There has never been a more vital time to ask this question than now.
We are faced with a rampant demand for natural resources to support our livestock and agriculture sectors. Consumption of these resources in Laikipia is far from sustainable, and we seem to race willy-nilly towards the destruction of our county and its natural resources.
The violent invasion of our County by armed herders is unprecedented. Never before have we had to carry guns in order to negotiate access to grass and water. These resources were always the subject of negotiations, agreements, and contracts. Why has this system broken down? More than 30 Kenyans have died as a result of this year’s dry season conflicts.
Never before have we seen such unbridled use of water resources. Our friends and neighbours use our water without a concern for those who will suffer downstream. And with more than 90% of our county’s water supply coming from rivers, unregulated upstream users are also forcing our downstream residents to suffer. Many families are now suffering without water, or from water-borne diseases that result from the pollution of the little water that remains.
Elephants, forced out of their safer and more traditional feeding grounds, now raid the granaries and trading centres of our smallholder members in Marmanet, Shamanek, and Rumuruti Forests. More than 50 elephants roam the territory at night with impunity, and only two KWS rangers are assigned to deal with these giant marauders. Residents are terrified to go out to defend their crops. All efforts to dissuade the elephants have failed.
Do we really care so little for our brothers and sisters in this County?
We face a crisis of leadership, and a crisis of unity in this landscape. Our present leaders seem hell-bent on ignoring the very foundation of our livelihoods – the soil, the rangelands, the water, the forests, and the wildlife. Instead, they chase votes and manipulate citizen expectations. They provide very little in the way of solutions or resources.
But, in an unprecedented move, the institutions of the Mpala Research Centre, the Northern Rangelands Trust, and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum have come together to bring the best of science, research, and information to guide development of the next County’s Integrated Development Plan.
New CIDPs are due at the end of this year, and these three institutions are offering to help facilitate and inform decision making for the most significant tool that guides County development and expenditure over the next five years. Our county development decisions must be based on the sustainable use of natural resources.
The same information service will be extended to Baringo, Samburu, and Isiolo Counties in an effort to bring about an integrated approach to the management of ALL our natural resources.
And that can’t be a bad thing.