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Conservationists want plans to improve Tsavo ecosystem fast-tracked

Livestock Development Principal Secretary Harry Kimutai (left) with Roland Kroon, Consultant at Savory Hub, South Africa during the Tsavo, Southern Kenya Northern Tanzania (SOKNOT) Holistic Grazing and Management forum at the Sarova Stanley Hotel, Nairobi on June 14, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Conservationists have urged the government to speed up plans to restore the Tsavo ecosystem that is under threat.

The plan was established last year and was to be jointly undertaken by stakeholders from several ministries, including Environment, Water, Tourism and Wildlife and Livestock.

It was also to bring on board conservation players from the private sector, 12 counties that the ecosystem benefits, donors and the Tanzania government.

‘‘What we are asking from government and stakeholders is that there is a sense of urgency as you have listened to ranchers and community. They want it to be done as soon as yesterday,” said Mr Wainaina Mburu, the Deputy Director, Regional Development in the State Department for Regional and Northern Corridor Development.

“The Cabinet memo needs to be approved, an MoU signed and a concept paper refined so that it can be piloted,’’ he added.

Livestock PS Mr Harry Kimutai said the Cabinet memo was reviewed in their last meeting of PSs.

“It’s the State Department of Environment and Forestry that needs to present to the technical committee of PSs and then to the Cabinet for approval. On the MoU signing, the draft is ready and once the Cabinet approves the memo, the next step will be signing it,” said Mr Kimutai.

The details emerged during a breakfast meeting of multi-sectoral stakeholders.

In the progress report presented by Mr Wainaina, the Tsavo ecosystem has been losing woodland vegetation fast. From 21 million hectares in the 1990s, only 14 million hectares were intact by 2018, and to date, water sources are drying fast.

This even as the cropland and vegetation population increases.

The Tsavo landscape is the source of Mzima Springs and other rivers, which water some of the coastal counties.

The Tsavo Ecosystem Restoration Project will entail intensive reforestation and rehabilitation of water sources to mitigate adverse impacts of climate change threatening the survival of one of the most critical ecosystems in Africa.

To achieve the restoration plan, the government set up a technical committee and secretariat that has come up with a master plan.

The multi-sectoral players, including ranchers and donors, asked the government to treat the project as a matter of urgency.

It was established at the meeting that the master plan came up with a Cabinet memo, an MoU to be signed with Tanzania, besides a concept.

It emerged that the finalisation of the three items was delaying the start of the process of restoration.

Mr Jacob Kipongoso, the cofounder and executive chair of Tsavo Heritage Foundation, said the concept paper would open the way toward Cabinet memo approval and MoU signing.

‘‘For us to have a round-table discussion on donor funding of the project, a concept paper needs to be ready because now it’s still raw. It was written by about 25 different people and it needs a consultant to refine it, which will cost money ranging from Sh1.5 million to Sh2 million,” said Mr Kipongoso.

He urged counties to allocate a percentage of their budget to the project to continue having water instead of each county competing for a project. “The Chyulu Hills, for instance, is the source of water for Makueni people and Coast regions cannot say they will desalinate the water for use, it’s not sustainable,” said Mr Kipongoso.

He said the 12 counties lacked goodwill for the project that needs Sh36 million for the master plan and secretariat to get to a point everything runs itself after three years.

So far, Sh6 million has been raised for the project through conference meetings and neighbouring communities.