The images above serialize what one would see in the Meibae Conservancy HQ. Tents, uni-huts (one as a store, one as a radio room and the last one as a kitchen), and a water tank and several 20lt jerry cans for fetching and storing clean drinking water from the river.
The issues of adequate housing and water are critical for Meibae Wildlife Conservancy. They need constant and progressive addressing because they form the heartbeat of a wildlife conservancy that is secure to both wildlife and people. The Conservancy is expansive and therefore the need for many strategic outposts properly house and with adequate clean water for cooking, cleaning and drinking.
Currently the conservancy depends heavily on canvas tents for housing. Theses cannot withstand extensive rough weather and thus have to be replaced periodically, increasing the overall running cost of the conservancy.
Fortunately this is slowly changing starting with the conservancy Headquarters (HQ). The HQ is now operational through an office cum residence for the conservancy manager and a conference room all complete with solar power lighting. This is a two roomed permanent house made of cement, sand and corrugated iron sheets which are then covered with makuti roofing to make them blend with the environment besides keeping them cool. These structures form the first permanent structures for the Conservancy HQ.
The location of this area as the Conservancy HQ was a perfect choice because it is camouflaged from obvious view while the numerous rock outcrops provide security barriers as well as vantage look out points and is close to the river as a source of fresh drinking water.
Through KWT support and under the leadership of Fred Longonyek, the conservancy has see lots of good things come its way.
Apart from the above challenges, the Conservancy has experienced a good run of tranquility of the last few years with hardly any cases of insecurity or poaching reported. It has since become the home for Grevy’s Zebras to an extent that during the recent long drought spells the conservancy got a grant from Grevy’s Zebra Trust to buy hay for Zebras. The Zebras have since identified with the location and can often be seen hovering not too far away from this area.
Recently the conservancy has been the host to herds of elephants which came with their usual opening up of wood lands. …. “With Elephants around who needs bulldozers?” …. and creation of new micro habitats, to the benefit of other animals particularly grazers and small ungulates.
Apparently, the elephants were on their local migration up towards the mountains as dry season loomed. However, their noted destruction was a management query for Fred and his team to ponder. As expected the elephants pushed over some trees, nipped off the tops and peeled the bucks of others and creating open grasslands in their wake.
The grass rangelands have recovered so much that a good number of wildlife have found not only a safe haven within the conservancy but also plenty of grass to feed on. Thanks to the Elephants for promoting the growth of grass.
Unfortunately, it is this success that has become the undoing of Meibae Wildlife Conservancy in recent days. The Rendile community herdsmen and hundreds of their livestock had invaded the conservancy from all corners in pursuit of the grass that could only be found in Meibae. They came in droves with camels, cattle, sheep and goats accompanied by their make shift homes on donkey backs. No matter how much Fred and his scouts barred them for entering the conservancy, the herdsmen would hear nothing of it. They kept advancing and gave Fred and his scouts a really rough time.
According to Fred, even the elders were finding it difficult to control them. While they did not make camp within the conservancy core area, they made daily trips until all the good grass was finished. Once that is done, they would move on to other areas. Normally this would have degenerated into a conflict but elders from both Samburu and Rendile communities come in handy to resolve the issues. This has ensured a peaceful co-existence for many years.
Going by the number of livestock that the Rendiles had they certainly could do with de-stocking. It was only sad that years of hard work by Fred and his team in rangeland rehabilitation and self denial for the sake of wildlife had to end this. However, there is hope that once it rains the grass will grow back. At one point one would see more livestock than the much needed grass cover.
According to Fred, the last time the Rendile came this far in search of water and pasture for their livestock, was in 1997…… some 14 years ago. So hopefully, it will be another 14 years before they come back after clearing every blade of grass that Meibae conservancy can offer.
Livestock keeping in huge numbers as observed here may have massive negative impacts on the local environment and the conservancies as well. Indeed that is how Meibae Conservancy got degraded in the first place. On the other hand when managed well like in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, they can be a great source of income for the conservancy while helping to improve rangelands. The idea will be to buy the livestock from the community and so directly befitting them, fattening them and selling them off at a profit. This may generate income for both the conservancy and the local community while keeping in tune with the culture of the local people. However this idea much as it may sound rosy, it will require strong controls to attain the delicate balance between livestock numbers, habitat health and wildlife.
The Rendiles must have finished the pasture in the neighboring Kalama and Westgate Conservancies to have ventured this far west.
Fortunately the rains are here and in plenty. This means it is time to go back home for the Rendiles and big smiles to community members and wildlife of Meibae Wildlife Conservancy.
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