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NGOs join forces to help Kenya grow without harming natural resources

By Nanjinia Wamuswa | April 19th 2016
A stray leopard that attacked two men in Buuri along the Isiolo-Meru border in February is prepared for relocation to the Lewa Wildlife Sanctuary. The Conservation Alliance of Kenya is expected to help preserve wildlife corridors. [PHOTO: BRUNO MUTUNGA/STANDARD]

NAIROBI: More than 50 conservation NGOs have come together to launch the Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK).

The alliance is expected to boost conservation NGOs’ efforts to advance the protection and management of biodiversity in Kenya.

While individual organisations have contributed to conservation efforts, various studies have suggested better co-ordination would have more impact.

Critical issues

CAK Chairman Steve Itela said the idea to create an alliance was first discussed when communities along wildlife corridors started hunting down animals to get back at them for killing livestock.

“The alliance hopes to assist the Government and public to handle critical issues in five areas: conservation and development, community and livelihoods, research and data sharing, wildlife crime, and advocacy and lobbying,” he said.

Mr Itela added that CAK would work to help Kenya achieve growth in its gross domestic product without losing its forestry, water towers, wildlife, wetlands or marine resources.

Munira Bashir, the programme director for Kenya at the Nature Conservancy, called the alliance a great moment for wildlife conservation in the country.

She said Kenyans value wildlife as a national heritage, and many communities living around national reserves had taken up the call to conserve wildlife.

“About 60 per cent of Kenya’s wildlife lives outside Government-protected national parks and game reserves, so local people are key in wildlife conservation,” Ms Bashir said.

“We at the Nature Conservancy are working with 27 conservancies on 10.2 million acres of land under the Northern Rangelands Trust. We train locals on better land and tourism management practises, as well as income-generating ventures.”

She added that the country needs to allocate zones for human settlement, wildlife and those specific to tourism.

“This will help local people to continue with their way of life and grant wildlife the opportunity to flourish in their natural habitats.”

Environment Cabinet Secretary Judy Wakhungu expressed her support for the alliance, saying it “provides the essential link between the conservation actors in the private sector and those of us in the public sector tasked with driving the nation’s development agenda”.

She added that she appreciated that wildlife and the spaces it inhabits form a crucial pillar in the country’s economy, yet these are confronted by many challenges.

Declining state

“The needs of our growing human population are exerting heavy pressure on available land and resources, including traditional wildlife habitats. This is becoming increasingly evident in the unfortunate human-wildlife conflicts playing out in the public domain,” she said.

Prof Wakhungu added that this applies to the conflicts arising from the implementation of major infrastructure, agricultural and other development projects within or near key wildlife habitats.

But the alliance is offering stakeholders hope of a better future.

“In the past, the lack of co-ordination of activities led to a disjointed approach in confronting major issues, thereby reducing the conservation fraternity’s ability to tackle the declining state of wildlife. With the alliance, we have a real chance of making a difference,” said Winnie Kiiru of Stop Ivory.

US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec added that his government is committed to working with the alliance, saying the US has invested Sh5 billion in Kenya’s conservation efforts.

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