The new Partnership Department, launched in July as part of the restructuring centred on KWS’s three goals, has taken over and expanded the role of the Community Wildlife Service, funded under USAID’s COBRA Project. The Partnership Department, with only four staff members based at headquarters, will be even more field-oriented than CWS and will involve all stakeholders rather than communities alone.
KWS’s partnership approach to biodiversity conservation began with the 1994 independent review of human-wildlife conflict and the realization that 75% of Kenya’s wildlife lives outside protected areas on private land devoted to farming, ranching and other activities. By continuing to concentrate solely on conservation in protected areas, KWS could not hope to preserve more than a small portion of Kenya’s wildlife and biodiversity.
The partnership approach instead focuses on working with the human side of the conflict. As the KWS review of wildlife-human conflict revealed, many people in Kenya face daily danger and inconvenience in living with wildlife. Their attitudes and responses will determine its fate. In order to address this key issue, the Partnership Department has adopted the following objectives:-
Formation of partnerships with appropriate stakeholders/partners for biodiversity conservation and management,
Development of meaningful incentive programmes for relevant stakeholders and
Protection of people and property from wildlife damage. By turning wildlife into an asset instead of a liability for its human neighbours, biodiversity is more likely to be conserved over the long term.
During CWS’s tenure, goodwill projects such as schools and boreholes were often crucial to conflict resolution. Newer partnership projects in which all parties contribute something, however large or small, aim to involve local communities in conservation as an economic enterprise.
Three goodwill primary school projects – Bukhaywa (adjacent to Kakamega Forest), Kiranja (located at Kangaita, Kirinyaga District, at the border of Mount Kenya National Park) and Kahingoni (which neighbours the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve) – were completed and/or handed over to the community in the second half of the year. All three communities bear the burden of crop destruction and property damage by wild animals. By improving the communities’ quality of life with new or improved schools, KWS aimed to create an incentive for increased tolerance for wildlife.
The Erankau borehole project, launched in August, was designed to ease tensions among Kitengela landowners situated along the main migratory route into Nairobi National Park who have suffered property losses over the years as a result of their close contact with wildlife. When complete, a 6 hp diesel Lister engine will pump water from the borehole into a 500-litre above-ground storage tank.
In Laikipia District, where large numbers of elephant make farming a risky business, the new Wandiki Cultural Centre and Pasanarua Campsite will enable members of the Kuri Kuri Women’s Group (of the group ranch of the same name) to tap the tourist market for improved income. The facilities, completed in April, have been leased to Tropical Nature and Conservation Safaris for an annual fee, plus additional usage charges.
A similar project to construct tourist bandas and an airstrip for the Ilngwesi Group Ranch, also in Laikipia, will give a community greatly affected by the migration of elephant and plains game new economic options. Construction began in September, and a tour operator has already expressed interest in a five-year lease of the facility, a joint project of KWS and the Liz Claiborne /Art Ortenberg Foundation.