Drought Relief for Livestock finds its way to Laikipia through Community-Driven Drought Management

The on going drought in Kenya continues to have devastating effects on human, wildlife and livestock populations in Laikipia. In an effort to bring temporary relief for the County’s livestock, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) in Laikipia, together with LWF and Borana, Lolldaiga and Ol Jogi conservancies began distributing cattle food supplements to cows from pastoralist communities in their neighbourhoods in order to ease the effects of the drought on their breeding cattle. You will recall that this plan was part of an on going negotiation and planning exercise supported by conservancies, group ranches, LWF and the NDMA that started in September 2016.

NDMA and LWF delivered approximately 50,000kgs (1,000 bags) of livestock food supplements in March 2017 to communities that have been hit hardest by the drought. This represented the first drought relief consignment and more is expected in April.

The drought relief scheme has been blessed by the group ranch chairs, and local authorities. The livestock benefitting from this forms the basis of a “breeding herd”.  Selection of cows has been carried out by grazing committees and has been considered by communities to be fair and equitable. Both ranchers and group ranches have agreed on the number of community livestock that enter the ranch to be supported by the food supplements. These cows on the ranch are protected, fed, and monitored with the help of the ranch staff and the community grazing committees. The food supplements were delivered with the help of NDMA to each ranch, and the food supplements continue to be monitored by the same team.

This simple programme is designed to help get us through the worst of the drought, build bridges in neighbourhoods that are stressed, and to ensure the best of our cows survive. We are grateful to Kenya’s military who offered transport, which is always a challenge when distributing such relief commodities”, says Matthew Chana, LWF’s Rangeland Programme Manager.

Chana accompanied NDMA Officials to one of the pastoralist community’s in Lolldaiga, and who were the beneficiaries of the livestock feed. The ranch has accommodated more than 1,500 cattle during this stressful time.

The people benefitting neighbour Lolldaiga ranch. Together with ranch staff, they made feeding troughs, and designed a very effective way to feed their cows by dividing them in shifts of 10 cows per trough to avoid overcrowding.

Josphat Lekuye from the Makurian Community had this to say; “this feed has really helped in maintaining and improving the health condition of our cows. Our cows now have enough water from the ranch dam as well”.

Moses Saloni, another pastoralist from the same community added, “We just want to thank the government through NDMA and LWF for facilitating this effort. We would like, however, to ask for more feed because there are so many more animals that will die if the feed is not increased”.

Borana and Ol Jogi Conservancies continue to accommodate neighbours and their livestock from close-by group ranches since August 2016. Conservancies are stretching their resources to make ranching work for them, their cows as well as wildlife many of which are Kenya’s Iconic Species. Ol Pejeta is another conservancy accommodating almost 2000 community cows, but without the NDMA assistance.

These are not easy times.  LWF will continue to support this effort and will keep you updated.

Water Rules Tighten as illegal Abstractions Continue

In February this year, the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP) together with the Water Resources Authority (WRA) and Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) embarked on a mission to make Laikipia’s rivers flow again.  Their collaboration yielded encouraging results, with about 60 per cent of our rivers recording good flows. WRUAs that closed abstractions so that other water users downstream can receive some water must be congratulated. These WRUAs are Timau, Likii, Nanyuki, Burguret, Upper Ewaso Ng’iro and Ngobit Rivers.

But we challenge the water administrators of the Karemenu, Naromoru, Rongai, Ontuliili, Sirimon and Teleswani WRUAs. They have to step-up their efforts to manage their water resources so that flowing rivers may be restored.

In March, an MKEWP team visited the slopes of Mt. Kenya to find a desperate situation at the moorlands where streams and rivers have been reduced to a trickle. This section of Mt. Kenya has been drained making the moorland very dry and prone to fires. Illegal water projects are scrambling to dominate the dwindling water resources left, with total disregard for the Park, the Forest Reserve and downstream water users.

WRMA has increased monitoring and enforcement activities to reduce illegal abstractions. They have also banned abstractions of river water for irrigation use during this time. This is per the Water Resource Management Rules 2007. There can be NO abstraction of water for irrigation use during dry periods and where the water levels are below normal.

We appeal to all farmers in the upper and middle region to COMPLETELY STOP IRRIGATION. Anybody found violating this will be prosecuted!

Hotline

WRMA, WRUAs and MKEWP have set up the following hotline number: 0740214545.

Kindly call this number to report illegal water activities for action.

Illegal water abstractors will be named and shamed in future MKEWP updates.

Where is Government? Why do they allow this chaos?

Asks a Laikipian citizen in pursuit of political office….

The failure of County and National government to address the livestock incursions into Laikipia and neighbouring counties has now reached disproportionate dimensions. We’ll soon find out if their moves are too little too late. None of the earlier inter-county meetings to forestall this situation were followed up. The mayhem, the loss of life, the loss of property, and the wanton destruction of farms big and small is overwhelming. We hear that up to 500 farming and pastoralist families have been affected or displaced.

