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COVID 19 : Nature, Conservation and the Pandemic – Guest opinion

Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, wildlife roam free in their protected grounds, and in our imaginations. We can picture an elephant herd at a water hole, lion cubs tussling in tall grass. A nature-loving global public cherish such scenes, and in 2018 wildlife tourism directly contributed US$ 120.1 billion to helping grow the economies of many nations.

But with Covid-19, tourists everywhere have canceled their plans and the tourism industry has crashed to a halt. Some African parks have closed. Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo has barred visitors until June 1—in part to protect its endangered mountain gorillas from possible exposure to Covid-19. It may be years, rather than months, before ecotourism reclaims its role in economic development.

This is bad news for wildlife and local communities that depend on income generated by the parks from tourism. It also brings us face-to-face with a reality we must confront: If we want to conserve nature, we must share the cost of conservation.

To protect people’s welfare and wildlife, we must develop a system that provides adequate financial support to poorer countries for conserving the biodiversity that benefits us all. Such a system is long overdue, for although the benefits of biodiversity and natural areas are universal, the costs of protection are high and disproportionally borne by the poor communities living with wildlife.

The global benefits of conservation have been well documented. The mere existence of species-rich landscapes provides the public opportunities to visit these amazing sites. Vast quantities of carbon stored in trees and soils act as a hedge against climate change. Existing and potential use of natural products for medicinal purposes are huge. Further, wild species, from the largest to the microscopic, interact in ways that maintain delicate-running natural cycles—whether the provision of fresh water or fertile soil—that make Planet Earth habitable for humans.

Of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, fifteen are developing countries, with some among the world’s least developed nations. Parks are generally underfunded, resulting in insufficient funds to support communities living closest to nature. As a result, communities often pursue land use practices that provide for their immediate needs, but which may undermine wildlife conservation.

For example, in Africa’s Congo Basin, the second largest rainforest in the world, the biggest driver of deforestation is the activities of small-scale farmers.

In contrast, when local communities have enough support, they look after land and its species. This is apparent in Kenya’s Tana River Delta area. Through “The Restoration Initiative,” more than 100 local communities, development partners and the government have collaborated to map sustainable land uses, restore degraded forests, conserve endangered species such as the Tana River Red Colobus monkey, and develop nature-based enterprises such as fish farming and bee keeping. In 2019, the community established the 116,000-hectare Tana Delta Indigenous and Community Conservation Area with the government assisting in financing its management.

If the international community is serious about conserving biodiversity as part of a just and sustainable world, we must get serious about funding conservation. Projects such as The Restoration Initiative show what is possible when adequate funding is available.

Some may say that the conservation of nature is the responsibility of individual countries. That is true, but only part of the picture. Given that such biodiversity provides benefits beyond these countries, and that not all countries can meet the costs of its conservation, it is in the interests of the world to share in the costs.

These costs are substantial. A McKinsey study estimates that current government and philanthropic funding for conservation would have to at least double to reach US$ 100 billion a year, and investable cash flows from conservation projects would need to be up to 30 times greater than today, reaching US$ 200-300 billion per year, to meet the global need for conservation funding.

Such funds could come from a variety of sources, and ultimately form a new class of financial asset, ripe for sustainable investment.

Success would depend on investments that simultaneously reinforce the impact of conservation; providing capital preservation and/or returns on investments and generating cashflows through sustainable use of nature by local communities.

As the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic and undertakes the unprecedented task of repairing and stimulating national economies, such investments could prove game-changing for people and nature in many poor countries that are nonetheless rich in biodiversity.

Our leaders in government, finance, business, and philanthropy need to step up and invest in making the planet a ‘safe operating environment’ for all of its occupants, or suffer the consequences of escalating decline.

Johan Robinson, Chief of the Global Environment Facility Biodiversity and Land Degradation Unit at UN Environment, argues for the need for a system that provides adequate financial support to all countries for conserving the biodiversity that benefits us all – but particularly those countries with the biggest burden.

 

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A Big Boost for Ngusishi WRUA

Ngusishi WRUA has continuously demonstrated the viability of the WRUA concept. The good relationship between the community, stakeholders and the government has enabled the WRUA get help for water development projects.

