Laikipia have resulted to using medieval tactics to keep out herds of unwanted livestock.

As a result, some conservancies and ranches have invested millions of Kenyan shillings to construct trenches, (in addition to the electric and chain link fences, and wires on the borders of their lands) with the hope that this will somehow forestall or prevent the entry of illegal livestock and herders on to their properties.

According to the National Environmental Management and Coordination Act of 1999, the construction of these trenches requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). These assessments are a pre-requisite to the construction of trenches, and require public participation as part of the assessment process.  Each EIA is also subject to public scrutiny, and based on the results of this review, a license is, or is not, issued for construction.

In the case of the trenches being built in Laikipia, the “environmental impact” jury is out. EIAs have been carried out for two of the properties and are available on the LWF website. The impacts of these trenches are still not clear, but what is clear is that the EIA analyses are poor.  There are plenty of other examples of the use of trenches in Laikipia to deter entry into private lands, but there doesn’t seem to be any public access to their EIA reports, or any comparative analysis. We have experience of trenches being used around Mt. Kenya and the Aberdares, as well as on the Athi-Kapiti plains. Where is this information helping to inform “trenching” in Laikipia? Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be any dedicated task force that monitors the effectiveness of these trenches. Are trenches an effective deterrent to the movement of illegal livestock on to private lands? And what impact do they have on wildlife and biodiversity?

KWS has offered the most senior objection to the construction of trenches, as they are concerned about the impacts on the biodiversity of the Laikipian landscape. No good studies have been done, to our knowledge, to inform us about the impacts of trench construction to biodiversity in Kenya. However, many scientists believe that an abundance of small animal life could be impacted by trench construction. Larger mammals also appear to be impacted, but the significance is not known.

Many of the biggest frustrations over the construction of fences come from neighbours who are not consulted in their construction. They wonder what this new ditch means for their neighbourhoods, neighbourly relations, and the future of this “open landscape”.  Other neighbours have raised concerns over the impacts to the soils with resulting erosion, and how disturbed ground is an ideal medium for invasive species. People also complain of the unsightly nature of these trenches and what this means to tourism and the beauty of our Laikipian landscape.

In a meeting organised by LWF on 11th January 2017, members of the ranching community led by the Laikipia Farmers Association 2014, met with representatives of the Laikipia County Office of the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA). They discussed the NEMA requirements and way forward. The minutes of that meeting have yet to be released by NEMA, and KWS has not yet issued a formal objection/no-objection to the construction of trenches. Unfortunately, KWS could not attend this meeting, and thus no formal position was shared by them.

In a world obsessed with walls and fences, historic and contemporary, there has never been a wall/trench that has worked to keep out people intent on getting to the other side.

Is this the future we envision for Laikipia, our Wildlife, and for our Neighbourhoods? Or is this Laikipia’s last stand?

Water Crisis – The Solutions Lie With Us!

 

The present water crisis in Laikipia is the result of three things:

  1. Less than normal rainfall over the last 6 months, and less than average rainfall in 2016.
  2. Illegal abstraction of water from our rivers.
  3. Inadequate water harvesting and water storage and mismanagement of water for agriculture.

We are witnessing a water crisis of devastating proportions. According to Susan Marseille, a downstream riparian landowner in Timau, this is the first time since 2009 that she is seeing the Timau River go dry for more than two weeks.

The Naro Moru and Ngobit rivers are also drying up, forcing residents to travel for miles in search of water.  Downstream river users have been without flowing water for more than a month

WRMA’s Nanyuki Sub-Regional Manager, Mr. Gibson Mwangi, is greatly concerned that the catchments are experiencing water shortages as a result of the increasing, unregulated water demand for irrigation, domestic use and for livestock.

In Kenya, every citizen has a right to water. The National Water Strategy, as well as the new Water Act commits to making this happen. When we suffer water shortages like this, our tendency is to blame government. But the immediate solutions to this water crisis lie with us.

Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP) has mobilised its Partners for collective action. The Partnership aims to return water flow within our rivers as required by law. All Water Resource User Associations (WRUAs) and WRMA stakeholders have agreed to implement an immediate action plan to tackle the current crisis. The plan will:

  • Mount an immediate campaign about water abstraction, monitoring and regulation through WRUAs.  By the end of February, we want all rivers flowing again.
  • Help WRMA to better monitor and enforce the water regulations affecting abstraction.
  • Build the capacity of WRUAs to monitor and enforce water conservation and management rules.

To make this action plan work, MKEWP will work with WRUA clusters. These are “zones” of WRUAs in common catchment areas. Collections of WRUAs will work together to restore river flow in an area, not just in each river. We use this system to help WRUAs monitor river flows individually and collectively.

Our WRUA clusters are: A) Timau, Ngusishi, Teleswani and Sirimon B) Ontulili, Likii and Nanyuki C) Rongai, Burguret and Naromoru D) Moyok, Upper Ewaso Ngiro, Kareminu and Ngobit.

