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A conspiracy in the wild

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A conspiracy in the wild

For over 10 years, the Northern Rangelands Trust, a Kenya-based conservation initiative, has been acquiring land in the arid north of the country. Today, it controls almost 10% of Kenya’s land mass. Environmental journalist John Mbaria investigates.

In its dying days, the Obama Administration pumped massive amounts of money into supporting a powerful NGO accused of using below-the-radar tactics to control a huge amount of Kenyan land, thereby using conservation as a subtle tool for dispossessing tens of thousands of pastoralists, who have unwittingly participated in their own dispossession.

Much of the land, whose control is enforced by local well-armed militias, has recently been granted UN-protected status. And with financial backing from powerful Western donors, the Northern Rangelands Trust’s (NRT) activities are largely insulated from public scrutiny.

Unless the new Trump administration discontinues the US government’s support to wildlife conservation in Africa, the NRT is set to continue having a say over vast, mineral-rich lands in the north and coastal areas of Kenya.

Most of these lands have been identified, in official documents, as areas of immense potential capable of becoming the very basis of the country’s future economic progress. These areas are also crucial to the maintenance of the extensive livestock husbandry practised by millions of pastoralists in northern Kenya.

Today, the NRT effectively controls 44,000 km2 (or 10.8m acres) of land – that’s roughly eight per cent of Kenya’s 581,309 km2 landmass. Interestingly, the organisation appears to have acquired a decisive say over these lands by co-opting the local leadership. Consequently, NRT’s control of the lands in Kenya’s Upper Rift, North and Coastal areas is facilitated by local political and community leaders, some of whom are co-opted as members of the organisation’s Board.

This has been done through community wildlife conservation, a model in which landowners assert the right to manage and profit from wildlife on their lands.

Conservancies have proliferated across pastoralist, wildlife-rich areas in northern and southern Kenya. They are also an extremely attractive funding prospect for Western donors in the conservation sector.

All the cash is handed over, not directly to the landowners, who have constituted themselves into 33 community conservancies, but to the NRT, which acts like a middleman and which has taken up not just conservation, but other roles (including security arrangements) that are ordinarily performed by national governments.

Among the biggest financial supporters of NRT, the former Obama administration consistently extended tens of millions of dollars to the organisation through the United States Agency for International Development (USAid). As if to underscore how important the NRT’s work was to the Obama Administration, the organisation’s Chief Programs Officer, Tom Lalampaa, and its founder, Ian Craig, were among the people given the privilege of making short presentations about their work when the former US president visited Kenya last July.

America’s latest support to the organisation was announced in a press statement released by the US Embassy in Nairobi in late November 2016. In the communiqué, the US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert F. Godec, said
the US’s new 5-year, $20m support was meant “to help expand” the NRT’s operations in Coastal
Kenya.

He hailed NRT’s partnership with the communities, terming it “a shared vision of protecting ecosystems and promoting peace for a better future”. He added that the cash would be used to support the work of community rangers, to conserve wildlife and fisheries, improve livelihoods, and advance women’s enterprises.

For its part, NRT, through Craig (who signed off as the organisation’s Director of Conservation), said the cash would be used to fund the opening up of new conservancies and create a conservation trust fund.


The former Obama administration consistently extended tens of millions of dollars to the NRT through USAid.


Though the US government believes that the NRT shares “the visions of protecting ecosystems” with the communities in Upper Rift, the North and on the Coast, recent developments in Kenya have proved otherwise. Indeed, the US support comes at a time when some well-armed herders, from some of the same communities the NRT has helped to form community conservancies, have invaded sprawling private ranches in Laikipia and elsewhere, leading to human fatalities, the killing of wild animals and forcing the deployment of specialised security units from the Kenya police.

The work of NRT and the West’s support to conservation in some of Kenya’s arid-and-semi-arid lands has altered the human/ wildlife dynamics in some areas. This has also invited curious concern from conservation experts, who believe that the US and other countries in the West have been supporting a controversial organisation that has been usurping the role of Kenya’s human and wildlife security organs, as well as destroying the age-old ability of tens of thousands of herders to live off their land.