In February 2020, with the assistance of the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP), Ngusishi WRUA was introduced to a funding competition sponsored by Davis and Shirtliff that targeted funding for 23 water-related projects across the country.

The WRUA was able to seize this opportunity to help their members. They did a proposal to refurbish an existing borehole called the Mt. Kenya Borehole and successfully secured ksh 1.1 million from the Company.

Mr. Mureithi Muthuri ,the Chair of Ngusishi WRUA, was elated as he shared how they were able to secure funds from Davis and Shirtliff to refurbish the Mt. Kenya Borehole.

Mr. Murithi stated that, “One of the reasons why the WRUA continues to be the best in the country, and in the region, is its well-structured governance and outreach policies. These give priority to the vulnerable members and Institutions within the catchment. Securing this funding is a great milestone for my WRUA especially in the midst of this COVID 19 crisis.

Once the project is complete people will be able to get water very easily and maintain good hygiene that will help kick the Corona  virus out of the area. The County Government of Meru has accepted to top-up the remaining balance and soon we will be launching the project. MKEWP has been of great assistance, and we would be honored to have them attend the Project launch.”

The newly operational borehole will support 300 registered members and a potential of over 1000 beneficiaries. The award will fund solar panels at this borehole.

Mr. George, from Davis and Shirtliff, Meru County, highlighted that “Ngusishi WRUA approached their office branch in Meru asking for help to refurbish the borehole at Buuri. We assessed the borehole and saw the massive community impact it has. The borehole serves more than a thousand people and has the capacity to impact the economy and livelihoods of the people in that area.

The original Project was originally powered by Kenya Power and accrued huge bills that were burdensome to the community. The WRUA requested our help to install solar pumps and applied for a Davis and Shirtliff grant offered through our competition. We could only fund this project with 28% of the costs. The WRUA will have to cater for the remaining 72% of the total costs.

“It was impressive to see the massive effort the WRUA exerted in approaching various donors to leverage the extra funds. They approached the Deputy Governor of Meru, the Buuri Member of Parliament, and neighboring flower farms. Luckily the County Government of Meru has promised to fund them, and once all the arrangements are complete, the project will be launched,” added Mr. George.

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Poisoning Animals Not a Solution to Predator Conflicts

Poisoned Vultures in Northern Laikipia, victims of the latest carcass poisoning

A few weeks ago three camels were killed by lions in Northern Laikipia, Kenya. We knew the situation was dire and unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis meant that most of our team were scattered across the country and unable to urgently attend the scene due to travel restrictions.

The following day while our team was at the affected community we received a report about eight dead vultures. A team from Ol Maisor Ranch and the Coexistence Co-op went to the area where they discovered a grisly poisoning scene consisting of one jackal, one Hooded Vulture, seven Ruppell’s Vulture, and 11 Tawny Eagles.

They took photographs and buried the carcasses to prevent further poisonings as they had been trained to do. The following morning they returned and discovered another dead jackal and one more Ruppell’s Vulture. The carcasses were burnt and no lions were killed.

While this retaliatory poisoning was highly unfortunate it is important to understand the extent of predator conflict this community has endured in recent months. Over a period of three days in late December, this community lost 10 cows and 1 camel to lions, as well as 1 sheep to a leopard. The affected households showed the utmost restraint by not retaliating against the predators. We also attribute this to the support of a key leader within the community.

It is also important to note that our Coexistence Training team has trained three groups from this community about poisoning awareness and how to build predator-proof bomas. Individual households have since built approximately 20 predator-proof bomas. Our joint team of Lion Rangers and Coexistence Trainers provide on-going support, awareness, advice on fortifying the bomas and assistance with reporting to KWS.

While this event was extremely unfortunate it emphasizes how programmes like the Coexistence Co-op – a partnership between The Peregrine Fund and Lion Landscapes – are extremely important to help communities prevent and mitigate human-wildlife conflict as well as to understand the risks of retaliatory poisoning for both humans and wildlife.

We thank Alex Nawoi, Ol Maisor Ranch, Ezekiel Sikuku for their professional response to the incident.