The Laikipia County Government and the Governor have been particularly unresolved on the point, as local government tries to decide between law and order and votes.

As we travel Laikipia, working on issues of water conservation and management, working with the NDMA to distribute food supplements to community breeding stock, or attempt to get the attention of KWS to stop marauding elephants eating crops and granaries far from their forest refuge, we are asked by members –   “Where is the government? Why do they allow this chaos?”

These are just some of the issues impacting our County.

Six months ago, with the able assistance of the local office of the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), more than 60 pastoralists came together to define a drought emergency preparedness plan that included livestock food supplements, a buy-off scheme, a fattening scheme, and controlled access to pasture in forests and the mountains. 6 months later the NDMA offices in Nairobi had still not acted on the plan, despite their call for proposals. 3.2 Billion Kenya Shillings had been set aside for KMC and ADC to buy off cattle when prices were good. Why has this scheme fallen by the wayside?

Two years ago, Laikipia’s Governor Irungu pledged 200M Ksh to the reconstruction of the Rumurti Forest Fence to stop the elephants from exploiting their densely packed neighbourhoods. Groups of up to 20 and 30 elephants now terrorise shambas, trading centres and school children far from the forest. Displaced by the livestock incursions, they are desperate for food. To date, despite repeated pledges of procurement of poles, wires, insulators, energisers and solar panels, the “fence” is embroiled in charges of the failure to engage the affected communities, the dysfunction of a county procurement system and widespread charges of corruption. KWS was brought in to manage the process. Two fence contractors are now battling over who has right to build a fence that is two years late. Why has this scheme fallen by the wayside?

Almost one year ago, in a grand public ceremony at the Tuala Cultural Centre at Il Polei, the Governor made another grand gesture pledging 200M Ksh to the eradication of the invasive plant  “opuntia stricta”  – the scourge of the Naibunga and other group ranch rangelands. Not a shilling has been released to help these communities restore their rangelands. Why has this scheme fallen by the wayside?

Despite the collective efforts of 16 Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) to develop drought management plans for our Mt. Kenya rivers; widespread disregard for these plans and their enforcement, including Illegal abstraction continues despite the best efforts to stop irrigation and return river flows for domestic use and downstream communities. Where is our County Government? Why has this scheme fallen by the wayside? Where is the Governor’s pledge of financial support for the monitoring and enforcement that must accompany river management during times of drought?

Yes, we are the victims of this first generation of devolution – the confusion that comes from “who does what” as authorities and agencies struggle to take on their new roles. Yet the citizens of Laikipia stand in stunned silence at how few promises have been kept, how few pledges has been paid, and at how little this County has done to take care of its people and engage in the future of its natural resources. County Government can no longer ignore these issues, or avoid their citizens. We will all suffer as a result.

Let’s not let Laikipia fall by the wayside. We are better than that.

Laikipia Sustainable Tourism – the Strength of Private Sector Community Gets Real

Private sector tourism in Laikipia has taken a strong move forward. Earlier this month, our county tourism service providers approved the formation of the Laikipia Tourism Association (LTA)  – a collection of all types of tourism facilities and providers in the County with the aim of becoming the number one sustainable tourism destination in East Africa. A Managing Committee of the LTA was appointed.

Sustainable tourism is all about a commitment to doing business that benefits us financially, environmentally, socially, and culturally. It’s business that respects people and the environment in which we live and operate. And it seeks strong Public-Private-Partnerships.

Two weeks later, the LTA Managing Committee met to advance the development of this new Association.  The LTA Managing Committee is a voluntary committee and will meet as necessary in the beginning, but only 3-4 times a year eventually.

The Committee advanced six major aspects of the Association in its inaugural meeting:

  1. Appointment of a Chair and Deputy Chair – LTA’s new Chairman is Ndegwa Gitonga, and its Deputy Chair is Sophie Grant. Both are active tourism providers in the County. Gitonga operates the renowned Sportsman’s Arms Hotel in Nanyuki, while Grant runs the revered El Karama Eco-lodge on El Karama Ranch.
  2. Recommendations for appointment of an Advisory Council who can help with networks, leadership and financing in support of sustainable tourism development in the County. Important sustainable tourism leaders and financiers are being contacted to serve.
  3. Appointment of a Membership Committee to address the future of membership within the organisation, their priority needs, membership subscription, and membership services.
  4. Appointment of a Fundraising Committee to serve as the point of contact and provide leadership on opportunities to raise funds nationally and internationally. The first proposal for funding support to Laikipia’s sustainable tourism will be submitted to the EU before the end of this month.
  5. Appointment of a Search Committee for a full-time LTA Manager who will lead the day-to-day activities of the Association. The successful candidate will link all tourism providers in Laikipia with each other, with County, national and regional authorities, similar tourism business providers, and manage any LTA grants.
  6. The Committee is working hand-in-hand with the leadership of the County Assembly to ensure passage of the all-important Laikipia County Tourism Bill. The Bill sets the stage for interaction of the County with the sustainable tourism community in Laikipia.

