Kenya: Ranchers Change Tack to Gain From Natural Resources Fund

Conservation efforts in Taita-Taveta County will receive a major boost after the government announced that it has set aside Sh1 billion for sustainable management of natural resources in 160 community conservancies countrywide.

More than 28 ranches that recently transformed themselves into conservancies will get a share of the grants announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta last week.

The conservancies, which occupy more than 950,000 acres of rangeland, came together in order to reap maximum benefits from the Tsavo ecosystem, which is home to thousands of wild animals.

The Taita-Taveta Wildlife Conservancies Association (TTWCA) said it has sent proposals to the government on some of the projects it would wish to be funded through the grants.

CAPACITY BUILDING

TTWCA Chairperson Mcharo Bong'osa said the projects relate to the formation of management plans for the ranches, the employment of wildlife scouts, and capacity building for the conservancy members.

Mr Bong'osa said they expect to get a share of the funds, not just to champion the development of the conservancies, but the related economic activities among the members.

"We hope we will be considered for these projects," he said.

He revealed that some projects had stalled due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that donors had stopped funding some, thus affecting their conservation efforts.

"We have embraced wildlife ranching as a way of transforming this land into viable business entities to enhance its value but some donors have stopped funding due to the measures taken to contain the spread of Covid-19" he said.

TOURISM

Mr Bong'osa said they had positioned themselves to reap from wildlife tourism to lift thousands of residents out of poverty.

He said the conservancies benefit more than 30,000 members of the groups directly.

"Instead of lamenting over frequent wildlife invasions, we want to take advantage of the situation and coexist with the animals for our benefit," he said.

Taita-Taveta neighbours the world-renowned Tsavo National Park, where the Big Five can be found.

Before the conservancies were formed, the ranchers would lease their land to grazers, who took advantage of porous park boundaries to sneak their livestock into the park, destroying its vegetation and forcing wildlife to invade nearby communities.

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