LWF is the secretariat to the MKEWP. We have succeeded in raising 2 Million KSH towards this effort to get rivers flowing again. We have secured funds from Kenya Water Resources Group 2030/IFC to support the initial activities of the plan, and have since been joined by matching funds from the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), WRMA, the Mt. Kenya Growers Groups, and the County Government of Laikipia.

Execution of the plan will be carried out by the WRUAs and WRMA.

WRMA is the technical support to ensure that water rationing programs and water laws are enforced.

WRUAs are responsible for the implementation of river water rationing programs, river flow monitoring, and participating in joint monitoring within their clusters.

LWF will serve as an information clearing house, support additional fundraising activities, networking and reporting and administration of the program.

If your river is not flowing, tell your WRUA chair and the committee. If your river is flowing, then thank your WRUA committee. If you still have problems, contact us on mkewp@laikipia.org.

The foundation and success of this plan is dependent on the participation of all stakeholders and water users. We call upon you to collaborate with your local WRUA and WRMA for improved, equitable access to water for all users.

Additional support either in kind or cash to support the plan is being sought from stakeholders and partners.

To make a contribution via MPESA, use Lipa na mpesa – paybill number: 898370, Account: Water

All contributions via cheque should be made out to Laikipia Wildlife Forum.

To find out more about how you can be a part of this effort, please contact James Mwangi on mkewp@laikipia.org

 

Taking Conservation Education by the Horns: Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs

In Kenya, conservation education is not part of any formal school curriculum. Instead, it takes place in school clubs because of the initiatives of dedicated teachers and conservation staff. However, when budgets are slashed and the economy isn’t working as it should, conservation education projects tend to be shelved.

If future generations of Kenyans are to really be empowered with hands-on education that will allow them to take care of their natural resources, then we must change how conservation education is implemented.

The Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs (NKCC) are operating in twelve schools across northern and central Laikipia; six of these are in the Kimanjo area, just 2 hours from Nanyuki town.  The clubs take place after school one afternoon each week.  Here, the conservation education curriculum consists of activities and lessons that involve experiential learning through games that teach concepts; students then explore the natural world around them. The goal is to teach them about the importance of conservation so that they can make informed decisions, now and in the future.

But putting this experiential learning into practice is not always easy. One key challenge that the clubs still have to address is getting teachers to teach this way, which is so different from the way they teach in school.  Annual teachers’ workshops are held with the help of Mpala Research Centre and its patrons. During these teacher training sessions, teachers are helped to take up the role of students and go through experiential learning.  This helps them understand what the students are learning from any of the activities and how they can lead the same activities.

Ayub Kingori has been a supervisor for the six Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs in Laikipia, as well as at Ewaso. He joins Everlyn Ndinda, who supervises the five clubs on the other side of the Ewaso Ng’iro river. Together they conduct regular visits to the surrounding conservation education clubs to assist teachers with activities, distribute supplies and generally make sure the clubs are active.  Both Ayub and Everlyn are passionate about conservation and are moving the clubs forward.  On a typical Saturday, Ayub takes a group of club students to the Kimanjo Resource Centre for specific activities.  He may read them a conservation story from the library, show a DVD about wildlife, or play a game with the students.  Some favourites include “The Web of Life”, which teaches about the interconnectedness of all living things in an ecosystem, and “More or Less”, which teaches about the effects of a growing human population on a habitat.  Afterwards, as part of this conservation learning experience, Kingori takes the students for a drive around Ol Lentille Conservancy to see and learn about the wildlife.

Every year on a Saturday in July, the twelve conservation clubs come together at one school and invites families and community members to be part of a full day celebration.  The students make displays and presentations about projects they have been working on and topics about which they are learning.  They share what they’ve learnt with the other clubs and with the community.  

In 2016, NKCC partnered with the Laikipia Rabies Vaccine Campaign (LRVC) and taught all students about rabies and the importance of vaccinating dogs and cats.  They acted out what they learnt in drama presentations and then had a drawing competition to make posters about rabies.  The winning posters were hung in communities around Laikipia to inform everyone about this important topic and to get their animals vaccinated.  The LRVC vaccinated 4,500 dogs and cats, which not only protects pets and people, but also wildlife.

The most recent venture for NKCCs is the setting up of camera traps so that students can see what animals get up to late at night.  Students from the clubs then share those photos and information with others at school.

So is this kind of learning making a difference to conservation education?   At a recent teachers’ workshop, one teacher told the group that students are taking their conservation learning home; they are planting trees at home as they have been doing at school and communicating to members of the community why this is important.  The teachers are seeing that experiential learning provides practical experiences for students.  One club used the money they raised from harvesting honey from their beehives to buy snacks for their trip to Ol Lentille.  Another club used money they earned from their shamba club to have an end of year celebration.  And because the learning is fun and different, students are going home and talking to their parents about their experiences.   And so yes, conservation education in Laikipia is making a difference for our youth.

Northern Kenyan Conservation Clubs are part of Wild Class and LACE, an LWF initiative that is developing a full service Conservation Education programme to support members. To find out more about these initiatives visit www.laikipia.org