The next meeting of the LTA is May 11, 2017. LWF serves as secretariat to the LTA, and will continue to host its development with office space, finance and administrative services, communications, and information management.

We’re making tourism a stronger and vibrant part of Laikipia’s future – and that can’t be a bad thing.

Elephants Aren’t Always Such Friendly Giants…

It was a Friday night around 10:00pm in Marmanet, West Laikipia. I was at that point of falling into a deep sleep when screams rang out, followed by the banging of metal objects. More screams and more unpleasant noises quickly followed. At that point, my mind was racing! This town that was completely foreign to me, might just be the last town I would ever explore. Surely outsiders must have come in and were now on a rampage! My first thought…hide the little valuable items I have. I then left my room to find my colleague, Moses, to assure him that all would be well. I was ready to stand on the front line to make sure that we got out of this situation…whatever that situation was.

I found Moses already in the car. He was cool and extremely calm.  “Let’s go and help them”, he said. Not wanting him to sense my deep fear, I could only manage a feeble “ok”. We drove for just a few minutes before we came across a sizeable number of residents, the source of all the screaming and banging. Just a few feet from where they stood were several elephants, eating their way through the young maize and bean crops appearing to be not the least affected by the ruckus. For just one second, I thought of taking a selfie… after all, I have to document this unbelievable situation that completely shattered all the majestic images I had of elephants…..you know the ones where the mummy and baby elephant walk up to the car, say hello by sniffing around the strange contraption, give a little wave of their trunks and then walk calmly away. But the fear, anger and sheer anxiety in the air made me put my phone away. I joined one of the Marmanet residents to find out more about what was happening. For the 4th night in a row that week, 3 elephants had left the Rumuruti Forest and were now feeding on food that was meant to sustain numerous families for a good part of the year. “This is our way of life now. We have been doing this for years. I have children that do not know how to sleep a whole night through. This is just the way things are,” Peter Kaminjui explained to me.

We all watched helplessly as the situation goes on for a further 4 hours before fatigue and feelings of abandonment finally take over and we all retreat to our respective dwellings, hoping that the morning will bring a much needed solution. Sleep evaded me the rest of the night. How was this possible? How can my favourite animal bring so much distress on undeserving Laikipians? What happened to the friendly elephants that reside in my mind?

The next morning one of the resident farmers made a beeline for us…. “come and see what the elephants have done.  You have to pay for this!!”. We cautiously followed him to his shamba and could not believe what we saw. Remnants of crops that would have yielded bananas, oranges, sugarcane and potatoes were scattered all around. In just one night everything he would have cultivated was gone!

Residents in Marmanet have been facing this elephant problem for years. Moses affirms this – “I can see my children inheriting this situation. My father, Daudi Koske, chased elephants when he was young. He taught me how to chase the elephants and now I am teaching my son Kiprop, who is now an expert! Our children don’t need to go for trips to see elephants in conservancies because the elephants come to us. This situation has become worse and I am sure my grand children will be elephant chasers too!”

Moses goes on to tell me that he now buys all his food from the supermarket. He is pained because he is capable of feeding his family from his land but can’t because the elephants destroy everything. His comment brings back tales of the fertile lands in West Laikipia that my parents once told me about “this is where the best potatoes that make the best chips in Kenya are grown…. See those vegetables displayed on the side of the highway? They all come from West Laikipia….. that’s where all the food that we enjoy comes from,” I recall my mom’s words with sadness in my heart.

Elephants are not the only culprits here. Other wild animals like leopards, impalas, monkeys, warthogs and guinea fouls feed on crops meant for the dinner table and market place. Many mechanisms have been adopted to try and scare away the animals, but few work. Burning of hot pepper, creating a distraction through noise, increasing vigilance at night, and the use of beehives just don’t seem to have their intended impact any more.  Residents were promised a fence to keep out the wildlife years ago, but that too has failed. I asked over 20 residents what they think the core problems are that has heightened this situation. Their response:

  • The prolonged drought.
  • Pastoralist’s invasion into private lands and Rumuruti Forest.
  • Increased elephant population.
  • Lack of Government support.
  • Politics and poor leadership.

I left Marmanet deep in thought. I wondered how the residents would survive. I wondered how long they could continue living these sleepless nights, consumed with a frustration most of us know little about. Moses could sense my trepidation and in his usual calm way he says, “One day we will get our fence…I know it will not solve all our problems, but that would be a very good start to getting back our lives as farmers”.

John Gitonga is currently an intern at the Laikipia Wildlife Forum and wrote this story while on assignment in Marmanet, West Laikipia.