The Peregrine Fund Lion Landscapes Kenya Wildlife Service
#vultures #stoppoisoning #savescavengers #lions #coexistence #laikipia#saveconservation

 

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Coexistence Co-op

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Ol Pejeta Conservancy Calls For Creativity to Support Conservation : Art of Survival Competition

If you are between the ages of 5 and 18, an aspiring artist and looking for a project to sink your teeth into as well as do good for conservation in this time of international crisis; then this is for you!

Ol Pejeta Conservancy has rolled out a children’s competition dubbed The Art of Survival that is currently ongoing and will run until the end of July 2020. This competition is spearheaded by the conservancy with support from David Shephard Wildlife Foundation through their Art of Survival program.  Children across the world are being called upon to take part in this global competition to raise money for wildlife and the environment.

Through artwork or in written form, Ol Pejeta Conservancy is asking applicants to create pieces that contemplate extinction or the role of humans in living more sustainably on our planet.

The winners of this completion will be rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime holiday in Kenya with their family.

For more information on the Art of Survival Competition and the Terms and Conditions on how to apply click here

To apply directly for this completion through the Ol Pejeta Website click here

 

 

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Laikipia Forest Conservation In The Midst of COVID-19

Elephants at the edge the Mukogodo Forest

April has been a low-key month for the Ilmamusi Mukogodo Forest Association. Most activities have been halted due to COVID -19.

Community members living around the forest have formed a cooperative society known as Dupoto Beekeepers. They were recently supplied with 140 modern bee-hives by World Vision under Integrated Management of Natural Resources for Resilience in Arid and Semi-arid Land Project. This took place in the first week of April 2020. The target beneficiaries are 7 user groups who are practicing beekeeping. They have a total membership of 120 people. A team of local trainers will build the capacity of the beekeepers.

We disseminate information regarding COVID -19, encouraging people to stay safe and adopt the public information messages. The staff of Ilmamusi CFA have continuously shared relevant information using their social media and outreach regarding Coranavirus. The 12 community rangers (who are drawn from the 4 corners of the forest landscape) are helping share information with their respective villages.

The community feedback is relayed back using the social media forum. However, sensitization has been on a small scale and mainly confined to areas with higher population concentrations. The CFA is also working with local administration to ensure that poor and vulnerable people in our Mukogodo communities get assistance from the National and County Governments,  especially with food supply.

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They Are Back In Their Trillions: East Africa Faced With a Second Wave of Desert Locusts

The East Africa region is currently facing a second wave of locust invasions that could cause more damage than the first invasion. Compared to the first generation that hit the region about two months ago, the second generation of swarms is being recorded in their trillions.

In the first generation, the locust reached their peak size (billions) in a span of two months. The rise in numbers of the second generation is based on the scientific finding that locust swarms multiply by a factor of 20x per generation!

The most affected communities so far in Kenya are the pastoralists living in Northern Kenya. They are faced with a paradox that the more the area experiences heavy rainfall, the more the locusts will thrive and destroy the vegetation that their livestock depend on. At the same time they see the rain as a blessing as it means enough pasture for their livestock .

A FAO senior official from Kenya notes that we are in race against time to ensure that the new swarms do not breed. He adds that, if this happens, the discussion will no longer be on locusts as an invasion but a plague.

Pesticides have been delayed reaching the regions affected as a result of the State measures put in place to contain the Coronavirus. The GOK and the United Nations have warned that the reproduction of the  locusts will eventually lead to a calamitous food shortage if they are not contained and end up in extensive crop lands.

 

Image of a map showing the locust distribution in Kenya

Kenya currently has 18 swarms and the weather condition worsens the situation. The rainy season is perfect locust breeding weather and the rains and locust swarms are expected to last at least 2-3 more months.

The Financial appeal from East Africa regional Governments to the global community is almost falling on deaf ears as the global focus is COVID-19.

And no one seems to be concerned about the environmental and social impacts associated with the management and eradication efforts. The chemical being sprayed (Deltamethrin) is much better than the original chemicals that were used, but still are a cause for concern.

Deltamethrin is a pyrethroid insecticide that kills insects on contact and through digestion.

Deltamethrin belongs to a group of pesticides called synthetic pyrethroids. This pesticide is toxic to aquatic life, particularly fish, and therefore must be used with extreme caution around water. Although generally considered safe to use around humans, it is still neurotoxic to humans.