As New African found out in extensive visits and interviews with different people in the affected areas, the NRT-inspired community-conservation model is simple and can be quite attractive for anyone ignorant of its implications, especially for the lives and livelihoods of local people.

After co-opting the local leadership, the NRT appears to have crafted MOUs with the communities owning the vast tracts of land. In most cases, the communities’ land-ownership claims are based on the most rudimentary rights – an ancestral claim to the land.

Community members are also reputed to retain significant respect for, and allow themselves to be guided by, local leadership which, in most cases, uses its standing in communities to advance, and persuade “lesser” members of communities to conform with the wishes of the NRT.

This is not so difficult as the organisation has come up with quite an attractive package for the  communities, including securing for them investors interested in developing lodges and other tourism facilities, once they agree to set aside some of their lands for exclusive use by wildlife and the investors.

NRT also promises bursaries for school children, employment for community members, a ready market for the livestock and the setting up of a grazing plan to prevent livestock deaths through drought in the drylands of Kenya.

“NRT’s approach is quite attractive to communities who have been neglected by successive governments in Kenya since the country attained independence from the British,” says Daniel Letoiye, a Samburu County resident who previously worked as a programme officer with NRT.

However, hidden in the fine print are consequences that are considered grave for the pastoralist groups in Northern Kenya. “Even when droughts occur, many of the pastoralist groups [who have signed up to the agreements] cannot access part of their lands that are now set aside for wildlife conservation and which constitute community conservancies,” says Michael Lalampaa, an official with the Higher Education Loans Board who hails from Samburu County.

Samburu comunity elders discuss their perspectives with the author in Samburu County

Lalampaa complains that the NRT compels communities to set aside the best portions of their lands for the exclusive use of wildlife and the tourist investors. Lalampaa says that the organisation usually identifies leaders and elites within relevant communities who aid in persuading the pastoralists to set aside big parcels of land for conservation purposes. “Once the agreements are put in place, it becomes impossible for the herders to access some areas with pastures in the conservancies … they are confronted by armed scouts who evict them.” He adds that it is “sad that at times, livestock ends up dying simply because the owners cannot graze the animals in what used to be their own lands.”

This has proven problematic especially since vast sections of the relevant rangelands have been depleted year-in, year-out by overgrazing and are inhabited by people who have become increasingly vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of livestock end up competing over the remaining patches of grasslands and dwindling water sources such as the Ewaso Nyiro River.

This happens, as copious reports show, in an area largely ignored by the Kenya government, inhabited by morans, have taken up cattle- rustling as a traditional pastime.

Claims have also been made that NRT’s activities have far-reaching implications on the entire country and therefore need to be handled with more than casual attention by Kenya’s allies across the world, the government as well as the people of Kenya.

“The sheer geographical, financial, cultural, and political scale of this intervention calls for a lot more thought than has been given to it thus far,” said Dr Mordecai Ogada, a conservation consultant based in Laikipia County.

Dr Ogada believes that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has “abdicated” from its responsibility to inspire the formation and sound management of conservation activities outside Kenya’s protected areas. But top officials at KWS – which has lately been experiencing financial difficulties – deny this, saying that they see no problem with the operations of the NRT.

However, KWS appears critical of recent moves by foreign governments to fund the NRT. “Conservation NGOs like NRT have recently benefited from funding from development partners, following the paradigm shift where development partners and other governments prefer to fund communities through NGOs rather than governments directly,” said Paul Gathitu, KWS spokesperson and head of corporate communications.

Attempts by New African to elicit comments from NRT met with no success. Nevertheless, on its website, the organisation – which calls itself a “movement” – announces that it has been raising funds to aid the formation and running of conservancies.

NRT also says that it supports the training of relevant communities and helps to “broker agreements between conservancies and investors”. It claims that it provides donors with “a degree of oversight” by participating directly in how community conservancies and incomes accrued are managed.  This was evident as New African toured eight conservancies in Isiolo, Marsabit, Samburu and Laikipia, where NRT has appointed its own managers who are in charge of the day-to-day running of the conservancies.

Besides the managers, there are the members of the Board and grazing committees who are, on paper, supposed to be making decisions that suit the needs of the true owners of the land.

However, there is evidence that main decisions are made by NRT and that the organisation has maintained little or no engagement with the owners of the land and local public institutions.

