More than 70% of Kenya’s wildlife lives on rangelands outside Protected Areas i.e. National Parks and National Reserves. These rangelands belong to a variety of landowners, some of them private individuals, some of them communities, and some of them groups of individuals on lands that were formally community owned but have subsequently been subdivided. Many of the landowners are pastoralist peoples like the Maasai and Samburu peoples. Their lands comprise most of the key wildlife dispersal areas and migratory corridors bordering the country’s famous tourism destinations, such as the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park and Tsavo National Park. Few Protected Areas are self-sufficient ecosystems and were these landowners to decide to fence their land, plough it up for agriculture, or simply get rid of the animals, the country’s wildlife would become a shadow of its former self.
Fortunately, this is far less likely to happen now thanks to the momentum being achieved by what some are calling the “Conservancy Movement”. Originally pioneered in northern Kenya in 2004 by the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, several other organisations, including the Kenya Wildlife Trust (KWT) and Basecamp Foundation (BCF) in the Mara, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the African Conservation Centre (ACC) in Amboseli-Tsavo , and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) in Laikipia, have worked productively to convince landowners with wildlife on their land to put their land into conservancies. In many cases this has involved seeking investment from tourism partners who have leased conservancy land to create boutique camps and small lodges, and in other cases it has involved seeking donor partners to assist with funding. In both cases the goal has been to ensure equitable financial returns to landowners in return for their support and co-operation.
Most recently, the government, in the form of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), has very pro-actively entered the scene and for the first time in Kenya’s history it looks as if these conservancies are going to be given proper legal recognition, with all the support and incentivisation that goes along with such acknowledgement. Although a small wildlife organisation, by comparison to some, KWT has been very much in the forefront of the advocacy and policy making surrounding this historic process. In addition to helping to mobilise landowner groups around the country, especially the Maasai communities in the Amboseli and Mara Ecosystems, KWT has also been part of an influential “think-tank” called the Ecostorm Group that has advanced the concept of an independent national umbrella body for conservancies that will bring together landowners, the state and the private sector. Instead of 6% of Kenya land surface being protected for wildlife, it may soon be 15% or more. And if this is the case, the biggest winners will not just be the animals and conservationists but, as importantly, the landowning communities for whom wildlife will prove to be much more of a benefit than a cost
Allan Earnshaw is on the KWT Board of Trustees in Kenya. He is a fourth generation Kenyan whose family came to Kenya in 1896, Allan holds a Masters Degree in Human Sciences from Oxford University. A Partner and Director of Ker & Downey Safaris since 1980, he is also a member of several other environment and conservation boards in addition to KWT, including the Kenya Land Conservation Trust, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance and the Kenya Tourism Federation. He is also a former Board member of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Allan’s key conservation goal is the creation of an independent national association of Wildlife Conservancies that will include community and private landowners, the appropriate government institutions, the private sector and relevant NGOs.
KWT is a legally registered trust in Kenya, with registration number 1608. Friends of Kenya Wildlife Trust is a 501(c)(3) public charity in the USA, with tax identification number 01-0909843. Donations in the USA are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law and donors receive no goods or services for their donations.
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