With no one really knowing when the coronavirus pandemic will come to an end. If a third generation of locusts were to happen around June and July, then this would definitely challenge our agriculture systems and add pain to the life-threatening impacts of the Virus!

For more on this story click here

 

 

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Tourism, Wildlife Conservation and Covid 19

Tourism has become one of the country’s biggest Corona Virus victims. It has exhibited all the symptoms – shortness of breath, fatigue, fevered calls for help, and a high temperature of anxiety about the future.

We are all scrambling, trying to figure out ways to maintain this sector, and in Laikipia, in particular, we are trying to figure ways to fill the strong $$ contribution that the tourism sector plays in conservation, employment, corporate social responsibility and county revenue.

This is a great opportunity to rethink our Kenya world of tourism – a chance to reflect and “build back better.”  But are we discussing, let alone working towards the NEW Normal? A world characterized by fewer international guests; decreased fuel costs? New health regulations? Fewer surviving businesses, fewer jobs, less external support for wildlife conservation?

Think about it. If the GOK loses tourism revenue, will there be a proportional decrease in the federal budget for our parks, reserves and sanctuaries?

Will more of our citizens turn to bushmeat for sustenance in the face of the Virus, the locusts, and the floods?

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife is attempting to manage the crisis – and opened the first public discourse on the subject. Here is what the Minister and the experts say.

We believe that now is the time for an interdisciplinary approach to our tourism and conservation sector – not just the tourism business sector, but conservationists, joined by capital market experts, joined by youth, by public health practitioners, and others.

What do you say? We look forward to hearing from you.

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The Financial Future of Water Resource User Associations : The WRUA SERVICE AGREEMENT IS THE WAY TO GO!

A training module on strengthening transparency, accountability and participation in Water Resource Users Associations in Kenya

On the 6th March 2020, MKEWP held a stakeholders’ meeting in Nairobi to get their unified endorsement of a tool that the Partnership has been developing and promoting for the last two years – the WRUA Service Agreement.

The meeting was attended by key stakeholders in the water sector with over 30 representatives from different water conservation and management organizations in Kenya. All stakeholders agreed to a joint statement pronouncing their unanimous support and endorsement of the WRUA Service Agreement.

What’s a WRUA Service Agreement?

The WRUA Service Agreement is a contract between the WRUA and the WRA. It provides financial compensation for the functions performed by the WRUA, and thus gives the WRUA the financial resources to carry out their duties.

The county governments and WRA need organizations at ground level through which they can work. This is the importance of the WRUAs. WRUAs provide a vehicle that brings communities and water users together; and they also offer a platform that WRA and county governments can work through to better manage and conserve water resources.

However, most WRUAs struggle to operate and address water resource issues within their sub catchment levels due to lack of capacity, resources, and funds to run their operations and activities.

The management and control of water remains confusing in Kenya. There is a national agency – the Water Resources Agency (WRA), with the mandate to regulate the use, allocation, and planning of water resources. The WRA provide this service through regional water agencies. Our regional WRA is based in Nanyuki, Laikipia County for the upper Ewaso Basin.

Yet the general principle guiding water resources in sub-catchments is citizen management of water resources through the Water Resource Users Association. This unit of water management is supposed to be participatory and representative of all water users in the sub-catchment. These popularly elected groups are responsible for the monitoring and management of water resources according to plans approved by the WRA. They are also responsible for the riparian health of their sub-catchment.

Catchment management was devolved to the county governments as part of their responsibilities in soil and water conservation.

Both water and catchment management transcends the administrative boundaries of counties. The demand of these natural resource conservation and management functions is beyond the capacity of both the WRA and county governments – hence the importance of the WRUAs and a Service Agreement.

The WRUA Service Agreement is an important instrument that clarifies and structures the relationship between WRA and the WRUAs in terms of regulation and management of water resources. The WRUA becomes the true eyes and ears of the WRA and the action arm of county governments’ riparian responsibilities. It helps the WRA through the regular monitoring of river flows, data collection on legal and illegal abstraction, and it helps the county government in monitoring and managing the degradation of riparian areas and water pollution.

