Well over 70 per cent of Kenya’s Wildlife is found outside protected areas. Kenya Wildlife Service which is charged with the conservation of wildlife throughout the country, believes that conservation of wildlife outside protected areas cannot be achieved without addressing the needs and rights of communities coexisting with wildlife.
Hence, a sustainable strategy of wildlife conservation in places where wildlife coexist with human beings is a major objective of KWS. In the past three years, KWS has established modalities for community partnership in the management of wildlife to help resolve the human-wildlife conflict.
Among the measures taken was the launch in August 1995 of the Problem Animal Management Unit (PAMU). Some of the objectives of PAMU, include identifying and recording areas of significant human-wildlife conflicts as well as identifying seasons when such conflicts occur most.
The unit has now developed an early warning system for the management of problem animals. It has also introduced protective barrier designs which include fencing, and the use of trenches and moats. The communities are also encouraged under this programme to use traditional defence methods and adopt self-supporting fencing programmes.
To further contain the problem animals, KWS is intensifying ranger services and improving its telecommunications network.
One of the main achievements of KWS on the community wildlife programme has been the creation of awareness and the mobilisation of communities to such an extent that, at present, people in dispersal areas are proposing wildlife conservation and utilisation projects.
KWS provides training for selected community leaders and representatives after what is called Participatory Rural Appraisal has been carried out to establish their needs. Such training has already been carried out in Laikipia, Kajiado, Samburu, Meru, Isiolo and Nakuru. Similar activities are planned for other human-wildlife conflict areas.
Under the working partnership that has been established, communities identify those individuals they consider to be reliable, and KWS trains them as community conservation scouts. This has not only relieved pressure on the skeleton KWS field staff but more importantly, it has brought about community participation in conservation.
In the past, communities were used to receiving and sharing KWS funds put at their disposal. KWS is now moving away from this and encouraging communities to come up with income-generating projects.
The past one year or so has seen an encouraging increase in the number of such projects as opposed to social projects – a positive change from an earlier attitude of dependency on KWS.
Whereas the hunting ban is limiting consumptive use of wildlife in Kenya, KWS has authorised land owners to carry out experimental cropping and game farming. The rationale for allowing such cropping and game farming is to enable landowners who let wildlife flourish on their land, to reduce wildlife related costs and reap economic benefits. There is also the long-term consideration that for landowners to have maximum economic incentives to conserve wildlife, they should have a reasonably free hand in the choice of the most profitable form of land use.
Some of the species involved in the experimental game farming include snakes and other reptiles, frogs, crocodiles, ostriches, butterflies, elands and bees.
Under the Wildlife Development Fund Programme introduced by KWS in 1990, community and enterprise development projects totaling Ksh. 54 million (US$ 981,800) have been approved and disbursements totalling Ksh. 36,954,980 (US$ 671,909) made.
A number of community-run game sanctuaries have been proposed and with KWS’s technical assistance, these projects, now at advanced implementation stages, will form the first ever community run game parks in Kenya. They include the Kshs. 7 million (US$127,273) Golini Mwaluganje Community Game Sanctuary at the foot of Shimba Hills in Kwale District. This is within a wildlife migration corridor that connects the KWS Shimba Hills Game Reserve and the Mwaluganje forest range. It is planned to open its doors to the public in a few month’s time.
Another community project expected to be operational within a year is the Shimoni Nkwiro-Kibuvuni Fishermen Project estimated to cost Kshs. 5.3 million (US$ 96,364) upon completion. This is an artisan fishing project which will involve local communities in the preservation of the lagoon off Shimoni and Wasini Islands, as well as at the Mpunguti Marine Reserve south of Mombasa.
The Ilngwesi Tourist Bandas is a Ksh.15 million (US$ 272,727) community project to be constructed on an escarpment in Laikipia District in Central Kenya. When completed, this project will be linked to the northern Kenya tourist circuit – bringing the needed tourist dollars to the IIngwesi community.
Perhaps the most ambitious community wildlife project is the K es and water boreholes.