CONSERVANCY CONCEPT GAINS MOMENTUM AS MORE COMMUNITIES SIGN DEALS
(Posted 06th November 2013)
The Northern Rangelands Trust, a conservation NGO primarily covering parts of Northern Kenya with their activities, is thought to be a driving force behind the recent signing of a new conservancy agreement between the Marsabit based Melako and Sera community conservancies and Mobile Expeditions. Mobile Expeditions, found on the web via www.robertsafaris.com has under the deal been given the rights to market the 110.000 acres area, which comprises mixed wildlife and livestock operations, giving locals the opportunity to earn sustainable incomes from future tourism activities while maintaining their, albeit now more carefully managed, way of life at the same time. The agreement will run an initial 5 years, during which tourist visitors to the area will pay a fee which will be shared with the community through agreed mechanisms while Mobile Expeditions can set up temporary tented safari camps, which leave little impact on the environment when they are taken down or shifted elsewhere, depending on weather patterns and game sightings.
The deal is according to sources in Nanyuki worth some 10 million Kenya Shillings per annum to the communities, though reportedly 40 percent of that fee will have to be channeled into conservancy operations by paying rangers and funding other recurrent expenses, while the remaining 60 percent can be spent on improving the life quality of the communities through projects ranging from provision of safe drinking water over health centres to schools. Once the initial 5 year period is up both sides have the opportunity, upon review of what mutual benefits have accrued, to renew the deal for a longer period of time or alternatively decide on another way forward.
(Map taken from the NRT website www.nrt-kenya.org)
Conservancies are one of the key elements of future conservation work in Kenya, where besides the protected areas like national parks and game reserves, which are managed by Kenya Wildlife Service, private or community driven conservation pacts will provide both buffer zones around protected areas but also keep some of the ancient migration routes for wildlife open. The latter is of major importance to keep the gene pool of resident game populations ‘refreshed’ as otherwise inbreeding would sooner or later take its toll as is already seen with isolated cheetah populations.
Prime examples are the conservancies which have now almost completed a buffer around the Masai Mara boundaries, except for presently some two major parcels of pasture land. Near Amboseli, where Gamewatchers / Porini have been pioneering the concept for many years, new interest in forming conservancies has been raised of late as a result of the success of these initial ventures between local communities and honest companies true to their word who held up their end of the bargain without ifs and buts and gave the local communities the confidence that there was indeed a future in such ‘deals’, providing a regular stream of visitors whose presence helps create employment and generate cash flow.
The following map shows in greater detail how many conservancies are working with NRT in the wider area between Marsabit, Maralal and Isiolo and how other stand alone conservancies have been created within this area also trying to tap into the tourism market. This move was and continues to be prompted by the need of local communities to find alternative sources of income over and above the traditional livestock keeping which always depends on the weather which wipe out the wealth of an entire tribe or community during a prolonged drought.
I am spending time this week on one of Kenya’s leading conservancies, which in fact in recent years has quietly established itself as a prime wilderness area, for mainstream tourism and for adventure tourism, Ol Pejeta. Insights gained will be shared with readers ranging from available accommodation – covering budget to posh – over their star attractions like the four Northern White rhinos or the chimpanzee sanctuary to the activities of Rift Valley Adventures. Policy issues as well as being on the forefront of anti poaching operations with the planned introduction of UAV’s all possible aspects of interest will be covered. For more information on the work and objectives of NRT follow them also on Facebook via www.facebook.com/NorthernRangelandsTrust