Besides the US, NRT’s activities are funded by a host of other private companies and bodies in the West. Some of the principal donors to NRT include the Danish Development Agency (DANIDA); the Nature Conservancy (a US-based international NGO); and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) of France. NRT is also bankrolled by other donors who fund its long-term programmes – including Fauna & Flora International, Zoos South Australia, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ of Germany), US Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego Zoo, International Elephant Foundation, Saint Louis Zoo, Running Wild and others. These latter donors have boosted what NRT terms a pooled conservation fund that has a lifespan of more than five years.

The Tullow Oil Company, that has been involved in oil prospecting in Turkana County, has funded NRT to the tune of $11.5m in a five-year project meant to aid the latter in establishing and operating new conservancies in Turkana and West Pokot counties.

Seventy per cent of the money was meant to go directly to community conservancies’ bank accounts for meeting operational costs (i.e. staff salaries, the purchase and running of vehicles, the acquisition of computers and other equipment), while 30% was to enable the formation and management of the conservancies.


The NRT has maintained little or no engagement with the owners of the land and local public institutions


But this did not go down well with the Turkana County government, which declared the relevant conservancies illegal, with the County Executive for Energy, Environment & Natural Resources ordering NRT to stop its operations there.

Later, the County Governor, Josphat Nanok, termed NRT’s move to establish conservancies in Turkana as “ill-advised with a hidden agenda”.

Dr Ogada believes that the millions of dollars in grants given by the US and other countries in the West have made NRT a “launch pad” for what he terms “a new conservation paradigm” in East Africa.

“NRT has championed this model of conservation very actively for the last decade [resulting] in a situation where challenges or mistakes aren’t spoken about by donors or implementers because of the sheer scale of professional and financial investment in an institution [which like all others] does have inherent weaknesses,” he added.

The NRT’s security function is considered one of the most controversial aspects of the community conservancy movement in Kenya. Usually, maintenance of security within countries is a preserve of governments. But on its website, the organisation says that it inspires community conservancies to “tackle insecurity holistically”.

This includes conducting anti-poaching operations, wildlife monitoring and providing what it terms “invaluable [support] to the Kenya Police in helping to tackle cattle rustling and road banditry”.

The organisation says that by 2014, it had facilitated the training of 645 rangers who operate in the conservancies while Dickson ole Kaelo, the chief executive of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, reported that over 2,300 community rangers have been trained so far.

Normally, the organisation selects community members and takes them for training by the KWS’s personnel at the wildlife agency’s Manyani Training School, close to Kenya’s biggest national park, Tsavo.

Here, the rangers are taught “bush craft skills, as well as how to effectively gather and share intelligence, monitor wildlife and manage combat situations”. The involvement of KWS in the training of the community rangers was confirmed, but downplayed, by Michael Kipkeu, KWS’s Senior Assistant Director in charge of the Community Wildlife Service. “The KWS law enforcement academy provides tailor-made community scouts’ training.”

After being trained by KWS, the rangers are given more advanced training than what is posted on the NRT’s website. For instance, according to the Save the Rhino NGO, the rangers are given Kenya Police Reserve accreditation and “sufficient weapons handling training”.

Such advanced training involves tactical movement with weapons, ambush and anti-ambush drills, handling and effective usage of night-vision and thermal-imaging equipment, and ground-to-air communications and coordination.

There are also suspicions that the bigger scheme is to ensure that Kenya unwittingly “forfeits” some of the lands under the NRT by getting them declared by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

The scheme to have UNESCO declare some of the biggest private game ranches and wildlife conservancies in Laikipia, Samburu, and islands in the Coast as World Heritage Sites is now being pursued in earnest.

“Legally, the move may not amount to much but knowing how lobbying is done, if the government were to [seek to] change ownership, listings would be put up to demonstrate how special these ranches are and why they should remain with the present landowners,” said Njenga Kahiro, a former Programme Officer with Laikipia Wildlife Forum. The aim, Kahiro avers, is “to create a super-big protected area … all of it [covered by] the World Heritage Convention.”

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Written by New African Magazine

For over 45 years New African provides unparalleled insights and analysis on African politics and economics, via an African perspective, always. With in-depth monthly reports, New African brings Africa closer to the world and is ideal for those looking to gain a better understanding of the most important issues affecting Africa.

