Just how different is the opinion about Rhino conservation between an elder and young lady living in Il Ingwesi community? LWF recently met Mzee Lesaila Kirobi (MLK) and Fiona Saman, a recent high school graduate to find out….
LWF: What does Rhino conservation mean to you Mzee Kirobi?
MLK: I have lived in this community for over 60 years and so I have been able to see the changes that have happened here…. some good and some not so good. When I was a young boy I had no idea what conservation was. We lived with our wild animals because that is how my father and his father before that lived. Then things started to change and it took me some time before I understood why this foreign term – this Rhino conservation – was important and necessary. I have seen what Borana Conservancy has been able to accomplish over many years and I must say we have benefitted greatly from their work. And so conservation means that my grand children, and their children, can see the animals that I grew up with. Today, I try as much as I can to make sure that my community understands this. Conservation is for our benefit and that of our children.
LWF: But are there really benefits associated with Rhino conservation?
MLK: Yes! I have seen it with my own eyes. Children have been able to go to school. We also had some schools that were breaking down and now; they have been fixed so that learning can continue. You see, I also know that when we are talking about Rhino conservation, we are talking about conservation of many other animals, because they too benefit. They benefit from the land and grass that is protected, the security provided and the support given by those that do not live here.
LWF: Are there any other benefits, and where would you like to see improvement?
MLK: The wider community has also benefitted greatly as Borana helps us when we face security challenges. For example, cattle rustlers recently invaded our land…. it was a terrible situation. Borana sent in their team to help us get back our cattle. They also put in place a system that allows our animals to graze in the conservancy during times of drought.
It would be good if Borana continues to extend additional support and assistance to the community by improving the infrastructure of more schools in the area so that more children can attend. We old people would like our children to have more opportunities then we did! We would like our children to take what we have taught them (and what our elders before that taught us), and combine that with contemporary education so that they can earn an income to sustain themselves and their families. This can be done through activities such as strengthening the Livestock to Market Program.
LWF: Do you have easy access to conservation information?
MLK: Yes, the conservancy shares information on Rhino conservation activities regularly. I use this information to talk to community members who do not understand conservation. I also try and make members of the community comfortable enough to forward names of those with bad intentions that affect our well being and that of our wildlife and environment.
Fiona Saman (FS) is a 17-year-old young lady from Il Ngwesi community and a beneficiary from the Borana Education Program. She recently completed her high school education and will be the first in her family to join the University of Nairobi this September. Her passion lies in conservation and has vowed to return after completing her studies so that she can empower other community members to work together so that they can manage their natural resources.
LWF: How long did you receive support from Borana Conservancy?
FS: I received support since the very first day I joined high school – so four years in total. My family and I were very happy because we did not know how I would complete my studies. We just didn’t have the funds. I never thought I would complete high school let alone join the University to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology! I am so grateful! This is my brother….I hope he too can go to University.
LWF: Do you think conservation works?
FS: Absolutely! I am not the only one that sees that and I want more young people to understand the importance of conservation. Members of my community have been employed by nearby conservancies and also sell their produce and other items in order to get the money they need to support their families, and also other members of the community. That is how we live. But what motivates me the most is the thought that children born in 10 to 20 years might not see the beautiful animals that we have grown up with. I always tell young people that they can be a part of conservation in their own way, even if it’s just protecting their immediate environment. These are our animals; this is our environment, so we must protect it.
LWF: Do you find resistance when talking to your family and community about conservation?
FS: We always have to talk about conservation in a way that makes sense to the people who do not quite understand that big word – con-ser-va-tion! Growing up, we were told of stories of how our grandparents lived with animals and made sure that they were safe. Today, it is a little more difficult as there are people who value money much more than they do our animals and environment. In my view, the best way forward for conservation is for us to practice what was practiced all those years ago, working closely with conservationists and that is what I tell my friends and they seem to agree.
Through a concept proposal submitted by Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF), the US Government through the Department of Interior (DOI) generously gave a grant in 2016 to “Enhance Security in Laikipia’s Rhino Sanctuaries”. The grant was set to focus on: a) Capacity building b) Anti poaching efforts c) Deterrence to Wildlife Trafficking to three conservancies in Laikipia namely: Ol Pejeta, Ol Jogi and Borana. LWF has gone a step further and wants to understand the perception of Rhino conservation among communities surrounding conservancies in Laikipia, in order to support the development of a communication awareness plan for these communities. Join the conversation by following Laikipia Wildlife Forum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@laikipiaforum).
#VifaruWetuMaliYetu (Our Rhinos, Our Wealth)!