MKEWP is the catchment Partnership through which these Service Agreements can be piloted. The World Bank 2030 Water Resources Group and CORDAID continue to support the development of these WRUA Service Agreements.

The success of future water resources conservation and management lies in this model. These Agreements provide the incentive and means for WRUAs to take up their roles with responsibility and accountability – a WIN-WIN for water, catchments, and citizens in Kenya.

Many thanks to the World Bank 2030 Water Resources Group and CORDAID for the continued support

           

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Mukogodo Forest: Making Strides Towards Management of Laikipia’s Biggest Forest Reserve The ILMAMUSI Mukogodo Community Forest Association (CFA)

Grace Korosian, Makurian CBO chairlady, addresses community members during Makurian community public participation in the review of the new constitution for the ILMAMUSI CFA

ILMAMUSI CFA was a pioneer in 2008 when it developed one of the first CFA constitutions for the newly recognized mandates of forest associations in Kenya.

Since that time, new Acts of government for natural resources management and governance have been developed, the most impactful being the Kenya Forest Service Act 2016.

Twelve years later, the CFA needs a new constitution to guide its organization and management.

It needs a new team of board members to guide development of a new management plan, to guide investments, and to take renewed responsibility for the future of the forest.  The CFA is an instrument of the national government for the operations and management of forest-based activities in national forest reserves.

With the leadership from the existing CFA board and assisted by key partners (who have been working closely with the CFA – NRT, LEWA, BORANA, and LWF), group ranch members have been working to draft a new constitution over the last six months. The constitutional review process must include community participation. Hence the Board held community discussions in the four group ranches responsible for Mukogodo Forest (Makurian, IIngwesi, Kurikuri and Lekurruki).

The new constitution marks a new beginning. There is renewed interest, hopes and expectations from the community towards the ILMAMUSI CFA as an instrument for the management and monitoring of forest resources.

A big part of the Forest’s future lies with different user groups. Their leaders have committed to rejuvenate the work of the different user groups and Community-Based Organizations.

The ILMAMUSI CFA Board is committed to work with the Community-Based Organizations to ensure there is improved capacity at the CBO level for leadership, governance and financial management. These CBOs are part of the ILMAMUSI CFA board, and are the focal members of a management committee which will provide advice to the CFA on priorities for each community area.

There is increased representation of women on the ILMAMUSI CFA Board and in the other committees (Management Committee, Security and Grazing Committee, Tourism and Enterprise Committee)

The final draft of the constitution includes the feedback from these community meetings, and will be presented at an ILMAMUSI CFA Special General Meeting for further comments and final endorsement.

The Food and Agriculture Organization  have provided financial support in support of this constitutional review, reform and public engagement. They will continue to support the operationalization of the reformed ILMAMUSI Community Forest Association and its constitution as part of the “Restoration of arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) of Kenya through bio-enterprise development and other incentives under The Restoration Initiative”.

This initiative has been made possible courtesy of

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New Large Mammal for the Laikipia Plateau

On 14 January 2020, I photographed two adult male desert warthogs on the western boundary of Suyian Ranch, central north Laikipia County. The animals in my photographs are desert warthogs, which were confirmed by Yvonne de Jong, Jean-Pierre d’Huart, and Tom Butynski, two of them well-known for their ecology research in Laikipia.

This hog is a mouthful in Latin: (Phacochoerus aethiopicus)

This is the first record for desert warthog on the Laikipia Plateau, and only the second record for Laikipia County—the first record being obtained a few years ago at Tassia, in the extreme northeast part of Laikipia County.

Archie Voorspuy, the Manager of Suyian Ranch, photographed a third adult male desert warthog at the Suyian Ranch headquarters on 30th January, 2020.

At 1,890 meters (6,200 feet) above sea level, these records are about 200 meters higher than previously reported for desert warthog. These records also extend the southwestern limit of the known range of this species by roughly 30 km. With these records, Suyian Ranch becomes one of the few places where the ranges of desert warthog and common warthog are known to over-lap.

For those of your interested in more, please check out this paper on Desert Warthogs in Tsavo, by Yvonne and Co.

Anne Powys

March 2020

Suiyan Soul