Drought / East Africa / ILRI / Kenya / Pastoralism / Vulnerability / Wildlife

Maasai livestock herders in Kenya paid to conserve the wildlife that share their rangelands

Nairobi National Park

Nairobi cityscape in the background of Nairobi National Park (photo on Flickr by Luigi Guarino).

‘As pastoralists in the North Rift grapple with the drought that has affected more than 12 million East Africans, a new model to pay the residents for conserving the ecosystem in reserves and parks is helping them to diversify income and end dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

‘The payment of the pastoralists has successfully been piloted in areas near Maasai Mara National Reserve and Kitengela, near the Nairobi National Park. In both areas, the herders have formed ‘eco-conservancies’ to protect their grazing areas for livestock and wildlife alike.

‘Under the scheme, pastoralists are given cash incentives in exchange for allowing their land to be used for ecological services that promote conservation. . . .

‘A report by the International Livestock Research Institute indicates that the income from the payment constitutes 59 per cent of the total off-farm earnings among participating households . . . .

‘The Wildlife Lease Programme was initiated by the Wildlife Foundation and the Friends of Nairobi National Park to counter the loss of crucial migration lands connecting Nairobi National Park. . . .

‘[I]n order to ensure that the conservation payment is long-term, experts at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are investigating the trade off to quantify how such interventions could be more equitable to pastoralists inhabiting these wildlife-rich areas.

The scheme comes hot on heels of a report recently released by ILRI which showed that despite government decision to invest Sh8.5bn in agriculture and funding irrigation schemes in drought ravaged parts of Turkana, the only feasible way to address future droughts is through investing in pastoralism in dry lands. The report found that only investments aimed at increasing the mobility of livestock herders could buffer the dry lands from future food crises.

‘It argued that herding makes better economic sense than crop agriculture in many of the arid and semi-arid lands that constitute 80 per cent of the Horn of Africa, and that supporting mobile livestock herding communities in advance.’

Read the whole article at Business Daily: Pastoralists benefit in new programme to conserve wildlife, 17 Oct 2011.

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