  • Elodie Sampere

    From the CEO, Board Chairman and Chairman of the Council of Elders of the Northern Rangelands Trust:

    Perhaps not surprising in this era of fake news, but I have rarely read a more ill-informed piece of journalism, full of conspiracy theory and with out a strand of truth in its message. I am surprised that New African has published such a piece without any cross-checking. The author has made no attempt to contact anyone in NRT for comment or contribution. The article has no credibility, yet risks causing reputational damage to NRT in the context of a highly politicised atmosphere of drought and elections in Kenya in 2017. We recommend that New African sends a more credible journalist to witness the work that NRT is doing, and to write a more accurate piece about the transformational work that community conservancies are leading in northern Kenya, with support from NRT.

    • Abunuasi

      Why don’t you state your facts. Its clearly stated in the article that NRT was reached for comments with no postive response. State your facts to counter the above assertions.

    • Patriot

      I think it would have been wiser to respond to the issues raised above with facts (if any) rather than attack the character of the paper and its journalists.

      • Paulo Lrx

        Read the fact above, on my article…

    • Austyn Machel

      Where are the facts to back up your response? You are attacking the journalist for having no concrete facts, yet you also have none.

  • Adam Halke Mallu

    I think media people should assess the merits and demerits of any community project before tainting such initiatives. Some reporters are paid to damage conservancy efforts.

    • Abunuasi

      What is positive about restricting the access of land from the original owners in the name of conservation? Doesn’t it contribute to the infighting that occurs for the meagre resources left?? What is the recourse of the local communities?? This is neocolonization!!

      • it6

        Have you asked yourself where do these pastorolists who invade ranches during drought come from when its dry.From the skies..Why do they leave their lands to invade laikipai ranches during drought? Because they have destroyed their lands due to no controlled managment grazing where they reside and thus during drought they go to the better well managed lands in laikipia who have learnt how to coexist with wildlife and livestock whereby even during droughts the wildlife and cattle have something to eat..They have a program whereby its encouraged for pastoralist in those areas to sell their cattle when they are healthy before the drought hits that way they get more money from fatter and healthier cows..

        The raiders do not sell their cattle..They keep large herds as a sign of wealth whereby when drought hits they are unable to manage their herds because they have degraded their lands and keeps large herds and so the only alternative they have is to invade the well mangened areas in laikipia for pasture and water..

        The govt has failed in shwoing they way for these pastorlists and really modeling a system like NRT..Infact the govt should fund NRT to expand its progam to the rift areas and help these pastoralist raiders on best land use..

        The issue is all about Land use..How you manage your land for best cattle keep..Its a wholistic approach and NRTs model is the best in kenya if not the world..

        You can not continue living in this world like cave men with all the changes taking place like climate change, popultaion growth and pressure on land for more developements putting pressure on land..

        We are living in a more modern world and climate change which requires optimum land use

        • Abunuasi

          Proper land management i am in agreement. So why does NRT have to own the land?? This is just foreigners taking advantage of the situation. If their system is that good then they may go replicate it somewhere else and leave us with our cavemanlike lifestyle. Moreover…i don’t think there would be animals and land to conserve if the pastrolists did not take care of it before. It’s the same foreigners from whom poaching and game hunting became rife. As Maasai’s from Tanzania clearly put it”you cannot walk on tiles and paved ground and yet claim to protect and love grass more than those who walk and survive from it!!!”

          • Austyn Machel

            Well put.

          • neversink

            NRT owns no land. Period!!! NRT does not even manage land. They work with conservancies and private ranchers and pastoralist communities to encourage sustainable land-use practices.

  • Liz Rihoy

    John Mbaria you clearly have a successful career awaiting you within the ‘alternative facts’ universe of the Trump administration. NewAfrican, shame on you for carrying such conspiracy theory polemics.

    • sandark

      Perhaps you should table your facts – this looks like a case of ” we had to destroy the village in order to save it”, the fact on the ground is, the pastoralists and the ranchers are on a collusion course.

