The Kenya Wildlife Service has told the Senate National Security, Defence and Foreign Relations Committee that it does not have guidelines for watering and grazing livestock in national parks during drought.
KWS Director General John Waweru appeared before the committee chaired by William Cheptumo (Baringo Senator) and said section 102 of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act states that it was only the Cabinet Secretary who can make such guidelines.
Mr Waweru was responding to concerns raised by senators who wanted to know whether communities were allowed to graze their animals in national parks and game reserves during drought.
“The Act states that the Cabinet Secretary shall make guidelines in consultation with the Kenya Wildlife Service with respect to accessing national parks for purposes of grazing and watering of livestock in times of drought and other natural disasters,” he said.
He said KWS had entered into an agreement with the Kitui County government for management of the South Kitui National Reserve for 25 years after an MoU in 2019.
He however said the MoU was not signed and the county government has not fulfilled its obligations, with KWS providing financial and human resources for the national reserve's management.
Waweru revealed that the MoU had targeted the development of infrastructure in the reserve but this was not achieved because of lack of resources and human encroachment including livestock coupled with inadequate coordination between KWS and the county government.
“Some areas for collaboration are reducing ecological pressure through sound management policies, enhancing ecological integrity in the reserve and minimising human-wildlife conflict and encouraging sustainable exploitation of wildlife resources,” he said.
He said they are working to enhance service delivery to all stakeholders within the reserve and implement community-based wildlife conservation and management initiatives, being the lead agency in law enforcement and security operations throughout the reserve.
The KWS Director General said they are tasked with monitoring the ecosystem, habitat and species within the reserve, promoting and where feasible, assisting development of tourism activities.
Waweru told the committee that they have also supported Kitui county with training county security rangers and KWS provided financial and human resources in protecting the reserve and deployed a platoon and oversees the day-to-day management of the same.
“Following the slow implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding, KWS has since initiated discussions with the county government of Kitui to review the MoU for the realisation of its objectives,” he said.
He noted that the reserve has no basic infrastructure like the headquarters, entry gates, security patrol outpost, tourist facilities, water pans, dams and elaborate road network.
Waweru told the committee that the reserve is used by pastoral communities (Somali, Orma, Wardei) for grazing livestock during the dry season with the Kamba community on the Western side of the reserve engaging in charcoal burning, sand harvesting and cutting of trees for domestic and commercial purposes.
He said that the human encroachment, inadequate roads for security patrols, lack of clear boundary demarcation for the reserve, and lack of infrastructure and resources pumped by the county government affected operations.