The Kenyan Samburu case

Community wildlife protection is often promoted as the ideal solution. The idea behind this approach is that people who live near wildlife can be involved in protecting it and have an interest in doing so.

This results in wildlife being protected (a global biodiversity gain) and local people benefiting from conservation through tourism revenue, jobs, or new infrastructure such as schools, clinics, and water supplies.

However, the reality of community-based wildlife conservation is sometimes less clear cut, as Kenya’s experience shows.

Kenya is home to amazing wildlife, landscapes and cultural resources that drive the safari tourism industry. this is Brings Millions of visitors – and billions of US dollars – visit the country annually. However, Kenya’s tourist attractions face major threats. These include Climate changeAnd the Illegal trade in wildlifehabitat loss due to Elimination of Forests And the Conflict between man and wildlife. To address some of these risks, community reserves have been set up across the country.

Community reserves are protected areas for wildlife that are established on land owned or occupied by a community. They make up a large part of Kenya’s wildlife protection landscape, with implications for thousands of people.

Currently there 76 of these spacesCovering tens of thousands of square kilometers. They date back to the 1980s, but have accelerated in number and extent over the past 20 years.

In northern Kenya, which is characterized by a wide area of ​​grasslands, most of the reserves are supported by Northern Ranges Trust Fund. This is a national NGO funded by global donors and international conservation agencies.

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It is difficult to quantify the amount of funding going to community conservancies. However, in 2020, the Kenya Wildlife Conservation Society, an umbrella body, reported that the country’s reserves bear about 25 million US dollars in annual operating costs. This is funded mostly through donors and, to a limited extent, through the government.

Over the course of 30 years of conducting anthropological fieldwork among Samburu communities in northern Kenya, I have observed community preservation gaining popularity, yet there has been little evidence about its operation or its effects. I conducted a study to explore the problem in more detail. This research led to a the bookwhich identifies the impact of reserves on cooperation and conflict in societies.

numbers of wild animals In Kenya it is declining, but more wild animals are found in protected lands than in unprotected areas. While this is promising, my research has found that reserves have increased human-wildlife conflict, with communities bearing the brunt of losses and injuries caused by wildlife. Furthermore, the economic benefits to the members’ communal provinces were minimal.

Roots of Community Preservation

Community-Based Preservation is rooted in the realization that “Fortress” model Preservation – the creation of parks and reserves that exclude all human use – is untenable. Wild animals require vast landscapes to thrive. It cannot be contained within the boundaries of gardens.

Likewise, when locals are excluded from parks, they are denied access to the resources they need to survive. Treating people as less important than wildlife makes them less inclined to protect wildlife. This is especially true in a place like northern Kenya, where cattle-grazing communities like Samburu have lived close to wildlife for centuries.

The understanding that successful conservation depends on local people participating in its success has led to efforts in Kenya to involve communities directly in conservation activities. In this approach, society sets aside part of his land of conservation activities against the expected benefits that will result from conservation.

In the case of Samburu, communities have set aside about 10% to 25% of their land for wildlife, and in some cases for tourism infrastructure. The conservancies are run by paid staff overseen by councils of community members and supported by conservation NGOs.

Cattle grazing is forbidden or severely restricted on this land.

Community conservation creates boundaries that are controlled by wildlife scouts who are often armed. Although their stated role is to protect wildlife, these Scouts are actually tasked with protecting pastures from strangers and livestock from theft.

Tensions escalate

my research It involved spending a year in several Samburu reserves. I’ve noticed how the provinces work and I’ve talked to members about how they feel about it. Surveys have been conducted to measure the costs and benefits incurred.

The study revealed a number of effects of reserves on local communities, which are mainly related to security and financing.

I found that the reserves actually increased tensions between the Samburu communities. Creating land use zones and restricting grazing makes it imperative to maintain boundaries and deny access to non-members. This is contrary to the Samburu standards of allowing livestock access to pastures, particularly during dry seasons and droughts. On the other hand, the members of reserves find grazing control beneficial.

Many times in my research I have heard people refer to their Samburu neighbors outside the prefecture as “strangers” or “transgressors” who should be removed. Reserves are like islands around which herders must move to find pastures. If and when they landed on these islands, disputes often occurred.

In addition, the amount of funding directed to the governorates from donor organizations was relatively large compared to other sources of support. Sanctuaries with tourism facilities also earn revenue from hotel contracts, overnight fees, and conservation fees.

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Members realized that there was a lot of money circulating in the provinces, controlled by boards of directors and staff. They reported minimal economic benefits to themselves, mostly in the form of students’ school fees and sometimes an annuity. This raised suspicions among members about misuse of funds by conservation boards and staff.

Suspicions of misuse of funds led to bitter disputes within the community over leadership, and demands for more public accountability and legal action.

These unintended consequences of community-based conservation require more effective models. A conservation that places less emphasis on who may or may not use a piece of land, and that improves accountability, may lead to better outcomes for people and wildlife.

way forward

The intentions behind community conservation are commendable. It aims to correct past failures, which include isolating wildlife in parks and excluding people from critical survival resources. However, this approach brings with it its own set of challenges. There is a risk that if members do not receive the kinds of benefits they have been promised, their support for conservation could decline, undermining the approach.

Greater member participation and more accountability regarding funding and its uses would enhance trust and ownership among members.

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