  • Mycroft Holmes

    What a dreadful piece of journalism. It follows slavishly the current trend of Fake Facts, which is dangerous and divisive. Poorly written, badly sourced – this is a thinly disguised politicised polemic with a malicious agenda which has no merit whatsoever in the real world with real problem and real people. Shame on New African (NA) for posting this – they have become part of the problem, not part of the solution. I note that NA did not even extend NRT the courtesy of commenting or contributing. In other words, they are publishing a one-sided piece of factless, fatuous dangerous drivel – it does not deserve the title of ‘writing’. Appalling. Disregard.

    • Paul Goldsmith

      John Mbaria has a long and excellent track record; why do the commenters not raise the issues they disagree with instead of launching ad hominem attacks?

      • Dalle Abraham

        Precisely my concern.

    • Abunuasi

      Why dont you state your facts instead of your emotional opinion?!

  • Kenya Wildlife Conservancies A

    From the CEO Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association,

    While this story is about NRT and Community conservancies in Northern Kenya, the lack of objectivity and distortion of facts, paints a bad image on wildlife conservancies in Kenya.

    Contrary to the article’s assertion that community conservancies are an avenue to dispossess communities of their land and put the land under the control of militia funded by external donors, community conservancies in Kenya are community initiatives developed to enhance rather than destroy ability of pastoralists to live off their land. Conservancies are managed by locally elected community leaders who develop and foresee implementation of the conservancy management plans. The community rangers, themselves local youth implement community decisions. The author did not attempt to contact KWCA yet went ahead to falsely report that 2,300 community rangers have been trained by KWS.

    Conservancies adopt an integrated land use management system that optimizes land use for livestock, wildlife, human settlement and compatible land uses, not for conservation purposes only as argued in the article. Conservancies amidst the increasing complex social and economic pressures, have been used as an avenue to bring together warring communities to co-manage resources, develop enterprises to enhance livelihoods, diversify tourism, secure grass banks for livestock during dry seasons and create jobs for the local communities. Conservancies are recognized under Kenya’s Wildlife Laws and have received strong endorsements by KWS and support from donors.

    It’s unfortunate New Africa has published a one sided article which downplays the successes made so far by conservancies in Kenya.

    • renceokgobja

      Creating fake account strategy is not going to be effective. Mjinga ameerevuka. This is just the beginning

  • it6

    Fake news at its best..These lands left as they were before NRT involvment would just be desrts, no wildlife, no water for communities, no pastures, no bursaries for the villagers, no clinics, no gainful employment, no makets for the peoples cattle but dye of drought..I mean this guy needs to join breitbert news..Am sure Banon would love to have have him as his Africa correspondent

    • Austyn Machel

      I have a question for you Sir. How were those communities living before these foreigners came and took over the land? If what you are saying is true, then the death toll in these areas should have been really high prior to NRT’s involvement. This white saviour nonsense that is used to justify such injustices should just stop.

  • Paulo Lrx

    Ogutu et al. in 2016 published a paper saying that wildlife numbers declined on
    average by 68% between 1977 and 2016. The declines were widespread and occurred
    in most of the 21 rangeland counties. Likewise to wildlife, cattle numbers
    decreased (25.2%) but numbers of sheep and goats (76.3%), camels (13.1%) and
    donkeys (6.7%) evidently increased in the same period. As a result, livestock
    biomass was 8.1 times greater than that of wildlife in 2011–2013 compared to
    3.5 times in 1977–1980. In Kenya 70% of wildlife live in community area, and as
    the CEO of KWCA mentioned, Community Conservancies are recognized by the
    Wildlife Act 2013 and the newly Land Act 2016.

    A research funded by AFD (Agence Française de Développement) in 2014 showed
    complementarity and synergy between government and community own Protected
    Areas. As tourism is regarded to be one of the main drivers to stimulate
    community based conservation, strong tourism potential may contribute directly
    and indirectly to improved environmental effects in the long term. This type of
    conservancy is also trying to offer different tourism experience than protected
    areas such as community tours or bush walk. More tourists visit ecosystems
    offering a variety of tourism product from high-end, exclusive private lodges
    to community and cultural experiences. The document also highlighted several
    weaknesses such as a challenging governance in terms of managing different
    interest groups and transparency/fairness of decision-making mechanisms as well
    as often have low levels of financial resources, but high hopes and
    expectations of economic gains from PA status and inexperienced management
    teams in need of capacity building support. These weaknesses are going to be
    addressed by training local people on governance, law enforcement, and
    complimentary livelihood enterprises and well as helping to get sustainable
    funding from volunteer project, County Government, tourism, bio-products and
    donors.

