The importance of engaging local communities in conservation is intensified during this time of climate change. Resilience and mitigation strategies to address the impacts of unprecedented weather and natural disasters – for both people and wildlife – will require collaborations at the landscape level and beyond (Lichtenfeld, Naro and Snowden, 2019).
Ilmamusi Mukogodo Forest Association was founded on a collaborative footing. The CFA forms the voice of the local Laikipiak Maasai community living adjacent to Mukogodo Forest Reserve. The community’s premiere collaboration is with Kenya Forest Service after entering into a formal Forest Management Agreement for co-management and conservation of Mukogodo forest. Under the agreement, the user groups which form the Community Forest Association are able to draw benefits such as honey production, herbal medicine, ecotourism, pasture and water, firewood collection among others. In return, they commit to protect, conserve, secure and sustainably utilize forest resources.
The current forest conservation paradigm allows for collective effort to conserve indigenous forests. The community at Mukogodo has embraced collaboration for a number of years with its traditional partners in conservation who include: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Borana Conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust. These organizations have remarkable strengths, bringing a wealth of experience in wildlife conservation, fundraising, and law enforcement in conservation areas, ecotourism development and institutional capacity building.
A case in point is Lewa Wildlife Conservation which has mobilized funds for CFA operations continuously for 3 years; Laikipia Wildlife Forum has mobilized funds for Human Elephant Conflicts mitigation, invasive species monitoring and institutional capacity building; Northern Rangelands Trust has enhanced the capacity of community rangers on security and wildlife monitoring, institutional capacity building for the individual group ranches; Borana conservancy has supported local community projects and continues to support the ranger taskforce for the CFA.
The CFA endeavors to gradually build its institutional, technical and financial capacity while moving towards sustainability. Direct collaboration with the different partners and the local communities who are the direct beneficiaries of the forest has ensured continued engagement of all stakeholders in management of the forest.
The wider landscape encompasses Borana Conservancy, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust supported conservancies. The collaboration envisions a common purpose and approach for sustainable conservation of the entire landscape, with emphasis on strengthening socio-economic and ecological initiatives of the local community. The area has similar bio-physical, climatic and rangeland conditions; and the contiguous community lands are embracing the concept of community conservancies. The new NRT conservancies of Makurian and Kuri Kuri are directly connected to Mukogodo forest, and join Lekurruki and Il Ngwesi Conservancies.