Drought Relief Update From LWF

In efforts just before the rains, NDMA and LWF again joined together to help with the distribution of 1500 bags of drought pellets for needy community breeding stock.

Six hundred 50 kg bags of feed were distributed through the ranching/conservancy community. Borana and Ol Jogi were again at the forefront of this effort. Ol Pejeta Conservancy continued with its own drought assistance programme to neighbouring communities, and continued to offering grazing access to the Conservancy.

Some 600 bags of feed went the northern community conservancies, and an additional 200 bags of rangeland supplements supported the communities cattle of Ngobit, Lamuria, and Tharua.

One hundred 50 kg bags went to Mowark and Il Pinguan Valley, 25 bags to Larora Le Sanagurii, 25 bags to Maundunimeri and 25 bags to Masenga.

With its limited resources for Laikipia, NDMA has done an outstanding job of collaborating with the Laikipia County Government, ranches and partners like LWF to get the limited drought relief to where it can do the most good. Henry Parkolwa of the Laikipia NDMA office and his team provided this leadership.

These are the slow and steady signs of neighbourhood cooperation for which Laikipia has always been known.

Let’s stay focused on helping our neighbours in good times and bad. You can access a full community report from Borana on LWF’s website which exemplifies a long-term commitment to neighbourhoods, rangelands and livestock management.

Despite the good rains we are receiving, most livestock is still too weak to withstand the sudden drop in temperature and exposure. Many small stock are dying and cattle remain stressed.  

Our collective efforts need to focus on recovery now, as we move back into a period of temporary greenness.

Most weather predictions for this area indicated a less than average rainfall for the remainder of the year.

We are wild about Wild Dogs, says Dedan Ngatia (researcher with the Mpala Research Centre)

Ask most Kenyans if they have seen a Wild Dog roaming free in it’s natural habitat and the answer would most likely be a sound no! An increasing population and destruction of ecosystems has seen a sharp decline of one of Kenya’s most Endangered species.

Listed on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, populations of the African Wild Dog are currently estimated at approximately 6,600 adults, of which only 1,400 are mature individuals. Wild dogs were historically distributed across most of sub-Saharan Africa, but now inhabit only 7% of their former range as a result of habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, and infectious disease.

The Kenya Rangelands Wild Dog and Cheetah Project, previously known as the Samburu-Laikipia Wild Dog Project, was established by ecologist, Professor Rosie Woodroffe, in order to address issues such as human-wildlife conflict and management of infectious diseases.

As many of you know, wild dogs disappeared from the Laikipian landscape in the 1980s, but by early 2000, some dogs had naturally recolonized the area. Rosie set up the Wild Dog Project in order to monitor this growing population and to explore if and how the canines could coexist with people and livestock. Over the next 13 years the wild dog population in Laikipia expanded exponentially with the project recording an almost 8-fold increase in the number of dogs.

The largest populations of wild dog remain in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa. However, Laikipia’s wild dogs are likely to be the largest population entirely resident within Kenya.

In recent times, the Wild Dog Project has had to invest in new GPS tracking technology in order monitor intricate details about the health of this Endangered species. This has resulted in the successful monitoring of declining conflict between local communities and wild dogs. The technology has also allowed communities to know the whereabouts of the dogs so that livestock and property can be secured before any damage occurs.

Mpala Research Centre (MRC) is also helping to mitigate the loss of wild dogs through diseases control. MRC, together with LWF, and neighbouring conservancies have teamed up and are geared towards eradicating rabies from Laikipia through an annual exercise that will see the vaccination of thousands of domestic dogs, which are notorious for harbouring rabies. The Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign has so far vaccinated approximately 5000 domestic dogs since 2015.

Although the Wild Dog Project has typically concentrated on ensuring that the canines are protected from habitat loss, persecution and domestic dog diseases, there is still lots more work to be done.

The next phase of the project is to continue working on finding out how seriously climate change will impact wild dog populations and which sites hold the best prospects for long-term conservation (including possible sites for re-introduction.  

LWF will continue to work with MRC and County Government to support the next Rabies Vaccination Campaign in September 2017. We shall keep you updated on this very important initiative.

