Narok residents turn to alternative methods to protect wildlife

Alice Shonko uses a multi-purpose portable stove to prepare a meal in Mt Suswa conservancy in Narok County.

NAROK, KENYA: Cases of game meat trade and charcoal burning have reportedly dropped around Mt Suswa conservancy off the Mai Mahiu-Narok road.

Concerted efforts by stakeholders, introduction of new farming methods and employment opportunities for pastoralists to work in the conservancy have been cited for playing a role in conserving the community owned land.

Women have also moved from the use of the traditional cooking methods to multi-purpose portable stoves and environmental training have also been identified as key pillars in the gains.

This emerged when the East Africa Wildlife Society, which through funding from the Finland government, visited the area to assess gains made by the pastoralists in the semi-arid region.

The society programme manager Jabes Okumu said that they moved in to assist the community after learning that there was low environmental literacy despite the potential of the area.

He said that cases of human-wild conflicts were high but they have trained the community to live in harmony with the wild animals and this had borne some fruits.

“We have supported the rangers through capacity building, given the women the improved portable stoves and offered training sessions and this has drastically changed their lives,” he said.

According to Lemondai Punyuo from KWS, cases of game meat and charcoal burning were the norm in the area with a ready market in the neighboring towns.

He added that an interaction with wildlife society changed the way of lives for members of the local community who for years had seen the wild animals and trees as sources of livelihood.

“The local community has undergone thorough environmental training and this has changed their perception and we have seen cases of game meat and charcoal burning end,” he said.

The sentiments were echoed by Ole Sharo assistant chief Kitaei Ole Meshuka who said the number of tourists visiting the conservancy had risen since the conservation efforts started.

He noted that previously, area residents were cagey when it comes to informing government officers on those involved in game meat trade but this has changed.

“Motorcycle operators were flocking this area in search of charcoal but with the training that locals have gone through, this is now a thing of the past,” he said.

A beneficiary of the multi-purpose portable stoves Emily Nasieke said that they were using less firewood compared to the traditional three-stones cooking method.

She said that respiratory diseases were common among women due to the smoke emitted by the traditional jikos but this had changed with the modern stoves.

“We have reduced the amount of firewood we are using meaning more trees are being saved and we are using churches to train other women to embrace this technology,” she said.

The manager of the conservancy Ishmael Nkukuu said that the training programme had proven to them that trees and wildlife were critical in their livelihood.