    When the author of the contested article mentioned “The work of NRT […] in Kenya arid-and-semi-arid lands has altered the human/ wildlife dynamics in some areas” clearly showed that the writer ignored that Land use/land cover changes in rangelands has led
    to friction between people, livestock and wildlife over the scarce rangeland resources, with the intensity of the friction increasing over the years (Maitima et al. 2009; Campbell et al. 2003). The loss of soil by water erosion in Kenya was some time ago estimated at 72 tons per hectare per year (de Graff 1993). Recently, Le et al. (2014) estimated that the total of 22 % of the Kenyan land area has degraded between 1982 and 2006, including 42 % of shrub
    lands and 18 % of grasslands. Among the resulting effects has been the substantial decline of wildlife in the rangelands (Maitima et al. 2009) which impact negatively the tourism sector of the country. Land use/land cover changes is also associated with a decline in bird species, loss in plant biodiversity, and decline in soil productivity (Maitima et al. 2009). The
    article clearly shows that the author would have preferred to see those lands to be exploited for their industrial and mineral resources instead of seeing the lands preserved for pastoralist live hood and wildlife conservation. Little benefits are provided to the community from such resources exploitations and leads to accelerate land degradation without considering environmental factors.

    Economically wise; given that tourism represents 10.5% of GDP (561.8 billion Ksh) according to Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2015 Kenya, and given that livestock production is mainly concentrated in the arid and semi-arid lands parts of the country which cover above 80 % of total land area and supports approximately 70% of the country’s livestock (GoK, 2012). Livestock production plays a crucial role not only in sustaining livelihoods, but plays a significant role in national development by contributing about $4.54 billion US dollars to agricultural GDP (GoK, 2012); the total capital value of pastoral livestock in Kenya is 295.270 billion Ksh (The contribution of livestock to the Kenyan
    economy, 2009). Communities will get better benefits from both livestock production and wildlife conservation through tourism income from wildlife conservation. As Rangelands are highly degraded by livestock overgrazing, erosion and climate change; land degradation is poised to diminish land productivity, especially in dry areas and leads to decrease the pastoral economy. As for the economic impacts of land degradation, IMF (2010) estimates
    that land degradation has huge economic costs in Kenya—about USD 390 million or (about 3 % of GDP) annually. The costs of land degradation accounting for the losses of ecosystem services is 214 million USD annually in Eastern Province. The bigger proportion of milk and meat losses is experienced in warm arid ($24 million), warm semi-arid ($16 million). However, for the combination of livestock production & wildlife conservation to be successful, a land use plan needs to be drawn in partnership with communities. Moreover human-wildlife conflict mitigation, wildlife deterrent (crops and Boma) and compensation measures needs to be set in place for peaceful land sharing.

    Securing and restoring land needs agreement, commitments and sacrifices of
    both parties. The scales of lands to be restored is huge, requiring massive
    participation and money. Once the lands are restored, they need to be managed
    sustainably by drawing grazing plan and holistic management. Education,
    training and awareness are the key to the success. As Daniel Letoiye mentioned “NRT’s
    approach is quite attractive to communities who have been neglected by
    successive governments in Kenya since the country attained independence from
    the British”. Nothing in the Kenyan law mentioned that a Non-Governmental Organization
    could not have a direct impact on the areas where it operates and contribute to
    community development & conservation. Where government extension services are
    scarce, the local NGOs serve as focal points for information and technology
    dissemination among the rural population. It is distinctly not “Usurping the
    role of Kenya’s human and wildlife security organs, as well as destroying the
    age-old ability of tens of thousands of herders to live off their country”. Who
    can blame NRT for its direct approach to help community for a better land
    management knowing that the necessary policies and laws are largely in place
    but serious cases of underfunding, political will and vested interests inhibit
    efficient and effective implementation of Sustainable land use policies as
    spelled out in the various sector and policy documents. A recent study
    evaluated the Total Land-Use Value of West Gate Conservancy to Kenya Economy of
    418 billion Ksh, comprising security, household support, community development,
    food production, taxes and ecosystem service. An alternative land use value
    would only include ecosystem services and food production, which would reduce
    the contribution to 385 billion Ksh. Each dollar spent on addressing land
    degradation is likely to receive about 4 dollars of returns. This is a very strong
    economic justification favoring action as opposed to taking no action. If there
    are governance problems and land access issue a land management workshop should
    take every year or 6 months as well as audits for financial management
    transparency.