Have you spotted a Wild Dog lately in Laikipia? If so, we would love to see some pictures. Post them on the Laikipia Wildlife Forum FaceBook page here and don’t forget to let us know where the picture was taken. Make sure to include the hashtag #WildAboutWildDogs

Getting Smart About Water

Laikipia Wildlife Forum has partnered with the Smart Water for Agriculture Program of SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation) to facilitate the establishment of an Irrigation Acceleration Platform (IAP) in Laikipia County. The efforts are supported by the County Department of Agriculture and the Laikipia County Development Authority.

SNV’s Smart Water for Agriculture Program aims to contribute to better water management for small-holder agriculture and increased income and food security. The target is to increase water productivity by 20% for 20,000 SME farmers in 5 counties in Kenya (Laikipia, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Marchakos, and Meru) toward secured water access for production and resilience to climate change. This means assistance to 4000 small and medium scale farmers in Laikipia.

The specific objectives of the program are to:

  • Facilitate and form Irrigation Acceleration Platforms
  • Improve the use and access to smart water products and services
  • Support improved access to finance
  • Increase the knowledge of and demand for SWS
  • Create business linkages and companies (Dutch/Kenyan) investing into improved smart water services and products.

The recent drought in Kenya has brought home an important point – that we need to become “smart” in managing our water resources – especially for a County such as Laikipia where almost all the rivers have run dry this past year. During our dry seasons, Laikipia County experiences unmanaged extraction of water for irrigation and livestock. This leads to severe water shortages, which in turn often leads to conflicts.

This situation in the County calls for immediate action in managing water for agriculture. However, while discussing irrigation and irrigated agriculture, people generally tend to think of government built and managed irrigation schemes. But in Kenya as in other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, thousands, if not millions of farmers have taken their own initiatives. They are investing in irrigation as a matter of survival, especially in the face of Climate Change.

Support and technologies provided by the government, NGO and private sector is not always effective in reaching these farmers, as they do not match the complex realities faced by the farmers. To make this work effectively and to improve on-farm water productivity for farmers, interactive innovation development approaches are needed; where farmers and irrigation technology users play an important role in field-testing, redesign and final selection of new water ‘use and management’ technologies and practice.

During the launch of the Smart Water Project. County Government of Laikipia pledged their support of the initiative.

What Role Does LWF play?

Laikipia Wildlife Forum has been selected as the host organisation for the formation and facilitation of the Irrigation Acceleration Platform in Laikipia. As facilitator, LWF will provide a forum for discussion and collective action by the members of the IAP. In addition to our effort to help people succeed with this new Project, we also want to ensure that the Project does not adversely affect our river flows and promotes better water conservation and use. LWF will also work with the IAP to ensure that irrigated agricultural up-take and expansion is not another reason for increased human-wildlife conflicts and habitat destruction.

Laikipia’s IAP will strengthen collaboration and linkages among the farmers and farmer organisations, government agencies, smart water solution providers, financial institutions, market actors, research institutions and other players involved in irrigated agriculture in the County.
Watch this site for regular updates on the location and results of this Project as it moves from concept to reality.

Kenya is Water Wealthy! (so why the shortage?)

Kenya is Water Wealthy!  The Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP) is continuing to lead efforts that will prove to the world that if stakeholders come together for the common use and management of water resources we will have enough water for all of us.

“Mt. Kenya is a crucial water tower that supplies water to the over 9 million residents surrounding Mt Kenya and a large part of Northern Kenya. Nothing significant can happen unless people start talking to each other in order to come up with sustainable solutions for water resource sharing, use and management,” said Stanley Kirimi, MKEWP’s Coordinator.

Already MKEWP has begun engagement with County Governments of Laikipia, Nyeri and Meru to manage the on-going water crisis that has resulted in some conflicts between communities in northern Kenya.

Mount Kenya Growers Group and the Kenya 2030 Water Resources Group, also form the long list of partners tasked with providing a mechanism to end water resources conflicts in the Upper Ewaso Ng’iro North Catchment – an area of approximately 15,000 square kilometers.

An astounding 90% of water use in this area relies on rivers. Small-scale farmers in the upper region use 80% of the total available resource. A big number of this population also uses the water illegally, leaving the 20% with no water at all.

LWF continues to build on its many years of working with Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs) for better water resource management. It also continues to serve as the Secretariat to the MKEWP, working closely with the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) because we know that current water and resources conflict can be solved through collective actions that balance the social, economic and environmental demands on water resources equitably.

