Experts say wildlife conservancies key to economic growth in rural Kenya

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-11 19:28:04|Editor: Jiaxin
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NAKURU, Kenya, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Wildlife conservancies have in recent times fuelled economic growth in rural Kenya, the head of a conservancies' umbrella body said on Monday.

Dickson Kaelo, the CEO of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA), said the 160 conservancies spread across 28 counties now benefit more than 700,000 households through schools, health centres and water projects they support.

"Today, conservancies provide employment to 4,800 Kenyans," Kaelo told Xinhua.

"Over 2,900 conservancy rangers support our KWS rangers in monitoring wildlife and combating illegal wildlife crime. This has doubled the number of eyes and ears of our wildlife law enforcement," he added.

The association lobbying for growth of conservancies in Kenya last week launched a report providing data and information on operations of conservancies in the country and their achievements in the past 30 years.

The Status of Conservancies Report (2016), makes available information needed to better understand the increasingly important role of wildlife conservancies in Kenya, said Kaleo.

He stressed that the stability of conservancies was crucial to attaining a 17 percent threshold of terrestrial landscape under conservation management by 2020 from the current 11 percent.

Under the Aichi Biodiversity targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity to which Kenya is a signatory, member countries are mandated to meet the 17 percent threshold serving as a mechanism for continued protection and preservation of sustainable ecosystems.

He noted that conservancies have rapidly become a destination of choice for tourists visiting the East African nation.

"Over 140 tourism eco-lodges in conservancies have added 2,400 beds to destination Kenya. Trip advisor confirms that the iconic eco-camps are some of the most preferred upcoming destinations," he said.

However, he said change of land use, recurrent drought and demand to produce food threatens the existence of wildlife that mainly attracts the tourists.

While conservancies seek to engage communities in conservation of wildlife, numerous challenges are hurdling the process, according to Kaelo.

He identified low management capacity, inadequate funding and lack of compensation to offset costs associated with wildlife damages, injuries or death as among the obstacles.

"Difficulty of generating benefits comparable to other incentivized land uses is also a challenge to community's participation in wildlife conservation," he added.

To better engage them, he said, incentives such as trainings, community mobilization, legal registration and creation of effective governance structures were necessary.

Also, establishing benefit sharing mechanisms and appropriate livelihood enhancement and conservation programs would be effective in fostering productive involvement of communities in wildlife conservation activities.

During the launch of the report, Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, said wildlife conservancies represent a key opportunity for not only securing wildlife on community lands but also for protecting wildlife dispersal areas and corridors.

"The Kenya's Conservancy model is gaining global recognition for impacting communities and protecting biodiversity without use of unsustainable exploitation of wildlife," she said.

Based on the report, human wildlife conflict is a major threat to wildlife conservation and conservancies since wildlife species causing conflict are attacked and killed by affected persons.

Between 2011 and 2015, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) recorded an average annual increase of 86 percent of human wildlife conflicts according to the report on status of conservancies in Kenya.

"The conflicts continue to increase on lands outside most protected areas (KWS) with high incidences reported in the Taita Taveta/Tsavo; the Mara (Transmara and Narok); the Amboseli and Laikipia/Samburu/Maralal region," says the report.