    In terms of security, the scouts know the communities and the areas better than the policemen who regularly change the work location all around the country. Those northern territory is the scene of tribal conflicts for access to natural resources. Little was made to build peace, instore communication between local tribes. Insecurity leads to lack of development and economic opportunities, poaching and escalating violence. The scouts are the peace keepers of the community and their lands in partnership of KWS and Kenyan Police Service. They are directly employed by NRT and selected from all tribes.

  • Paulo Lrx

    Ogutu et al. in 2016 published a paper saying that wildlife numbers declined on
    average by 68% between 1977 and 2016. The declines were widespread and occurred
    in most of the 21 rangeland counties. Likewise to wildlife, cattle numbers
    decreased (25.2%) but numbers of sheep and goats (76.3%), camels (13.1%) and
    donkeys (6.7%) evidently increased in the same period. As a result, livestock
    biomass was 8.1 times greater than that of wildlife in 2011–2013 compared to
    3.5 times in 1977–1980. In Kenya 70% of wildlife live in community area, and as
    the CEO of KWCA mentioned, Community Conservancies are recognized by the
    Wildlife Act 2013 and the newly Land Act 2016.

    A research funded by AFD (Agence Française de Développement) in 2014 showed
    complementarity and synergy between government and community own Protected
    Areas. As tourism is regarded to be one of the main drivers to stimulate
    community based conservation, strong tourism potential may contribute directly
    and indirectly to improved environmental effects in the long term. This type of
    conservancy is also trying to offer different tourism experience than protected
    areas such as community tours or bush walk. More tourists visit ecosystems
    offering a variety of tourism product from high-end, exclusive private lodges to
    community and cultural experiences. The document also highlighted several
    weaknesses such as a challenging governance in terms of managing different
    interest groups and transparency/fairness of decision-making mechanisms as well
    as often have low levels of financial resources, but high hopes and
    expectations of economic gains from PA status and inexperienced management
    teams in need of capacity building support. These weaknesses are going to be
    addressed by training local people on governance, law enforcement, and
    complimentary livelihood enterprises and well as helping to get sustainable
    funding from volunteer project, County Government, tourism, bio-products and
    donors.

    When the author of the contested article mentioned “The work of NRT […] in Kenya arid-and-semi-arid lands has altered the human/ wildlife dynamics in some areas” clearly showed that the writer ignored that Land use/land cover changes in rangelands has led
    to friction between people, livestock and wildlife over the scarce rangeland resources, with the intensity of the friction increasing over the years (Maitima et al. 2009; Campbell et al. 2003). The loss of soil by water erosion in Kenya was some time ago estimated at 72 tons per hectare per year (de Graff 1993). Recently, Le et al. (2014) estimated that the total of 22 % of the Kenyan land area has degraded between 1982 and 2006, including 42 % of shrub
    lands and 18 % of grasslands. Among the resulting effects has been the substantial decline of wildlife in the rangelands (Maitima et al. 2009) which impact negatively the tourism sector of the country. Land use/land cover changes is also associated with a decline in bird species, loss in plant biodiversity, and decline in soil productivity (Maitima et al. 2009). The
    article clearly shows that the author would have preferred to see those lands to be exploited for their industrial and mineral resources instead of seeing the lands preserved for pastoralist live hood and wildlife conservation. Little benefits are provided to the community from such resources exploitations and leads to accelerate land degradation without considering environmental factors.