There are some WRUAs that are providing exemplary leadership while others struggle due to an array of reasons. Here are some of their stories:

Kihoto Water Project – Margaret WambuiChairlady

Kihoto Water Project - Margaret Wambui - Chairlady

Margaret Wambui – Chairlady (left)

“I want everyone to know that we all have a right to water, but we all must work hard in managing our water resources so that our children can enjoy this same right. I am specifically encouraging women to participate more by joining their local WRUA and also participate in taking a leadership role in water matters.

When I first joined Kihoto water project it was because we were facing serious water shortages. To add to that, we had nowhere of storing the little water we could find. When my neighbours saw the benefits they too helped in investing in the purchase of a tank and now we have two that serves about 370 community members.

As Chairlady for the water project the greatest challenge I face is to ensure that water is fairly shared and used by all community members that this WRUA serves. There is no reservoir and the taps need replacing, as they get rusty and dirty faster than we can buy new ones; and I know that is bad for our health!

LWF has really helped with the formation of WRUA Clusters too. The Financial help that we have received has allowed the committee of our water project to hold general meetings in order to sensitise people and we are finding that most people are eager to learn and execute change. We encourage our members also to stop viewing the forest as government property, and rather look at it as a resource that we are responsible for. People should be educated on the importance of trees and the effect it has on water.

The County Government should also get more involved and help us build infrastructure such as dams for water storage. We were promised a dam almost 8 years ago and that construction has still not happened”.

 

Nanyuki WRUA – Amos Ekale- Committee Member

Amos Ekale - Nanyuki WRUA Committee Member

Amos Ekale – Nanyuki WRUA Committee Member

“I have been farming for a very long time now. This is how I feed my family and meet our every day expenses including school fees for my children. Towards the end of last year and for the most part of this year we have faced many challenges but mostly as a result of the drought.

As an active Committee Member of Nanyuki WRUA, I am responsible for the management of the water-rationing project in the community, but I also scout the area as some community members have the tendency to abstract water illegally, leaving those living downstream with very little water.

We have benefitted greatly from LWF’s Water Programme and now things are looking up with the formation of the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership. Our scouting initiatives have been boosted, and as a result, our river is flowing and deforestation has greatly reduced! But sometimes, and especially during this drought, we are finding that we have to be more stringent with community members on how they utilise our water resources.  During dry spells the water appears as if it isn’t enough but it is! We have found that some community members block water intakes and this affects other members of the community. We always engage them as much as possible, teaching them about effective storage, farming and animal husbandry.

We have many dams in this area but they are all damaged and need to be repaired. New dams need to be built too. This will help more members to join the WRUA so that we can collectively engage in finding solutions to the challenges we face in the management of our water resource. At the moment some members feel that they are too far from the water source and find no need to join the WRUA. We then end up having to deal with issues such as abstraction as a result.

Another challenge we face, and which MKEWP is helping us with, are issues regarding the administration of our WRUA – we need change! Leadership is so important and so when we continue to have a chairman that has held the seat for 17 years things don’t move. I fear that our river may dry up in 10 years or less if we do not start to look at all aspects to do with the management of the resource as well as the WRUA.

I also want to urge, not only our members but all Laikipians, to stay involved and join forums that will help with conservation. During this drought people’s voices came out strongly and that is the way it should always be – engagement is the key to our success”!

 

Ngusishi WRUA – Samuel Maina- Project Manager-

“When we started the Ngusishi WRUA in 1999 we did so because we were experiencing a lot of conflict between upstream and downstream farmers. There were almost 102 illegal abstractors! We made a decision to put a system together that will stop the conflict and give equitable access to water for all members in the WRUA.

With the help of LWF, we now have different common water intakes that are serving 16 water projects including 9 commercial farms.

Our system works very well because we can see how many people are benefitting. We currently have 10 permanent employees with 2 project managers and an annual budget of Kes 2.4 million, which is enough to carry out important activities in order to manage our river. 70% of all water flows are channelled to the community and we allow the remainder to flow freely in order to support the downstream environment.
We have enough water to support everyone here because we work as a team and deal with our challenges as a team, which is very important. Farmers are successful in their businesses and we all get along – big and small.  Many times LWF has brought other WRUAs to learn from us and we continue to talk to them even on our own without the Forum being present and I think that is important, not only for us at Ngusishi but also for Laikipia”.

 

#WaterWealthy

#MajiYetuJukumuLetu

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.

“What Future Laikipia?”

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.