The Grazing for Change conference brought over 300 participants on 8th February 2017 at the National Museums of Kenya from a wide range of stakeholders working at the wildlife-livestock interface, to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing this evolving sector, and explore the incentives driving the preservation of the rangelands, and concurrently launching the Mara Training Centre, a member of the Global Savory network. The Mara Training Centre is committed to sustainable rangeland management that allows space and resources for all people, cattle, and wildlife.
1.2 The wildlife/livestock interface in Kenya’s conservancies
In his keynote address, KWCA Founding Chief Executive Officer, Dickson Ole Kaelo stated that collaborative efforts are critical especially at a time when seasons and rains are failing/unpredictable and that connected landscapes are very important for not only wildlife but also communities. He also shared his experience when working at ILRI where they managed to demonstrate through wildlife counts that areas grazed by livestock become very important nutrition hotspots for wildlife.
1.3 Keeping landscapes open for wildlife and people
In her keynote address, Director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation, Robin Reid started off by mentioning that the first task is to keep landscapes open for people and wildlife with the second task being to grow enough grass, have good governance, secure profits, stop poaching and insecurity. She emphasized that the second task is super-important and the most difficult when it comes to running conservancies. She reiterated that unless the first task is achieved the second one may not be realized.
1.4 The land and livestock enigma
In his keynote address, president and co-founder of The Savory Institute, Allan Savory started off by stating, “None of our problems are being caused by anything but ourselves”. He reinforced that the holistic management model is applicable to Kenya if there will be a transition of the management and policies from reductionist to holistic; with the focus being directed to address the root causes of desertification and not the symptoms. He re-affirmed the Savory Institute support to Kenya in implementing the model by provision of the necessary materials and technical assistance.
1.5 The wildlife heritage and sustainability challenge
In her keynote address, CEO of Kenyan Conservation NGO WildlifeDirect, Paula Kahumbu urged the participants to: Promote and support leadership from top down and bottom up approaches; enlist support of everyone by making information available through traditional and new media; and identify critical pathways to mobilize the best vehicles to drive urgent responses and to help solve problems. Her concluding remarks were that government decisions need to be grounded in good science to demonstrate, test and prove before acting using novel solutions that will have impact consistently.
Figure 3: CEO of Kenyan Conservation NGO WildlifeDirect, Paula Kahumbu
1.6 Panel Discussion: Creating win-win scenarios for enterprise
Livestock remains an integral part of pastoral communities and contributes 70% to household income as compared to tourism which contributes 30% even in the most thriving conservancies. The future is for tourism as an industry to be innovative in such ways that they can incorporate the local lifestyles and turn them into experiences, rather than looking at the them as hindrances to the experiences of the traveler/tourist. Every intervention should not be an incentive rather a transformative-intervention to move people to a place where they can properly and positively engage in designing their future.
Figure 4: Panel Discussion: Creating win-win scenarios for enterprise
1.7 Panel Discussion: Putting ideals and concepts into practice
Conservancies are transitioning to a much better state since poaching as well as cattle rustling have declined. Conservancies should be viewed as a tool for land management with an already developed system of livestock and wildlife. The rule of law must underpin everything that we are doing and therefore conservancy rules or regulations must be enforceable, upheld and with adequate penalties when bridged.
Figure 5: Panel Discussion: Putting ideals and concepts into practice
1.8 Panel Discussion: Continuing need for research
There is tension between livestock and wildlife that can be ameliorated through research and innovation to have an endpoint of better livelihoods and not just alleviating poverty but to transform people’s lives in meaningful ways. There was also recognition that we need to have a healthy environment to have a healthy population. It was observed that already a lot of people are dropping out of pastoralism because of urbanization, which also presents a challenge to the conservation of the environment and wildlife e.g. railway development. It was noted that the recent agreement in Paris presents lots of opportunities for scientific ideas especially when it comes to the rangelands e.g. carbon credits. There are social-anthropological gaps in research in terms of people’s needs and engagement especially on how initiatives/projects impact people on a much wider scale and factoring in unforeseeable/indirect consequences. Some of the ongoing research at ILRI mentioned were: carbon credit payments in rangelands, developing drought adapted grasses, MCF & ECF vaccine development, work on Trypanosomosis by retrogressing the gene conferring resistance, and the index-based livestock insurance.
Figure 6: Panel Discussion: Continuing need for research
1.9 The contributions and networking of the Savory
In his presentation, Chief Operating Officer-Savory Institute, Tre Cates highlighted that the Savory network mandate is to help learning centres (hubs) globally by giving them the tools and help provide implementation support to pastoralists, practitioners, governments, NGOs support livelihoods, build solutions, and create the change outcomes, that they want to reach at their local context. He clarified that “holistic management” is a decision-making framework that allows one to identify what is locally relevant and cautioned against taking it as “prescription”.
2.0 Impacts on communities through training
In his presentation, lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Oscar Koech enlisted the training modules to be offered at the Mara Training Centre as: Livestock husbandry and breeding; with holistic management being tackled by the Savory institute; disease management and One Health; climate risk management; financial management; wildlife-livestock complementarities; and the module on alternative livelihoods. He elaborated that prospects are that the centre to offer vocational training to communities, youth groups, practitioners, producers, experts, and mangers equipping them with the right information to be implemented at the local conservancies and communities with an ambitious target of expanding the training to other regions of Kenya and East Africa.
2.1 Opinion of participants on how conservancies will change in the next 10-20 years
With the right business model (not dependent on tourism) there is certainty that conservancies will survive the next 10 years.
The devolved county governments in Kenya present an opportunity for conservationist to engage and assure their active participation in the sustainability of conservancies.
The conservancy institution would mutate into land ownership by the community and not by institutions catalyzing more engagement in conservation activities, health care, and improved interaction with the government.
The tension between land legislature, the constitution and conflict between land rights and conservation attributable to the drive towards private ownership will change if only real wealth and opportunities are offered to communities.
The unfaceted perception of conservancies as a way of conserving wildlife and working with the community will change to a way of doing rural development where the government offers support and engages the community conservancy institution as a way of delivering its government programmes.
The conservancies will transition from simply addressing community aspirations to having very clear goals on what conservancies stand for in Kenya. Moreover they will be aligned with the country’s sustainable development agenda and this should ultimately influence policy to secure conservancies in the long term.
It was concluded that everyone has a role to play in generating knowledge and solutions. Change is inevitable but lessons from nature inform us that the more diversity we have the more stable the ecosystem. Participants were urged to strive in protecting and safeguarding planet earth for future generations. It is important to take greater ownership of science and make it available to the public.
Communities were challenged to think of conservation beyond the monetary benefits/earnings and start thinking about sustainability through innovation. Investors and landowners were advised that to accrue the best value from an enterprise it is important to determine the most appropriate land use activity that provides room for livestock, the community, preserves heritage and conserves wildlife. The government (tourism sector) was challenged to come to terms with the fact that the value of wildlife and livestock are all embedded in the cultures of communities and therefore need to integrate all of them in the tourism packages.
An in-depth report with a narrative covering all Presentations and Panel Discussions will be available on the Mara Training Centre website (http://www.maratrainingcentre.com), as well and links to the video recordings of all sessions. Also view the conversion on Twitter using the hashtag #Grazing4ChangeKE
By: Dr. Kelvin Momanyi, BVM
University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
MSc One Health postgraduate