    Economically wise; given that tourism represents 10.5% of GDP (561.8 billion Ksh) according to Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2015 Kenya, and given that livestock
    production is mainly concentrated in the arid and semi-arid lands parts of the
    country which cover above 80 % of total land area and supports approximately 70
    % of the country’s livestock (GoK, 2012). Livestock production plays a crucial
    role not only in sustaining livelihoods, but plays a significant role in
    national development by contributing about $4.54 billion US dollars to
    agricultural GDP (GoK, 2012); the total capital value of pastoral livestock in
    Kenya is 295.270 billion Ksh (The contribution of livestock to the Kenyan
    economy, 2009). Communities will get better benefits from both livestock
    production and wildlife conservation through tourism income from wildlife
    conservation. As Rangelands are highly degraded by livestock overgrazing,
    erosion and climate change; land degradation is poised to diminish land
    productivity, especially in dry areas and leads to decrease the pastoral
    economy. As for the economic impacts of land degradation, IMF (2010) estimates
    that land degradation has huge economic costs in Kenya—about USD 390 million or
    (about 3 % of GDP) annually. The costs of land degradation accounting for the
    losses of ecosystem services is 214 million USD annually in Eastern Province. The
    bigger proportion of milk and meat losses is experienced in warm arid ($24
    million), warm semi-arid ($16 million). However, for the combination of livestock
    production & wildlife conservation to be successful, a land use plan needs
    to be drawn in partnership with communities. Moreover human-wildlife conflict
    mitigation, wildlife deterrent (crops and Boma) and compensation measures needs
    to be set in place for peaceful land sharing.

    Securing and restoring land needs agreement, commitments and sacrifices of
    both parties. The scales of lands to be restored is huge, requiring massive
    participation and money. Once the lands are restored, they need to be managed
    sustainably by drawing grazing plan and holistic management. Education,
    training and awareness are the key to the success. As Daniel Letoiye mentioned “NRT’s
    approach is quite attractive to communities who have been neglected by
    successive governments in Kenya since the country attained independence from
    the British”. Nothing in the Kenyan law mentioned that a Non-Governmental Organization
    could not have a direct impact on the areas where it operates and contribute to
    community development & conservation. Where government extension services
    are scarce, the local NGOs serve as focal points for information and technology
    dissemination among the rural population. It is distinctly not “Usurping the
    role of Kenya’s human and wildlife security organs, as well as destroying the
    age-old ability of tens of thousands of herders to live off their country”. Who
    can blame NRT for its direct approach to help community for a better land
    management knowing that the necessary policies and laws are largely in place
    but serious cases of underfunding, political will and vested interests inhibit
    efficient and effective implementation of Sustainable land use policies as
    spelled out in the various sector and policy documents. A recent study
    evaluated the Total Land-Use Value of West Gate Conservancy to Kenya Economy of
    418 billion Ksh, comprising security, household support, community development,
    food production, taxes and ecosystem service. An alternative land use value
    would only include ecosystem services and food production, which would reduce
    the contribution to 385 billion Ksh. Each dollar spent on addressing land
    degradation is likely to receive about 4 dollars of returns. This is a very
    strong economic justification favoring action as opposed to taking no action.
    If there are governance problems and land access issue a land management
    workshop should take every year or 6 months as well as audits for financial
    management transparency.

    In terms of security, the scouts know the
    communities and the areas better than the policemen who regularly change the
    work location all around the country. Those northern territory is the scene of
    tribal conflicts for access to natural resources. Little was made to build
    peace, instore communication between local tribes. Insecurity leads to lack of
    development and economic opportunities, poaching and escalating violence. The
    scouts are the peace keepers of the community and their lands in partnership of
    KWS and Kenyan Police Service. They are directly employed by NRT and selected
    from all tribes.

  • Galgesa Basele

    I see the vitriol and hatred towards the author of this article from those that are fleecing Northern Kenya in the name of conservation. Conservation in the North has become a cash cow for families. Actually, the whole of the affair is carried out by cousins, sons, daughters, in-laws and friends! It is nothing but family business

  • Sonofthenomad12

    This is an an amazing piece! Well researched and investigative piece. Kudos to the “NewAfrican” and respected journalist, John Mbaria.

    • neversink

      Well you know nothing about journalism if you think this is a well-researched and investigative piece. It is pure lies creating anger where there should be none. NRT owns no land. Period!!! NRT does not even manage land. They work with conservancies and private ranchers and pastoralist communities to encourage sustainable land-use practices.

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