A new dawn for wildlife conservation in Kenya: opportunities and shortcomings.
BY Washington Barasa
A little history
Indigenous Peoples involvement in wildlife conservation in Kenya begun to gain momentum upon review of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act in 2013.
Historically, the people left wildlife conservation entirely to the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife which has the overarching mandate of management and enforcement of wildlife protection laws and regulations with the assistance of its agent the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Indigenous people have always been disproportionately affected by state organs conservation measures and policies firstly because huge chunks of IP’s lands remain undeveloped, thus providing a natural habitat for wild game. Secondly, IP traditional lifestyle of pastoralism and hunter-gathers tolerated the killing of animals for game meat and trophies.
The challenges that make indigenous people view wildlife conservation as an alien concept that serves the interests of the state and tourists:
- Endemic incidences of human and wildlife conflict
- competing for land ownership claims between indigenous people and the state,
- lack of legal frameworks for benefit sharing and denied access into protected conservation areas for religious and or cultural practices and grazing rights. See the Endorois case versus the government of Kenya.
The passing of the new constitution in 2010 brought about devolution of wildlife services to devolved units of governance; these are the County Governments. The new law further introduced a critical component of public participation in all government operations whose decisions directly impact the public.
Many legislations like the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013) have either been passed or reviewed in tandem with the new constitutional provisions.
The reviewed Wildlife Conservation and Management Act has, among other things, introduced the wildlife endowment fund, recognised the centrality of the communities living within the game parks and reserves in bettering protection and management of wildlife toward mutual coexistence and provided the procedure for compensation of deaths and injuries resulting from attacks by wild animals. The Act further introduced several layers of conservation measures at the national, county and local levels. At the national level is the Cabinet Secretary for the time being in charge of wildlife conservation and protection. At the county level are the County Conservation and Compensation Committees. At the local level, the community includes landowners, conservation agents, and individuals who have set up sanctuaries or conservancies within their localities, etc. The locals have organised themselves into associations at the county and national levels. For instance, the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association is the umbrella body for community conservancies spread across the country aimed at entrenching sustainability and giving effect to the role of communities in conservation within their localities.
The Community Land Act 2016 (CLA) has enabled registration of lands belonging to indigenous people and other communities in Kenya and for a long time held in trust by defunct county councils. The Act gives effect to Article 63 (5) of the Constitution in providing for recognition, protection and administration of community lands. Section 13 of the Act provides the registration of the land into special-purpose areas for community conservations and cultural heritage sites. Section 20 provides that communities shall establish measures to protect critical ecosystems and habitats, income-generating natural resources conservation programmes. It is worth noting that the creation of conservancies is taking place simultaneously with adjudication and registration of titles to land. Thus, giving conservancies and sanctuaries better title deeds anchored under the Act.
Forward-looking conservation measures steps:
- The conservancies have hired youth from indigenous communities as scouts, putting up to 500 unemployed youth into a salaried engagement.
- Endangered animal and plant species such as sandalwood are regenerated in the protected areas.
- Controlled grazing in the would-be empty lands.
- The creation of conservancies is attracting infrastructure development such as increased road network.
- Charcoal burning has reduced, thus leading to environmental conservation.
- Compensation from deaths and injury by wildlife is affected at the county level with county conservancy and compensation committees.
- Lack of capacity amongst conservancy officials on project management. Officials are formed of elders who are the title owners of the land.
- Lack of proper mechanism and knowledge on benefit-sharing formulas.
- Ways of harnessing traditional and community-based dispute resolution mechanisms and modern alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
- How to harness indigenous knowledge and approaches to conservation in modern conservation.
- Lack of proper mechanism of effecting the requirement of public participation.
- Low knowledge of human rights-based approaches (HRBA).
- Lack of full material disclosure of management plans with conservation agents such as Northern Rangelands Trust with conservancy officials.
- Insecurity relating to cattle rustling.
- Global warming results in long droughts and flooding, making displaced populations want to move and settle conservancy boundaries.
- Human-wildlife conflict.
- Population explosion leading to increased pressure on land.
- Continuous public education and training on the provisions of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013.
- Training of conservancy officials on basic knowledge of project management.
- Training of conservation officials on CITES and related instruments.
- Monitoring compliance with the provisions of gender equality and affirmative action concerning wildlife management and conservation.